Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Washington Post Examines the Choice to Become an Abortion Provider

The Washington Post Magazine on Sunday followed a University of Maryland medical student’s path to choosing a specialty. Lesley Wojick, a member of the group Medical Students for Choice, was certain she wanted to work in obstetrics and gynecology and become an abortion provider. Ultimately, she chooses not to work in ob/gyn, a decision she struggled with. Her experience gives us a clearer look into the challenges that young medical students who want to become abortion providers face.

According to the article, abortion is mentioned rarely in the first three or four years of medical school, when students must begin to focus on a specialty and eventually apply for residency training. Students who want to learn about abortion must participate in an “externship” with a provider, as abortion is not taught in any formal lectures. This enormous lack of education about abortion will lead to diminished numbers of providers in the state. In fact, in Maryland, only 6 of the 24 counties have abortion providers. What is the use in having the right to an abortion if you cannot find a health care provider who offers abortion care? The right to choose will be practically meaningless without trained abortion providers.

The story also detailed the everyday trials of being abortion provider. During a conference organized by Lesley and the Medical Students for Choice, long-time abortion providers Dr. Carole Meyers and Dr. Myron Rose described the dangers of being a provider only a decade ago. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, clinics were bombed and a few doctors were killed. Today, the violence has lessened considerably, but some providers are still concerned with the possibility of harassment by anti-choice advocates.

Very rarely is this aspect of the abortion debate scrutinized. According to Medical Students for Choice (, only 15% of chief residents in family medicine residency programs had clinical experience providing first trimester abortions. Abortion training in ob/gyn residency programs is also severely limited. And only 5% of abortions are performed in hospitals, where most medical students and residents are trained.

Abortion is one of the most common procedures in the United States. 49% of pregnancies among American women are unintended; half of these end in abortion. Pro-choice doctors and activists should continue to advocate for formal abortion training in medical schools and residency in an effort to educate students about this important procedure. Because without trained providers, there will not be any meaningful right to choose.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bill Introduced to Block Bush Rule

Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation yesterday that would prevent the dreaded Bush Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that could drastically limit access to reproductive health care and information from going into effect. As increasing evidence of the HHS rule’s true intent becomes known, more people and organizations are speaking out against it. The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Hospital Association, among others have joined the coalition against the ruling.

Officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including its lawyer who was appointed by the President, oppose the change. EEOC officials said they were not even consulted before the rule was issued. In July, twenty-eight senators joined Clinton and Murray in signing a letter in opposition to the new regulations; President-Elect Obama was one of the signatories. Obama has said that he would rescind the ruling as soon as he can, but the process could take up to 6 months. The Protecting Patients and Health Care Act proposed by Clinton and Murray yesterday will block HHS from finalizing or implementing the regulations.

“The rule being proposed by the administration would limit patients' access to basic reproductive health care services and information. The Protecting Patients and Health Care Act would prevent HHS from implementing this ill-conceived, midnight regulation,” said Sen. Clinton in a recent article.

Read Hilary Clintons Article on the Bill

Read More About the HHS Regulation

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Focus on Women’s Health Fractures the Anti-Abortion Campaign

With the election of a pro-choice candidate to the White House and failure of anti-choice ballot initiatives in California, Colorado, and South Dakota, some “pro-life” groups have decided to rethink their single-minded strategy. A growing number of frustrated pastors, politicians and activists have shifted their focus from strictly banning abortion to include efforts to reduce the numbers of abortions by increasing social services for pregnant women. In a stroke of unusual logic, the expanding coalition of anti-choicers has decided to support policies that may actually reduce the need for abortion.

This new coalition hopes to find middle ground with pro-choice groups by sponsoring bi-partisan legislation that would increase funding for social programs for pregnant women, such as affordable health care, day care and maternity group homes.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, this move towards supporting pregnant women has been highly criticized by some anti-choice groups, causing fractures on the “pro-life” front. Opponents of the coalition view this compromise as a betrayal of the cause Extreme anti- choice activists are calling individuals who support the new approach traitors and sending them hate mail, reports The Washington Post. The negative response to the new strategy to reduce abortions has not deterred the proponents and they maintain that the “time has come for more cooperation on difficult social and moral issues such as abortion.” While this new spirit of compromise is welcome and much needed, one can’t help but feel that a true compromise between pro-choicers and anti-abortionist would include the most successful tactics to lower abortion numbers such as birth control and comprehensive sex ed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reproductive Rights Update: Global Edition

Uruguay Congress Votes to Legalize Early Abortion

Last week the Uruguay Congress voted 17 to 13 in favor of a bill to legalize early abortion. Unfortunately, the President is expected to veto the bill. "Whether the president vetoes it or not, it's important that Congress has established this right," said ruling party senator Margarita Percovich in an interview with Reuters.

UK starts Campaign to Increase Contraception Availability for Teens

The UK government has begun a campaign to increase access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) for teen girls. The campaign encourages doctors to offer their patients aged 13 and older long-term birth control injections or implants and requires abortion clinics to offer information on long-term contraception. Though there has been some resistance to the program, supporters maintain that increased access to effective birth control will have a positive impact for young women and girls. According to a UK Times article, “The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence estimated the move would cut unplanned pregnancies by 73,000 a year.”

