By Pennsylvania State Representative Dan B. Frankel
As a legislator who supports reproductive rights, the anniversary
of Roe v. Wade is always bitter sweet. On the one hand, I’m reminded of the
heroic efforts of men and women to stop the practice of dangerous, back-alley,
black market abortion by making certain that all women in the United States
could access safe, legal abortion from qualified, law-abiding providers.
On the other hand, I’m a lawmaker.
More specifically, I’m a lawmaker in Pennsylvania, a state
considered “hostile” to abortion rights by the Guttmacher Institute, an
independent think tank focusing on reproductive health
So, I actually don’t need to see the alarming graphs and charts
showing a spike in legislation designed to limit access to safe legal abortion
over the past few years to know that we’ve got a problem -- because many of
those bills cross my desk.
In fact, Pennsylvania legislators alone took more than 55 votes
on limiting access to abortion in one year – 2011. Compare that to 13 votes in
the decade previous.
And perhaps the most frustrating, ironic part of this discussion
is that those seeking to limit reproductive rights are doing so in the name of
After all, Roe v. Wade, in affirming a woman’s right to abortion,
was a civil rights victory for people thinking about law. But for all those
medical care providers taking care of women injured in illegal abortions, it was
a victory for women’s health.
Ironic, too, because it’s not as though women don’t have real
health problems we should be addressing.
Any recent studies on longevity or health disparities keep
highlighting a disturbing fact – for what seems like the first time in US
history, some women are living shorter lives than their mothers. And in many
counties – including many rural counties in Pennsylvania – women are dying at a
rate that’s higher than we would expect.
That begs the question: What does legislation that would truly
benefit women’s health look like?
My colleagues, members of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus,
have worked with community advocates to create a package of bills designed to
address the real issues real women are facing right now – the Pennsylvania
Agenda for Women’s Health.
We’re tackling the real core of what helps people lead better,
healthier lives: economic security, access to health care, and safety.
Our legislative package reflects all of those concerns –making
sure that women get paid fairly for their work, for starters. Also, making sure
employers accommodate their pregnant employees so that they don’t injure
themselves or their pregnancies on the job. Ensuring that women aren’t penalized
for seeking help for law enforcement in cases of domestic violence. And of
course, making sure that women can access a full range of health care –primary
care, cancer screening, and safe legal abortion.
I myself will be introducing legislation that will address a
concern across the country. In some states legislators have forced abortion
providers to read scripts with false information, or provide unnecessary
medical procedures, in order to influence a woman when she’s most
Women’s health cannot be defined by one simple procedure or one
complicated decision. Women want legislators to promote legislation that treats
them as whole people; people who should be living, longer, healthier lives.
The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health does just that.
Link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVRzhr0M5aQ
February is National Condom Month
. Better yet, February 14 - 21 is National Condom Week
. Originally starting at the University of California-Berkley, the message for National Condom Week has remained the same throughout the years. National Condom Week helps provide educational information -especially in colleges and high schools. National Condom Week uses humorous slogans like, "don’t be silly, wrap your willy," and "no glove no love," to catch the attention of young people.
During National Condom Week - and always - Planned Parenthood urges sexually active individuals to speak to their partners about the importance of using protection against sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Talking about protection can be a difficult subject for some partners - that’s why designers like Alexander Wang, Rebecca Minkoff, and Isaac Mizrahi teamed up to create Proper Attire
. Proper Attire
is a "must have" accessory designed with women in mind. The idea behind these chic and fashionable condoms is to help ensure women with being comfortable purchasing and carrying condoms. With chic, fashion-forward packaging, Proper Attire
condoms are designed to appeal to women’s sense of style in order to give them courage to take charge of their own sexual health and safety. Proper Attire
has been very successful - with more than 21 million sold annually - and are available for purchase at Planned Parenthood health centers or online. Proceeds of Proper Attire
condom sales benefit Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
National Condom Week is a great reminder to have a conversation with your partner about condoms before engaging in sexual activity. Many men and women say they find sex more enjoyable when protected because they do not have to worry about unintended pregnancies or sexual transmitted infections.
