Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration took an important step for millions of women by moving emergency contraception out from behind the pharmacy counter and making it available to people ages 15 and older with valid identification.
As a doctor, I know that this is good news and a great first step. Emergency contraception is a safe and effective form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of unprotected sex. By reducing barriers, this announcement will help more women prevent unintended pregnancy.
At the same time, the Obama administration said this week that it is appealing last month’s federal ruling that would have eliminated the age restriction completely. Citing scientific research and evidence, the judge removed the age and point of sale restrictions that made it harder for all women to access emergency contraception. That ruling should stand.
Unprotected sex sometimes happens – a condom breaks or non-consensual sex occurs. When it does, all women, regardless of their age, need access to emergency contraception quickly and confidentially.
Remember, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it is (but if you are already pregnant, it won’t work). That’s why removing unnecessary barriers that delay access can help a woman prevent an unintended pregnancy.
The research shows that emergency contraception is safe for women of all ages, including young people. Research also indicates that teens understand how to use emergency contraception and understand it is not intended for ongoing, regular use. It doesn’t increase risky behavior either.
A recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that sexual activity is exceedingly rare among the youngest adolescents. However, when sex does occur among teens under 14, it is often non-consensual and contraceptives are not used.
So despite some of the myths out there, emergency contraception is a safe, effective way to prevent pregnancy for all women, regardless of age (though, as someone who talks to parents everyday about health care, I also know it’s crucial that parents have conversations with their children about these issues).
The good news is that this week’s decision makes it a whole lot easier for women to get access to emergency contraception. More should be done to remove all barriers and unnecessary hurdles. While the teen birth rates have declined significantly in the last two decades, they are still high, including in states that lack access to medical providers and preventive health care.
That’s why, as a doctor, I know it makes good scientific and medical sense to expand access to emergency contraception to all women.
By: Deborah Nucatola, MD, Senior Director of Medical Services for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Debate Club, U. S. News and World Report, May 3, 2013
At abortion clinics, the presence of awnings, the width of doorways and the dimensions of janitorial closets have little to do with the health of patients. But by requiring that Virginia’s 20 abortion clinics conform to strict licensing standards designed for new hospitals, the state has ensured that many or most of them will be driven out of business in the coming months.
Just days after the state Board of Health approved the regulations this month, under pressure from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), they claimed their first victim. Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk, which for 40 years had provided reproductive health services, including abortions, closed last weekend.
Hillcrest was partly a victim of its own success in providing women with ready access to birth control. Like most other clinics around the state, it saw demand for abortions dwindle as more women took advantage of options to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Still, even after years of protests, arson, a pipe bombing and an attack by a man wielding a semiautomatic weapon, Hillcrest performed more than 1,600 abortions last year, about 7 percent of the state total. The principal reason it closed its doors was that complying with the regulations would have saddled it with $500,000 in renovations — an unaffordable expense.
That’s precisely what Mr. Cuccinelli and other advocates of the policy intended. According to a survey by the state Health Department, just one of the 19 surviving clinics meets the requirements. Fifteen of the remaining facilities estimated their combined costs of compliance at $14.5 million.
Some of the clinics, including those operated by Planned Parenthood, which has a national fundraising network, will survive. Many others, which are run as small businesses, probably will not. Most have no means to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to widen corridors, install state-of-the-art surgical sinks and expand parking lots.
What’s more, the upgrades they face are arbitrary manifestations of the state’s overweening power. Other types of walk-in clinics, including those that perform oral and cosmetic surgery, are unaffected by the regulations.
As Dr. David Peters, owner of the Tidewater Women’s Health Center in Norfolk, told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper: “I can do plastic surgery. I can stick needles in babies’ lungs. I can put tubes up penises and into bladders and do all sorts of crazy stuff in my office with no regulations whatsoever. No government supervision. But for an abortion . . .it just becomes nonsensical.”
The Board of Health had sought to exempt existing abortion clinics from the regulations, which were never intended for ambulatory clinics. But board members caved when Mr. Cuccinelli, the most political attorney general in Virginia’s history, threatened to withhold the state’s legal help if they were sued.
