Tag Archives: abortion

As US tightens abortion regulations, Canada makes abortion more accessible

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The Canadian province New Brunswick will soon offer an abortion pill for free. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2006 Alex Indigo

The Canadian province New Brunswick announced last week that it would start providing the abortion pill Mifegymiso—typically valued at $300—to women in the province for free.

The move is an effort by the Canadian health department to reduce financial barriers to abortion and to make abortion more accessible for women who live in rural parts and cannot make the trip to clinics. Surgical abortions are already covered under the provincial health plan.

“By making Mifegymiso available free of charge for all New Brunswick women, our government is ensuring that financial barriers do not stand in the way of a woman’s right to choose,” Health Minister Victor Boudreau said.

This moves stands in stark contrast to how American states have taken to regulating abortions in their jurisdictions. Instead of making it more accessible, it seems conservative U.S. lawmakers have tried to implement every barrier imaginable—especially for low-income women. These include but are not limited to: mandatory waiting periods, mandatory counseling and required ultrasound viewings.

Coverage for abortion varies across provinces, but the Canada Health Act generally covers the cost of abortion for Canadian citizens, with some clinics implementing their own additional fees.

Meanwhile in the United States, Medicaid—which provides health insurance for those under the poverty line—cannot be used to pay for abortion. Yet every day, conservative Republican lawmakers and evangelical activists fight to “Defund Planned Parenthood”—which, in practice, would really look like stripping funds for cancer screenings and tests and treatments for sexually-transmitted infections including HIV.

It’s worth noting that as American state governments do everything in their power to put up obstacles for women trying to exercise their constitutional right to choose, the Canadian government has gone in the opposite direction, doing everything in its power to make sure women can practice that right if they choose to do so.

Iowa State Legislature passes bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

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The Iowa State Legislature votes to ban abortion after 20 weeks. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2017 J. Albert Bowden II

The Iowa State House passed a bill last week that bans abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The vote in the House came a month after the State Senate approved the measure, and the bill is now headed to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican.

If passed, Iowa would become the 18th state to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. It also adds a three-day waiting period between a woman’s first doctor’s visit and when she can receive an abortion.

Branstad is likely to sign the bill into law, just before he leaves to serve as President Donald J. Trump’s ambassador to China.

The bill makes an exception for abortions passed the 20-week mark if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. It does not make exceptions if the fetus has genetic disabilities.

The 20-mark period in pregnancy is in the middle of the second trimester (which lasts from week 13 to 27) and abortions performed at this point are often referred to as “late-term abortions.”

What Republican congresspeople fail to realize is that many women who are getting abortions at this point are not making the decision lightly. Often times, the fetus has severe disabilities, some of which may result in imminent death.

Rep. Sharon Steckman shared a story on the House floor about a woman who aborted her fetus after 20 weeks when she discovered it had a serious lung condition.

“The baby had a condition where the lungs would not develop,” Steckman said. “So if that baby had been born, it couldn’t breathe and the parents would literally watch it suffocate.”

Wendy Davis, a former Texas state senator, became famous for filibustering an anti-abortion bill on the floor of the Texas State Legislature for 13 hours. She would later open up about an abortion she had after the 20-week mark.

“I discovered that my daughter was suffering from an irreparable and non-life sustaining brain deformation or malformation, and it was one of the most heart-wrenching decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Davis said to Mic. “And I made my decision out of love.”

These women, among many others, do not need to experience more challenges than they already are when they chose to get an abortion after 20 weeks. And they certainly do not need to be lectured about the morality of the decision they are making. Ultimately, they are making the decision they believe is best for them and their fetuses—and the government should stay out of that decision.

Indiana judge strikes down abortion ultrasound waiting period

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An Indiana federal judge struck down a law Friday requiring a woman to have an ultrasound 18 hours before getting an abortion. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2011 by Rob McBell

In a win for women’s rights, a federal judge in Indiana struck down a state law requiring that women receive an ultrasound at least 18 hours before receiving an abortion.

The state law replaced a prior statute that required women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion, but did not specify when. The new mandate would have forced women to make at least two separate trips to the clinics—which was ruled to be an undue burden particularly for low-income women who would have to travel to the clinics and then pay for lodging and miss additional time off work.

