Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Analysis of the 2010 Midterms

As we continue to process the results of last week's elections, our friends at RHRealityCheck.org provide us with some analysis of the results in terms of Abortion, Sex Education, Family Planning, and Anti-Bullying Legislation.  Each of these issues are currently in peril with the House led by the Republican party, with the right to choose most endangered: "At least 78 Republican House and Senate candidates would – if given the opportunity – vote to make abortion illegal under ALL circumstances, including in cases of rape and incest."  The 112th Congress will be the Congress of culture wars, meaning the choice movement must remain active and prepared to fight for a woman's right to choose.

Local Maryland/DC/Virginia news blog TBD.com offered a look at what the election means explicitly for the pro-choice and anti-choice communities.  While radical anti-abortion groups are considering Republican wins a "victory for the nation's pre-born," the pro-choice movement is confident that new anti-choice elects will face strong opposition to their legislative efforts from pro-choice leaders, and in the end may have nothing more on their side than lip service.

Another local blog, the Maryland Politics Watch, offers not only an analysis of this year's results but also projections of the next cycle.  Blogger David Lubin believes this year's election results were largely due to Republican anger towards the shift in policy, but "[t]hey cannot expect to dominate so easily in 2012 when the much large presidential electorate turns out."  Other changes we should anticipate include redistricting, and a political gridlock.

If these political projections make you nervous, remember to ensure your voice is heard.  Sign NARAL Pro-Choice America's petition to let Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner know that We're Watching Him.  Do not let the Republican Party platform succeed with the following agenda:
Push the new “Stupak on Steroids” bill. This bill is even worse than the original Stupak ban in health reform. It would ban coverage of abortion in the new system and impose a tax on Americans with private insurance plans that include abortion coverage. 

 Repeal the health-reform law. It’s outrageous, but our opponents have threatened to overturn the health-care law

No doubt, the elections were rough.  But we must get up, dust ourselves off, and prepare for the battle ahead.  As we gear up for the 2011 legislative session, we know we can count on pro-choice Marylanders to remain vigilant and ready for action!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Do This Year's Election Results Mean for Choice?

Want to know how the results of the mid-terms elections are going to affect choice? Well, there  is some good news and some bad news.

Let’s start with the good news. Colorado voters have rejected a "personhood" initiative for the second time.  The amendment, which would have extended constitutional human rights at "the beginning of the biological development,” failed by a 3 to 1 margin.  RH Realitycheck supplies more information on Amendment 62, along with commentary from NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado.

Unfortunately, the results also signal a tough couple of years ahead for reproductive justice. Visit Max Kamin-Cross' article posted on RHRealitycheck.org for a full round up of what this year's results mean for protecting a woman's right to choose.  With a Congress full of anti-choice extremists, pro-choice supporters will need to be more vigilant, determined, and and active to ensure women have access to a full range reproductive health options.



Friday, October 1, 2010

Anti-Choice Blogger Cruelly Mocks Women's Experiences

Earlier this week, Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, posted an article on RHRealityCheck.org, denouncing an anti-choice blogger’s treatment of the Women’s Stories section of the NARAL website. The Women’s Stories section is intended as a space where women can share their personal experiences and connect with others. Their stories are important because they highlight the complex circumstances and emotions involved in what is often a very difficult decision. In doing so, they also serve as a powerful reminder of why we continue to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose.


An anti-choice blogger took these women’s stories, and cruelly parodied them as “Testimonials.” The article provides one example, where the blogger crudely mocks the circumstances of one woman’s pregnancy and the difficult decision she and her husband had to face. The blogger not only mocks these women, but perverts the stories in ways that conveniently ignore the complicated circumstances, some life-threatening, that women face everyday.


Read the full article to see what Nancy has to say: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/09/27/antichoice-blogger-cruelly-mocks-womens-experiences

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Ruling Puts Funding for Stem Cell Research In Peril

In a surprising decision, Federal Judge Roy C. Lambeth ruled that the Obama administration’s rules for funding stem cell research violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which prevents the federal government from funding any “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”  The Obama administration has been providing funding for life-saving research that uses embryonic stem cells which have already been created without government funding.

