Ireland Legalizes Abortion Laws

Following the death of Savita Halappanavar in October, the Irish government has decided to legalize its abortion laws. The 31-year-old Halappanavar was seventeen weeks pregnant when she was admitted to Galway University Hospital on October 20 with back pains; tests performed at the hospital showed that the pregnancy was not viable. Though Halappanavar repeatedly requested an abortion, she was reportedly told that Ireland “is a Catholic country” and the pregnancy would not be terminated. Four days after Halappanavar was admitted, the fetal heartbeat stopped; however, her condition continued to deteriorate and she died of septicemia three days later.

Currently, abortions in Ireland are allowed only when the woman’s life (distinct from health) is in danger; however, there is no one agreed-upon method for determining when that is the case. The new laws, which, according to the Telegraph, are expected to be “ready by Easter,” would mean that abortion is no longer considered a criminal act. This legislation would also clarify when doctors can terminate a pregnancy when the woman’s life is considered to be at risk, “including by suicide.”

What an Ohio Dry Cleaner Has to do With Michigan Politicians

You might have missed this story if you don’t watch The Daily Show or read RH Reality Check, but a dry cleaner in Ohio has been putting “Choose Life” messaging on, of all things, wire coat hangers. This strikes me as a pretty brazen action, and not just because wire coat hangers are, to put it mildly, fairly loaded images when it comes to abortion. It’s also because this dry cleaner is, as best as I can tell, a private business whose day-to-day activities, not to mention income, have nothing to do with the abortion issue.

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Anti-Choice Laws Defeated in Oklahoma

This week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two anti-choice laws. One law would have made it mandatory for a woman seeking an abortion to see an ultrasound image and hear a description of the fetus; the other sought to ban “any off-label use of medications for abortion or treatment of ectopic pregnancy,” although it would have still allowed “off-label use of the same medication for other purposes.”

The ultrasound law had been passed by the state legislature in 2010, and the drug law was approved the following year. Following challenges by the Center for Reproductive Rights, both laws had been halted by lower court judges. In its decisions, the state Supreme Court said that both laws violated a 1992 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that it must “follow the mandate of the United State Supreme Court on matters of federal constitutional law.”


The Debate Surrounding Health Care Administration and Reform Continues

Guest blogger Cheryl Jacque is a contributing researcher and writer to the online health administration resource The Health Administration Project. Today, Cheryl examines what health care reforms mean to health care administration and its clients, including women that are now eligible to receive certain services without being charged co-pay fees.

As many estimate that health care in the US could soon rise to 20% of GDP spending, lawmakers have been debating a massive overhaul of the entire system. Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) estimates that its reforms will allow 32 million more Americans to receive insurance. Although many of these changes are already underway, debate continues on how to best care for the country’s large and uniquely diverse population.

For many struggling American families, the ACA undoubtedly offers many appreciated benefits. Under the new regulations, those with family plans can keep their children covered until age 26 regardless of marital status, student status, living situation, or if they have a pre-existing condition. As increasing numbers of young people are graduating from college without immediate job prospects, parents and their children are collectively breathing a sigh of relief knowing they can remain covered while looking for work in a struggling market.

This measure has increased the number of insured Americans aged 19 to 25 from 64% to 73% between 2010 and 2011, suggesting that while the US health care crisis has not yet been solved, some actions are having a positive affect.

One of the most controversial aspects of the health plan has been the changes to Medicare, which don’t begin til 2014. Under some Medicare drug plans, after an individual’s drug plan has spent a certain amount of money for covered drugs, the individual is responsible for paying the full costs of prescription drugs until they reach the amount required for catastrophic care coverage, a period widely referred to as the coverage gap, or “donut hole.” While the Affordable Care Act is making an effort to shrink the coverage gap, it won’t be fully closed until 2020, a fact that the plan’s opponents continue to criticize.

Perhaps the most surprising group to see major changes in coverage is also the largest. Beginning this past summer, all women were given assured access to preventative health services and are no longer subject to additional insurance fees and charges. These services will include annual visits to doctors, AIDS virus screening and counseling about sexually transmitted infections, breastfeeding supplies, and even screening and counseling services for domestic violence. Women aged 30 and over will be offered even more services, including DNA testing for the human papilloma virus, which can lead to cervical cancer. In addition, beginning in 2014, insurers will no longer be allowed to charge women higher premiums than men. It is estimated that these additional preventative services will save millions annually.

The final aspect of the health care bill that is causing opponents, like the CEO of Papa John’s pizza, to declare reform akin to socialism is that all companies with more than 50 employees will be subject to fines if they do not provide their employees with health insurance. Many industry analysts say this will cost companies millions annually and will continue to give the United States a reputation that is unfriendly towards business interests.

Health care reform is still a work in progress. While the Affordable Care Act provides coverage at lowered rates to millions who would otherwise go uninsured, the coverage gap in Medicare illustrates that there will still be those that do not receive the care they need. Many also argue that until Americans begin to make health decisions, health care will always be expensive, and this reform still fails to address that.

