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. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Guttmacher Study: Higher Proportion of Poor Women Seeking Abortion Care

The Guttmacher Institute’s new study, entitled “Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008,” reveals a dramatic increase in the percentage of women living below the poverty line who obtain abortion care.  The proportion of poor women who chose to have abortions increased by almost 60%—from 27% in 2000 to 42% in 2008.

Guttmacher attributes this drastic change to a few different issues: a striking (25%) increase in the number of women and children living below the poverty level or in severe poverty, a dearth of access to family planning information and affordable birth control in low-income communities, and difficulty in using insurance to pay for abortion care.   Although an admirable effort has recently been made by family planning clinics and abortion providers to make their services more affordable to low-income women, the staggering need for services requires serious action. Sharon L. Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, notes:

“...reproductive health disparities and health disparities more generally, are endemic in this country and stem from broader, persistent economic and social inequities. We need to bridge these reproductive health gaps by ensuring that all women, regardless of their economic circumstances, have meaningful access to the full spectrum of information and services—both contraceptive services to reduce levels of unintended pregnancy and abortion services.”

“The Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008” shows us the many obstacles barring poor and low-income women when it comes to issues of reproductive health and family planning.  Thankfully, there are clinics and health care professionals willing to give some subsidies to women in need of birth control and abortions, but even these efforts cannot entirely address the inequities that women in low-income communities face.  As Sharon L. Camp noted, it is a systemic problem that must be addressed by making these services available to everyone, not just those with means.

For more information on the Guttmacher study, check out Guttmacher’s website (linked above) and Jodi Jacobson’s detailed analysis at RH Reality Check. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NLIRH Works to Remove Stigma in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaigns

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) is calling on lawmakers to emphasize a different approach to address the sexual health of Latina youth. NLIRH has released a study, Removing Stigma: Towards a Complete Understanding of Young Latinas' Sexual Health that examines the shortcomings of current teen pregnancy prevention campaigns and explores how shame and stigma are unsuccessfully used to deter teen pregnancy.

The NLIRH research utilizes a reproductive justice framework to discuss how the narrow focus on pregnancy rates fails to address greater needs of Latina youth.  Specifically, the report states that:

“…a nar­row focus on teen pregnancy prevention categorically excludes the particular contexts and concerns of Latina teens’ sexual and reproductive lives that are just as important to them as pregnancy prevention and planning. Policies that give young women the skills and resources to delay pregnancy until they decide to become parents must also speak to their right to a healthy pregnancy, to have an abortion, to parent with dignity, to an education and well-paid career, and their human desires, dreams, and experiences of forming relationships and families.”

The NLIRH calls on lawmakers and teen prevention campaigns to reduce or eliminate obstacles that limit the ability of Latina youth to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. This includes a larger mission to eradicate greater health disparities among people of color.

Be sure to read this fantastic report in its entirety.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Win in Georgia… No, Seriously, a Win in Georgia

As you probably remember, anti-choice politicians in Georgia sank to new lows when they tried to fast-track a bill that was part of a larger strategy to co-opt civil rights language and use it as a guise to attack reproductive rights.  Sponsors of the bill aimed to deceive communities of color about reasons women seek abortion care and could have affected women’s ability to access abortion nationwide. In solidarity with our allies on the ground, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and Planned Parenthood of Georgia, we were able to motivate activists around the country. Ultimately, these outstanding groups were able to stop the bill! The situation choice activists faced in Georgia shows that your rapid response matters. Legislation moves so quickly, and we often have only a few hours notice to make a difference. So thank you for stepping up, and a huge round of applause to SisterSong and other leaders in Georgia for standing strong.