Articles about Action
[From Jessica Mason Pieklo, Senior Legal Analyst, RH Reality Check, at RH Reality Check.]
The trial over a Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital or face prosecution came to a close last week, with federal District Court Judge William Conley expressing both frustration at the law and the inability of those challenging it to explain why area hospitals were not responding to admitting privileges requests.
Like admitting privileges requirements passed in states like Texas, Alabama, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Louisiana, supporters of the requirement in SB 206, which has been on hold since July, insist the law is necessary to protect patient safety.In support of that claim attorneys for the state offered the testimony of Lena Wood, an Oshkosh woman who claimed she was hospitalized after becoming ill following an abortion nearly 20 years ago and that her provider never followed up with her. Wood, an anti-choice activist, admitted under cross-examination that she did not understand her medical records, and there were no facts to back up her assertion that it was the abortion that had caused her hospitalization.
The state’s second witness in support of the law was James Linn, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Columbia St. Mary’s and advisor to Wisconsin Right to Life, the main group supporting the law. During his testimony, Linn said he hoped Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee—one the providers challenging the law—would close so that fewer legal abortions would be performed in the state. The clinic, the only one in the state that performs abortions beyond 19 weeks, faces closure under the law because its doctors have so far been unable to obtain the required admitting privileges. Judge Conley said he was “bewildered” by the fact that local hospitals had not yet stated whether they would grant privileges to Affiliated Medical Services providers and ordered the parties to continue to pursue privileges, indicating he would order the hospital to respond if they continued to evade the request. One of those providers, Dr. Dennis Christensen, testified he had been pursuing admitting privileges at two Milwaukee hospitals for months but had not had any response from the hospitals. Christensen testified he believed the lack of response from the hospitals is connected to the hospital credentialing officials’ demand for information on patients he has treated in a hospital. Christensen testified he has no such data to provide in response to their demand because he hasn’t treated an abortion patient in a hospital for at least a decade.
“The fact that we’ve managed to keep our patients out of the hospital appears to be a detriment to getting hospital privileges,” he said.
A ruling on whether or not the law will go into effect is not expected from Judge Conley for at least a month, and in the meantime he ordered the parties to continue to pursue obtaining hospital privileges. Should providers be able to obtain those privileges, it could resolve, at least temporarily, the legal challenge. That was the case in North Dakota, where the state’s only abortion clinic faced closure under the state’s admitting privileges requirement. But just as a trial over the constitutionality of North Dakota’s law was about to begin, Sanford Health, a Dakotas-based health-care system, granted admitting privileges to the providers, prompting attorneys for the state and those challenging the law to reach a settlement and end the legal challenge. At the close of last week’s trial, Judge Conley suggested a similar possibility for Wisconsin, noting he was troubled by the inflexibility of the law.
“I’m being asked to strike down a law,” said Conley. “I take no pleasure in that. If there’s a way to get privileges short of that you should do that.”
The stately Lady Justice sits beneath the Supreme Court inscription: “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.”
Advocates at the national family planning conference visited our elected officials this week. As I passed Lady Justice, I thought about the pending case on contraceptive insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Much of the public is weary of this seeming tedious and endless debate on women’s health and women’s rights. But if the court’s motto is not to become an epitaph for equality for women, individual constitutional rights in these most intimate and personal decisions must be upheld.
Several private for-profit corporations argue that bosses opposed to birth control methods for personal religious reasons, should be permitted to deny all contraceptive coverage to their employees.
“Equal justice under law” promises that each person before the court will have impartial and evidence-based judgment. The scales of justice declare that evidence will be weighed.
First the court must decide whether a for-profit corporation is even able to exercise religious liberty. An employee can claim religious rights, but it seems overreach to say that corporations with no religious purpose are able to deny equality of health care access to their employees to impose the religious beliefs of their owners.
Even if the court determines that for-profit corporations are able to exercise religious liberty rights, then it must say whether the requirement of the ACA is asubstantial burden. Actuarial studies have shown that the cost of providing contraceptive coverage is less than $2.00 per employee per month. With many exceptions and alternatives available for providing contraceptive coverage, the cost of the benefit is not substantial.
The burden, even if substantial, can nonetheless be justified. In this situation, the compelling argument is that preventing unintended pregnancies and their outcomes, including impacts on women’s health, children in poverty and even abortions, represent a national public health goal. These very corporations benefit from women participating fully in the work force including by reducing the substitution, replacement and productivity costs of family medical leave.
Contraceptive care is primarily used by women and has been shown to advance equality of opportunity – a national goal. Enabling a few employers to deny health care that others are guaranteed is contrary to foundational American separation of church and state.
Contraceptives prevent pregnancy. Some corporate owners may believe that contraception is equivalent to abortion, but under accepted medical, legal, and scientific standards it is not. Almost everyone understands that a woman cannot have an abortion prior to pregnancy. An employee whose employer offers health insurance cannot simply go to the ACA marketplace and get coverage. If the employer denies contraceptive coverage, the employee may not be able to afford themost effective or medically necessary method.
Regardless of what the court decides, family planning clinics in Wisconsin and throughout the country will continue to provide all approved methods of birth control confidentially to men and women. Insured or uninsured, rich or poor, in the face of persistent political and legal attacks, family planning programs will support equal justice and equal access under law.
The No Suprises Story outside Womankind Crisis Pregnancy Center in Appleton.
“Have Emergency Contraception (EC) BEFORE you need it,” is the message that the Family Planning Health Services (FPHS) “No Surprises Stork” is delivering to Wausau and throughout Wisconsin today. According to Lon Newman, FPHS executive director, the No Surprises Stork takes off from the Hope Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in Wausau this morning and visits four other CPCs around the state. Newman says the stork is delivering two serious Valentine’s Day messages in a light hearted way:
- Worry less on Valentine’s Day by having EC on hand; and,
- Accurate information and access to emergency contraception prevents unwanted pregnancies.
Director of Reproductive Health Operations, Michele Paoli, RN, explained that every contraceptive method has a failure rate, and women of reproductive age should have emergency contraception on hand as a back-up method. “Plan B™ or Levonogestrel 1.5 is more effective the sooner it is taken after a method failure,” she said. “Most women experience method failures — they forget to take their pill or a condom breaks, or they miss a birth control appointment. Having EC on hand in-advance-of-need helps women take it sooner, when it is more effective, rather than later.”
Lon Newman explained why the stork is making appearances in front of Crisis Pregnancy Centers: “Many people don’t know that CPCs provide inaccurate and even deceptive information about emergency contraception to women. We want to express that the best approach to crisis pregnancies is to prevent them. The best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The best way to help women is to give them accurate information and access to health care so they are empowered to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.” Newman said this point of view is in stark contrast to the CPC’s approach of using misinformation to persuade women not to use contraception or not to have abortions. “By giving women inaccurate information, Crisis Pregnancy Centers may even increase unwanted pregnancies and abortions.”
“Young people are confused right now,” FPHS EC coordinator, Frances Irwin said, “about access to birth control and STD testing and treatment.” She said that confidential low-cost family planning services are available at clinics throughout Wisconsin. “Insured or uninsured — 90% of our patients have no out-of-pocket expenses.” she said. “Young men and women want to protect the right to confidential sexual health care, and family planning clinics are here to insure that our communities are able to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections. These are public health priorities.”
Paoli said that FPHS is expanding its Emergency Contraception services to offer on-line internet sales of Levonogestrel 1.5 and Plan B™ at www.EZEC.org. The agency offers web-based sales to help women have EC on hand before they need it because it is more effective if taken sooner after method failure or unprotected intercourse.
Newman explained that FPHS is putting out this “Plan ahead for Valentine’s Day message” so people are able to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections “whether they are in rural areas, or urban underserved communities.”
The No Surprises Stork at the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Stevens Point, WI.
Women’s Equality Day is no time for a nostalgic look at past achievements. When Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott linked arms in the streets of London at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention, they bound themselves to an ongoing struggle: the march for recognition that women, as well as slaves, deserved full human rights with equality of social and economic participation.
American women at the Anti-Slavery Convention, separated from full participation in the conference by a strategically placed curtain, forged an alliance and planned a movement to win human rights for women. At the first women’s rights convention in American history in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, the gathering adopted Stanton’s “Declaration of Sensibilities,” establishing goals for the movement that won women the right to vote – including former slave women — 72 years later. In 1971, fifty one years after the right to vote victory, Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-NY) led the way to passage of a law commemorating the civil rights struggle of women and declaring August 26th “Women’s Equality Day.”
