Friday, December 18, 2009

Ask Sen. Snowe to Vote for Health Care Reform!

The AP reported yesterday that anti-choice Democratic Senator Ben Nelson refuses to vote to move the health-care bill forward unless it includes his outrageous Stupak-style ban on abortion coverage. No more compromises can be made with women’s health, so Senator Nelson’s vote is out! However, the Senate still needs 60 votes for health care reform.



That’s why Democrats are turning to Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine. She is the only Republican to cross party lines and vote for health care in committee, and she's the only Republican to vote twice against a ban on abortion-coverage.
Please take action TODAY by adding your name to NARAL Pro-Choice America's emergency petition. It asks Senator Snowe to vote to advance health reform that doesn't jeopardize women's insurance coverage for abortion in the new system.
The deadline is Saturday, December 19th, so make sure you sign this petition TODAY. And do not forget to email, tweet, post, and share it with everyone you know that supports health care reform. It is essential that this bill moves forward, and Senator Snowe is the key to that. That means that YOU are the key too. Spread the word!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Young Adults Think About Planning Pregnancies, But Don't Do It




CNN reports on a recent study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Although most of the young people (age 18-29) studied thought that it was best to plan pregnancy, many were not practicing contraception. About half of the young adults surveyed did not use contraception regularly. It seems as if this problem is rooted in education (or lack thereof). The misconceptions and lack of knowledge about contraceptive methods reported in this study are shocking (excerpts from the article):

“At the same time, 18 percent of men wrongly believe that having sex standing up reduces the chance that they will get a female partner pregnant.”
“Many of the people surveyed said they did not know much about contraception to begin with -- 63 percent said they knew little or nothing about birth control pills, and 30 percent said they had scant knowledge about condoms.”
“…about four in 10 respondents said it doesn't matter whether people use birth control, believing that people get pregnant when it's their ‘time.’”

Laura Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute says that abstinence-only curriculums may be to blame. “[These programs] have gone explicitly out of their way to teach misconceptions about contraception," she said. "This generation of 20-somethings have missed many opportunities to get medically accurate and correct information."
One in five survey participants said they never received any type of sex education in school. The survey calls for more efforts to educate adults on family planning and contraception.
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland supports honest, age-appropriate, and medically accurate sex education that promotes abstinence and provides young people with the information they need to protect themselves.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Montgomery County Considers CPC Regulation




The good news about CPC legislation is not restricted to Baltimore. While Marylanders celebrate the signing of the Baltimore CPC regulation, another measure is also under consideration as the Montgomery County Council evaluates a Board of Health Regulation requiring a disclaimer for certain pregnancy resource centers.



This regulation will ensure that women visiting a Montgomery County CPC that is not a medical facility are informed that the information provided is not intended to be medical advice and that she should consult with a health care provider before proceeding on a course of action regarding her pregnancy. Women seeking information about pregnancy, birth control, or abortion should be able to make informed decisions about which facility will best meet her needs. Many CPCs are not medical facilities, though they can give the impression that they offer the full range of services.


Last week, Council held a public hearing on the proposed regulation. Several pro-choice supporters testified including NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, Maryland NOW, Montgomery County NOW, and the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force. A number of other organizations support this measure including Catholics for Choice, Equality Maryland, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the National Council of Jewish Women, the National Women’s Law Center, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the DC Abortion Fund, the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.


Read why this legislation is necessary in Eric Luedtke’s post at Maryland Politics Watch. Laura Meyers, president of Planned Parenthood of Metro Washington, also wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post explaining the need for this legislation.


The Health and Human Services committee will deliberate the issue on January 21. Stay tuned in to the happenings with this bill and our other campaigns by following our blog, Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter account.


More Resources:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Economy is Affecting Family Planning Clinics and Clients



The Guttmacher Institute released today a study of the recession’s affect on family planning centers. They found that the providers are struggling to meet an increasing demand for subsidized contraceptive services. The majority of centers (67%) report an increase in clients overall, and even more centers report an increase in low-to-middle income and uninsured clients. The centers do not have the funds to keep up with the increased need in the community, and as a consequence, they are keeping clients waiting longer, cutting some of the products and services they offer, and laying-off staff. Unfortunately, this news comes on the heels of a September study from the Guttmacher Institute, which showed that a large portion of women want to delay childbearing in these tough economic times.


