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Texas: A love letter

4 Nov

Dear Texas:

Like many of us, I was appalled and devastated to hear that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a lower federal court’s injunction that will force many of your abortion providers to close their doors. As of Friday, the Texas Tribune reported that at least nine abortion providers have been forced to stop providing services.

In the midst of all of this, your activists, providers, legislators, reporters, and others have worked tirelessly to make change and bring your fight into the national spotlight. Texas: your courage, determination, and mobilization has changed the way that I think about restrictive legislation, and has given the rest of the country hope that we can turn the tide.

Yet, when the bad news about HB 2 came out this week, I was appalled by the responses on my Twitter feed that I should give up on you, that I should have expected this to happen. Some said that Texans who care about reproductive health access should just move somewhere else. These folks were quick to judge you, Texas, but I imagine that they were singing a different tune during Wendy Davis’s game-changing filibuster and when they watched the sea of thousands in orange shirts united and committed to the fight. Are these people who are urging me to just give up on you the same folks who have donated to Wendy Davis’s campaign for Governor?

Texas: Don’t let these people get you down. (Not that you would, because you don’t take any shit.) Let the haters hate, and know that you have changed and reinvigorated all of us. You are facing extreme difficulties in an increasingly oppressive climate, but each time someone tries to knock you down you come back stronger.

Reasons for my love include but are not limited to:

The reasons go on and on, and I wish I could write a love note to each one of you who are fighting day in and day out. What I want you to know is that I care about you, no matter how many people want me to abandon you. I might not be able to be there in person, and I will never understand the huge barriers that you face. But I believe in you.

With all my love,


International reproductive Rights, May 24 edition: China, El Salvador, and Contraceptive Progress

24 May

China’s “one child policy” in the spotlight

China enacted its so-called “one child policy” over 30 years ago.  Facing a population boom, the government decreed that no couple could have more than one child (with a few exceptions) and strictly enforced this policy with prohibitive fines and, for those who were pregnant and could not pay, forced abortions.  Although in some cases these forced abortions have been documented and received international attention, it seems likely that every year millions of women in China are forced to undergo abortions they do not want or need.

Just as in most of the world, however, the policy is unequally applied, and exposes deeper injustices.  A recent op-ed in the New York Times highlighted the case of Zhang Yimou, a well-known film director who has 7 children (with 4 women).  According to the article:

The truth is: for the rich, the law is a paper tiger, easily circumvented by paying a “social compensation fee” — a fine of 3 to 10 times a household’s annual income, set by each province’s family planning bureau, or by traveling to Hong Kong, Singapore or even America to give birth.  For the poor, however, the policy is a flesh-and-blood tiger with claws and fangs.

Just as the option to choose when, whether, and how to have children in the United States is increasingly dictated by a family’s ability to pay for contraceptive and abortion services, Chinese women’s opportunities to have the number of children they want is dictated by their ability to pay a fine or travel for the privilege to give birth.  Either way, the end result is the same: reproductive injustice.

Beatriz continues to suffer due to “absolute” abortion ban in El Salvador

Beatriz is the pseudonym of a young woman who has been in a hospital in El Salvador for weeks.  She needs an abortion.  Those of you who are fans of the “Gang” know we don’t believe in exceptionalism; we think when a person says they need an abortion, for whatever reason, they need an abortion.  Unfortunately, most of the world does not agree with us and insists on defining which reasons for abortion are legitimate as a means of restricting access.

Even by the standards of exceptionalism Beatriz seems a likely candidate for access to an altogether too difficult commodity: a safe, legal abortion.  Beatriz has lupus, a disease that can worsen during pregnancy and puts her at increased risk of potentially lethal pregnancy-related complications compared with women who do not have lupus.  She also is suffering from kidney failure, a complication of her lupus that may be aggravated by her pregnancy.  Finally, the fetus she is carrying is anencephalic; it is missing parts of its brain and if it survives birth is unlikely to live more than a few hours.

Unfortunately for Beatriz, she lives in one of the most restrictive countries in the world when it comes to abortion.  While in almost all countries in the world the threat to her life would guarantee her right to an abortion to save her, El Salvador has no exceptions to its abortion ban, and no explicit exception to the ban to save a woman’s life.  Beatriz’s doctors have appealed to the country’s supreme court on her behalf, but it has deliberated for weeks without issuing a ruling.  Meanwhile, Beatriz is suffering.  Click here to sign a petition to the Salvadoran government asking them to uphold their obligation to protect her human rights and her life.