The basis for an ultrasound law comes from the paternalistic idea that women who are getting abortions (many of whom are already mothers) do not really understand what they are doing. The thinking behind this law is that a woman must be forced to see the image of her fetus, have its developing organs pointed out by a doctor and listen to its heartbeat—because only then can she wrap her mind around the gravity of what she’s doing and see the error in her ways.

Except here’s the thing: It doesn’t work. A study cited in the Indiana ruling found that 98.4 percent of women who view their ultrasounds still go through with their abortions, compared to 99 percent of women who did not view ultrasounds.

The reason it doesn’t work is because women do understand what they’re doing. More than 60 percent of women who have an abortion in the United States already have at least one child. They understand what it takes to bring a child into this world and raise him/her. They understand the time, energy, attention and money that it requires. And even for the 40 percent who are not mothers, they too understand that it is not the right time for their lives or the choice for their bodies to go through with their pregnancies—for one reason or another that is really no one’s business.

That’s why the overwhelming majority of women who are forced to watch ultrasounds of their fetuses (a measure that seems to serve no purpose other than as punishment) continue to go through with their abortions. They understand what they’re doing, and they don’t need to be enlightened by a bunch of anti-abortion men who will never have the chance of becoming pregnant themselves.

And who do we have to thank for that original ultrasound law in Indiana? Vice President Mike Pence, who signed the bill into law as Indiana governor in March 2016; a man who is so well-versed on women’s rights that he cannot eat alone with women other than his wife.

Texas Senate passes bill allowing doctors to withhold fetal health information

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Texas State Capitol Building in Austin / Photo courtesy (cc) 2007 Ed Schipul

The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs unanimously passed a bill Monday morning that would empower a doctor to decide whether to tell a pregnant woman her baby will be born with severe disabilities—especially if the doctor believes the woman will get an abortion upon finding out.

For all intents and purposes, the Texas Senate wants to make it legal for doctors to knowingly lie to women, and potentially put them in situations where they would not be prepared to emotionally or financially support children with disabilities.

Proponents of Senate Bill 25 said it was intended to protect the rights of doctors and children with disabilities. Those who opposed the bill, however, saw the measure as an attack on Texas women.

Not all who opposed the bill were arguing in favor of abortion access. In fact, one of the most powerful Senate testimonies came from Rachel Tiddle, who unknowingly carried a fetus with severe disabilities and gave birth to a stillborn baby. She said she would have attempted experimental therapies if she knew her baby’s health was in danger.

“It’s not a doctor’s right to manipulate the family by lying, and it is not  doctor’s right to decide whether an experimental therapy is worth trying,” Tiddle told the committee. “There is always chance, there is always hope.”

This is another thinly veiled attempt by a lawmaking body to strip women of their bodily autonomy and power to make health decisions for themselves. Women should not be treated as children, with doctors making decisions about “what’s best” for them. Nor should doctors be empowered to impose their moral and religious beliefs on their patients. Whether she wants to terminate the pregnancy or not, a woman has the right to know whether her baby will have a shot at survival and a normal life.

Birth control methods are failing less, study finds

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IUDs, shown above, had the lowest failure rate of common birth control methods at 1 percent. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2012 Sarah Mirk

A study released Feb. 28 by the Guttmacher Institute found that the failure rates for the most common forms of birth control (the pill, condoms and IUDs) are declining in the United States.

In 2002, the last time this data was collected, the failure rate for birth control methods was 12 percent. Between 2006-10, that failure rate decreased to 10 percent. This data coincided with the decline in the rate of unintended pregnancies—with 45 percent of American women reporting in 2011 that their pregnancies were not planned, down 6 percent since just three years prior.

The IUD and the birth control implant reported a 1 percent failure rate—the lowest of all contraception methods. Withdrawal had the highest rate at 20 percent, followed by a 13 percent failure rate for condoms.

