Monday, December 29, 2008

Say Good-Bye to CRAB and Hello to Change!

Community-based activism is a crucial part of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s outreach and education programs. Since 2006, your local Baltimore CRAB (Communities Resisting Abortion & Birth Control Bans) group has been active in the Baltimore community.

Baltimore CRAB is ready for the next level and needs your involvement. Even with the elections over and a pro-choice president taking office, there is still an immense amount of work that needs to be done. A strong community of committed activists will ensure that the momentum of the Baltimore CRAB and the amazing energy of the recent election continue to grow.

To help expand and strengthen the Baltimore CRAB we are hosting this contest to create a new name and logo for our Baltimore pro-choice activist group, a name that expresses the values of being pro-choice and working to promote pro-choice values in your community.

Give it your best shot and submit your idea today!
The winner will receive:

* Recognition to 4,000 members through our website, social networking sites, and annual newsletter.
* A one-year membership to NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.
* A NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland swag bag full of pro-choice goodies.

Send submissions to Melissa at Melissa@prochocicemd.org by 5pm on January 19, 2009. Files should be Microsoft compatible.

The winner will be announced at the 2009 kickoff event, a happy hour commemorating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Mark your calendar for January 28! More details coming soon!

Bush’s Last Minute Christmas Gift: HHS Rule Goes Into Effect


The day we have been dreading has finally come. President Bush signed the executive order to enact the final draft of the Department of Health and Human Services, (HHS) regulation . The new regulation allows people only tangentially related to the provision of health care and an increased number of medical institutions to refuse a woman care based on religious and moral beliefs. This regulation could jeopardize patients’ rights to receive quality, comprehensive health-care services.

The regulation presents numerous problems. For example, it jeopardizes women's access to birth control by leaving open the possibility that providers will be able to define contraception as abortion. The regulation also expands the universe of individuals and institutions that are explicitly afforded refusal rights, such as receptionists scheduling appointments, and it may grant entire health-care corporations (hospitals, HMOs, insurance companies) the same "conscience" rights as those offered to individuals.
The regulation also allows individuals to refuse to give referrals and information about a broad range of services. Current law allows individuals the right to refuse to refer or counsel patients for abortion services, but the regulation may allow individuals to refuse to provide referrals and information about any health-care services. This could affect reproductive-health services and many other health-care services beyond.

There has been considerable outcry against this regulation. NARAL Pro-Choice America sent 2,500 birth-control packs to the Department of HHS to represent the thousands of activists who signed a petition to protest the Bush administration’s proposal. The organization also channeled 25,558 comments to the public forum section of the HHS website. The public outcry caused the enactment of the proposed regulation to be postponed almost two months.

Leading members of the U.S. Senate and House from both sides of the aisle sent letters calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt to abandon the regulation. In November, Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation intended to block the HHS rule . A coalition formed of policy makers and medical groups, including The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, campaigned tirelessly ruthlessly against the enactment of the HHS rule, but unfortunately their objections were ignored.

Thankfully, Bush will only be president for one more month. While the regulation is expected to be reversed by president-elect Obama, the offensiveness of Bush’s actions should not be overlooked. In his final days, Bush chose to once again blatantly disregard women’s health.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NYC Bill to Protect Abortion Clinic Staff and Patients Expected to Pass


New York City Council speaker, Christine Quinn proposed a bill in September that would protect patients and abortion providers from anti-choice harassment. The bill would allow those who had been harassed, including clinic employees, to file charges against protesters. The bill is largely supported in the City Council and is expected to pass as early as this week according to the New York Times.