Uneven progress on improving access to contraceptives

A recent study that compared contraceptive use in low- and middle-income countries between 2003 and 2012 found a sharp increase in the number of women wanting to use family planning methods, from 716 million to 867 million.  There was a modest increase in the percentage of women who did not want to be pregnant who were using modern contraceptive methods, but population growth overpowered this effect.  While some progress has been made in some regions, mid and western African countries saw no increase in contraceptive use over the decade.  Another article in the same journal called for sustained efforts to provide contraceptive services to all women and couples who wish to delay or limit future childbearing.

International news roundup: Updates on Brazil, Circumcision, and UN Commission on the Status of Women

25 Mar

Brazilian doctors’ group urges decriminalization of abortion

As in many countries in Latin America, abortion is extremely restricted in Brazil. Currently, women can only legally have an abortion if the pregnancy results from rape, if their lives are threatened by the pregnancy, or if the fetus has a brain anomaly. Despite these restrictions, abortion is widespread, with an estimated 1 million Brazilian women undergoing abortions yearly. As in many countries where abortion is restricted, women with money can still get safe abortion care, while poor women must resort to unsafe abortions. The end result is an estimated 200,000 women per year hospitalized due to complications of unsafe abortions, making unsafe abortion the third most common reason for obstetrical hospital admissions and one of the top causes of maternal mortality in the country.

A group representing Brazilian doctors, the Federal Council of Medicine, is now urging federal lawmakers to allow abortions on demand in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The group has noted the strong impact unsafe abortion has had on public health in Brazil and also pointed out that current abortion laws in the country “are inconsistent with humanitarian commitments” and act paradoxically against “social responsibility and international treaties signed by the Brazilian government.” The Council represents 400,000 physicians; let’s hope they get more attention than the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, which has already registered its distaste for this development.

No surgeon needed with new circumcision device

What do circumcisions have to do with abortion? Not a whole lot. But you may or may not know that circumcision does have a lot to do with reproductive justice for men and women living in countries with high HIV prevalence. Male circumcision, when performed by a skilled provider, reduces a man’s risk of acquiring HIV from an HIV-positive woman by about 60%. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to work the other way; that is, circumcision of HIV-positive men does not protect their female partners. However, by protecting men from acquiring HIV, their partners are likewise protected. Because many women do not have control over condom use in their relationships, and because try as we might we are still nowhere near 100% condom use, offering voluntary circumcision to men is one of the most promising interventions available to decrease the spread of HIV.

Despite this, scale up of voluntary male circumcision has been slow. Although there are many reasons for this, the skilled health worker shortage in low-income countries is a major barrier to increased implementation of male circumcision. The New York Times reported this month on the PrePex device, an inexpensive tool that, after being left on for about one week, causes the foreskin to drop off. Best of all, applying it takes less time than surgery and no surgeon is needed; nurses and medical officers can learn to use the device quickly.

UN Commission on the Status of Women makes important strides

Although some activists feared that, as happened last year, no outcome document would be agreed upon after this year’s Commission due to attempts from conservative actors (such as the Holy See, Iran and Syria) to derail negotiations, in the end a document was produced (see a draft here).

In addition to reaffirming important previous international agreements made in Beijing and Cairo, the document condemns violence against women, calls upon states to protect women and girls from violence, promotes education for all as a human right, and recognizes the need for women to be fully integrated into economic and social life. It also states that women who have been raped have the right to emergency contraception and safe abortion where permitted by local laws.

I of course would have liked to see more about the right to contraception (which is a right for all women, not exclusively those who have been raped) and safe abortion regardless of context or local laws, but with conservative forces working for months behind the scenes to prevent any progress, I consider this a small step forward.

New Pope in Rome But Same Anti-Contraception, Anti-LGBT Policies Will Endure

14 Mar

There had been black smoke for days, a signal from the conclave of cardinals that they had yet to decide the new leader of the Catholic Church. Yesterday morning as those of us on the west coast were heading to work, reports came in that white smoke now billowed from the Sistine chapel, a new pope had been chosen.