Stanton, Mott, and Abzug never did and never would rest on battles already won. Although it is a day for reflection and recognition of heroines who led the way, it is most importantly a day for recommitment and continuing resolve to achieve full equality and participation.
On this day, let us think about our victories: the right to vote, equal property protections, the right to privacy in reproductive health, equality of employment opportunity, federal protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, federally protected access to safe abortion services, equality of opportunity in education, strong legal and service programs against domestic violence and sexual assault, and insurance coverage for women’s preventive care.
Let us also commit to the struggles confronting us. It might seem lately that on the long march to equality, we have been pushed back. On this Women’s Equality Day, it is especially important to remember that the road is long, the march goes on, and our American journey toward full participation continues.
Retrogression appears most consequential where it is most controversial–in reproductive rights and reproductive justice. Many states, including Wisconsin, have passed laws depriving women of access to preventive care and even mandating unjustified medical procedures to block access to safe and legal abortions. To achieve equality, every woman must be free from reproductive coercion, must have access to high quality health care and information, and must have the fundamental freedoms of self-determination as a human right.
Celebrate Women’s Equality Day, remembering the common roots of human rights begun 173 years ago with two women linking arms against slavery, fully aware that the march to equality for women, including the right to freedom from reproductive coercion, goes on. Today we can sing with activists like Sandra Fluke and Wendy Davis the civil rights refrain: “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”
Redux – The personal is political
Teaching children to understand and cope with bullies is essential, but bullying isn’t limited to elementary school. Bullying may not be physical or direct. It is persistent, intimidating, and it flourishes when victims and witnesses are afraid to speak up or speak out. It is time to identify reproductive coercion for what it is and call the bullies what they are.
“Reproductive coercion” includes sabotage of birth control by abusive partners and occurs in all social and economic groups and most frequently to unmarried sexually active women. Male partners seek control over their partner’s reproductive options, even whether and when to have sex, to assert and maintain power.
Just as the pattern of intimidation, harassment, aggression and control is not limited to schools, reproductive coercion is not limited to interpersonal relations. It is ubiquitous at public forums, health care settings, legislative discourse, and campaign politics. This bullying is intended to intimidate, to silence people who disagree, to deny people access to health care they want or need, to pass legislation that denies reproductive justice, and to maintain power by opposing reproductive rights and justice.
Last week, one of Family Planning Health Services’ (FPHS) employees was participating in a health fair sponsored by our local United Way and county health department. It happened to be hosted at a Catholic hospital. One of the medical directors required the employee to remove information on emergency contraception. The doctor then used post-it notes to obscure “prescription contraception” and “non-prescription contraception” on the FPHS display.
The hospital has been recognized for its work with sexual assault victims and the hospital president is on the state attorney general’s sexual assault task force. We can assume the hospital is in compliance with state law to provide emergency contraception in the emergency room and we know that many of the physicians provide prescription and non-prescription contraception to their patients. But, like the classic elementary school bully, the physician used position and status to censor and deny information to participants.
Victims and bystanders might excuse the bully; “I should have known this would provoke him,” or “I should have known better than to be in this neighborhood,” but motivation does not excuse intimidation, bullying and harassment. On a public level we may understand religious objections, but using status, position, power, volume or force to control someone else’s reproductive health and behavior must be challenged and condemned if the culture of sexual coercion is to change.
Several days ago, Wisconsin’s State Senator Mike Ellis used the power of the majority and the gavel to silence debate and fast-track a bill that requires women to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound procedure and morality message before they can have an abortion. In our state assembly, our state representative shared her experience as a child rape victim and spoke very personally to how she felt as a victim and as the mother of three daughters, to a law requiring victims to undergo a re-invasion of privacy and self-control. On-line bullies vilified and harassed her for speaking out as a victim against the “pro-life” legislation.
There are self-styled “prayer warriors” standing outside our family planning clinics for a few months each year. They know that many of our patients and WIC participants/children are intimidated by their presence, but they justify the bullying on the basis of their religious beliefs about abortion, which we do not provide.
Victims and witnesses to reproductive coercion, intimidation and bullying must try to speak up, seek help, or intervene as the situation requires. When it comes to public and political behavior, calling reproductive coercion what it is the first step to ending it.
MADISON- Today Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced the closure of four family planning health centers in Shawano, Chippewa Falls, Johnson Creek and Beaver Dam between April and July of this year. These closures are a direct consequence of the Legislature’s elimination of funding benefiting patients at Planned Parenthood in the last budget cycle. Over the past year, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin worked to minimize the impact of the Legislature’s significant budget cuts on our patients. Despite efforts to sustain services to these patients for over a year without state funding, Planned Parenthood has been forced to end health care services in these four health centers. These unfortunate health center closures will result in the disruption and a loss of over 11,400 health care services for approximately 2,000 patients including lifesaving cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control, annual exams, pregnancy tests, STD testing and treatment, HIV screening, and referrals to a network of community resources. Planned Parenthood will maintain health care services in 23 health centers across the state.
“For 78 years, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has been providing high quality health care including lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, birth control, and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections to approximately 80,000 women and families in 27 health centers across Wisconsin,” said Deb Bonilla, Vice President of Patient Services. “Continued patient care is our top priority. Health center staff are working with the affected patients to identify health care alternatives to minimize the impact of these closures.”
Nearly 165,000 Wisconsin women who are in need of publicly supported reproductive & sexual health services go without needed health care. Despite this unmet need, during the last budget cycle Governor Walker ended state funding for 12,000 women who receive health care at Planned Parenthood. This coupled with the Governor’s recent rejection of federal funds and the resulting drastic rollback of BadgerCare coverage will increase the amount of women who do not have access to health care. These politically motivated actions will have a significant impact on women seeking affordable health care.
“Women are going to have to drive even longer distances just to get basic health care like wellness exams, cancer screenings and birth control,” said Deb Bonilla, Vice President of Patient Services. “We are doing all we can to ensure that women get the care they need, but in some instances the resulting barriers to care will make health care access very difficult.”
In all four of these communities, Planned Parenthood is the only reproductive health provider. Uninsured or financially constrained patients seeking health care will need to travel outside of their county and in some instances up to an hour to receive essential health care services. For some women, this added burden could make the difference in whether they access routine cancer screens, STD tests, treatment or birth control.
“Cutting funds and turning away resources tied to the Medicaid program when people are going without essential health care will negatively impact community health and cost taxpayers’ money,” said Nicole Safar, Public Policy Director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “Barriers to preventative and lifesaving diagnostic health care will most certainly result in an increase of the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions, undetected cancer occurrences and higher STD/HIV rates. This year we will be watching closely to see what impact this budget will have on Wisconsin communities and the women and families that rely on Planned Parenthood.”
At Planned Parenthood, we remain unwavering in our belief that all people deserve access to high quality and affordable health care. As the state’s largest non-profit reproductive health care provider, we will continue to be there for our patients to provide affordable and quality health care and to advocate on their behalf to keep them safe, healthy and strong – no matter what.
Governor Scott Walker and the Republican controlled Legislature eliminated funding for patients accessing reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood in the 2011-2013 Biennial State Budget. The services provided by Planned Parenthood include birth control counseling and options, lifesaving cervical and breast cancer screenings, annual exams, STD testing and treatment, Well Women Exams, pregnancy testing, HIV testing, and colposcopies (advanced cervical cancer tests).
Investing in women’s health is a non-partisan issue as it contributes to healthy women, men and families for Wisconsin while saving taxpayers’ money. For every $1 spent on family planning taxpayers save $4 (The Guttmacher Institute).
The elimination of state funding to Planned Parenthood in 2012 resulted in the loss of funding in 9 of Planned Parenthood’s 27 family planning health centers in Kenosha, Winnebago, Eau Claire, Shawano, Wood, Chippewa Falls, Dodge, Fond du lac, and Jefferson Counties. These health centers serve 12,000 women each year and in 8 of the 9 counties Planned Parenthood is the ONLY family planning provider.
According to the latest data, there are 282,000 women in Wisconsin in need of publicly funded reproductive health care services. Current provider networks and funding sources provide care for only 95,000 patients. The vast majority of these patients do not have access to affordable health insurance and receive assistance from various public funding sources to access this basic care.
