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Women Not on the Priority List: President Obama’s Budget, Congress, and the Struggle for Affordable Abortion Care

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Morgan Meneses-Sheets for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Obama with arms folded.

The Obama budget makes a few small improvements to women's reproductive rights, while leaving others unaddressed.

After a significant delay, the president submitted his budget to Congress Wednesday. Reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates were pleased to see that he included language allowing the District of Columbia to use its own funds to cover abortion for low-income women through their Medicaid program. When Medicaid covers pregnancy care but denies coverage for abortion, a woman does not have the ability to make important decisions based on what is best for her and her family. However we feel about abortion, we certainly shouldn’t withhold health coverage for a woman just because she’s poor.

The president also included abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in cases of rape and incest. The pain caused by sexual violence should never be made worse by denying access to care, so this is an important first step.

While these provisions provide exciting progress, there is still much more work to be done in order to ensure that no woman is denied health coverage for abortion because of her income, her immigration status, or her type of insurance.

Sadly, the president’s budget continued to withhold coverage for women who use benefits through federal health programs, including federal employees and their dependents, women in federal prisons, Native American women who access care through Indian Health Services, and low-income women with coverage through the federal Medicaid program. The ongoing denial of federal health-care assistance for abortion pushes many women and their families further into poverty and leaves them unable to access the care they need.

The president had a chance to take a strong stand for women’s health. More than 70 organizations joined an official request in December that he submit a “clean budget” without any of these unfair limitations. Women got him re-elected — in particular women of color, who already face significant barriers to receiving high-quality health care.

Decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child are better left to a woman and her family. But for a woman to be able to make a real decision based on what’s best for her own circumstances, she needs to be able to afford it. The many women and families who are already struggling to make ends meet in this country simply do not have additional funds to pay for reproductive health care out-of-pocket.

Holding back benefits from someone who is eligible, just to make it impossible for her to have an abortion is unconscionable. All women — whether their health coverage comes from an individual plan, is employer sponsored, or is through a federal health program — should have access to a full range of pregnancy related care, including abortion.

It is often said that a budget is a statement of priorities. It shows what matters to people. Women should matter. Access to safe medical care should matter. As Congress members begin the arduous appropriations process, I urge them to put politics aside, stop interfering with personal decision-making, and lift the restrictions on coverage of abortion care. Let’s make women’s health and safety a priority.

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President Obama: Women Stood for You. Stand With Us and Remove Abortion Restrictions From Your Budget

12:43 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Ashley Hartman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This election, I was proud to work with many young people to engage our communities and campuses in the issues that impact us. One issue that engaged many young women in the election work I did this year in Ohio was access to health care, especially pregnancy related services, such as pre- and post-natal care, maternity care, and abortion care. Sixty-five percent of 18-to-24 year-olds believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time, which is higher than any other age group. I am lucky to have employer-funded health insurance that allows me to access a full range of preventive services, including all pregnancy-related services.

Sadly, not all women — even women with insurance — have access to these services. Current law unfairly limits insurance coverage for abortion for women with government-funded insurance. This is because federal dollars are withheld from covering a woman’s abortion except in limited circumstance.

It seems unfair to withhold insurance coverage or try to influence a woman’s decisions about whether to end a pregnancy just because of the type of insurance she has. These are decisions best made by a woman, her family, faith and doctor, not politicians.

These laws also put the lives of women at risk. When a woman is pregnant, it is important that she has access to safe medical care. Providing insurance coverage insures she will be able to see a licensed, quality health care provider.

Even if we don’t personally agree with abortion, it is unfair to restrict insurance coverage, or try to influence a woman’s decision about whether to end a pregnancy, just because she has government-funded health insurance.

I care about women in Ohio, which is why I supported Barack Obama. He pledged to ensure all women have access to essential reproductive health care services.

Women and youth voters played a huge impact in Obama’s win this year. Not only did young people, 18-to-24 turn out for the president in 2008, they continued to turn out for him as they entered their late twenties. This demonstrates how important issues such as insurance coverage for abortion are to this generation.

Now my generation must hold Obama accountable to his commitments. That includes urging President Obama to submit a budget to Congress without unfair restrictions on coverage for abortion care. Obama Administration, take note that women will be watching to see if you live up to your commitments to women’s health care.

How Abortion Caused the Debt Crisis

7:16 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"We Love Crisis"

"We Love Crisis" by Daquella manera on flickr

Last night, right before the fatal deadline, the U.S. Congress finally came to a deal that allows us to raise the debt ceiling, without which the federal government would basically shut down completely and start to default on its loans, creating a cascade of economic disasters. Congress came to a deal before we had to learn those Depression-era money-saving skills (sadly, we don’t have flour sacks to make clothes from any longer). Now it’s time to reflect on how our country has gone so far off track that we can’t even handle the basic responsibility of keeping the country from plunging into a manufactured crisis that nearly led to economic collapse. There are multiple causes, but one that hasn’t been discussed much is abortion.

