Friday, February 1, 2013

Pregnant Women Under Siege?

A new article in the Journal of Health Law, Policy, and Politics indicates that arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women occur far more frequently than was previously thought, and provides new insight into these women’s experiences. Collecting data from a variety of sources, researchers concluded that between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005, over 400 women in the United States were arrested and/or institutionalized for reasons relating to their pregnancy. This research comes at a time when many states are contemplating so-called personhood amendments, which expand the legal definition of ‘person’ to include human beings at all stages of development, in some cases including fertilization - before a pregnancy even begins.. Many critics argue these laws would provide legal grounds for increased interventions, as well as investigation and prosecution in cases of miscarriage or stillbirth.

The majority of the women were detained because they were suspected of having used illegal drugs; in one extreme case a woman was arrested for mere living in a home that at one point had previously been used to manufacture methamphetamine. Other reasons for arrest included failure to obtain prenatal care, mental illness, gestational diabetes, and miscarriage or stillbirth. Arrest and forcible intervention are disproportionately used against low-income women and women of color. Authors Paltrow and Flavin, Executive Director and Board President of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, respectively  offer several vivid examples. One woman who was coerced into confessing to birthing and then murdering her child, when scientific evidence in fact showed she had miscarried to be being improperly given a Depo-Provera shot while pregnant. Another was arrested and charged with felony murder after her pregnancy ended in a stillbirth, based on the fact that she used cocaine while pregnant. She served eight years of a twelve year sentence before her conviction was overturned on appeal.

In many states, a single health facility is responsible for the majority of cases. In South Carolina, Paltrown and Flavin traced thirty of thirty-one cases back to the Medical Center of the University of South Carolina. In Talbot County, Maryland, social workers, police, and the state attorney’s office worked together to identify and arrest new mothers who tested positive for illegal drugs. This practice continued until 2006, when an appeals court ruled that Maryland’s fetal endangerment statue was not intended to cover the use of drugs while pregnant.

The study isn’t definitive but the limitations suggest that if anything, Paltrow and Flavin still underestimate the extent of this phenomenon. The authors were limited to documenting cases that generated some sort of public record, like a court decision or media attention, but the evidence suggests additional cases do exist. As certain states continue to push for additional restrictions on the right to choose, this is an issue that deserves continued attention.

Read more:
Md. Endangerment Law Challenged by Rona Marech. The Baltimore Sun. 8 Apr. 2006.
Charges Rejected for Moms Who Bear Babies Exposed to Illegal Drugs by Susan Kinzie. The Washington Post. 4 Aug. 2006.
New Study Shows Anti-Choice Policies Leading to Widespread Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women by Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Falvin. RH Reality Check. 14 Jan. 2013.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stand Up For Women's Health Lobby Day

This Thursday, April 7th , thousands of pro-choice activists will be rallying in Washington D.C. for the Stand Up for Women’s Health Lobby Day. We will be sending a message to those on Capital Hill trying to push an extreme anti-choice and anti-woman agenda in Congress that the War on Women ends now!

Anti-choice politicians funded their campaigns on creating more jobs and restricting government have virtually ignored America’s needs and instead focused on restricting women’s reproductive rights and threatening women’s health. House leaders attempted to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate Title X, depriving millions of Americans affordable preventive health services such as PAP smears, HIV tests, cancer screenings and birth control. Anti-choice politicians have advanced bills that would allow hospitals to deny women life saving abortion care, have the IRS audit sexual assault victims, and would punish small businesses and individuals with increased taxes in an attempt to end private insurance coverage of abortion care.

On April 7th we will fight back against this extreme agenda that is so out of touch with America’s values and priorities. Together we will Stand Up for Women’s Health.

It’s not too late to sign up for the Stand Up For Women’s Health Lobby Day in D.C. this Thursday.

If you are unable to make it in person, you can still support our cause by buying a Lobby Day t-shirt.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Anti-Choice Groups Open New Office in Germantown

This (sadly) is not an April Fool’s Day joke.

