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From STD Prevention to Sexual Health, and Back

11:14 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series developed by the American Social Health Association (ASHA) in celebration of Sexual Health Month 2012 during September. RHRC will be publishing articles by ASHA all month, see all the articles here and visit ASHA online throughout September for updates.

Cross-posted with permission from the American Social Health Association (ASHA).

Recovery Fair 2010

(Photo: Portland Prevention/flickr)

 

One evening, during the week of the 2001 International Society for STD Research meeting in Berlin, I met with a couple of colleagues for beers after the day’s proceedings. We lamented the the narrow focus of many conferences was on disease and the lack of a broader sexuality framework. “It is time to put sex into STD prevention,” one of my colleagues said. The comment was a bit wistful at the time and I don’t think any of us could have foreseen that a decade later our field would be expressing so much more interest in sexuality and sexual health.

This has been accentuated by the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recent efforts in developing a sexual health framework signalling an overall shift from disease prevention to health promotion. Credit goes to Dr. John Douglas, the Chief Medical Officer in the National Center for HIV, Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, who spearheaded this effort in the past three years and has created a broad coalition of stakeholders across the political and cultural spectrum to endorse a national strategy for sexual health.

Of course, the CDC’s efforts did not arise in a vacuum and there have been a number of developments in the past decade that have fostered a broad-based discussion of sexual health. For me, one of the heralding events in the sexual health discourse was Dr. Amy Schalet’s presentation on teen sexuality at the Jacksonville STD Prevention Conference in 2006. I have always been taken by Dr. Schalet’s work — perhaps because as a chauvinist Dutchman (born and raised in Amsterdam) I liked her findings that a more liberal attitude towards sexuality among Dutch teens and their parents is associated with much lower rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the Netherlands compared to the U.S.  Her book: “Not Under My Roof” was published last year (a podcast interview with Dr. Schalet is available at this link).

However, association does not causation make. There is a lot to like about a more positive approach towards sexuality, but a causal link between better sexual health and lower pregnancy and STI rates ultimately requires scientific evidence that goes beyond intuitive reasoning. For example, it has been said that prevention messages that use a positive “gain” frame (i.e., focus on health) are more effective than messages that use a negative “loss” frame (i.e., focus on disease). Intuitively, this sounds good but what’s the evidence? Not much, at least not in the field of prevention. The only study that analyzed the use of negative versus positive approaches for ongoing prevention with patients, actually found greater efficacy of the loss frame (or negative) messaging. This study formed the basis of the Partnership for Prevention intervention, which has been widely disseminated by the Diffusion of Effective Behavioral Interventions (DEBI) program.

The point is that for a sexual health strategy to work, we must develop a sexual health science. For starters, we must determine what parameters best measure a person’s sexual health. How are these parameters assessed and how are they related to the outcomes we are interested in: unintended pregnancy, STIs, sexual violence? Finally, can interventions be designed to influence these parameters that can be shown to improve sexual health and reduce negative outcomes?

If our forays into sexual health do not yield something more than what we are already doing now (i.e., testing and treating for STIs (including HIV), counsel our patients to reduce numbers of partners and increase condom use), our journey may have been interesting, but ultimately proven to be a detour.

There is some good research at the interface of sexuality and STI/HIV/pregnancy prevention. One of the leaders in that field is Dr. Dennis Fortenberry (indeed: he of the “wistful” comment cited above) at Indiana University School of Medicine. He has become a frequent speaker at national and international STI conferences on sexual health topics. In one such presentation, he proposed a sexual health research paradigm that encompasses and links the full spectrum of sexual expression, including sexual abstinence, masturbation, and partnered sex. For example, he presented very interesting data on the linkage of masturbation and condom use (click here for a copy of this presentation). He has also proposed that in the context of sexual health, a much greater focus must be placed on pleasure and desire. Go read his blog entitled: “What is Sexual Health” posted at this link.

At the end of the day, I am still an STD prevention guy. And, while I am a strong believer in sexual health promotion, we need science not just good will to show that this approach is working.       

It’s 2012. Shouldn’t College Students Know to Wrap It Up Already? (A Graduate Student’s Perspective)

12:16 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Ivy Abiona 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 article is published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) as part of our joint series on STD Awareness.