Every year Planned Parenthood health centers
provide nearly three million women, men, and teens worldwide with health services, and well over one million with educational sessions to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies.
Happy National Condom Week!
We are winning the battle for hearts and minds. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll,
seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, the highest level of support since polls began tracking it in 1989. The increased support comes primarily from Democrats—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—with a slight increase in support from Republicans.
However, although the polling data are encouraging to supporters of abortion rights, the Republicans do not seem to have gotten the message. According to John Boehner, Ending Abortion Is 'One Of Our Most Fundamental Goals This Year'
and those states governed by Republican majorities continue to chip away at abortion rights.
In 1973 after the Roe decision, I thought the battle had been won. How wrong I was. When I went to a pro-choice demonstration in DC in the early 90’s, I couldn’t quite believe that we were still fighting this battle. But I was heartened to see so many young women there and thought that soon this would be settled and we wouldn't be wasting our energy fighting for this basic right. Wrong again.
When I dragged myself to DC for the 2004 March for Women’s Lives I began to worry that I might be fighting this battle until my dying day. The Republican War on Women which dominated debate in the 2012 election was further evidence that the battle is far from over. The backlash grows more vicious each year—perhaps the virulence of the opposition is related to their growing realization that they are losing.
Fortunately, there is a generation of young feminists out there ready to fight for reproductive rights. I don’t think young women are going to meekly stand by and accept the loss of hard fought rights. But women in my generation thought at one time that we had spared them the necessity of that fight.
Many young feminists are growing impatient with establishment feminist organizations, and what they see as second wave feminists’ reluctance to pass the torch, According to a recent Time Magazine article,
32 year old Erin Matson, 32, was elected vice president of NOW in 2009 but recently resigned:
"When you want to build a jet pack, sometimes that means you have to leave the bicycle factory," she says. Matson says she is considering starting a new organization to specifically target young people. "A number of young women are just saying, 'To hell with it, I'm just going to lead,'" she says. "It's easier for young women to exercise leadership right now than before we had this[internet] technology."The time has come for a younger generation to assume leadership of the pro-choice movement. NARAL’s Nancy Keenan realizes this and announced she will step down in 2013. According to Time
, “she said she hoped a younger person could replace her. ‘They're chomping at the bit to have their opportunity,’ she says.” It’s time.Thank you to Karen for participating in our 40th Anniversary Roe v. Wade Blog Carnival. Reposted from Karen's blog at: http://www.the-next-stage.com/2013/01/whats-next-for-the-pro-choice-movement.html
By Gwen EmmonsPlease note: this was posted on the ACLU blog on January 22, 2013, the actual anniversary of Roe v. Wade and no edits have been made.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
, the historic Supreme Court decision recognizing that women have the right to choose abortion. While lawmakers and pundits have twisted themselves into knots analyzing the impact and significance of the decision, for generations of people, the meaning of Roe
is quite clear: It is the key to securing women’s place as equals in society.
For 10 years, Linn Duvall Harwell could only guess as to why her mother died so suddenly in 1929. But when she found out that her mother, Clara Bell Duvall, died of an illegal abortion, Linn instantly understood. “She loved her children…She was desperate because she wanted to care for them beautifully,” she told thePhiladelphia Daily News
in 1986. While Linn understood the sacrifice her mother made, she knew it was a senseless loss.
Linn held many jobs in her life, but the one nearest and dearest to her was pro-choice activist – as a member of NARAL Pro-Choice Americ a, the National Organization of Women and the founder of the Clara Bell Duvall Education Fund (now the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania
). In a letter addressed to Representative Karen Ritter in 1990 Linn wrote, “The last thing a woman wants to consider when faced with an unwanted pregnancy is some bureaucrat sitting in an office in Harrisburg or a robed judge in a courtroom…. No woman can make advances in a career without the protection of her reproductive rights.” It’s chilling to think that those words are just as true today as they were in 1990.
