Roundup: Taking Back the Reproductive Health Debate

Brady Swenson

How the Dems can take back the reproductive health debate and win, The opening salvo of the Right's War on Contraception,A former priest recalls his banishment from the church because of his stance on contraception, Pelosi on ab-only.

Taking Back the Reproductive Health Debate … Steven Waldman, former editor for U.S. News and World Report and founder of Beliefnet.com, writes about the Democrat’s continuing failure to take control of the abortion debate by highlighting the unpopular position of the far right on banning early-term abortions.  He argues that Dems continue to allow the right to focus on the extreme end of abortion care, late-term abortions, that constitutes only 1.4% of abortion procedures in the United States. 

Waldman does not go far enough in his critique of the Democrats, however. Democrats should work hard to put abortion its larger context of reproductive rights where it belongs.  Abortion care is only one aspect of the range of reproductive health services needed to keep people safe, healthy and in control of their lives.  Democrats should talk about the importance of comprehensive sex education and access to affordable, effective contraception as it relates to abortion.  It is easy to directly connect the dots between ensuring education and access to contraception to all Americans and reducing the need for abortions, an end that a vast majority of Americans can agree is desireable. 

If Democrats can bring the abortion debate into this larger reproductive health context they will find McCain continuing to struggle to explain his backing of anti-contraception bills and votes to continue federal funding of failed abstinence-only sex education curriculum. All the while Democrats will be seen as the party with a more cohesive and inclusive vision on these issues.

The Right’s War on Contraception … The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association has a post up examining the right’s concerted attempt to get rid of birth control in the United States:

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Instead, I would like to point you to the bigger picture, the one that
keeps me up at night. For several years now, people have been talking
about the War on Contraception, that there is a growing movement within
extremely conservative circles to not only overturn a woman’s right to
choose abortion, but to take it even further and eliminate the right to
contraception as well. These people believe that contraception is the
root of all of society’s evils, and that we would all be better off if
women stayed home and raised babies. "Barefoot and pregnant" is
practically their rallying cry.

Yet many Americans,
especially American women, do not realize that one of their most
fundamental and cherished rights — the right to choose for themselves
whether or when to have children — is under attack. Unfortunately,
this war is very real, and the battlefield is expanding daily. The
potential HHS regulations are just the latest salvo in the War on
Contraception, brought to you by our friends who hate abortion but want
to limit access to common-sense measures like family planning, which
reduces unintended pregnancy and thereby reduces the need for abortion.

A related article worth reading is posted on Irish newspaper The Herald’s website. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Catholic Church’s banning of contraception a former priest, Father Peter de Rosa, recalls his fight against the ban and subsequent dismissal from the church.  Toward the end of his fight against the Pope’s declaration against contraception he was to be ‘reduced’ to a layman of the church and here de Rosa offers an ironic and stining indictment of his former church:

At my last meeting with Heenan, he asked me to go downstairs to see
his auxiliary bishop. Victor was a pal of mine. He said he would apply
to Rome for my reduction to the lay-state but it usually took two
years. I assured him I was in no hurry to be reduced. In the event, it
came within a month. Such indecent speed, I thought.

I realised later I could have remained a priest had I merely sexually abused children.

Pelosi Speaks Out Agaisnt Abstinence-only Sex Education … Speaking at the Netroots Nation conference last week (which Bill O The Clown so absurdly called more evil than the KKK or the Nazis) Nancy Pelosi was asked about abstinence-only sex education, check out her response, in it Pelosi starts getting at what I was talking about above, linking contraception and the reduction of abortions, she says “If you want to reduce abortion you should love contraception:”

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.