February 8, 2013 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from RH Reality Check, Huffington Post and more.
ACCESS TO ABORTION: "It's Up to Us To Defend Abortion Rights," Mary Lou Greenberg, RH Reality Check: Despite laws "that legally prohibit harassing people seeking to enter women's health facilities and obstructing the entrance," some legal experts consider the issue a "gray area" because some laws have not been tested in courts, Greenberg writes. She discusses her experience as an escort for women visiting the Choices Women's Medical Center, an abortion provider in New York. "[T]he only way to prevent anti-abortion protestors ... from physically interfering with women (and their accompanying partners, relatives or friends) going into a clinic is by relying on our own efforts -- and not laws which may or, more frequently, ... may not be enforced," Greenberg writes (Greenberg, RH Reality Check, 2/5).
What others are saying about access to abortion:
~ "Who Really Wins the War on Women?" Nina Burleigh, Huffington Post blogs.
CONTRACEPTION: "Will the Proposed Religious Accommodation to the Birth Control Benefit Stem the Flood of Litigation Challenging It?" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Mason Pieklo writes that the Obama administration's release of a contraceptive coverage accommodation for not-for-profit religiously affiliated employers likely will do little to quell the dozens of lawsuits challenging the contraceptive coverage rules. "Religious institutions have made it clear that they will not get on board with the birth control benefit in Obamacare no matter what," she writes, noting that for-profit business with religious objections also have filed challenges. She predicts, "If the legal challenges by the non-profit organizations were grounded solely in legal disputes as opposed to political ones, then the administration's proposed expanded accommodation should result in dismissal of a vast majority of those challenges since most, if not all, of those organizations should now qualify for the [accommodation]. But, even if the new rules announced manage to quell the lawsuits by the non-profit organizations, they do not address in any way the challenges by profit-making companies owned by religious individuals or families," which could ultimately reach the Supreme Court (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 2/5).
What others are saying about contraception:
~ "Hell Hath No Fury Like the Bishops Scorned, But Filipinos Are Not Listening," Magdalena Lopez, RH Reality Check.
~ "Surprise! Teen Pregnancy Rates Drop in New York City Thanks to Birth Control in Schools," Alexandra Brodsky, Feministing.
~ "Who's Paying for Your Birth Control?" Emily Douglas, The Nation.
~ "Meet the 18 For-Profit Companies Fighting Obamacare's Contraception Coverage," Katie Baker, Jezebel.
~ "ACLU Lens: Contraception Coverage Good for Women but Debate Leads to Bigger Questions," Meghan Groobs, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights."
STATE ATTACKS ON REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: "State Politicians May Force Me to Turn Away Patients," Stephanie Dahl, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights": "One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is helping cancer survivors who are now facing infertility from their lifesaving chemotherapy and radiation treatments achieve their dream of having a family," writes Dahl, a physician in North Dakota. However, a series of antiabortion measures before the North Dakota Legislature could "prohibit IVF, outlaw most donor sperm and donor egg[s], and threaten access to several forms of contraception," Dahl writes, noting that she would "have to turn away cancer survivors" and "many other couples with infertility." She continues, "Not only are several states attempting to tell women how and when they can end a pregnancy, in North Dakota, lawmakers are telling women how and when they can or can't conceive that pregnancy, too" (Dahl, "Blog of Rights," ACLU, 2/6). What others are saying about state attacks on reproductive rights:
~ "Heartbeat Bills are the New Fad in Anti-Abortion Legislation," Robin Marty, Ms. Magazine blog.
~ "Students Mobilize as Extreme New Anti-Choice Bill Surfaces in the Kansas Legislature," Andrew Jenkins, RH Reality Check.
~ "How Republicans Quietly Mandate Transvaginal Probes When They Think No One's Paying Attention," Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "Amherst College Report on Sexual Violence: 'Something [Went] Wrong,'" Dana Bolger, Huffington Post blogs: Bolger, an Amherst College student, discusses a report that an Amherst committee recently released "in response to a series of sexual violence survivors' testimonies of administrative disregard, neglect and abuse following their assaults." She writes that the report wrongly implies that "we can have a conversation about rape prevention and response without understanding the underlying cases of sexual violence in the first place." Bolger notes that the report is the first of several recommendations set to be released by various committees that Amherst President Biddy Martin established to address the issue. Although Bolger is "encouraged by the [first] committee's commitment to addressing sexual assault, acknowledging the failures of Amherst's past, and trying to move the campus toward a better future. That said, forthcoming reports should develop a more sophisticated understanding of sexual violence -- of who is raping, how they are raping, and why" (Bolger, Huffington Post blogs, 2/6).
