October 16, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Huffington Post blogs, New York Magazine's "The Cut" and more.
CONTRACEPTION: "Jailed for Birth Control?" Alexander Sanger, Huffington Post blogs: "There is a sordid history to entrapment being used against advocates of reproductive freedom," spanning prohibitions on birth control in the early 1990s to the current attacks against Planned Parenthood, writes Alexander Sanger, chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and grandchild of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Alexander Sanger details how Margaret Sanger and his grandfather, William Sanger, were persecuted under the Comstock Laws, which "outlaw[ed] all methods to prevent conception, as well as any speech advocating the legalization thereof." He writes that his grandfather was entrapped by undercover agents after Margaret Sanger "penned a 16-page pamphlet, Family Limitation, which gave information on ... rudimentary methods" of contemporary birth control and fled to Europe "to avoid being railroaded to jail for her advocacy." However, Alexander Sanger notes that the "trial and sentence" of his grandfather "aroused the conscience of the nation" and led to the gradual overturning of Comstock laws nationwide. "Entrapment of reproductive freedom advocates will fail," Alexander Sanger writes, concluding that if women are prosecuted over their reproductive health choices, "[t]here aren't jails enough in this country to hold the women who would rather be in jail with their womanhood and self-respect intact than be told what to do with their bodies and their lives" (Sanger, Huffington Post blogs, 10/13).
What others are saying about contraception:
~ "Hobby Lobby Déjà Vu at the Supreme Court," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Speak Freely."
ABORTION PROVIDERS: "The First Legal Abortion Providers Tell Their Stories," Alex Ronan, New York Magazine's "The Cut": Ronan details short interviews with seven doctors who "began providing abortions before Roe or in the five years immediately following the ruling." Ronan writes, "As medical students, [these abortion providers] witnessed women dying from illegal, often self-induced abortions; as underground practitioners, they risked their livelihoods." He adds, "Since legalization, they've watched the rise of anti-abortion extremism, with bombings, assassinations, and attacks occurring in clinics around the country," but "[m]any are still practicing." In one interview, Curtis Boyd -- an abortion provider who started offering services in 1966 and is still practicing -- detailed how he performed illegal abortions referred to him by "a multidenominational clergy consultation group in Texas" that "was organized like an underground railroad." In another interview, Sadja Greenwood -- a retired provider who performed her first abortion in 1968 -- shares how her experiences of having her own illegal abortion and later seeing "'a woman die of an illegal abortion'" drove home "'the gap between people [who] had means and people [who] didn't.'" She said, "I just want people to realize that it's not a question of whether abortion is legalized or not, it's a question of whether women are going to have one that's medically safe or terribly unsafe," adding, "Every society that we know of, there have been abortions. Women are just as desperate not to have children as they are to have children." Another retired provider, David Grimes, discussed his experiences and expressed frustration with ongoing attempts to restrict abortion, noting, "The evidence is clear and incontrovertible that abortion is a safe and an important part of women's health and yet we still see this broad campaign of deception" (Ronan, "The Cut," New York Magazine, 10/13).
What others are saying about abortion providers:
~ "Dr. Michael M. Levi's 1974 Congressional Testimony Explains How Legal Abortion Saves Lives -- No Matter What Decade We're Talking About," Jaime Lutz, Bustle.
CRIMINALIZING PREGNANT WOMEN: "How 'Best Practices' in Neonatal Care Endanger Mothers Seeking Drug Treatment and Their Babies," Britni de la Cretaz, RH Reality Check: "Women who give birth to babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) are being criminalized -- and their babies are suffering as a result," de La Cretaz writes, citing cases of women being arrested after giving birth to infants with NAS in Alabama and Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. She writes, "Women, particularly poor women and women of color, are having their babies taken by child protective services, sometimes while they are thrown in jail, for an alleged addiction that needs treatment, not punishment." De la Cretaz notes that the protocols for treating infants with NAS are "hard" on both the woman and the infant, and they "may actually contribute to or exacerbate NAS symptoms in babies" by separating them from their mothers. According to de la Cretaz, recent research suggests that infants display fewer NAS symptoms when they are permitted to stay with the woman with a "rooming in" model of care. This care model also is less expensive, she writes, citing a 2013 study finding that "rooming-in decreased the average cost of a mother's hospital stay by half." De la Cretaz expresses optimism that even conservative lawmakers who "are championing policies that criminalize women for using drugs -- whether those drugs are licit or illicit" might be swayed by these cost benefits. "Rooming-in, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin contact have been shown to drastically improve the outcomes for babies with NAS and decrease the number of babies being diagnosed with it too," de la Cretaz writes, adding "Lives depend on these new protocols being implemented in hospitals around the country, and it can't happen soon enough" (de la Cretaz, RH Reality Check, 10/13).
What others are saying about criminalizing pregnant women:
~ "Whose Bodies Should Government Control?" Sally Kohn, The Atlantic.
CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTERS: "California Becomes the First State To Crack Down on Misleading 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers,'" Alex Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Last week, "California became the first state to pass a law [AB 775] regulating the nearly 170 anti-abortion clinics in the state," but just "48 hours later, two clinics had already sued California Attorney General Kamala Harris [D], deeming the new law unconstitutional," Zielinski writes. According to Zielinski, the law "requires clinics commonly referred to as 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers' (CPCs) to inform their patients about how they can obtain affordable birth control, abortion, and prenatal care" and, "[i]f the CPC does not have a medical license, staff must inform each patient that their ... clinic is not licensed to provide health care." She explains that the CPCs claim the law violates their free speech rights, an argument that "has been the key to shutting down similar laws in the past" in Austin, Baltimore and New York City. However, Zielinski notes that advocates are optimistic about the California law, which was crafted to "mee[t] all constitutional requirements" and "is backed by the state's attorney general, who is responsible for upholding the constitution." She concludes by citing Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, who noted that CPCs "'may claim this is a free speech issue, but it's really a public health issue ... When women are looking for trustworthy health care, they should get it. Right now, they're not" (Zielinski, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/13).
What others are saying about crisis pregnancy centers:
~ "The United States' Deceptive Anti-Abortion 'Pregnancy Centers' Are Going Global," Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."
~ "A New California Law Targets Crisis Pregnancy Centers -- but Will It Work?" Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor."
LGBT: "Can Doctors Keep up With the Growing Demand for Trans Health Care?" Zielinski, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Equal access to health care and coverage for transgender patients is quickly becoming a reality," Zielinski writes. For example, she cites the grocery store chain Kroger's decision to "offer its roughly 400,000 employees full health coverage for trans-related surgeries and drug therapy in 2016," as well as proposed Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) regulations "that would prohibit discrimination in health coverage on the basis of a person's gender identity." Yet despite these advances, "a general lack of comprehensive research, academic instruction, and cultural competency leaves many health care professionals empty-handed," Zielinski writes, noting, "At times, the best information comes from trans patients themselves -- a burden that can discourage them from returning for needed check-ups." According to Zielinski, "One of the biggest barriers to trans coverage lies in the technical details," with "[s]ome health care [providers] ... wary of treating trans patients at all because they don't want to wade into complicated insurance processes." She writes that "to understand these issues, along with the more trans-specific procedures, health providers need a stronger source of medical research to lean on." Zielinski adds, "Until federal and academic research catches up with trans health needs, case-by-case regulation -- sparked by patient complaints -- may be the fastest way to reform and educate both health providers and insurers" (Zielinski, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/15).
GLOBAL ISSUES: "North Korea Reportedly Bans Doctors From Performing Abortions, Implanting IUDs," Anna Merlan, Jezebel: Merlan writes about news reports that "North Korea has implemented a new policy forbidding doctors from performing abortions or implanting birth control devices like [intrauterine devices]" as "part of an effort to stem the country's falling birth rate." According to Merlan, "information about abortion and birth control use is hard to obtain" in North Korea, but the United Nations reports "that abortion has been legal in the country since 1950 up until the seventh month of pregnancy." However, she explains that the country's birth rate has declined amid "famine and widespread poverty," which in turn has "caused a panic about the dwindling population" and led "to the crackdown on abortion." The new abortion and birth control policy "was announced on October 8 during a lecture for healthcare workers" and "seems to indicate that doctors could face large fines or prison sentences if they're caught" (Merlan, Jezebel, 10/15).
REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: "Equal Pay Is a Reproductive Health Care Issue for Latinas," Vanessa Gonzalez-Plumhoff, Huffington Post blogs: "Equal pay is an issue for all women in this country, but unlike the 79 cents to every dollar statistic that most of us are familiar with, Latinas only make 55 cents for every $1 dollar paid to white men," writes Gonzalez-Plumhoff, director of Latino Leadership and Engagement at Planned Parenthood. "[E]qual pay and health care access are directly linked," she continues, noting, "Cost is already a barrier to accessing reproductive health care" and "[i]f you then tack on the costs to take off from work and pay for transportation, public or otherwise, or childcare, it makes health care that much more expensive, for many to the point that health care, even basic preventive services, is considered a luxury, no matter the pain or illness." Meanwhile, "[w]hen women have access to reproductive health care, they are able to better plan their families; they are more likely to continue and complete higher levels of education; and they are more likely to be economically stable and successful, benefiting themselves, their homes and families, and their communities," she writes. According to Gonzalez-Plumhoff, "That's why Planned Parenthood is committed to providing affordable high-quality access to health care for all women -- including the 575,000 Latinas we serve each year, regardless of immigration or health insurance status." She urges Congress "to combat the wage gap and prioritize fair pay" and calls on readers to participate in "the #LatinaEqualPay Twitter storm to have your voice heard" (Gonzalez-Plumhoff, Huffington Post blogs, 10/15).