Council member Quinn credits the creation of the bill to NARAL Pro-Choice New York, who brought the harassment by protesters to Quinn’s attention 6 months ago. NARAL Pro-Choice New York informed the Councilwoman that the protesters have been consistently harassing targeted clinics for at least two years. While anti-choice zealots have been protesting clinics for decades, recent anti-choice campaigns, like the 40 Days for Life, had them camped out in front of clinics for extended periods of times. While the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 prevents protesters from blocking entrances, they are still able to display grotesque pictures, distribute false information, and verbally harass clinic workers and patients. Kudos to NARAL Pro-Choice New York and Councilmember Christine Quinn for protecting women’s ability to make private medical decisions without the inference of anti-choice extremists. Let’s hope this bill will encourage other states to acknowledge and address the severity of clinic harassment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Washington Post Article Examines Teen Pregnancy in Alexandria


In the Washington Post Sunday paper, English teacher Patrick Welsh wrote an insightfularticle on the growing number of teen pregnancies at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA. Of the 2,211 students at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School, at least 70 girls are soon-to-be or already mothers. Welsh discusses his concern that a growing ambivalence toward teen pregnancy throughout the country has greatly affected how the girls feel about becoming pregnant.

Welsh argues the efforts to decrease teen pregnancy do not include adequate information about the hardships associated with early motherhood. The problem, Welsh claims, is that teen mothers do not have realistic expectations of parenting because of the many social services offered by both the state and the school. The high school even has a brand new day-care center called Tiny Titans, which provides free child-care to assist teen mothers complete their high school education. With the growing numbers of teen parents at T.C, Williams, child-care is greatly in demand and Tiny Titans has a long waiting list.

While Welsh is in no way advocating for the end of these programs, he admits that he is an old-fashioned guy who can’t shake the feeling that the support may actually be enabling young women. It cannot be denied that the shame and secrecy that once surrounded teen pregnancy has been replaced with in part with celebrity glamour and reluctant acceptance. Welsh believes that in addition to comprehensive sex education, access to birth control, and support programs to teen parents, teens need to be given a clear message that teen pregnancy is harmful. The stats on teen pregnancy certainly back Welsh’s claim.

While Welsh’s article provides interesting food for thought, there appears to be two important factors missing. First, while Welsh briefly discusses the role young men play after a child is born, boys aren’t mentioned as a necessary part for the prevention equation. Its true- young women are disproportionately affected by pregnancy, but the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality has gone on for far too long. How can we expect men to be equally responsible for their children if we do not require them to be equally responsible for themselves?

The second issue is that Welsh may be underestimating the enormous pressure that is put on women, especially young women, to be ‘good’ mothers. This pressure can prevent many women from sharing their difficult experiences with motherhood for fear of being labeled as a bad mother. The truth of the matter is that parenting is a challenge regardless of your age, but as women have historically been the primary caregivers, the seriousness and complexities of child rearing have often been undermined. If we start honestly acknowledging the holistic experience of parenting, perhaps teens would gain a better understanding the physical, emotional, and financial responsibilities that come with having a child, and what their future after childbirth might hold.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Abortion Foes Attack Planned Parenthood Funding


Anti-abortion groups are lobbying state and local governments to reduce public funding for Planned Parenthood, claiming that the organization does not need or deserve public support. Anti-abortion groups insist Planned Parenthood “shouldn't be granted scarce public funds at a time of economic crisis,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

One third of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from government grants and contracts to support non-abortion-related health care for poor women and teenagers. Anti-abortion groups maintain this finical support indirectly goes to funding abortions. Planned Parenthood provides crucial medical services to low-income women and men. The need for affordable health care is only increasing as many families face layoffs and the loss of medical insurance. In the past, funding cuts have forced Planned Parenthood clinics to close, raise fees, and cut back on subsidized contraception.

The Family Research Council, one of the loudest voices in this campaign, has sent letters to 1,200 state lawmakers urging them to redistribute public funds. Planned Parenthood executives say the campaign misleads legislators about the actual state of the group’s finances. Many argue that cutting Planned Parenthood funding is thoughtless because it will cost taxpayers more in the long run if women do not have access to birth control.

In fact, according to NFPRHA, for every dollar of public funding that goes into family planning, four dollars are saved in Medicaid costs. Each year, approximately 7 million women receive contraceptive services from publicly funded family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood. These family planning clinics funded by Title X are not only needed but are vital to the well-being of women’s health in this country. If the funding was taken away from these clinics when they are needed most it would be a disaster. Do not let anti-choice voices be the only ones heard. Tell your elected officials that you support funding for family planning clinics today!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Reproductive Justice Movement vs. The Black Anti-Choice Movement

Loretta Ross, the National Coordinator of Sister Song, has a lot to say about the anti-choice movement and its impact on women of color. Her recent post on RH Reality Check , brings to light an issue that many women and men may not be aware of: the African-American anti-choice movement.