The impact of the ruling is unclear and the Obama administration is expected to appeal.  However, the result could be even more restrictive than the rules that governed stem cell research under President George W. Bush.  Bush’s rules allowed the government to fund research as long as the cells came from one of the 21 existing stem cell lines.  While embryonic stem cells and choice may seem like completely separate issues, they overlap.  Personhood USA is pushing measures in 31 states, including Maryland,  that would declare personhood at conception, effectively banning abortion and imperiling stem cell research.  Like abortion, stem cell research also comes under attack in the Maryland Legislature each year. 

This ruling is a tremendous set-back for the research community.  Stem cell research holds the promise of helping millions of Americans suffering from diseases like cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons, ALS, spinal cord injuries, and Alzheimers.   Let’s hope that people can see beyond the politics of the issue and focus on saving and improving people’s lives.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Virgnia's Attorney General Has a New Way For the State to Limit Choice

Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s anti-choice Attorney General, has issued an opinion that would allow the state to classify abortion clinics as ambulatory surgery centers, essentially applying hospital style regulations (commonly known as TRAP regulations) for one of the safest medical procedures provided in the United States.  To comply, clinics would have to make significant changes to their sites and protocols at a huge expense.  Enactment of such onerous, unjustified regulations could force 17 of the state’s 21 clinics to close.  Currently only 57 percent of Virginian women have an abortion provider in their county, a number that would plummet if 17 clinics were to close.  

Cuccinelli tried to enact stronger regulations when he was a legislator.  The Virginia legislature has rejected these attempts in the past and now Cuccinelli is using his position as Attorney General to, in the words of Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria), “do an end run around the General Assembly.”  

Those who want to impose stricter regulations claim that they are concerned for the health of women.  However, abortion clinics are already regulated by the state of Virginia.  They follow the same safety guidelines as plastic surgery centers and doctor’s offices.  Less than one third of one percent of all abortions result in a serious complication.  It is an extremely safe and simple procedure. This move is a thinly veiled attempt to limit abortion under the guise of protecting women.  Abortion is a part of reproductive health care.  Limiting access only endangers women’s health. 
 
While the opinion opens the door for more regulation of abortion providers, permanent changes to their classification require the approval of Board of Health.  Eleven of its members were appointed by former Governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat.   Hopefully, if the matter comes before the Board, they will recognize this opinion for what it is and reject this attempt to further limit women's ability to make their own choices about their health reproductive care.  

Here's what Rachel Maddow's excellent take on what's happening in Virginia.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are You Ready to Vote?



The weather has not been particularly kind to Maryland this summer. Exhausting heat, flooding, and downed power lines make one yearn for fall. After all, autumn brings us turning leaves, light sweaters, and voting.

Voting? Yes, it’s that time again. Here in Maryland, the entire General Assembly is up for grabs, not to mention the governorship and key countywide races. This represents a great opportunity for the pro-choice community. While Maryland is on the surface a blue state, every year anti-choice bills are put forth by delegates and senators who don’t represent the best interests of women. 2010 represents our chance to change this and make sure that the politicians we send to Annapolis represent our values.

If you haven’t registered to vote, you only have until August 24th to register for the primary election. Get a copy of the form as well as info on how to fill it our and where to send it at the Maryland Board of Elections website.

Once you’re registered, one of the most important things to do is make sure that your registration is up to date. This is especially important if you’ve moved or changed parties since the last election. You can make sure at the Maryland Elections Center website. There you can also verify where you will go to vote.

Think you’ll be out of town or unable to reach the polls on Election Day? You can request an absentee ballot. Another great option for Marylanders this year is the opportunity for early voting. Find out more information here.