Regulation is essential for all health services. But there is no evidence that unsanitary conditions or slapdash procedures are common at abortion clinics in Virginia nor that women who seek services from them are at risk. The state’s assault on women’s reproductive rights is an ideological crusade masquerading as concern for public health.
By: The Editorial Board, The Washington Post, April 26, 2013
“There Is No Gosnell Coverup”: Blame Existing Policies And Public Indifference To Low-Income Communities
This week, the right wing has been working the refs, demanding to know why the press has been allegedly silent on the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who allegedly committed horrific acts against his patients with impunity for years. Fox News’ Kristen Powers kicked it off with an Op-Ed in USA Today, claiming, “The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.” Michelle Malkin has helped spearhead a Twitter campaign. Breitbart.com calls it “a full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media.”
And mostly, the campaign is working, generating a series of sheepish responses (and a near-instant BuzzFeed listicle). In an Atlantic piece headlined, “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s trial should be a front page story,” Conor Friedersdorf admits, “Until Thursday, I wasn’t aware of this story … Had I been asked at a trivia night about the identity of Kermit Gosnell, I would’ve been stumped and helplessly guessed a green Muppet.” Slate’s Dave Weigel congratulated the tweeters for getting his attention and then filed a piece sympathetic to the coverup claim, lecturing pro-choice people that “You really should read that grand jury report,” and concluding, “Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story.”
No, they aren’t right about the Gosnell story. If you’ve never heard of the Gosnell story, it’s not because of a coverup by the liberal mainstream media. It’s probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011. There would be something rich, if it weren’t so infuriating, about these (almost uniformly male, as it happens) reporters and commentators scrambling to break open this shocking untold story. You know, the one that was written about here, here and here, to name some disparate sources.
I can’t speak for big news organizations like CNN and the networks, but let’s think about this question another way: How often do such places devote their energies to covering the massive health disparities and poor outcomes that are wrought by our current system? How often are the travails of the women whose vulnerabilities Gosnell exploited — the poor, immigrants and otherwise marginalized people — given wall-to-wall, trial-level coverage? If you’re surprised that in the face of politicized stigma, lack of public funding or good information, and a morass of restrictive laws allegedly meant to protect women, the vacuum was filled by a monster — well, the most generous thing I can say is that you haven’t been paying attention.
But since you’re here, guys — welcome. Here are some important things to know about the tragedies committed in Gosnell’s clinic, based on the sources you missed. This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over
#Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13. As Murtha puts it, “The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more.”
After all, the question is not just why the state failed to respond to the complaints of women and advocates who visited the clinic, although that matters hugely. It’s why women kept going there anyway: because they felt they had no alternative. Read this account from Jeff Deeney, a social worker from Philadelphia, who points out that the lack of public funding for abortion is a big factor leading desperate women to Gosnell: “It’s worth noting for outsiders that Health Center #4 which serves the same neighborhood is the best in town, providing quality care for the uninsured poor. But Health Centers don’t do abortions, and Medicaid, where a TANF mom’s insurance coverage would come from, if she had any at all, doesn’t pay for them. And for these women the cost of paying for an abortion out of pocket breaks the budget, leaving mom scrambling to make next month’s rent or possibly wind up on the street.” Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit, as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal.
A new abortion clinic opened up recently in Kansas, a rare event that itself directly pointed to why there are ever-fewer legitimate abortion providers. It’s housed in a clinic that once housed the practice of Dr. George Tiller, murdered by an antiabortion extremist. As RH Reality Check reported, the clinic’s new providers are already being threatened, and in a jailhouse conversation with Tiller’s murderer, another extremist said of the opening, “It is a reckless act. It is not the act of someone who values their own safety. It is a gauntlet thrown down, by someone who wants a fight.” How much have you heard about that?
By all means, be up in arms about Kermit Gosnell. But blame existing policies and public indifference to low-income communities.
