What Does Zika Virus Have to Do With Reproductive Rights?

mosquitoWhere did the Zika virus come from?

In 2012, biotechnology experts released genetically modified mosquitoes with the hopes of combatting the spread of dengue fever and other diseases into Brazil. Though the Zika virus has been around since the 1950s, there is speculation that these GMO mosquitoes have contributed to the rapid spread of the Zika Virus.

What is Zika virus?

The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and causes a variety of birth defects and health problems including microcephaly. Microcephaly causes babies to be born with small heads and developmental delays. Carriers of the virus show little to no symptoms. Health experts predict that the Zika outbreak poses a bigger threat than Ebola did. Ebola killed more than 11,000 people in Africa.

What does Zika virus have to do with women’s reproductive health?

A lot actually. Because abortion is illegal in Brazil (and many other affected countries), and the virus poses the largest threat to pregnant and women of child-bearing age, the recent outbreak is forcing lawmakers in these countries to reevaluate their stringent laws surrounding the matter. While these countries are advising women to avoid getting pregnant until the virus is eradicated, it leaves little options for women who are already pregnant or those that will become pregnant by accident. When a country bans abortion, women are forced to seek dangerous back-alley abortions. The Center for Reproductive Rights has been urgently petitioning for El Salvador, a country with a zero tolerance stance on abortion, to change its abortion policy in response to the recent virus outbreak.

What can be done?

Reproductive right activists believe that if the pope would relax the catholic church’s stringent views on abortion and family planing, that heavily Catholic Latin American countries would follow suit. Hopefully the desperate situation will cause these countries to reconsider alternative solutions.

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Right Wing Videographers Indicted After Planned Parenthood Investigation

Planned Parenthood

A grand jury in Texas, who was in charge of investigating whether or not Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue, has done something rather shocking. After a months-long investigation, the jury chose to indict the people who initially filmed the videos, instead of Planned Parenthood.

The jury, summoned by Harris Country District Attorney Devon Anderson (a Rick Perry appointee), investigated all of the evidence alleging that Planned Parenthood participated in criminal conduct. The right wing videographers, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were indicted for filming and then inappropriately editing a video that shows an executive of Planned Parenthood talking about the medical uses for fetal tissue.

After the videos were released, right wing lawmakers began accusing Planned Parenthood of illegally trafficking aborted baby parts. Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, was even required to testify before Congress.

Along with Texas, 11 other states have launched similar investigations despite being both expensive and time consuming. Not surprisingly, none of the investigations thus far have produced any evidence of misconduct. Eight states have come forth saying that there isn’t even enough evidence to justify an investigation in the first place.

The two videographers are facing up to twenty years in prison for a second degree felony; tampering with a governmental record. David Daleiden is also facing an additional year in prison for attempting to purchase and sell human organs. In the last eight years, Daleiden secretly recorded Planned Parenthood staff and patients, used fake aliases and government IDs, and even went as far as creating a fake tissue procurement company in order to gain access to private information and conversations.

It’s time we stop wasting taxpayer dollars to investigate an organization that aims to improve not only the health of women but also the health of families. Representative Carolyn Mahoney (D-NY) appropriately deemed the investigations against Planned Parenthood a “witch hunt.”

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My Letter to the Editor in NY Times: Another Year, Another Round of Abortion Debates

steamA letter I recently wrote to the NY Times editor was just published yesterday. The letter is in response to an article published on December 19, 2015 entitled The Reproductive Rights Rollback of 2015Read the entire letter here.

The year in review:

  • States have enacted 288 abortion restrictions since the beginning of 2011
  • In 2015 alone, state legislators passed 57 new constraints on a woman’s right to choose.
  • Lawmakers have been writing TRAP laws (or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) that disguise their true intent, to eradicate abortion altogether.
  • Going after the health clinics causes an increase in closures, which then increases the chance that a woman will attempt a self-induced abortion.
  • It is estimated that 100,000-240,000 TX women have attempted a self-induced abortion, likely due to having limited access to legal abortion clinics.
  • More than 24 states already require waiting periods for abortions and an additional five more states joined their ranks this year.

