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The Media and the Gosnell Case: A Case of Insecurity and a Misinformation Campaign

12:20 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Pile of newspapers

A journalist looks at the barriers to reporting on women's reproductive freedom.

In recent days, amidst cries of a media “blackout,” a number of journalists have admitted to either missing or dismissing the story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell over the past two years. As one of the many journalists who has been covering the Gosnell story since it broke in early 2011, all I can say is: We tried to get the story out there. But more importantly, this politics-of-media framework distracts from the circuitous politics that enabled, and resulted from, Gosnell’s actual crimes and the women who were affected.

What Media Blackout?

After spending much of 2010 interviewing 58 witnesses, in January 2011 the Philadelphia district attorney’s office published a 281-page report accusing Kermit Gosnell of grotesque, depraved crimes.

There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with bloodstained blankets. All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff — long before Gosnell arrived at the clinic — and staff members could not accurately state what medications or dosages they had administered to the waiting patients. Many of the medications in inventory were past their expiration dates.

Fetal remains were stored in milk jugs and cat food containers. A janitor admitted he routinely pulled fetal parts out of pipes. Unlicensed, untrained staff, including a high school student, pumped cheap, powerful drugs into the veins of women who were chemically coaxed into zombie-like stupors that sometimes lasted days.

Last week, Kristen Powers published an op-ed in USA Today that sparked a Twitter shame campaign, directly asking prominent national journalists why they hadn’t covered the case. And it worked. Now, more than three years after the raid and more than two years after the grand jury report, some national journalists who ignored the case entirely are suddenly wildly interested.

After years of coverage from outlets in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, outlets focused on women’s health issues, and yes, mainstream media outlets, apparently all it took to catch the attention of writers such as Slate‘s Dave WeigelThe Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf, and Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg was to target their collective egos — specifically, their insecurity about being perceived as having a liberal bias.

Weigel, one of the first writers to develop a sudden interest in Gosnell after Powers’ piece, wrote that when he read about Gosnell back in 2011, he didn’t “see a political story to chase.”

At 3801 Lancaster, the site of Gosnell’s clinic, patients chose their medicine and painkillers a la carte. In other words, the more cash a patient could give Gosnell, the more painkiller she could get. The poorer the patient, the more she would suffer. With all the talk about the Affordable Care Act, you’d think that such starkly stratified access to quality health care would be an interesting political story. The story touches on poverty, abortion, civil rights, state rights, healthcare, increasing inequality and race, to name a few topics of political interest that, if nothing else, came up quite a bit during the presidential election.

What Weigel really meant, of course, is that he didn’t see a story worth chasing. “Bored media,” indeed.

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Bob Casey Versus the Rights of Women

6:39 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

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

It seems a lifetime ago that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v Connecticut that a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Eight years later the Constitutional principles underlying that decision were pivotal to the court’s ruling in Roe v Wade which recognized that a woman’s right to have an abortion was a protected private decision with some exceptions.

Roe v Wade and access to safe contraception has helped make possible the hard-won gains that women have achieved during the past 40 years in education, employment and participation in public life. But the status of American women as full and equal citizens is being challenged just about every day by outspoken priests, pundits and politicians who are questioning long-established rights to family planning and other women’s health programs.

This assault has accelerated in the wake of the Republican tsunami that was the 2010 election. Rights first established in 1965 and strengthened in intervening years that empowered women by ensuring their right to abortion, healthcare, dignity, and privacy are today on the endangered list. Last week the battle moved to the United States Senate where the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” proposed by Senator Roy Blunt as an amendment to a Transportation Bill sought to allow any employer to opt out of abortion and contraceptive coverage, and any other health treatment based solely on the undefined determination of the employer’s religious and moral beliefs, including prenatal care, childhood vaccinations, cancer screenings, and mammograms. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rightfully denounced the bill as “an extreme, ideological amendment.” Fortunately the Blunt amendment was defeated by a vote of 51 to 48. Olympia Snowe of Maine was the only Republican to vote “nay.” The bill has been cited as one of Snowe’s principal reasons for her surprising decision to retire from the Senate. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska confessed to the Anchorage Daily News that “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me.” She unhesitatingly said “no” when asked if she would vote the same way if she had it to do over again.