Yes, abortion. Or, more specifically, the sustained sex panic that has been going on in this country since the sixties and seventies, when the sexual revolution occurred and women secured their reproductive rights. If it seems a little strange to argue that sex panic helped bring us to the verge of economic collapse, well, that’s the nature of the circuitous, ever-evolving world of politics. But it’s sex panic that helped create the modern right-wing populist, and it’s the modern right-wing populist that created the current crisis. Read the rest of this entry →

Military Women Deserve First-Class Treatment, Not Second-Class Status

8:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Dr. Katherine Scheirman for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Dr. Katherine Scheirman served as an officer in the United States Air Force as a physician for 20 years. As Chief, Medical Operations Division for the Headquarters, United States Air Forces in Europe (HQ USAFE) her assignments included oversight of the quality of care provided at Air Force hospitals and clinics in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. Dr. Scheirman retired as a colonel in 2006.

I was deeply disappointed to learn that on May 24, the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives shut down debate on an amendment that would have provided abortion services to military women who become pregnant as a result of rape.

Under current law, the Department of Defense is barred from providing coverage for abortion except where the pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape or incest. The current policy is shameful. Our military women, who serve and sacrifice for their country, should not have worse health care benefits than civilians who rely on the government for their insurance coverage.

As Chief of Medical Operations at the Air Force’s European Headquarters, I was significantly involved in the initial development of the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention program (SAPRO) for our bases throughout Europe. Improvements in the area of prevention and reporting of assaults, and in the provision of emergency contraception, are commendable. However, military sexual assaults remain unacceptably high.

While the Department of Defense maintains a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault, this crime has reached crisis level in the military. … Read more

Rep. Carolyn Maloney: Why the U.S. Should Address Obstetric Fistula and How

8:44 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Rep. Carolyn Maloney for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Pregnancy shouldn’t leave a woman with a disability and ostracized from her community.  And Congress should ensure investments for the more than two million women worldwide that have obstetric fistula and that we do what we can to prevent new cases from occurring. Fistula results from prolonged labor without medical attention due to the pressure created internally from obstructed delivery, which kills tissue where a hole between the woman’s vagina and rectum develops, leaving her without control of her bladder and and/or bowels for the rest of her life without treatment.  It often results in the death of the infant.  Many women with obstetric fistula are abandoned by their husbands and families because they are considered “unclean” due to the leaking of urine and/or feces.  Left without support, the women are often forced to beg or turn to sex work to survive.

Fistula was once common throughout the world, but over the last century has been eradicated in Europe and North America through improved medical care. For example, New York’s hospital for fistula patients, now the site of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, closed in 1895 because of diminishing cases.  But still in 2010, from Bangladesh to Botswana, women continue to face these challenging deliveries and the complications associated with them, including obstetric fistulas.

I met the inspiring Catherine Hamlin and invited her to brief my colleagues about her amazing work at the Addis Abba Fistula Hospital.  I was so moved to learn from her first hand about the unnecessary suffering of women in Ethiopia and how Dr. Hamlin’s life work has been devoted to their repair and treatment.  This only strengthened my resolve to address this issue – not only to treat these women but also prevent it happening to others. … Read more

Meet the HR3 Ten: Mike Ross, Same as the Last One

12:09 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Rep. Mike Ross (source: Wikipedia)

Written by Sarah Jaffe for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Ten Democrats cosponsored H.R.3, even with language redefining rape; four of those ten also apparently don’t care if pregnant women die. Sarah Jaffe takes a closer look at all ten, find all posted to date here.

Last week, the House voted to defund Planned Parenthood–in other words, voted to take the war on people’s health beyond the war on abortion rights and to healthcare for low-income people. Not just women, but everyone who receives their care from Planned Parenthood would be affected by this move.

Ten Democrats joined this vote. You know who they were, right? Shuler, Boren, Costello, Donnelly, Lipinski, Peterson, Rahall, McIntyre and Ross were joined by Silvestre Reyes.  (Critz actually, shockingly, voted no.)

Today, we meet Mike Ross.

Mike Ross is from Arkansas. He’s the Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, and votes with his party 50 percent of the time, according to OpenCongress. (Those vote percentages should be weighted, because a large majority of votes in Congress are to name post offices and suchlike, things that almost everyone votes for.) He’s also a cosponsor of H.R. 3, H.R. 358, and of a bill to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States.

