Emergency Contraception Restrictions Overturned!

This morning, Judge Edward Korman of the District Court of Eastern New York overturned the Obama administration’s ban on allowing women under age 17 to purchase emergency contraception without a prescription. Judge Korman has ordered the FDA to make Plan B available over the counter to all women “within thirty days.”

In late 2011, the administration overruled a decision by the FDA to allow teenage girls to purchase Plan B without a prescription. The administration’s move came as a surprise and was blasted for being politically motivated. In the decision released today, Judge Korman seemed to agree with that assessment, writing that the restriction was “a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence … The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step…were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” (The full decision can be read here.)

Plan B has been available to women ages 17 and older without a prescription, and to younger women that have a prescription. But keeping the medication behind pharmacy counters meant that women could only buy the pill when the pharmacy was open, and many pharmacies are closed on evenings and weekends. Since Plan B is most effective if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, such delays matter. Women have also reported encountering pharmacists that refused to sell them Plan B, because the medication violated their own personal beliefs.

Today’s decision is great news, and a great way to start the weekend!

National Women’s Law Center Launches CPC Toolkit

Crisis pregnancy clinics, or CPCs, represent one of the more insidious threats to reproductive rights. These clinics purport to be supportive resources for women and teens that are pregnant and want information about their choice, yet they disseminate scientifically inaccurate information and emotionally manipulative information about abortion and contraception.

The National Women’s Law Center recently introduced a toolkit targeting the deceptive practices at CPCs and ways consumer protection laws can help women given misleading and/or incorrect information at a CPC. The toolkit provides a wealth of material, including an eye-opening fact sheet on the ways that crisis pregnancy clinics target communities of color. The NWLC also has a new hotline (1-855-CPC-FACT) and email to answer questions or assist in filing a complaint.

Why South Wind Women’s Center Matters

An abortion clinic opening in any U.S. city would make news these days, but the imminent opening of South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas has garnered a special kind of attention. The clinic, which will provide abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy as well as a wide range of other women’s health care services, will be located in Dr. George Tiller’s former clinic.

South Wind is owned by the Trust Women Organization, a nonprofit that was founded in 2010 by Julie Burkhart, who worked with Dr. Tiller for seven years. “We’re going to provide Pap smears, pelvic exams, well-woman care, contraceptive care, pregnancy confirmation and consultation, and STI (sexually transmitted infection) treatment” Burkhart has said. “We want to work with women who are having trouble getting pregnant and women who have been pregnant — the full range of services.” There are three physicians on staff—one local, two that will travel in from out of state—and a social worker that will offer both miscarriage and post-abortion counseling as well as lactation consultation.

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Update: Michigan Keeping Shaming Wands Out of Women’s Vaginas (For Now)

In a midwinter miracle, the powers that be in the Michigan legislature have decided that maybe it’s not the best idea to require that women who want abortions must undergo transvaginal ultrasounds. House Speaker Rep. Jase Bolger has said that he has “no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound …This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds.”

While it’s heartening that rational thought has prevailed in this specific matter, it’s important to note that this doesn’t indicate any great desire to stay out of women’s private health decisions. After all, the state passed an abortion “super bill” late last year that, among other things, banned telemed abortions and introduced structural requirements that could force clinics to close.

 

 

 

Good News About Teen Birth Rates

A recent study from the National Center for Health Statistics reports that teen birth rates in the U.S. have hit a record low: “31.3 births per 1,000 girls and women” between the ages of 15 and 19. These rates have been going down for a number of years, but this represents an eight percent decline in a single year (2010 to 2011), which is pretty impressive. Overall, teen birth rates have fallen 49 percent since 1991.

While the study just looks at the numbers, and not factors that may have led to the drop, researchers have suggested several reasons that could be contributing to the decline. Teens are delaying the age at which they begin having sex, and it is becoming more common for teenagers to use contraception—including methods that were once recommended primarily for older women, such as the IUD.

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Bills, Bills, Bills

Congratulations, Mississippi, you’re a trendsetter. As anti-choice politicians push forward in their bid to close the last abortion clinic in the state, legislators in North Dakota are seeking to close their state’s only clinic, too. Yesterday, state lawmakers passed a bill that requires physicians providing abortions at the Red River Clinic in Fargo to have admitting privileges at area hospitals—the same tactic that is threatening Mississippi’s Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO).

The Red River clinic has often been the target of harassment and threats, and the physicians that work there don’t actually live in the state; in an arrangement similar to the one at JWHO, they travel from other states to provide abortion care. It’s too early to tell if hospitals in the Fargo area will grant these privileges, but as Amanda Marcotte pointed out in The American Prospect, “The chances of the doctors getting the privileges now are low, because hospitals don’t want to draw the same protests” as the clinic has faced.

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Catholics Working to Make “Pro-Life” Less of an Oxymoron

It’s been a busy seven days in abortion-related news, even in light of the recent 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A new abortion clinic is preparing to open in the space previously occupied by Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Arizona state Rep. Cathrynn Brown introduced a bill that would charge pregnant rape survivors that terminated their pregnancies with “tampering with evidence.” Reliably conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tried to make the case that focusing on pregnant women was “too simplistic” when talking about abortion. And a group of Catholic nuns, priests, and scholars spoke out about the need for Catholics that call themselves “pro-life” to support gun control.

While the Wichita news is encouraging, the Douthat op-ed unsurprising, and the Arizona news infuriating—can someone explain just why politicians in that state hate women so much?—it’s this last item that really jumped out in a crowded week. Frankly, I’m impressed that a number of high-profile Catholics are finally making it plain that if you claim to care about one aspect of life, you should logically care about all aspects.

After all, if you just care about life insofar as it exists in a woman’s uterus, that’s a pretty limited view. And that’s also not really being “pro-life”—it’s more accurately being “pro-fetus,” or “pro-birth.” Which is a very limited viewpoint, as it ignores what happens to people after they are born and able to live independently in the world. [Read more...]

Why I Am Pro-Choice

bfcd-2013This post was written for Blog for Choice Day.

Why am I pro-choice? Because I don’t want a complete stranger telling me to do with my body. Because I don’t want to tell a complete stranger what to do with hers. Because I know that the decision about whether to have a child is too precious and important to be made by anyone other than the woman that is pregnant. Because I don’t think that there is only one right way or right time to become a mother. Because every child should be a wanted one.

Why am I pro-choice? Because of my friends that were able to graduate college. Because of the thousands of women, voices on the other end of the phone, that were able to leave troubled relationships and take care of their sons and daughters and choose how to end much-wanted pregnancies in a way that gave their fatally ill unborn children a measure of dignity, and themselves a measure of peace.

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Celebrate Roe v Wade!

The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade just a week away, and a slew of events are planned across the country and online. To see what’s in your area, check out Words of Choice’s roundup of events, some of which are already underway and others that will continue beyond January 22nd.

 

 

 

Notes From Pro-Choice Parenting

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about the intersection of personal beliefs and independent thought. Specifically, she was wondering if buying a onesie that said, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” for her infant son would be expressing her beliefs through her child’s clothing or if it would just be cute. (We agreed that it would be both.) I was reminded of this conversation recently, thanks to a situation that caught me totally off-guard.

As part of our seemingly endless quest to find reliable daycare for our child, my husband and I set up an appointment at a small, local center. I did some research on the facility before our meeting, and came across information that indicated that one of the directors worked at a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). Since it’s not uncommon for online searches to turn up misleading information, I decided to keep the appointment, and was impressed with the facility. Yet my concern lingered, and further conversation with the director revealed that she did, in fact, work at the CPC.

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