Roundup: Early Action on Reproductive Health Expected for New Administration

Roundup: Early Action on Reproductive Health Expected for New Administration

Emily Douglas

Global gag rule, conscience rule, ban on stem cell funding on the chopping block in new administration's first days; PEPFAR: good on access to treatment, failure on prevention; George W. Bush the "most pro-life President ever"?

President Obama took office just 24 hours ago, and the world is already a very different place for women and their reproductive health.

Global Gag Rule, Conscience Rule, and Ban on Stem Cell Funding on the Chopping Block

Word is that the administration will repeal the global gag rule tomorrow,
on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  "This is a big victory for
women overseas," said Tod Preston, vice
president for government relations at Population Action International,
told the LA Times. "We know their health has been severely impacted by
the cutoff. If you want to reduce unintended pregnancies, abortion and
women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don’t have access
to family planning, you don’t do it by cutting off U.S. assistance." 

The LA Times reports
that the new administration also plans to "freeze" many of the midnight regulations
promulgated by the Bush administration, including the Department of
Health and Human Services’s provider conscience expansion, which would
enable health care providers to deny access to critical health care,
including forms of contraception, to women.  But the New York Times says addressing this regulation may take more time, as it went into effect January 19: "A 1983 Supreme Court
decision suggests that the new administration would need to go through
a formal rule-making process, with an opportunity for public comment,
if it wanted to revoke this rule."

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The administration also has in its sights a Bush administration policy that "impeded state efforts to provide health insurance to children from low- and middle-income families," the New York Times reports.  "Under the Bush policy, the federal government said it would not allow
states to cover children from families with annual incomes above 250
percent of the poverty level — $53,000 for a family of four — unless
they met several preconditions. To qualify, a state must demonstrate
that at least 95 percent of eligible children in families making less
than 200 percent of the poverty level have already been enrolled in Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program…A career employee at the Health and Human Services Department
said the Bush administration policy had ‘prevented a lot of kids from
receiving the health care they needed,’ a concern echoed by many state

Obama is also likely to take early action lifting the ban on federal funding of stem cell research, reports the San Francisco Gate

PEPFAR: Good on Access to Treatment, Failure on Prevention

Josh Ruxin of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria discusses PEPFAR’s shortcomings on the Huffington Post, saying PEFPARs prevention programs failed the "real-world test":

Fidelity programs implied that women with few decision rights over
sex simply had to remain faithful to avoid AIDS. Meanwhile, their
husbands were out contracting the virus and passing it to them. It was
supremely disempowering, misogynistic and, ultimately, deadly. Lifting
the gag rule and bundling family planning, contraception, HIV
prevention, and maternal and early childhood health together is
essential to fighting this disease and restoring womens reproductive
rights to the program.

While programs discouraging premarital sex have delayed the age of
first sex (called sexual debut), they may have increased the risk of
AIDS. How’s that? Students taught to abstain appeared more likely to
practice unsafe sex when they did start. Thus, the administration may
have managed to generate more, not fewer, AIDS cases by pushing this
largely religiously-driven policy into practice. In a
sexually-transmitted disease epidemic, people need to be able to talk
about sex. By restricting passage of information about safe sex, PEPFAR
utterly failed the "real world" test.

George W. Bush "Most Pro-Life President Ever"?

Several anti-choice organizations are calling George W. Bush "the most pro-life President ever," reports CNS News. Bush’s January 18 declaration of "National Sanctity of Life Day" was
the "culmination of eight years of pro-life
policies that included sustained opposition to embryonic stem cell
research; the appointment of two pro-life Supreme Court Justices; an
executive order barring federal funds to be used for abortion- related
projects abroad; and a rule protecting federally funded health
employees from taking part in abortion-related activities or other
practices that conflicted with their religious views."  CNS News
outlines the administration’s many actions that curtail women’s right
to reproductive choice — and, for that matter, won’t do much to reduce the rate of abortion, either.

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