Nothing can change if you don’t vote! Here’s a quick calendar of important dates to know:

August 24 - Voter registration for Primary Election ends

September 3-9- Early Primary Election voting

September 14- Primary Election Day

September 27- Voter registration for General Election re-opens

October 12- Voter registration for General Election closes

October 22-28- Early General Election voting

November 2- General Election Day

Check out our website for more information on what makes this election so important and who is pro-choice. You have a chance to make real change happen in Maryland this fall. Take advantage and exercise your right to vote!

Ella® is Approved!

Last Friday, in a victory for reproductive health, an FDA panel approved a new form of emergency contraception (EC), ella®.  Ella®, which has been available in Europe for over a year, reduces the risk of pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.  While Plan B®, the only other brand of EC available in the US, can also be taken up to 5 days after sex, it is most effective within the first three days.  In comparison, ella® works just as well on the fifth day as on the first. Unlike Plan B®, which is available without a prescription for women and men 17 and older, ella® will be available by prescription only.  While this may be an advantage to some women whose insurance will only cover prescription medication, it presents yet another obstacle in terms of availability, especially for women who have no health insurance or whose insurance doesn’t cover EC.  

It should come as no surprise that anti-choice groups are lining up in opposition to the approval, but the truth of the matter is that Ella’s® approval means that women have another safe and effective option when making choices about their reproductive health.  Increasing access to more and better forms of birth control is an effective strategy in preventing unintended pregnancies and most people support it. Thankfully, the FDA agrees.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's about intersectionality.

Judge Vaughn Wagner’s groundbreaking decision overturning California’s Proposition 8 was more than a detailed takedown of each of the arguments against marriage equality.  It also illuminates the fact that marriage is a constantly evolving institution, and that it has evolved rapidly over the past several decades as old gender roles have been replaced with a larger sense of gender equity.

Linda Greenhouse has a great piece in the New York Times this week that talks about how Judge Vaughn’s analysis of the change in gender roles shows that he is not redefining marriage from the bench- society has already done it.  By adopting ideas such as no-fault divorce and abandoning the idea that women could not individually own property, Judge Vaughn argues that we as a society have already moved marriage away from its “traditional” role so treasured by Prop 8’s supporters.   

What does this decision have to do with reproductive rights though?  Plenty.  Over at RH Reality Check, Jessica Arons illuminates the connections.  The underlying tone of Judge Walker’s decision is that the state has no compelling interest in telling people who to marry.  In doing so, he cites Loving v. Virginia, which declared unconstitutional laws that prevented people not of the same race from marrying; Griswold v. Connecticut, which established the right of married couples to seek out birth control; and Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized consensual sodomy.  Taken with the Prop 8 decision, connecting these dots has a huge impact on reproductive freedom.  Being able to choose who you want to marry or have sex with, and if and when you want to have children, are fundamental rights. Our laws should reflect that the personal sovereignty that is the bedrock of American values.

The argument over Proposition 8 hits at the intersection where certain individuals have their behavior controlled by the state, for supposedly moral reasons held by the minority of Americans.  It’s a fight that those in the civil rights, LGBTQ and reproductive justice communities are well acquainted with.  When decisions like Perry v. Schwarzenegger come along, we can all rejoice at the victory for individual rights.  And the backlash against it reminds us that there is still more work to be done.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It’s a No-Brainer.

In these economic times, it should not be difficult to imagine yourself as a young woman struggling to make ends meet for you and your partner on a single salary of less than $36,425 per year.  Now imagine you are standing at the pharmacy counter at the grocery store, tabulating in your head the cost of your birth control compared the food in your cart plus your rent and utilities. When your budget is stretched that thin, what item do you cut out? More than likely, you’re going to leave your prescription behind.

For roughly 250,000 women in Maryland, this is a daily reality.  Despite living in poverty, they are not eligible to access Medicaid’s family planning services, which include gynecological care, contraceptives and STI screening.  Under current law, women (with incomes at or below 250% of the poverty level) must become pregnant before they are eligible for these services under Medicaid.  Clearly, this is not the most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy.

