Monday, March 29, 2010

New York Times: In Subway Ads on Abortion, a Pretense of Neutrality

March 26, 2010


The woman in the ad is young and has a short, hip haircut, the kind you see all over the East Village. Her solemn face is half in shadow. “I thought life would be the way it was before,” the copy reads. And then: “Abortion changes you.”

The campaign, which has run in New York subways for the past month, makes a sweeping claim, but as anti-abortion strategies go, it is relatively oblique — a far cry from a brick in the window or a death threat to a member of Congress. A young woman pondering a difficult choice might check out the Web site, highlighted on the ad, which would lead her to the personal narrative of a woman troubled by her own abortion.

“We feel it’s really important for women and their families to have a safe place to experience their own range of emotions, apart from the controversy and debate,” said Michaelene Fredenburg, the source of that narrative and the founder of the Web site.

Especially since the recent abortion-fueled fight over the health care bill, we could use some more safe places to experience our own range of emotions apart from the controversy and debate. The numerous grim testimonials on the site, though, represent a somewhat limited range of perspectives —from depressed to tormented by guilt. It seems patently against women having abortions. So why not say so?

In its purported neutrality, the site, along with Ms. Fredenburg’s insistent representation of it as an apolitical “safe space,” undermines recent efforts by the poles of this most polarizing issue to find common ground.

To their credit, some who support abortion rights have, in recent years, allowed for more honest discussions about the range of emotions that can accompany terminating a pregnancy. Exhale, a postabortion hotline based in San Francisco, states on its Web site that for women who have had abortions, feelings of “happiness, sadness, empowerment, anxiety, relief or guilt are common.” It is also states that of the five founders, most support abortion rights and some have had abortions.

“To acknowledge that some people will feel remorse or shame but that it’s also all right not to — that’s what our movement has to do much better,” said Kelli Conlin, president of Naral Pro-Choice New York. That kind of conversation is a crack in the armor of abortion rights advocates that is long overdue, and Web sites like Ms. Fredenburg’s make evident why such advocates have long been wary of having it.

Nowhere on the site does mention an anti-abortion agenda. But when I clicked the “Find Help” button and typed in a Manhattan ZIP code, the first thing that popped up was Project Rachel, an initiative of the Roman Catholic Church to “present the truth of the impact and extensive damage abortion inflicts on the mother, father, extended family and society.”

So much for no judgment.

Ms. Fredenburg, who has collaborated with Feminists for Life, a group with an anti-abortion legislative platform, declined to name her financial backers. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, however, said the ad had been bought by the Vitae Caring Foundation, which seeks, according to its Web site, to “reduce the number of abortions by using mass media education.” Ms. Fredenburg said the group merely handled logistics of the purchase.

Someone seeking a safe space truly clear of the abortion debates might look, for a very different example, to the Doula Project, an organization based in New York that offers free emotional support and information both to women who want to continue with their pregnancies and to those who choose to undergo an abortion. Such a person might see progress in a consortium of abortion clinics that have started counseling women more fully about adoption options. She might be encouraged by the work of ProLife, ProObama, a group that aims to support social programs reducing the need for abortion, as opposed to pursuing a legislative agenda, which, its Web site says, “has intensified the division and partisanship around this issue, but has little effect at reducing the abortion rate itself.”

Cristina Page, who runs an online discussion for people seeking common ground in the abortion debate, said she found the campaign all the more disturbing for Ms. Fredenburg’s pretense of not taking sides. “What better way to destroy common ground than to make it meaningless?” she said.

Ms. Fredenburg claims the merely intends to help women who are suffering emotionally as a result of an abortion. But a site that seems to convince women that there’s only one appropriate emotional response, exquisite pain, is troubling — especially when its founder claims to be creating a judgment-free space.

An “Abortion Changed Me” campaign — that might be therapeutic. But “Abortion Changes You” — that sounds like propaganda masquerading as therapy.



Friday, March 26, 2010

Irish Examiner: 75% oppose contraception for youths

By Evelyn Ring

Friday, March 26, 2010

THREE out of four adults oppose giving contraception to teenagers as young as 14 without parental consent, a new RED C poll shows.

A recent report by the Law Reform Commission suggested teens as young as 14 to 15 could have access to contraception.

The Red C telephone poll of 1,000 adults found 77% opposed giving contraception to 14 and 15-year-olds without parental consent.

One in five said they supported the proposal while the remaining 2% did not answer or said they did not know.

Results of the poll were released yesterday by the Iona Institute in Dublin that promotes the place of marriage and religion in society.

On the same day the institute hosted a talk given by Prof David Paton of Nottingham University, a researcher on the economics of teenage pregnancy.

He pointed out that the pregnancy rate among Irish teenagers aged under 16 was only a sixth of England’s rate, despite it being a long standing policy in England to prescribe contraception to this age group.