Trojan

(photo: Thom Watson/flickr)

 

They are more common than an all-nighter to finish a term paper or cramming for a final exam. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But the fact that STDS have a high prevalence among college aged students in the United States is alarming. One in four college students today has some kind of STD, a shocking 25 percent. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 19 million new cases of STDs occur every year, half of them occuring in people between 15 to 24 years old. I can’t say that I am a math whiz but let’s just say I don’t like the odds.

After doing some investigating I found that a primary reason for these high rates was a lack of education. As a New Jersey (yes, New Jersey) high school graduate I found this to be somewhat puzzling. I remember learning about different STDS and preventive measures. Even the nurse’s office had signs and posters describing this information. Don’t all students learn about prevention and safe sex in their health education courses in middle and/or in high school?

A 2006 study by the CDC demonstrates that my optimistic perspective is a utopian flaw. The CDC study indicated that among U.S. high schools, 28 percent taught 11 key pregnancy, HIV, or other STD prevention topics in a required health education course.  In addition, while 87 percent of high schools taught abstinence as the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs in a required health education course, only 39 percent taught how to correctly use a condom in a required health education course.  Clearly, high school students are in dire need of preventive and safe sex education and just teaching abstinence isn’t going to cut it. Early last month, the Guttmacher Institute released new research reaffirming other data and information that a comprehensive sexual education (teaching both abstinence and preventive measures) not only helps teens delay sex but also has a positive impact on other decisions when they do, such as partner selection. Read the rest of this entry →

The Cancerous Politics and Ideology of the Susan G. Komen Foundation

8:44 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(image: screenshot by ee382, photobucket)

(image: screenshot by ee382, photobucket)

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson 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 week it became clear there are things more important to the Susan G. Komen Foundation–the fundraising giant that each year during breast cancer awareness month virtually swathes the United States in pink, a la Christo–than ensuring women are able to access exams for early detection of breast cancer.

What could be more important to an organization ostensibly dedicated to the elimination of breast cancer? Answer: The politics and personal agendas of the organization’s senior staff and board, both of which have been infiltrated by right-wing ideologues and both of which were instrumental in a decision to deny further support from Komen affiliates to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide breast exams. In fact, it is now clear that Komen has been infiltrated at various levels by anti-choicers willing to actually sacrifice women to breast cancer to satisfy their own agendas.

Nationwide, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide nearly 750,000 breast cancer screenings annually, offering risk assessments, breast exams, breast health information and education, and diagnostic and surgical referrals. Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers have conducted nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams with funds from Komen, out of a total of more than four million clinical breast exams performed nationwide by Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen grants also supported more than 6,400 out of 70,000 mammogram referrals made by Planned Parenthood.

A large share of the clients served at Planned Parenthood clinics are low-income African-American and Latina women. The National Cancer Institute identifies lack of access to early and effective screening for breast cancer (and hence lack of early treatment) as a primary reason that African American and Latina women die of breast cancer at higher rates than the general population. In fact, Komen itself recognized these links in a 2011 statement on its relationship with Planned Parenthood:

While Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood.

Komen further stated:

These facilities serve rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured. As part of our financial arrangements, we monitor our grantees twice a year to be sure they are spending the money in line with our agreements, and we are assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs.

As long as there is a need for health care for these women, Komen Affiliates will continue to fund the facilities that meet that need.

But apparently those women no longer matter as Komen’s support has now been withdrawn. Read the rest of this entry →

The 96 Percent Campaign: How Obama Can Help End the AIDS Crisis

9:26 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

Written by Matthew Kavanagh & Dázon Dixon Diallo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

President Obama has repeatedly stressed his administration’s commitment to science as one way to distinguish his leadership from that of his predecessor.  Right now that commitment is being put to the test on HIV and AIDS: if the President could do more to  end the crisis, would he?

A revolutionized response to the global AIDS crisis has just been made possible with the August publication of a US-funded study showing that antiretroviral AIDS medicines (ARVs) can cut the risk of HIV transmission from an infected to a non-infected partner  by 96 percent. Not only do AIDS drugs save lives—they are among the most powerfully effective prevention tools.

This double-benefit changes the equation in fighting AIDS at home and abroad and raises the question: Will the Obama administration respond?

That is why we are launching The 96% Campaign making clear the choice the President faces between action and inaction. AIDS treatment is not just science—it’s a reproductive, economic, and racial justice issue.

The Obama administration has had a decidedly mixed record on AIDS treatment. Now, the science and our communities are asking: Will he step up?

The President Can “Begin to End” AIDS

The fact that treatment of HIV-infected adults is also prevention gives us the wherewithal, even in the absence of an effective vaccine, to begin to control and ultimately end the AIDS pandemic.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

The past few months have been heady for the science of HIV.  The biggest headlines came when the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 study was halted after it showed clearly that when an HIV-positive person takes AIDS medicines as prescribed, their HIV-negative partners are protected—cutting risk of HIV transmission by 96 percent. That was followed by a study that AIDS drugs might also be able to protect HIV-negative people from acquiring the virus. And this has followed other recent evidence that medical male circumcision can cut infection rates dramatically and topical ARVs in a gel can reduce HIV transmission in women. These findings add to what we have long-known–that other efforts to expand access to male and female condoms, comprehensive sexuality education, syringe exchange programs, and harm reduction efforts with sex workers and other groups at high risk are also critical prevention strategies.

With proof that treatment is prevention, and with this basket of broader prevention options, scientists and economists have finally been able to show what few could before: models of how we end the AIDS crisis. Globally, the UNAIDS “investment framework” shows that investment in core high-impact interventions could save over 7 million lives while preventing over 12 million new infections by 2020 and also bending the cost curve of the epidemic.  Last month at the scientific advisory board for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), data from the Centers for Disease Control showed that, in Kenya, dramatically scaling up ARVs and getting them to people earlier could reduce HIV incidence by 31 percent over five years and offset nearly 60 percent of the direct costs by keeping people alive.  And just today a study led by Harvard researchers shows that AIDS treatment pays for itself, and likely saves money, if you look at the economic impact of keeping parents alive for the sake of their kids and workers alive for their economies.

AIDS Treatment is a Reproductive Justice Issue and Many Lack Access

It is too easy, amidst the positive science, to lose sight of the real lives of real people living with HIV and the lives of their partners. The life-saving benefits of AIDS treatment have long been obvious. Today we see that a young woman in Sub-Saharan Africa is eight times as likely to be HIV-positive as a young man and gay men face similarly higher rates—so the question of who lives and who dies is also a profound question of gender and sexuality. At home, HIV is similarly inequitable along lines of race and sexuality.

For many in our community, the reality that ARVs prevent transmission is not news. For years people have worked to achieve “undetectable” viral loads to protect their partners and, in wealthy countries, ARVs have all-but eliminated the transmission of HIV from parents to babies.  People living with HIV have a right to fulfilling sexual lives and, if they choose, to parenthood—and ARVs are (one of several) prevention technologies to make that possible.

But decisions made by the Obama administration and other global leaders will dictate the extent to which these prevention strategies become available in the global South. Right now, for example, lack of funding to expand access to treatment means that while an HIV-positive pregnant woman in Africa might be able to access drugs while she is pregnant to prevent transmission from her to her newborn infant, her protection ends with giving birth, doing little for her own health and survival in the long term. And today, people living with HIV, seeking ARVs to help keep their partners HIV-negative, can’t access them unless they are much more advanced in AIDS progression and warrant scarce treatment slots.

At home and abroad millions are still waiting for AIDS treatment. Globally 10 million people are, today, in need of treatment in low and middle-income countries.  Here in the United States—wealthiest nation in the world—our health system is failing people living with HIV as over a third of those living with HIV are not in AIDS care, many even after being diagnosed.  We can and must do far, far better; if we do, we can end the AIDS crisis.

Administration Steps Forward and Backward for AIDS Treatment

The Obama administration record on AIDS treatment has been decidedly mixed.