These findings suggest tragic consequences for many women and families in the United States. According to the Guttmacher study, “more women will be unable to get the contraceptive services and reproductive health care they need and want, and some will find themselves faced with an unintended pregnancy-- unfortunate at any time, but especially so during difficult economic times when families can least afford the added costs of a new baby.”
For a more in-depth look, read the study, “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Publicly Funded Planning Centers” or the Guttmacher Institute’s news release on the study.

Congresswoman Capps Responds to Stupak's NYT Op-Ed

On Wednesday, December 9th, the New York Times published an op-ed by Congressman Bart Stupak in which he makes misleading claims about the Stupak-Pitts Amendment in the House Health Care Reform bill. Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), author of the Capps Amendment, provides a reality check to the claims in that op-ed. Read it at RH Reality Check.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NARAL Pro-Choice America Launches TV Ad

View the next phase of the campaign against Stupak. NARAL Pro-Choice America has launched the following ad on cable television in selected regions around the country.



You can read the fact sheet or the press relsease for the ad.

Friday, December 4, 2009

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Applauds Signing of the Limited-Service PregnancyCenters Disclaimers Bill


Jennifer Blasdell, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, praised Mayor Sheila Dixon for signing the Limited-Service Pregnancy Disclaimers Bill into Baltimore law today. Introduced by Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and co-sponsored by ten other council members, this law is a common-sense measure that will ensure that women visiting a limited service pregnancy center in Baltimore are informed that they will not receive comprehensive birth control or abortion services or referrals.

Baltimore City is the first local jurisdiction in the United States to introduce a bill regulating limited service pregnancy centers and the first government in the country to pass a law. Limited service pregnancy centers are also known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

“We thank Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for championing an issue so important to women’s health. This law will ensure truth in advertising, protecting consumers. Unfortunately, CPCs in Baltimore are not always up front about their services and frequently give women misinformation. For example, centers in Baltimore told women that abortion causes an increased risk of breast cancer and that condoms did not prevent STDs,” stated Blasdell.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland investigated three centers in Baltimore, all of which gave misinformation about abortion or birth control and none of which would provide a referral, even for birth control. “This law will empower women by giving them full information up front about what to expect from a limited service pregnancy center. This provision does not ask a facility to provide any services they find objectionable, but only asks them to tell the truth about the nature of their services. We applaud Mayor Dixon for signing this important bill,” continued Blasdell.

A broad coalition of health care providers and women’s groups supported this measure including Planned Parenthood of Maryland, the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Baltimore NOW, the Maryland Chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, Equality Maryland, Healthcare for the Homeless, Baltimore Healthy Start, Inc., University of Baltimore School of Law Center on Applied Feminism, and numerous physicians, nurses and social workers in the Baltimore community.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baltimore City Council passes CPC bill

Baltimore City Council passed the CPC bill (LSPC Disclaimers bill) last night with a vote of 12-3. The bill still must be signed into law by the Mayor of Baltimore.

From our
press release:

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Applauds Passage of the Limited-Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimers Bill

Commonsense provision will require limited service pregnancy centers to disclose the limitations of their services.

Baltimore, MD – Wendy Royalty, Board Chair of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, praised the 12-3 vote by the Baltimore City Council to approve the Limited-Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimers bill. Introduced by Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and co-sponsored by ten other council members, this bill is a common-sense measure that will ensure that women visiting a Baltimore limited service pregnancy center in Baltimore were informed that they will not receive comprehensive birth control or abortion services or referrals.

“These facilities can give the illusion of offering comprehensive services and information about abortion and birth control when in fact they do not provide or refer for these options. It is unfair when these facilities are not up front about the limitations of their services,” stated Royalty.

Limited service pregnancy centers are also known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). CPCs are anti-choice organizations that advertise free services to women, the most common being free pregnancy testing, options counseling, and short-term material assistance for women with an unplanned pregnancy. CPCs do not offer or provide abortion or comprehensive birth control services, and often give out false and misleading information in an effort to discourage women from seeking abortion or using contraception.

A broad coalition of health care providers and women's groups supported this measure including Planned Parenthood of Maryland, the Women's Law Center of Maryland, Baltimore NOW, the Maryland Chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, Healthcare for the Homeless, Baltimore Healthy Start, Inc., University of Baltimore School of Law Center on Applied Feminism, and numerous physicians, nurses and social workers in the Baltimore community.

