October 27, 2015 — Read the week's best commentary from bloggers at Huffington Post blogs, Broadly and more.
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Planned Parenthood Is What's Working," Caryn Lindsey, Huffington Post blogs: Lindsey discusses the importance of keeping Planned Parenthood funded, noting, "Planned Parenthood provides health care to over 4.6 million men and women each year, a population that largely relies on Medicaid to cover their expenses." She explains that "for those who are uninsured or relying on their state's Medicaid program," alternative provider options "are not as plentiful as we may want to believe." She writes, "With the alluring effects of staggering, big salary dollars in medical specialization, the result has been fewer and fewer available primary care and OB/GYN doctors," with few physicians in California and Texas, for example, accepting Medicaid beneficiaries as new patients. "The Journal of General Internal Medicine reports that the single most important factor associated with receiving preventive services is a regular source of care," Lindsey continues, adding, "For many, that regular source is Planned Parenthood," which provides care including contraception, Pap tests, testing for sexually transmitted infections, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and screenings for physical and sexual violence. Lindsey writes, "Eliminating Planned Parenthood and other family-planning clinics' funding is more than just an inconvenience," adding, "It's a disruption of access to medical care and safety, especially to low income individuals and families already facing greater health risks and threats of physical harm." She notes, "While some may believe it's as simple as changing locations and seeing another doctor, the reality is that closing down Planned Parenthood is a substantial public risk" (Lindsey, Huffington Post blogs, 10/23).
What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:
~ "Brave Portland Woman Breaks Up Planned Parenthood Protest by Chanting 'Yeast Infections!'" Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor."
~ "Abortion Fund Leaders Are Telling Our Stories To Spark Change, End Hyde," Yamani Hernandez, RH Reality Check.
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Study Shows How Distressing Anti-Abortion 'Vigils' Are For Women," Sarah Graham, Broadly: "[A]nti-abortion activists hanging around outside sexual health clinics is officially a 'source of distress' for women accessing abortion services ... according to a study by sociology researchers at Aston University in the UK, published earlier this week," Graham writes. Graham explains, "Once a uniquely American phenomenon, anti-abortion protests, or 'vigils,' have been springing up outside British abortion clinics for the last few years," with some protesters using "extreme tactics." The study found that "women were distressed simply by the presence of protesters as much as by their behavior," and that there "isn't a huge difference in the way ... women feel" about extreme tactics versus "less intense forms of protest, like silent prayer vigils," Graham writes. According to Graham, the study, which "used data provided by more than 200 British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) feedback forms," is the first study conducted in the U.K "to look specifically at women's experience of anti-abortion protests." The study featured feedback from women about the inappropriate "location of the anti-abortion protests," as well how such protests are "an intrusion on a private healthcare decision and an offensive challenge to their legal rights." According to Graham, "The research is likely to add weight to BPAS' ongoing 'Back Off' campaign for protest-free 'buffer zones' outside UK abortion clinics" (Graham, Broadly, 10/23).
CONTRACEPTION: "We're About To Get a Big Clue On How The Supreme Court Views Birth Control," Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The Supreme Court is "scheduled to consider whether to take up a birth control case" involving the contraceptive coverage rules' accommodation for not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious "at [its] October 30 conference," and which lawsuit it decides to consider "could reveal a great deal about how the justices view this issue," Millhiser writes. According to Millhiser, one of the two cases most likely to be considered by the Supreme Court is brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, although that lawsuit's "vehicle problem" lessens its chances of consideration. Millhiser explains that "the rules being challenged by religious objectors in these [contraceptive coverage] cases call for the government to negotiate directly with the objector's insurance administrator to provide birth control coverage to the objector's employees." However, "The Little Sisters' insurance administrator ... is an 'ERISA-exempt church plan,' a legal designation which means that the insurance company may also have the right to refuse to provide birth control coverage due to its own religious objections." As a result, "the Little Sisters case may be a case about nothing -- even if the Little Sisters lose, their employees still will not receive birth control coverage," which would make it "a bad vehicle for the Supreme Court to use to decide what happens in cases where something real is actually at stake," Millhiser writes. According to Millhiser, "For this reason, the solicitor general recommends that the Court take a different case, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Burwell, because the archbishop's petition 'presents all of the health coverage arrangements that have given rise to [religious objector's] challenges.'" Millhiser writes, "If the plaintiffs in this case lose, it is much clearer that some women who work for these plaintiffs will gain the ability to obtain birth control coverage through the process contemplated by the government." He explains that as the Little Sisters case "is certain to fuel conservative religious attacks against the Obama administration," the high court's decision to review the second case would be "a much more positive sign for the women who could be impacted by a victory for religious objectors" (Millhiser, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/26).
