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The Battle Over ‘I Love Boobies’

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

I Love Boobies

Is this helping or hurting “the breast cancer conversation?”

Last Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld an injunction prohibiting the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania from enforcing a ban on “I Love Boobies! Save a Breast!” bracelets, the trendy bands that promote the Keep a Breast Foundation’s national breast cancer outreach and awareness campaign. But while a federal court may have found the bracelets protected under the First Amendment, the court of public opinion still takes issue with “I Love Boobies” and similar campaigns, with many people finding them toxic to the overall breast cancer conversation.

In its 9-5 decision, the federal court rejected the school district’s claim that the popular slogan is lecherous and disruptive, ruling that it provides commentary on a prevalent social issue. Particularly, Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in his 74-page opinion for B.H. and K.M. v. Easton Area School District:

Schools cannot avoid teaching our citizens-in-training how to appropriately navigate the “marketplace of ideas.” Just because letting in one idea might invite even more difficult judgment calls about other ideas cannot justify suppressing speech of genuine social value.

“It’s a tremendous ruling supportive of student free speech,” Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and lead counsel in the case, told RH Reality Check. “What this ruling does is recognize that teenagers talk about important things, whether it’s political issues [or] social issues. That’s the type of speech we most want to protect.”

The August 7 judgment puts to bed years of litigation that began in November 2010, when the ACLU-PA filed a lawsuit challenging the Easton Area School District’s “I Love Boobies!” bracelet ban, claiming it infringed on students’ First Amendment right to free speech. The original suit was lodged on behalf of Easton Area Middle School students Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, who were suspended in October 2010 for declining to adhere to the ban, which was imposed over a month after students started wearing the wristbands without incident. In rationalizing the interdict, the middle school asserted some students were made uneasy by human sexuality topics, others were “prompted” to make sexual innuendos, and some staff found them offensive, the lawsuit claims.

While, in 2011, a federal judge granted ACLU-PA’s request for an emergency injunction on the ban, the Easton Area School District appealed the enjoinment, arguing the message behind the Keep a Breast Foundation’s catchphrase could be misconstrued as “lewd” and potentially hinder school activities. To prove such, the district invoked both the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Bethel School District v. Fraser, which upholds that schools can restrict student speech if it is “vulgar, lewd, profane or plainly offensive” (meaning it offers no fundamental social or political value to a broader conversation), and 1969′s Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which states students have a constitutional right to free speech, but said speech can be regulated if a school proves it “materially and substantially interfere[s] with the requirements of appropriate discipline” in school operations. In its Monday decision, however, the Third Circuit found that the Easton Area School District could not prove either of its claims under these two edicts since the message is meant to stir constructive dialogue.

This is not the first time that “I Love Boobies” and similarly chest-centric breast cancer awareness campaigns, like the “Save the Ta-Tas” bumper stickers, have been subject to school bans. Moffat County School District in Colorado barred students from wearing Keep a Breast’s popular wristband in 2011, but rescinded the ban that year after pressure from the ACLU of Colorado. Sauk Prairie Middle School in Wisconsin also banned the same bracelets, and a federal court judge ruled in 2012 that it could continue to impose that ban. Wearing “I Love Boobies!” gear has also been prohibited at Laramie Junior High School in Wyoming (the ban was reversed), and at an Elmira, Oregon, high school, reports the Huffington Post. Similarly, two years ago, cheerleaders at an Arizona high school were banned from wearing t-shirts brandishing the slogan, “Feel for lumps, save your bumps,” in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“[The August 7 decision] is a really important rule for schools to follow. When they see a message that a student is conveying a message, is talking about something that is a social or political issue, they can’t go looking for a way to eventually sanitize that,” Roper told RH Reality Check. “This means that schools have to really confront the fact that kids are gonna talk about controversial issues. They need to make sure there’s room for that conversation to happen.”

