Roundup: Hillary Warns Women Contraception Access Under Threat

Brady Swenson

Hillary Clinton says impending HHS rule could give medical practitioners 'a free pass to deny access to contraception'; Over 500,000 women die every year during childbirth; UN says governments must do more for women; Colorado Amendment 48 could be used to outlaw abortion and perhaps contraception.

Hillary Clinton: HHS Rule Could Block Care for Women

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Cecile Richards co-authored an opinion piece in the New York Times today warning that an impending HHS regulation could give medical practitioners "a free pass to deny access to contraception:"

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow
doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further,
ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can
refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could
include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly
600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost
$44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does
not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access
to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health
care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not
even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or
denied access to care.

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The definition of abortion in the proposed
rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a
medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms
of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency
contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current
version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers
could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified
“other medical procedures” that contradict their religious beliefs or
moral convictions. This, too, could be interpreted as a free pass to
deny access to contraception.

Many circumstances unrelated to
reproductive health could also fall under the umbrella of “other
medical procedures.” Could physicians object to helping patients whose
sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse
to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room
doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or
a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?

Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a
provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?


Death in Birth: Over 500,000 Women Die Every Year Giving Birth

Today Time takes a look at the struggle to keep mothers from dying during childbirth.  While the Western world takes safe childbirth for granted somewhere in the world a woman dies giving birth about once every minute:

In some poor nations, dying in childbirth is so common that almost
everyone has known a victim. Take Sierra Leone, a West African nation
with just 6.3 million people: women there have a 1 in 8 chance of dying
in childbirth during their lifetime. The same miserable odds apply in
Afghanistan. In the U.S., by contrast, the lifetime chance that a woman
will die in childbirth is about 1 in 4,800; in Britain, 1 in 8,200; and
in Sweden, 1 in 17,400.

What is truly alarming is that this number has not changed in more than two decades in the world’s poorest nations:

For here is the truly ghastly reality of maternal mortality: in 20
years–two decades that have seen spectacular medical
breakthroughs–the ratio of maternal deaths to babies born has barely
budged in poor countries. To be sure, maternal health has seen
advances, with new drugs to treat deadly postpartum bleeding and
pregnancy-related anemia. But in many places, such gains are dwarfed by
a multitude of problems: scattershot care, low pay for health workers
and a scarcity of midwives and doctors.

One of the United Nations’ eight Millenium Development Goals was to achieve a drastic reduction in maternal mortality rates by the year 2015.  While the MDGs have led to many laudable achievements in the poorest parts of the world maternal mortality remains at virtually the same level it was when the goals were set in 2000.  


UN Report: Governments Must Do More for Women

The Time article provides an appropriate segue for a report issued by the United Nations yesterday that says women around the world "still face widespread discrimination in areas
ranging from politics to health care despite decades of government
promises to rectify the inequities." The report specifically mentions the only slightly diminishing rate of maternal mortality:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at another event promoting
the report, called the world’s record on maternal health care "dismal."

the report said, maternal mortality is going down at a rate of just 0.4
percent a year, which means every year more than 500,000 women die from
complications of childbirth.

"To fix the problem," Ban said, "all
we need is to ensure that developing countries have what developed
states provide as a minimum: prenatal health care and skilled
attendants to help mothers survive the ordeal of labor."

But maternal mortality was one of many areas in which the report says the world is letting women down.  Blame for continued discrimination against women was placed squarely on a lack of accountability:

The U.N. Development Fund for Women called for stronger measures to
ensure that governments are held to account on the commitments they
have made to women.

"Discrimination on this scale … is
symptomatic of an accountability crisis," said the fund’s biennial
report on Progress of the World’s Women 2008/2009.

The report focuses on five areas where the need to strengthen
accountability to women is urgent: politics and government, access to
public services, economic opportunities, justice, and the distribution
of international aid.


Colorado’s Amendment 48 Could Be Used to Outlaw Abortion

Colorado politics website,, says Colorado’s ballot measure Amendment 48, known as the ‘Definition of a Person’ amendment, could more accurately be called the ‘Outlaw Abortion’ amendment.  The website also asserts that the amendment could be used to outlaw some forms of contraception:

An amendment to the Colorado constitution to define the term
"person" to "include any human being from the moment of fertilization";
and apply this definition of person to the sections of the Colorado
Constitution that protect the natural and essential rights of persons,
allow open access to courts for every person, and ensure that no person
has his or her life, liberty, or property taken away without due
process of law.

But what this is in fact is an amendment that would outlaw not
just abortion at any point, but even any birth control that occurs
after the egg is fertilized such as the morning after pill.


Kids Shouldn’t Be Learning About Sex from TV’s Kelli Conlin is concerned about children’s futures if they are not taught fact-based comprehensive sex education in schools and instead learn about sex from "sordid teen dramas" that "hardly pretends to provide the important information young people need to keep themselves healthy and safe." 


Public Health is a Hot Field for America’s College Students

The Washington Post reports that interest in epidemiology, public health and global health courses has seen "exponential growth" over the past generation:

"Today’s students want to contribute, to empower individuals and
communities to take charge of their own health," said Ruth Gaare
Bernheim, who teaches health policy at the University of Virginia.
"I think they also intuitively realize that the world is their
community and that the gains of the 21st century will be in global
public health." 


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