Roundup: Complaints, Victories, and Useless Ultrasounds

Robin Marty

The U.K. pregnancy services ad brings in a bevy of complaints, Mexico approves the morning after pill for rape victims, Crist still waits for a bill, and mandatory ultrasounds are found mostly useless.

The Marie Stopes “Are You Late” ad has now been on the air for a few days, and the anti-choice activists wanting to block women from having information have found a new way to protest the ad — by calling in complaints to the advertising regulator.  Well over 350 complaints have been filed so far, in an attempt to get the ad challenged as breaching decency codes.  But as Campaign explains, it’s going to be a hard argument for the anti-choice crowd to win.

“Non-commercial providers of post-conception advice services have long been permitted to advertise on television in the UK. There has been no change to the Advertising Code or the law in this regard.”

The statement concludes: “If viewers have concerns about the content or scheduling of the ad, the Advertising Standards Authority is able to consider complaints once the ad has aired. However, we cannot act on objections that viewers might have about the service being advertised at all.”

Marina Palomba, advertising law partner at Reed Smith and formerly legal director at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, sat on the committee that drafted the new broadcast committee of advertising practice (BCAP) code.

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She said:  “Marie Stopes is a not-for-profit organisation which, it argues, does not promote abortion, but allows women to make confident and informed choices about their sexual health.”

She added: “The absolute right of commercial freedom of expression is not recognised in UK law in the same way that it is in the USA, and many products or services are, of course, restricted as to what they can do when it comes to advertising. Given this is a highly sensitive area, there will always be those who object to the right to advertise.”

Palomba said that in her view it was not an issue of human rights, nor one of freedom of expression, but one of “balancing the right to information.”

In Mexico, women who have been raped will now be allowed access to the morning after pill in hospitals, thanks to a recent court ruling.  The AP reports:

Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld a law requiring hospitals to offer rape victims a morning-after birth control pill, rejecting an appeal that argued the pill’s effect constitutes the equivalent of an abortion.

Abortion is regulated under state laws in Mexico, and most of the 31 states outlaw elective abortions. An appeal filed by the Jalisco state government says the federal morning-after law is an intrusion on states’ rights.

But justices disagreed in an 10-1 vote Thursday. The majority ruled that use of the pill is not the equivalent of abortion, but rather is part of a public health policy.

The court said the federal government has the right to set health policy.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist is STILL waiting for the ultrasound bill, and it appears that it is actually being held up by the same people who fought to pass it, according to the Miami Herald.

The measure, which would require pregnant women in Florida to view a sonogram of the fetus, sits in a file drawer in the desk of House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, whose spokeswoman said there’s no specific reason why it hasn’t been sent to Crist.

“We just haven’t sent it. There’s no sense of urgency,” spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin said.

Crist must act on a bill within 15 days of receiving it. The bill would take effect July 1.

Opponents speculate that House leaders are deliberately delaying to give bill supporters the most possible time to flood the governor’s office with calls and e-mails.

Todd Reid, staff director of the House Republican caucus, said the House is holding the bill “to give pro-life folks time to get their act together and contact the governor.”

Through Thursday, Crist’s office had received 20,018 calls, e-mails and letters urging him to sign the bill, and 12,989 total messages urging a veto.

Even if the ultrasound bill does pass, the impact it would have on abortions would likely be microscopic, according to the New York Times.   It appears in most instances, not only do ultrasounds not change women’s minds about getting an abortion, but in some cases it even helps make the decision to do so easier.

In one of the few studies of the issue — there have been none in the United States — two abortion clinics in British Columbia found that 73 percent of patients wanted to see an image if offered the chance. Eighty-four percent of the 254 women who viewed sonograms said it did not make the experience more difficult, and none reversed her decision.

That generally has also been the case in Alabama, which enacted its law, the first of its kind in the United States, in 2002.

