Friday, August 22, 2008

Bush's Parting Gift

It’s seemingly not enough that President Bush signed the first federal ban on abortion, appointed two Supreme Court Justices dedicated to weakening the protections of Roe v. Wade, and provided millions of dollars for failed abstinence-only education. Now, in the waning days of his administration, President Bush has offered up a rule that would let health care providers put their personal beliefs above their patients’ medical needs. So much for patient-centered care.

In an age where millions of people need access to health care, including reproductive health care, only this administration would formulate away to prevent women from receiving needed services. The proposed rule empowers federal health officials to pull funding from hundreds of thousands of hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices and other entities if they do not accommodate employees who refuse to participate in care they find objectionable on personal, moral or religious grounds.

Although the proposed language specifically mentions abortion and sterilization, it does not define either procedure, leaving the open the possibility that anti-choice individuals could refuse to prescribe or provide birth control as well as a broad range of services. So, not only is abortion under attack, but family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research are also under threat.

For years there have been laws on the books that balanced health care providers’ religious beliefs in a way that accommodated patients’ needs. Formulating a solution in search of a problem, the Bush Administration has taken a non-issue to an illogical extreme, limiting the rights of patients to receive complete and accurate health information about abortion and contraception. Because what they’ve done in the last 7 and a half years to weaken women’s reproductive rights hasn’t been enough.

We will not and cannot stand for this outrageous attack. Politics should not trump women’s health care needs. Please join us in speaking out – the regulations are open for comment for 30 days, but then could become law, radically altering the landscape of women’s access to reproductive health care.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quick and Quippy: The Candidates on Abortion

In Saturday’s Saddleback Civil Forum, it came as no surprise that when asked, John McCain said that life begins “at the moment of conception.” It was, however, that Obama, usually so eloquent and outspoken, avoided a direct answer to Rev. Rick Warren’s question. Warren’s question was obviously biased—“At what point does a baby get human rights?”—but Obama stuttered through his answer and mumbled that it was “above my pay grade.” He then explained how he wanted to find “common ground” with pro-lifers, which likely related to the evangelical, conservative audience. Many liberals, including myself, wish Obama had stated his pro-choice beliefs up front instead of deflecting an important question. While I know that Obama has a 100% pro-choice record, I’m still waiting for a smart articulate politician to use opportunities like this to re-frame the abortion debate. Conservatives have held onto this false sense of moral authority for entirely too long. Reproductive rights are a human rights issue for women and children everywhere and I would love for politicians, the media, and even the general public to start acknowledging it. . Samhita at Feministing has a great blog post about the issue. Check out The Washington Post for more details.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Anti-Choice Groups Target Minority Communities

Anti-choice groups should leave their conspiracy theories about how women of color (especially black women) are targeted for abortion at the door.

I get confused when I see anti-choice groups belligerently ranting that black women are purposely targeted for abortions. I’ve come to notice many anti-choice groups expressing this concern, but forgetting to disclose the most obvious, and concrete concern: lack of adequate health-care, education, and health awareness for low-income black women.

Civil rights supporters have been turning their energy lately to abortion in the African-American community. Many (NAACP) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supporters have expressed their opposition for providing abortion services to black women. NAACP supporters have expressed that they believe that abortion is a form of genocide within the black community. Such opposition has led to the disapproval of organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

While many groups offer their conspiracy theories to why abortion is much more prevalent in the black community, those same groups fail to provide supportive evidence to maintain their outlandish race-related statements. Melissa Gilliam, who is Chairwoman of the Guttmacher Institute board of directors wrote a fabulous blog post explaining how health-care disparities is key to abortion rates—especially in the black community. Her blog post explains and emphasizes that having adequate health-care and education is the significant factor in ensuring the steady decrease of the abortion rate in the black community.

Guttmacher reports that black women do indeed have higher abortion rates than white women. Since most abortions are the result of unintended pregnancies, it’s important to note that the rate of unintended pregnancies is three times higher among black women. In addition to pregnancy and abortion rates, black women have much higher rates of STIs.