Apparently the qualms expressed by Senators Murkowski and Snowe are not shared by the Democratic Senior Senator from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey Jr. Casey joined only two other Democratic Senators, Ben Nelson (NE) and Joe Manchin (WV), in voting for the Blunt Amendment, insisting that the alternative position supported by other Democrats does not go far enough to protect the Constitutional liberties of religious institutions and employers–despite recent concessions by the Obama Administration. Casey’s vote was reminiscent of many of his earlier votes, most notably his vote against federal funding of stem cell research in 2007 (supported by 63 Senators including 17 Republicans). Ben Nelson was the only other Democrat who voted with Casey. That bill, vetoed by President Bush, became law when President Obama enacted it via an Executive Order. Read the rest of this entry →

Don’t Judge All Abortion Providers Based on the Case of Steven Brigham

8:09 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Vicki Saporta for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

It is no surprise that abortion opponents are attempting to use the recent investigation of a Maryland clinic to depict abortion as unsafe and providers as unregulated. However, this case is not representative of the state of abortion care in Maryland or throughout the rest of the country.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures provided in the United States due in large part to the skill and expertise of abortion providers who offer high-quality care. However, Steven Brigham’s record makes it clear that he is not one of these providers.

The events in Elkton, MD are just the latest problem for Brigham who has come under fire from state licensing boards and health departments throughout his career. He has had his medical license temporarily suspended, relinquished, or revoked in five states, and this summer the Pennsylvania Department of Health ordered him to shutdown his clinics there and banned him from owning any other abortion clinics in the state. These repeated disciplinary actions make it evident that Brigham operates outside recognized standards for quality abortion care. And just as we wouldn’t judge the entire field for the misconduct of one dentist or dermatologist, we must not make generalizations about abortion providers based on Brigham.

Yet, that is exactly what abortion opponents are doing. They are using this opportunity to call for more regulations on all providers in an attempt to further their goal of limiting women’s access to abortion care. While I agree that Brigham and his clinics in Maryland and surrounding states should be investigated, I do so in order to ensure that women have access to the highest quality abortion care. Abortion is already highly regulated, and additional state regulations are not necessary.

Health care facilities, including abortion clinics, are required to comply with a variety of federal and state regulations. These include the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, as well as other state and local regulations. Medical professionals, including physicians and clinicians who work in abortion care, are required to maintain professional standards and licenses and complete continuing medical education courses.

Additionally, most abortion providers comply with professional guidelines and established standards of care. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America. NAF members care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year in the United States, Canada, and Mexico City. Each NAF member must comply with NAF’s evidence-based Clinical Policy Guidelines, which are updated annually, and set the standards for abortion care in North America. NAF periodically conducts site visits to confirm that member facilities are in compliance with these guidelines, which help ensure that women receive quality care. Other medical organizations, such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have also established professional guidelines for abortion providers that their affiliates and members must follow.

Many states already single out abortion providers for politically-motivated, medically unnecessary regulations. Enactment of this type of legislation discourages health care providers from offering abortion care and can make provision very burdensome and/or expensive for smaller providers. These restrictions — which often dictate the width of hallways or landscaping maintenance— do not make abortion safer, they just make it more difficult for abortion providers to remain open and for women to access the abortion care they need. Abortion providers should not be targeted for more regulations based on the troubled career of Steven Brigham.

Abortion has an outstanding safety record: fewer than 0.3 percent of all abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization.

High-quality abortion care is readily available from providers and clinics who meet NAF’s quality care standards. Women can locate providers offering quality care online or by calling the NAF Hotline referral line 1-877-257-0012.