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Texas Health and Human Services Says Women Don’t Want to Change Providers—Actually, Many Can’t

12:58 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Doctor with stethoscope

Texas women struggle to see doctors they trust after changes to health care programs.

Without Planned Parenthood, the new Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP) has seen a 23 percent reduction in medical claims and thousands fewer Texans enrolled in the program in the first half of 2013 as compared to the same period last year, when the program was still the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. The state’s explanation? Women just don’t want to change doctors.

“We expected to see a drop off in the number of claims when we moved to the state program because we knew some women wouldn’t want to change doctors,” said Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) spokesperson Stephanie Goodman in a statement this week.

Goodman’s statement is at best glib and at worst a kind of victim-blaming that puts the responsibility for the state’s failure to provide low-cost reproductive health care squarely on the shoulders of the very people it is supposed to be serving.

The TWHP provides contraceptives and well-woman exams to low-income Texans. From 2007 to 2012, it operated as part of Medicaid, receiving a 90 percent federal match in funds and, at peak enrollment, saw almost 130,000 clients. But in 2012, the state kicked Planned Parenthood out of participating in the program because it considers the organization to be an abortion “affiliate” and thereby ineligible to provide health care using public funds in Texas. At that time, the federal government dropped its support of the program because the arbitrary exclusion of any qualified health provider from a Medicaid program is a violation of the Social Security Act, which dictates that Medicaid enrollees have a right to receive care from the physician of their choosing. To fund a program that denies Texans the ability to see the qualified doctor of their choice would, according to the Center for Medicaid Services, be a violation of its own law.

Undeterred, Texas launched a new, entirely state-funded Women’s Health Program in January of this year, and so far it has seen its service numbers plummet without the involvement of Planned Parenthood, which historically saw about half of all Women’s Health Program patients.

According to preliminary data provided by the Texas HHSC, current enrollment in TWHP is estimated to be about 97,000 clients, the lowest number of enrollees since September 2009, when the program was just two-and-a-half years old. This July, the TWHP counted over 10,000 fewer enrollees than it did in the same month last year. Add this to the fact that, according to the University of Texas’ Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TPEP), more than 60 family planning clinics in Texas—most of which were not Planned Parenthood facilities—have closed since 2011 due to family planning funding cuts, and it’s clear that there’s a serious, and growing, hole in Texas’ reproductive health safety net.

And yet the state says that if fewer and fewer low-income Texans are receiving publicly funded reproductive health care, it must be because women don’t want to change doctors. Considering the very real logistical, physical, and emotional challenges women face now that they have been forced by the state government to find new reproductive health providers, the HHSC’s statement seems an egregious simplification of a deeply complex and personal issue.

Amanda Stevenson, a TPEP researcher who studies the impact of family planning budget cuts on low-income Texans, told RH Reality Check that research shows changing doctors is not simply about personal preferences, but rather about the complex ways Texans choose their providers and the many factors that influence their decisions.

“There’s lots of other complexities that are hidden by [Goodman's] statement,” Stevenson said, citing spatial distribution and capacity of providers as just two factors that affect whether someone is able to switch to a new doctor. “Maybe you don’t want to go to a doctor who is 50 miles from you, but you also sort of can’t,” she said. “Preference is not the right framework for this.”

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New Texas Law Unfair, Increases Inequality

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Read all of RH Reality Check‘s coverage of the recent fight for reproductive rights in Texas here.

El Paso downtown

Women in communities like El Paso will find it much harder to receive reproductive health services under #HB2.

There will be many, many pixels spent on the ramifications of the new law in Texas, signed by Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, a law set to close most of the abortion clinics in the state. I’ll spill some myself, and already have. What I want to address is the larger theme of the anti-choice movement that the Texas decision really brings to the forefront: The profound commitment to unfairness and inequality that holds the anti-choice movement together. Not just between men and women, though it’s certainly true that subjecting those with a uterus to state control over their reproductive organs contributes to that inequality. The anti-choice movement and their goals are unfair on every level, and the Texas decision shows that.