In 2008, the network of family planning providers in Wisconsin averted 24,300 unintended pregnancies, 12,100 abortions and saved taxpayers $94 million in averted health care costs.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is closing 4 health centers in Beaver Dam, Shawano, Johnson Creek and Chippewa Falls. Health center staff at the four affected health centers have been serving the communities for decades: Beaver Dam 1977, Chippewa Falls 1984, Shawano 1979, and Johnson Creek 1999.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin health centers will close on the following dates: Shawano April 19; Chippewa Falls May 17; Beaver Dam June 14; Johnson Creek July 19.
These four health centers provide birth control counseling and options, lifesaving cervical and breast cancer screenings, annual exams, STD testing and treatment, Well Women Exams, pregnancy testing, HIV testing and referrals to a network of community resources.
In just the last 10 years these four health centers have provided services to 26,951 patients.
PPWI’s Role as the Leading Provider of Women’s and Reproductive Health in Wisconsin
For 78 years, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has been the leading reproductive health care provider in the state. PPWI provided essential health care services like cervical and breast cancer screenings, wellness exams, STD testing and treatment, and birth control education and services to 80,000 patients in 2012.
Last week I shared an email “ABP” issued by radical Wisconsin anti-choice group Vigil for Life. To quickly recap, VFL “sidewalk counseled” a woman seeking services at a Madison Planned Parenthood. However, when the woman left, the VFL volunteers (or as they say “prayer warriors”) neglected to get her name.
So, Laura and Steve Karlen who run VFL, issued the following description of the young woman with direction to call if she were spotted:
Have you seen the pregnant mom? The young pregnant woman, probably in her 20?s, had a darker complexion with dyed red hair and tattoos on her neck and right shoulder. She also had some facial piercings. The woman looked obviously pregnant. We pray that she will never decide to come back to Planned Parenthood. Please let us know immediately if you have seen a woman with this description.
Lisa Subek of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin had the opportunity to share this email with Madison Police Chief, Nobel Wray. Subek said in an email, “According to [Wray], it is legal to send such an email but could be considered harassment if the individual who is the subject of the email told the so-called “sidewalk counselors” she didn’t want further contact from them. She could have filed a complaint regarding the email.”
So, does this mean one must opt out of harassment by radical anti-choice zealots? That we must be clear with those “sidewalk counselors” that scream at us as we enter a woman’s health clinic that we don’t want them to stalk us?
Subek said Wray did understand the concern of such an email, but continued, “I’m not surprised by this answer, but it certainly makes me think about our legal definition of harassment and how we do not do enough to prevent it or to protect victims.”
Wisconsin code defines harassment in the following way:
Striking, shoving, kicking or otherwise subjecting another person to physical contact; engaging in an act that would constitute abuse under s. 48.02 (1), sexual assault under s. 940.225, or stalking under s. 940.32; or attempting or threatening to do the same. (b) Engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose.
Vigil for Life certainly has the ‘no legitimate purpose’ part nailed.
According to Wisconsin state filings, VFL was incorporated in 2009. They are currently delinquent filing a state required annual report. VFL’s website, the Karlens’ began “coordinating” Vigil for Life after the 2009 40 Days for Life campaign.
Vigil for Life protests in front of Madison clinics Monday through Friday. They are also affiliated with Pro Life Wisconsin and boast such followers as Ralph Lang, the man who was planning an attack on Planned Parenthood to, “lay out abortionists because they are killing babies.” Lang attended several of VFL’s “vigils.”
Pro Life Wisconsin is currently pushing a personhood amendment in the state. Green Bay State Representative, Andre Jacque introduced Joint Resolution 77 on November 16.
This is on the heels of Mississippi’s failed personhood amendment and is among scores of new personhood legislation being introduced throughout the country. In order for any amendment to be added to the ballot, it must pass two consecutive sessions of congress. So, even if the personhood amendment passed the legislature in 2012, it must then pass in 2013 to make the ballot for the following statewide Wisconsin election in 2014.
Emails to Vigil for Life and a call to Mrs. Karlen weren’t returned.
I also directly contacted the Madison PD – the district which from what I could tell is near the Planned Parenthood and Vigil For Life CPC. Here is the email response I got:
Andy – I am unfamiliar with the email to which you are referring. Please send it to me at this address, and we will take a look.
