House Republicans Jeopardize Women’s Health Care

Last Friday (Feb. 18)  House Republicans voted 240-185 to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

I find this incomprehensible. Planned Parenthood is a respectable, indispensable source of health care for low and middle income women that has been around for 95 years. For some women it is their first, and sometimes only, contact with gynecological health care. Since we still don’t have universal health care in this country, that’s not likely to change any time soon.

Planned Parenthood is not an abortion mill. Only 3% of its services have to do with abortion counseling and procedures. That means that most women who walk into a Planned Parenthood facility do so for birth control, breast exams and Pap smears, and testing for STDs.  [Planned Parenthood’s 2008-2009 annual report states: “For the three million patients our doctors and nurses saw, we provided contraception (36 percent of our total services), testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (31 percent), cancer screening and prevention (17 percent), and abortion services (three percent).”]

Estimated savings from this proposed bill are $347,000. That’s peanuts in a $3.6 trillion dollar federal budget, but one-third of the yearly income for Planned Parenthood. Where is that money going to come from if the federal government withdraws its support? But if the fact that Planned Parenthood offers abortion services at all bothers some people, then why not cut the amount being given to Planned Parenthood by the amount of its income that comes from abortions: 3%?  Why take away all federal support of an institution that provides essential health care for over 3 million women a year.?

Ironically, those who argue for limited government intervention are more than willing to put the government in charge of what women can do with their bodies. Government should never be about restricting choices, but about freedom.

Some argue that the private sector will have to pick up the cost of abortions. What that means is that all women should have to pay for their abortions completely out of pocket unless they’re victim of rape or incest or their health is compromised by a pregnancy. Because more and more health insurance plans are refusing to pay for elective abortions, and some won’t pay for abortions under any circumstances. In some instances, women are being forced to buy additional riders for abortion coverage. That’s ludicrous. Women don’t plan to have abortions any more than they plan to get cancer.

If these lawmakers were really concerned about cutting the budget, they should be for, not against, abortions. For example, one of my daughters recently had a D&C after a miscarriage. It cost $4600. If she had had an abortion when her baby’s abnormalities were first diagnosed, it would have cost approximately $350-950 at Planned Parenthood. [Source here.] If she had not had a miscarriage or an abortion, but her baby had been born with severe complications, it would have cost a great deal more.

Conservatives like to cite the irresponsibility of single mothers and “welfare queens” as one reason why our federal budget is so high. And yet they are willing to severely cripple the effectiveness of one organization that helps women to be more responsible about when or whether they will have children. Shame on the House Republicans and anyone else who votes for this proposal.

Read Rebecca Traister’s excellent article about this issue here.

Why You Should Care About Reproductive Rights

Just because a person is pro-birth control does not automatically mean that he or she is pro-abortion. I wish pro-lifers would get that through their heads. Some groups like the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops and the Family Research Council are pushing for changes to the health reform bill that would make it harder for women to get birth control. The bill, as it now stands, provides women with birth control coverage as preventive care. Get it? It’s to prevent pregnancies and the fewer unintended pregnancies, the fewer abortions. Why isn’t everyone behind that?

But the Catholic Church and various right-wing pro-life groups insist that birth control is a “lifestyle” choice, and that women therefore do not have a right to it. That’s ludicrous. Couldn’t you say that any kind of medical or dental check-up or procedure is a lifestyle choice? After all, no one says that you have to have screenings for various cancers, but let’s face it, if you don’t and you end up with end-stage cancer, your health costs are going to be much higher than they would be if you had caught the cancer in its early stages.

The same goes for preventing pregnancy. Birth control coverage is a lot less expensive than the costs associated with pregnancy.  The average hospital bill is $5,000-$10,000 for a vaginal delivery. Add at least $2,000 if you need a C-section. These figures do not include the medical costs associated with nine months of prenatal visits, ultrasound costs and other lab costs. If your baby is born premature or with health problems, neonatal costs can range from a few thousand for a short stay to more than $200,000 if your baby is born more than 15 weeks early. And that’s not even taking into account the costs you incur after having the baby! [Source:  Cost of Having a Baby.]