1) Inequality by geography. The anti-choice movement’s strategy of attacking abortion rights on a state-by-state basis may have been the expedient choice—it’s much easier to get largely unpopular abortion restrictions passed through state than national politics—but it’s also one that creates massive gulfs in access based on nothing more than geography. Even though all Americans are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law, laws like this mean some Americans can’t easily get to an abortion clinic while some have all the access they need. This was already true for a lot of Texans compared to, say, New Yorkers—the anti-choice climate plus the huge swaths of rural land without much in the way of abortion access made sure of that—but this law will dramatically deepen the disparity between who and who does not have realistic access to their abortion rights.

In other words, Texas politicians just targeted their own people for the removal of rights, or at least realistic access to those rights. It’s not New Yorkers or Californians that will have to scrape together hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get access to a safe, legal abortion. It’s Texans, and for no other reason than the accident of geography. To make it worse, this disparity will happen within the state, too, as people who live in the urban areas around Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas will have clinics relatively close, but those who live in West Texas will have nothing.

2) Inequality by wealth. What that means, of course, is that the already-existing gaps of access between women of means and those without will get much worse. It’s a struggle for working class and low-income women to get any kind of health care; it’s a struggle for them to get an abortion even if there’s a clinic right down the street, because you still have to come up with $300-$600 to pay for the procedure. Now it’s just going to get worse, as many women will have to drive—or fly, because it’s really that far away now—hundreds of miles to get to clinic. Or worse than that, because the five remaining clinics won’t be able to handle the abortion demand, so women will have to look outside of the state, or even halfway around the country.

For women with means, being able to take an “abortion vacation,” perhaps flying to New York City for an abortion and staying in a hotel—maybe go see some sights while you’re there!—will be totally doable. For those who can’t just afford to drop a couple of thousands of dollars and take the time off work, that will be an impossibility. No wonder there’s an already existing black market in abortion pills, one that’s expected to grow after this law goes into action.

3) Unfairness to taxpayers/inequality in movement funding. One of the most under-discussed issues here is that the anti-choice movement is basically redirecting necessary tax revenues needed for things like education and infrastructure to fund their movement. Texas passed a law that is in direct violation of the “undue burden” clause of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That means that the legislators opened up the state to a lawsuit, but it’s going to be an extremely expensive one, almost surely running into the millions of dollars. All the lawyers working to defend this law? Paid for by the taxpayers of the state of Texas.

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Planned Parenthood Files New Suit in Fight Over Texas Women’s Health Program

12:20 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes and Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A huge crowd in front of Planned Parenthood's bus at the Texas Capitol

Women and their allies gather at the Texas State Capitol, April 2012. (Photo: Grimes / Flickr)

Planned Parenthood has filed a new suit in Texas state court claiming that it cannot, under state law, be excluded from participating in the newly-established Texas Women’s Health Program (WHP)—a program which the state created with the express purpose of being able to exclude Planned Parenthood, because Texas considers the health care organization an “abortion affiliate.”

A state judge in Austin issued a temporary restraining order Friday preventing the state from banning Planned Parenthood from the state-run women’s health program. The order was issued a day after a federal appellate court refused to reconsider an earlier 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that allowed the state to implement the ban; Planned Parenthood argued the funding ban should be blocked because it was in violation of federal law.

In the lawsuit filed in Travis County District Court, Planned Parenthood argues that the state’s Affiliate Ban Rule is not authorized by Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code. That is the state law which establishes the Women’s Health Program.

According to the statute, the program is subject to approval from the federal government and makes any provision “inoperative” if it causes the state to lose federal matching money for the Women’s Health Program. According to the lawsuit, HHSC was not authorized by the Texas legislature to adopt the Affiliate Ban Rule because it makes the Women’s Health Program ineligible for federal funding. The Affiliate Ban Rule is, therefore, invalid as a matter of state law.