What others are saying about violence against women:
~ "Stand in Solidarity with the Women of Haiti," Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Huffington Post blogs.
~ "Ban Female Genital Mutilation," Katherine Marshall, Huffington Post blogs.
~ "U.S. Immigrants Aren't Safe From Female Genital Mutilation," Archi Pyati, Ms. Magazine blog.
~ "Egypt's Rape Culture: Most Sexual Assaults Go Unpunished as Cleric Claims Women 'Want To Be Raped,'" Andrea Peterson, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."
~ "How Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Became My Passion," Mwasapi Kihongosi, Feministing.
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT: "The Family and Medical Leave Act Advances Reproductive Justice," Liz Chen, Center for American Progress: "Workplace leave ... is not just an employment issue -- it is also a matter of reproductive justice," writes Chen, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, adding that reproductive justice "centers on the reproductive health needs of the most marginalized populations, including women of color, low-income individuals, and individuals with disabilities." As such, workplace leave "is crucial for all people, but especially for low-income individuals seeking to become parents and have healthy families," she states. She concludes that the Family and Medical Leave Act "was a good beginning, but we must continue to fight until all Americans have the ability to care for their children without jeopardizing their job or their income" (Chen, Center for American Progress, 2/4).
What others are saying about FMLA:
~ "Happy 20th Birthday: Q&A with the Women Behind the Family and Medical Leave Act," Bonnie Rochman, Times' "Family Matters."
~ "The Family and Medical Leave Act, 20 Years Later," Laura D'Andrea Tyson, New York Times' "Economix."
HIV/AIDS: "Putting Sexual and Reproductive Rights at the Center of the HIV Response," Sarah Gold, International Women's Health Coalition's "Akimbo": Gold shares IWHC's contribution to the online discussion convened by the United Nations and civil society groups as part of the process for shaping the post-2015 development agenda. She emphasizes that "effectively curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS relies fundamentally on the integration of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with HIV/AIDS programming." Thus, the agenda must "address the particular susceptibility of women and girls to HIV as well as the fundamental role that gender inequality plays in the spread of the virus," she writes. Gold goes on to describe IWHC's specific recommendations, including comprehensive, scientifically accurate sex education for young people and ensuring that mothers' needs are addressed in efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission (Gold, "Akimbo," International Women's Health Coalition, 2/7).
What others are saying about HIV/AIDS:
~ "Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: 5 Things You Can Do," Lori Adelman, Feministing.
~ "Today More Than Ever, Young Black People Need HIV Prevention," Alison Yager, RH Reality Check.
BIRTHING CENTERS: "New Study Shows Excellent Outcomes in Birth Centers," Rachel Walden, Our Bodies Our Blog: A new study in the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health found that birth centers -- midwife-led centers for women interested in giving birth outside of hospitals -- "are a safe option for both mothers and babies, reaffirming safety findings from previous research," Walden writes. She notes that among the 15,574 women in the study who were eligible for care at a birthing center -- meaning their pregnancies were "medically low-risk" -- there were no maternal deaths and only 1.9% required emergency hospital transfers. In addition, Walden notes that 6.1% of the women had caesarean sections, compared to national c-section rate of 26.5% (Walden, Our Bodies Our Blog, 2/7).
MILITARY REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: "Babies Afloat: Coping With Unplanned Pregnancies in the Navy," S.E. Smith, Care2: "Unplanned pregnancies occur in a relatively small percentage of the Navy's Total Force -- less than 1%, to be exact -- but they are a concern for force readiness, particularly when they occur during deployment at sea," Smith writes. She notes that although the Navy has ended its policy of discharging pregnant women from the service, there is a continued "lack of support for parents in the fleet, female parents in particular." Smith adds that the Navy's family planning education campaign has "left much to be desired," by relying "primarily on scaremongering," rather than educating sailors about contraceptive methods and access. The Navy also needs to do more to ensure women can access and pay for abortion services, Smith writes. She notes that the military only allows abortion coverage in cases of rape and incest and to save the life of the woman, which means other women must find outside medical care and pay out of pocket for the procedure (Smith, Care2, 2/7).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership