Posts tagged with 'reproductive health'

Weekly Pulse: Steve King’s Suicide Pact, Sin Taxes, and the Avastin Controversy

Posted Sep 22, 2010 @ 11:29 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr, gadgetgirl2007, Creative CommonsRep. Steve King (R-IA) is urging Republicans to swear a “blood oath” to shut down the U.S. government until health care reform is repealed.

King is one of an growing number of Republicans who say that, if the GOP takes over congress this fall, they will hold up every appropriations bill until the Affordable Care Act is repealed, as Steve Benen reports in the Washington Monthly. Brian Beutler of TPM explains how this would actually work.

Blood oath or suicide pact?

Benen thinks the hardliners are crazy enough to actually follow through—They’ve done it before. In 1995, the Republicans shut down the federal government because then-president Bill Clinton refused to sign off on Congress’s radical plan to slash Medicare and other social spending. Several hundred thousand federal employees were furloughed because there was no money to pay their salaries and every aspect of the economy suffered, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: DIY Abortions on the Border, Pawlenty Screws MN on Sex Ed

Posted Sep 1, 2010 @ 11:04 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr user malias/Creative CommonsWomen on along U.S.-Mexico border are buying black market misoprostol to induce abortions, according to a new report by Laura Tillman in the Nation. The drug is easily available over the counter in Mexico.

DIY abortion is cheaper—a bottle of misoprostol costs can cost as little as $70, a fraction of the price of a medical abortion. The DIY approach can also be more convenient and private. One abortion provider told Tillman that about 20% of his patients tried misoprostol before coming to see him.

He estimates that many others took the drug successfully. Misoprostol is about 80%-85% effective when used as directed, but if it doesn’t work the woman needs immediate medical help. Potential complications include severe bleeding and uterine rupture. For more information on misoprostol abortions, see last week’s edition of the Weekly Pulse. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: The Religious Right vs. Birth Control

Posted Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:06 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Does health care reform’s promise of preventive care extend to free birth control? Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have 18 months to decide whether to require insurers to provide oral contraceptives, IUDs, and other prescription birth control with no co-pay. With pro-choice Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the helm, HHS is expected to say yes. [Update: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that birth control will not be on the White House’s preliminary list of free preventive services, to be issued today. However, as Miriam Perez of feministing explains, HHS will ultimately have the final word. Observers, including Dana Goldstein who covers reproductive rights for the Daily Beast, are optimistic that the pro-choice side will carry the day at HHS.]

At this point in the process, social conservatives are shut out in the cold, quaking with impotent rage. Now that the reform bill is law, HHS has to interpret the rules—and the Obama administration officials at HHS can’t be swayed as easily as elected officials.

Religious right on the warpath

Predictably, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the National Abstinence Education Association, and the Heritage Foundation are up in arms. They’ve picked a deeply unpopular battle. Abortion remains controversial in some circles, but birth control is as American as baseball. The vast majority of sexually active women in the U.S. tell pollsters that they are not trying to become pregnant, and 89% of them are using some form of birth control.

“Seriously,” writes Monica Potts of TAPPED, “a battle over contraceptives?” Over 15 million Americans currently use hormonal contraception. Studies show that the vast majority of Americans are morally comfortable with birth control.

Expanding access to birth control is smart policy because it reduces health care costs, as Suzi Khimm notes in Mother Jones. Birth control is a lot cheaper for insurers than pregnancy and childbirth. Free birth control could change women’s lives for the better. In this economy, $30-$50 a month for hormonal birth control can be a major obstacle for many. As Michelle Chen notes in ColorLines, women of color are among those hardest hit by out-of-pocket costs.

Birth control as common ground?

Many centrists hope that contraception will be a source of “common ground” between the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps. The premise sounds reasonable. If anti-choicers oppose abortion, surely they will support measures proven to reduce the abortion rate, like expanded access to contraception. Political scientist Scott Lemieux argues in TAPPED that conservative opposition to birth control coverage is further proof that the common ground hypothesis is wishful thinking:

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it ignores the broader set of assumptions about women and sexuality on which actual opposition to abortion is based. Consider anti-choice Republicans, who consistently opposed expanding contraceptive use: Given the choice between reducing abortion rates and controlling female sexuality, they will always choose the latter. Thus the idea that contraception can be a means of achieving a ceasefire in the culture wars has always been a fantasy. Liberals and conservatives aren’t just divided by abortion but by broader questions of female equality and sexual freedom.

The USCCB clearly understands that birth control is broadly popular. Its lobbyists aren’t even trying to argue that birth control shouldn’t be covered because it’s sinful. Instead, they are playing semantic games about what constitutes preventative health care. According to the USCCB, birth control shouldn’t count because fertility isn’t a disease. Be that as it may, pregnancy is a life-altering health condition that can kill you. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church is on the record as saying that pregnant women must sacrifice their own lives for their fetuses. Ergo, pregnancy prevention is preventive health care.

Approving free birth control would go a long way towards restoring the trust between the Obama administration and its pro-choice base, at low political cost. It seems unlikely that the USCCB and its allies have the power to fuel a national backlash on this one. After all, three quarters of U.S. Catholics disagree with their own church’s teachings on birth control.

Conscience concerns

Speaking of the Department of Health and Human Services, Megan Carpentier at RH Reality Check wonders what happened to President Barack Obama’s early promise to repeal the so-called “conscience clause” rule that allows health care workers to opt out of providing reproductive health care that conflicts with their anti-choice principles. The rule is still on the books, over a year after Obama pledged to repeal it.


Finally, how did some BP oil spill cleanup workers end up living in formaldehyde-laced FEMA trailers ruled unfit for human habitation? As I report for Working In These Times, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants answers from FEMA and the General Services Administration about how these trailers found their way back onto the market.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: The Pill at 50 and Oklahoma’s Extreme Ultrasound Law

Posted Apr 28, 2010 @ 11:19 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Fifty years ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first birth control pill. Needless to say, the repercussions of this medical and public policy breakthrough are still being felt today.

Catherine Epstein of the Women’s Media Center thinks it’s significant that we celebrate the date a U.S. government agency approved the Pill, as opposed to the anniversary of its invention. The Pill has been at the center of a power struggle from the very beginning:

The pill has been under ideological fire since the first tiny tablet hit a woman’s palm. And the impact it’s had on women’s autonomy and freedom has been – as decades have passed – nearly equal to the fear (and subsequent restriction) it’s instilled in those who believe in curtailing reproductive rights. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Obama Signs Health Reform Bill, Backlash Begins

Posted Mar 24, 2010 @ 11:45 am by
Filed under: Health Care, Uncategorized     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Aliferis, via Creative Commons LicenseYesterday, President Barack Obama signed health care reform into law. As Mike Lillis explains in the Washington Independent, the bill now proceeds to the Senate for reconciliation. The whole process could be complete by the end of the week. Republicans and their allies have already moved to challenge reform in court.

Legal challenges

The fight is far from over, however. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that Republicans have already filed papers to challenge health care reform in court. The Justice Department has pledged to vigorously defend health care reform, according to Zach Roth of TPM Muckraker. (more…)

Weekly Pulse: Dodd and Dorgan to Retire

Posted Jan 6, 2010 @ 12:16 pm by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Two Democratic senators unexpectedly announced their retirements on Tuesday. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) announced that they would not seek reelection when their terms expire in 2010. Hopefully, health care reform will already have passed by then, but the departure of these senators will have implications for health care policy.

As far as the Democratic majority in the Senate is concerned, the two probably cancel each other out. As a relatively conservative 30-year incumbent, Dorgan was thought to be the only Democrat who could win a seat in conservative North Dakota. Dodd, on the other hand, is deeply unpopular for his role in the financial crisis, but hails from a deep blue state, so it should be easy to replace him with another Democrat. In fact, as Eric Kleefeld reports for Talking Points Memo, Dodd’s announcement improves the Democrats’ chances of holding that seat. (more…)

Daily Pulse: The Public Option is Alive and Kicking

Posted Sep 28, 2009 @ 12:05 pm by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Reports of the death of the public option were greatly exaggerated. According to Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, liberals are once again optimistic that health care reform will include a publicly-run insurance option to compete with private insurance companies. The main excuse to drop the public option was that Republicans wouldn’t go for it. As Benen explains, now that a bipartisan bill is out of reach, Democrats can move further to the left. Progressive Democrats have convincingly argued that the public option would save money, which undermines the Blue Dogs’ opposition for the sake of fiscal conservatism.