Linn wasn’t the only person fighting for reproductive rights. As a college student in 1970, Peter Goldberger smuggled a friend to a secret location in Delaware, where she could obtain an abortion. “I knew it was civil disobedience, but I don't think I considered any part of it other than doing the right thing for a friend in trouble,” he recalled. “It was the right thing to do because it is what she
had decided.” It was only last week that he realized that, had he been caught, he would have faced up to five years in jail.
Later as a law student at Yale, Goldberger thought back to that night as he sat in classes and watched his colleagues on the frontlines of public interest law. When Roe
was decided in the second semester of his first year of law school, he reflected that the decision itself wasn’t a “gigantic event” on campus. But for him, it was monumental. “The freedom to make that choice…is critical to women’s ability to succeed and be on an equal plane.” He added that he had always thought that – but seeing it codified was another thing.
Jumping forward to today, we see a national climate that is as hostile as ever to reproductive justice. But we also see a debate that has become more nuanced and more diverse than in previous decades. “Women born after Roe v. Wade
– known as millennials -- see ‘choice’ as more complex than their predecessors,” says Alanna Tievsky, born a decade after Roe v. Wade
. “So many of our fundamental rights are under attack – we can no longer narrowly focus only on access to abortion.”
Indeed, the battle is no longer just about safe, legal abortion – it’s defending the right to contraception, to maternal leave, to bodily integrity. It’s about honoring the rights of women and men whose lives may not look like ours – and valuing their voices in the conversation. And it’s about remaining constantly vigilant in a political climate that is slowly but surely chipping away at Roe
and the full spectrum of reproductive choices we depend upon.” The legacy of millennial women will be reframing the debate around abortion to a dialogue that is more encompassing, more diverse, and more in tune with the needs of women and men, at every stage of their reproductive lives,” argues Gwen Emmons, a millennial and a reproductive justice activist. “It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.”
Unfortunately for millennial activists in this field, it’s challenging to get a toehold in the leadership structure of the ‘old school’ abortion rights organizations. “Despite the fact that young reproductive activists are working in these organizations, losing sleep on the campaign trail, or manning the phones at abortion hotlines, previous generations argue that we ‘lack passion for abortion rights,’” says Emmons. “If we’re to be the next guardians of reproductive choice, things have got to change.” Tievsky notes the numerous strategies this generation has been using to combat the onslaught of anti-women’s health legislation locally and nationally. “A difference in strategies does not make us less passionate than Peter,” she argues. “A belief in a broader vision of what choice
is does not mean we cannot stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Linn.” But that is the opinion of too many leaders in the choice movement.Roe
has had a profound impact on the fight for women’s equality. Each generation has reacted to the continued attacks on women’s health with their own brand of activism. For Linn Duvall Harwell, it was to volunteer and speak out at every opportunity she could. For Peter Goldberger, it was to do the right thing – even if it was illegal. And for Alanna Tievsky and Gwen Emmons, it’s to question the strategies and direction of previous generations – and plot a new course for the future. As we look ahead to another 40 years of Roe
(and beyond!), the goal must not only be to defend this monumental decision – it must be to nurture, inspire, and trust
the next generation of activists who will be protecting it.Thank you to Gwen & the ACLU for participating in our Roe v. Wage Blog Carnival. Check out more information about them at: http://aclupa.blogspot.com/2013/01/roe-at-40-looking-backward-looking.html
"Never did I imagine that this fundamental, logical, and progressive ruling
could be challenged- or worse- overturned in our modern society."
By Sarah Robinson
It has been 40 years since the Supreme Court decision in favor of women’s health in the monumental Roe
v. Wade case from 1973. I feel fortunate that my entire life, this decision has protected my right to legal and safe abortion, should I ever need to consider that option. My attitude is forever grateful for the women and men activists who fought to ensure this right to American women. Never did I imagine that this fundamental, logical, and progressive ruling could be challenged- or worse- overturned in our modern society. If anyone told me those activists endured the fight in vain, I would react with disbelief. That is, until about two years ago.
Currently, in the national and statewide political arena, some politicians have irrationally taken an opposing position against women and their bodies, in direct contrast to the requests of their constituents. Not to mention, in blatant substitution or disregard for dire, undecided issues like the housing market or unemployment. How did our country get here? How long can we allow the government to take us back in time?
I suppose we as citizens are partially to blame. We have let politicians use us as pawns; where wombs become the battleground. Cunningly, market generated labels like pro-choice and pro-life have boxed-in and polarized
otherwise open minded voters. Laws cloaked with the false intent for “patient safety” or movements to define “personhood” have made us lose sight of the basics of the decision in Roe. It is a question of privacy and dignity.
It is undeniable: the decision to have an abortion is not black and white. And yet, in the current political climate we are asked to make it so. It is entirely unreasonable to render one country, or even one state, capable of conforming to a single set of acceptable and unacceptable choices. That’s why I really like the new campaign from Planned Parenthood called “Not in Her Shoes.” The video helps explain how complex any given situation regarding abortion or parenthood can be. The campaign invites advocates and voters to develop a fresh perspective by shedding the old pro-this and anti-that labels.
The bottom line is this: abortion is never a goal. It is a deep, complex decision that most Americans agree a woman must determine for herself with the support of her family and physician. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, who do provide abortion services, also offer countless family planning, contraceptive, and educational services as well. Arguably, Planned Parenthood does more than any other organization to prevent unintended pregnancies, thus drastically decreasing the need for abortions. The ruling from Roe v. Wade simply determines that abortion remains a safe and legal option should a situation arise within the first 3 months of pregnancy. Without access and rights, consider the options:
have an unwanted child and all it entails, or endure an illegal operation, risking fertility and life. Let’s get real. It is evident women will have abortions whether they are legal or not. Legality keeps abortion safe. When something is legal we as a society and legislature are able to regulate it.
Personally, having access to safe and legal abortions gives me the power to construct and determine my life as I see fit. It reinforces my dignity as a woman and leaves me responsible and trusted with important life decisions. Think of it this way: in the not so distant past, a woman could potentially have almost 10 pregnancies to full term before the age of thirty.
Reproductive justice has freed women from the constructs and roles of traditional femininity. I can be a mother, or not; an astronaut or perhaps even a lawmaker. Needless to say, I couldn’t imagine how dramatically different my
life would be without that cornerstone decision 40 years ago.
Thanks to Roe v. Wade, abortion remains a legal, medical procedure. It is a personal and complex decision that should be left up to a woman and her doctor! Individual women have endured unbelievable ridicule and criticism from complete strangers for too long. Now, the threats have got to end.
We have had enough!
Thank you to Sarah for participating in our 40th Anniversary Roe v. Wade Blog Carnival.
As we gear up for a new year in Congress, we want to highlight two recent declarations of support for increased access to contraceptive services.
In late November, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists joined the American Academy of Pediatrics in publicly supporting expanded access to contraception
. Both groups, which together represent thousands of medical professionals, have agreed that improving access to contraception should be a high priority in the United States. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists specifically advocated for the ability to sell birth control over the counter without a prescription, while the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that women – and minors – should have prescriptions for emergency contraception in advance, making it more effective.
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the right to privacy not only allows an adult access to obtain contraceptives, but that this right also extends to include minors. We certainly hope that the medical community’s public support for contraception will encourage our legislators to draft bills that will turn these recommendations into actual policy.
Contrary to “abstinence-only” ideologues, the proper use of contraception does help sexually active people to remain disease free, as well as avoid unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute
, the nation’s leading sexual health research organization, young people generally begin having sex at age 17, but only marry around their mid-20s. During this decade-long period when they engage in sex, contraception plays a key role in preserving good sexual and reproductive health. It is time our legislators across the nation recognize this fact.
Right now, though, young people ages 15 to 24 carry a disproportionate burden
of new STDs diagnosed each year. Meanwhile, women ages 18 to 24 report higher rates of unintended pregnancy
compared to the rest of the female population. We can address this reproductive health crisis effectively by expanding access to contraception. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consistently reported the benefits of condom use
in preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancy – in fact, when properly used, condoms have a .02% failure rate. Still, no method of birth control is perfect. However, expanding access to contraception enables women to take greater control of their own reproductive health.
The United States medical community is not alone in acknowledging and promoting this empowerment. On a global level, the United Nations has gone one step further
by declaring that access to contraception is a human right. The UN reports that contraceptive options provide women with an opportunity to space pregnancies and plan their families more successfully with greater certainty. The World Health Organization echoes
these same recommendations. It is known that family planning, possible through proper use of contraception, “has a direct impact on a woman’s health and well-being,” specifically because it “represents an opportunity for women for enhanced education and participation in public life
By giving women and men the tools they need to control their reproductive health we can create a stronger society that helps all individuals reach their full potential. True reproductive freedom rests on the ability to obtain the services necessary for maintaining good sexual health, and those services include access to contraceptive options.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the UN have all expressed support for this expansion of reproductive freedom – but we need your help to make sure that it remains on the legislative agenda. You can start by taking some time to determine which method of contraception works best for you. You can also use your social media networks to educate others about the importance of expanding access to contraception.
Most importantly, though, you should contact your representatives to advocate this issue further by reminding them that the larger effort to enhance reproductive healthcare is still a priority.
The past week has brought us some exciting news from Congress, but also a reminder of the threat the looming “fiscal cliff” could pose to women’s health. Before diving into those stories, here’s a quick tally of support for women’s health in the first session 113th Congress beginning in January 2013.
As a result of the 2012 election, the U.S. Senate now has 46 Senators who have voted to support women’s health 100% of the time and 43 who have consistently opposed measures that protect women’s health. The remaining 11 Senators have records of variable support for women’s health and will certainly play a key role in swaying the outcome of new legislation. Meanwhile, the number of Representatives who have voted to support women’s health 100% of the time rose from 158 in the last Congress to 173. Despite this impressive gain, advocates for reproductive freedom will face 228 Representatives who have consistently voted to oppose women’s health. However, even with a challenging landscape in the current 112th Congress, we’ve seen two great pieces of legislation take root in Congress recently.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s (D – N.H.) amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act
would require federal insurance providers to cover abortion procedures for women in the military in the cases of rape and incest, among other reproductive healthcare services. Currently, servicewomen must carry the full financial cost of an abortion, with no insurance coverage unless their life is in jeopardy. Last Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation that would expand coverage to include abortion in cases of rape and incest. Before enactment, though, the Senate version must be merged with the House version, which lacks an amendment like Shaheen’s. Nonetheless, preliminary analysis
indicates that the House will most likely include Shaheen’s amendment in the final legislation.
In another example of bipartisan efforts, several members of Congress have crafted legislation designed to enhance justice
in rape cases. The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act provides law enforcement agencies with funds to reduce their backlogged rape kits. Nearly 400,000 rapes kits remain untested, contributing to the fact that in the United States there is only a 24% arrest rate for this crime and just 6% of rapists will ever be sent to jail. Statistics show
that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The cornerstone of addressing the trauma of this crime is being able to hold perpetrators accountable – the SAFER Act will better equip law enforcement officials to process rape kits in their possession, allowing rapists to be brought to justice faster.
The Shaheen amendment and SAFER Act are two bright spots in our current legislative session, which is becoming increasingly worrisome as we approach the January 2 “fiscal cliff.” Automatic budget cuts will occur on this date as a consequence of Congress not agreeing on a way to reduce the budget deficit by that time. These cuts will eliminate $500 million from the defense budget, as well as $500 million from domestic programs. Many of these affected programs directly benefit women’s health and some of those that may be drastically cut
because of the political gridlock include: the Maternal and Child Health block grant, Title X Family Planning funds, the Child Care and Development block grant, food stamp funds, and Pell education grants. Women, particularly low-income women, stand to lose the most if Congress fails to act to prevent this economic crisis.
Still, we must continue to push forward and keep women’s health our priority. We will hold Congress and President Obama accountable to making it their priority as well during the 2013 Fiscal year. Their first opportunity to protect women’s health will be to protect the federal funding to domestic programs that will be automatically eliminated unless Congress reaches a budget agreement by January 2.
In the meantime, we encourage advocates for reproductive freedom to use online social media to spread the news about what’s happening in Congress. First on the agenda is the Shaheen amendment, and supporters are urged to use the hashtags #ShaheenAmdt, #NDAA, and #equality4servicewomen to increase awareness of this pivotal piece of legislation. You can also encourage your social media networks to educate others about what’s at stake with the “fiscal cliff” as we approach the deadline by following the hashtags #fiscalcliff and #my2k. Please help us spread the word.
Today, December 1st, marks the 34th annual World AIDS Day, a commemoration of the more than 25 million people who have died from the AIDS virus. This international day of observance
– the first devoted to an issue of health – helps us to better understand the HIV/AIDS viruses, transmission, and the status of the epidemic that ripples through our entire population, regardless of age, wealth, color, or religion.
This year will be the second year of a five-year theme, “Getting to zero: zero new HIV Infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths,” initiated by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS
Though crafted with hope, these goals remain lofty: in 2011 alone, 2.5 million people acquired the HIV virus, while 1.7 million died from AIDS
. Nevertheless, progress has been made. According to UNAIDS
, “Since 1999, the year in which it is thought that the epidemic peaked, globally, the number of new infections has fallen by 19%.”
With improved access to antiretroviral therapy
in low and middle-income countries, this has contributed to a reduction in AIDS-related deaths of 19% globally between 2004 and 2009.
The cost of these medications has also dropped, and now hovers at a price of about US $137 annually per person. While this price tag continues to prevent many from obtaining this regimen, it does represent the latest step in a continually lowering price. Despite the “global” nature of HIV/AIDS
, we still need to acknowledge these diseases exist in our own communities, educate ourselves, and become familiar with where we can get tested.HIV/AIDS In Pennsylvania
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health
, the state has experienced a decline in new AIDS infections since the early 1990’s. The number of new HIV infections in Pennsylvania has remained below 1,000 for the past two to three years, down from a peak of nearly 1,200 in 2006. The Health Department also reports that the majority of new HIV infections are clustered in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. A more positive trend
is the parallel decline in the exposure of a fetus to the virus during birth and contraction of pediatric HIV.The Drexel School of Public Health
tells us that in Philadelphia, heterosexual individuals face the greatest risk of contracting HIV, particularly African-American men. The school reports that by 2017 there will be nearly 16,000 people living with AIDS in Philadelphia, and the spread of the infection results primarily from unsafe heterosexual intercourse. In this instance, promoting safe sex, improving access to HIV testing and condoms will supplement existing public health efforts to minimize the HIV/AIDS infections in Philadelphia.
In 2010, the Obama administration announced a new national HIV/AIDS strategy
, which focuses on two goals: reducing the number of new infections annually in the United States and reducing the frequency of discrimination against individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Currently, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects against discrimination in matters of housing, employment, and healthcare. Yet, rather than relying on laws to eliminate all instances of discrimination, the best way to prevent this is to educate ourselves about HIV/AIDS and become advocates for victims of discrimination.
Although no vaccine exists to inoculate individuals from HIV, research
is underway to actualize such a vision. Until there is such a vaccine, it is vital that we take the time today and beyond to remember those we’ve lost to AIDS, extol the medical breakthroughs in treating and preventing HIV/AIDS, and empower one another to remain sexually healthy.