An article in the July 30th Gazette highlights the problems with this policy.  In the recent Kids Count study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Maryland has the 42nd worst infant mortality rate in the country, at 8 per 1,000 live births.  This can be attributed to a lack of access to gynecological care pre-pregnancy and a lack of access to prenatal care.

Fortunately, as the Gazette points out, Maryland legislators are pursuing a solution.  The Family Planning Works Act, sponsored by Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-20) and Senator Catherine Pugh (D-40), would expand Medicaid’s family planning services to any woman whose income is at or below 250% of the poverty level.  This expansion would reduce the number of births that Medicaid has to pay for, saving the state millions of dollars.

As we’ve mentioned before, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland is proud to support this common sense measure and testified on its behalf this past February.  This summer alone, we have collected nearly 500 signatures from fellow Marylanders who support this bill.  Seventeen other states, including Mississippi and Virginia have made similar changes to their Medicaid programs.  Sign our petition to let your elected officials know that you expect them to support this measure in the next session, regardless of their party.  An idea that both helps women and saves the state money is a win-win proposition for all of us.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Weapons in the Fight Against HIV

For decades the HIV epidemic within the United States has withstood all efforts to halt it. Today, over one million Americans are HIV positive. 3% of them reside in Maryland, making it the state with the third highest rate of infection per 100,000 people in the United States. Becoming HIV-positive can be a devastating event, leading to monthly medical bills of $2,100 and many other medical conditions as the immune system declines. Thankfully, President Obama has recognized the importance of treating and preventing HIV and has released an ambitious strategy to halt its spread and provide high-quality care for those who are infected.

The plan’s most impressive goal is to lower the number of new infections per year by 25% by 2015. This will be accomplished by testing more people for HIV, making HIV therapy more available and affordable, and renewing efforts to education people about HIV. To ensure that these efforts are as effective as possible, they will be focused on populations that have the highest risk of becoming infected with HIV, including minorities, drug-users, and gay and bisexual men. Contributing factors to the high risk of infection includes insufficient access to health care services among minorities and insufficient sex education, especially for gay and bisexual men

Another important innovation in fighting the spread of HIV is the recently announced Tenofovir gel. Tenofovir gel, a vaginal gel that includes the antiviral drug Tenofovir, has been show to cut a woman’s likelihood of infection by 50% after one year of use. Currently, condoms (both male and female) are the most common method used to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs. Although the results still need to be confirmed, the preliminary success of the gel’s trial is an important step in providing women with another option to protect themselves from infection.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friday Night Lights Stands up for Choice

While most television shows shy away from discussing abortion, the July 9th episode of Friday Night Lights, a show about life in a small Texas town, bravely tackled the topic. In the episode Becky, a tenth-grader, discovers she’s unexpectedly pregnant. As she talks to her mother and the local high school’s principal, she considers what life would be, for both herself and the child, if she chose to continue her pregnancy. After considering her options, Becky decides that having an abortion is the best course of action for her.


This video is an overview for the entire episode, but contains key highlights form the teen pregnancy story line:

The choice makes Becky a rarity among television and movie characters who face unplanned pregnancies, with almost all other characters choosing to continue the pregnancy or having an opportune miscarriage. While their choice reflects many women’s experiences, the decision to end a pregnancy is equally valid. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and 30 other state and national organizations applaud NBC and Friday Night Lights for honestly and compassionately portraying a situation that that over one million women experience each year.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why We Need Better Coverage for Birth Control

The recently released list of preventative services that insurers will be required to cover at no cost to patients includes many victories for women.  However, there was one glaring exception: birth control.   As Laura Hessburg, a senior health policy adviser at the National Partnership for Women and Families, said “contraception should be regarded as basic preventive health care.” The Department of Health and Human Services is still reviewing possible additions to the list of preventative care services that will be offered to women.  Hopefully, the facts and the majority of Americans will be heard and women will be provided with birth control as an essential part of preventative care.  
The benefits of including birth control in this policy are clear. Allowing women to plan their pregnancies lessens the health risks for both woman and child.  Women who become unintentionally pregnant are less likely to get vitally important pre-natal care. This can potentially cause health risks for the child, including premature birth and lower birth weight.  They are also unlikely to have been screened for conditions that could lead to their health being threatened by pregnancy.  An additional benefit to increasing the availability of birth control is the fact that as the rate of unintended pregnancies decreased, the number of abortions would also decrease.


