Morning Roundup: Anti-abortion Group Disparaging Rep. Giffords

Beth Saunders

Earthquake that has not happened yet is pre-blamed on gay marriage, Lifesite.com wastes no time in calling Congresswoman Giffords a "pro-abort," male circumcision may reduce spread of HPV, teen pregnancy in DC, a "gay hot potato," and a beautiful tribute to the work of Planned Parenthood from an unlikely patient.

Earthquake that has not happened yet is pre-blamed on gay marriage, Lifesite.com wastes no time in calling Congresswoman Giffords a “pro-abort,” male circumcision may reduce spread of HPV, teen pregnancy in DC, a “gay hot potato,” and a beautiful tribute to the work of Planned Parenthood from an unlikely patient.

  • No need to look to seismologists to predict the next earthquake. (Science? Pish posh!) Christian “dominionists” are predicting an 8.0 earthquake for California because of Prop 8. This time it will apparently just be the fault of the gays, so the feminists, abortionists, pagans and ACLU (blamed for September 11 by Jerry Falwell) can take a step back.
  • Lifesite.com is using the tragic shooting rampage in Arizona as an opportunity to call Rep. Giffords a “pro-abort” and vilify the National Organization for Women, disparaging NOW’s president Terry O’Neill for the following e-mail to supporters, “conservatives cannot have it both ways, screaming sexist, racist and homophobic slurs at legislators as they vote for health care reform, putting legislators on a violence-inciting ‘Targets’ list, and then simply saying how sorry they are when someone explodes into murder.”
  • A new study is showing that male circumcision may reduce the transmission of HPV from male-to-female partners. HPV can lead to genital warts, cervical cancer, or reproductive health problems such as infertility. (And, in case you missed it in your calendar, January is cervical cancer awareness month.)
  • Washington Post columnist Colbert King discussed teen pregnancy in a recent column, quoting the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy as saying the condition is a “one-way ticket to persistent poverty.”
  • As a review of the issues facing the gay community in the new year, this is a great roundup, but I have to say that I chose it also for it’s fabulous title: New Year Brings Us The Same Ol’ Gay Hot Potato: Marriage.
  • In case you missed it, the New York Times printed a beautiful narrative of a Mormon woman’s trip to Planned Parenthood, a place she never thought she’d visit.

    Oddly, my trip to Planned Parenthood provided much that the church had not in recent years. During my exam, the clinician explained every move before she made it, asked permission to touch me during the most routine procedures. I was mystified: by her compassion, by the level of attention paid to my body — as if it were fragile, or sacred. Only then did it occur to me how many terrified and abused women Planned Parenthood must treat every day.

    And that brought me to tears, sorrowful for the ways in which we all suffer, in whatever ways we do, and grateful for the unlikely refuge of this place. Grateful also for the safety granted my own tears, prompted by the delicate weight of a hand on my shoulder, the warmth of her palm against my back.

    How unprepared I was to experience tenderness in the place I had been warned so vehemently against. How unprepared for the flood of relief, the bud of hope, after a life devoted to keeping myself separate from my body. Here was a path, an opening; here was empathy.

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Jan 7

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.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Group Wants National Abortion Data Reporting Law

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice activists claim that despite the evidence, the number of complications from abortion is higher than is being reported. States that track abortion care data have shown the procedure to be exceedingly safe.

A leading anti-choice organization is calling for a national database of abortion statistics and increased reporting requirements for states—proposals seen as part of a strategy to justify laws restricting access to abortion care.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down provisions of Texas’ omnibus anti-choice law known as HB 2. The ruling relied heavily on research that showed abortion care was a safe and well regulated procedure. Anti-choice activists have long disputed those claims.

Clarke Forsythe, acting president of Americans United for Life (AUL), told Politico that there is not enough data on abortion. “The abortion advocates like to talk in vague terms about abortion but we need specifics,” Forsythe said. “We don’t have a national abortion data collection and reporting law.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collected “abortion surveillance” data since 1969. The CDC published the most recent report on abortion statistics in 2012.

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Abortion surveillance reports are created by compiling data from health agencies, provided voluntarily to the CDC, in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and New York City. The data includes deaths from abortion related complications, but does not include the number of complications that don’t result in deaths.

Reporting requirements for abortion statistics vary from state to state, with 46 states requiring that abortion providers submit regular reports, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Most states report the number of abortion procedures performed as well as the type of procedure, the gestation of the pregnancy, and demographic data of the patient.

There are 27 states that require providers to report the number of complications from abortion procedures.

The self-described “legal architect” of the anti-choice movement, AUL has been heavily involved in lobbying for state and federal laws that restrict access to abortion. The organization creates copycat legislation and distributes anti-choice proposals to state lawmakers, who then push the measures through legislatures.

Forsythe took a victory lap Monday for the organization’s role in promoting bills from the AUL’s “playbook of pro-life legislation” that were introduced this year in state legislatures. “AUL continued to assist states considering health and safety standards to protect women in abortion clinics,” Forsythe said in a statement.

Dozens of bills to increase reporting requirements have been introduced in state legislatures over the past several years. These proposals include several types of reporting requirements for abortion providers, and many of the provisions are similar to those found in AUL model legislation.

Arizona legislators in 2010 passed SB 1304, which required abortion providers to submit annual reports to the state and required the state Department of Health Services (DHS) to publish an annual report.

The Republican-backed legislation is similar to copycat legislation drafted that same year by AUL.

Since the law’s passage there have been very few complications resulting from abortion procedures reported in the state: from 2011-2014, less than 1 percent of abortions procedures in the state resulted in complications.

Arizona reported that 137 patients experienced complications out of 12,747 abortion procedures in 2014; 102 patients experienced complications out of 13,254 abortion procedures in 2013; 76 patients had complications out of 13,129 abortion procedures in 2012; 60 patients experienced complications out of 14,401 abortion procedures in 2011.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, a physician at the University of California, San Francisco who studied the impact of HB 2 for the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), told Politico that abortion has been shown to be exceptionally safe medical procedure.

“There’s already a lot of data that have been published documenting how safe abortion is in the U.S.,” Grossman said.“The abortion complication rate is exceedingly low.”

Anti-choice activists claim that despite the evidence, the number of complications from abortion is higher than is being reported. Joe Pojman, the executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, told Politico that “better data” is needed.

Texas has required reporting of the number of complications from abortion procedures since 2013, and the data has shown that abortion complications are exceedingly rare. There were 447 complications out of 63,849 procedures in 2013 and 777 complications out of 54,902 procedures in 2014.

Pojman said that the Texas data “defies common sense” and that the complications are “are much smaller than what one would expect.”

The Texas abortion statistics reveal that it is safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term in the state. Between 2008 and 2013, the most recent years for which data is available, there were 691 maternal deaths in Texas, compared to one death due to abortion complications between 2008 and 2014.

“There’s no sign that there’s a hidden safety problem happening in Texas,” Grossman said.

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