Meet Jorge Bergogolio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, now known as Pope Francis I . As the Bishop of Argentina, he opposed Argentina’s leadership on birth control access, he is anti-abortion, anti-condom, and anti-LGBT* rights. A new pope, but no new policies. As he enters the papacy, he has a host of scandals and abuse issues to address.

those problems included reforming the Roman Curia, handling the pedophilia crisis and cleaning up the Vatican bank, which has been working to meet international transparency standards.

Pope Francis is the first Pope from the Americas, and it is said that his election indicates the Catholic Church’s focus on the global south. He grew up in Argentina as the son of Italian immigrants and studied to be a chemist. He has been known for his love and constant study of philosophy. On first look, he may appear a fresh choice for the Church. Upon closer inspection it is clear that the new Pope is more of the same.

For women and families in the global south, new efforts from a conservative Pope Francis’ church could spell disaster. The Catholic Church has previously denounced spreading information about wearing condoms, and have resisted calls to widen access to contraception in poor countries. With the election of this new, more conservative, Pope, all hope that the Church may change their ideology is lost.

While he is known for modernizing an Argentinian church considered to be among the most conservative in Latin America, he is also known for his strict views on morality — having staunchly opposed same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.

He has called adoption by gay parents a form of discrimination against children — a stance that was publicly criticized by Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

There you have it, more of the same. And while the new Pope is renowned for his HIV /AIDS work and his outward showing of compassion for the poor, his policies are no less hateful.

Savita Halappanavar, Ireland, and the false divisions in abortion laws

15 Nov

As most of you reading this probably already know, Savita Halappanavar, a young woman living in Ireland, died last month at a Galway hospital.  The details are not yet fully available, but it appears very likely that she would still be alive had she lived in a country with less restrictive abortion laws.  Savita apparently went into labor at 17 weeks of pregnancy (far too early for the fetus to survive on its own). According to her husband, she requested a termination, but was told that as Ireland was a Catholic country her request could be fulfilled only after fetal heart activity had stopped.  3 days later, the Savita finally got the abortion she requested; however, it was too late to prevent the fatal infection that developed while she was waiting.  She went into septic shock shortly thereafter and died a few days later.

Although I can only speculate, my best guess is that although Ms. Halappanavar’s treating physicians were aware that her condition was serious, they did not consider it life-threatening.  (Abortion is legal in Ireland according to its constitution when a woman’s life is at risk).  Although we doctors are often asked to determine a prognosis and to make pronouncements as to the likelihood that a disease will get worse or even become life-threatening, the fact is that we often lack the data to do so, and in the end it is a matter of opinion.  Highly-educated, highly-experienced opinion, but opinion nonetheless.  There are simply too many factors to take into account, and too few studies upon which to rely, to make any accurate predictions.  (As an example, I am sure all of you know somebody who was told he or she had 6 months to live and survived several years… or vice versa).

It is bad enough that doctors in Ireland are supposed to somehow determine whether a pregnancy is life-threatening or “only” health-threatening, a task which quite frankly is impossible.  To make matters worse, although they face criminal prosecution (and potentially lifetime imprisonment) if they perform a procedure that is not considered justified, no legal framework exists to help them determine in which situations they can legally perform an abortion.  How sick does a woman need to be for the situation to be considered life-threatening?  What conditions must be present?  What laboratory values must be exceeded?  There are no answers to these questions.

This problem is not new.  In fact, two years ago the European Court of Human Rights determined that Ireland had violated the rights of a woman (pseudonym “C”) who required an abortion on medical grounds for precisely this reason and cited “the lack of effective and accessible procedures to establish a right to an abortion” which “has resulted in a striking discordance between the theoretical right to a lawful abortion in Ireland on grounds of a relevant risk to a woman’s life and the reality of its practical implementation.” (Read more here in this excellent fact sheet from the Center for Reproductive Rights)

Unfortunately, even as the Court held that this woman’s rights had been violated, it found that the rights of two other applicants (pseudonyms “A” and “B”) who sought abortion on the grounds of their personal health and wellbeing were not violated. This judgment unfortunately solidifies a false division between types of abortions; those that are required for a woman’s life to be saved, and those that are required for her health to be maintained.  Whose health is most jeopardized by her pregnancy?