As you may know, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, long-time colleague of the late Dr. Tiller, joined the staff of Germantown Reproductive Health Services at the end of 2010 to provide later term abortions after a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy was passed in Nebraska – where Dr. Carhart previously operated his practice. Dr. Carhart has long been a champion of women’s health and privacy and his work makes it possible for women - often in heart breaking and life-threatening - to make the personal and private decision with their doctors to access safe, legal abortion care with dignity.

Today, April 1st, the anti-choice groups Operation Rescue & Maryland Coalition for Life are opening an office directly across the street from Dr. Carhart’s clinic. Operation Rescue has tried this tactic in the past, opening up a fake pregnancy clinic across from Dr. Tiller’s Witchita Kansas clinic. The fake clinic operates exactly as a Crisis Pregnancy center would, with the intent to misinform, manipulate, and mislead women from making their own reproductive choices.

Operation Rescue, paired with the Maryland Coalition for Life have brought their self interested and extremist views to Germantown, and we aren’t going to sit quietly as it happens. Women deserve the ability to make a private personal decision about their health without being faced with harassment. Operation Rescue and Maryland Coalition for Life do not reflect the values of our community and we must let them know it is wrong to intentionally misinform women about their reproductive options.

Please join us in opposing anti-choice “clinics” that refuse to provide women their full reproductive health options in Maryland. Here are two easy ways you can show your concern:
  1. Sign our petition in supporting women and reproductive health care providers in Maryland
  2. Help us reach our goal of 500 signatures by posting or tweeting  "Anti-choice groups opened an office today across from Dr. Carhart, an abortion provider who was forced out of Nebraska and now works in Maryland. Sign NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland's petition to say no!"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Condoms and Emergency Contraceptives

Not only do condoms offer excellent protection from STIs, they also act as a great back-up to other forms of birth control.  But again, it is critical to use condoms consistently & correctly in order for them to work.  Condom tips include:

  • Read the instructions.  Again, may seem like an elementary step, but in a day and age of abstinence-only education, it’s not wise to trust that your partner knows what they are doing.
  • Check the date.  Sure, it may seem impossible that you will not use this condom before the 2-3 year expiration date, but things can happen. Better to be safe than smug.
  •  Let’s be clear: if your partner pulls a condom out of his wallet and brushes the spider webs off of it, this is a deal breaker. Over time the body heat from keeping a condom in a back pocket condom can weaken the latex of a condom, making it prone to tears. The best place to store condoms is room temperature in a dry place. Keeping a condom in a wallet for a night or the weekend will not have consequences, but after months (or even years) a condom can suffer from wallet storage.
  • Join the condom club. As a woman you are in control of your own reproductive health, so why not have a few condoms on hand? Many health centers on college campuses have free condoms, as well as free health clinics and gynecologist’s offices.

Ultimately, only you can decide what form of birth control works for you.  You may find that it takes trying a few different kinds before finding the best fit. You may find that what you want in birth control changes over time.  Of course, you should talk with a doctor before choosing or starting a new birth control and if you are experiencing side effects (big or small, a slight change in dosage can make a big difference).

In the event that something goes awry, despite these awesome tips, and you’re nervous that your BC might not be working at its maximum potential, back it up with emergency contraception. Plan B One Step and the generic version NextChoice are available over the counter for those 17 or older and works the best if taken within 3 days after sex.  It can be taken up to 5 days after sex, but the effectiveness decreases. A new form of EC, ella, is only available by prescription and effective consistently for up to 5 days after sex.

Also be sure to check out our comprehensive reproductive health guide (available in both English and Spanish) Choices!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Info and tips for correct and consistent contraceptive use!

Recently, the Guttmacher Institute released a report saying what we have known for a long time to be true. Birth control works! Contraceptives are essential in preventing unwanted pregnancies and in the case of condoms, sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Correct and consistent use of contraceptives dramatically reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies.