Loretta discusses how the white anti-choice movement has attracted African -American right-wing conservatives and religious zealots to speak on their behalf to the African-American community. Dr. Alveda King, the niece of the famous civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, is an anti-choice advocate and has made speeches across the country against reproductive freedom. She has used her connection with the King family effectively to garner attention for African American anti-choice activists, despite the fact that MLK Jr. was a supporter of family planning and Planned Parenthood.)

What kinds of things are being said? These anti-choice activists proclaim that abortion is a form of genocide and the source of social problems with communities of color. African American women are being “accused of ‘lynching’ our children in our wombs and practicing white supremacy on ourselves.” The views expressed by Dr. Alveda King and others are a vocal minority, but the attention their comments garner does not give this impression.

What can you do?

Don’t believe the hype. The arguments put forth by the African-American anti-choice movement fail to acknowledge the complicated role racism, socio-economic status, and sexism play in the daily experiences of women of color. In fact, the very foundation of this movement is rooted in blatantly sexist rhetoric that undercuts women’s ability to make appropriate decisions for themselves and their families.

Pay attention. Ross notes the importance of knowing the background of these self-appointed representatives of communities of color. It is crucial to know the context, connections, and funding sources to understand the true motivations of any spokesperson.

Speak out in support of reproductive justice. Every woman should be guaranteed the fundamental right to decide if and when she chooses to start a family. Talk to your friends, family, and even strangers about your commitment to reproductive justice and debunk the misinformation being spread by the anti-choice movement. Don’t allow your voice to be drowned out by a small group of people who don’t represent your beliefs. As Loretta Ross notes, “we need to let the world know that they do not speak for Black women.” I am a black woman interning at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and they do not speak for me!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

KANSAS SUPREME COURT HAS RULED KLINE AS OVERZEALOUS


Former Kansas District Attorney Phil Kline has been ordered to return the women’s private medical records he obtained through questionable methods during the investigation of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. As reported in this recent post, Phil Kline has been on a witch-hunt of sorts to criminalize abortion providers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas Supreme Court found Kline’s overzealous mission to prosecute Planned Parenthood led him to abuse his power and obtain approximately three dozen records illegally.

The court had this to say about Kline’s behavior and conduct:
"Kline exhibits little, if any, respect for the authority of this court or for his responsibility to it and to the rule of law it husbands. His attitude and behavior are inexcusable, particularly for someone who purports to be a professional prosecutor. It is plain that he is interested in the pursuit of justice only as he chooses to define it."

Well said!

After all has been said and done, Kline insists that he will continue to pursue the case against Planned Parenthood.

Friday, December 5, 2008

John Hopkins Study Reiterates: Post-Abortion Syndrome a Myth!

A research team at Johns Hopkins University announced this week that there are no reputable studies linking long-term depression with abortion. The research team reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women and found no basis for the so-called Post-Abortion Syndrome. Researchers said in a MSNBC report that most studies seeking to prove abortion causes emotional trauma “appear to be politically motivated.” This is the second study to come out this year confirming that women who have an abortion have no greater risk of mental-health problems than if they deliver the pregnancy. The American Psychological Association released a two-year study in August showing no significant link between long-term depression and abortion.

We hope that these latest studies will discourage anti-choice politicians from insisting that misinformation linking abortion to depression be required of health care providers. "Based on the best available evidence, emotional harm should not be a factor in abortion policy. If the goal is to help women, program and policy decisions should not distort science to advance political agendas," said Hopkins researcher Vignetta Charles . The misguided manipulation of science has been used to further the anti-choice agenda for long enough. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 states require health care providers to give information about the possible psychological effects of abortion. Seven of those states only list negative psychological effects. Studies such as these underscore the importance of nonjudgmental care, which helps ensure the emotional well-being of any patient.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Website Launched to Attract the Youth to the Pro-Choice Movement


NARAL Pro-Choice America has launched a new campaign aimed at the savvy youth of the nation. The interactive website, www.myfreewillpower.com, is designed to reach a new generation of pro-choice activists passionate about individual freedom and personal responsibility. As the website states, we have the freedom to make decisions about our lives, we have the will to be educated, informed, and responsible and we have the power to stand up and declare our rights. The website provides information from every state as well as national issues that affect free.will.power.