“We should all be able to agree with the bill's goals of truth in advertising. Lines are crossed when a CPC is not up front about its services, or when a center uses misinformation,” continued Royalty. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland investigated three centers in Baltimore, all of which gave misinformation about abortion or birth control and none of which would provide a referral, even for birth control. “Enactment of this bill will empower women by giving them full information up front about what to expect from a limited service pregnancy center. This provision does not ask a facility do provide any services they find objectionable, but only asks them to tell the truth about the nature of their services. We look forward to Mayor Dixon signing this important bill.”

Baltimore City is the first local jurisdiction in the United States to introduce a bill regulating limited service pregnancy centers and the first legislative body in the country to pass a bill.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grassroots organizing to fight Stupak language

Where they were laying low before, pro-choice organizations are now speaking up. For a few months, they backed off health care reform so that abortion politics would not stall a movement that is so important for millions of Americans. But women across the nation were betrayed by the late-night vote for the Stupak-Pitts amendment, and now these organizations
are fighting back.

As part of their “Stop the Abortion-Coverage Ban” campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America rallied supporters to sign a petition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calling on him to keep the anti-choice language out of the Senate bill. Their goal was 72,000 signatures in 72 hours, but they far exceeded it, delivering a petition on Monday of over 97,000 signatures!

Other national organizations are mobilizing supporters online. National Organization for Women is asking the Senate to oppose “Hyde on Steroids.” Planned Parenthood Federation of America is sending letters to Obama, Reid, and Pelosi. The National Women’s Law Center says we need health care reform “that works for women”. The Feminist Majority Foundation is saying, “Women won’t go back!”

The Center of Reproductive Rights is even launching a commercial on cable television, reminding viewers that women losing their insurance coverage for abortion is “no joke”:

The movements against Stupak are not only from national organizations; local organizations across the country are mobilizing their most powerful force: constituents. It is important that the 64 House Democrats (especially the 20 “pro-choice” ones) who voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment remember that it was the pro-choice community, women, and progressives that put them in office, NOT the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who pushed for the strict language.

"All politics are local. They've got to hear from their constituency at home," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Those are the folks that elect them and re-elect them."

Speaking of local politics-Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin, are both great pro-choice supporters. They are expected to stand with all Maryland Democrats in the House of Representatives, who voted against the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

Maryland constituents have done a great job electing pro-choice officials! However, the need for activism is greater now than ever. Please continue to support women’s access to reproductive options by joining NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland at the National Day of Action in D.C. on December 2nd. Pro-choice activists from across the country are coming together to rally against the abortion coverage ban. Find more information at our website.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Senate Unveils Health Care Reform Bill

The Senate unveiled their version of the health care reform bill yesterday. In the press release below, Nancy Keenan reacts to the language regarding abortion coverage.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Statement on Senate Health-Care Bill

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said she is encouraged that the Senate bill does not include the extreme new anti-choice restrictions adopted by the U.S. House. However, the legislation includes a compromise that continues existing laws that unfairly single out abortion care, including a ban on federal funding.

On Monday, Keenan delivered a petition with 97,218 signatures to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling on the Senate to keep the egregious Stupak-Pitts language in the House bill out of the Senate version. Keenan vowed to continue to mobilize her organization's members to fight anti-choice senators' plans to push additional anti-choice attacks as the legislation moves forward.

"America's pro-choice majority is speaking up loudly and clearly," Keenan said. "Our goal is to ensure that women do not lose ground in the new health-care system and that attempts to expand existing restrictions on abortion are defeated. Some anti-choice politicians, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), will follow Rep. Bart Stupak's example and inject anti-abortion politics into health reform. However, we believe that senators understand that the Stupak amendment in the House bill goes far beyond the status quo and prohibits women from using their own money to buy the insurance coverage they want in the new system. Our activists will continue to remind senators that we're expecting cooler heads to prevail at this stage of the process and that means the Stupak language is not an option."