Ross voted against healthcare reform, voted to repeal healthcare reform, and with his vote to defund Planned Parenthood, has made his standing on healthcare pretty clear, I think. Interesting, then, that the industry that gave him the most this campaign cycle was health professionals, with $163,600.  He got an additional $57,750 from the pharmaceutical industry, and $38,550 from hospitals or nursing homes. The American Hospital Association spent $118,000 on his race this past election cycle, but the Sunlight Foundation doesn’t have data on whether that’s pro or anti Ross.

Read more

The “Protect Life Act:” Will There Be a Price to Be Paid?

8:57 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Carole Joffe for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Here is a story from 2002, as reported by the BBC:

Saudi Arabia’s religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress, according to Saudi newspapers. In a rare criticism of the kingdom’s powerful “mutaween” police, the Saudi media has accused them of hindering attempts to save 15 girls who died in the fire….

And here is a story from 2011, as reported in Talking Points Memo, about the “Protect Life Act,” H.R.358, which would amend the 2010 health reform law:

… new language inserted into the bill just this week would…(allow) hospitals that receive federal funds but are opposed to abortions to turn away women in need of emergency pregnancy termination to save their lives.

As the juxtaposition of these two incidents show, fundamentalism, one of whose defining features is the devaluing of women’s lives, clearly knows no geographical borders. Despite H.R. 358’s Orwellian name, this bill quite obviously is not intended to protect the lives of pregnant women.

As of February 4, one hundred members of Congress, including some women, have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. It is of course wishful thinking to believe that the these elected officials could be pressured to sign a statement certifying that they would have no objection if their wives, daughters, or in the cases of the congresswomen still in their reproductive years, were themselves  sent in an emergency situation to a hospital that refused to perform a life-saving abortion. Read more

How to Stop the Right’s Campaign Against Rape Victims

8:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by June Carbone for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This post was originally published at New Deal 2.0, a project of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

The Republican leadership is at it again. House Republicans rode into office on claims that President Obama and the Democratic Congress were promoting a “liberal” agenda rather than focusing on the real task at hand — job creation. Yet the first act of the new Republican House was a symbolic repeal of health care followed by a focus on the true conservative passion: regulating the sex lives of the most vulnerable and politically powerless women. The latest proposal, which would limit benefits for rape victims unless they could show that the rape was “forcible,” reintroduces a distinction that women fought for decades to eliminate — the notion that “real rape” can only occur when a stranger jumps out of the bushes and holds a woman at gunpoint. Otherwise, the woman must necessarily be complicit in the resulting pregnancy and should be forced to bear the child.

Anyone who seriously cares about women’s lives will oppose the measure. Merely trying to defeat it, however, is not enough. It continues the practice of letting the far right define the reproductive debate while those who champion reproductive justice play defense. It is time to turn the tables and propose practical changes that would actually cut public expenditures, protect rape victims and make the anti-women animus that motivates these proposals visible for all to see. Read more

New Anti-Choice Dems Join Congress

7:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Pamela Merritt for – News, commentary and community for Reproductive Health.

Pro-choice advocates added elected-official ammunition to their cause this November, and, indeed, the pro-choice Democratic Party is in power in both Congress and the White House. But some anti-choice Democrats are working hard to show that not everyone in the party supports legal abortion and reproductive health. This November, five of anti-choice Democrats were elected to Congress, bringing the total number of anti-choice Dems to 30.

Many pro-choice initiatives — like the Prevention First Act, or zeroing out abstinence-only funding — require the support of socially conservative Democrats to make it through Congress. With so much hinging on that support, pro-choice advocates need to know who these anti-choice Democrats are, what they believe and what reproductive health policy positions and legislation they intend to support. Read the rest of this entry →

Lessons from the Stimulus Debate: Sex Ed For Talking Heads, Male Lawmakers

11:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for – Information, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The three-ring circus on the stimulus bill and the Medicaid waiver provision for family planning services might have been avoided, some in the advocacy community and Congress say, if there had been more comprehensive sex education.

Nope, not for teens.

Apparently, the target group most in need of some good old fashioned sex ed can be found among the male members of the Democratic Party and among the talking heads in the media.

A number of Congressmen attending a House Caucus meeting on the economic package earlier this week reportedly could not stop snickering when the words “stimulus” and “family planning” were used in the same sentence, and continued to tee-hee their way through a presentation by female colleagues until asked to stop.

“They acted like they were in junior high,” reported a participant in the meeting. “It made me realize that not only did they not understand this issue, but that they are uncomfortable even talking about it."

Rather than chastising their male colleagues further, the women members and staffers involved in the meeting took this as a serious learning experience.

It should be a lesson for Read the rest of this entry →