August 14, 2015 — Read the week's best commentary from bloggers at Health Affairs Blog/Ms. Magazine blog, RH Reality Check and more.
CONTRACEPTION: "Family Planning Is at Risk: Here's What You Need To Know," Kinsey Hasstedt, Health Affairs Blog/Ms. Magazine blog: "Congress has Title X -- still the only federal grant program dedicated entirely to family planning and related preventive health care -- in its sights for severe funding cuts or even elimination," Hasstedt writes. According to Hasstedt, the House "has proposed ending the program for the fifth year in a row," while the "Senate is recommending a sizable reduction to Title X's budget" and several lawmakers in Congress "remain committed to defunding" Planned Parenthood. "These ideologically driven proposals come despite a wealth of evidence demonstrating the tremendous benefits of investing in Title X and the publicly funded family planning network writ large," Hasstedt writes. For example, Hasstedt cites several data sources showing how, in 2013, the Title X-supported centers "served 4.6 million clients"; how "the Title X network met one-fifth of U.S. women's need for publicly funded family planning services"; and how family planning centers supported by Title X "helped women prevent 1 million unintended pregnancies." Further, she notes that Title X-supported centers help guide eligible individuals to private or public coverage options and help provide affordable health care for people ineligible for health coverage; provide confidential care specifically for "those who are disadvantaged by age or income"; and "se[t] national policies and medical standards of care for family planning service delivery." Noting that "[a]ccessible, quality family planning care is essential in women's lives" and benefits "society as a whole," Hasstedt writes, "In short, the public investment in Title X is smart government at its best and should be expanded, not diminished" (Hasstedt, Health Affairs Blog/Ms. Magazine blog, 8/12).
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "You Can't Separate Abortion From The Rest Of What Planned Parenthood Does," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler writes about a problematic, "very old narrative that many of Planned Parenthood's supporters have recently adopted: Downplaying the group's role as an abortion provider to make the case that it's worthy of support." According to Culp-Ressler, this approach is based in "the assumption that it's possible to separate abortion services from the rest of women's reproductive health care" and, as the current "standard for current U.S. policy in the field of reproductive health, has been harming patients for decades." For example, she notes how the Hyde Amendment restricts the use of taxpayer funding for abortion; how the "political nature of the issue has dissuaded many public hospitals from performing abortions" and relegated the procedure "to stand-alone clinics that are left more vulnerable to anti-abortion harassment" and how abortion-rights opponents are using the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), to try "to restrict insurance coverage for the procedure even further, continuing to prevent abortion from being streamlined into the rest of medical care." However, the "need for abortion services doesn't exist in a vacuum," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that women with unintended pregnancies likely require a host of additional health care services, including contraceptive consultation or a gynecological exam. Culp-Ressler writes, "Downplaying Planned Parenthood's abortion services in favor of highlighting the 'good' things that the organization does reinforces this separation and this stigma," which "creates an implicit hierarchy for the types of services that 'good' patients visit their local Planned Parenthood clinic to receive" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).
What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:
~ "As Threats to Autonomy Intensify, Alabama Feminists Fight for Reproductive Freedom," Stephanie Gilmore, RH Reality Check.
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Is Defunding Planned Parenthood Against The Law? These States Better Watch Out," Lauren Barbato, Bustle: The U.S. government on Wednesday warned several states working to eliminate Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood "that defunding Planned Parenthood may be a federal violation that comes some with some mighty consequences," Barbato writes. She notes that while New Hampshire's decision to strip state funding for Planned Parenthood "is excused from federal oversight," because its measure does not block Medicaid funding, HHS has "contacted officials in Alabama and Louisiana over the loss of Medicaid funding, noting that canceling their state contracts with Planned Parenthood is a major federal violation." According to Barbato, a CMS "spokesperson said these two states -- and others who are currently thinking about eliminating funding to the family-planning organization -- would be restricting access to much-needed health services provided under Medicaid." She notes, "While New Hampshire may be off the hook (for now), there are several other states ... that need to proceed with caution in the following weeks," including Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. "If states do go ahead and eliminate Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, they would need to hold a federal hearing, which may not bode well for Planned Parenthood foes," she writes, adding that "federal courts have sided with the Obama administration in the past in the cases of Arizona and Indiana, which both failed to strip total funding from Planned Parenthood centers" (Barbato, Bustle, 8/13).
What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:
~ "Why Scientists Are Terrified Of Supporting A Valuable Medical Research Practice," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."
~ "Man Who Allegedly Stole Abortion Clinic Signs Charged with Hate Crime," Anna Merlan, Jezebel.
CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Alabama, Jane Doe, and the Dangers of Fetus-First Laws," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "Every part of" an Alabama inmate's recent attempt to obtain an abortion, "from her initial arrest under Alabama's chemical endangerment statute for reportedly using drugs while pregnant, to the state's unrelenting and coercive campaign to force her to continue her pregnancy even while threatening to terminate Doe's parental rights, is illustrative of what happens when the law prioritizes the potential of fetal life over the actual life of the pregnant person," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, the chemical endangerment law under which Doe was arrested is "quickly establishing fetal 'personhood' rights in the state" and has been used to prosecute at least 180 pregnant women or new mothers since its enactment in 2006. In Doe's case, the prosecutors "argued that both Doe's pending charges for endangerment and her request in federal court for a furlough for an abortion was evidence enough that the state should step in and retain custody of Doe's developing pregnancy," Mason Pieklo writes, adding, "This takes the campaign for fetal rights to its most terrifying conclusion." Citing similar efforts in other states, as well a proposed fetal-rights measure (SB 26) in Alabama, Mason Pieklo writes that Doe's case shows how, "if given the opportunity, anti-abortion advocates will try and use the power of the state to strip all reproductive agency from pregnant or potentially pregnant people" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 8/12).