In addition to the petition delivery, the media have reported on NARAL Pro-Choice America's other mobilization efforts, including automated calls and volunteer-led phone banks. As a result of strong member support, the organization now is conducting this mobilization in 20 states.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LSPC Disclaimers Bill sees progress in Baltimore

Related: Baltimore Finds A Common Sense Solution to Crisis Pregnancy Centers

At the Baltimore City Council meeting yesterday, the second reading of the Limited-Service Pregnancy Center (LSPC) Disclaimers bill was held. The City Council voted to pass the bill without any major

amendments! However, the bill must still pass through a third reading on Nov. 23.

As you may know already, the LPSC Disclaimers bill would require LPSCs, also known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), to post a sign in English and Spanish saying they do not provide or refer for abortion or birth control services. According to our research, CPCs in Baltimore and across Maryland have given false and misleading information to women.

The bill has garnered support from a wide range of local and state organizations. The Baltimore Sun also supported the measure in an editorial. In an opinion piece in today’s Sun, two Johns Hopkins health professionals, Dr. Eva Moore and Dr. Robert Bloom, characterize the bill perfectly. In the article, titled “Crisis pregnancy centers operate on moral precepts, not science,” they support the measure because “women in Baltimore deserve science-based health care and should have the right to make their own moral decisions.” Opponents of this measure claim it is harassment that will prevent the centers from providing charity (material assistance) for women. But Dr. Moore and Dr. Bloom are correct in pointing out that this bill “is not about providing maternity clothes and infant formula…this is about protecting the health and well-being of two generations.”


Progress of the bill:

10/5/09- City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake introduced the bill with 10 co-sponsors .

10/23/09- The bill received favorable reports from the Department of Health and the City Solicitor.

10/27/09- A hearing was held on the bill. Concerned parties from both sides of the debate gave testimony to the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee and President Rawlings-Blake. You can read our live tweets from the event for highlights.

11/2/09- The Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee voted 3-1 in favor of the bill, sending it to the whole council with 2 minor amendments to the penalties section.

11/16/09- The Council approves the bill with minor amendments, 12-3.


WHAT’S NEXT:

The third reading is scheduled to occur next Monday, November 23. Stay tuned in to the happenings with this bill and our other campaigns by following our blog, Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter account.

NARAL Pro-Choice America launches efforts to fight Stupak language

Please read the Press Release below about NARAL Pro-Choice America's efforts to fight the Stupak language. If you took action at StopAbortionBan.org, then thank you- you are one of the almost 100,000 signatures! NARAL Pro-Choice America is also having phone banks this Tuesday and Thursday evening. They're calling pro-choice Americans across the country and connecting them to their Senate Representatives. If you want to participate in DC, please email Rebecca Guerra


NARAL Pro-Choice America Delivers Petition with Thousands of Signatures to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Pro-choice group exceeds goal of collecting 72,000 signatures in 72 hours; petition delivery coincides with NARAL’s launch of grassroots mobilization campaign


Washington, DC – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, made a trip to Capitol Hill today to deliver a petition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that calls on him to resist pressure from anti-choice groups to insert the extreme anti-choice Stupak-Pitts language in the Senate’s version of health-reform legislation.


Keenan said the organization worked with its state affiliates and other progressive partners, including People for the American Way, to collect 97,218 signatures in 72 hours. More than 43,000 of the signatures came from stopabortionban.org, a web site NARAL Pro-Choice America established last week after the U.S. House adopted the anti-choice Stupak-Pitts amendment as part of its health-care bill.


"America’s pro-choice majority is speaking up loudly and clearly," Keenan said. "As the fight for health reform moves forward, we are making sure Sen. Reid and his colleagues understand that adding the anti-choice Stupak-Pitts language to the Senate bill is not an option."


The petition delivery marks the next phase of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s grassroots mobilization to fight efforts to put the Stupak-Pitts abortion-coverage ban in the Senate bill. The Associated Press reported over the weekend that the leading pro-choice political organization is "sending out automated calls in 17 states to connect abortion rights supporters at the touch of a button to senators who are seen as potential swing votes on the issue, asking them to oppose the ‘abortion ban.’ Phone banks by nine NARAL state affiliates are pitching in, targeting their calls to states including Nevada, home to Reid."


Keenan cited the Stupak-Pitts amendment, as passed by the U.S. House, which makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. The Stupak-Pitts language would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system—a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.


