Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blame the Witches

by Caryn Hunt

Back in the 1500s, if there was a devastating plague or drought, religious authorities recommended a sound purging of the bad elements: Burn the witches and prosperity will return. So religiously motivated attacks on women are not so new.

Americans, feeling the pain of recession, looking for relief, voted for a Republican Party majority in the US House and many state legislatures last election. Republicans told voters they had the answer to fix everything, and it was deceptively simple. They said don't worry about climate change, or skyrocketing unemployment, or regulating Wall Street, or whether you can afford health care. Americans were soothed by the message they need do nothing more than promote Republicans to power. Nevermind that the economic crisis was Bush's legacy.

So is creating jobs at the top of our nation's agenda? No. House Speaker John Boehner has cast the lot of his Party with religious fundamentalists, and signaled that the important problems we face as a nation will surely best be solved by first attacking women's reproductive freedom. Responding to his fatwa, House Republicans have introduced various bills designed to set back women's rights by decades, including legislation to defund our nation's most vital and respected source for women's health care, Planned Parenthood, a long-time target for the religious right. Representative Chris Smith introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” bill, HR 3. Nevermind that taxpayer money has not been used to fund abortion for 35 years.

The Pennsylvania GOP is following lockstep with Senator Don White's bill to ban abortion in state exchanges, Senate Bill 3. Nevermind that during the national health care reform debate Congress incorporated pro-life Democratic Senator Ben Nelson's amendment into the Affordable Health Care Act, which obliges women to write a separate check to their insurance company to pay for abortion coverage. Nevermind that SB 3 is completely unnecessary.

And nevermind that abortion is a legal right and a common medical procedure one out of four women will go through in their lifetime, but that lack of access, stigmatization, and violence against practitioners makes a difficult decision a nightmare for many women.

Indeed it's high time taxpayer money was used for abortion care. For too long, low-income women have had to suffer unequal, inadequate access to reproductive health care in this country, including abortion care.

As long as our youth stumble ignorantly into sexual activity, as long as birth control is not 100% reliable or accessible, as long as pregnancies don't progress as planned, there will be a need for abortion. Abortion bans will drive more women to unscrupulous back-alley practitioners like Kermit Gosnell, and will lead to deaths.

SB 3, like its federal counterpart, is a purely politically motivated bill that would leave Pennsylvania women worse off than they are today. It treats women as second class citizens and denies them their full rights. It heaps misery on women simply because it is women who bear children and thus also the responsibility of figuring out, individually, when it is best for them to become parents.

So, would further restricting the rights of women set aright our course for this country? Considering that women are half the population and half the workforce, I wouldn't bet on it. A lot has changed in 500 years. The religious opinions of our lawmakers have no business being translated into laws regulating a woman's body.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Protest Attacks on Women's Health Care Thursday

Philadelphia Feminists:

Stand up for Women!! Join us to protest the attacks against women's health care at both the state and the federal level this Thursday, 11:30AM, at Thomas Paine Plaza, outside the Municipal Services Building, across the street from the north side of City Hall.

Call your US Congressmember TODAY to make sure he/she is Pro-Choice, or at least knows you are, and ask him/her to vote NO, against eliminating funding for family planning and Planned Parenthood. This debate began yesterday and could come up for a vote either today or tomorrow in the US House. Click here to find your legislator.

The US House, led by Speaker John Boehner, has taken up a crusade against women's health care and reproductive rights, fast-tracking such bills as the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions" (even though taxpayer funds have not paid for abortion care in 35 years), the "Protect Life Act", which makes it optional for medical professionals to save a woman's life if it might endanger her pregnancy, and today's effort to defund family planning in the country. Republican-controlled legislators around the country are coming up with similar legislation. In Pennsylvania, Senate Bill 3 would ban abortion coverage from the state exchanges, despite the fact that women would already be obliged to write their own, separate check to insurers for such coverage.

Also on the chopping block:

* eliminating $1.1 billion from Head Start
* $758 million from Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that provides food to infants and health care education to new moms
* reducing Maternal and Child Health Block Grants by $210 million, a program that supports special needs children, provides newborn screening and funds lead poisoning and injury prevention
* cut $1.3 billion from Community Health Centers that provide affordable health care to low income women, men and children.


Saturday, February 05, 2011



SB 3, the Senate bill that would ban abortion coverage in PA's state exchanges, is on greased rails to pass the Senate, with a second consideration on Monday. Call and email your State Senator and let him/her know you are PRO-CHOICE and oppose Senate Bill 3!! Urge consideration be postponed. Find your State Senator contact info here. Put in your address, follow the link to your Senator's page.