In Texas, the Planned Parenthood clinics providing preventive health care to about 50,000 WHP clients or nearly half of the total enrollees in the program are kept completely separate—both financially and physically—from clinics that provide safe abortion care. In fact, pregnant women cannot even participate in the WHP, as the program itself is specifically for the prevention of pregnancy in the first place. Abortion has about as much to do with WHP services as heart surgery might; participants in the program are seen for a very limited selection of reproductive health services, including pap smears and contraception. No WHP patient should ever need an abortion because, if the program works properly as it has done for years, no WHP patient should experience an unplanned pregnancy. 

However, Texas Governor Rick Perry released a statement yesterday in response to the new lawsuit vowing to “keep fighting for life:”

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Not In My Backyard! As Local Government Attacks on Women’s Health Increase, Citizens Are Fighting Back

11:39 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

The vicious attacks on women’s health to which we’ve grown so accustomed on the national and state stages are trickling down to the local level, as municipal and county governments get in on the action. Thankfully, time and again, local citizens have mounted fast and furious responses, resulting in the type of swift and satisfying victories that sometimes feel unimaginable on the national stage.

Photobucket

Local officials around the country have been using the “no taxpayer-funding for abortion” mantra to quietly turn away money for family planning programs that provide vital services for their neediest constituents. These attacks tend to follow a pattern: a program that has been funded without debate for years is suddenly pegged by a politician as “controversial.” Fellow politicians fall in line and vote to defund the program before residents and public health officials have time to react.

But in a few instances, community members are stepping in to stop them once word gets out.

Last year, in Ravalli County, Montana, County Commissioners challenged the approval of $39,000 in Title X funding to the local family planning clinic. The clinic provides services such as pregnancy & STD tests, contraceptives, and nutrition education to over 450 clients, the vast majority of whom are uninsured and live below the poverty line, and a third of whom are teens. The clinic had never before faced a problem receiving funding.

At a July meeting, County Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher raised three objections to the clinic’s funding based on his personal beliefs: its mission of preventing unplanned pregnancy implied that pregnancy was a “disease state,” its provision of emergency contraception was outside the proper role of government, and its promise of confidentiality for services offered to adolescents violated the “sacred relationship” between parent and child. For good measure, he added that it was “easy to debate” whether or not EC causes abortion.

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Goodbye, Texas Women’s Health Program

10:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

(photo: ee382, photobucket)

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. For all our coverage of the cuts to the Texas Women’s Health Program, click here.

On March 14th, 2012, at least 300,000 low-income and uninsured Texas women will have no or greatly-reduced access to basic preventive and reproductive health care due to the loss of federal funding for the Medicaid Women’s Health Program in the state. The program has been under threat for months as lawmakers fight over whether it’s legal to exclude Planned Parenthood from the program.

On Friday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters in Houston that the federal government would not extend its waiver, which provided about 90 percent of the cost of the program. It is against federal law to exclude “qualified providers” from providing Medicaid care, and while the federal government considers Planned Parenthood “qualified,” the state of Texas does not. Since 2005, legislators in Texas have sought specifically to block Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women’s Health Program in Texas, when they voted into place a state law, only just now enforced, that bars “affiliates” of abortion providers from receiving funds. Planned Parenthood uses no taxpayer dollars to provide abortions and keeps its abortion services wholly financially separate from its non-abortion services.

In a statement released Friday, Governor Rick Perry’s office stuck the Obama administration with the blame for not renewing the Women’s Health Program, neglecting to mention that there would be no reason to defund the program had Perry and his conservative allies in Texas not sought to defy federal law in the first place. Perry has said that Texas will continue to fund what would very likely amount to a significantly stripped-down version of the program with state funds–despite the fact that state legislators already devastated the state family planning budget last year.