1) The woman with 4 children already in foster care, who suffered debilitating depression during each of her prior pregnancies, who might become suicidal in this pregnancy (applicant “A”); 2) the woman who could not afford to be pregnant or raise a child, who might not seek medical attention after complications from her abortion for fear of legal repercussions (applicant “B”); 3) the woman with cancer in remission, whose disease might get worse during pregnancy (applicant “C”); or 4) the woman who went into labor at 17 weeks (Savita Halappanavar)?

Anybody who claims they can answer this question objectively and precisely is fooling herself.  There is no way to objectively determine ahead of time which pregnancies are life-threatening and which pose a serious health threat.  Of course some are more likely to be problematic than others, but very dire-appearing situations often end up fine, and routine pregnancies can turn tragic in the blink of an eye.  In the end, the seemingly logical and ordered way countries go about restricting access to abortion (some allow abortion only to save a woman’s life, others to preserve her health, others for socioeconomic grounds, and still others without restriction as to reason)  no longer make sense, and the only reasonable thing to do is to leave the decision to the woman whose life is affected.

In response to the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment, the Irish government formed a committee  that was tasked to report back to the Committee of Ministers by the end of October of this year.  Clearly this was too late for Savita.  Let’s hope they have gotten some work done and it’s not too late for the next woman who needs an abortion in Ireland.

Why Pro-Choice Millennials Are Voting Today

6 Nov

Need to find your polling place? Check here. Want to know who are the pro-choice candidates on your ballot? Check here.

We’re getting ready for the media to lambast young voters, and especially young women, as being apathetic this election season. To combat this pathetic and inaccurate myth, we decided to tell you why we’re voting today:

Megan S.: This election matters to me because it will determine the future direction of our country, and whether we’re committed to protecting our basic human rights, like the right to health care. It matters to me because I’m a young person and I know the future of my country, even beyond the next four years, hinges upon us standing up for what I believe in today. I am voting because my voice counts and I want us to continue to move forward together.

Dena: I vote because countless women, men, and children have fought and died throughout the years for the right to vote. I vote because as a queer woman of color, my reproductive rights and civil liberties depend on it. I vote because there are too many disenfranchised voices and voters in this country. I vote for the countless individuals around the world who cannot.

This election matters because we need a President who will work to build up and protect the many freedoms we have as American citizens. We need a President who will make America a nation that we can all be proud of. We need a President who will push for human and civil rights for all Americans, not just the seldom few. Last, we need a President who will level the playing field so that all of us has an equal shot to succeed in this nation.

Quite frankly, I’m voting because my life depends on it.

Shelby: Today I’m voting for pro-equality candidates on the local, state, and national level because the decisions made by politicians impact the complicated, intersectional lived experiences of people across the US and the world. I’m casting a ballot for a country in which no young woman is ever denied access to reproductive health services, or sterilized against her will, or shackled while she gives birth. I’m voting for a nation that embraces and uplifts trans folks, that never tells its citizens who they can love, or supports social, economic, and cultural oppression of people based on the color of their skin, their country of birth, and/or their economic status. I’m voting for the America I want: a nation that actively works to fulfill the promise of “created equal” without any qualifiers.

But I am also casting my vote in this election for the next one. Because we have lived with the myth that young people are apathetic long enough. In reality, the young folks I meet understand that environmental justice, racial justice, reproductive justice, anti-racism, queer justice and immigrant rights are all connected, not just in the head but in the body and the heart. I want my elected officials and the media to be stunned tonight as they grapple with the new reality that the block known as “young voters” blew the election out of the water and are never to be ignored again. Today is the day we go, en masse, to the ballot box to send the message loud and clear: we are the new revolution and we will never, ever go back.

Sophia: While many of my AG cohorts will be standing in line to vote or working GOTV operations today, I’m going to sleep in. I voted. By mail. A week and a half ago. No, I don’t do absentee ballots because in Oregon, all voting is by mail. The burnt orange envelope arrived a few weeks ago along  with a fat voters information packet and thorough directions on how to fill out the ballot (blue or black ink; where to sign).

