Roundup: Latina Women Use Drugs and Home Remedies to Induce Abortion; Indian Call Center Fields Questions on Contraception

Emily Douglas

Drugs and "home remedies" are commonly used by Latina women seeking to induce abortion; Obama staff meet with faith groups; jobs in Nigeria require HIV-negative test result; Indian call center fields questions on contraception.

"Home Remedies" to Induce Abortion Commonly Used

New studies reveal common use of Cytotec and other "home
remedies" to induce abortion, particularly amongst Latina women, the New
York Times reports
.  Surveys by Ibis
Reproductive Health Services and Planned Parenthood suggest that "that improper
use of such drugs is one of myriad methods, including questionable homemade
potions, frequently employed in attempts to end pregnancies by women from
fervently anti-abortion cultures despite the widespread availability of safe,
legal and inexpensive abortions in clinics and hospitals."  The Times spoke with experts about use of
Cytotec in the Dominican community in the neighborhood of Washington
Heights, in New York: "Researchers studying the phenomenon cite several factors that lead
Dominican and other immigrant women to experiment with abortifacients: mistrust
of the health-care system, fear of surgery, worry about deportation, concern
about clinic protesters, cost and shame." 
The Times observes, "The pills allow pregnant women a degree of denial
over what is taking place…[M]any women in the neighborhood
talk about the need to bring on – or ‘down’ – their periods, not abortion.
Afterward, they might tell doctors or relatives they had lost the baby."

Obama Staff Meet with Faith Groups

Obama transition team staff have conducted meetings with upwards of 15 religious or
faith-based groups during the transition process, reports
Dan Gilgoff in US News & World Report

And the effort to reach out seems to be genuine: "This is not
something meant to bring in the faith community to keep them happy but to
solicit our views and ideas," says James Winkler, general secretary of the public policy arm of the United Methodist
.  Reports Gilgoff,

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with 10 participants in the Obama transition team’s faith-based meetings paint
a portrait of Obama aides recording priorities and concerns of representatives
from religious denominations and advocacy groups, mostly of the left-leaning
variety. Their policy priorities include economic relief for the poor, new
protections for organized labor, a stepped-up campaign to combat global
warming, improved access to healthcare, and guarantees that the United States
will forgo torture in its war on terror.

Some of the faith-based groups have also pressured the transition team to
make a serious attempt to reduce demand for abortion by improving sex education
and expanding government services for pregnant women.

Dallas Morning News
Editorializes in Support of Ryan-DeLauro Bill

Rep. Tim Ryan and Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s bill to offer incentives and supports
to women carrying pregnancies to term while bolstering access to contraception
was endorsed by the Dallas
Morning News
. The Morning News

One part of this odd couple’s proposal would give women incentives to carry
their fetuses to term. It would remove pregnancy from the list of pre-existing
conditions insurers won’t cover, provide nursing visits to qualifying new
mothers and expand the tax credit families can claim when adopting children.

The second emphasis is equally significant. It would try to curtail the
number of unwanted pregnancies through grants to local agencies that
successfully prevent teen pregnancies. It also would expand contraceptive
education and allow Medicaid to finance more family-planning services.

For more on what Ryan-DeLauro would mean, read Kay Steiger’s True Common
Ground for the 111th Congress

Cellphone Video to Offer Safer Sex Messages

Nurse educator Rachel Jones has secured a $2 million National Institutes of Health grant to study
the effectiveness of 20-minute soap opera episodes containing safer sex
messages that women can view on their cellphones, the Associated
Press reports
. "What we believe will happen is that knowledge alone is not
effective at changing behaviors," Jones said. "We believe that women in the
community will so identify with heroines in the story their own behaviors will
change as well."

Jobs in Nigeria
Require HIV-Negative Test Result

An increasing number of Nigerian employers require an HIV-negative test
result before offering applicants employment, reports  An applicant who was denied a position
because of her HIV status interviewed by AllAfrica didn’t try to argue her case in court: "Her silence, like in other cases, were informed by
three principal factors – lack of faith in the ability of Nigeria’s law courts
to dispense justice speedily, desire to avoid the stigma that the process of
litigation can bring and, to some extent, insufficient evidence to challenge
such discrimination in court."

Indian Call Center Answers Questions on Contraception, Reproductive Health

A new Indian call center will field questions on contraception, reproductive
health, and family planning, in an effort to curb population growth in the
country.  Reports
the Washington Post
, "The National Population Stabilization Fund seeks to
pare down the growth to sustainable levels by means of contraception and
reproductive and child health care."  On the call center’s clients, the Post writes,

Many calls are from hinterlands underserved by health-care and
social workers. From May to October, the center received more than 25,000
calls, and most of the questions were about contraceptive methods. Callers
often faltered for a few minutes before they summoned the courage to ask
questions. The 17 agents — men and women — said they calmed nervous callers
by speaking to them in local dialects or addressing them as "brother"
or "sister" to build an informal rapport. Most calls were made from the
privacy of cellphones, which are common in Indian villages. Some men called on
behalf of their wives.

New Initiatives Study, Address Teen Dating Violence

Texas, Rhode Island
and New York
have made strides recently in addressing teen dating violence, reports
the New York Times
.  Texas now requires school districts to include
definitions of teen dating violence in school safety codes; Rhode
Island will educate students about teen dating violence; and New York now allows
teens in dating relationship to obtain restraining orders.  Reports the Times, "Although there are no
definitive national studies on the prevalence of abuse in adolescent
relationships, public health research indicates that the rate of such abusive
relationships has hovered around 10 percent. Experts say the abuse appears to
be increasing as more harassment, name-calling and ridicule takes place among
teenagers on the Internet and by cellphone."

Dr. Peter Piot, Head of UN AIDS Program, Retires

Dr. Peter Piot, head of the United Nations AIDS program for all of its 13
years, retires this Wednesday, reports
the New York Times
. In an interview with the Times, Piot outlined his
legacy: "[Piot] said his program had raised global public concern about AIDS;
vastly increased the money spent to try to blunt the pandemic; lowered the
price of life-extending antiretroviral drugs for millions of infected people in
poor countries; and gave a voice to socially marginalized groups like gay men
and injecting drug users, who are at great risk for AIDS yet had virtually no
say in poor countries."

Dr. Piot’s deputy, Michel Sidibé of Mali, will be his successor.

Former Crisis Pregnancy
Center Counselors on Why
She Quit

On the blog Keep
Calm and Carry On
, a former crisis pregnancy center counselor discusses why
she stopped volunteering.  Among her
reasons are: "They pushed controversial, inconclusive medical and
psychological "science" on emotionally vulnerable and often
uneducated women," "They played on the emotions of extremely vulnerable women," and
"They were vehemently against birth control."

Women’s Health Heroes of 2009

Bodies, Ourselves offers a roundup of women’s health heroes
who passed away in
2009, including Pamela Morgan, Barbara Seaman and La Leche League founder
Edwina Froelich.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”