Roundup: Obama Staff Gear Up to Rescind HHS Conscience Expansion; Where Is the “Common Ground”?

Emily Douglas

Obama staff already reviewing HHS conscience clause expansion; what does "common ground" really mean?; reproductive health care for homeless women.

Obama Staff Already
Reviewing HHS Conscience Clause Expansion

The Bush administration will likely finalize an HHS
regulation expanding provider conscience clause protections this week, but Obama staffers
are already looking at ways to undo the regulation, reports
the Wall Street Journal
.  That regulation
is only one of many Bush-era policies harmful to women’s health that Obama will
address during his administration.  The
Journal reports:

Decisions that the new administration will weigh include: whether to cut
funding for sexual abstinence programs; whether to increase funding for
comprehensive sex education programs that include discussion of birth control;
whether to allow federal health plans to pay for abortions; and whether to
overturn regulations such as one that makes fetuses eligible for health-care
coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Women’s health advocates are also pushing for a change in rules that would
lower the cost of birth control at college health clinics.

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Though Connie Mackey, senior vice-president of Family
Research Council Action, says that her organization’s "No. 1 concern would be
the [Freedom of Choice] bill," the Journal points out that FOCA is not on the list of
priorities reproductive health advocates have set out for the first 100 days of
Obama’s administration.  "We’re
going to be smart and strategic about our policy agenda to bring people
together to make progress for women’s health," said Cecile Richards,
president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The Freedom of
Choice Act is very important…but we have a long list of things to get done
that I think can address problems immediately that women are facing, that are
really immediate concerns." 

What Does "Common Ground"
Really Mean?

In The
American Prospect
, Sarah Posner examines the "abortion reduction" efforts of
pro-life "progressive" evangelicals.  Posner
reports that pro-life "progressive" evangelicals like Rev. Jim Wallis like to
claim that their support for "abortion reduction" – which amounts to policy encouraging
women to bring pregnancies to term, and discouraging abortion – is a "common
ground" position:

Abortion reduction, framed as a package of incentives to encourage women
facing unintended pregnancies to carry them to term, "is the new common
ground," says Wallis, who claims that "people on the edges, on the
left, and the right, won’t support it." Wallis frequently accuses those of
not agreeing with his anti-abortion "common ground" of restoking the
"culture wars," but there are other ideas of where the common ground

But others say common ground can be found somewhere else:

According to Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America,
"Americans want to move beyond the divisive political attacks that defined
the debate over abortion during the Bush era. The public wants lawmakers to
find common ground — to focus on policies that improve women’s access to birth
control and ensure that teens receive accurate sex education — all of which
helps prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion without
undermining a woman’s right to choose."

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said that her organization
"does more than any other organization to prevent unintended pregnancies
and reduce the need for abortion. One in four women in this country has been to
a Planned Parenthood clinic, primarily for prevention and contraception care." 

Planned Parenthood
Partners with Shelter to Bring RH Care to Homeless Women

Homelessness leaves women particularly vulnerable, reports
the Santa Barbara Independent
, so three Santa Barbara social service organizations established a "biweekly walk-in
clinic and day center with confidential reproductive health services,
counseling, shower facilities, laundry, child care, and lunch." Planned Parenthood will supply the reproductive health care services:

For the first few months, reproductive services will be limited to what
Planned Parenthood dubs "express exams." They include birth control and testing
for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) without that physical exam many women
find intimidating. Within a few months though, the clinic will ramp up to a
full-service Planned Parenthood satellite clinic, capable of gynecological
exams and the more invasive birth control device Implanon, which is surgically
inserted under the skin and lasts for three years.

"We really wanted to look beyond our four walls and work collaboratively
with more community-based organizations," Pat Fajardo, Planned
Parenthood’s vice president of clinical services, told the Independent. 

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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