Ooops….She Did It Again: Anti-Contraception Nurse Takes Women’s Wombs into Her Own Hands

Jodi Jacobson

Answering the question: Who decides?  Nurse Olona says: Me!

This is the United States of America.

You know….that beacon of freedom for the entire world.

That bastion of excellence in everything.  The country that likes to think it sets the standard.

So you might think that when you go to a medically-trained doctor or nurse seeking to have your IUD adjusted, the fact that they were trained and certified as medical professionals in a field with clear standards and the fact that you live in a democracy that prides itself on leading the world in human rights (or used to) your wish simply to have the small problem you are experiencing with your IUD fixed would be respected.

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You might be wrong.

Now, apparently, some nurses, doctors, physicians assistants and other providers feel empowered to decide for you whether contraceptives are ok, which ones, if any, you are allowed to use, and when you will stop using them irrespective of your wishes.  Not because of any medical reason.  Just because that particular provider does not like that particular method.  Or any method of contraception. Or maybe anything having to do with sex or sexuality.  It’s enough that s/he just does not like your choices.

This kind of situation has been much-discussed as a potential outcome of the new HHS rule to go into effect on Monday, January 19th.  But possibility and reality have already collided head-on in the story of a New Mexico woman whose IUD was removed by a nurse against the woman’s wishes and who is now suing both the nurse and the center in federal court for battery, constitutional violations and

The patient went to the Presbyterian Health Services Rio Rancho Family Health Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and saw nurse practitioner Sylvia Olona.  Her request: Simply to shorten the strings on her IUD for greater comfort.

The result?  Nurse Olona took it upon herself to remove the troublesome device.  Why?  Simple, Nurse Olona told her patient:

"Having the IUD come out was a good thing [because] I personally
do not like IUDs. I feel they are a type of abortion. I don’t know how
you feel about abortion, but I am against them. …What the IUD does is take the
fertilized egg and pushes it out of the uterus."

Hmmmm….funny….I don’t think they teach this definition of abortion in medical or nursing school.  But in the free-for-all, define-your-own-medical-practice era of reproductive politics of the past 8 years, anything apparently goes. Nurse Olona could instead, with respect for herself and her patient, easily have said "I can’t help you with your IUD as I am uncomfortable with this form of contraception, but let me get you someone who can."

But no.  The patient’s own choices became the subject of a morality play inside the walls of Rio Rancho.  The federal complaint states:

"As soon as Defendant Olona began speaking to (the
plaintiff), she questioned her about her choice of contraception.
Defendant Olona began the procedure, (the plaintiff) felt Olona pull on
the strings of the IUD. (The plaintiff) felt a distinct pulling on the
strings followed by a sharp pain in her uterus similar to a very strong
menstrual cramp.
"As that happened, Defendant Olona stated, ‘Uh
oh, I accidentally pulled out your IUD. I gently tugged and out it
came.’ She then explained, ‘I cut the string than went back and gently
pulled and out it came. It must have not been in properly.’

In true Britney Spears’ "oops I did it again" style, Nurse Olona stated:

‘Everyone in the office always laughs and tells me I pull
these out on purpose because I am against them, but it’s not true, they
accidentally come out when I tug.’

Nurse Olona, don’t be so coy….!  Just repeat what you told your patient:

Olona told (the plaintiff) that it was better that she did not have the
IUD because she could now use a "non-abortion" form of contraception.
Defendant Olona suggested the deprovera (depo) [sic] shot or the pill,
and made clear that she would not insert a new IUD."

As noted by Cristina Page today, and has been extensively documented elsewhere on Reality Check, unless we get a quick injunction against the recently formalized and nonsensically named HHS "provider conscience rule," these types of stories may become more and more frequent.

But what worries me is that this is happening now.  Before the HHS rule is actually in effect.  And may be happening frequently, with or without provider conscience rules, under the radar screen.  What this suggests to me is that even once we get rid of the new HHS rule–and we are all depending on the new Administration to do this as quickly as possible even with an unjunction–we need a new strategy, one which new HHS Secretary Daschle and the new Surgeon General must take on as soon as possible….issuing or re-issuing clear guidance to all medical and nursing professionals about the science and medical definitions of contraceptives and abortion; about the fact that contraception is not abortion and that contraception reduces unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion; about the fact that abortion is legal in the United States of America; and finally that patients rights to  privacy and informed choice and consent still mean something in this country.  Finally, we need a public discussion about the limits of power of individual medical practitioners to take women’s reproductive lives into their own hands.

Getting rid of the new rule won’t be enough.  Some people already are not playing by the rules. 

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: New Lies From Fiorina, Trump’s Wife Is ‘Into’ Women’s Health

Emily Crockett

The biggest campaign news on reproductive rights this week continued to be Carly Fiorina, who doubled down on the biggest lie she has told so far.