The Senate Finance Committee will tackle the public option tomorrow. Meanwhile, the House Democratic caucus is wrestling over what kind of public option to support. Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly rejected a so-called “trigger” which would activate a public option only if private insurers failed to control costs. “A trigger is an excuse for not doing anything,” she said. By contrast, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports a trigger. The views of the Speaker and the Majority Leader are important because they will lead negotiations to merge the House and Senate versions of the bill, creating the final text that both houses will vote on.

Meanwhile, in international news, scholars at the London School of Economics released new research last week showing that reproductive choice is the most powerful tool in the fight against climate change. The news broke as nearly a hundred heads of state gathered in New York for the UN Summit on Climate Change. As Amanda Marcotte notes in RH Reality Check, the report’s recommendations are sure to spark controversy from both the right and the left:

It’s easy enough to assume that the Obama administration and the Sierra Club are shying away from the issue because reproductive rights are such an explosive topic, and even touching it brings a hail of crazy from the anti-sex nuts down on your head. But I can honestly say that I don’t think it’s the fear of the Anti-Sex Mafia that causes this sort of allergy. It’s the history of the fear of overpopulation being used as an excuse to coerce childbirth choices, and the fact that as soon as the potential for coercion is introduced, you suddenly attract a sea of racists who love to pontificate about eugenics all day, and would love to be able to influence policy to reduce the number of non-white people in relation to the number of white people.

At Feministing, Ann Friedman argues that the rubric of population control is irrevocably tainted by its historical links to eugenics and other forms of racism. She argues that international development should focus on empowering women for their own sake, not because we hope that they will have fewer babies.

I agree that the phrase “population control” is a misleading frame. You could just as easily call it “helping women have as many children as they want.” The key is that virtually all women want fewer children than they will bear if nature takes its course. And the more opportunities women have for education, paid work, and healthy children, the fewer kids they tend to want. The phrase “population control” should be scrapped, but the effort to put women in charge of their own fertility must continue, for the good of humanity and the planet.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Daily Pulse: Astroturfing the Public Option

Posted Sep 23, 2009 @ 10:49 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

The Senate Finance Committee is slogging through literally hundreds of proposed amendments to the Baucus health care reform bill. The bill still doesn’t have a public option, but there’s a good chance that insurance subsidies will be revised upwards, as Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly reports.

Last Sunday, President Obama made his pitch for health reform on five national TV talk shows. John Nichols of the Nation criticizes Obama for his uninspired and frankly unappealing depiction of the public option:

Indeed, as Obama describes his notion of a public option, it is so constrained, under-funded and uninspired in approach as to be dysfunctional.

While there is no question that the right reform remains a single-payer “Medicare for All” system that provides quality care for all Americans while eliminating insurance company profiteering, if the best that can be hoped for is a government-supported alternative to the corporate options, then it should be robust enough to compete.

Obama advocates a public option open to the uninsured only, not to anyone who wants to buy in. If the goal of the public option is to reduce costs through competition, a limited public option would be self-defeating. A public option is supposed to drive down prices through competition. Obama’s version of a public option couldn’t compete: It would only take cases the insurers already rejected!

Speaking of insurers, Brian Beutler and Zach Roth report in Talking Points Memo that insurance company Humana is under fire for trying to scare senior citizens into resisting health reform, specifically cuts in Medicare Advantage, a federally subsidized private insurance plan. If so, Humana is in big trouble. Astroturfing seniors is a violation of the strict rules the government imposes on communications with Advantage beneficiaries.

Public News Service reports that health care activist Joe Szakos goes on trial in Virginia today for allegedly trespassing while protesting insurance rate hikes. Szakos is a member of the Virginia Organizing Project, a non-profit social justice group seeking accountability from insurers.

Obama made his first speech to the United Nations (UN) yesterday at the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York. Nearly a hundred heads of state met to iron out differences face-to-face before the official negotiations on a global climate pact begin on Copenhagen on Dec 18. In RH Reality Check, Karen Hardee and Kathleen Mogelgaard explain the link between reproductive freedom and climate change. New research reaffirms that contraception could be a powerful tool to help fight global warming:

So how does reproductive health fit into this picture? A new study by the UK-based Optimum Population Trust and the London School of Economics shows the connection between contraceptives and climate change. The study concludes that universal access to reproductive health could be one of the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A Population Action International report from May detailed how population dynamics, not just overall growth, contribute to climate change.

Note that population activists aren’t saying that women in the developing world ought to have fewer children for the sake of the planet. They’re saying that societies grow in smarter, healthier, and ultimately greener ways when women have the power to control their own fertility.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.