Our ballot had initiatives like the school bond (yes!) that allots funds from the corporate kicker tax to Portland Public schools that desperately need repair. There is a proposal that if voted in would remove estate tax on property transfers (vote no).  And I voted in favor of Kate Brown and President Barrack Obama.

What isn’t on the Oregon ballot are any voting rights laws, which have become a central issue during this election year. Time and again we have seen giant lines and giant ballots, designed to depress turnout. We have seen voter ID laws in numerous states and State Attorney Generals instituting mandates and confusing rules to invalidate votes. There are racist bill boards, misleading robo calls, flyers in Spanish directing voters to incorrect polling places.

Election fraud. Voter disenfranchisement. None of it an accident, in actuality, a result of the radical tea party wave of state congress people, mayors and Governors elected in 2010.

If I want anything, it would be for more states to allow voting by mail like Oregon and Washington. And for states to begin voting out these radical politicians hell bent on removing voters’ franchise in order to regain power.

Nicole:  In the sole developed country where only half the population has voted in elections for the past fifty years, is it really necessary to ask why it is important for young women to vote?  We need to change this, and we are the ones to do it.

We look beyond the red and blue states and the electoral college and see the power of our voices.  We understand that free, honest elections and peaceful transfer of power are a gift, to be appreciated and honored by voting.  We recognize how much is on the line, the next president will nominate a Supreme Court justice who will in all likelihood determine if Roe is overturned.  We remember that our government is by and for the people, not some people, all of them.

For some, their political action this season starts and ends at the voting booth, but not for us.  I started working in April before the primary when I went to Pennsylvania for the first time to begin educating voters about the voter id laws.  From then on, do you know who I saw phone banking and canvassing and registering voters? Young women.  You should be proud.  No matter what is said, you know the time you put into this election.  The friends you explained why their vote matters.  The grandparent you got an absentee ballot for.  The neighbors you registered to vote.  You did that, and it counts.  Even if the world isn’t quite ready to recognize your commitment to democracy, we do and we thank you.

Kaitlyn: I vote because I love the voting process. I LOVE it. Having spent time in countries where the democratic process is less than orderly, I love our voter registrations, I love our peaceful, sometimes hours-long lines. I love the sense of community and neighborhood it creates. Since Twitter happened, I love people’s updates from the centers. ‘Singing Britney Spears’ ‘Stronger’ while waiting in this freezing line,’ someone wrote, ‘other voters not amused.’

I love that on this day, after months of ever-worsening political divisiveness (a friend’s father yelled at me about how terrible liberals are until I cried the other day – true story), we all come together and do this thing that says that we are Americans. I love that there are no fights at the centers, no people yelling and screaming and being harmful to one another. I love that we come together to make decisions about who will represent us, and whether we like it or not, we abide by the will of our fellow peoples.

Most of all, I vote because Slava, who works for my father and has been for more than twenty years like a crazy, increasingly less comprehensible Russian uncle to me, went through the process of getting his citizenship so that he could vote. He beamed with pride that first election day; he told my father very seriously that it was his right as an American to go vote and he should be paid for that day (he was). Then he showed up to vote and was turned away. He had no idea he needed to register. Don’t worry, he never made that mistake again. Although his English has slipped to a word or two and I don’t think he could tell you anymore how Congress or the electoral college works, he still votes on every election day. That’s our right and our duty as Americans, and it is bad-ass. I don’t care, today, how you vote – and you must know how seriously I mean that. Friends, countrymen, Americans – just vote.

NYCProchoiceMD: I vote because although our system is far from perfect, it’s allowed our country to grow and progress for the last 200 years and will continue to do so only if we continue to participate in it. I vote to preserve the human and civil rights of my family, friends and neighbors in the hopes that some day soon we will look back aghast at the days when the right to choose when, how, and with whom to have a family was up for popular vote. I vote because I am part of the solution, and you are too.

Deva: I vote because I believe in democracy’s ability to bring freedom and safety to society. As a citezen of the United States, a country whose policies effect the world, I feel responsible to do my part to elect a person who will be rational and kind.

More importantly, I vote to respect the privlidge of voting, and to honor the fact that I live in a time and country where being a woman doesnt mean I can not vote. And as a daughter of a resident alien (who can not vote), I vote because not doing so would mean my family doesnt have a say in our country’s future.