"This is a critical time for American women," Keenan said. "Since the House passed a bill that included the Stupak-Pitts amendment, our supporters have channeled their outrage into action—and they’re ready to go the distance to defeat the Stupak-Pitts abortion-coverage ban in the Senate."


Photos of the petition delivery may be found at this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/prochoiceamerica/sets/72157622815252976/

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stupak Amendment By the Numbers

An excerpt from “A hard choice on health care” by E.J. Dionne Jr., an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post (Nov 12):

Whatever else is true, Stupak's amendment is unlikely to have a significant effect on the availability of abortion. And most abortions are not paid for through health insurance. The Guttmacher Institute, for example, reported that only 13 percent of abortions in 2001 were directly billed by providers to insurance companies.

Like Dionne, many supporters of the Stupak amendment have been downplaying the impact it will have on women overall. They have an affinity for that particular statistic from the Guttmacher Institute, but there are other numbers that are more important in understanding how the Stupak amendment will affect women:

80% is the percentage of consumers participating in the insurance exchange that will have federal subsidies. That is the percentage of customers an insurance company will not be able to sell to if they keep abortion coverage in their plans. The bottom line: most insurers will drop abortion coverage in order to be available to all consumers.

This is also the number of consumers who will be denied access to plans that cover abortions. So even if individuals who do not receive subsidies do not lose any coverage, 80% of consumers in the exchange will not have that coverage. Unless of course, they plan to have an abortion and purchase the rider before needing it.

80-85% is the percentage of private insurers that currently cover abortion care, but will probably drop it if the Stupak amendment passes.

111,000 women is what 13% actually represents.* That is the number that Dionne and others are claiming as insignificant. In reality, the number of women who currently use private insurance to pay for abortions is probably much higher, because, as Dionne mentioned and the Guttmacher Institute stresses, the 13% does not include women who pay for their abortions out of pocket and request reimbursement from insurance. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that this proportion of women is significant due to the nature of the procedure and providers.

The reality is that the Stupak amendment would cause many women to lose abortion coverage that they already have. It represents a very significant change of the status quo. As Nancy Keenan says, “[supporters of the Stupak Amendment] want Roe v. Wade overturned and they want to derail health care reform. That is the strategy.”

Watch her explain how far-reaching the Stupak amendment is on Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan:



*This figure was calculated- 13% of 853,485- the number of legal induced abortions reported to the
CDC in 2001.

Monday, November 9, 2009

House Votes “Yes” on Health Care Bill, but with Anti-Choice Restrictions


Saturday night, the House of Representatives voted on their health care reform bill and passed it. While this may seem like a victory, women’s health care took a serious blow. The House voted to accept the Stupak Amendment, which would prevent insurance companies participating in the “exchange” from covering abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s sent out a press release about what this decision means for women’s access to abortion care:


House: Yes to Extreme Anti-Choice Politics, No to Women’s Health and Privacy


NARAL Pro-Choice America says fight is not over


Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called House passage of a stunning last-minute anti-choice amendment to health reform an outrageous blow to women's freedom and privacy — and she vowed to fight to remove this provision as the process goes to the Senate.


The amendment, offered by anti-choice Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), was adopted late tonight by a margin of 240-194.


The Stupak-Pitts amendment makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. This would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system — a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.


"This vote is a reminder to America's pro-choice majority that, despite our gains in the last two election cycles, anti-choice members of Congress still outnumber our pro-choice allies," Keenan said. "It is unconscionable that anti-choice lawmakers would use health reform to attack women's health and privacy, but that's exactly what happened on the House floor tonight. Even though the bill already included a ban on federal funding for abortion and a requirement that only women's personal funds could pay for abortion care, Reps. Stupak and Pitts took their obsession with attacking a woman's right to choose to a whole new level. We will hold those lawmakers who sided with the extreme Stupak-Pitts amendment accountable for abandoning women and capitulating to the most extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement. In short, the fight is not over. That's why we will continue to mobilize our activists and work with our allies in Congress to remove this dangerous provision from the health-care bill and stop additional attacks as the process moves to the Senate."