By: Irin Carmon, Salon, April 12, 2013
Since Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus introduced the “Growth and Opportunity Project” in mid-March, the party has proven over and over and over again that it just isn’t ready to change.
The latest example of the GOP being intellectually and politically stuck in the 2012 presidential primaries comes courtesy of one of the stars of those disastrous contests: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. According to Santorum, the Republican Party’s path to revitalization is not a new round of engagement with women, young voters, and other groups that delivered an electoral landslide to President Barack Obama in November. No, Santorum has a different plan for saving the GOP: defunding Planned Parenthood.
The Raw Story reports that Santorum presented his three-point plan to save the party in a fundraising email over the weekend: mobilizing “pro-family conservatives,” “refuting the lies and half-truths that our detractors in the GOP are spreading about us,” and attacking the women’s’ health care provider.
“[W]e are going to push Republican congressional leaders to defund the monstrosity that is Planned Parenthood,” Santorum wrote. “Too many in the GOP want to ignore the millions of innocent lives that have been extinguished by this vile organization. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a winning issue. The polls prove it.”
In reality, polls prove the exact opposite — Americans oppose cutting the organization’s budget, and there’s reason to believe that Mitt Romney’s insistence on attacking Planned Parenthood cost him dearly on election night — but it comes as no surprise that Santorum, who lost his last general election by 17 points, would ignore the numbers.
But Santorum’s plan could signal a serious problem for the Republican Party. Despite the RNC’s effort to moderate the GOP’s tone with an eye towards the 2016 election, it’s clear that extreme right-wing rhetoric will still play a major role as the party settles on a nominee. In fact, Santorum himself may be the messenger once again.
All of the rebranding efforts in the world — even the NRCC’s nifty new website, which features a BuzzFeed-style “13 Animals That Are Really Bummed About Obamacare” listicle (but almost no mention of the word “Republican”) — won’t make a difference as long as the party is represented by ambassadors like Rick Santorum.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 8, 2013
When I read the headline of the AP story—“Dems slam Cuccinelli comment on slavery, abortion”—I wondered what ol’ Cooch had done to gussy up that ancient RTL chestnut. So I read on:
Nearly eight months before election day the Democratic Party of Virginia released video from last June that shows Cuccinelli addressing a small gathering of religious conservatives meeting in Williamsburg. It continues the Democrats’ strategy of portraying the socially conservative attorney general as too extreme for a swing state.
“Over time, the truth demonstrates its own rightness, and its own righteousness. Our experience as a country has demonstrated that on one issue after another. Start right at the beginning — slavery. Today, abortion,” Cuccinelli said in remarks recorded by a Democratic Party tracker at a Family Foundation event on June 14, 2012.
“History has shown us what the right position was, and those were issues that were attacked by people of faith aggressively to change the course of this country,” he said. “We need to fight for the respect for life, not just for life but for respect for life. One leads to the other.”
Okaaaay. So Cuccinelli had reached into his files or his memory banks and flogged the false analogy between slavery and abortion—and hence between abolitionists and anti-choicers—that’s been utilized offered by anti-choice pols every day for forty years. So why the news flash?
Then I realized: just because I, as a paid connoisseur of right-wing memes for quite some time now, found this stuff familiar didn’t mean the non-anti-choice-activist public did. There’s a reason this sort of thing is so often called a “dog whistle.” When during the 2004 presidential candidate debates George W. Bush said he’d never appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would condone the Dred Scott decision, he was talking about abortion, not slavery, though an awful lot of viewers—even journalists—didn’t seem to get it.
So Virginia Democrats are right to draw maximum attention to this habit, particularly among African-American voters who might not be aware that the anti-choice forces have been referring to themselves as “the new civil rights movement” for ages. Indeed, it’s a good bet that pols like Ken Cuccinelli have rarely if ever made any reference to the struggle for African-American emancipation and equal rights in any context other than as an analogy for the battle to repeal reproductive rights. So to hell with dog whistles: let’s hear it loud and clear!
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 20, 2013