Monday, January 31, 2011

Anti-Choice Politicians Seek to Redefine Rape

Note: This post discusses rape and sexual assault. 

Earlier this month, anti-choice leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced H.R. 3, the extreme"Stupak on Steroids" bill. The "Stupak on Steroids" bill is a kitchen-sink attack on women's ability to make personal, private medical decisions, but one of its many dangerous provisions is particularly cruel: it seeks to redefine rape.

Several federal laws, most notably the Hyde amendment, bar access to abortion care for low-income womenwho rely on the federal government for their health care, with exceptions only to preserve the woman's life or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

Mother Jones reports that the "Stupak on Steroids" bill would limit the rape exception only to cases of "forcible rape," a definition that does not currently exist in federal law. Survivors of date rape, rape involving drugs or alcohol, or statutory rape would not be eligible for abortion coverage under "Stupak on Steroids":
If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.

The Daily Beast talked with Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, about the attack, noting that the chilling effect of "the bill will send a message to all women that certain kinds of sexual assault don't count as rape at all." 

The "Stupak on Steroids" bill is one of the farthest-reaching assaults on women's freedom and privacy that we've seen. As Donna Crane, our policy director, said, the way it would treat survivors of sexual assault is "unbelievably cruel and heartless."

Cross-posted at Blog for Choice

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blog for Choice day: my two cents

Like most reproductive rights supporters, the outcomes of the 2010 elections across the U.S. caused me feel sad and quite frustrated. They say that election cycles ebb and flow, and because I can't change the past, I'll continue looking into the future in hopes that other elections will yield far better results. However, I am not willing to rest on a simple answer when it comes to choice in 2011.

Today is Blog for Choice. Now in its 6th year, Blog for Choice day, put on by NARAL Pro-Choice America, encourages us all to speak our minds and make our voices heard. This year's question is, "are you concerned about choice in 2011?" Clearly, the answer is an unequivocal: YES.

My worry is not that anti-choicers are going to succeed in rolling back Roe vs. Wade in this congress, with this supreme court or even in the near future. My concern lies in the small "gains" anti-choice legislators may achieve that in the grand scheme of things, may not feel like much but will undoubtedly matter to some woman somewhere in the country who has a right to reproductive options, yet has little or no access to them. Initiatives like a ban on abortion after 20 weeks is a prime example. Later term abortions happen. It is a fact. They are often very sad but also necessary to save a woman's life. If it becomes increasingly difficult to access these services, a woman's health is affected and it impacts her family, friends and loved ones, too. No one wants to be put in these kinds of situations, but there are so many things in life we can't control. I would never want to go through a heart-breaking situation during pregnancy, and I would certainly never wish that my female friends, cousins, sisters, or my niece have to experience it either.

Access to birth control and emergency contraception are two other examples that worry me. We have seen great gains in recent years with new forms of emergency contraception (also known as: the morning after pill), but it can be difficult in some areas of the country to find a pharmacy that stocks it. And, with rising health care costs and many women unemployed, underemployed and/or uninsured, the ability to afford the birth control pill is heavily impacted. Birth control pills should be viewed as preventative medicine and should be widely available to all women wishing to control if and when they enter into motherhood.

There are an abundance of bills on the state and federal level aimed at attacking choice, too. We know that John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House, will not stand in the way of their passage. And, at the state level, many state legislatures will succeed in passing some very detrimental anti-choice bills.

I've painted a pretty grim picture because we are up against some serious challenges and competition. The threats are real, but we haven't lost anything yet. There is still time to exercise our rights as citizens by calling legislators to speak up for reproductive freedom and access to good, quality reproductive healthcare.  And, in the worst case scenario that some of these bills do pass, I am confident in the collective strength of us, the pro-choice supporters nationwide, to work hard in subsequent legislative sessions to repeal measures that infringe on our rights as women to access reproductive health care and have, options. I truly feel this all boils down to that one little word: options. If a woman doesn't want to take birth control, she shouldn't have to take it.  If she doesn't want to have an abortion, by all means, she should never feel pressured to have one. Those are her choices. But for the rest of us out there, what are our choices? Where are our options? A legislator on Capitol Hill in Washington or in any state capital across the U.S. should not feel entitled to make decisions regarding our choices, our options, but it is happening. So, as a community, I hope we'll continue to speak up to preserve choice and to say, 'PLEASE, stop legislating against MY reproductive rights.'

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland

Concerned for Choice? You Bet.

It never ceases to baffle me that almost forty years after Roe v. Wade a woman’s right to choose is still up for debate. To the pro-choice community, this is an essential and undeniable right yet everyday you can read a new story about healthcare providers refusing to provide necessary medical services to women. Everyday, lawmakers attempt to limit access to abortions and demand control over women’s bodies. Our House of Representatives is led by a man who hopes to be “the most pro-life Speaker” in history. The political climate across the nation is as anti-choice as ever. Am I concerned for choice in 2011? Absolutely.

Even here in Maryland, a place considered to be a pro-choice haven, a woman’s right to choose is under attack. The state lawmakers have introduced many new pieces of anti-choice legislation this session. These bills, which anti-choice legislators insultingly claim “protect women’s health”, truly aim to close the doors of most of Maryland’s few abortion providers. In addition to this, if the Holy Cross Hospital decision has shown us anything, it’s that women's reproductive health is clearly not a priority to our politicians. This is unsettling and unacceptable.

On this 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I commit to holding our politicians accountable for anti-choice decisions and hope that 2011 is the year for choice. 

~ Clare
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Intern

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let Your Voice Be Heard!

This Saturday, January 22nd the pro-choice community will celebrate the 38th anniversary of the passage Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court. In celebration of this landmark occasion, we invite you participate in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Blog for Choice Day.
Frustrated with the current anti-choice attitude on Capitol Hill? Talk about it! This Friday January 21 is the day for you and bloggers across the nation to get people reading and thinking about pro-choice issues. Simply write a blog post with your thoughts and comments regarding the question below and tag the posts on your blog with NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Blog for Choice to show you’re joining in.
 This year the question to consider when writing your blog on Friday is: Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?
 Don’t have a blog? That’s fine too, just tweet your response or post it Facebook. The goal is to get as many people thinking about reproductive rights this Friday and anything you can do will help!