“About half of women opt to view them,” said Diane Derzis, who owns the Birmingham clinic. “And I’ve never had one patient get off the table because she saw what her fetus looks like.”

In some instances, the ultrasounds have affected women in ways not intended by anti-abortion strategists. Because human features may barely be detectable during much of the first trimester, when 9 of 10 abortions are performed, some women find viewing the images reassuring.

“It just looked like a little egg, and I couldn’t see arms or legs or a face,” said Tiesha, 27, who chose to view her 8-week-old embryo before aborting it at the Birmingham clinic. “It was really the picture of the ultrasound that made me feel it was O.K.”

May 27, 2010

Abortion numbers drop in Cornwall – BBC News

Anti-abortion bill still sitting in Florida House – MiamiHerald.com

Teen Birth, Abortion Rates Among Canadians Down 37 Percent – AHN | All Headline News

Governor Vetoes Abortion Insurance Bill – News On 6

House Republican Leader Boehner to Receive Pro-Life Award at Right to Life Event – LifeNews.com

Groups urge G8 to improve health of women, children – CTV.ca

GOP-tea party favorite Maes wants it both ways on abortion – The Colorado Independent

SPUC launches legal challenge to abortion guidelines – BBC News

Sydney Joins UK Bishops in Denouncing Abortion Ads – Catholic.net

Maternal health and Canada’s culture war – True/Slant

Feminists can be anti-abortion – Chicago Tribune

Catholic Church Excommunicates A Nun Who Approved An Abortion – Forbes

Anti-abortion group backs Duffy for Congress – Chicago Tribune

Marie Stopes Abortion Ad Airs on British Television – Ms. Magazine

Mexico upholds morning-after pill for rape victims – The Associated Press

Abortion: a new debate proposed – National Post

Governor Henry Vetoes Abortion Bill On Insurance – KOKI FOX 23

SC state budget negotiations resume on $5B plan – BusinessWeek

States Enlist Ultrasound to Raise Bar for Abortions – New York Times

The Nation: When Teen Pregnancy Is No Accident – NPR

The Pill’ Is Birth Control Favorite in U.S. – BusinessWeek

Mexico upholds morning-after pill for rape victims – Washington Post

Bristol Palin reminds us why abstinence-based sex education fails – True/Slant

Report: Countries Cutting Donations To Fight HIV – MyStateline.com

AIDS Treatment Gap Widening in Africa – Voice of America

Changes To Midwives Exemptions, UK – Medical News Today

Refusing to Pay for Complications – New York Times

Uganda: Caravan to Fight Maternal Mortality – AllAfrica.com

May 28, 2010

G8 summit should be about women’s rights, not politics – Leduc Representative

Abortion foes delay sending bill to Crist – MiamiHerald.com

First UK ad for abortion services draws 350 complaints – The Guardian

Vote could come next week on state’s abortion bill – Greenville News

John McClain: Questioning Kagan’s credentials – Summit Daily News

Nc Abortion Opponents Push For ‘Choose Life’ Tags – WNCT

Marie Stopes abortion advice ad receives 370 complaints – CampaignLive

Gov carves out line-item vetoes – Topeka Capital Journal

Sex infections including HIV soar to record in Queensland  – Courier Mail

Indian project cuts childbirth deaths – AFP

News Law and Policy

California Lawmakers Take Action Against Rampant Wage Theft

Nicole Knight

A survey of people who work for low wages found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the "wage theft capital of the country."

Los Angeles has earned the distinction as the country’s wage theft capital, but a new California law is tackling the rampant problem of wage theft with new enforcement tools.

The law, SB 1342, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), gives city and county authorities subpoena powers when investigating wage violations. Until now, the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement was the primary agency charged with investigating wage theft cases.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) authored the legislation to “ensure that our low-wage workers, who already face many challenges, receive the pay that they have earned,” Mendoza wrote in an Orange County Breeze op-ed.

