Raising Our Voices for the Health Care We Need

Eesha Pandit

Post your own story here! As important for health care advocacy as policy analysis are the stories of real women and their families. Raising Women's Voices and Rewire offer you this space to tell us about your experiences of health care.

Readers: We want you to share your story! In partnership with Raising
Women’s Voices, an advocacy organization working on behalf of women’s health
care reform, Rewire is collecting real life stories that
reflect how the health care system has impacted real women’s lives. We
want to hear from you! Share your stories in the comments section of
this post and we hope you’ll allow RWV to contact you should they wish
to use your story in their advocacy efforts. By commenting, you are
giving permission to be contacted by RWV.

Pregnancy. Birth control. Aging. Disability. Cancer. Sexuality

There are many arenas in which health care is essential to
our lives. These are, of course, policy issues. The bills and acts that come
before Congress on health care issues are directly connected with women’s
lives. You see a lot of policy analysis on Rewire precisely because
policies affect whether we can get the care we need when and how we need it.

As important as policy analysis, however, are the stories
of real women and their families that demonstrate why we need to ensure that
everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare. These voices are
critical to the work of Raising Women’s
Voices for the Healthcare We Need
, a partnership
between the Avery Institute for Social Change, The MergerWatch Project and The
National Women’s Health Network. Our policy analyses are based on the
stories of diverse groups of women, and are stronger and deeper as a result.

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Now RWV is partnering with Rewire to raise your
voices. We offer you this space to tell us about your experiences of healthcare.
Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly. We depend on you. Your stories have and
will continue to enrich our advocacy efforts.

The Question: We have heard for weeks about Sarah Palin’s
exceptional delivery of her son Trig
. As a governor of Alaska, Palin had access
to comprehensive health care and many resources and options about how to handle
her pregnancy and childbirth. Before, during and after the birth of her son she
received medical care and attention that met her diverse needs. Have you all
had similar pregnancy and childbirth experiences? Or have you encountered
obstacles? What were those obstacles? Could you choose your provider, and type
of care? Were you able to take maternity when and how you needed? Tell us. We
have a suspicion that there are many different types of stories out there and we
think policy makers should hear them.

Here are some stories RWV has already gathered.

A woman from Texas recalls
her son’s birth:

When I had my son – I had him in Houston – my doctor
was a female but had been trained by a very male dominated organization. I had
a doctor’s appointment because my son was late, he didn’t want to
come out. I had a doctor’s appointment on my due date and she said, "You
have an appointment for an induction tomorrow." I said, "No, I don’t."
And she said, "Yes. You do." … She said this despite the
reccomentdation of her own academy that said inductions were to occurr two
weeks after the due date. No one told me [about my appointment], no one got my
permission to schedule it. I went to the doctor and told her that if she wasn’t
going to do it my way that I was going to find someone else to do it… I
got told that it was HER responsibility to make sure my child came out okay.
And I explained to her that it wasn’t her responsibility, he was my
responsibility. And that I had spent more time with the nurses than I had with
my own doctor… The problem was that I knew she dealt with a lot of low
income women, I wasn’t exactly high income, but it was the perception
that we’re not educated enough to understand what’s going on with
us, so we shold just do what the doctors say. And I think there’s a
really big misperception that low income people have no idea about their
choices and what rights they have. I think sometimes they just get walked over.

A young graduate student tells her story:

I wanted a
midwife or a doula for a homebirth. A homebirth nurse was covered by my
insurance but not a midwife, and was only covered with a doctor’s
permission. My insurance provider didn’t know what a doula was! I was so
frustrated. I wanted the nurse I knew and wanted, not one that was randomly
assigned to me. And I needed to ask just the right questions to get the
information I needed. The process was so confusing and I didn’t receive
all by birthing options up front. The options that were told to me were always
the ones that made the hospitals some money. Eventually, I wound up going to a
birthing center and having a doula, which I payed for myself. This was not my
ideal option but was the closest I could get to what I wanted.

Let’s raise women’s voices for the health care
we need. Share your stories – short or long in the comment section. We want to hear from you! While this week our post focuses on pregnancy and childbirth stories, we welcome any health care stories you want to share.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Law and Policy

Three Crisis Pregnancy Centers Served for Breaking California Law

Nicole Knight Shine

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act.

The Los Angeles City Attorney is warning three area fake clinics, commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), that they’re breaking a new state reproductive disclosure law and could face fines of $500 if they don’t comply.

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, advocates and the state Attorney General’s office indicate.

The office of City Attorney Mike Feuer served the notices on July 15 and July 18 to two unlicensed and one licensed clinic, a representative from the office told Rewire. The Los Angeles area facilities are Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

The law requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care, and for unlicensed centers to disclose that they are not medical facilities.

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“Our investigation revealed,” one of the letters from the city attorney warns, “that your facility failed to post the required onsite notice anywhere at your facility and that your facility failed to distribute the required notice either through a printed document or digitally.”

The centers have 30 days from the date of the letter to comply or face a $500 fine for an initial offense and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

“I think this is the first instance of a city attorney or any other authority enforcing the FACT Act, and we really admire City Attorney Mike Feuer for taking the lead,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told Rewire on Wednesday.

Feuer in May unveiled a campaign to crack down on violators, announcing that his office was “not going to wait” amid reports that some jurisdictions had chosen not to enforce the law while five separate court challenges brought by multiple fake clinics are pending.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In April, Rebecca Plevin of the local NPR affiliate KPCC found that six of eight area fake clinics were defying the FACT Act.

Although firm numbers are hard to come by, around 25 fake clinics, or CPCs, operate in Los Angeles County, according to estimates from a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California. There are upwards of 1,200 CPCs across the country, according to their own accounting.

Last week, Rewire paid visits to the three violators: Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

Christie Kwan, a nurse manager at Pregnancy Counseling Center, declined to discuss the clinic’s noncompliance, but described their opposition to the state law as a “First Amendment concern.”

All three centers referred questions to their legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an Arizona-based nonprofit and frequent defender of discriminatory “religious liberty” laws.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with ADF, said in an email to Rewire that forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs” and threatens their free speech rights.

“The First Amendment protects all Americans, including pro-life people, from being targeted by a government conspiring with pro-abortion activists,” Bowman said.

Rewire found that some clinics are following the law. Claris Health, which was contacted as part of Feuer’s enforcement campaign in May, includes the public notice with patient intake forms, where it’s translated into more than a dozen languages, CEO Talitha Phillips said in an email to Rewire.

Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the public notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

Even so, reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, a person who Googled “abortion clinic” might be directed to a fake clinic, or CPC.

Oakland last week became the second U.S. city to ban false advertising by facilities that city leaders described as “fronts for anti-abortion activists.” San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2011.