Roundup: Last Chance to Speak Out, Contraception for Gloucester Students?

Brady Swenson

Last chance to fight hypocritical and deceptive HHS rule; Powerful personal story about one woman's experience with abortion; Will Gloucester High provide contraception?; Texas judge orders woman to stop having children; LA Times against parental notification in California; and more.

Last Chance to Fight Hypocritical and Deceptive HHS Rule

We’ve been covering this story since it first broke on July 15.  We have now arrived at the final day of public commenting on the proposed HHS rule that many fear could significantly limit women’s access to reproductive health care services, including prescriptions for birth control.  Today Jessica Arons has a great final word on the proposed regulation at Huffington Post:

Keep in mind, most of the rule’s supporters — like the Family Research Council, the Christian Medical Association, and Concerned Women for America — also strongly support "informed consent,"
at least if it concerns information on fetal development and theories
about fetal pain. That’s why you see the same groups lined up in favor
of bills that would make women seeking abortions first view a sonogram, be offered anesthesia for the fetus, and listen to state-mandated scripts telling them an abortion "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

Yet if a woman sought unbiased, nondirective counseling about her
options to continue or terminate a pregnancy, an objecting physician
would not have to provide any information under this rule. And if a
rape victim wanted emergency contraception, an objecting pharmacist
would not have to refer her to a pharmacy that would give it to her.
How exactly is a woman supposed to be able to make informed decisions
and act on them when medical professionals can withhold information
from her at will?

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And where is the concern for the conscience of the nurse who is
required to provide his patients with state materials that he thinks
are biased and inaccurate? And what of the doctor who cannot perform
the safest procedure for her patient because the federal government has
banned it?

Apparently only one set of morals is entitled to protection in HHS’ view.

Please add your voice today, it’s your last chance!


I Had an Abortion

The Boston Phoenix has an anonymous personal reflection from a woman who had a non-surgical abortion in 2002 when she was 19 years old.  Her story runs alongside an article hailing Jennifer Baumgardner’s new book, Abortion & Life, a collection of 15 women’s
first-person abortion stories.
Anonymous’ story is frank about her fear and forthright about the physical pain she experienced after taking the RU-486 pill.  And she is thankful for her right to make her own choice:

When pundits and politicians debate abortion,
they often bring up the most unfortunate cases: rape or incest victims,
or women with medical problems. The fact that these women risk losing
the right to govern their own bodies is outrageous. So we end up
fighting for those worst-case scenarios, which somehow makes what we
might call the “normal” cases seem more cavalier. As if some cases are
less essential, and therefore less justifiable, than others. Let’s be
clear — it’s the circumstances that vary, not the validity of our
decisions, nor our need for access to safe, legal abortions.

Years later, my experience still causes me to
feel guilty that I lived in a state where no one, other than those who
were directly involved, questioned my decision. It makes me somehow
embarrassed to admit that all I had to do was cross a street, while
others have to bridge state lines, family boundaries (I still haven’t
told my parents), and financial constraints (my boyfriend put the
procedure on his credit card; I paid him back for half as soon as I had
the money). Essentially, I’m sorry that I was more privileged than
other women who are in similar circumstances.


Mayor and School Committee Chairman Call for Contraception Access at Gloucester High

Three months after 18 girls became pregnant at a high school in little Gloucester, Massachusetts the mayor of the town and the school committee chairman are calling for contraception to be made available to students from the school’s health clinic:

"I think the eyes are on Gloucester to see what we do, because a lot of
communities are wrestling with it," said Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who along
with other School Committee members will debate over the next two weeks
whether to allow contraception at the school.

"I think it’s become obvious that there’s an issue that there’s
sexual activity with teenagers," Verga said. "It seems like a
preventative measure that would help us in our mission."

The list
of options was compiled during the summer after several experts on
teenage pregnancy were consulted, including Dr. Lauren Smith, medical
director of the Department of Public Health, and Patricia Quinn,
executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy.
Both Smith and Quinn recommended that the school allow the distribution
of contraception.

For a contraception option to pass, it needs
four out of seven school board votes, and only Kirk and Verga have
indicated how they will vote.

Perhaps the Gloucester school committee should check out our Reality Check video on contraception in schools.


