Parenting with Dignity: Part One in a Series

Jessica Arons

Creating a comprehensive approach to the reproductive health and parenting needs of women is an important policy objective in its own right, regardless of any potential subsequent effect on the abortion rate.

Rewire is partnering with the Center for American Progress (CAP) to promote a series of policy briefs created by CAP on the economic and social supports required to ensure women can engage in "parenting with dignity."  This introductory essay will be followed by a series of articles addressing various aspects of how to better support women and mothers, and with efforts to  share these analyses widely with both the mainstream and new media communities. 

In the debate over finding “common ground” on abortion, much has
been made of the fact that, when asked why they chose to have an
abortion, many women say, “I can’t afford another child right now.”
Given this response, some have suggested that providing additional
supports to pregnant women might help reduce the abortion rate. The
thinking goes that if women feel the economic obstacles are too great
to carry a pregnancy to term—especially an unintended pregnancy—then
policies that ease those burdens may help a woman ultimately have a
child that she wants to have. An alternative line of thinking suggests
that if a woman is trying to decide between abortion and carrying to
term, additional supports may tip the balance and lead her to choose
having the child.

The Center for American Progress continues to believe that, per the
public health data, widespread access to contraception is the most
effective method available for reducing unintended pregnancy,
especially when coupled with medically accurate sex education.
Unintended pregnancy is, after all, the proximate cause of the vast
majority of abortions. We also believe that the government should not
be in the business of promoting one moral viewpoint over another, nor
should it try to persuade individuals to make particular health care
decisions that have no bearing on public health outcomes.

Nevertheless, we do believe in taking a comprehensive approach to
addressing reproductive health needs and we feel that it is an
important policy objective in its own right to provide better supports
to pregnant women, regardless of any potential subsequent effect on the
abortion rate. We will therefore be examining, through a series of
issue briefs, a variety of meaningful ways in which we can better
address the needs of pregnant women.

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When a woman says she can’t afford a child, she is not just thinking
of the nine months of pregnancy, the first few months after the child
is born, or even the first few years of life. She is most likely
thinking about the next 18 years—or beyond—and how she will clothe,
bathe, feed, house, nurture, and educate another human being for that
entire period of time.

She may already have one or more children to care for—indeed 6 out
of every 10 women who have abortions are already mothers. She may be
the primary caretaker for a disabled or elderly member of her family.
She may want a family one day but feel economically or emotionally
unprepared to start one now. She may have a partner who is willing to
help raise a child or not. She may be working, unemployed, or trying to
finish her education so she can better support herself and her loved
ones. If working, she may have secure employment, or she may be one
sick day away from a pink slip. She may be in perfect health, have a
chronic illness, struggle with addiction, or suffer intimate partner
violence. She may have health insurance, or she may be uninsured. She
might consider adoption or think it is out of the question.

In short, a multitude of factors may affect her decision to continue
or terminate a pregnancy. And “I can’t afford a child right now” can
encompass a number of these factors. Diapers and formula are clearly
not sufficient. Systematic changes to health care, the workplace, the
adoption system, and others are necessary to have a real effect on the
lives of pregnant women.

Click here to read more from the series.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Law and Policy

Purvi Patel Could Be Released From Jail by September

Jessica Mason Pieklo

In 2013, investigators charged Patel with both feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, based on the theory that Patel had self-induced an abortion and delivered a live infant, which then almost immediately died post-delivery.

The State of Indiana will not appeal a decision vacating the feticide conviction of Purvi Patel, the Granger woman who had previously faced 20 years in prison for what state attorneys described as an illegal self-induced abortion.

Patel was arrested in 2013 after she sought treatment at a hospital emergency room for heavy vaginal bleeding. While being examined by medical personnel, Patel told doctors she’d had a miscarriage and had disposed of the remains. Investigators located those remains and eventually charged Patel with both feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, based on the theory that Patel had self-induced an abortion and delivered a live infant, which then almost immediately died post-delivery. In February 2015, a jury convicted Patel of both counts.

But in July, the Indiana Court of Appeals vacated Patel’s feticide conviction, holding the statute was not designed to be used to criminally charge people for their own failed pregnancies. However, the court largely upheld Patel’s felony neglect of a dependent conviction, deferring to controversial medical testimony offered by the state that claimed Patel’s fetus was on the cusp of viability and had taken a breath outside her post-delivery.

Patel had initially been sentenced to serve a total of 20 years. But because attorneys for the state failed to appeal the July decision, she could be available for re-sentencing as soon as the court can schedule a hearing—which could mean a possible release as early as September, depending on her new sentence and credit for time served.

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