Tag Archive: Women’s Reproductive Rights

Feb 16 2012

Just How Crass Can Right Wing Get

Pretty damned crass. GOP candidate Sen. Rick Santorum’s supporter Foster Friess appearing with on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell made the incredible statement that women should use an aspirin held between their knees as birth control. Ms. Mitchell was left virtually speechless.

Too bad his mother didn’t follow those directions

Feb 16 2012

Only Men Allowed to Speak on Birth Control Access

House of Representative Democratic women walked out of House oversight hearing on access to birth control when the Republican majority’s refused to allow minority female witnesses at a hearing on the Administration’s birth control access rules. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) left accusing Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) of manipulating committee rules to block female witnesses from testifying.

In a letter yesterday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter (pdf) to Issa yesterday objecting to the lack of minority witnesses and those who supported President Obama’s compromise:

   When my staff inquired about requesting minority witnesses for this hearing, we were informed that you would allow only one. Based on your decision, we requested as our minority witness a third-year Georgetown University Law Center student named Sandra Fluke. I believed it was critical to have at least one woman at the witness table who could discuss the repercussions that denying coverage for contraceptives has on women across this country.

   In response, your staff relayed that you had decided as follows:

   “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”

   It is inconceivable to me that you believe tomorrow’s hearing has no bearing on the reproductive rights of women. This Committee commits a massive injustice by trying to pretend that the views of millions of women across this country are meaningless, worthless, or irrelevant to this debate.

Only one witness who supported the compromise, Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was invited to testify. The other eleven witnesses over the two days of testimony would be all male religious leaders or professors, including a Catholic bishop. Issa argued that “the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience.”

I agree this is about the 1st Amendment but it has nothing to do with religious freedom, it has to do with establishing religious doctrine as government policy.

Feb 10 2012

An Acceptable Compromise? Let Us Hope

President Barack Obama presented a compromise addressing the objections of the religious right, so-called pro-lifers and extremest conservatives to the provision in Affordable Care Act requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women. Women will still be guaranteed coverage for contraceptive services without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds. Insurers will absorb the cost insuring that access to birth control as well as cancer screening, mammograms and check ups would remain free to all women.

Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Health Association both expressed pleasure about the new plan, however, there were still objections from the Catholic Bishops and right wing politicians who vowed to continue the war on women.

Many of those voicing objections to this provision have cited the 1st Amendment stating that forcing churches to provide something that is opposed by their tenets violates their 1st Amendment right to freely practice their religion. But does it? The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Contraception is not about freedom of religion, as Scarecrow at FDL so eloquently explains:

What’s happening here is that the government has chosen to adopt a rule relating to health care.  Proponents often say this, and some media may dismiss this as ducking the religious issue, but it’s not.  It’s consistent with what we’ve done for decades.  Contraception is about health care, mostly women’s health care, and sometimes life-saving health care; but it’s clearly health care.  When government addresses contraception, it does so for health reasons, not religious reasons.  Government can adopt rules to protect women’s health and safety without violating the First Amendment.

What about the “establishment clause”?  This is how the bait and switch happens.  The Catholic Bishops do not believe contraception should be used; it shouldn’t be available at all.  They don’t mean just unavailable to Catholics; they mean not available to anyone. They want the legal rule to be: no contraceptives for anyone, so no insurance coverage for contraception services for anyone.

Religious freedom says they are free to believe contraception is wrong, that it violates their religion.  Government can’t force them to believe otherwise; it can’t force them to exercise a religion they don’t believe, except that government can, for health and safety reasons, require everyone to obey reasonable rules to protect peoples’ health and safety, even if some believe such regulations are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.

Religious freedom doesn’t mean the Catholic Bishops, or any other religious leaders, have the right to impose what they believe on everyone else.  When we cross over to the realm of what the rules should be for everyone, and the pushing is coming from a religious purpose, it’s more likely we’re talking about that other clause, the establishment clause.  And that’s exactly where the Bishops are.