One reason pro-lifers are against birth control is because some of them think that birth control causes “mini-abortions,”  (i.e., they cause fertilized eggs to be expelled from the uterus before implantation can take place). While that might be true of some forms of birth control, there are many other options that definitely do not. (It’s also important to note that this can happen naturally, causing what is known as “spontaneous abortions.”)

The National Women’s Health Information Center provides a fairly exhaustive list of birth control methods on their website. Some of the methods they list do not have abortive mechanisms, some of the methods they list do have abortive mechanisms, and the rest of the listed methods are subjects of much debate. [Source.]

The United States has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies of any other industrialized country. (Nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. [Source.]) And that’s in a country where abortion is legal. It’s estimated that 4 in 10 unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. If those pregnancies were prevented in the first place, 1.2 million abortions a year would be eliminated. [Source.] So why is anyone in their right mind against birth control coverage in health care plans?

Obviously, if you’re one of the 4.8 million in the U.S. who doesn’t have any health care coverage at all, you’re going to find it even more difficult to pay for birth control. Is it any surprise then that 42% of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children)?  And that 27% of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100-199% of the federal poverty level?

You don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-birth control. But if you don’t want to be in a position where you have to decide whether or not to have an abortion, then you need to care about your reproductive rights. Don’t let conservatives take away the only means that most women have to prevent pregnancy. (Abstinence is not an option for most women. Forty-six percent of women who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. Of these women, 33% had perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy, 32% had had concerns about contraceptive methods, 26% had had unexpected sex and 1% had been forced to have sex. [Source.])

Women can and should control their own fertility. We are the ones who have to be responsible. In a perfect world, men and women, conservatives and liberals, pro-lifers and pro-choicers would work together to make sure that every baby is not only wanted, but cared for. But until that day comes, we need to be aware of what is being done to erode our reproductive rights and to fight against it.

What About Population Control?

In the seventies, population control was a huge issue, but like many other hot topics this one has fallen by the wayside. For most people, that is. Not apparently for the man who held three people hostage at The Discovery Channel headquarters yesterday. James J. Lee, who was eventually shot and killed by police, was upset with The Discovery Channel because of the lack of environmental policy on its shows, not the least of which was “Kate Plus Eight” which he felt promoted population growth.

Lee took extreme measures (he even had explosives strapped to his body) to register his protest, but I couldn’t help but wonder when I read the news story where all the protestors about population growth have gone. There are millions more people on the earth than when the book The Population Bomb came out in 1968. (India alone has tripled its population since 1960 from 400 million to 1.2 billion today.) The author, Paul R. Erhlich, was mostly concerned with the world’s ability to feed its ever-increasing population, but since most developed countries have risen to that challenge, the furor over his predictions have died down.

Here in the United States, food supply is not a problem so we tend to overlook the billion people world-wide who go hungry every day. These days the problem is not so much production as it is access. In other words, the world’s population could be fed adequately if we could just get the food to the people who need it.

If the food supply is keeping up with the demand, why should we worry about population growth? I can think of two reasons why we should: 1) depletion of energy resources; and 2) global warming. The more people in the world, the more dire these problems will become. It’s hard to keep on providing enough energy when the number of people needing it is constantly increasing. (And it’s not only the number of people, but their changing lifestyles—like more cars when people’s ability to pay for them increases—that add to the problem.) As more energy is expended, the release of more and more carbons into the atmosphere will only continue to add to the collective problems under the umbrella of global warming.

Maybe we need a book like The Population Bomb for the new millenium. Too bad James J. Lee couldn’t have written one instead of trying to reduce the population by his own hand.

Continue reading “What About Population Control?”

Tuesday Tidbits

Whoops! Turns out Proposition 8 is going to be in effect for a little while longer. For more information, go to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. For more thoughts on the prospects for Proposition 8, or its ban, go here.

  • Teen sex doesn’t mean bad grades, says new study. Not all teens are just “hooking up.” Some are in committed relationships and that makes all the difference.
  • Open letter from a mama grizzly to Sarah Palin. Palin’s use of the term “mama grizzly” is like her use of the word “feminist.” She appropriates both as if all mamas and fems think like her. Not!
  • On August 2nd, HBO Documentaries aired a new film about abortion called 12th and Delaware. (See trailer here.)  So far no word on when it will be shown again, but I advise you to watch out for it. It sounds fascinating.