Covering birth control also leads to lower financial costs for women.  Women who have insurance face payments between $160 and $600 per year for birth control, a significant financial burden for any woman, but especially for low-income women.  It should also be noted that while both men and women benefit from birth control, women often disproportionately shoulder the financial responsibility.  Including birth control in preventative care coverage would help create a more equal playing field.  In addition, the cost of contraception is much less than the cost of pre-natal and maternal health care. Of course women who choose to continue their pregnancies should receive high quality care. But the amount of money that can be saved by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies is astronomical.   In 2002, unintentional pregnancies cost the health-care system $5 billion and women anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000 per delivery. Whereas, in 2002 using contraceptives saved the health-care system 19 Billion.  As Health-care costs have risen since 2002 these figures are have probably stayed true or increased.  While there is an upfront cost in expanding coverage, the long term savings far exceed the initial investment.  


Requiring insurance companies to fully over birth control not only makes medical and financial sense, it enjoys an immense amount of public support as well.  81% of Americans support the availability of birth control.  Even among socially conservative groups, such as Evangelical Christians, there is widespread support for birth control. 



Access to birth control is imperative to women’s health and well being. As the health-care system is reformed, women’s basic needs should not be comprised or politicized (more than they already have been).  It’s simple: providing full coverage for birth control helps to improve the financial health of both women and the health-care system.  Even more importantly, it helps keep women and children healthy while ensuring that women have control over their bodies.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Short-Comings of G8's Maternal and Child Health Campaign

The 2010 G8 summit held on June 25th-26th in Ontario, Canada has raised concerns among the pro-choice community. The G8, which stands for Group of 8, is a political organization designed to effect change among the world's most powerful industrialized nations. The countries that comprise the G8 are Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. More than a dozen civil society networks brought various petitions urging G8 leaders to take action regarding maternal and child health, to honor the pledge to help developing countries adapt to climate change as well as to agree on a concrete plan to sustain HIV/AIDS treatment programs.

Prior to this year’s summit, conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched a new international campaign for maternal and child health. Canada is committing $1.1 billion Canadian dollars in new spending over five years for maternal and child health programs in poor countries. As part of the campaign, Harper called for increased funding and resources from governments, non-governmental organizations, and private foundations for a series of mediations focusing mainly on nutrition, vaccines, and clean water. In a world where the value of investing in maternal health is often overlooked, the potential benefits of this campaign are invaluable. However, Harper's failure to mention the topics of abortion care or contraception in the policy is disconcerting. With 13% of maternal deaths each year caused by illegal and unsafe abortions, which equates to about 70,000 women, it is counter-intuitive to exclude the topic of abortion from a campaign concerning maternal health.

In a review of the G8 meeting, RH Reality Check includes a statement from Dorothy Ngoma, Executive Director of the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi, which discusses the importance of addressing maternal health as well as the G8's failure to meet prior commitments:

“It is immoral that 350,000 or more women are dying each year during pregnancy and childbirth. The question, Ngoma said, is 'why have the world leaders in the G8 failed to protect women’s lives?' She continued, 'Who is going to protect these women? World leaders promised to cut maternal deaths by 75% by 2015, but we don’t seem to be making much progress.'”

Harper also received a strong rebuke from Secretary Hillary Clinton, who was quoted in an article from The Nation saying:

"You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion."