Another GOP Candidate, Another Infuriating Comment about Rape

25 Oct

Every week, it seems, a new GOP Congressperson is coming out declaring their machivellian and antiquated views on rape. This week, Indiana GOP Candidate for Congress Richard Murdock declared that he opposes aborting pregnancies that are a result of rape because “it is something God intended to happen.”

What. The. Fuck. No, Mr. Murdock, I don’t believe you, of all people, have the right to deny women access to legal abortions in cases of rape or any other reason. Rape is a trauma that many people the world over carry with them for the rest of their lives. And if we’re going to talk about God, I don’t think God intended for ANY person on this Earth to be raped. Ever.

This angers me on so many levels. What also bothers me is that Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, supported Murdock in a campaign ad that began running on Tuesday. Regardless of whether or not Romney’s distancing himself, he still supported a man who is clearly a candidate who would be bad for women everywhere, not just those of us who consider ourselves to be pro-choice.

Apparently Murdock claims he didn’t really mean that God intended for sexual assaults. We can forgive, but we can’t forget. Mourdock, and really, the entire Republican party, have no respect for women’s health or physical and mental well-being. Remember that when you go to the polls in two weeks.

Finally, President Obama goes in on the choice for women in this election

17 Oct

It is the economy, stupid. And President Obama showed in last night’s debate that the economy and contraception are intricately linked.

It’s about time.

For women, the choice is clear, if you want a President that supports equal pay for equal work, President Obama is your man. If you want a President that has shown through ACTION and has not flipped his position on supporting Planned Parenthood, President Obama is your man. Because as President Obama showed that like contraception and abortion are economic issues. That when women have birth control, they will more likely be better off economically.

In fact, President Obama mentioned Planned Parenthood numerous times, unprompted and without being asked from a questioner. I think he was right to do that, because he does care and it shows he cares. His policies show he cares about women. Romney, not so much.

Weirdly, Romney managed to not only avoid answering whether women should get equal pay for equal work, he revealed he thinks of women as nothing more than the dinner cookers and child raisers.

Mitt Romney said, and I quote, ” I had binders of women brought to me,” when considering cabinet members as Massachusetts’ Governor. Binders full, huh? And then he suggested women need time to leave work and cook dinner. For the family. Because that’s their job, ya’ll. And President Obama brought it back to a discussion of choice, how choice enables women and families to have children, or not have children , when it is economically right for them to do so.

Mitt Romney said “I don’t believe employers can tell someone if they can have contraception or not,” but he’s promised to defund Planned Parenthood. So actually, Mitt, you DO believe employers and bureaucrats can control women’s right to contraception. Because you want to defund one of the biggest providers of sex education, reproductive care, abortion, and yes, contraception.

If those two comments don’t insult you, maybe you should watch the way he hovered menacingly over female audience members or moderator Candy Crawley. Not only does he have an ideological reticence to women’s issues, it would appear that he cannot relate to women unless he’s in a dominant position. That is a terrifying prospect, and one that I think will not go away so easily.

Obama did well last night and showed women why Mitt Romney and Republicans are bad for women in the workplace, the home, and women’s health. Because it’s all about the economy, and a woman’s right to choose when if or how to have children is absolutely an economic issue.

In many states, early voting has started. Go here to check whether you can vote early or where you can go to vote on November 7, 2012. And tell your friends! Spread the word: Mitt Romney is the wrong choice for women.

Abortion, Religion, and the VP Debate

12 Oct

Last night, women across the country sat and watched the Vice Presidential Debates, and waited for the two men on stage to mention their existence. Seventy-three minutes into the 90 minute debate, we finally got to hear the candidates talk about abortion.

As a pro-choice Christian, I was both very excited and very disappointed in the question asked of the candidates. I was very excited because a question about faith and reproductive rights gave Biden a chance to show that no, not every religious person lets their personal beliefs dictate policy. Biden said,

“But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.

I — I do not believe that — that we have a right to tell other people that women, they — they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor, in my view.”

This is really powerful. Biden is acknowledging what our Constitution tells us: we cannot let our religious beliefs be the basis for law. There are thousands of religious Americans who have personal beliefs about abortion that do NOT cause them to want to restrict reproductive rights. Even more religious people have beliefs that are actually in favor of reproductive rights. To take one person’s religious beliefs as law would be immoral and wrong.