In the United States, the Administration’s “National HIV/AIDS Strategy” has been largely applauded, though implementation and funding has been slow. The administration’s signature legislative victory—the Affordable Care Act—would have many positive benefits. But today as the economy falters so too have people’s access to care and treatment, , especially in southern states.  Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the nearly 10,000 people in a dozen states who cannot afford their AIDS drugs but are now on waiting lists for help. While most of these people are currently receiving medications though temporary and ad-hoc efforts, most of these will expire and leave people without life-saving medicines–a costly and dangerous prospect for maintaining health and prevention.

Globally, the administration has taken some good steps—making a 3-year pledge to the Global Fund and, through leadership from some in the State Department, scaling up ARV access despite budgets. But other signs show clear failures of leadership. White House officials have spoken of AIDS treatment as a “mortgage” they need to get out from under and said we need  “we can’t treat our way out of the HIV-AIDS epidemic.”Meanwhile, a close analysis shows that funding for treatment programs within U.S. global AIDS programs has actually decreased since the President came into office—limiting the potential to treat more people.

President Obama: Put Us On Track to End the AIDS Crisis…

I want the American people to be able to say, ‘this is a President and an Administration that admits when it makes mistakes and adapts itself to new information, that believes in making decisions based on facts and on science as opposed to what is politically expedient.’” –President Obama

We believe that he means what he says. So this is why we have launched the 96% Campaign to ask the President to pay attention to the science and pay attention to what people living with HIV need. Treatment is only one piece of the puzzle, but it is among the bedrock pieces.

With the 2012 International AIDS Conference coming to Washington, DC and tens of thousands of community members, experts, and media focused on the U.S. global AIDS response the world will be watching.  It is also the 30th year of AIDS and 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS which brought the world together to focus on the urgent need to scale up access to treatment.

We’re asking the President to act now to:

1) Tell PEPFAR administrators to immediately and dramatically scale up access to AIDS drugs under PEPFAR by 2013—to prevent and treat HIV and help galvanize the global AIDS fight.

2) Do everything in his power to ensure that PEPFAR, the Global Fund, and domestic AIDS programs get at least the funding you put in your budget—please remind Congress that ending the AIDS pandemic will not wait.

3) Fight for the expansion of Medicaid and expand the resources specifically needed to ensure that all those in the US in need of ARVs have access, including permanently ending state waiting lists.

We can end the AIDS crisis.  Let’s not wait.  Tell the President not to wait.

HPV Education, Prevention & Support: Innovative Efforts Reach Young People and Older Adults

8:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

There’s an abundance of conversations about Human Papillomavirus (HPV), especially since the new vaccinations have been approved by the FDA, and now include boys. However, what are people doing about promoting awareness and prevention about HPV (human papillomavirus), not only for young people, but older adults and men? I asked Patti Murillo-Casa, the NY Chapter President of Tamika & Friends, Inc. (T&F) a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending cervical cancer through HPV education. I admit that I was one of the founding members of T&F when living in Washington, DC and helped to build some of the early HPV education and prevention activities and discussing sexual health and sexuality specific to HPV and cervical cancer. Since my departure, T&F has expanded and grown in ways that are exciting and very much needed!

Patti Murillo-Casa has been a guest speaker for many of my classes where she shares her experience being diagnosed with cervical cancer 3 years ago, her healing, recovery, and her coping practices. She also shares information about HPV to help raise awareness. I’ve interviewed Patti before when asking her about the rates of divorce among couples where one experiences cervical cancer.  After her most recent visit as a guest speaker, I asked if she would be willing to provide an interview with me to help raise awareness of the work T&F is doing, how folks can create a chapter in their area, and how area folks can get involved in their reproductive justice efforts locally.

