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 –

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 –

Groups urge G8 to improve health of women, children –

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 –

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 –

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 –

May 28, 2010

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

Abortion foes delay sending bill to Crist –

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 Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Family Planning

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”

The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Federal law already bars health-care providers from using Medicaid dollars for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.

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The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.

At least ten states, including Arizona, have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding—the fallout from a string of deceptive smear videos masterminded by David Daleiden, the head of the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress, who now faces a felony record-tampering charge.

“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”

The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.

In April, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to all 50 states saying that cutting funding to qualified providers solely because they provide abortion care violates federal law.

Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.

2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.

In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.