[The] documentary seeks to offer “a fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare” that happen on the intersection of Delaware Avenue and 12th Street, Fort Pierce, Florida, where Woman’s World Health Clinic, a privately owned abortion clinic, and an anti-abortion Pregnancy Care Center are situated across the road from each other.

HIV/AIDS Prevention: Do We Really Care Anymore?

I remember the anxiety and sometime hysteria about AIDS in the ’80s.  The initial identification of AIDS as a “gay disease” was soon countered with the information that you could also  get it through heterosexual sex, as well as from tainted needles and blood transfusions. Everyone became paranoid about getting the disease. Disinformation was everywhere: you couldn’t get it if you were a woman, or straight; you could get it from sweat, or a toilet seat.

The Reagan Administration was slow to respond to the crisis. In fact, the Surgeon General at the time, Everett C. Koop, was forbidden to bring it to the public’s attention. He finally did anyway and dissemination of information about how to prevent it followed. Other than avoidance of all sexual contact, the only way to prevent the transmission of AIDS was to use a condom. Koop, who was a committed Christian, saw no problem with saying so.

And then came abstinence-only sex education, which, as you should know, not only teaches abstinence as the only absolutely sure way to prevent pregnancy and STDs (a fact which can’t be argued with), but also refuses to disseminate any information about birth control methods…unless it is misleading. (Such as the “fact” that condoms fail 31% of the time to prevent HIV/AIDS infection.) That’s because abstinence-only sex education relies on scaring kids out of having sex. If nothing works to prevent pregnancy or STDs then it is assumed that kids will avoid sex altogether. It’s inconceivable to these “educators” that kids might go ahead and have unprotected sex, because after all “nothing works anyway.”

What abstinence-only sex education does is erase any frank talk about sexual issues. The message that sex outside of marriage is bad has even affected those who are presumably old enough to make their own decisions about sex. Young women especially are afraid to carry condoms or ask their partners to use them because they think it makes them look “fast.” If sex just “happens,” they can convince themselves that they didn’t mean for it to, therefore they’re still “good girls.”

The upshot is that HIV transmission has, after falling dramatically since the ’80s, begun to creep up again (for instance, a 15% increase between 2004 and 2007), and other STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are also on the rise. Even though HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was, it is still no picnic to live with, is very expensive to treat, and can still be fatal.

As part of the new health care reform, the federal government has committed to spending $50 million annually for the next five years on abstinence-only sex education. I say this is at best ill-advised, and at worst, fraudulent. Abstinence-only education shouldn’t even be called “education;” it is nothing more than indoctrination. But apparently our government thinks it’s a good idea to tell our children nothing substantive about how to prevent pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.

Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS and other STDs (not to mention unwanted pregnancy) continue to plague our society. But, hey, that’s okay. At least people aren’t doing it on purpose.

Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports;  an article in the June 2010 issue of The American Prospect magazine (you have to be a subscriber to read the whole article online).

The QuiverFull Movement: Family Non-Planning

You would have to be on a desert island to not know about the Duggar family who have been showcased on The Learning Channel (TLC). Jim Bob and Michelle have more than replaced themselves in this crowded world by adding 19 children to it. Of course, in some parts of the world, 19 isn’t unheard of. (And get this, the record number of children born to one woman is 69!*) But it’s rarity for the U.S.

What makes the Duggars particularly noteworthy is the reason they have so many children: They belong to the QuiverFull movement, which believes that it is God’s will for a woman to have as many children as she is able to. Contraception, even natural family planning, is a sin. (There’s also a group called Blessed Arrows which is for those who have been sterilized where they can “make amends for their sin” by getting reversals.)

Devotees of the QuiverFull movement teach that children are a blessing from God and that attempting to avoid a pregnancy is a subversion of God’s will. Everything is in God’s hands: the health of the mother or baby, the emotional and financial resources necessary to support another child, and the “so-called” problems of over-population and over-consumption. Obviously, they are against abortion, which puts them at odds with  most feminists. That’s not the only thing that alarms feminists, however. They also preach that the man is the head of the household and the wife is to be submissive to him in all things. They blame all the ills of society on women wanting their own way, especially over their own bodies, which are meant to be a “living sacrifice” to God.

Continue reading “The QuiverFull Movement: Family Non-Planning”