Those who oppose any contraception insurance coverage want to prevent the government from having a rule that requires contraception, or have it adopt a rule prohibiting the coverage of contraception.  And they want this not for health/safety reasons, but for declared religious ones.  In other words, they want a government rule that imposes their religious beliefs on everyone else.  That’s not about the “free exercise” clause; that’s “establishment of religion.”

Constitutional lawyer David Boies, who represented VP Gore and successfully opposed California’s Prop 8. appeared with Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word, explaining the constitutionality of the birth control mandate.

Dec 13 2011

Obama’s War On Women Goes To Court

The latest shot in the war on women by the Obama administration goes to court. A federal court judge in Brooklyn, NY will hear challenge by the Center for Reproductive Rights to the constitutionality of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of the Federal Food and Drug Administrations decision to make the “morning after” pill. Plan B, available without a prescription thus making it accessible to teen age girls under the age of seventeen.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and other groups have argued that contraceptives are being held to a different and non-scientific standard than other drugs and that politics has played a role in decision making. Social conservatives have said the pill is tantamount to abortion.

Judge Edward Korman was highly critical of the government’s handling of the issue when he ordered the FDA two years ago to let 17-year-olds obtain the medication. At the time, he accused the government of letting “political considerations, delays and implausible justifications for decision-making” cloud the approval process.

In court papers prior to Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Landau said the government had complied with Korman’s orders by lowering the cutoff for over-the-counter sales of the drug from 18 to 17.

He said the plaintiffs “unfairly accuse FDA of bad faith and delay.”

And will wonders never cease. Mayor Michael Bloomberg raised his voice in support of making Plan B morning-after contraceptive available over the counter to young teenage girls. And just where did NYC’s speak-his-mind mayor do this? At a press conference in Queens, NY during an event promoting the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness with none other than Kathleen Sebelius in attendance:

“It would be much better if these young girls didn’t get pregnant, but once that happens I think this should be available,” Hizzoner told reporters.

Speaking minutes later at the same event, Sebelius said: “I felt that the data presented, and justification for [making Plan B available to] all ages, did not match.” [..]

He called FDA director Peggy Hamburg, who served as the city’s Health Department commissioner during the Dinkins administration, a “first rate scientist.”

“I think her advice should be followed,” he said prior to the jobs event at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.

Dec 12 2011

When You Don’t Fight

The politically motivated decision to block the sale of Plan B Emergency Contraception to under seventeen year old women without a prescription by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that was blessed by President Obama has outraged women’s groups, doctors and, yes, the FDA.

Amanda Marcotte expressed her views on Obama using politics to trump science, common sense and good parenting:

No one wants 11-year-olds to have sex, of course, but that concern shouldn’t play a role in this. In a press release addressing Sebelius’s decision, the Guttmacher Institute, a nonpartisan research institute that studies sexual health, noted that fewer than 1 percent of 11-year-olds are sexually active, but almost half of teenage girls are having sex by age 17. There’s no evidence to suggest that making Plan B available to all teenagers will somehow push younger teenagers to start having sex in greater numbers. If Sebelius actually had concerns about the effect of this drug on the behavior of younger teenagers, she could have looked to Canada, where Plan B is sold over the counter without age restrictions, with no discernible outbreaks of promiscuity in junior high school. Meanwhile, the United States still has a teen birth rate three times that of Canada’s, which easy access to Plan B could help curb.

Over the past decade, more than 70 medical organizations, the bulk of the FDA’s review committees, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research have all endorsed selling Plan B over the counter with no age restrictions. The only person left standing against the switch is a career politician with a background of lobbying on the behalf of trial lawyers, whose job depends on her boss getting re-elected. Sebelius’s claim that she’s standing up for better science instead of pandering to American fears about teenage sexuality sounds hollow. As hollow as all those Republicans who flaunt the experts to deny climate change.

Why Obama’s ‘Plan B’ Decision Is Wrong


Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has stunned the women’s health community by halting the implementation of over-the-counter sales of the Plan B morning after emergency contraceptive pill to girls under the age of 17. Now, President Obama has come out saying that – as a father of two girls – he supports Sebelius’ common sense move. But was it a common sense move, Mr. President? Offering Plan B over the counter would have helped stem the tide of teenage pregnancies in America. Sure, Plan B is currently available to younger girls with a prescription, but many girls won’t or can’t get to a doctor in the first 72 hours after having unprotected sex. And sometimes those who do are running into activist doctors who refuse to write a prescription or activist pharmacists who won’t fill it, leaving girls out in the cold having to face a much more invasive abortion to terminate a potential pregnancy. And it’s not like plan B is a dangerous drug, it’s simply got a stronger dose of the hormone progestin than what’s found in regular birth control. If it’s a safety issue, there are far more dangerous things a 13 year old girl could walk into Rite Aid and buy. Any fear that the wider availability of the pill would increase sexual promiscuity ignores the fact that the pill isn’t cheap, plus a lot of stores would keep them in those locked cabinets with the condoms so kids couldn’t easily steal them.

The truth of the matter is that science and common sense clearly pointed in one direction, but the politics of the situation in an election year pointed in the other. It’s just a shame that the Obama administration chose what’s politically convenient over what’s really best for the nation’s daughters–making sure they don’t put their lives on the slow track by having a baby at age 14, 15, or 16. If you agree with me, help spread this message.

The Food and  Drug Administration approved the Plan B morning after contraceptive pill to be sold over the counter. But on Wednesday the Obama administration overruled the decision. Dr. Susan Wood, former FDA Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health, joined Chris Hayes and his panel to talk about the controversial intervention.

Jon Walker summed up that this is what pro-choice groups and pro-choice women legislators in the House get for not fighting Obama’s alliance with Bart Stupak over restricting access to abortion in the ACA bill and, again, when Republicans prevented the District of Columbia from using city money to pay for abortion:

During the health care reform fight the women’s reproductive rights groups and legislators were basically sold out. President Obama decided to cut a deal with Bart Stupak’s Gang. He assumed that the pro-choice and women legislators in the House and pro-choice groups would just fall in line, and they did with very little fighting. [..]

Today Obama did it again. Obama’s Secretary of HHS, in a blatant, politically motivated move, took the almost unheard of step of going against FDA recommendations regarding Plan B. Science, common sense and women’s reproductive rights were all disregarded in what clearly appears to be an attempt to appease conservatives.

This is what happens when you don’t fight the first time.  This is what happens when there is no political cost for crossing you. People learn that they can walk all over you, and they do so whenever possible.

Dec 09 2011

Limiting Choice, Putting Young Women At Risk

This was not a good week for women’s reproductive freedom, especially young women of childbearing age under seventeen. The Secretary of Health and Human Services chose to strike down the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to make emergency contraception available without a prescription to people under 17, just as it is now to those who are 17 and older. It is very obvious that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius based her decision, not on the science that Plan B One-Step is safe, but on pure politics to avoid a confrontation with Catholic Bishops and so-called “pro-life” conservatives in an election year.

President Barack Obama’s statement that he did not intervene in the secretary’s decision is barely believable. What was even more insulting was his paternalistic statement regarding women being able to make their own reproductive decisions using his own daughters:

I will say this, as the father of two daughters. I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.

And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drugstore, should be able-alongside bubble gum or batteries-be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.

And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.

No, Mr. President this is not “common sense”, this is a dangerous decision that will put thousands of young women at risk for unwanted pregnancies. As a parent, I know full well that children do not always confide in their parents when they have done something the parents will disapprove. Unlike you, sir, parents can’t watch their children 24/7 and children are not known for making good long term decisions, especially, when they are pressured by their peers.

Girls as young as 10 and 11 are having unprotected sex. As available as condoms are, kids don’t always use or have them and, oh, they do break. There is also the matter of rape and incest. Who do these young women turn to when they are too ashamed to seek help because of the backward attitudes about sex in this country?

For EC to be effective it must be taken within 72 hours of intercourse, the sooner the better. The direction for Plan B are simple and easily understood: Take one pill within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. Directions that most 10 or 11 year olds can easily understand.