Keenan said anti-choice members of Congress and their allies distorted key elements of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to make the proposal appear less extreme. Here are rebuttals to these distortions, including the myth of an abortion "rider" that they say women could purchase in addition to their insurance plan:


  • The Stupak-Pitts amendment forbids any plan offering abortion coverage in the new system from accepting even one subsidized customer. Since more than 80 percent of the participants in the exchange will be subsidized, it seems certain that all health plans will seek and accept these individuals.  In other words, the Stupak-Pitts amendment forces plans in the exchange to make a difficult choice: either offer their product to 80 percent of consumers in the marketplace or offer abortion services in their benefits package. It seems clear which choice they will make.


  • Stupak-Pitts supporters claim that women who require subsidies to help pay for their insurance plan will have abortion access through the option of purchasing a "rider," but this is a false promise. According to the respected National Women's Law Center, the five states that require a separate rider for abortion coverage, there is no evidence that plans offer these riders. In fact, in North Dakota, which has this policy, the private plan that holds the state's overwhelming share of the health-insurance market (91 percent) does not offer such a rider. Furthermore, the state insurance department has no record of abortion riders from any of the five leading individual insurance plans from at least the past decade. Nothing in this amendment would ensure that rider policies are available or affordable to the more than 80 percent of individuals who will receive federal subsidies in order to help purchase coverage in the new exchange.


The only representative from Maryland to vote for the amendment was Roscoe Bartlett, of the 6th district. He is the sole Republican representing Maryland in Congress.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is asking you to take action to make sure that the Senate doesn’t ignore women’s needs in their bill. Ask President Obama to take a stand to protect women’s health care.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

House Continues to Argue About Abortion

Abortion is still an arguing point in House of Representatives. Even Democrats are asking for tighter restrictions on abortion funding. Read today’s New York Times article, “House Haggles Over Abortion in Health Care Bill.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to push the House bill forward with limited restrictions, but she is faced with the reality that this bill may not pass without major barriers to women’s access to abortion. The House bill as presently drafted defers the decision of whether the public option would cover abortion to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Whatever that decision, federal funds would not be used to pay for abortion services.

The Washington Post reports that the House intends to vote on the health care bill on Saturday, but according to the Los Angeles Times, debate over abortion language could mean that real reform isn’t seen until 2010.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Women Need Health Care Reform

Michelle Obama has said it, and women all over have agreed- health care reform is a woman’s issue. The numbers say so-- 17.8% of women ages 18-64 in America are uninsured. This data come from the US Census Bureau’s data from 2008, but the National Women’s Law Council published charts that break the numbers down into what they mean for women of reproductive age. They even show it state-by-state.

Maryland beats the national average for women, with 14.5% uninsured, but that is not much to be proud of. In Massachusetts, where health insurance plans are partially subsidized by the state and people who opt out of health insurance have tax penalties, the uninsured rate for women is as low at 5.5%. Expanding health insurance coverage is essential for women’s health, so it’s crucial that women keep tabs on the health care proposals working their way through Congress.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid introduced a bill in the Senate that includes a public option, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the House version, which will expand coverage for 36 million Americans. The House bill even prohibits the consideration of being a victim of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, something that is not yet outlawed in 8 states and DC. But Karen Ignagni of America's Health Insurance Plans is already opposing the bill, and so are Republicans.

It will still take work to make sure that the final reform bill is pro-health, pro-women, and pro-choice. To learn about how our current health care system is unfair to women, and to stay updated on how the reform addresses women's issues, Visit the National Women’s Law Center’s website at www.awomanisnotapreexistingcondition.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Female Senators Stand Up for Women’s Health Care

Last Friday, Jodi Jacobson at RHRealityCheck gave a much deserved shout out to nine female senators for standing up for women in the health care debate.

Watch this video of Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Stabenow (D-MI), Landrieu (D- LA), Shaheen (D-NH), Murray (D-WA), and Mikulski (D-MD) describing the discrimination women face in the current health insurance system.



Many of the Senators cited the “pre-existing conditions” that some insurance companies use to deny women coverage: being pregnant, intending to adopt, or even being a victim of domestic violence.


Maryland’s own Barbara Mikulski packed a fiery punch: “When it comes to health insurance we women pay more and get less… We want equal access and equal benefits for equal premiums!”


Later that night, the women of the Senate took the message to the nation, appearing on CNN’s Larry King Live. Senator Murray summed up their goal: “We want to make sure this insurance reform passes, so that women aren’t second class citizens anymore.”