Agencies and organizations in Philadelphia:
- Philadelphia FIGHT, a “comprehensive AIDS service organization” that provides primary care along with education programs, advocacy and research.
- The Mazzoni Center, located in Center City, is Philadelphia’s only health care service provider that focuses its mission on the health and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
- Planned Parenthood’s health centers across Pennsylvania, including 13 health centers in Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia provide HIV testing and counseling via walk-in or scheduled appointments. The organization offers rapid-HIV testing at select centers.
- The Philadelphia Aids Consortium (TPAC), another broad-based outreach organization, has been working since 1989 at the community level to combat HIV/AIDS infections.
Image source: http://i0.wp.com/guardianlv.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/world-aids-day-2.png?fit=400%2C400
People will be analyzing the Nov. 6th election for months, if not years, to come. Many already say President Obama won re-election in great part due to his support of a woman’s ability to make her own personal medical decisions without interference from politicians.
As a result of the election, we will move ahead with implementing the Affordable Care Act
(ACA). By eliminating many out-of-pocket costs associated with preventive healthcare, the ACA will dramatically expand the number of people who can receive high-quality, affordable care from trusted and essential providers like Planned Parenthood.
At Planned Parenthood alone, nearly three million women a year already rely on close to 800 health centers for a range of personal and preventive health care services, such as gynecological and breast exams, STI testing and counseling, Pap tests, HIV testing, and more. The ACA’s provisions will enable millions more women to take advantage of these services with no co-pays or deductibles.
Although we have a women’s health champion in the White House, manifestations of fervently anti-choice agendas remain present at both the federal and state levels. Below, we will examine some of those state attacks. As their proponents begin recycling the scraps of this year’s anti-choice campaigns into renewed efforts down the road, we will certainly keep a close watch.State Issues: Recap and Moving Forward
In five states – Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, and Ohio – anti-choice initiatives to define “personhood” as beginning from the moment of fertilization either failed to gather either enough signatures to be voted upon by citizens or, if they did, were rejected at the polls. Although the presence of these efforts reflects a continuing trend of attacks on the safe and legal termination of a woman’s pregnancy, trends within
states indicate a weakening popularity for the anti-choice “personhood” tactic.
Proponents of personhood amendments in Colorado
failed to gather the legally required number of signatures necessary to place the issue on the Nov. 6th ballot, whereas with similar initiatives, in both 2008 and 2010, they were actually voted on though subsequently defeated by wide margins. In Nevada
, two separate personhood measures also failed to gather enough signatures, mirroring the outcome of a previous personhood initiative in 2010
. Mean while, in Florida
, personhood supporters neglected to deliver the requisite materials to the state by the 2012 deadline to appear on this year’s ballot.
Arizona state legislators attempted to redress the stalling of personhood legislation by referring SB 1494
to the November 6th ballot. Although this effort also failed
, Arizona HB 2036
has traversed the federal court system as legal sparring continues over the restrictive nature of the legislation. The bill would ban all abortion procedures after 20 weeks of gestation, earlier than any other state. Concerns exist over the bill’s lack of exceptions for women who discover fetal birth defects or other life-threatening conditions beyond 20 weeks into their pregnancy. As it stands, the bill stymies a woman’s ability to decide to end her pregnancy within pre-existing legal parameters.
Efforts on behalf of advancing a personhood amendment in Ohio yielded too few signatures to be listed on the November 6th ballot, although the state has other threats to reproductive freedom pending. Ohio HB 125
would outlaw abortion, even within the legal limits prescribed by Roe v. Wade
(1973), if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. According to reports by the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), Ohio’s state legislators have come to a consensus on the bill and may pass it by the end of this year.