In case you missed it, the key part of that sentence was correct and consistent. Most contraceptive failure is caused by the user (read: you and/or your partner). The good news is that most misuse can be easily prevented by following the directions of your chosen birth control method. In addition to that tidbit of common-sense, here are some additional tips to ensure your birth control is working at the highest level possible:

  • There are many hormonal contraceptive options, the most popular being the birth control pill. The pill works the best when it is taken once a day at the same time. Taking it around the same time of say 4-5 times a week just isn’t gonna cut it. If you find it hard to remember to take the pill each day, try setting a reminder alarm on your cell phone or sign up for one of the many free online services (like that send a daily reminder via text or an email. You could also make taking the pill part of your regular routine. Do you have a skin care or bed time routine that you perform every day at the same time? Take your pill at the beginning of your routine and soon it will become an unforgettable part.
  • If you miss two or more pills, be sure to use a back up method. Important side note: vomiting within a two hour period of taking the pill is the equivalent of skipping a pill.
  • If you are just beginning the pill or starting a new brand and find yourself facing nausea, try taking your pill at night, which can help reduce the side effect of nausea.

If you find that the pill doesn’t work for you – for whatever reason - there are other methods you can try:

  • The Patch is a hormonal birth control that is placed on your skin and changed once a week. Think square band-aid, but all adhesive. You wear it three weeks per month with one inactive week.
  • The NuvaRing is a soft plastic ring that is inserted vaginally once a month for a three week time span. Just like using tampons, it may take some getting used to, but once they work out the initial kinks, many women enjoy the freedom of only thinking about their birth control once a month.
  • The IUD is a small flexible plastic or copper device that is shaped like the letter T and inserted directly into the uterus. You can get an IUD with or without hormones and they last from 5-10 years. FYI: If you are a young woman without children, you may have to do some searching to find a doctor willing to insert an IUD.  
Because they are not taken daily, there is less chance of missing a dose with these methods. However, with the Patch or NuvaRing it is still important to mark your calendar to make sure you’re on schedule with replacing when needed.

If you choose a hormonal type of BC, be aware (or beware!) that certain antibiotics and supplements can make any form of hormonal birth control less effective. Ask your doctor or pharmacists before you start any new medication or supplements!

The downer is that these methods do not protect against STIs, so condoms still play an important role in keeping sex safe.
Come back tomorrow to hear about condom use and some mistakes to avoid!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Say NO to Attacks on Maryland Women!

Since the November election, states across the nation have been faced with a barrage of anti-choice bills. Maryland is no different.
Anti-choice legislators have introduced an unprecedented 11 bills in the Maryland Senate and House. Tomorrow, a committee in the House will take up seven of these bills.
Proposed measures include:
  • Intrusive reporting requirements about women seeking abortion care.
  • The singling out of abortion providers for onerous regulations not imposed on other health-care providers.
  • Interference with the relationship between a woman and her doctor.
  • An outright ban on abortion in the form of a fetal personhood bill that contains no exceptions!
Tell legislators that these attacks on women and their families will not stand!

The House Health and Government Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on seven anti-choice bills tomorrow. They need to hear from you today!

Tell them to oppose legislation that would create barriers to safe, legal abortion.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pro-Choice Lobby Day in Washington D.C.

This legislative session has seen egregious attacks on the future of women’s health and reproductive rights. Congress has passed bills that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide women with life-saving abortion care, and there have been threats to take away private insurance coverage of abortion. Anti-choice legislators showed how little they care for women’s lives and health when they voted to defund Planned Parenthood and slashed funds for cancer screenings and birth control.

On Thursday, April 7th 2011 NARAL Pro Choice Maryland and choice activists from around the country will join together in Washington D.C. for a Pro-Choice Lobby Day. We need hundreds of NPCM supporters to show up in person in the Capital to carry a simple message: The War on Women ends now!

Decisions made on the federal level will directly affect Maryland. It is imperative for pro-choice states like Maryland to stand up for reproductive freedom! It’s time for pro-choice Marylanders to stand strong and fight this war on women.

Be sure that your voice is heard! Join NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and other choice activists from across the nation in Washington, D.C. on Thursday April 7th.

We will provide training and organize lobby visits with members of Congress in Maryland and follow up with updates to help plan transportation as the event draws closer. If ever there was a time to call off work or miss class for a cause you believe in, THIS IS IT!