Reproductive Rights Activists in Kenya Launch Pro-Choice Bill

A Reproductive Health and Rights Bill proposed by the Nairobi-based women’s group Coalition on Violence Against Women calls for more access to safe abortion, as well as comprehensive sex education, education about sexually transmitted diseases, and full access to contraception. According to “The campaigns will aim at ensuring the enactment of a comprehensive reproductive health rights law and policies.” Current Kenyan law restricts all abortions expect in cases where the mother’s health is in danger. According to a Global Voices article.
The proposed bill would expand abortion access to include instances of sexual assault, rape, defilement or incest.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Baltimore Bishops Conference: Obama Warned, Catholic Politicians Scorned

Last Tuesday, the Bishops of America gathered for a conference in Baltimore to discuss the recent election, and debate whether pro-choice politicians should be refused communion. Framing these discussions was the fact that 54% of Catholics voted for Sen. Obama.

The majority of the Bishops expressed reservations and fear over an Obama presidency and the possible passage of the Freedom of Choice Act that Obama has said he supports. The legislation would solidify the legal right to an abortion, causing concern amongst the bishops. The bishops have written a letter to President-Elect Obama and members of Congress urging them to reject the pro-choice legislation. The Bishops stated that "pro-abortion policies" would be viewed "as an attack on the church."

Along with this warning to Congress and Obama, the bishops debated whether pro-choice politicians should be refused communion.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann
of Kansas City said repeatedly that politicians who support abortion rights should stop taking Holy Communion. "They cannot call themselves Catholic when they violate such a core belief.” Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis said that "any one of us would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow to bring about the end of abortion," reported the Washington Post.
Amid the extreme voices at the conference, there were also a few who called for compromise. Dr. Patrick Whelan, a pediatrician and president of Catholic Democrats, said “that angry statements from church leaders were counterproductive and would only alienate Catholics.” In a recent Washington Post article Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said many of the bishops are "in a tailspin" after unsuccessfully urging Catholic voters to make abortion a priority. "These people represent a minority view of Catholics in the United States and in the world." According the the Guttmacher Institute 37% of women who have abortions are Catholic. Only 22% of Catholics agree with the bishops’ position and believe that abortion should be illegal.
With these numbers, it appears that the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion is greatly out of touch with the majority of their members.

Friday, November 7, 2008

States Say No to Abortion Bans: All Anti-Abortion Ballot Initiatives Fail

California, South Dakota, and Colorado each had ballot initiatives that would place limitations on abortions and voters rejected them all. In California, Proposition 4, the third effort in four years to enact a law requiring parental notification before a minor can have an abortion, failed once again. Californians clearly understand that such restrictions are harmful to some young women. The fact that the vast majority of young women turn to their parent’s supports the idea that parental notification laws are just another tactic to make abortion services less accessible.

In Colorado, Amendment 48, an amendment that would officially define a fertilized egg as a “person” under the state constitution failed. “Opposition to the measure came from voters of all age groups and majorities of men and women,” reports an article from National Partnership. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised the leaders of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado and their state-based allies for leading the successful campaign to defeat Amendment 48. "Tonight's victory belongs to the vast majority of Coloradans who acted on their pro-choice values and rejected this extreme abortion ban,” Keenan said. “Coloradans’ common sense prevailed.”

In South Dakota, Measure 11, a bill to criminalize all abortion with the exception of rape and health endangerment, also did not pass. The initiative proposed to criminalize abortions - with a penalty for doctors of up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 fine. Last year, a similar bill that would have made abortion that contained no exceptions was rejected 56% to 44%. This year, despite the fact that the altered bill, included exceptions for rape, incest and pregnancies that threaten the life or health of the woman, the bill was still rejected 55% to 45%.

This loss in South Dakota takes a big toll on the anti-abortion groups’ momentum. "South Dakotans have affirmed by their votes tonight that no vague law can account for every individual circumstance. And that is precisely why women and families, not the government, should make these personal healthcare decisions," said Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, in a LA Times article.
This election we can celebrate an amazing victory for women's rights. The people have said no to anti-choice propaganda and the demonizing of pro-choice laws, and maybe just maybe the anti-choice groups will get the hint and give it up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Wins: America Celebrates

At 11:00pm on Tuesday, Nov 4th Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States of America, causing a catharsis of celebration to erupt most pointedly in the Capital and Times Square, New York City. “Mr. McCain’s campaign was eclipsed by an opponent who was nothing short of a phenomenon, drawing huge crowds epitomized by the tens of thousands of people who turned out to hear Mr. Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago,” according to a New York Times article. Crowds numbering in the thousands gathered in front of the White House. The U Street and 16th street areas in DC were packed with people who flooded out of bars, restaurants, and houses to celebrate the election of the first African American President of the USA. “Senator Obama campaigned on the need for government to solve problems, rather than create them.
Nothing could be more welcome to women in America. For too long, our health and rights have been used as a political battering ram,” wrote one Huffington Post article. Not only did Obama capture the presidency and our hearts, but he led his party to sharp gains in Congress. This puts Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and the White House. This is an immense step toward preserving women’s reproductive rights in this country and finally we can breath a sigh of relief after months of worry and uncertainty. Obama is the first pro-choice president since Clinton and together, united in hope we celebrate this crucial victory.

Click Here to See Obama’s Victory Speech

Monday, November 3, 2008

Get Out the Pro-Choice Vote!

Get Out The Vote!

Tomorrow will be a historic day in our lifetime. Never before has this country seen the voter turnout that is expected tomorrow. But don’t let that fool you into not voting. Every vote counts. In 2000, the entire election came down to a small number of votes. With so much on the line, many people are concerned with false voter registration and the suppression of legitimate voters. These fears over voter suppression and fraud should motivate, not prevent, us from taking part in one of the most significant elections in decades. The most important action that we as Americans can take tomorrow is simply to vote. Remind your friends, bug your family, and get to the polls early!!

If you have any concerns about how or where you can vote, click here