If your Senator is a member of Leadership, it's especially important to urge a postponement of consideration of this bill!!

SENATE BILL 3 starts:

No hospital, clinic or other health facility owned or operated by the Commonwealth, a county, a city or other governmental entity (except the government of the United States, another state or a foreign na- tion) shall:

Provide, induce, perform or permit its facilities to be used for the provision, inducement or performance of any abortion except where necessary to avert the death of the woman or where necessary to terminate pregnancies initiated by acts of rape or incest if reported in accordance with requirements set forth in subsection (c)...

There is no exception for the health of the mother, there is no exception for fetal anomolies. This bill bans abortion coverage in the state health exchanges, despite this question having been settled at the federal level. The Nelson provision in the Affordable Health Care Act already provides, in drastic measure, for no taxpayer funds to be used for abortion care by requiring individuals who want it to pay for it to write a separate check. SB 3 is unnecessary legislation.

Abortion is a legal right for women in this country. Lack of access, stigmatization, and violence against practioners keeps it out of reach for far too many.

Indeed, it's high time taxpayer money was used for abortion care. For too long, low-income women have had to suffer unequal and inadequate access to reproductive health care in this country, including abortion care. As long as birth control is not 100% reliable or accessible, as long as pregnancies don't always progress perfectly, there will be a need for abortion.

SB 3 is a purely politically motivated bill that would leave Pennsylvania women much worse off than they are today (Currently, 80% of PA's insurance plans cover abortion). It is a bill that treats women as second class citizens and denies them their full reproductive rights. It heaps misery on women for being women. SB 3 will lead to women's deaths by further marginalizing access to safe and legal abortion. SB 3 is dangerous legislation for women.


The Republican Party is mounting an unprecedented attack on women at the federal level and also at the state level in Pennsylvania. Senator Don White, Chair of Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, introduced Senate Bill 3 on January 19th, put it on the B & I Committee schedule late on Monday, January 24 for a vote at 12:30PM Tuesday, January 25, where it passed. Only Philadelphia Senators Larry Farnese and Tony Williams voted against it (Please thank them if they are your Senators). B & I Minority Chair Mike Stack, although he avows he is pro-choice, voted to pass SB 3 out of committee, as did Democrat Lisa Boscola and allegedly pro-choice Republicans. It is now scheduled for a second consideration in the Senate this Monday, February 7th. It is possible this bill could be voted on as soon as next Tuesday.

Seems way too quick considering usual turnaround times? This bill is on rails! Please pass along this alert and urge your friends to contact their Senators to vote NO on SB 3, and to contact Senate leadership to urge postponement of consideration. These Senators need to know there is a pro-choice majority in PA!!


Here are stories of women who would be denied abortion care through PA's insurance exchange under SB 3:

H.D. is a young woman with two children. She makes $1,300 per month as a home health aide. Because the person whom she cares for has been hospitalized, she has had no income for a month. She was behind in her rent and feared eviction.

At age 2, Sarah underwent chemotherapy and surgery for bladder cancer. Now an adult woman with a wanted pregnancy, Sarah found out her bladder has a new lesion on it that can’t be treated while she is pregnant. She is also at risk for kidney conditions that pregnancy can worsen. She and her physicians reluctantly decided that she must terminate her pregnancy to save her health.

Q.M. is 30 years old and has two young children. She supports her family with welfare payments of $400 per month. Her fiancé just suffered a stroke and will need to be in rehab for many months. She contacted us from his bedside at the hospital. With sadness, Q.M. decided that this was not the right time to take on the responsibility of parenting another child.

G.L. is a sophomore at a suburban college living at home with her alcoholic and abusive mother and her little brother. Although her mother helps with college tuition, G.L. must cover her other expenses with savings from her summer job. She feared her mother would become violent if she turned to her for help with an abortion.

L.B. is a 30-year-old woman with a school-aged daughter. A few months ago, she was laid off from her job at a medical office. Since then, unable to find another job, she enrolled in SNAP (food stamps) and is spending down her savings account to pay her rent and other living expenses. L.B. had been using a hormonal contraceptive, so she was surprised to find herself pregnant.

R.B. is a 27-year-old woman who works as a community organizer. She suffered date rape at a party; someone slipped drugs into her drink and then assaulted her.