In response to public criticism, Harper has agreed to add family planning to his initiative, but remains unwilling to compromise on abortion. If the ultimate aim of Harper's campaign is to save the lives of women and children, it is imperative that the administration recognize that these health goals will not and cannot be achieved without the willingness to directly fund safe abortion services. Access to contraception as well as safe and legal abortion services are both necessary components of a truly comprehensive and effective approach to achieving maternal and child well-being.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A New Study Undermines Nebraska’s Anti-Choice Law

Remember the heinous, anti-choice bills that were recently passed in Nebraska? You may recall that one of the bills placed a ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on the unsupported belief that the fetus can feel pain.  This ban is the first law in the nation that restricts abortion on a premise other than viability, which contradicts over three decades of judicial precedent set by Roe v. Wade. Nebraskan politicians passed this legislation despite the fact that legal scholars and scientists maintained that there was no reputable scientific evidence to support the claim that fetal pain occurs at this stage in the pregnancy.

Well, it turns out that a recent study by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists further debunks the theory of fetal pain.  The research found that there is not sufficient neurological development for the fetus to feel pain before 24 weeks.  The report also emphasized the fact that it is difficult to say whether the fetus will feel pain after 24 weeks, because the perception of pain is largely a behavior that is learned after birth.  This study provides even more evidence that the justification for the Nebraska law is based more on political posturing than scientific fact.

When it comes to reproductive health, this is not the only time politicians have ignored facts to further their agenda. On issues ranging from comprehensive sex education to late term abortion to expanding family planning services, anti-choice politicians have shown time and again that they are willing to support legislation that contradicts the consensus of medical and scientific communities. Women deserve access to medically accurate information when it comes to making reproductive health decisions, not biased information aimed at restricting and manipulating their options. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who's Really Being Thoughtful about Abortion?

Abortion touches everyone.  The Guttamacher Institute estimates that “one in three American women will have had an abortion by age 45”.  Statistics aside, these women are people we know, our mothers, daughters, friends, and co-workers.  NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and other pro-choice organizations support every woman's fundamental right to make her own choice about pregnancy and child-bearing.  It is a fundamental tenet to the pro-choice community that women must be trusted to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health care.  Tracey Brooks weighed in on this issue in an editorial in the Huffington Post.  Brooks states that “every state should value women and families enough to have strong reproductive health care policies.”  Sadly, this is not the case.  A large number of anti-choice legislation targeted at women's reproductive rights has been proposed this year. Even more worrisome, many have been ratified into law.

Anti-choice legislators believe that creating barriers limiting access to abortion care will deter women from seeking abortions.  The reality is that these barriers only increase the cost of healthcare and may jeopardize a woman's health.  According to the Tracey Brooks, “studies have shown that increasing restrictions on access to abortion, such as the newly popular strategy of requiring ultrasounds before abortion, do not serve to change women's minds.”  Besides being ineffective and dangerous, anti-choice laws are offensive because they deem women incapable of making responsible decisions regarding their own reproductive health

Last month, the Guttmacher Institute released a study which showed that the reasons women give for having an abortion “underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life.”  According to this study:

“Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.”

Women who seek abortions have made a thoughtful and personal decision.  This decision is a private one, and by basic right belongs to no one but the individual considering the procedure.  Lawmakers must consider this when crafting legislation.  If anti-choice legislators were truly concerned with reducing the number of abortions, they would enact policies that support women and their families – like expanding access to family planning services, increasing access to affordable childcare, guaranteeing a livable wage and equal pay for women, and ensuring that women and men have adequate parental leave after the birth of a child – not policies that undermine women’s integrity and autonomy by restricting their ability to choose what is best for them.

Privacy Victory for Florida Women!

This may be a little behind the times, but it’s never too late to share good news. On June 11th, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the controversial ultrasound abortion bill. In late April, anti-choice Florida legislators amended H.B.1143 which previously had no relevance to reproductive rights, to include a mandatory-ultrasound requirement. The bill would have required a woman seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound and an oral description of the ultrasound images before undergoing the procedure except in cases of rape, incest or domestic violence. In addition, the bill would have required women to shoulder the cost of the ultrasound, ranging from $150-$1500.

NARAL Pro-Choice America mobilized activists in Florida, sending more than 1,200 messages to Gov. Crist urging him to veto this unprecedented anti-choice legislation. NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan applauded Crist’s decision, stating that "Gov. Charlie Crist did the right thing by listening to the pro-choice majority in Florida and vetoing this anti-choice bill that the state legislature rammed through at the last minute.” In a letter explaining his veto, Crist explained that the bill would place “an inappropriate burden on a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy.”

The insertion of such amendments is a prime example of anti-choice politicians’ willingness to disregard women’s health in order to gain political standing without thinking of the real-world ramifications of their actions. “Floridians, like most Americans, are tired of lawmakers using women's reproductive health as a bargaining chip”, says Keenan. Anti-choice advocates introduce hundreds of state bills each year and mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking an abortion is an increasingly popular trend. Anti-choice politicians in Maryland eagerly jumped on the bandwagon and introduced ultrasound legislation in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Thankfully, our pro-choice allies held strong and none of the bills passed. 

But if the past is any indicator, anti-choice activists will continue to live by the adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” Although the ultrasound bills were successfully defeated in Maryland and Florida this time around, it’s crucial that pro-choice activists mobilize quickly if these bills are introduced again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FDA Considers a New Emergency Contraceptive

The FDA’s Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health will meet on June 17th to discuss whether or not to approve a new emergency contraceptive named ellaOne®. Studies have shown ellaOne® to be more effective than Plan B®, the only other emergency contraceptive on the U.S. market. Although Plan B® can help prevent pregnancy if taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, it is more effective the sooner it is taken. In comparison, ellaOne® is consistently effective within a 5 day period after sex. A recent MSNBC article reported that “women who took ellaOne® within five days after sex almost halved their chances of becoming pregnant compared to women who took Plan B®.”

Not surprisingly, anti-choice advocates are up in arms about the introduction of a new emergency contraceptive. Anti-choicers are using the same old arguments they used when the FDA was considering approving Plan B® for over-the-counter status- it will cause girls to become more sexually promiscuous. A LifeNews article even goes so far as to state that ellaOne® “causes abortions.” These claims are false and completely unsupported. A report from the World Health Organization notes that several studies have shown that providing access to EC “does not increase sexual or contraceptive risk-taking behavior.” Further, neither Plan B® nor ellaOne® affect or harm an established pregnancy. Anti-choice advocates continue to use these tired arguments as a means to hinder women’s reproductive freedom.

This new “Plan C” is currently available in 21 European countries. Hopefully the U.S. will be the next addition to this list! One serious down side is that researchers estimate that ellaOne® will cost three times the amount of Plan B®, which is already more than many women can afford (ranging between $30-$60). The approval of ellaOne® will mean very little to most women if it is not affordable.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Abortion Foes Advance Cause at State Level

A New York Times article released yesterday discusses the recent wave of measures implicated by several states which aim to limit women’s reproductive rights. Many of these states are acting on provisions in the new health care plan which allows states to prohibit insurers from covering abortions. In this past year, at least 11 states have passed laws regulating or restricting abortion. Just to name a few:                                                               

*Arizona has passed 4 laws this year which include a ban on coverage of abortion in state employees’ health plan and stricter reporting requirements for doctors who perform abortions.

*Oklahoma has passed 7 laws in the past year. One of the most alarming is a law which requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before receiving an abortion. There is no exception for women who have been sexually assaulted. Another new law protects doctors from being sued by parents for withholding information about fetal abnormalities during pregnancy.

*Nebraska ban on all abortions after 20 weeks.