Unlike these states that focused on abortion restrictions, Texas navigated state healthcare laws in an effort to insert clauses that would defund family planning services, particularly its seven Planned Parenthood affiliates. However, these affiliates have successfully referred to the state court system
and made progress towards the dissolution of the state’s anti-choice administrative rules passed in 2011. These rules stipulate that health care providers who terminate a woman’s pregnancy, counsel her on options that include abortion, or associate with providers that do either, will lose all state funding. After suing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Planned Parenthood affiliates received an affirmative decision that prohibits that state from canceling their funding for being affiliates of an organization that offers safe and legal abortion services.
A woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy has become much more precarious in Mississippi, where the state’s only abortion provider
, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has been mired in bureaucratic and legal struggles to remain open. In 2011, Mississippi voters rejected a personhood amendment to the state constitution, though anti-choice legislators have adapted the intent of this failed amendment into a “targeted regulation of abortion providers” (TRAP) law. On July 1st of this year, a new law took effect mandating that abortion providers must be certified as obstetricians/gynecologists who also have privileges at local hospitals. Mississippi is the only state with such strict, and medically unfounded, provisions. The law masquerades as safeguarding women’s health, though its intent is to make the termination of a woman’s pregnancy a nonexistent option in Mississippi. Following the enactment of this law, a federal judge ruled
that the Jackson Women’s Health Organization may continue to operate
without criminal or civil penalties while it pursues legal challenge to the state law.
Unfortunately, these state initiatives only reflect a portion of the anti-choice efforts currently unfolding across the country, and we expect to see more challenges to reproductive freedom in the future. Where Pennsylvania Stands
Pennsylvania’s status quo on reproductive freedom stems from a governor, state legislature, and congressional representatives that lean predominantly towards anti-choice policies. Like Mississippi, this state has endured its share of TRAP laws
, most notably Act 122, signed into law in December 2011 by Governor Corbett. The law requires all abortion facilities to meet standards of classification as an “ambulatory surgical facility,” often entailing additional administrative and architectural alterations. The law imposes restrictions that do not have an immediate impact on women’s health. Rather, it places a financial chokehold on abortion providers, thereby diminishing a woman’s ability to access safe and reputable abortion facilities in the state.
A positive note to remember is the lifting of a separate financial barrier to reproductive health services, accomplished by maintaining the Affordable Care Act. Moving forward, the framework for Pennsylvanians to receive care under the ACA will depend on the actions of the Pennsylvania state government, which has about a month to develop a state health insurance exchange program
within the parameters of the ACA. If it fails to deliver, the federal government will intervene to establish a health insurance exchange in the state.
Despite the severe challenges to women’s reproductive freedom in each of these states, women across the nation expressed to policymakers that their ability to make personal decisions about what is best for their reproductive health is a personal priority. Although we expect continued attacks on the essential domains of women’s health care – from funding for Planned Parenthood, to access to contraception, to safe and legal abortion – we are stronger than ever to hold our leaders accountable for protecting our reproductive freedom.
The Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project
is relaunching the timeless and timely documentary, Motherless: a legacy of loss from illegal abortion.
This 27-minute documentary film by Janet Goldwater and Barbara Attie
depicts the experiences of four children who lost their mothers to unsafe and illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade
. Exactly 20 years after the film’s creation, the relaunch seeks to remind us of the relevance that the issues raised in Motherless
continue to have in today’s political climate.
Join the Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project along with the filmmakers for our Watch Motherless Party
at the Philadelphia Art Alliance on Tuesday, November 13th where we will screen the film will discuss the role the film plays in the current political climate surrounding reproductive rights and justice.
Motherless’ impact depends on people watching the film and starting a dialogue. You can help spread the message of Motherless
by sharing the film’s website
on your personal Facebook
page and Twitter
profile tonight! We invite supporters to make their voices heard on issues related to reproductive health. Visit us on Twitter @watchmotherless, our Watch Motherless website
, or on Facebook
for more details about how to participate.Hosting your own house party
with 10 or 20 of your closest friends or classmates is another great way to take action and empower those around you to get involved in this issue. See instructions for hosting a house party on the website