The biggest campaign news on reproductive rights this week continued to be Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina Repeated Her Biggest Lie of All 

Last week, we went over how Fiorina has doubled and tripled down on her description of a nonexistent scene from one of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos attacking Planned Parenthood.

“Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” Fiorina said at the second GOP debate.

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This week on NBC’s Meet the Press, Fiorina defended the part of her description that was the least factually defensible.

“That scene absolutely does exist, and that voice saying what I said they were saying—‘We’re gonna keep it alive to harvest its brain’—exists as well,” Fiorina said.

This is categorically untrue. There is no voice, or any other source or quote, saying anything of the kind in the videos created and released by CMP, a front group that has worked closely with Republican legislators.

One conservative media report claimed that Planned Parenthood’s “media allies” are lying, and that the video Fiorina referenced does in fact exist.

The truth is that while there is a CMP video that Fiorina seems to be referring to, she is describing a scene in it that does not exist—namely, the made-up scene in which somebody says a fetus has to be kept alive to harvest its brain.

It’s true that the video contains a stock image of a “kicking” fetus that appears to have a pulse. It also contains a first-person narrative, with no video to back it up, of harvesting a fetal brain. But the rest is fiction. Fiorina’s description makes it sound like someone from CMP captured undercover video of Planned Parenthood doctors dissecting a still-living fetus, and intentionally kept it alive for organ harvesting. The image is as barbaric as it is fictional.

What’s more, the full video of the “kicking” fetus was released this week. It comes from an anti-choice image library, and it’s almost certainly not an abortion, according to medical experts. It was probably filmed illegally, and possibly not even in America or in the past decade.

Either way, it wasn’t taken by CMP, and there’s no evidence that it was taken at a Planned Parenthood facility.

A person could have watched CMP’s misleading video and mistakenly assumed that the footage was taken at Planned Parenthood, so Fiorina could perhaps be forgiven for the first half of her quote. But the same simply cannot be said for the “keep it alive” part of her quote, which has no basis in fact and which Fiorina is repeating as true regardless.

…and Another Lie for Good Measure 

As if that weren’t enough, Fiorina seems to have made misleading statements about whether Planned Parenthood has denied allegations of illegal activity.

“Why is it Planned Parenthood cannot and will not deny late-term abortions are being performed for the purposes of obtaining brains and other body parts?” she said Friday at a town hall in South Carolina. “Because it’s happening. It’s happening.”

On Fox News Wednesday, Fiorina said: “Up until this point in time, not only am I not lying, but Planned Parenthood has not, will not, cannot deny that this is happening because it is.”

As it happens, Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest made a similar-sounding claim at a recent House hearing. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly and categorically said that the claims in the CMP videos aren’t true.

Just in case that wasn’t clear, Planned Parenthood Action Fund Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens sent Fiorina a letter on Friday:

Several times this week, you have claimed that Planned Parenthood has not denied your baseless, outrageous, and totally false claims about “harvesting” body parts of fetuses for sale. Wednesday night, you said that Planned Parenthood “has not, will not, and cannot deny that this is happening, because it is.”

This statement is completely false.

Planned Parenthood has been clear and unequivocal that these claims are untrue. In fact, we have, can, and will continue to say that this is untrue – and have said so to you directly. In letters to you over the past two weeks and in public statements for the last months, we have said that these claims are false, but you continue to say otherwise.

In other news…

Trump Says His Wife Is Into “Women’s Health Issues”

Trump’s daughter Ivanka has been seen more often on the campaign trail than his wife, Melania, and the media has taken notice. Responding to a question about whether his fourth wife would be seen more often, Donald Trump said he thought she “very much” would.

He added: “She’s very much into the whole women’s health issues.”

It’s not clear what Trump meant by that—whether or not Melania supports reproductive rights, and how her interest in the issue might be used to help sway mostly anti-choice Republican voters.

Trump has been criticized by the Republican establishment for having held pro-choice views, and he recently acknowledged that Planned Parenthood has “positive” sides to its work. But it hasn’t seemed to hurt him so far.

Cruz Is Getting Ignored by Republican Leadership

Ted Cruz has made his outspoken, virulent criticism of Planned Parenthood, and of Republican leadership, a central part of his 2016 campaign appeal.

But in the Senate, Burgess Everett reports at Politico, Cruz’s Republican colleagues are getting tired of his game. They denied him several routine procedural chances to rock the boat on a vote to fund both the government and Planned Parenthood.

“Republicans have grown tired of Cruz pushing proposals that he knows McConnell and other Republicans will never back, like defunding Planned Parenthood in a spending bill, then criticizing McConnell for not taking up the plan even as he uses the fight to bolster his presidential campaign as Washington’s consummate outsider,” Everett writes.