It seems that the assault on a woman’s right to choose isn’t going away any time soon. There is no doubt that 2016 will be filled with even more new constraints. Stay informed, stay alert.

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Fewer Women Seek Preventative Reproductive Care When Clinic Closures Increase

photo-1439902315629-cd882022cea0According to a new study done by the Analysis Group in Boston, fewer women seek preventative reproductive health care when women’s health clinics are shut down in their communities. Though these lawmakers aim the funding cuts at abortion providers, there is an unintended (and unfortunate) consequence; less women receive necessary reproductive care, such as pap smears and cancer screenings.

The study reveals that when a women’s health clinic (such as Planned Parenthood) in a rural area is shut down, there is an annual decrease in women receiving breast exams, mammograms, and Pap test. When the distance to the next nearest clinic increases drastically (such as 100 miles or further), fewer women tend to seek out preventative care. Less educated women are affected the most, likely due to the fact that they are uninsured, underinsured, rely on charity care, have less flexible schedules, or lack the means of transportation.

The research conducted by the Analysis Group (and paid for by an undisclosed national network) will be published in an article titled “The Impact  of Women’s Health Clinic Closures on Preventative Care” and is the first to quantify the number of women receiving preventative care once a closure takes place. Texas and Wisconsin were the states primarily researched due to 2011 legislation that cut funding to women’s health clinics providing abortion services within these states.

Sure, cutting funding to women’s health clinics may successfully decrease the amount of legal and safe abortions that take place, but it also decreases the likelihood that women will seek preventative reproductive health care.

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Repro Roundup: July 2015

Repro Roundup July

The Good

  • This month, a Federal Appeals court ruled that contraceptive coverage is not a burden on religious organizationsIf a nonprofit religious organization wants to opt out from providing contraceptive coverage to their employees, they may do so with ease. When the organization opts out, the government will then arrange contraceptive coverage for the employees instead. An order of nuns in Colorado objected to the government stepping in because they claimed it made them complicit in the delivery of contraceptives. Read more here. 
  • House lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would end the Hyde Agreement. This repeal would permit federally funded insurance plans to cover abortion service, including women covered with Medicaid. Though this repeal would be nice, it is unlikely to pass. Read more here. 

    The Bad

    • Wisconsin recently passed a 20-week limit for abortions. The bill, which makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, was passed by the Republican-led State Senate in June. It prohibits abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, when some abortion foes say an unborn child can experience pain. Twelve other states have similar bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks the issue. The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth District ruled in May that an Idaho ban on abortions after 20 weeks was unconstitutional. Read more here. 
    • More efforts to discredit Planned Parenthood are being made with the use of nefarious and misleading tactics. Read more here. 
    • Lately there seems to be so much concern about embryos, but none, as far as I can see, about our shamefully high infant mortality rate. This supports the notion that many in the so-called “pro-life” camp, care only about pre-born life. Where is the effort to save these babies who have already been born – a disproportionately high percentage of whom are Black? Read more here.
    • Republican politicians are refining that way that they talk about pregnancy and abortion rights in hopes that they will sound less ‘anti-woman’.  Read more here. 
    • Senate fast tracks measures to defund Planned Parenthood. Read more here.

      The Good // The Bad

      • The Good: Supreme Court stays part of Texas’ extreme anti-abortion law // The Bad: “The Court’s stay of the Texas abortion restrictions law makes it all but certain that the Justices will take up abortion rights next term.” Read more here. 
      • The Good: Federal appeals courts are withholding Obama’s contraceptive policy, guaranteeing access to free birth control for women. // The Bad: The government could have problems finding third parties to pay for contraceptives when employers object. Read more here.

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