It’s great to see that the women Senators are standing up for women, and the public is recognizing that health care reform is a woman’s issue!


Please take a moment to send Senator Mikulski a message of thanks for supporting women in the health care debate. Contact her through her website.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baltimore Finds A Common Sense Solution to Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Cross posted on RH Reality Check


By Jenny Blasdell and John Nugent
Imagine a friend of yours, a pregnant woman, walks into an office seeking information about her pregnancy. Only, it’s not a doctor’s office and they’re not going to tell her the truth.  Unfortunately, this happens every day across the United States.


Everyone can agree that women seeking information about pregnancy, birth control, abortion, or sexually transmitted diseases should receive timely and accurate information, not false political propaganda.  But there are facilities out there that spread misinformation about abortion and birth control in an effort to dissuade women from exploring those options.   These are known as limited service pregnancy centers or crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).


In Baltimore and around the country, many facilities have neutral sounding names like “Center for Pregnancy Concerns.”  Sounds like a place you could get information or services for your pregnancy concerns, right?  Wrong.  Volunteers who visited these centers were told falsehoods like abortion increases your risk of breast cancer, that natural family planning is as effective as the pill, and that condoms do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  CPCs are concerned alright, but not about what’s in the best interest of women’s health.  They’re concerned with preventing women from exploring their full range of options to protect against unplanned pregnancy and STDs.


CPCs do not always disclose information about the limitations of services or their anti-choice agendas in their advertising, particularly their beliefs about birth control.  Low-cost birth control has been proven to be the most effective way to decrease the need for abortion, yet CPCs give false information about the safety and effectiveness of contraceptives.  Moreover, not a single CPC in Baltimore City contacted by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Fund volunteers would provide a referral for comprehensive birth control.
That’s why this week Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake introduced the Limited-Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimer Bill.  Co-sponsored by ten other council members, this bill is a common sense measure that will ensure that women visiting a Baltimore CPC are informed that they will not receive comprehensive birth control or abortion services or referrals.  The measure does not ask CPCs to provide services they find objectionable.  It only asks them to be honest and straightforward with the women, so that they know up front whether the facility will suit their needs.  Having a more complete picture about the services that are and are not offered will also help provide a context for information they do receive.   The goal of this bill is to empower women to make decisions about their care, and decide if a so-called “Center for Pregnancy Concern” is, well, concerned about the same things as they are.


This bill is an exciting step in Maryland.  Although Maryland introduced a statewide bill to regulate CPCs in 2008, the bill, like all pro-choice bills in the last eleven years in our state, did not move forward.  But localities around the country have been enacting laws and policies to strengthen the reproductive rights of women.  For example, Pittsburgh enacted a buffer zone protecting patients entering reproductive health care facilities.  And Madison, Wisconsin created an ordinance requiring pharmacies to let customers know when emergency contraception is not available.


NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Planned Parenthood of Maryland are committed to ensuring that every woman has the best medical care possible – from birth control to prenatal vitamins, from pre-conception care to labor and delivery.  We have no objection to a center that offers women who have decided to carry their pregnancies to term any help they like.  But lines are crossed when a CPC is not up front about their services, or when a center misleads women. 


The Limited Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimers Bill simply asks that Baltimore CPCs disclose what is true – that they do not provide or refer for comprehensive birth control services or abortion so that women know up front whether the facility suits their needs.   We believe this bill to be a common sense approach to a goal we all share – getting women the care they need. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Update on Health Care Reform Debate


It doesn't take more than a glance at the local newspaper or the TV news to know that the health care debate is heating up. If you're not tuned in to the debate already, you should be. Reform of the health care system is going to affect everyone. Abortion has become a big issue in health reform, and today's debate in the Senate Finance Committee showed it. Senators
voted down an anti-choice amendment from Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah) to force women participating in his health insurance exchange to buy separate abortion care. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was right to call the measure “offensive.” Abortion is a safe, legal medical procedure. Nearly one in three women will have had an abortion by age 45. Restricting access to needed health care creates huge obstacles for women with the fewest resources and creates unnecessary stigma. Fortunately, it was defeated 13-10.