Rubio: Republican Establishment “Never Even Tried” to Win Planned Parenthood Debate

Marco Rubio told NPR this week that the Republican Party “never even tried” to “make the case to the American people over a sustained period of time” that Planned Parenthood needed to be defunded.

“They didn’t think they could win the public debate, and so they never even tried,” Rubio said. “If [Obama] ultimately vetoes it, if ultimately we don’t have the votes, that’s one thing. But to basically wave the white flag weeks in advance…that is inexplicable.”

Given that Rubio said in the same interview that he didn’t prefer to see the government shut down over the issue, it’s unclear what would have satisfied him.

Both the House and Senate took multiple votes on defunding the organization. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) both oppose Planned Parenthood, but didn’t want to seek a government shutdown precisely because they knew they didn’t have the votes and that Obama would veto it.

Meanwhile, right-wing media skewered Rubio for not showing up to vote against the Senate’s continuing resolution to fund both the government and Planned Parenthood.

Commentary Media

Aziz Ansari’s ‘Modern Romance’ Takes Surprisingly Earnest Look at Love

Eleanor J. Bader

Part memoir, part sociological study, and part self-help treatise, Modern Romance zeroes in on contemporary dating mores with a perceptive eye toward the shifts that have taken place over the past several decades. While the book is immensely entertaining, however, it is not fluff.

Comedian and actor Aziz Ansari’s fascinating, funny, and practical look at romance in the digital age is a surprisingly wise, fast-paced romp through U.S. sexual and marital history. Part memoir, part sociological study, and part self-help treatise, Modern Romance zeroes in on contemporary dating mores with a perceptive eye toward the shifts that have taken place over the past several decades. Along the way, Ansari addresses how people find a potential consort, whether for a passionate afternoon or for a lifetime of companionship.

It’s a terrific read. But please note: While Modern Romance—out June 16 from Penguin Books— is immensely entertaining, it is not fluff. In fact, Ansari, along with his co-author, sociologist and New York University Professor Eric Klinenberg, spent 2013 and 2014 doing extensive research that included focus groups and in-person interviews with hundreds of people in New York City, Los Angeles, Wichita, and Monroe, New York about their most intimate desires and relationship goals. In addition, many study participants in these cities shared their phones with the pair, giving them full access to text messages, emails, and interactions on online dating sites.

“This information was revelatory,” Ansari writes in the book’s introduction, “because we could observe how actual romantic encounters played out in people’s lives and not just hear stories about what people remembered.” This information was then used to ascertain dating patterns among the many men and women who elected to participate. Though not a scientifically vetted survey, it did reveal some startling anecdotal information about desire, pursuit, and expectations with regard to dating.

Ansari and Klinenberg also created a “Modern Romantics” subreddit forum on Reddit, which itself turned into a massive online focus group, with participants from all corners of the globe joining the conversation. Although the bulk of the book focuses on American dating and mating, insights gleaned from the authors’ international travel—to Buenos Aires, Doha, Paris, and Tokyo—put the myriad ways people connect into political, religious, and social perspective. For example, Ansari writes that French people seem to be more tolerant of infidelity, while young adults in Doha find surreptitious ways to flirt outside the context of arranged marriages.

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Cross-national comparisons are a theme writ large for Ansari, whose own Indian parents married a week after an arranged introduction between their two families. They’d spent 30 minutes talking before deciding they could make it work, he reports. Thirty-five years later, they’re still together and, Ansari adds, seem to be content with the life they’ve built and the time they’ve shared.

Unfortunately, Modern Romance does not interrogate other U.S. couples in arranged unions—fodder, perhaps, for a follow-up text. Instead, the book looks at the search for love among overwhelmingly young, professional, able-bodied, college-educated, men and women, with a smattering of older adults included for context. Most, but not all, are straight and are looking for “The One.”

Technology, not surprisingly, features prominently in these quests, since the average American presently spends approximately 8.5 hours a day in front of a screen. Phones, Ansari writes, are particularly alluring for those in the dating pool since they are basically a pocket-sized “24-7 singles’ bar,” where with the touch of a finger anyone can be “instantly immersed in an ocean of romantic possibilities” via sites like E-Harmony,, OKCupid, J-Date, or Tinder.

That said, Ansari makes clear that the changes in our romantic lives are not just a result of technological advances. “In a very short period of time,” he reports, “the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically.” Ansari cites studies from the Journal of Marriage and the Family, noting, “A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were 24. Today, people spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.”

As recently as the 1960s, Ansari explains, most middle-class folks had rigid gender-based expectations about what a partnership would look like, with men providing financial security and women caring for the home and rearing the children. Love wasn’t a necessary part of the deal. Although there were certainly exceptions, marriage was often about creating the “conditions that made it possible to survive and reproduce.” End of story.

