Health/Reproductive Rights


Jehmu Greene
President, Women's Media Center

The Women's Media Center applauds the many important victories for women and our families in the landmark health care reform legislation including the elimination of gender as a pre-existing condition and the extension of insurance coverage to include birth control. Though historic, the passage of the bill is also bittersweet. We cannot ignore the fact this bill was passed only after a pro choice President appeased a gang of anti-choice legislators by agreeing to sign an Executive Order restating the Hyde Amendment - a longstanding and shameful provision which bars low-income women from accessing reproductive health care.

Bart Stupak caved and ultimately failed. This is a victory for the health care of American women, but only a partial one. The executive order may or may not expand the Hyde Amendment's already devastating impact; only time will tell. What we do know is that the health care bill includes the Nelson amendment which imposes significant restrictions on access to reproductive health care. Until women's perspectives, positions, and priorities are fully incorporated into our nation's policies, ego-tripping representatives out for their fifteen minutes of fame will again and again attempt to use our reproductive rights to highjack legislation. Now is the time to channel our outrage into action by working to permanently defeat Hyde and purge the ranks of elected officials who would compromise the lives of women for political gain. In the post-vote analysis, much will be said on how women respond to our reproductive rights being used as a bargaining chip to guarantee passage of the bill. Stay tuned to the Women's Media Center. Here are a few must-read statements on behalf of women:

* Planned Parenthood
* Raising Women's Voices
* Women's Campaign Forum
* Catholics for Choice

Read more
posted 24 March 2010


Remarks at UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Millennium Development Goals'
Maternal and Child Health Event

By Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State

Well, as you can imagine, for many of us in this room as I look around, this is a day that we have long waited for. And we are delighted to be part of this important initiative, and I thank the Secretary General for his leadership and congratulations on this remarkable effort. We look forward to working with you.

And the Obama Administration has put women and children at the heart of our development efforts, including our Global Health Initiative, a $63 billion initiative, to strengthen maternal and child health, family planning, nutrition, malaria prevention and
treatment, HIV/AIDS, and TB programs. ...

In that spirit, I am pleased to announce a new joint effort between the development agencies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This five-year alliance aims to increase access to family planning and reduce maternal and neonatal deaths in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more
posted September 23, 2010

The New Abortion Providers


On a clear and mild March day in 1993, the Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry spoke at a rally in southern Florida against abortion. "We've found the weak link is the doctor," he told the crowd. "We're going to expose them. We're going to humiliate them." A few days later, Dr. David Gunn, an abortion provider, was shot and killed outside his clinic in Pensacola, Fla., about 500 miles away. It was the first of eight such murders, the extreme edge of what has become an anti-abortion strategy of confrontation.

Terry understood that focusing on abortion providers was possible because they had become increasingly isolated from mainstream medicine. That was not what physicians themselves anticipated after the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. An open letter signed by 100 professors of obstetrics and gynecology predicted that free-standing clinics would be unnecessary if half of the 20,000 obstetricians in the country would do abortions for their patients, and if hospitals would handle "their proportionate share." OB-GYNs at the time emphasized that abortion was a surgical procedure and fell under their purview.

Read more
posted 16 July 2010

Military shifts on reproductive health


With a couple of quiet changes to long-standing rules, the military is on track to make 2010 a year in which its reproductive health policies are significantly liberalized.

In February, the military began requiring all of its hospitals to stock emergency contraceptives. And now, a Senate amendment to the defense authorization bill would authorize military hospitals to perform elective abortions. 

“I do think it’s a sign of the times,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “It’s the recognition that reproductive health care for women is basic health care. The world has changed, and women play a larger role in the military. These are all very positive steps.

Read more
posted 19 June 2010


Campaigning for Common Ground in Abortion Debate


What if groups that demanded reproductive choices for women actually offered them?

Mark these words: Adoption Access Network. Few people have ever heard of it, but it’s the rare phenomenon (we’re talking meteor-strike rare) that feminists on both sides of the abortion debate — the Sarah Palin-mama grizzly variety, as well as the old-school, march-on-Washington kind — can get behind.

The idea is simple. It is about choice. Not choice as a euphemism for the right to have an abortion, but choice in the true sense of the word: options, informed consent and support for women trying to figure out what to do with an unwanted pregnancy.

Read more
posted 23 June 2010

Amnesty Int'l Says No to Women's Autonomy

By Amy Norton

Words of Choice learned a painful lesson this spring: Amnesty International, one of the most important human rights organization worldwide, does not support reproductive rights.

Amnesty International USA singled out Words of Choice at the First Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival, and insisted that a speaker be present at Words of Choice events to announce that Amnesty did not support the messages of the play (no representative had seen it or spoken with us).

