Roundup: ella and Iowa, A Tale of Two Anti-Choice Outrages

Robin Marty

Telemed procedures in Iowa, a possible longer window of opportunity for using a new morning after contraceptive?  It's hard to tell what upsets the anti-choice more these days.

It’s hard to decide today which has anti-choice people in a greater tizzy: Iowa Planned Parenthood’s decision to allow doctors to teleconference with women who are going to take RU-486 rather than force them to travel hours or set aside days in order to obtain the drug, or the new “morning after pill” that would allow women who had unprotected sex a bigger window in which to prevent unintended pregnancy.  Ironically, their fevered protest of both shows how their arguments are simply about forcing women into pregnancy.

The “telemedicine” or “telemed” approach allows women to go to their local clinic, rather than travel all the way into Des Moines to see the licensed physician face to physical face.  From the Ames Tribune:

 Marsha Dorhout, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s director of communications and marketing, calls Ames a “melting pot serving several counties.”

 She said the telemedicine option for medical abortion is just one way to serve the needs of 4,200 women and men who visit the clinic annually for services ranging from general heath care to reproductive services.

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 Dr. Tom Ross, one of Planned Parenthood’s doctors, said he talks to patients, asking his questions and answering any of theirs, as if he is speaking to them in person.

 For some, however, the program tests the already complicated bounds of telemedicine.

 Abortion opponents, who say they fear for the safety of women who undergo abortions after consulting with doctors who have never actually been in the same room with them, filed a complaint this spring with the Iowa Board of Medicine, arguing that a doctor’s remote clicking of a mouse hardly meets the state’s law requiring licensed physicians to perform abortions.

Of course, anti-choicers are sounding their objections, claiming they are only trying to protect the women taking the pills from harm.  The Guardian reports:

The New York Times reports that anti-abortion advocates claim to oppose the Iowa teleconferencing programme because they fear for the safety of women who take the abortion pill without a doctor present. You know, just in case something goes wrong.

Aww. What heartwarming and thoughtful concern for women’s safety, from people nostalgic for the days when abortions could only be had via coat hangers in back alleys…

Of course, these doctor visits – online or in real life – wouldn’t be required in the first place if not for medically unnecessary legal roadblocks set up by anti-abortion concern trolls in the Iowa legislature. Imagine if Christian Scientists enjoyed the same government influence as the anti-choice anti-sex crowd: “Take one penicillin pill with water, every 12 hours for 10 days. Each pill must be swallowed in the presence of a licensed physician – hey! Watching on a webcam doesn’t count! Think about it: with this scheme, one GP sitting in his pyjamas at home could prescribe literally thousands of antibiotics a week. This is about expanding their infectious-patient base.”

Anti-abortion concern trolls in Iowa deserve the same response as drug warrior concern trolls opposing harm-reduction measures for narcotics: give up the pretence, guys. You’re not motivated by concerns for their safety and you’re not fooling anyone that you are; you just don’t like what they’re doing, and want them to suffer as much as possible.

If there needed to be any more proof that the claim of “protecting the woman’s safety” is a joke, a column from the head of Dubuque County Right to Life in TH Online makes it pretty clear.

The real issue of concern is that the telemed abortion procedure is a disturbing new trend in the abortion industry that is endangering the lives and health of thousands of women. To date, the manufacturer admits 29 women have died from using RU-486.

A telemed abortion is performed via a teleconferencing service similar to Skype. Patients are put in a room where an off-site abortionist appears on a computer monitor and explains the abortion procedure to them over an Internet hook-up. After the brief teleconference — but no physical examination by the abortionist — the abortionist remotely unlocks a dispenser and the dangerous abortion drug RU-486 is administered to the pregnant mother.

Telemed abortion involves two steps. First, the abortionist instructs the mother to ingest the first pill in front of the camera while she is in the office. Second, she is given a second prescription to take at home. The second drug, to be ingested within 48 hours, causes uterine contractions to expel the unborn child. The result is that the mother aborts her own child at home.

The consequences of this procedure are frightening. Young mothers will face the horrific reality of seeing their aborted baby and then flushing him or her down the toilet. Emergency rooms will see an increase of young women coming in with excessive bleeding and hemorrhaging due to taking this drug.