Cameron S. McLay, Captain of Police
North Police District Commander
City of Madison Police Department
If you’ve seen the national news or read a major paper in the last three weeks, you’re aware of Governor Scott Walker’s malicious Budget Repair Bill (Wisconsin May Take Ax to State Workers’ Benefits and Their Unions) which threatens to deny collective bargaining rights to nearly all public workers in Wisconsin.
Concealed in the jargon of the 144-page bill is an equally serious issue—a threat to silence public voice on Medicaid and Medicare coverage issues by deferring all policy decisions regarding Medicare into hands of a legislative committee’s co-chairs and the Governor—without public debate.
In Wisconsin, family planning services—including access to birth control—fall under the Medicare umbrella. I and many of my female friends use birth control and I am willing to boldly make the generalization that relying on men for birth control does not result in a 100% success rate. Like many of my female friends, I also must rely on a subsidy to help alleviate the cost of birth control.
Governor Walker proposes to take the fate of Medicaid and my access to birth control into his hands and the hands of his committee co-chairs without any public input. Three people could be deciding the future of access to family planning for the sixty-five thousand participants who rely on the program now.
Governor Walker is not only proposing to take our voices away, he is proposing to take away the control we have over our bodies too.
Eliminating the subsidy that countless numbers of women receive for birth control will prevent women from using many birth control methods. The Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit which focuses on advancing sexual as well as reproductive health, published a brief on family planning which states that “Women who had an unmet need for effective contraception account for 82% of all unintended pregnancies”. The result of having access to birth control cut off will be more unplanned pregnancies as many women would be unwilling to restructure their sex lives. Whether these pregnancies are carried to term or terminated, the costs are high. The average costs of carrying a child to term ($5,791) are much higher than the average annual cost of supplying birth control (approximately $200). Cutting the family planning services to Wisconsin women and men is fiscally irresponsible and would add to the deficit that Governor Walker is purporting to lower with his budget “repair” bill.
Changing the legislative administrative rule process by implementing undemocratic transactions is a gross overreach of power that could let three out-of-touch old legislators mute my voice and take away the health care that empowers me to advance my education and make responsible choices. That is unacceptable. Attacks on women’s reproductive rights in Washington, D.C.—and across the United States—are increasing in number and intensity. Now Governor Walker proposes to silence the voices of women and their representatives in the “debate”.
I urge women across Wisconsin to make their voices heard now in any and every way possible. Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers. Use social networks—Facebook and Twitter. Call your legislators. Protect your right to speak and protect your right to control your body. Just like I am not willing to rely on men for my birth control, I am not willing to rely on Governor Walker and the chairs of the joint legislative committee to control family planning decisions for women across Wisconsin.
Kirsten Crowhurst, Student at UW-Madison
Who is my neighbor?
“What are they doing out there?” is the question I am most often asked about the picketers standing in front of our family planning clinic.
What they are doing by holding signs that say “The Pill Kills” and “Stop Chemical Abortion,” is misinforming and misleading the public. They give the misimpression that we provide abortion services; or drugs that terminate a pregnancy; or that using hormonal birth control is a deadlier health risk than unplanned pregnancy.
Sometimes, what they are doing is intimidating our clients – especially the young women and children coming for WIC services. The most dangerous picketers have physically blocked entrances and exits and pushed literature at people walking past or driving through.
But “What are they doing out there?” isn’t really a question about effects, it’s about motivations — and I’m giving up mind-reading and name-calling for Lent, so I won’t interpret or judge them. Still, I have questions about whether the picketers are reasonable. Many of our neighbors have lost their jobs and their health insurance. Many have seen their income reduced or lost their bargaining rights as workers. Some are in danger of losing their Medicaid and Medicare benefits and we are all losing environmental protections and the constitutional right to see the Wisconsin legislature when it is in session. Around the world, people are struggling to win the right to elect their leaders and they are too often killed, imprisoned, and beaten. Our world neighbors and friends have been lost to earthquakes, tsunamis, to floods and storms; and in nearby Haiti, cruel and corrupt dictators return triumphantly to the crime scene in the midst of catastrophic events and an election.