Read more
posted 2 July 2010


Ella, Week After Birth Control Pill: A Boon for European Women,
But Will It Make It to America?

By Christine Northrop, M.D.

The FDA is studying a new morning-after pill, commonly known as Ella, for approval in the United States. Ella is short for EllaOne, the brand name of the pill in Europe. It is effective for preventing pregnancy up to 120 hours following unprotected sex and was approved for use in 44 countries in early 2009. Though it is still a new drug and needs further study, I am hoping for rapid approval for prescription use. Why? Because the number one predictor of a woman's status worldwide is whether or not she has dominion over her fertility.

EllaOne is comprised of ulipristal acetate, an antiprogesterone drug that prevents pregnancy by delaying ovulation. Though ulipristal acetate has similarities in chemical action to mifepristone -- also known as RU 486 -- it is not intended for use as contraception or as a method of terminating an ongoing pregnancy. Clinical trials of both Plan B and Ella, published recently in theLancet, showed that Ella prevented twice as many unwanted pregnancies as Plan B.

Despite advances in birth control since The Pill came on the scene in the 1960's, the fact is that 50 percent of pregnancies are still unplanned. And contraceptive failures happen even in ideal users. That means that there will always be a role for the morning-after pill. Ella does this job particularly well.

Read more
posted 16 June 2010


Abortion Foes Advance Cause at State Level


At least 11 states have passed laws this year regulating or restricting abortion, giving opponents of abortion what partisans on both sides of the issue say is an unusually high number of victories. In four additional states, bills have passed at least one house of the legislature.

In a flurry of activity last week, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi signed a bill barring insurers from covering abortion in the new insurance exchanges called for under the federal health care overhaul, and the Oklahoma Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Brad Henry of a bill requiring doctors who perform abortions to answer 38 questions about each procedure, including the women’s reasons for ending their pregnancies.

Read more
posted 3 June 2010


Q: Gender Ratings Kaput? A: Not Quite

By Sharon Johnson
WeNews correspondent

(WOMENSNEWS)--Gender ratings in health insurance mean that women pay more for the same coverage than men. Health reform promises to end gender rating but the details and start dates vary depending on the type of policy, size of the employer and state.

In a question-and-answer about loopholes that could allow gender rating to live on, Lisa M. Codispoti, senior counsel of the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C., emphasizes that a federal law obliges any insurer that accepts federal funding to end gender ratings immediately. Sharon Johnson conducted the interview for Women's eNews.

Read more
posted 20 April 2010


NYC's Rising Black Maternal Mortality Unexplained

By Malena Amusa
WeNews correspondent

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--New York City is one of the most fatal cities in the United States for a woman to have a baby.

That's the indication from the most recent data on maternal mortality here, which show black women are nearly eight times more likely to die during pregnancy or right after childbirth than white mothers.

In 2008, black women in New York City experienced 79 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 10 white maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, and a national rate of 13 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the latest data available.

Read more
posted 19 April 2010


Senate Health Deal Readmits Gender Bias by Insurers

By Susan Elan
WeNews correspondent

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--With the nation's interest in health care reform growing in intensity, even influencing election outcomes, the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C., warned on Jan. 15 that the Senate health care reform bill would not end gender rating, the practice by which insurers charge women higher premiums than men for the same coverage. In contrast, the House version would ban the practice.

Larger employers with predominantly female work forces--such as child care providers, visiting nurse associations and even some smaller school districts--would continue to be charged higher premiums "simply because of the demographics of their work force," Judy Waxman, vice president for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women's Law Center, said in a Jan. 15 message to their members.

The Senate bill eliminates gender rating for companies with fewer than 100 employees..

Read more
posted 22 January 2010


After Escaping Domestic Abuse, Survivors Confront the Housing Crisis

by Judith Kurens

The Clothesline Project seeks to draw attention to the problem of violence against women.

Emergency response to domestic violence survivors and their children has, over the past two decades, come a long way. Those who work in the field can point to a partnership of shelters and advocacy organizations, government offices, legal experts and police precincts that now provide assistance to protect women and their children from dangerous and abusive partners.

Despite these significant advances, the city still has not come close to meeting the need for shelter beds and for transitional and permanent housing. This forces many survivors to choose among street homelessness, the revolving doors of the city's homeless shelter system or returning, with their children, to their violent abuser.

Even with a 35 percent increase in emergency shelter beds for survivors and children over the past year,
emergency shelters report they turn away hundreds of callers away everyday. Many of those they do shelter fail to secure follow-up transitional and permanent housing.

Read more
posted 23 February 2010