The cause for these unfortunate statistics is limited access to good health-care, explain Melissa Gilliam and Susan Cohen. Widespread health disparities among minorities are a key factor in the rate of unintended pregnancies. Guttmacher reports that women of color are less likely to use contraceptives. Then why are women of color not using contraceptives faithfully? Well, the three huge responses are: geographic location, affordability, and major personal crises which make birth control low priorities.
Unfortunately, intelligent explanations to the controversial issue are rarely addressed when anti-choice groups argue about high abortion rates in the black community. Many anti-choice groups concentrate on how abortion is used as a “genocide” attack on the black population. Using that blatant racist attempt context is a misleading attempt to gain the pro-life support of the black population. Unsuspecting listeners fail to hear the preventable causes for such high rates in the black community. If anti-choice groups wish to focus on this prominent issue, then addressing the issue in a legitimate, supporting, and justifiable way will perhaps contribute to lowering the rate of abortion among black women.

While growing up in Baltimore City, I have observed countless cases of women of color giving birth and raising children in poverty. With Maryland having such a high birth rate in the black community, providing factual information and affordable reproductive health-care services will assist in attempting to decrease the unintended pregnancy and abortion rate in the black community. While many women rely on government-funded services like welfare and Medicaid, others still lack health services to prevent unintended pregnancies in the future. With the Bush Administration strategically attempting to limit access to prevention methods such as birth control—low-income women of color in Maryland and across the nation will be in a very tight position.

Any thoughts? Comment!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Title V Rejected in Kentucky Due to Failure to Decrease Birth, STI Rate Among Teens

Title V funding has been dropping dramatically nationwide in the last few months. As of today, 23 states no longer participate or receive Title V funds, and two more states are opting out of Title V funds at the end of the fiscal year. That means half of the states nationwide are refusing Title V funds and are searching for alternative solutions to fix the growing pregnancy and STI rate specifically among teenagers.

The Title V Abstinence Education Program, authorized by Congress in 1996, gives money to states in the form of block grants to promote abstinence until marriage. Many states still receiving Title V funds are mostly in the South where the politics are predominantly conservative and are not inclined to support comprehensive sex education.

(SIECUS) The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States discovered that the state of Kentucky has one of the worst fear-based, abstinence-only approaches to sex education in the country. Since abstinence-only programs do not discuss the importance and methods of safe sex, students are not exposed to information about birth control. In 2007, sexually active high school students in Kentucky reported using condoms the last time they had sexual intercourse less often than teens nationwide

The effectiveness of neglecting to talk about how to protect oneself during sex speaks for itself with Kentucky’s birth rate among young women (15-19) at 49.2 per 1,000—a full 19 percent higher than the national average of 41.1 per 1,000 young women. Kentucky’s abstinence-only approach has also failed to decrease the number of HIV infections, specifically among African Americans. While they make up only 7% of the state’s population, 34% of new HIV cases are in African Americans.

In addition, $3,070,315 is being invested into local Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) and clinics in Kentucky yearly. RH Reality Check stresses the fact that federal funds are being given to places such as CPCs, which often provide women with false and misleading information in hopes of furthering their personal agenda against a woman’s right to choose.

While so many anti-choice people favor pushing politics over providing valuable assistance, many young women and men in the state of Kentucky are suffering because they cannot get the information they need to potentially protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies and STIs.

With numbers showing that teen pregnancy and STI rates are not decreasing, now is the time for Kentucky to research and invest its time looking for more effective and comprehensive sex education programs. Leaving sex education in the hands of those who believe abstinence-only is the best policy is certainly not the best for the young women and men of Kentucky.

Unfortunately, Maryland is still one of the states agreeing to receive Title V. One has to wonder how long Maryland will be able to lay claim to being a "Progressive" state when it is being surpassed by historically much more conservative states like Kentucky, Ohio, and Virginia. Maryland legislators need to wake up and stop wasting our tax dollars on ineffective policies based on idealogical rhetoric as opposed to scientifically sound evidence.