Texas Judge Orders Woman to Stop Procreating

The Wall Street Journal reports today on Texas judge Charlie Baird’s order to Felicia Salazar, the 20-year-old Texas woman who admitted to failing to provide protection and medical care
to her then-19-month-old daughter, who suffered broken bones and other
injuries when she was beaten by her father, to stop having children (the father was sentenced to 10 years in prison).  The article claims that the order "is difficult to enforce and possibly unconstitutional":

Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law School who represented Mr.
Oakley in the Wisconsin case, says Judge Baird’s order is "tantamount
to sterilization" and abridges Ms. Salazar’s reproductive freedom as
guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision affirming
abortion rights.

The ruling recalls a dark time in U.S. legal history when the Supreme Court upheld a forced sterilization law in Virginia:

In a dark corner of U.S. history, a number of states ran
forced-sterilization projects, in which women deemed unfit for
motherhood were surgically prevented from having a child. The country’s
most esteemed legal minds blessed the programs. In 1927, the U.S.
Supreme Court upheld a Virginia law that authorized sterilization for a
woman who, along with her mother and child, was "feeble-minded." In
upholding the statute, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes concluded: "Three
generations of imbeciles are enough." By 1935, nearly 20,000 forced
eugenic sterilizations had been performed in the U.S.

Feministing has more on this story and a similar story about a state legislator in Louisiana, John LaBruzzo, who wants to pay low-income women $1,000 apiece to get sterilized.


No on California’s Proposition 4

The LA Times is running an editorial today opposing California’s Proposition 4, the parental consent for abortion law, that is currently polling at 48% in favor and 40% opposed with 12% undecided after similar propositions were rejected in 2005 and 2006:

story behind "Sarah’s Law" says a lot about it. "Sarah" was, according
to Proposition 4 supporters, a 15-year-old girl who died from an
abortion gone wrong 14 years ago, a death that might have been
prevented had her parents been notified beforehand. Much of that is
false. The girl’s name wasn’t Sarah; she lived in Texas, not
California; and though she was 15, she already had a child and was in a
common-law marriage, which means she wouldn’t have been covered by the
law Californians are being asked to consider.

That’s how far the
Proposition 4 campaign reached to come up with a poster girl. The
initiative purports to protect California girls from dangers associated
with abortions by requiring that their parents be notified. But
Proposition 4 attempts to solve something that isn’t much of a problem.
There’s no evidence that California’s teenage girls are harmed by
abortions with any frequency, whether or not their parents have been
notified. The most recent known case of serious injury that might have
been prevented by Proposition 4 occurred in the 1980s.

In fact, under the guise of protecting underage
girls, this proposal really is just the latest attempt to impose any
obstacle in the exercise of reproductive freedom. This represents the
third try in recent years to pass such a measure. California should
reject it again.


Slate Debunks Palin Rape Kit Rumor?

Rachel Larimore of’s women’s blog, The XX Factor, writes today that the claim that Wasila, Alaska charged rape victims to collect evidence for a criminal investigation while Sara Palin was mayor has been debunked because the Wasilla police chief, Charlie Fannon, is on record as having tried to bill victims’ insurance companies, not the victims themselves, for the rape kits.  Well, not to be a nit, but I don’t see much of a difference between charging a victim’s insurance company and charging the victim themselves as insurance companies merely represent the victim and claims made on medical insurance can often affect the insured’s premiums.  In any case, as Amie pointed out in the best take I’ve read on this story, it should not be simply about charging victims, or their insurance companies, for a rape kit, this should be about the broader issues of "rape, sexual
assault and how we deal with violence against women in this country."


We Must ‘Double Our Efforts’ to Defeat the Spread of HIV/AIDS

Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the UK’s International HIV/AIDS Alliance, has made a strong call for the need to "double our efforts over the next seven years" in order to achieve goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals: to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV;
to provide access to treatment for all who need it by 2010; and to halt and
begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other diseases such as
tuberculosis.  Bremejo points to isolated success that can be expanded and replicated with access to more resources:

A number of recent successes (Botswana, Brazil, Thailand, parts of
India) demonstrate that rapid progress is possible when sound national
programmes are matched with adequate financing and technical support.
Existing international commitments – if fully implemented – can extend
these success stories and are sufficient to achieve the goals.

despite tremendous achievements, the epidemic continues to outpace the
response. There were 2.7 million new HIV infections and 2 million
Aids-related deaths last year. In sub-Saharan Africa, around 12 million
children are orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV. Less than one in three
people needing antiretroviral treatment has access to it.


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