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Blogs Comment on Health Care for Peace Corps Volunteers, Pope Francis, Anti-ACA Ads, More

Blogs Comment on Health Care for Peace Corps Volunteers, Pope Francis, Anti-ACA Ads, More

September 20, 2013 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the Ms. Magazine, Religion Dispatches and more.

PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS: "Sex and the Single Woman Peace Corps Volunteer: No Equity," Katie Early, Ms. Magazine blog: While the "Peace Corps is a model for international volunteer programs, in part due to the emphasis it places on volunteers' health," this standard does not apply to pregnancies among unmarried women, according to Early, a former Peace Corps volunteer. While care for married pregnant women is available for volunteers in most countries, "[u]nmarried women who want to go through with their pregnanc[ies] are required to leave their post," she explains. Additionally, "whether married or single, women who seek an abortion are flown to the U.S. on the pretense of medical need" and "left to arrange and pay for the procedure on their own" because of a 1979 law that "prohibits Peace Corps from covering abortion care for volunteers." Early applauds efforts in the Senate to add language to an appropriations bill "that will ensure that Peace Corps volunteers have the same rights as other women under federal health plans" that cover abortion (Early, Ms. Magazine blog, 9/17).

CATHOLIC CHURCH: "Pope Francis: Catholic Church is too 'Obsessed' With Abortion, Birth Control, and Gay Marriage," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": In a recent interview, "Pope Francis said he believes the Catholic Church has grown too 'obsessed' with social issues like abortion, birth control, and gay marriage," Culp-Ressler writes, noting, "The pope's statement is a sharp departure from many of the other leaders in the Church, who have recently been pressuring him to take a stronger stance on those issues." She adds, "In recent months, Pope Francis has made a name for himself as somewhat of a populist leader," including when he "personally called a rape victim to comfort her, condemned austerity policies for harming the poor" and went "out of his way to be welcoming toward atheists, Muslims, and women" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/19).

What others are saying about the Catholic Church:

~ "Pope Francis Distances Himself Further From the Right in New Interview," Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches' "Dispatches."

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: "New Anti-Obamacare Ads Depict Creepy Gyno Exams To Scare College Students Into Going Uninsured," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler responds to a new anti-ACA campaign by Generation Opportunity that aims to "convince" college students "to forgo signing up for health insurance" this fall. She notes that the ads -- which feature an "unsettling image of 'Uncle Sam'" -- try "to convey that Obamacare is a government overreach by suggesting that it will subject Americans to invasive exams." Culp-Ressler writes, "Ironically, it's actually Republican policies that threaten to subject female patients to state-mandated vaginal probes," noting that mandatory ultrasound laws require women seeking abortions "to have a medical procedure regardless of whether their own doctor actually thinks it's necessary" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/19).

What others are saying about the ACA:

~ "Ironic as Hell GOP Ad Says the Government Should Stay Out of Your Vag," Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel.

~ "Women's Health Insurance Coverage Remains Steady," Stephanie Glover, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake."

~ "Where Does Your State Rank? The Best and Worst for Women's Health Insurance Coverage," Glover, NWLC's "Womenstake."

CONTRACEPTION: "Bush-Appointed Appellate Judge Smacks Down Anti-Birth Control Lawsuit," Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": To date, courts considering challenges to the federal contraceptive coverage rules "have split largely -- although not entirely -- along party lines," Millhiser writes. However, Judge Julia Smith Gibbons -- who sits on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- is a "conservative, George W. Bush-appointed member" of the court, and her recent "vote to uphold the administration's rules should give supporters of reproductive freedom some amount of hope that the law will ultimately be upheld by the Supreme Court," according to Millhiser. He summarizes Gibbons' primary arguments in support of the rules, in which she said that a for-profit corporation's owners cannot "have their religious liberties violated by a law that only regulates their business" and that precedent "has consistently limited religious liberties claims to 'individuals and non-profit religious organizations'" (Millhiser, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/18).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "6th Circuit Says Your Boss Can't Say No to Your Birth Control," Leila Abolfazli, NWLC's "Womenstake."

~ "Contraceptive Rule Lawsuits Tally: Women Are Winning 2-1, and the Cases Are Headed to the Supreme Court," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights."

~ "So, You Think You're Cool Because You Hate Condoms?" Melissa White, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "Former Teen Mom: 'I Was Taught That if You Use Birth Control, You Can Get Cancer,'" Huffington Post blogs.

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH: "No More Needles in the Stomach: New, Non-Invasive Prenatal Test is Introduced," Martha Kempner, RH Reality Check: Kempner discusses cfDNA testing, a new prenatal test that analyzes "cell-free fetal DNA found in the pregnant person's blood" and thus only requires a blood draw, not a needle into the uterus, like an amniocentesis. She explains that cfDNA can, at nine weeks of pregnancy, detect the fetus' sex, several chromosomal abnormalities and sex chromosome anomalies. However, Kempner adds that while cfDNA tests "are more definitive and easier to understand" than older, more invasive tests, some doctors advise caution because each lab has to individually decide what constitutes a high- or low-risk cutoff point for a fetus' likelihood of having an abnormality. Kempner also notes that while early prenatal testing results "may make decisions about whether to continue a pregnancy easier for some women, ... it is still important that all patients have access to counselors who can help them process the news and make the best choice for themselves and their families." She notes that despite the concerns, experts believe the new test "will soon become the norm" (Kempner, RH Reality Check, 9/19).

"AFTER TILLER": "Six Reasons To See 'After Tiller' as Soon as Possible," Sarah Seltzer, RH Reality Check: While some abortion-rights advocates might worry that the new documentary "After Tiller" is too depressing to watch, Seltzer urges them to see the film, which focuses on the lives and work of the four third-trimester abortion providers in the U.S. She calls the film a way to "bear witness" and "alter the conversation" about abortion later in pregnancy. She says the documentary "breaks a major film taboo" by helping to "normalize" the experience of abortion, which one in three women will have. Seltzer also writes that the film will enable viewers to "have smarter, stronger conversations on later abortions." The doctors "are heroes, yet they're also human," and "their patients are the reason pro-choice advocates are in this fight -- not for blanket ideological principles," Seltzer adds (Seltzer, RH Reality Check, 9/19).

SUPREME COURT: "What if a Woman Had Been on the Bench Deciding Roe?" Robin Marty, Care2: Marty discusses a recent interview in which Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was asked whether having a woman on the court at the time of the Roe v. Wade decision would have made a difference in making the opinion less "clinical." Ginsburg responded that in a later case on abortion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor "did participate in this kind of very different tone," so that the decision "centered on the woman, not on the doctor-patient relationship." Marty comments, "If Roe had originally been focused more on the right of the woman than the legality of the procedure itself, we would be looking at a very different landscape." She adds, "That so much of Roe revolves around the abortion provider's right to terminate a pregnancy without fearing legal recourse becomes much more dangerous as we see access to medications that could cause an abortion greatly increasing, and access to real medical professionals who can safely and legally provide the same dwindling rapidly" (Marty, Care2, 9/18).