Fifty-plus years later, of course, life is different, a shift for which Ansari credits the women’s movement—a conclusion influenced by historian Stephanie Coontz’s work. “By the 1980s,” he writes, “86 percent of American men and 91 percent of American women said they would not marry someone without the presence of romantic love.”

So how to find it?

According to University of Chicago psychologist and researcher John Cacioppo, who is quoted in Modern Romance, between 2015 and 2012 more than one-third of U.S. couples who got married met through online dating. OKCupid, the book continues, claims credit for 40,000 dates a day, meaning that up to 80,000 people are being introduced to one another during every 24-hour period. What’s more, 38 percent of people who self-identify as “single and looking” have used an online dating site. The figure, Ansari reports, is even higher in the LGBTQ community, where an astounding 70 percent of couples say they met online.

Still, Ansari notes that online dating has numerous downsides, not the least being response fatigue: the exhaustion that comes from having to sift through hundreds of replies, typically all sounding remarkably similar. In addition, there’s the risk that what you say you want on a profile will not correspond to what you actually want on an emotional level. Ansari uses himself as an example of this phenomenon. He writes that he thought he was looking for a small, dark-haired professional women a few years his junior. His current, live-in partner? A tall, blonde who is slightly older than him, and works as a chef. And he couldn’t be happier.

The key, Modern Romance cautions, is not to spend endless time constructing a “perfect” profile or endlessly texting someone who seems like a good fit—or worse, playing the “how long should I wait before responding to a text?” game—but actually meeting in person, since there’s no way to know if there’s chemistry without hanging out with someone. Like other practical conclusions cited in the book, this too has been borne out by research: Ansari references several Northwestern University psychologists who conclude, “No algorithm can predict in advance whether two people will make a good couple.”

It’s also far better, the book advises, for you and a person you’ve met online to do something fun rather than simply having drinks or dinner and engaging in what can feel like an interview. You’ll learn more about the person as you go along, Ansari writes, and will make a better impression by choosing an activity that the other person might otherwise never have considered.

There’s more. “At certain times, the ‘I need the best’ mentality can be debilitating,” Ansari adds. “The Internet has helped to produce the idea that there is a best thing and if we search hard enough, we can find it … We are no longer the generation of the ‘good enough’ marriage. We are now looking for our soul mates. Even after we find our soul mates, if we start feeling unhappy, we get divorced.”

No group, he continues, has ever had more romantic options. In truth, there is likely always going to be someone out there who is smarter, cuter, funnier, and sexier than our current partner. So, when do we say “enough” and stop second-guessing our choices? If we stay with our current squeeze does this mean we’ve settled for mediocrity, or does it reflect the maturity needed to build a life with someone we already know to be a compatible fit?

“If you’re looking for the best, this is a recipe for complete misery,” Anzari advises. “If you are in a big city or on an online dating site, you are flooded with options. Seeing all these options, we are now comparing out potential partners not to other potential partners but rather to an idealized person whom no one could measure up to.”

Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar’s work, quoted in the text bears this out: Too many options, she found, can lead to indecision and paralysis.

It’s a sobering conclusion. While Modern Romance doesn’t attempt to offer one-size-fits-all platitudes, it does analyze behavioral trends using its focus groups as jumping-off points— topics covered include finding dates on and off-line, texting, sexting, monogamy versus non-monogamy, breaking up, and marriage—presenting common sense ideas about courtship and beyond.

“The endless string of first dates where you just say the same shit over and over again in the same places starts getting tiresome,” Ansari admits. As his own experience taught him “The casual scene was fun but in between the fun, a lot of times there was emptiness.” If there was an initial spark, it is far better to see the same person a few times, in Anzari’s opinion, to determine if something can develop.

Lastly, he reminds readers that there are two kinds of love: passionate and companionate. The first typically lasts for a year to a year-and-a-half, “spikes early, then fades away. Companionate love is less intense but grows over time … There is still passion, but it’s balanced with trust, stability, and an understanding of each other’s flaws.”

As someone who has been in a monogamous relationship for 31 years, I know this to be on point. In fact, my experience tells me that anyone who believes that the romance of the first period can be maintained is deluded, a point Ansari hammers home. At the same time, he acknowledges that there are no hard-and-fast rules for relationships, and points out that each couple needs to figure out what works for them.

Whatever your preferences, Ansari argues that that everyone deserves to be happy in their domestic lives. Nonetheless, the reality check that he has tossed into the mix about not holding out for an idealized person who doesn’t exist reminds us of several longstanding truths—among them, that a successful liaison requires clear communication, respect between parties, and tolerance of difference. Digital communications may have muddied the dating waters, but at the end of the day, love is still a mystery that baffles even as it beckons and delights.