There is no longer a disconnect between Planned Parenthood and abortion in Dubuque. The truth is that eventually babies, the most innocent and defenseless members of our society, will die in Dubuque via tele-murder.

See, he started out worried for the poor women who might have to face the horror of seeing their aborted fetuses, or possibly experience some complications, but in the end it’s the “dead innocent babies” that really upset him, not the allegedly compromised mothers.

It’s this mentality that has made the anti-choice movement focus on a new target, the possible use of the French drug ella in the U.S.  Similar in makeup to the current morning after pill, Ella could provide a larger window for preventing unwanted pregnancy immediately after intercourse: up to five days rather than the previous 72 hours.  But of course, like all hormonal birth controls, the anti-choice hate it because it may possibly inhibit implantation.

From the Washington Post:

The controversy sparked by that ambiguity promises to overshadow the work of a federal panel that will convene next week to consider endorsing the drug. The last time the Food and Drug Administration vetted an emergency contraceptive — Plan B, the so-called morning-after pill — the decision was mired in debate over such fundamental questions as when life begins and the distinction between preventing and terminating a pregnancy. Ella is raising many of those same politically charged questions — but more sharply, testing the Obama administration’s pledge to keep ideology from influencing scientific decisions.

Plan B, which works for up to 72 hours after sex, was eventually approved for sale without a prescription, although a doctor’s order is required for girls younger than 17. The new drug promises to extend that period to at least 120 hours. Approved in Europe last year, ella is available as an emergency contraceptive in at least 22 countries.

Ella is being welcomed by many U.S. advocates for family planning and reproductive rights as a much-needed additional form of emergency contraception. Opponents of the drug, however, argue that the French company and the FDA would be misleading the public by labeling ella as an emergency contraceptive. Its chemical similarity to RU-486 makes it more like the controversial abortion pill, which can terminate a pregnancy at up to nine weeks, they say. RU-486 has soared in popularity since approval 10 years ago in the United States, raising the possibility that ella (ulipristal acetate) might become ubiquitous in American women’s medicine cabinets.

The usual suspects are declaring it abortion in all but name, of course.

Critics say marketing the drug as a contraceptive is misleading because of its similarity to RU-486, which can terminate a pregnancy at up to nine weeks.

“With (ella) women will be enticed to buy a poorly tested abortion drug, unaware of its medical risks, under the guise that it’s a morning-after pill,” said Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, which led the battle against the morning after pill.

And as the Post reminds us, the real point is that their definition of “life” is very different than most of ours.

“It kills embryos, just like the abortion pill,” said Donna Harrison, president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Critics fear that women who do not realize they are already pregnant will use the drug, unwittingly giving themselves an abortion.

“The difference between preventing life and destroying life is hugely significant to many women,” said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity. “Women deserve to know that difference.”

Once more, it’s all about protecting women from hurting themselves in their own ignorance.  Just like telemed in Iowa allegedly is, as well.

Mini Roundup: Mother and doctors who help 9 year old abort her twins after being raped are excommunicated, while her stepfather the rapist is notAmericans United for Life finally realize that the ultrasound law was a PR loser, and chide Crist for “allowing taxpayer funded abortions” instead.  And anti-choice leaders froth at the idea that someone might put economics and other concerns over making elections about the “unborn” and “traditional marriage.”

June 11, 2010

Iowa’s anti-abortion concern trolls – The Guardian

Free Exercise v. Abortion in the Military – Beliefnet.com

Abortion Bills by the Numbers – Center For American Progress

Activists set to contend over Kagan nomination – Biddeford Journal Tribune

Huckabee fundraises against Gov. Mitch Daniels’s ‘social truce’ – Washington Post

Nicaragua refuses to lift abortion ban – The Guardian

New ‘morning-after’ pill, ella, raises debate over similarity to abortion drug – Washington Post

Pro-Abortion Boxer Leads Pro-Life Carly Fiorina in California by Five Percent – LifeNews.com

Amendment to overturn ban on abortions at military facilities causing a stir – FierceHealthcare