He said Irish teenage birth and pregnancy rates were extremely low in comparison with countries such as England and Wales.

"The low pregnancy rate among minors in Ireland is so striking that caution is surely warranted before making significant changes to the legal position surrounding access to contraception for minors," he said.

And, he said, evidence from peer-reviewed literature on the impact of increased access to family planning on contraception rates among minors was not encouraging.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, March 26, 2010


Washington Post: DA Official Quits Over Delay on Plan B

Women's Health Chief Says Commissioner's Decision on Contraceptive Was Political

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 1, 2005

The top Food and Drug Administration official in charge of women's health issues resigned yesterday in protest against the agency's decision to further delay a final ruling on whether the "morning-after pill" should be made more easily accessible.

Susan F. Wood, assistant FDA commissioner for women's health and director of the Office of Women's Health, said she was leaving her position after five years because Commissioner Lester M. Crawford's announcement Friday amounted to unwarranted interference in agency decision-making.

"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," she wrote in an e-mail to her staff and FDA colleagues.

Crawford said last week that unresolved regulatory issues made it impossible to approve expanded use of the emergency contraceptive. Wood said the decision was widely seen in the FDA as political.

"Many colleagues have made it known that they are deeply concerned about the direction of the agency," she said in an interview.

Wood also said other FDA officials who are typically involved in important matters were kept in the dark about the contraceptive, called Plan B, until Crawford announced his decision, which she believed was made at higher levels in the administration. Wood said that when she asked a colleague in the commissioner's office when the decision would be made, the answer was, "We're still awaiting a decision from above; it hasn't come down yet."

In a statement, the FDA said Wood's resignation "is unfortunate as we work toward solving the complex policy and regulatory issues related to Plan B. . . . The FDA is committed to protecting and advancing women's health, and under Susan Wood's leadership, the agency has made significant strides."

Before coming to the FDA in 2000 in a civil service position, Wood was the director for policy and program development at the Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health, where she led the development of policy for the office, and recommended initiatives for the secretary and assistant secretary for health. She has also worked as a research scientist specializing in the biochemistry of smell at Johns Hopkins University.

Her FDA job description was to "be a champion for women's health."

The Plan B issue has become an emotional one both for advocates who believe that the contraceptive will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and for opponents who believe that it will encourage teenage promiscuity and that, in some cases, its mode of action constitutes abortion.

The FDA and mainstream medical associations say Plan B, which is generally effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of a contraceptive failure or unprotected sex, prevents a pregnancy rather than ends one.

Religious conservatives and some members of Congress say that pregnancy begins with the fertilizing of the egg. They argue that anything that harms the resulting embryo amounts to abortion. Although Plan B generally works by preventing fertilization, researchers believe that in some cases it might keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Wendy Wright, policy director for Concerned Women for America and a critic of easier access to Plan B, welcomed Wood's resignation.

"Thank goodness there is now one less political activist at the FDA who puts radical feminist ideology above women's health," she wrote in a statement. "Now that Susan Wood has some free time on her hands, she can look at the studies from countries that have made the morning-after pill available without a prescription. She'll find it creates a public health hazard, with no decrease in pregnancies, no decrease in abortion, but a substantial increase in sexually transmitted diseases."

Plan B has been available as a prescription-only drug since 1999, and distributor Barr Laboratories Inc. applied in 2003 for permission to sell it over the counter. An FDA expert advisory panel voted 23 to 4 in favor of the switch, which agency staff members believe would significantly cut the number of abortions and unintended pregnancies.

The FDA rejected the application last year, however, saying it did not have enough information about the possible consequences on teenagers younger than 16. At the suggestion of FDA officials, Barr Labs filed a new application that would allow over-the-counter sales for women 17 and older and prescription-only sales for those younger than 17. Crawford said Friday that the proposed division by age poses "unique" regulatory problems that cannot be resolved without a formal rule-making, which could take years.

Crawford also said FDA scientists and executives had concluded that the drug could be safely sold over the counter.

Many supporters of the Plan B application -- including Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) -- accused Crawford of making a political decision that ignored science and public health. The two senators were especially angry at Crawford's ruling because they had lifted a hold on his pending nomination based on promises, relayed by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, that the Plan B issue would be resolved by Sept. 1.

Clinton and Murray have accused the administration of breaking its promise, but Leavitt has disagreed. "The commitment was they would act," he told Reuters on Monday. "Sometimes action isn't always yes and no. Sometimes it requires additional thought."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back Up Your Birth Control!

Happy Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action! Birth Control mishaps happen. Help spread the word that emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy AFTER sex.

TAKE ACTION! Tell a friend, spread the word, donate your Facebook status, or check out this website for other ideas:

Some Information on Emergency Contraception

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Irish Times: Let's Talk About Sex


Tue, Mar 23, 2010

A new study into young people’s attitudes to sex makes interesting reading

MOST TEENAGERS lose their virginity between the ages of 16 and 17, according to new research on young people’s attitudes to sexual health.

