Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Senate Bill 3 Further Endangers Women's Health

Today, Senator Don White unexpectedly put his Senate Bill 3, to ban abortions in the insurance exchanges, on the agenda for a vote in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, where he is Chair, demonstrating that the Republican leadership has no intention of trying to work in a bipartisan manner for the citizens of Pennsylvania, and will instead press divisive issues. If your Senator is a member on this Committee, call today and urge a NO vote on this bill.

Apparently, he is trying to seize the moment, as emotions are running high in the wake of the Philadelphia District Attorney's report on Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with murder, and his horrific West Philadelphia clinic, where he provided unsafe and illegal abortions. Senate Bill 3's goal is to further restrict abortion access, safety, and legality, when exactly the opposite is what's necessary to make sure more back-alley providers like Gosnell don't pop up. Senator White's bill would cause increased hardship and misery for women seeking safe and legal abortion, and further marginalize abortion, sending more women to sub-standard providers.

Planned Parenthood Advocates wrote a great letter you can use to contact your Senator, go to their site to send an email:

Dear Senator,
As your constituent, I am shocked to hear that the Banking and Insurance Committee's first order of business in the new legislative session is to vote to restrict coverage of abortion services and not address issues like jobs or the economy.

The issue of abortion coverage with federal money through health care reform has already been decided. Anti-choice Senator Ben Nelson raised his concerns on the federal level and as a result, women who want to use their own money to purchase health insurance which includes abortion care is completely separate and must be paid entirely by the individual. Additional restrictions are unnecessary.

The passage of Senate Bill 3 would push abortion care services to the fringe, away from additional regulation and oversight by the insurance industry. As we have all seen over the past few weeks, women who need abortion services and cannot readily access them are resigned to seeking care at the hands of dangerous practitioners who threaten women's health and lives like Dr. Gosnell. Further stigmatizing a legal medical procedure will, in reality, put more lives at risk.

I ask that my Senator focus on the priorities for which you were elected: creating jobs and improving the economy. Regardless of anyone's feelings on abortion, eliminating insurance coverage through Senate Bill 3 will only ensure that dangerous situations like Dr. Gosnell's clinic will continue to exist.

Your Constituent

Here's an article that explains why the poorest women are most in danger from additional restrictions on abortion, and why abortion should not be separated out from other equally essential reproductive care:

Why Did They Seek Care There: How Abortion Bans Threaten Women's Lives

PA Reproductive Health Care Providers React to Gosnell Indictment

Pennsylvanians for Choice/Raising Women's Voices
Press Release
January 19, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA: Today, a group of local providers and advocates of reproductive health care applauded the work of a grand jury convened by District Attorney R. Seth Williams and his staff in investigating and exposing the allegedly brutal, unsafe and illegal abortion practice in West Philadelphia.

“If the allegations in the report prove to be true,” said Jen Boulanger, Executive Director of the Allentown Women’s Center. “The women and girls who put their trust and their lives in the hands of Kermit Gosnell and his staff are victims of terrible crimes.”

The grand jury report confirmed that for two decades, reputable providers of abortion care, as well as patients, complained to the state Department of Health about Gosnell’s practices, but these complaints did not correct the unsafe and illegal practices at the West Philadelphia clinic.

“Abortion providers throughout Pennsylvania regularly undergo several different types of inspections from state agencies and national professional organizations,” said Curtiss Hannum, MSN, CRNP, Director of Center Affairs and Development at the Philadelphia Women’s Center. “The grand jury report refers to the excellent medical care and safety protocols of several providers that ‘are, in many ways, more stringent and more protective of women’s safety than’
the abortion regulations in Pennsylvania.”

The women allegedly harmed by Gosnell and his staff were predominantly low-income women of color.

“Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income Americans, will not pay for abortion care in Pennsylvania except in very limited circumstances,” said Dayle Steinberg, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania. “It’s a heartbreaking reality that without insurance coverage, women who need to end their pregnancies consider cost as the determining factor.”

“Public policy about abortion has been driven by people who simply want to shut it down,” added Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “Instead, our laws should support the provision of safe abortion care, not stigmatize the procedure and the women who seek it and push it into the hands of marginal practitioners who threaten and endanger women’s lives and health.”


Pro-Choice is Pro-Women

by Caryn Hunt

On the subject of abortion, we need to grow up as a society. Pregnancies don’t always go as hoped for. Birth control doesn’t always work.

Women are adults- half the population, half the workforce in the US, yet women are only 17% of Congress, hardly fair representation. And it shows, because it’s hard for some politicians to treat women as autonomous adults and full citizens. Women give birth to all of the babies. Thus they must have all of the say over what happens within their own bodies. This is every woman’s right as a human.

The bottom line on abortion is this: as long as birth control is not 100% effective or 100% accessible in the first place, as long as our youth are not taught the facts of life and stumble ignorantly into sexual activity, as long as pregnancies can become unpredictably complicated and life-threatening, or the fetus can develop in such a way as to not be viable outside the womb, abortion will remain a necessity for women. Legal abortion means women will not die or become infertile due to unsafe procedures. Access to abortion means women, not the state, are in charge of their reproductive function.

Passions burn hot on the subject of abortion. But it is far from a black and white issue. Abortion is a serious choice, but women choose abortion for many reasons. You can’t know why one woman chooses abortion and another one chooses to continue her pregnancy. The real point is, it’s her pregnancy, not the state’s, not anyone else’s. You can have an opinion about it, but it’s not your decision to make.

Michelle Goldberg, in her book Means of Reproduction describes how in countries where total abortion bans exist, pregnant women are treated as criminals. If they come to the hospital with a miscarriage, there is a police investigation. If the doctor has to choose between the health of the baby and the health of the woman, guess who’s out of luck? In one case, she documented a woman with an ectopic pregnancy, the fetus was developing within the woman’s fallopian tube and would never make it to term. The doctor refused to abort before the fallopian tube was ruptured, for fear he would be prosecuted as a criminal. Instances like these illustrate the absurdities women are forced to live with because of the religious opinions of their lawmakers. Unfortunately, heaping misery on women for being women is nothing new.

I recently heard of a couple where the woman became pregnant. Both she and her boyfriend were attending community college and hadn’t insurance. They were living with the woman’s mother and she was supporting them on $1000/month. Medicaid was covering the prenatal visits. At a routine ultrasound, the couple found out the fetus had developed anencephaly, where the brain and skull do not develop normally, and that, carried to term, the baby would not live more than a few hours. The couple chose abortion.

A routine abortion could not be performed due to the excess fluid surrounding the fetus; the procedure would require a hospital stay costing more than $3000. Because Medicaid is mandated not to cover abortion, this couple was on the hook to come up with the full amount. Luckily a service agency stepped in and helped to raise the funds.

But so often, this is not the case. So often, women who rely on Medicaid are forced to bear children they don’t want and aren’t equipped emotionally or financially to care for, simply because they cannot afford an abortion. Here’s a link to an article by a doctor talking about these instances. This is just one account. They are, however, ubiquitous, because 1 in every 4 women will have an abortion at some point in their lives, 60% of those women are already taking care of children, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and trying to do what’s best for the family they already have. Like it or not, access to safe and legal abortion is a necessity for women of reproductive age. Abortion cannot be separated out from women’s reproductive health needs, it is part of a continuum of reproductive rights that should be guaranteed women. Reproductive rights are human rights for women.

We don’t live in a perfect world and there is no chance for us to be perfect in it. Women bear the children, and they also bear the brunt of our society’s aversion to discussing what that entails, whether it be the biological specifics or just how in heck women are supposed to support themselves and their families and communities when they continue to be underpaid, underrepresented in government, and their contributions to society undervalued. Together we need to continue to raise these issues in public dialogue, and to give women their due justice and equality so women themselves are empowered to be the stewards of their own fertility.

(originally posted on FeministFieldGuide.com)