Promise of an Optimal Future for Women and Girls – TwoCircles.net

‘Choose Life’ Plates Available At RMV Soon – WBZ

Family Research Council Disagrees With Mitch Daniels – FrumForum

Sarah Palin viewed as a modern-day prophet to Evangelicals, Newsweek profile … – New York Daily News

Kagan Took Lead Role in Fight Over Abortion Limits, Papers Show – BusinessWeek

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist vetoes ultrasound abortion bill – USA Today

Statement on Crist Veto of HB 1143 – Standard Newswire

Crist vetoes ultrasounds bill – Creative Loafing Tampa

‘Choose Life’ license plate causes controversy – WHDH-TV

Alabama Health Dept. forces closure of abortion clinic – WSFA

Medication Abortion Drug Distributed Via Telemedicine – KWQC 6

New birth control pill re-ignites debate – UPI.com

Kagan memos on abortion limits, religious rights – The Associated Press

Florida Governor Vetoes Abortion Bill – New York Times

‘Choose Life’ license plate causes controversy – WHDH-TV

Melinda Gates on 350000 Childbirth Deaths: ‘We Can Prevent Most’ – Politics Daily

Rossi resists defining himself on abortion – TheNewsTribune.com

PHILIPPINES: Poor women pay for contraception – IRINnews.org

Africa: US Summit Sets Agenda for Women – AllAfrica.com

Panel votes to keep restrictions on gay blood donations – Washington Times

AIDS groups protest FIFA ban policy– Las Vegas Sun

June 12, 2010

‘Life and traditional marriage are not bargaining chips nor are they political’ – WND.com

‘Choose life’ tags roil critics – Boston Herald

Funding abortion on military bases – Washington Times

Kagan Played Lead Role in Abortion Rights Fight Under Clinton – BusinessWeek

Abortion veto puts Crist in the middle – MiamiHerald.com

Crist vetoes abortion bill, takes fire from all sides – Florida Times-Union

Medication Abortion Drug Distributed Via Telemedicine – KWQC 6

Local news: Cox garners Right to Life endorsement – Detroit Free Press

Florida Governor Charlie Crist moves to the center, vetoes Republican-backed … – Examiner.com

Canada cheered, jeered at maternal health conference for G8 initiative– Lethbridge Herald

State laws used to go after right to abortion – The Militant

New French Emergency Contraceptive Pill May Soon Be Available in US – Tech Jackal

Dozens of teenage girls have had three abortions or more – Telegraph.co.uk

The Year of the (Pro-Life) Woman – New York Times

Scientology and abortion – Tampabay.com

“ella:” Contraceptive Method or Abortion Agent? – Food Consumer

Abortion drugs available through video link – Ames Tribune

How India’s six-child family became three – Toronto Star

‘Natural’ new pill could lift sex drive – Sydney Morning Herald

Treatment saves lives, money – Vancouver Sun

June 13, 2010

Multiple Abortion On The Rise – Christian Doctors Blame Liberal Sex Education … – allvoices

New Anti-Abortion Laws Whittling Away at Women’s Right to Choose – The Faster Times

Brazil: Abortion fight for raped girl, 9 – Toronto Star

GLOBAL: Healthy women mean healthier nations – IRINnews.org

Abortion among girls on the increase in South-Tongu District – GhanaWeb

Close to 200 attend rally in support of abortion – Montreal Gazette

Abortion Doctor Honored By Oklahoma Group – KTUL

Teens who are on THIRD abortion as girls fail at contraception– Mirror.co.uk

New contraceptive pill “ella” effective for 5 days after unprotected sex – The Money Times

June 14, 2010

Letter: ‘Pro choice’ no substitute for ‘pro abortion’ – St. Augustine Record

Taking Ottawa to task on abortion – Montreal Gazette

Does Crist veto open door to taxpayer funded abortions? – WDBO Radio

‘The pill’ marks 50th anniversary – AsiaOne

A baby is born, a mother dies – The Guardian

The battle for maternal healthcare – The Guardian

Women risk HIV in forced marriages – Toronto Star

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 Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.