Can you share with us how you became involved with Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

Sure!!–.  Three months after my last treatment [for cervical cancer] had ended, and feeling the repercussions of the aftermath of a battle, my brother, Rudy, for whatever reason was checking the internet and found Tamika and Friends NYC Walk to Beat the Clock, a 5K prevention and awareness walk to prevent cervical cancer.  The walk was going to be taken place in 3 days from the day he told me.  He insisted so much for us to do it that I gave in.  We gathered family, friends, raised some money and named our team “Tumor Terminators” and on Saturday, September 19, 2009 we were there.  For me it was like an epiphany when I saw the other survivors, women fighting the battle, caregivers and their friends all telling their stories with so much strength and determination.   It was easy to get inspired.  These women inspired me and continue to every day.  They welcomed me and hugged me as a sister; I was their survivor sister. They knew exactly what I had gone through.  I went to Tamika Felder, the founder and CEO of T&F, and I told her right there and then that I wanted to join the movement.  I wanted to be one of her “Friends.”  I was not feeling sorry for myself anymore.  I understood then, that the second chance I had just been given was to help other women not to endure what I had.  Tamika and Friends-NYC Chapter was born January 15, 2010.

What have been some of your most rewarding experiences since working with Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

They have been many, but meeting awesome people in this community tops my list.  I have met amazing warriors, advocates, and just people with tremendous heart and passion.  I have my ups and downs too, but I try to focus on the ups.  I always remember the first girl that came up to me and told me that because she heard or read my story she went to her doctor to check herself and that she will promise to do it every year.  In my book that’s what makes it all worthwhile and rewarding.  I call it my boost injection. :)  It allows me to continue with my mission, with my goal, with passion and determination to help eradicate cervical cancer.

What are some of the challenges you see existing in the work Tamika & Friends, Inc. has planned locally in NYC and nationally?

Tamika Felder calls this organization small, but very mighty.  We roll up our sleeves and we get ready to work at all times.  We are all volunteers and willing to do anything to spread the word and help survivors and people battling the disease.  As a national nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of our friends, neighbors and companies to help us. Unfortunately, in these economic times it’s hard, but we go forward with what we have and at the end of the day we have done what we can and we sleep better at night.  This is New York City, a city full of generous and eager people and if you want to help us you can email me at nycchapter@tamikaandfriends.org  or call 917-829-TFNY.

How do you see Tamika & Friends, Inc. work and the work you are doing as a example of reproductive justice?

We have several programs in place. Some of these are:

House Party of fiVe – A House Party of fiVe mixes girl talk with games teaching about HPV and how to stay safe in those intimate moments. The parties are fun, not lectures, and you can customize your party to fit your style! After experiencing this comfortable environment where women can ask questions more openly about their sexual health, many often pledge to visit their health-care provider to get their Pap and HPV tests along with taking back the literature provided and messages learned to share with their friends and family.

Wear Orange Day -In January, cervical cancer awareness month, we wear orange to bring more awareness to this preventable disease. While the color teal and white is the official color for cervical cancer, Tamika & Friends wears the color orange, a color that has been said to be healing and helps to balance your emotions in times of high stress.

Say Something - a toolkit provided and co-sponsored by another great organization, The Yellow Umbrella. Many times we want to know how to talk to our friends and family on cervical cancer, its link to HPV and how we can all prevent it. With the materials provided, it becomes easier to share information, educate yourself and help encourage women to get their HPV test.

Gift of Giving Financial Assistance Application -This is Tamika & Friends way of helping cervical cancer patients/survivors pay their bills. Unfortunately, the realities in this world do not stop even when you have a cervical cancer diagnosis and we love to be able to help ease the burden with donations provided by our supporters.

Walk to Beat the Clock – Our annual walks for cervical cancer. A place to provide solidarity, while recognizing and building a community of survivors, advocates, family and friends. The NYC Walk to Beat the Clock will on Saturday, September 17, 2011.  You can register, donate or volunteer by going to www.walktobeattheclock.org

T&F Chapters – Our organization is growing and as we share on our website we want to go global! We also attend many health fairs targeting different communities in Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights and the South Bronx and we give information and bring awareness to this disease and prevention. We want to expand. We love being online, but we also know that education and help is often best offered in person. Tamika & Friends will work with you and others in your community to organize educational events such as those listed above. We will provide materials and expertise to help you hold informational sessions at your local library, attend health fairs, contact community health organizations and colleges/universities. Plus, we will help you connect women in need with medical and social support and assist in fundraising efforts.

Tamika & Friends is a great way to combine fun, friendship and making a difference. To get involved, or to request additional information, please contact Tanhea at tanhea@tamikaandfriends.org.

