Roundup: HHS Regulation a ‘Sneak Attack on Family Planning’

Brady Swenson

The LA Times calls HHS proposal a 'sneak attack on family planning'; HPV vaccine banned from Catholic school in UK; HIV rates among drug users worldwide rises; Wall Street takes welfare it begrudges to women; Why the election matters for reproductive rights; Jesuit priest embraces social support programs to reduce abortion; Remote control male birth control.

Federal Push to Let Healthcare Workers Refuse Services is Really an Assault on Reproductive Health

An LA Times editorial today calls the proposed HHS ‘conscience’ regulation that would allow all health care workers and volunteers, not just doctors, to refuse services on the basis of contentious objection, a "sneak attack on family planning."  The editorial echoes one of the most common and concerning criticisms of the proposed regulation, its undefined breadth: 

It gives no definition of abortion, leaving it up to the individual
provider. It’s equally unclear what else might be morally
objectionable. Providing HIV tests? Treating the children of same-sex
couples? Giving a rape victim emergency contraception, or delivering
life-prolonging treatments to seniors?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 98% of
women of reproductive age in the U.S. have used contraceptives; the
pill is the leading method among young women, and sterilization the
preferred method of women over 35. But should Health and Human Services
or the president permit this change — congressional approval is not
necessary — husbands and wives would share the decision about whether
to have children with a pharmacist at a CVS, a volunteer at a federally
funded clinic or a second-year medical resident. So much for individual

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We have much more on the proposed regulation and encourage you to voice your thoughts and concerns today as the public comment period ends tomorrow.  


HPV Vaccine Banned from Catholic High School in UK

A Catholic church in the UK has barred 12 and 13 year old pupils from being vaccinated against HPV and, thus, cervical cancer on school premises:

Governors of St Monica’s RC High School in Prestwich, Bury, Greater
Manchester, reached the decision even though the vaccination programme has
been approved by the Catholic hierarchy in Britain.

Although a letter outlining the governors’ stance makes no mention of moral
objections, at least one of their number has previously criticized the
injections for "encouraging sexual promiscuity".


HIV Rates Up Among Drug Users

The BBC reports on a study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, that shows in at least 9 countries more than 40% of intravenous drug users are HIV positive:

In some countries in South East Asia, Latin America and Eastern
Europe the rates of infection among injecting users are above 40%. In
Estonia it is more than 72%.

But some countries have maintained very low rates of infection,
such as the UK – where the rate is 2.3% – New Zealand and Australia
where only 1.5% of injecting drug users are HIV-positive.

Researchers cite successful needle exchange programs as the central reason some countries are able to maintain such a low rate of HIV infection among intravenous drug users. 


Wall Street Takes Welfare it Begrudges to Women

Mimi Abramovitz of Women’s eNews laments the government’s diminishing commitment to important economic safety net programs while government hastens to provide a safety net for failing corporations: 

Today we sit and watch as the high-rolling gamblers and critics of "big
government" take welfare. These are many of the same people who thought
it was just fine to deprive millions of women of critical resources and
let them fend for themselves.

Abramovitz says that "[b]eginning with President Carter in the mid 1970s, our leaders changed their tune, blaming economic woes on big government."  This change of tune began a 30 year trend of decreased funding for Great Depression era economic safety net and welfare programs that is "one of the three interlocking pillars of economic support counted on by thousands of women from all walks of life."  The other two pillars according to Abramovitz, marriage and wages, are also growing weaker as median wages for men and women have declined over the past 30 years.  Abramovitz concludes:

The public bailout of corporate America may be necessary given the
risks of a collapse to the global economy. But why is it that the rich
and reckless accept "welfare" for themselves while steadfastly
rejecting the same for women in need? It’s time to take a billion here
and there to assist the women raising families on too little income to
keep a roof over their heads.


Why the 2008 Election Matters for Reproductive Rights

Dawn Johnsen blogging at the blog Balkinization explains why she thinks the outcome of this election will indeed impact reproductive rights.  She writes in response to a claim by Neal Devins that the election will do very little to impact abortion rights because Roe v. Wade will never be overturned.  Johnsen answers that "[p]residents of course possess the authority to do far more to affect reproductive health and liberty than just appoint judges."  She cites the Bush administration’s proposed HHS regulations that would limit access to reproductive health care for women as an example.  She also cites a president’s authority to

determine whether
government money will fund anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” and
whether schools will provide comprehensive sexuality education, aimed
at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, or only
teach abstinence.


But Johnsen also writes that she is "amazed at the
confidence with which some commentators assert that the Court will
never overrule Roe, regardless of changes in the Court’s composition."  Indeed I have read several articles now in which the author is very confident that, because of the principle of stare decisis, the court will never overturn Roe.  While Johnsen has her doubts as to the certainty of Roe she is more concerned about the strategy to chip away at Roe and how Supreme Court justices will decide on cases like the current South Dakota
abortion ban proposal.  


Abortion: Rhetoric or Results

Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese is one of those who thinks Roe is settled law that will not be overturned.  That belief, along with a slew of studies he cites in his post today at a Washington Post blog, leads him to the conclusion that pro-lifers need to embrace social programs that support women, children and familes and have been proven to help reduce abortion rates. 


Remote Control Male Birth Control

Thanks for Samhita at Feministing for pointing us to a new technology currently in testing in Australia that "allows men to control a valve that can switch their sperm flow on and off as required."  You’ve got to check this out.

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