The defeat of this amendment has good implications for health care reform, since the Committee plans to stop debating about coverage and start debating how to finance the plan. However, the whole of Congress is still arguing about abortion care and how it should be funded. The New York Times reports:
At least 31 House Democrats have signed various recent letters to the House speaker,Nancy Pelosi, urging her to allow a vote on a measure to restrict use of the subsidies to pay for abortion, including 25 who joined more than 100 Republicans on a letter delivered Monday.

Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, a leading Democratic abortion opponent, said he had commitments from 40 Democrats to block the health care bill unless they have a chance to include the restrictions.

One of the reasons the Hatch Amendment didn't pass in the Senate Finance Committee despite the threats of a vocal anti-choice contingent of legislators is that the Senate Finance Committee bill does not provide federal funds for abortion beyond the strictures of the infamous Hyde Amendment, 33 years old today. The Hyde Amendment only allows federal funding for abortions in instances of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is endanger and excludes coverage for medically necessary abortions. Abortion care would be covered under some insurance plans, but private dollars (from premiums) would be used to pay for it. Furthermore, nobody would be forced to pay premiums that provided for abortion care, because everyone would have the option of getting a plan with abortion care coverage or without. The Center for American Progress has an excellent summary about this issue.

We should not single out abortion care from the rest of health care. But the Hatch Amendment represents another level of discrimination- saying women do not deserve abortion care at all. The right to choose is meaningless without the ability to access care. Denying coverage of abortion in the new health care plan will be a major step backwards for women's health, yet the promise of health reform is to improve health care for the entire nation. Tell your representatives to protect women’s health care including abortion care in health reform.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Recession is Limiting Women’s Access to Family Planning Services


A study released Wednesday confirms many suspicions- the economic downturn has had negative consequences for women seeking family planning services. Losing their jobs or health insurance has driven many women to delay gynecologic visits, skip birth control pills, or stop paying for contraceptives altogether. These women may be saving money in the short term by skipping pills or visits, but they are putting themselves at risk for an unintended pregnancy, which will only result in more costly options. Nearly half of the women in this survey wanted to delay having children, often voicing concerns about caring for the children they already have.

For a more in-depth look, you can view the full report- “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Options” or read the Guttmacher Institute’s news release on the study.

Hopefully, this news will encourage legislators to push health care reform into policy and ensure that the new plan provides increased access to family planning services. Like most prevention methods of health care, family planning saves money in the long run. In fact estimates show that every dollar spent to provide services in the nationwide network of publicly funded family planning clinics saves $4.02 in pregnancy-related and newborn care costs to Medicaid. Women realize that delaying childbearing makes sense in this economy, but many women are not being given the means to do it. The government, legislators, and the health care industry should ensure that women who want to prevent pregnancy have access to the birth control they need. Health care reform should make preventative health care services like family planning more affordable and accessible for everyone, and especially for low-to-middle income families.

If you are like 23% of the women surveyed and are having a harder time paying for birth control than you have in the past, you should read Deborah Kotz’s blog. She interviews Laura Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute about ways to save money on birth control pills.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Study Links High Teen Birth Rates With Conservatively Religious States

From MSNBC.com:

This week a study was released that links high teen birth rates to conservatively religious views. Researcher Joseph Strayhorn looked at the relationship on a state level and found that the more conservatively religious a state is, the higher the teen birth rate tends to be. The authors of this article, as well as many other expert researchers in the field, hypothesize that lower levels of contraceptive use in conservatively religious communities is contributing to a higher teen birth rate.

Of the top 10 most religious states listed in the study, seven got an “F” in reproductive rights protections from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2009. The other three got a “D” or "D+" on their state report card. Hopefully, more studies will examine factors, like religiosity, that may contribute to reproductive rights protections, sex education curricula, and availability of contraceptives and reproductive health services. Policies affecting these issues may contribute to an elevated teen birth rate and are also likely to be influenced by dominating religious views. Although these trends may exist, it is important to provide teenagers with options that are free from ideological influence, such as scientifically supported sex education and access to medically approved contraceptives.

Maryland ranks 36th out of 51 for teen birth rate. While Maryland is better off than over half the country in the teen birth rate, not using contraception raises other health issues for teenagers. Maryland has the high rates of HIV/AIDS and STIs compared to other states. We can battle these poor health outcomes by making contraceptives more affordable and available and by teaching and encouraging teenagers to use them.