December 16, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" and more.
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Government Spending Bill Quietly Resolves Peace Corps Abortion Coverage Debate," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The Senate's passage of "a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill ... signals the quiet end to a fight over abortion coverage that has been playing out over the past year," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that the legislation "includes a provision to extend abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment -- bringing volunteers' coverage in line with the health care that all federal employees receive." According to Culp-Ressler, reproductive rights advocates are "celebrating" the provision's passage after attempts to extend such coverage to Peace Corps volunteers was repeatedly "blocked by GOP lawmakers in the House" over the last several years. Still, she notes that the bill generally "maintains the status quo on insurance coverage for abortion services" for recipients of federally funded health benefits by "includ[ing] longstanding bans on abortion coverage for [Washington, D.C.'s] Medicaid recipients and for federal prisoners." The spending bill also "maintains about the same level of funding for family planning programs" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/15).
What others are saying about abortion restrictions:
~ "Court Passes up RU-486 Abortion Issue, Again," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog.
~ "The GOP's Hidden Ban on Prison Abortions," Harold Pollack, Daily Beast.
~ "The Helms Amendment: Facepalm," Emily Gillingham, Law Students for Reproductive Justice's "Repo Repro."
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Climate Change, Evolution, and Now Abortion: Why Conservatives Mislead About Facts," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: While it has "long been a media and political truism that the abortion debate is primarily a struggle over morals and values, pitting concern for embryonic life against women's right to bodily autonomy," the recent "political landscape" has made it "clear that the anti-choice movement has basically abandoned that moralistic strategy when it comes to their actual political activism," Marcotte writes. She notes that while antiabortion-rights advocates "still lean on the 'pro-life' angle in internal messaging to supporters and while harassing women outside of clinics," they "[c]reate the illusion of a scientific controversy where none exists, and use that as a pretext to push a right-wing agenda" when trying to "mak[e] change happen on a legislative or judicial level." According to Marcotte, their "idea is to create the illusion ... that there is a serious medical debate over the dangers of abortion to a woman's physical and mental well-being, and use that to argue that a bunch of laws making it harder to obtain abortions are necessary," when in fact "abortion is extremely safe" when conducted "in legal clinics in the United States" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 12/15).
CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Pregnant Wisconsin Woman Jailed Under State's 'Personhood'-Like Law," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Mason Pieklo compares a Wisconsin substance-misuse law (Act 292) to antiabortion-rights "personhood" laws by discussing the case of Tamara Loerstcher, a woman in Wisconsin who was arrested under Act 292 after disclosing her past substance use to hospital workers during her pregnancy. Mason Pieklo explains that the Wisconsin law effectively "grants 'personhood' rights to fertilized eggs and embryos by granting the state power to initiate child protective actions against the expectant mother anytime the state believes she has substance use issues that will 'seriously affect' the health of the egg, embryo, fetus, or child." Mason Pieklo notes that Loerstcher was "not the first" woman prosecuted under Wisconsin's law and that several other states "have some kind of process in place that allows the state to effectively suspend the civil rights of pregnant people in the name of protecting against fetal harm" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 12/12).
CONTRACEPTION: "We've All Been There, and an Over-the-Counter Pill Should Be There for Us," Mara Gandal-Powers, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center: "[T]here should be at least one birth control pill available over-the-counter" so that "women will be able to use the birth control method that they have determined is best for them when they need it," writes Gandal-Powers, counsel for health and reproductive rights at NWLC, noting that many women using birth control have had a situation in which they "needed to get pills and couldn't because [they] couldn't get a prescription in time." Gandal-Powers urges people to learn "more about why an over-the-counter birth control pill makes sense" by visiting FreethePill.org. OTC availability "doesn't mean every pill that anyone could ever want should be on the shelves," she writes, noting that the OTC pill "could be one specific ... progestin-only pill, which has very few contradictions" and for which "women are able to self-screen." Further, she notes that if an OTC policy were enacted, women "should still see their providers regularly for well-woman visits" and insurers would still be required to cover contraceptives in accordance with the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), as long as women have a prescription (Gandal-Powers, "Womenstake," NWLC, 12/15).
What others are saying about contraception:
~ "Surprise, Surprise: Increased Contraceptive Use Leads to Fewer Unintended Pregnancies," Anita Little, Ms. Magazine blog.
~ "The Right is Coming for Your Birth Control -- They Just Don't Want You To Know it Yet," Katie McDonough, Salon.
SEX EDUCATION: "California Parents Outraged Their Kids Are Learning About Consent, Gender Identity," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": In November, a group of parents in the Acalanes Union High School District in Northern California "formed a coalition called NOISE -- which stands for 'No to Irresponsible Sex Education' -- to pressure school officials to drop Planned Parenthood's [sex education] curriculum," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler explains that the parent group has accused "Planned Parenthood of trying to pressure their kids into having sex," with specific objections against "a 'genderbread person' tool that teaches kids about the spectrum of sexuality and gender" and "a checklist that helps kids decide whether they're ready for sex" and communicate effectively with potential partners. Culp-Ressler notes that district officials "have defended the sex ed courses," adding that "a recent study confirmed that a sex education curriculum developed by [Planned Parenthood] effectively helps kids delay having sex" and that "[m]ost Americans overwhelmingly support comprehensive sex ed" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/12).