How do you include men in HPV education and why is their inclusion important?

I particularly love men in the audience when I do my presentations.  Most of the time they shy away from the subject until they find out the HPV affects men and women.  It is obvious, that they will not get cervical cancer but there are other cancers that men can get that are linked to HPV (i.e. penile, anal, throat).   I also remind them that there are women in their lives (mom. sister, aunt, grandmother, godmother, girlfriends) and they have to support them.  Knowledge is power for everyone.

I believe that the inclusion of men is very important because in a way this disease affects everyone.  Men also have to realized that the human papillomavirus affects them too and it can lead to genital warts, penile cancer and anal cancer, to name a few.   Recent studies have revealed that throat cancer is in the rise for men due to the human papillomavirus. It is also important that boys and young men 9-26 years old know that they are able to get the HPV vaccine.

What support services exist for cervical cancer survivors via Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

One of the services already mentioned is the Gift of Giving which helps cervical cancer patients/survivors pay their bills. We have a certified counselor on board if they want to talk, a gynecologist, and nurse; we also offer emotional support (online coming soon). Family support is awesome but to talk and be supported by someone that has gone through what you have gone through makes a difference. Tamika and Friends, Inc. can be the other family in a survivor’s life.

What else would you like to have readers know about Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

Believing that creative communication is far more infectious than HPV – we provide many hands-on ways to spread the word to women in all walks of life. We may be reached using social media and our website.

You can reach out to us by visiting our website: www.tamikaandfriends.org, on Facebook

and Twitter. You can read our blog We Can Prevent Cervical Cancer

 

For Latinas, The IOM Recommendations on Women’s Health Represent a Big Win

8:09 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Maria Elena Perez for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Women are cheering this week’s recommendation by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to eliminate costly insurance co-pays for birth control. It’s a signal that there is a growing public recognition that preventive care is more than just the provision of services at the doctor’s office. For millions of Latinas, birth control, by definition, is prevention. But, while the media has focused extensively on the birth control recommendations, the full set of recommendations detailed by federal health officials paints an even brighter picture for our community: Latinas made major gains not only in controlling our fertility, but equally importantly in keeping ourselves and our children healthy.

The IOM is made up of a powerful group of scientists and public health leaders that has enormous sway in the government’s approach to health care. It’s no surprise then that health professionals looking at the country’s essential needs recognized what many have not: removing societal barriers to health care, such as those faced by many Latinas, are critical public health priorities.

Virtually every one of the IOM recommendations will greatly benefit Latina women.

Continue reading…

In Missouri, Legislators Fail to Protect Women’s Basic Rights, Undermining Justice for All

8:11 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Pamela Merritt for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On July 14, 2011, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon allowed two identical abortion restriction bills to become law. In a bizarre move toward the end of the 2011 legislative session, Missouri legislators passed two versions of the same restriction bill, one originally filed in the Senate and the other in the House. The passage of identical abortion restriction bills was likely fueled by more than one legislator wanting to take credit.

Often erroneously reported as banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation, HB213 & SB65 can more accurately be described as eliminating certain health exceptions that protected women facing serious pregnancy-related complications. The legislation changes the factors physicians must consider before performing a post-viability abortion and creates criminal penalties for physicians not following the new regulations. Governor Nixon, a Democrat who successfully ran as a pro-choice candidate in 2008, did not sign the abortion restriction bills into law nor did he veto the legislation.  The identical abortion restriction bills automatically became law once the July 14, 2011 veto deadline passed.

Reproductive justice advocates had hoped that Governor Nixon would veto the abortion restriction bills. In the weeks leading up to the 2011 veto deadline, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial that called on the Governor to do just that and send a message to state legislators that it is time to get serious and cease treating women’s health like a political football. The Post-Dispatch editorial points out that Missouri’s annual legislative pander to anti-choice special interest groups in lieu of focusing on prevention is both fiscally irresponsible and hypocritical; unintended pregnancies cost tax payers billions, while reducing the number of unintended pregnancies would also reduce the number of abortions. But as the hours ticked by Thursday July 14th it became clear that the Governor was not going to capitalize on this leadership opportunity to send a message through his veto.

Continue reading…