I was also disappointed in the question. A specific question about abortion and Catholicism limited the discussion greatly. Congressman Ryan has come out against funding for birth control under Obamacare, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides contraceptives, STI screenings, and cancer screenings in addition to abortion care. By talking only about abortion in relation to religious beliefs, the public didn’t get to hear all of Ryan’s extreme anti-woman views. Limiting the conversation to religion and abortion also made it impossible to bring up the issues faced by women of color, inmates facing pregnancy, or poor people who need to use abortion funds to pay for a legal medical procedure.

The conversation was restricted to such a small part of reproductive justice, but Congressman Ryan’s stance was still terrifying. We all know that Romney doesn’t really have a position on abortion; he flip flops whichever way will get him more votes. But Ryan is very clear that he has a strong stance, which is guided by his personal beliefs. He said,

“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.”

Ryan’s private faith tells him that abortion should be illegal in every situations.  So when he goes on to say that, “the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,” I don’t believe him for one second. Ryan’s personal beliefs guide him in how he handles public, government policy. With Romney’s lack of a strong stance on abortion, Ryan would clearly lead a Romney/Ryan administration on pushing for a complete ban on abortion. Ryan said this in no uncertain terms: “All I’m saying is if you believe that life begins at conception, that therefore doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle.”  He doesn’t believe in exceptions to abortion bans, and was barely able to fall in line with Romney’s campaign.

It would be extremely dangerous for all of us to have Paul Ryan as the Vice President of the United States.  Those who support reproductive rights must step up to the plate. Talk to your neighbors and friends; donate to a campaign; sign the Bill of Reproductive Rights; ensure you are registered to vote. We need everyone to stand up.

International reproductive rights roundup: August Edition

27 Aug

Court victory for victims of coercive sterilization in Namibia

Namibia’s highest court has ruled that the rights of three women were violated when they were sterilized without their consent while receiving care at public hospitals.   Sterilization without informed consent is only one of many violations of women’s rights that has been documented against women living with HIV in Namibia.  While this verdict occurred in Namibia, it may have profound implications for women around the word, as coercive sterilizations have been documented not only for women living with HIV in other countries but also among certain ethnic groups. Of note, many US women are still suffering from our country’s legacy of coerced sterilizations.

Review of the impact of US policy towards abortion on women victimized by rape as a weapon of war

In conflict-affected regions, rape is often used as a weapon of war.  This was true in Bosnia and Rwanda in the recent past, and is ongoing today in areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Atlantic published a great review of how thousands of women in conflict-affected countries are being denied appropriate medical care after being raped during conflicts due to the US government applying conditions to aid money as stipulated in the Helms amendment (no exceptions to the rule against funding abortion services) as opposed to the Hyde amendment (exceptions granted for rape, incest, life endangerment).  Those of you who are fans of Abortion Gang know very well that we don’t agree with the “exceptions” mentality and believe that the reason doesn’t matter- but this is an interesting read nonetheless.

The Philippines ratifies the Domestic Workers Convention

Women and girls make up the vast majority of domestic workers worldwide, yet often have few or no rights.  Migrant workers are especially likely to be forced to work with no breaks, for little pay, or to even be confined forcibly.   The Philippine Senate ratified the treaty earlier this month, making the Philippines the second country (after Uruguay) to take an important step to guarantee rights to some of its most vulnerable workers.

How can we meet “unmet need”?

International family planning advocates often talk about the “unmet need for family planning.”  The way it’s calculated is complicated (if you’re interested, look here) but essentially it measures the percentage of women who are at risk of pregnancy (in other words, sexually active and not using a contraceptive method) who actually do not want to become pregnant in the next year. This group of women is considered a key population to target for family planning services because most of them probably will be happy to use contraceptives if they are available, affordable, and provided in an environment that offers respectful, high-quality care.  Over 200 million women worldwide are estimated to have an unmet need for contraception, and it will take a lot of work (not to mention money) to reach all of them. Stephen Goldstein at the K4Health blog does the math to show us which commitments would need to be kept in order to get contraceptives to everybody who has this “unmet need.”