While some conservative lawmakers and activists wage a war against abortion and birth control as a combined front, the increasing reliability of birth control has also coincided with the decreasing abortion rates. In fact, the number of abortions in recent years has dropped to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

In 1973, there were 16.3 abortions for every 1,000 women, according to another study by the Guttmacher Institute. In 2014, the most recent year for this data, there were 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women.

“We’re seeing declines in abortion rates,” Kathryn Kost, a co-author of the report, told NPR.  “We’re seeing declines in birth rates. So we know that American women are not getting pregnant unintentionally at the same levels that we had been observing.”

The declining failure rates for birth control should be a celebratory win for both sides of the political aisle. More successful birth control means less unintended pregnancies, which means less abortions—something we should all agree is a positive. It is vital that access to birth control remains open, and that access is improved for many women—especially low-income women of color—who still struggle to obtain quality birth control choices.

Life after the Mexico City policy: Countries scramble to fund women’s NGOs

Sweden donated $21 million to funding women's health and reproductive services internationally. / Photo courtesy (cc) Maja Svensson

Sweden donated $21 million to funding women’s health and reproductive services internationally. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2012 Maja Svensson

A little over a month ago, I wrote about President Donald J. Trump signing an executive order Jan. 23 that cut off U.S. federal funding to nongovernmental organizations that perform abortion services abroad or even provide information about abortions—a move that mainly disadvantages the most vulnerable women in developing countries.

The rule has been enacted by every Republican president and repealed by every succeeding Democrat since Ronald Reagan first implemented it in 1984. But now, we’re beginning to see the most recent effects of that executive order, known as the Mexico City policy, or the “global gag rule” by its opponents. Over the next four years, the Mexico City policy is expected to cause a loss of $600 million in NGO funding.

In response to this daunting gap, four countries—Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden—hastily organized “She Decides,” an international conference in Brussels on Thursday to raise funds for international women’s health organizations. The conference, which was attended by representatives from 45 governments, raised $190 million—with Sweden and Finland pledging the most at $21 million each.

While Trump cannot be faulted for crafting the Mexico City policy, it is disheartening nonetheless to see another Republican president enact the measure. Above all else, safe abortions are life-saving, with 68,000 women dying worldwide each year from abortions that are not performed by medical professionals. By stripping funding from organizations that provide safe abortions, that number can only go up.

What’s even more frustrating, however, is that even organizations that provide information on abortions are being punished. The world has already suffered for too long from a culture of silence surrounding safe abortion and reproductive options.

The international community’s quick effort to replace those funds was the small silver lining in all of this—with 45 countries reaffirming their commitment to women’s health and choices. Still, the funds only make up 1/3 of what will be lost thanks to the Mexico City policy. We still have a long way to go.

The problem with Indiana’s ‘abortion reversal’ bill

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A woman protests outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul, Minnesota. / Photo courtesy (cc) 2012 Fibonacci Blue

The Indiana House legislature passed a controversial bill on Monday known as the “abortion reversal bill.” The bill would mandate that health care providers tell women that their drug-induced abortions could be reversed within a couple days by receiving high levels of progesterone—a process that has not been scientifically proven.

The bill passed the House 53-41. Only six out of the 21 female lawmakers present voted in favor of the bill.

“At this point, the only certainty is confusion,” Republican Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer told The Indiana Times. “I do not believe forcing medical professionals to provide medical advice on something that is not proven and incomplete is by any means the right thing to do.”

Lawmakers who supported the bill argued that women who immediately regret their abortions have the right to know the option to reverse it is out there—even though that option may not actually work.

“We’re just saying you have the right to try,” Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburnt told The IndyStar. “We’re not saying it’s going to work.”.

The fact that 53 people thought this bill was a good idea is mind-boggling. Why on Earth would we mandate health care providers tell their patients information that may or may not be true? What are the benefits to that?

We would never force health care providers to tell patients with cancer that an experimental pill that has never been tested might possibly cure them of their illness. So why would we demand that doctors tell women they can undo their abortions with a practice that is based solely on the anecdotal evidence of a handful of people?

Misinformation can not be allowed to spread when it comes to something as important and life-or-death as people’s health. It is wrong of the government to encroach on the medical sphere to advance their political agendas. Health care must stick to what the industry actually relies on—science.