“We’re questioning the governor saying he’s going to continue the funding with state money,” Planned Parenthood of North Texas representative Kelly Hart told RH Reality Check, “and why the state would want to go forward to spend more money to provide care to fewer women.” Hart says Planned Parenthood expects to be able to provide WHP care until they’re phased out in late April so that “more women can have that last chance to get their annual exam.” Read the rest of this entry →

Tea Party Family Values and the World’s Greatest Freak Show

12:51 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Michelle & JimBob Duggar via hoyden about town on flickr

Michelle & JimBob Duggar via hoyden about town on flickr

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

On fundamentalist counterculture & juvenile black market adoption fantasies …

Do you remember when it first dawned on you that your relatives are all a bunch of crackpots and weirdos?  Seems like I was around 8 or 9 — my mother worked all night in the casinos and slept most of the day, leaving me alone to protect my naïve older sister from the depraved advances of Mom’s alcoholic boyfriends and worry about my big brother’s drug addiction. I couldn’t count on my grandparents to help — they were too preoccupied with their own divorce, dating, and remarriage dramas.

“Holy sugar,” I thought to myself, “these people are seriously messed up!”

That’s about the time the fantasies began.  My home, I imagined, was a three-ring circus — and my relatives were the freaks and the clowns.  In my daydreams, I was not really one of them.  No — surely, I was of aristocratic origin.  My REAL family were royalty in a faraway Kingdom and I was born a beloved Princess in a fancy castle with many servants and my own Fairy Godmother.  Somehow, I’d been separated from my blood kin as an infant — I was captured by gypsies and sold in a black market adoption — that’s how I ended up being raised by this group of crazies!

ABC’s Primetime Nightline recently aired a segment featuring the Gil & Kelly Bates family — a conservative, Evangelical mega-family of twenty.  The Bates, who are close friends of JimBob & Michelle Duggar of TLC’s “19 and Counting” fame, hold to the extreme fundamentalist ideals of the growing “Quiverfull movement.”

During the one-hour special, Gil, Kelly, and their children explained the family’s lifestyle which, to all modern appearances, represents a throw back to the imaginary 60′s-style “Leave It to Beaver” family combined with strict, Victorian Era sexual mores and the atavistic gender roles of ancient goat-herders. Read the rest of this entry →

Surprise! Crisis Pregnancy Centers Don’t Separate Education, Religion

9:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

The Texas Independent reports today on violations ranging from fire safety to client privacy in Texas’ many “alternatives to abortion” contractors. You know them as crisis pregnancy centers, and also as one of the few state-funded programs that saw their funding increase in this atrocious budget year–from $4 million to $4.15 million, despite the fact that they provide no medical care, no medical advice and are staffed by religious-motivated volunteers who undergo a minimum of training. Actual medical care that serves women and children in Texas been slashed, and Planned Parenthood has lost $47 million in funding.

The Texas Pregnancy Care Network conducted what amounts to an internal audit–with faith-based, religious-motivated inspectors looking into violations in clinics they have a vested interest in keeping afloat. There has not yet been an official third-party, or even Texas Department of Health and Human Services inspection into these CPC’s.

The Independent has the entire CPC inspection report available to read, but I’d just like to pluck out one totally not surprising finding: 15 percent of contractors did not, during supervised inspections, separate religious and educational material….

Continue reading…

House Committee Votes to Reinstate Global Gag Rule (Again) and Other Misogynistic Amendments

8:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A central motto of today’s GOP and Tea Parties appears to be: Never let evidence get in the way of efforts to pass a law undermining women’s access to healthcare.

An addendum to this motto appears to be: Never let an opportunity pass to deny funding to or politicize services providing care to the poorest and least-enfranchised women in the world, most particularly those who suffer high rates of maternal death due to lack of access to family planning services and high rates of complications of pregnancy and unsafe abortion.

In keeping with this, just weeks after publication of a major report underscoring the benefits of robust U.S. investment in family planning worldwide, the GOP-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in the early hours of the morning today to reinstate the Global Gag Rule (GGR) as part of the draft Fiscal Year 2012 State Department Authorizations Act, except this time with broader and more damaging implications than ever before.

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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…