That’s why I am troubled and unsettled by what the self-styled ‘prayer warriors’ are doing. There are so many struggles for freedom, social justice, and disaster relief right now, that I do not think it is justifiable to be blocking access to health care for our uninsured neighbors who want to delay childbearing so they can finish school or take a new job or even wait to have children until they can afford them.
Publicly-funded family planning saves millions of taxpayer dollars while improving public health, yet the picketers demand to know why their tax dollars should pay for STD testing, birth control, and cancer screening. They oppose hormonal contraception to prevent a high risk pregnancy or even (maybe especially) a teen pregnancy. The picketers disagree with these services and even sexual health education, so they demand that others be denied them (if only this argument would work for oil company subsidies or middle-east military interventions.)
Recently, former State Senator Walter John Chilsen, in a statewide radio program said; “The use of contraceptives does not prevent unwanted pregnancies. I think you could even make the argument that it increases them.” The program’s host quickly changed the subject – leaving the claim unchallenged.
The scientific truth and the medical fact is that contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancy. The primary cause of abortions is unwanted pregnancy and both the abortion rate and the unintended pregnancy rate have been falling for a generation. FPHS changed our banners on the building from “Condoms Save Lives” to “Birth Control Prevents Abortion” because the persistent campaign of misinformation puts our services and our community’s health at risk. It’s time to be more direct.
It is within the rights of the picketers to argue that birth control and reproductive health care should not be available, but I believe it is unethical and wrong to do it.
From our friend Lindsay. This first appears on The American Prospect.
BY LINDSAY BEYERSTEIN | POSTED 03/15/2011 AT 08:32 AM
Kirsten Powers of Fox News took to The Daily Beast to make the bizarre case that birth control doesn’t prevent abortions. In an attempt to show that abortion rates had remained suspiciously constant over the past decade, she accidentallycompared the same 10-year-old study to itself. “I am deeply sorry for the error, which invalidates my piece,” Powers later admitted in an author’s note.
Anti-contraception cranks often cite research on populations to show that rates of contraception and abortion can rise in tandem. Then they use those studies to argue that birth control doesn’t generally prevent abortions. But without a control group, you never know whether the abortion rate would have been even higher without birth control.
An estimated 85 percent of couples who are having regular intercourse without birth control will get pregnant within a year. Whereas, the typical use failure rate for birth control pills is 3 percent and the perfect use failure rate is .1 percent. The efficacy rates of major birth control methods have been rigorously tested, so we can make causal claims about how many unplanned pregnancies a particular method prevents, relative to unprotected sex.
About half of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion in the U.S., no matter how many hurdles the anti-choicers put between women and the constitutional rights.
If you take 100 healthy couples who are having sex, but who aren’t planning to get pregnant, and let them go at it for a year without birth control, you can expect about 85 pregnancies, and 42 abortions. If those same couples were using the Pill in the basically conscientious but slightly imperfect way that most people do, you’d expect about 3 unplanned pregnancies and 1.5 abortions. 42 is greater than 1.5. QED.
Obviously, birth control doesn’t work if you don’t use it, and the further you deviate from perfect use, the less reliable it is. Powers cites a study of women getting abortions as evidence that access to birth control doesn’t decrease the abortion rate. Only 12 percent of women who weren’t using birth control when they got pregnant cited lack of access as a reason why not. Powers claimed that not a single woman cited lack of access, but she got that wrong and The Daily Beast still hasn’t fixed her mistake, despite my request for a correction. That relatively low percentage suggests that organizations like Planned Parenthood are doing a good job providing birth control to those who want it, regardless of their ability to pay.
As Amanda Marcotte points out at RH Reality Check, self-reports of reasons for not using birth control may not tell the whole story. There are all kinds of systemic barriers and hassles that discourage contraceptive use, or push typical use further from perfect use, and thereby increase the unintended pregnancy rate — but which the average person probably wouldn’t describe as an absolute lack of access. Having legal access to something in principle is not the same as having ready access to it at an affordable price.
There’s an even deeper logical flaw in Powers’ analysis, however. If you only look at women who are getting abortions, you only see cases in which birth control didn’t work or wasn’t used. You will miss the millions of people who successfully use birth control and therefore never need abortions.
For someone who already admitted that her entire argument is invalid, Powers got awfully defensive on twitter when Marcotte pointed out even more flaws in her reasoning.