National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Blogs Comment on Criminalization of Pregnant Women, Vandalism at Abortion Clinics, More

Blogs Comment on Criminalization of Pregnant Women, Vandalism at Abortion Clinics, More

March 21, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from Feministing, RH Reality Check and more.

CRIMINALIZATION OF PREGNANT WOMEN: "A Mississippi Teen is Facing Life in Prison for Using Cocaine During Her Pregnancy," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: A wave of "'fetal harm'" cases across the country "has already started working the principal of fetal personhood into the legal system," and "affecting women -- primarily those who ... are young, poor, and Black -- who used illegal drugs during their pregnancies," Dusenbery writes, citing the case of Rennie Gibbs, a black teenager in Mississippi who was charged with causing the death of her fetus after traces of cocaine were found during an autopsy after a stillbirth. Dusenbery notes that "concerns about cocaine exposure in utero -- popularized during widespread panic about 'crack babies' in the '80s and '90s -- have been 'wildly overstated.'" Dusenbery argues that cases like Gibbs' are not "really about protecting fetuses," but are "about asserting a state interest in protecting 'fetal personhood' at the direct cost of actual people's personhood" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 3/19).

ABORTION PROVIDERS: "As Susan Cahill Faces a Vandalized Clinic, a Reminder of Her Contribution to Abortion Access," Carole Joffe, RH Reality Check: While news of the recent vandalism of All Families Healthcare -- "the family medicine practice of Susan Cahill, a physician assistant," that also provides abortions -- has become well-known, lesser known "is Cahill's important role, more than 20 years ago, in a consequential event in U.S. abortion care history -- an event that continues to resonate today," Joffe writes. Joffe notes that Cahill, who "had been trained in abortion care in her PA program right after" the Roe v. Wade decision and "amassed an impressive safety record by 1990," participated in a symposium at the time on the then-shortage of abortion providers. Cahill's presentation "made an enormous impression on the attendees," stemming a recommendation that "certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants" be trained to provide abortions, Joffe explains (Joffe, RH Reality Check, 3/18).

HEALTH DISPARITIES: "Stress Kills: Economic Insecurity and Black Women's Maternal Health Outcomes," Elizabeth Dawes Gay, Echoing Ida/RH Reality Check: "The chronic stress of living in poverty -- of knowing a missed paycheck could leave you in dire straits, of not having enough to make ends meet -- is killing Black women who choose to become pregnant and give birth," writes Dawes Gay, a senior associate for programs and policy at the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. She notes, "Economic inequality ... takes a toll on health, even when people have health insurance coverage and access to important health care services." For example, "[r]esearch shows that chronic stress causes cardiovascular changes that increase blood pressure, which must remain stable during pregnancy and labor," because high blood pressure "is a risk factor for pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, low birth weight, pre-term birth, and damage to the mother's internal organs and other adverse conditions." Dawes Gay concludes that "if we want to see better maternal health outcomes for Black women, reproductive health and justice advocates must also work to achieve economic justice" (Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check, 3/19).

CONTRACEPTION: "If Hobby Lobby Wins, It Will Be Even Worse for Birth Control Access Than You Think," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": There is "much more at stake than prescription drug coverage" in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties' legal challenge to the contraceptive coverage rules, Culp-Ressler writes, noting that the two for-profit companies "object not just to covering specific types of birth control, but also to providing counseling about that birth control." She explains that this additional facet to the legal challenge means that if the companies win, "they'll win the right to refuse to extend coverage for doctor's visits that include discussion about certain forms of contraception," such as intrauterine devices and emergency contraception. As a result, employees of these companies will either have to visit a doctor and risk a "potential health burden" by not discussing birth control fully, or instead risk a "potential financial burden" by paying out-of-pocket, Culp-Ressler writes. She also notes that "companies that withhold coverage for some types of services often resist full disclosure" to those who are covered (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/19).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Catholic Nuns Come Out in Support of Obamacare Contraception Access," Callie Beusman, Jezebel.

~ "Are You There God? It's Me, Hobby Lobby," Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones.

'BUFFER ZONES': "One City's 6 Month Quest To Take Its Sidewalks Back from Anti-Abortion Protesters," Robin Marty, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The Englewood, N.J., City Council on Tuesday "unanimously passed an ordinance requiring an eight-foot buffer zone around all Englewood health care facilit[ies'] entrances, exits and driveways," Marty writes. She adds that the ordinance was adopted after increasingly aggressive protests outside of an abortion clinic in the city, Metropolitan Medical Associates, which "has been a longtime target for abortion opponents both locally and nationally." Marty writes that the buffer zone "is a much smaller distance than the one in place in Massachusetts, which is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court -- a factor that buffer [zone] supporters hope might allow an Englewood version to stay intact, even if the Massachusetts one ends up being overturned" (Marty, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/19).

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Women on the Side: Why Anti-Choicers Won't Win," Jessica Valenti, The Nation: "Republicans will never truly win women over" because abortion-rights opponents "cannot escape the truth of their movement: despite rhetorical efforts to the contrary, the foundation of fighting against abortion accessibility is the idea that women are less important than the pregnancies they can carry," Valenti writes. She adds that despite the Republican Party's "strategic shift from calling women murder[er]s to labeling them victims of abortion ... we understand in that in either case our health and rights are beside the point." She cites various examples of this sort of tactic, such as a bill in Iowa that would allow patients to sue abortion providers "after the procedure for 'pain and suffering,'" as well as abortion-rights opponents' "veneration of women who die for their pregnancies." Valenti writes, "The anti-choice movement cannot erase us from our own lives by insisting that abortion isn't necessary," adding, "The more they try, the stronger we'll get" (Valenti, The Nation, 3/18).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Louisiana House Committee Passes Admitting Privileges Bill," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check: "The Louisiana House Committee on Health and Welfare voted unanimously Wednesday to pass a bill [HB 388] that ... would require abortion providers to gain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform abortions," Wilson writes, adding that reproductive health advocates "say it would immediately close three of [the state's] clinics, leaving only the clinics that provide abortions in Shreveport." Wilson writes that the bill also would "impose restrictions on medication abortion, requiring a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion can be induced with medication, and implementing a reporting requirement for providers" that would require "some physicians in private practice to register with the state, making their names, location and status as an abortion provider all publicly available information." Wilson adds that the legislation, which is "reportedly backed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, has now moved to the house for a floor vote," where "it is expect[ed] to pass" (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 3/20).