Update: Heartbeat Bill Really, Truly Halted … For Now

Seems like just the other week that Ohio politicians were trying to place severe restrictions on when women in the state could have abortions. Oh wait, that’s right, it was: right after the election, anti-choice Republicans began trying to push through a modified version of the previously-failed “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected.

Looks like the second attempt proved no more successful, as on Tuesday the state senate president said that there were no plans to vote on the bill before the legislative session ends in December. According to an Associated Press report, both lawmakers and Ohio Right to Life were concerned that banning abortions at such an early stage (fetal heartbeat can generally be detected by the sixth week of pregnancy) would be unconstitutional and could jeopardize “other abortion limits.” Senate President Tom Niehaus also said that he wants to “continue our focus on jobs and the economy … [t]hat’s what people are concerned about.”

Well, yeah. That’s probably what they were concerned about the first time this bill was introduced, too. Yet a whole bunch of elected politicians still decided that it was more important to grandstand about a blatantly unconstitutional bill, rather than direct their time and energy into more pressing and relevant issues. I’d like to hope that they wouldn’t make that mistake a third time, but let’s be honest, common sense doesn’t seem to be the driving force here.

Woman Dies After Hospital Denies Abortion

Savita Halappanavar (photo courtesy of the Irish Times)

On October 21, a 31-year-old woman went to University Hospital Galway, in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar had back pain and was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child; upon exam, doctors told Savita and her husband, Praveen, that she was experiencing a miscarriage. As the pain continued and her water broke, Savita asked if the pregnancy could be terminated. But, according to her husband, “‘They said unfortunately she can’t because it’s a Catholic country. … Savita said … she is not Catholic, she is Hindu, and why impose the law on her.” The hospital’s response was that, because Ireland is a “Catholic country,” an abortion couldn’t be performed if the fetus still had a heartbeat. Although Savita asked repeatedly that the pregnancy be terminated, her requests were always denied. Several days later, the heartbeat stopped, but Savita’s condition was worsening, and she was moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit. She died on October 28.

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New Study Looks at What Happens When Women are Denied Abortions

The Turnaway Study, conducted by researchers with the organization Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health has provided the first look at what happens to women that want abortions but are unable to access them. Over a two-year period, researchers recruited over 1,000 women from 30 clinics across the country. Three types of women were recruited: those that received a surgical or medical abortion during the first trimester; those whose gestational age was between one day to two weeks below the clinic’s limit for providing abortions; and those whose gestational age was one day to three weeks over the limit, and were therefore turned away without getting an abortion.

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Ohio Anti-Choicers Resurrect Heartbeat Bill

Less than a week after Barack Obama won Ohio in the presidential election, state Republicans have decided that there’s no time like the present to resurrect a controversial, possibly unconstitutional, and already-rejected bill that would sharply restrict abortions.

The so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected—which can be as early as 18 days in some pregnancies, or before a lot of women even know they’re pregnant. When the state’s House Health Action Committee first heard testimony on the proposed bill, two of the witnesses to “testify” were fetuses: that is, two pregnant women were given ultrasounds in the hearing room. [Read more...]

Apparently, Todd Akin Has Long Been Confused About Lady Parts

Sometimes, a politician makes a remark for which the only appropriate response is stunned silence. And so it is, again, with good ol’ “legitimate rape” Todd Akin. Videos have surfaced of the Republican Senate candidate giving a speech on the House floor warning about, among other things, doctors who perform abortions on women that aren’t pregnant:

“One of the good pieces of news why we’re winning this war is because there are not enough heartless doctors being graduated from medical schools. There’s a real shortage of abortionists. Who wants to be at the very bottom of the food chain of the medical profession? And what sort of places do these bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors work in? Places that are really a pit. You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other law-breaking: not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, misuse of anesthetics so that people die or almost die. All of these things are common practice, and all of that information is available for America.”

Oh, Todd Akin. I really wonder how your mind works.



Why Sherri Chessen’s Abortion Still Matters

Reading the recent coverage around the first apology in 50 years from the manufacturer of thalidomide to those affected by the drug, I was reminded of another half-century anniversary. Fifty years ago, Sherri Chessen – an Arizona wife, mother, and local host of the TV show Romper Room – sparked a national debate when she sought a therapeutic abortion.

In the summer of 1962, Chessen (then known as Sherri Finkbine) was pregnant with her fifth child. During this pregnancy, she learned that medication she had taken, which her husband brought back from a trip to England, contained thalidomide. The drug, which was introduced in the 1950s and primarily used in Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia, had initially been hailed as a wonder drug of sorts, and was considered safe for use in pregnant women to treat morning sickness and insomnia. But by the early 1960s, doctors and researchers had become aware that thalidomide could cause both miscarriage and horrible fetal deformities, including babies born without limbs. [Read more...]