So putting constraints to access by requiring a prescription from a doctor, which may not be either timely or possible, further put the young woman at risk. This is a rule that could adversely affect the rest of their lives, economically, educationally, familial and professionally. This is denying them control over their reproductive lives. As the father of two daughters, you might want to about this more carefully.

The President’s remarks were not just paternalistic but uniformed and sexist. I’ll get to the nonsense he spouted about over the counter drugs.

Let me say this, as a medical professional, there are millions of young women who take birth control, some for health issues, with no adverse side effects. Teenage pregnancy carries increased health risks to both mother and infant, even a higher risk of mortality.

The “morning after” pill has been available to all women in their menarche over the counter in Europe for years with little or no ill effect. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the F.D.A.’s commissioner, in her statement disagreeing with Sec. Sebelius’ veto, stated the agency’s scientists “determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted disease.”

Sebelius’ override has been described as “medically inexplicable”:

Sebelius’ decision is “medically inexplicable,” said Dr. Robert Block of the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of a number of major medical groups that contends over-the-counter access to emergency contraception would lower the nation’s high number of unplanned pregnancies.

Pediatricians say the morning-after pill is safe — containing a high dose of the same female hormone that’s in regular birth control pills — especially compared to some existing over-the-counter medicines.

“I don’t think 11-year-olds go into Rite Aid and buy anything,” much less a single pill that costs about $50, added fellow AAP member Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington.

Instead, putting the morning-after pill next to the condoms and spermicides would increase access for those of more sexually active ages “who have made a serious error in having unprotected sex and should be able to respond to that kind of lack of judgment in a way that is timely as opposed to having to suffer permanent consequences,” she said.

Sebelius may not have been forthcoming when she said that the drug’s manufacturer had failed to study whether girls as young as 11 years old could safely use Plan B. Teva Pharmaceuticals had funded a study that “tracked 11- to 17-year-olds who came to clinics seeking emergency contraception. Nearly 90 percent of them used Plan B safely and correctly without professional guidance, said Teva Vice President Amy Niemann.”

There are far riskier drugs that are on the shelves of drug stores that are available to teens that can do more harm than a one time use pill that you have to see the pharmacist to get. There are no known drug interactions, yet there are serious warnings about taking Tylenol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, Naprosyn) with a long list of over the counter and prescription drugs. There are diet pills and cough remedies that carry higher risks. A teen driving a car is more dangerous.

For the President to say that he was not involved in the process is laughable on its face. The Executive Branch is controlled by him. All of the cabinet members are answerable to him. No cabinet member would presume to make a decision of this magnitude with the political repercussions without his direct or implicit approval. The buck stops with him.

There is no medical argument that can be made to justify this. It is purely political, pandering to the far right factions that will never vote for Obama even if his were the only name on the ballot. It is feckless, cowardly and a slap in the face to 51% of the population of the United States.

 

Aug 13 2010

Protecting Women’s Right to Choose Treatment

In March of 2009, a working mother with two toddlers, Samantha Burton, was 25 weeks pregnant and showing signs of miscarrying. When she told her doctor that it would be impossible for her to comply with his order of complete best rest for as long as 15 weeks and that she would seek a second opinion. When she tried to leave the Tallahassee where she had gone voluntarily, the hospital went to court, obtaining a court oder forcing her to remain in the hospital and submit to anything to preserve the life and health of unborn child.

The Florida ACLU intervened on her behalf to strike down the court order that rendered her powerless to make her own medical decisions. The a three judge panel rules that the order set a dangerous precedent and over turned the order but not before MS. Burton was forced to undergo a C-Section and gave birth to a still born. Ms. Burton and the ACLU decided to pursue the case to protect other women from the abuse of a woman’s right to make medical decisions about her health care.

Yesterday, Florida District Court of Appeal ruled that the rights of a pregnant woman were violated when she was forced to remain hospitalized against her will after disagreeing with a hospital’s recommended treatment.

As Marcy Wheeler said at FDL

So if you’re a pregnant woman, you now have the radical right to choose your own doctor and have a say in your treatmetn, even if a judge thinks he knows better. Radical!!

Kind of crazy, all this rights-upholding going on. It might just lead you to believe we were in the United States or something.