What others are saying about contraception:
~ "SCOTUS for Law Students: Sorting Out the Birth-Control Mandate," Stephen Wermiel, SCOTUSblog.
PREGNANT WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "Pregnant Behind Bars: How Expectant Mothers' Lives Are Under Threat," Victoria Law, Ms. Magazine blog: "As part of a six-month investigation for In These Times," Law "interviewed women who had been pregnant while incarcerated" and found that "jails and prisons fail" to provide adequate food to pregnant women, making it impossible "to have a safe and healthy pregnancy behind bars." According to Law, "Doctors, midwives and pregnancy guides typically recommend that pregnant women eat three or more servings of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein each day, as well as several servings of whole grain breads or other complex carbohydrates," but, even with special accommodations for pregnant women, jails and prisons often fall far short of that goal. Law writes that "not receiving adequate nutrition during pregnancy is not simply a cosmetic issue. It's a health issue that can have long-term (and possibly fatal) ramifications for both mother and fetus," such as an increased risk for high blood pressure, preeclampsia and diabetes. Law concludes by highlighting two New York City-based programs, Drew House and Justice Home, that forgo incarceration to "provid[e] housing for women and their families" or "allo[w] women to stay in their own homes" and work with program participants to "address the factors that got them entangled in the legal system and help them stay out" (Law, Ms. Magazine blog, 10/23).
GLOBAL ISSUES: "To Save The Lives of Babies And Mothers, Ask For Advice From Peru," Susan Brink, NPR's "Goats and Soda": Citing a new report from the World Health Organization, Brink writes about how Peru "cut maternal deaths by an annual average rate of 4.4 percent and childhood deaths by an average rate of 6.2 percent a year" since 2008. She explains that Peru addressed the mortality rates by "extend[ing] health care to rural areas and urban slums" and "offer[ing] cash to families if women went for prenatal care and if their children received vaccinations and other health care." The country also "boosted per capita spending on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health programs from $72 per person in 1999 to $2,135 in 2012" and "incorporated health and nutrition components within all national anti-poverty programs." Overall, the WHO report found that among the "75 ... poorest countries on earth ... the number of children who died each year before the age of 5 dropped by 53%" since 1990, while "maternal deaths ... have fallen by 45 percent," Brink writes. However, she notes that WHO in the report stated that "5.9 million children still die of preventable and treatable causes ... and 289,000 women still die each year of complications of pregnancy and childbirth." Brink concludes by quoting Dr. Cesar Victora of Brazil's Federal University of Pelotas, who said that curbing these mortality rates "means reducing inequality," which is what "a lot of countries are striving to do ... by providing more comprehensive health care" (Graham, "Goats and Soda," NPR, 10/23).
CLINICAL RESEARCH: "The NIH Still Isn't Doing Enough To Advance Women's Health," Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor": "Despite a 1993 mandate that women and people of color be represented in all clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health, the NIH is still not doing enough to ensure women's participation and assess sex differences in treatment outcomes," Cauterucci writes, citing a new report from the Government Accountability Office. According to Cauterucci, the GAO report found that while "women now outnumber men in enrollment across the NIH's entire portfolio of clinical trials, the NIH does not provide demographic data any more specific than the aggregate sex breakdowns of enrollees at each institute or center it funds," which makes it "impossible for the NIH, the general public, or regulatory committees to determine whether women are sufficiently represented in individual trials or research on specific diseases." Further, Cauterucci notes, "Even the Women's Health Advisory Committee, which monitors the NIH's progress and compliance with the 1993 mandate, has only been able to analyze data collected on the agency as a whole, not on the trials it funds." She concludes by noting that NIH has agreed to comply with GAO recommendations that "the NIH collect and report more specific data on women's participation in the studies that receive its grants and whether those studies include an evaluation of sex-specific outcomes" (Cauterucci, "XX Factor," Slate, 10/26).