Wage theft is the illegal practice of failing to pay overtime and minimum wages, denying lunch breaks, or forcing employees to work off the clock. A survey of people who work for low wages by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the “wage theft capital of the country.”

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Some 654,914 workers in L.A. County are subjected to at least one pay-based violation in any given week, researchers noted.

Most people who work low-wage jobs in L.A. were born outside the United States, and the majority are Latino (73.4 percent), Asian (17.9 percent), or Black (6.3 percent), researchers found.

Wage theft is not only illegal, it contributes to food insecurity and housing instability in low-income families, Mendoza noted.

“This bill protects hard-working Californians by clarifying the ability of cities and counties to investigate non-compliance with local wage laws,” Mendoza said.

A legislative analysis of SB 1342 cited research noting that minimum wage violations are rampant in industries such as garment manufacturing, domestic service, building services, and department stores, where wages are low.

The measure comes as states and cities are increasing minimum wages as lawmakers in Congress have refused to consider raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Brown in April signed a law lifting the statewide minimum pay rate to $15 per hour by 2022. More than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have proposed or enacted $15 minimum wage rates, according to the National Employment Law Project.

News Abortion

Study: Telemedicine Abortion Care a Boon for Rural Patients

Nicole Knight

Despite the benefits of abortion care via telemedicine, 18 states have effectively banned the practice by requiring a doctor to be physically present.

Patients are seen sooner and closer to home in clinics where medication abortion is offered through a videoconferencing system, according to a new survey of Alaskan providers.

The results, which will be published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, suggest that the secure and private technology, known as telemedicine, gives patients—including those in rural areas with limited access—greater choices in abortion care.

The qualitative survey builds on research that found administering medication abortion via telemedicine was as safe and effective as when a doctor administers the abortion-inducing medicine in person, study researchers said.

“This study reinforces that medication abortion provided via telemedicine is an important option for women, particularly in rural areas,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, one of the authors of the study and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). “In Iowa, its introduction was associated with a reduction in second-trimester abortion.”

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Maine and Minnesota also provide medication abortion via telemedicine. Clinics in four states—New York, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington—are running pilot studies, as the Guardian reported. Despite the benefits of abortion care via telemedicine, 18 states have effectively banned the practice by requiring a doctor to be physically present.

The researchers noted that even “greater gains could be made by providing [medication abortion] directly to women in their homes,” which U.S. product labeling doesn’t allow.

In late 2013, researchers with Ibis Reproductive Health and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health interviewed providers, such as doctors, nurses, and counselors, in clinics run by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands that were using telemedicine to provide medication abortion. Providers reported telemedicine’s greatest benefit was to pregnant people. Clinics could schedule more appointments and at better hours for patients, allowing more to be seen earlier in pregnancy.

Nearly twenty-one percent of patients nationwide end their pregnancies with medication abortion, a safe and effective two-pill regime, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alaska began offering the abortion-inducing drugs through telemedicine in 2011. Patients arrive at a clinic, where they go through a health screening, have an ultrasound, and undergo informed consent procedures. A doctor then remotely reviews the patients records and answers questions via a videoconferencing link, before instructing the patient on how to take the medication.

Before 2011, patients wanting abortion care had to fly to Anchorage or Seattle, or wait for a doctor who flew into Fairbanks twice a month, according to the study’s authors.

Beyond a shortage of doctors, patients in Alaska must contend with vast geography and extreme weather, as one physician told researchers:

“It’s negative seven outside right now. So in a setting like that, [telemedicine is] just absolutely the best possible thing that you could do for a patient. … Access to providers is just so limited. And … just because you’re in a state like that doesn’t mean that women aren’t still as much needing access to these services.”

“Our results were in line with other research that has shown that this service can be easily integrated into other health care offered at a clinic, can help women access the services they want and need closer to home, and allows providers to offer high-level care to women from a distance,” Kate Grindlay, lead author on the study and associate at Ibis Reproductive Health, said in a statement.

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