According to Nancy Keenan, the success of President-elect Barak Obama’s campaign has allowed NARAL Pro-Choice America to realize that the way to the youth vote is through technology. It is widely known that today’s youth spend a substantial amount of time on their cell phones, ipods, and computers. In an effort to continue to engage teens and young adults, free.will.power promotes the use of extremely popular social networking sites. On these sites you are able to join the group and stay updated and informed about important issues that affect you. Aside from computer connections, you can receive up-to-date information with text messages. All you have to do is sign up!

To get the message out creatively, NARAL has enlisted the support of spoken-word artists Shira Erlichman, Alvin, Lau, and Deja Taylor to create videos promoting the message of free.will.power. These videos can currently be seen on the website.

If you’re interested in expressing your creative side, free.will.power. invites you to enter their contest to create the official t-shirt of free.will.power. The general public will vote for the winner who will receive a monetary prize alongside being recognized as the official t-shirt artist. The deadline to submit designs is December 5, 2008. It’s important to note that voting is open to everyone and starts December 9, 2008. With your will to be informed, you now have the freedom to use your power and vote!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Groundbreaking Contraception Ads Launched for World AIDS Day

In honor of World AIDS Day, Catholics for Choice and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health teamed up to launch their innovative Condoms4Life radio ad campaign on December 1, 2008. The two Spanish-language ads will target myths and misconceptions about condom use in the Catholic and Latino communities. Using the core message of “Good Catholics Use Condoms”, the ads are aiming to promote a positive image of using protection.

The ads premiered in New York and will go national in the beginning of 2009. The campaign’s goal is to de-stigmatize condom usage in Catholic and Latino communities and promote an ongoing conversation on sexual health. Kudos to Catholics for Choice and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health for coming together to promote healthy sexual relationships and breaking down the cultural stigmas toward contraception!

Ad #1: Grandmother



Ad #2: Couple

Abortion Witch-Hunts: Brazil vs. Kansas


In Campo Grande Brazil, over a 1,200 women are being investigated by police for having illegal abortions. Thus far, 150 women have been charged and at least 30 women have been sentenced to community service. Brazilian law currently restricts abortion to cases of rape or when the life or health of the women is at risk. The investigation of the women followed directly after the closing of a family planning clinic in Campo Grande when the patients’ medical records were seized in 2007.

Women’s rights organizations are outraged by the outcome of the trial and the highly intrusive investigation. According to the BBC News the investigation included “demands for intimate medical examinations,” interviews with the partners of the women, and the mistreatment of their medical information. The investigation was highly criticized for mistreating and humiliating women when thousands of medical records were made available to the public.

Think that this egregious invasion of privacy could never happen in the U.S.? Think again. There is a startling similarity between the practices used in Brazil and the trial involving Kansas abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller. The investigation into Dr. Tiller was instigated by former Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline, a well-known opponent of abortion. Kline demanded access to confidential patient medical records, sparking a national debate on the fundamental right to privacy.

Kline is accused of unethical conduct including intentionally misleading judges and state agencies, and releasing patients’ private medical data, according to a Washington Post article. In addition, Kline has been accused of using anti-abortion groups to obtain information on the staff working at the clinic. Dr. Tiller’s trial is scheduled for March, but a special hearing has been ordered to determine if the investigation was lawful. If convicted, Tiller could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and fined $2,500 for each charge.

Privacy is not a privilege. It is a right. It is a right that should not have to be surrendered by, of all people, doctors and women. We need to be vigilant of attempts to violate privacy. As the number of anti-choice supporters in the federal government dwindles, anti-choice advocates are going to be searching for different methods to weaken the right to choose. And what better way to prevent women from getting abortions? Threatening to tell the world about such a private, difficult decision.