While pro-choice supporters breathed a sigh of relief with the return of a pro-choice administration, anti-choice activists rallied. It is clear that attacks on reproductive freedom have become more severe. Pro-choice advocates need to remain vigilant to ensure their voices are heard and values are represented.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Burris Amendment to Repeal Abortion Ban in Military Hospitals


Last month, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-10 to approve an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.  The amendment, introduced by Senator Roland Burris, will repeal the current ban which prevents servicewomen from obtaining an abortion on a military base, even if they use their own money.  Although the Burris amendment will allow women to use private funds to pay for abortion care in military hospitals, it does not change the policy prohibiting federal funding for abortions.
This ban is not only unjust, but puts women’s lives at risk.  By restricting access to abortions, the government deters women from exercising their right to choose.  Vania Leveille, who is a member of the ACLU Legislative Counsel, notes that:
“There are hundreds of thousands of women serving in our military who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms yet they are prevented from exercising their own reproductive freedom.  Servicewomen stationed overseas are disproportionately affected by this ban. Allowing American servicewomen to use their own private funds to obtain abortion care at U.S. military facilities is fundamental and should never have been questioned in the first place.”
Naral Pro-Choice America, one of the advocacy groups who approached Burris to sponsor the repeal, calls the ban “outrageous and unfair”.  This ban discriminates against military women by denying them their right to a safe and legal abortion.  Women who are courageously fighting for their country should not be denied access to the full range of reproductive health care options available to women in the United States just because they are in a foreign country.
As Burris notes, “It is critical that we provide the highest quality care” which “includes allowing women and their families the right to choose at facilities operated under the Department of Defense.”  NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland commends Senator Burris as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee for helping to repeal this unjust ban!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Support Sister McBride Today!

Many of you have probably heard the astonishing report about Sister Margaret McBride, who was excommunicated for her role in approving a first trimester abortion that was necessary to save a woman’s life. Last November, the medical staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center diagnosed a pregnant woman with a condition that she would not survive if she continued the pregnancy. As a Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which greatly restricts access to reproductive health care and other services. Sister McBride’s decision to save this woman’s life resulted in automatic excommunication, the harshest punishment that the Catholic Church could have bestowed upon her.  Apparently, while the Catholic Church makes exceptions for sex-offending priests (none of whom have been excommunicated), there is no room for a nun who was truly concerned about a patient’s life and right to a legal procedure that would prevent her death.

In an attempt to clarify the Directives, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the leader of the Phoenix archdiocese, said “while medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child.”  The problem with this statement is easy to spot: An 11 week fetus cannot survive without the mother. It is clear that Olmstead places more value on the fetus than the life of a woman.  If Sister McBride shared this short-sighted view, the woman’s 4 existing children would have been left motherless. Hospitals should be a safe place where women can go to get treatment and care that is in their best interest.  Sadly, Catholic hospitals often put religious doctrine before women’s lives and medical requests.  

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland commends Sister Margaret McBride for being brave enough to defy the Church in order to save a woman’s life and we are not alone; Catholics for Choice is urging individuals to show their support for Sister McBride by sending her a letter by May 28th.  Let Sister McBride know that she is not alone and send her a note expressing your support today! 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Honoring Dr. George Tiller, One Year Later



A recent HuffPo article by NARAL Pro-Choice America’s president, Nancy Keenan, acknowledges the one-year anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation’s most prominent abortion providers.  After enduring 34 years of consistent harassment by anti-choice activists, Dr. Tiller was shot and murdered in his church in Kansas on May 31, 2009. Anti-choice extremist Scott Roeder has since been convicted and is serving a life sentence.  Dr. Tiller provided support to women who were in a desperate time of need and many people expressed their great appreciation for him after his untimely death.  As the memory of Dr. Tiller is honored, Keenan notes how dedicated doctors, like Dr. LeRoy Carhart , continue to face harassment in the form of individual extremists and unjust legislation.  Members of the pro-choice community must remain vigilant in our fight for women’s reproductive rights.   As the ongoing campaign of threats and intimidation perpetrated by anti-choice activists continues, we must speak out against their actions and express our own pro-choice values.    Here are a few of Keenan’s ideas on how to take action:
Got other ideas? Post them in a comment.