Roundup: NYT on Home Birth, How Obama Can Lead to Middle Ground on Abortion

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Roundup: NYT on Home Birth, How Obama Can Lead to Middle Ground on Abortion

Brady Swenson

The New York Times' lengthy feature on home birth; Frank Schaeffer's open letter to Obama on how to sieze this moment to start healing deep political divisions about abortion; Feminists say the work has just begun; Migrant workers in Asia especially vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

Baby, You’re Home

The New York Times has an excellent, lengthy feature on home birth today. The piece focuses on several women who have decided to birth their babies at home New York City but discusses many of the broader issues surrounding home birth. Including the fact that home birthing is gaining populartity, and quickly, albeit from a very low percentage of births:

But local midwives say they have been swamped with calls and
requests in recent months, in some cases increasing their workload from
two, three or four deliveries a month to as many as 10. (New York
health department statistics for this year will not be available until
2010.) Several certified nurse midwives who have home-birth-only
practices said they had gotten so many more requests in recent months
that they have begun referring pregnant women to midwives in Rockland
County, Long Island and New Jersey.

Erica Lyon, the founder of
Realbirth, a five-year-old childbirth education center with three
locations in the city, said 20 percent of the 160 couples who take her
classes each month are planning home births, twice as many as six
months ago.,
one of the biggest online purveyors of birthing pools — deep inflatable
tubs with a specially designed built-in seat and handles — said its
sales have doubled since last year, with more than 20 percent of its
customers in New York City;,
another outlet, said it has sold more than twice as many pools this
year as last, 25 percent of them to New Yorkers and Long Islanders.

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An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama About Abortion: From a Pro-Obama and Pro-Life Leader

One of the fathers of the pro-life Evangelical movement, Frank Schaeffer, has come to believe that abortion should remain legal but advocates agressive policy development to help reduce unintended pregnancies and, thus, abortion. He supported President-elect Barack Obama during the campaign and now has written this open letter to the President-elect with advice on how to sieze this moment to begin repairing the damage and division caused by 35 years of nasty partisan politics surrounding the issues of abortion:

So here is my advice:

1) If in the early days of your presidency you
waive a red flag in the face of the pro-life movement — and I’m not
talking about the fringe crazies, I’m talking about the decent humane
thoughtful pro-life folks who would have voted Democratic were it not
for this one issue — you will confirm the worst paranoid fantasies of
the people who have tried to use this issue to block out all other
considerations. Perception is important. If you start with some
sweeping gesture striking down local and state ordinances that ask for
parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion, and make
that one of the first expenditures of your political capital you will
have initiated the next round of the culture war.

2) On the other hand if some of your early
initiatives are boldly proclaimed as specifically aimed at reducing the
number of abortions, for instance initiatives to help facilitate
adoption, provide care for pregnant women and children, of a kind that
will make it easier for women with troubled pregnancies to keep their
children, introduce sex education curriculum that teaches
responsibility and the sacredness of sex that you have talked about in
your campaign… everything could change.

3) Start with bold programs to reduce the number of
abortions, while keeping abortion legal, and while protecting Roe, and
you’ll be surprised at how many Evangelical Protestants and Roman
Catholics who would have voted for you except for this issue, will be
won over. You will calm the waters and defuse the situation.

4) Put real substance into programs to reduce the
number of abortions, and combine that with talking about the fact that
this is a moral issue upon which reasonable and honorable people can
disagree, and you will have taken a giant step towards bringing this
country together.

If you follow my advice you will find that you have some new and
unexpected allies rooting for you on the issues of the economy, service
and sacrifice, for instance all those millions of Evangelical young
people ready to follow your call. Some of them already voted for you in
bigger numbers than for any Democratic candidate for the presidency
post-Roe. They already believe in your vision of service,
responsibility and compassion. Give them some hope that you have also
heard their moral concern on the issue of life.

In the first point Schaffer is referring to the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a piece of legislation that would enshrine a woman’s right to choose in law and remove all state-level barriers to abortion. Obama has stated he would support FOCA as President. Indeed many anti-choicers were up in arms about Obama’s support of FOCA during the campaign and while the legislation would be wholeheartedly welcome by the pro-choice community, it would certainly antagonize the pro-life movement and perhaps, as Schaffer suggests, ruin any chances at developing the nascent middle ground that began to emerge during the campaign.

On a related note the Asheville Citizen-Times today published an article about a group of pro-choice and "pro-life" activists who have been meeting since 2002 in an effort to reduce the chance of violence in our community around the issue of abortion. But the group has also found ways to
work together
to promote adoption and to try to reduce the number of
abortions in Asheville.


Feminists Say the Work Has Just Begun

Women’s rights activists are energized about the election of President-elect Barack Obama. Byllye Avery, founder of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, said that now "is the time to finish the unfinished revolution."

"For eight years, we have suffered under the yoke
of an administration that has suppressed science to the detriment of
health and has done damage to constitutional and human rights values.
Decades of hard-won progress have been eroded," said Nancy Northrup,
president of the Centre for Reproductive Rights, in a letter to Obama,
sent the day after he was elected.

Bush has stripped funding for hundreds of health clinics
worldwide, restricted sex education and birth control to young women,
provided government money to religious fundamentalist organisations for
moral teachings on sexual abstinence, and nearly halted scientific
research that involves reproducing human cells that are four days old,
called embryos.

"We ask that you work toward a nation and world in which all
women are free to decide whether and when to have children, where all
women have access to quality reproductive health care, where all women
can exercise their choices without coercion or discrimination, and
where all women can participate with full dignity as equal members of
society," Northrup said.

Obama aides have already said that on his first day in office,
the new president will allow scientists to use federal funds for
embryonic stem cell research, and that he will repeal what is known
worldwide as the "global gag rule". This Bush rule prevents any health
clinic worldwide from discussing or administering abortions if the
clinic receives any USAID funds.

Poor nations rely on the funds to provide health care to
women, and the gag rule, imposed by Bush on his first day of office in
2001, has proved anything but healthy, says the Centre for Reproductive


Migrant Workers in Asia Especially Vulnerable to HIV/AIDS

The Straits Times reports on a joint ASEAN-UN report that says millions of migrants across Southeast Asia are vulnerable to HIV
infection as they lack access to AIDS-related services and legal or
social protection:

In Thailand, which has more comprehensive data, migrant fishermen
showed HIV infection rates of up to 9.0 per cent, according to the
report published here by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(Asean) and the United Nations.

In the Philippines, 35 per cent of registered people living
with HIV were returning migrants. In Laos, the figure reached 30 per

‘Migrant workers are a vital force to national economies in
Southeast Asia, yet when it comes to protecting their rights and
ensuring HIV prevention and treatment, they are often among the
forgotten,’ United Nations Development Programme regional director Ajay
Chhibber said.