However, the 18-20 year olds surveyed said they believed a greater number of 14 and 15 year olds were having sex now, compared with five years ago.

The Voice of Young People – A Report on Attitudes to Sexual Health found that most parents did not want their children to have sex before they reached 18 years.

While the majority of teenagers interviewed said they first had sex at 16 or 17, a minority said they had lost their virginity at 15.

The report said it could be assumed that many teenagers engaged in other forms of sexual activity before they had sexual intercourse.

The perception that teenagers were having sex at a younger age was common, the report found. Teenagers pointed to the pregnancy of younger children at school and discussions with younger siblings and their friends to support this theory.

The study highlighted the denial practised by some parents who said their children’s friends were having sex but their own children weren’t.

“In the main, parents reported that they would be able to determine if their own child was sexually active,” the report said.

Most of the 18-20 year olds interviewed said they had had more than one sexual relationship and many acknowledged having one-night stands.

“It’s not that you go out intending to sleep with someone, but sometimes you can’t help yourself,” explained one 19-year-old Dublin woman.

The research involved about 120 young people aged 18-20 years in Dublin, Galway and Cork as well as four focus groups of parents whose children were aged 14-16 years. It was conducted by Drury Research for the Pfizer Way2Go health programme.

The report also found that young women were more likely to have casual sex with an associate or friend who they knew, whereas men were more likely to have a one-night stand with someone they had never met.

It also highlighted the double standards practised when it came to condom-carrying. Both young men and women agreed that it should be acceptable for men and women to carry condoms on a night out.

However, men said if they saw a girl carrying a condom, it would indicate that she was “seeking sex” and was “easy”. This view was reflected by the young women interviewed, with only a small minority saying they carried condoms.

Despite the introduction of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme in schools, the study found that children still learned about sex outside the classroom, mainly from friends and older siblings.

Most young people surveyed were critical of the sex education offered in schools, saying it was often “too little, too late”.

Teachers spent too little time on the subject and very few teachers appeared to be adequately trained for it, they said.

Specific information on contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) was often given after the junior cycle but should be offered in first and second year.

They all spoke of the embarrassment of having “The Talk” with parents, and most teenagers said their parents never referred to sexually transmitted infections.

“In particular, when the subject of contraception was addressed during the course of such discussions, it was almost always in the context of avoiding a crisis pregnancy.”

The parents interviewed also spoke of the difficulty in talking about sex to their children. They said they were worried that they would begin a discussion before the child was ready for it.

“The primary fear for parents appears to be that they might shock their child or ‘steal their innocence’, something they are very mindful to protect,” the report said.

Most parents agreed that they did not raise the topic of STIs and many did not discuss contraception.

“A significant number of parents appear uncomfortable with raising the subject and acknowledged being somewhat embarrassed to do so.

“Furthermore, many parents reported a concern that by engaging in such ‘overt’ sexual discussions they may in fact send the wrong message to their children that they are condoning or even encouraging sexual activity.”


“I remember they showed us pictures of the different STIs and it was disgusting but it was only one class and you kind of forget all about it – 19-YEAR-OLD FEMALE


“We were taught by a teacher who we had for another subject. So it was real awkward. Everything was rushed. They wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible” – 19-YEAR-OLD FEMALE


“It would nearly be easier to say you’re pregnant. You would have your family supporting you – 18-YEAR-OLD FEMALE


““I really don’t know much about the different STIs, so I don’t think I could tell my daughter anything. “In fact, I’m sure that already she knows much more than me.” – A MOTHER

“I think you know by your child. My girl has a boyfriend but she is not streetwise. I would know if she was [having sex]. She’s very innocent.” – A FATHER

“I don’t feel there’s a need for me to get into the birds and the bees. They’re taught that in school.” – A FATHER

SOURCE: The Voice of Young People – A Report on Attitudes to Sexual Health, commissioned by Pfizer Healthcare

© 2010 The Irish Times


Irish Examiner: Majority of teens sexually active at 16, research finds

By Noel Baker

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

THE majority of teenagers are sexually active at 16, according to research which indicates that young people find sex education programmes in school "too little, too late".

In a study published yesterday, a sizeable number of young people admit to having one night stands, while a considerable proportion of those surveyed said they had had more than one sexual partner.

Parents questioned in the report admit that while they do not want their children to become sexually active until they are 18, they are often reluctant to openly discuss safe sex with their children and have a limited knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases.

The research, commissioned by Pfizer Healthcare, was conducted with 12 focus groups comprising six female groups and six male groups, in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Half the groups of eight people featured 18-year-olds, the other half people aged 19 and 20, while another four groups of parents of children aged 14 to 16 were also surveyed.

Tara Delaney, director of external affairs at Pfizer, said the findings indicated that a new approach to the discussion of sex was needed, both in school and in the home.

"The majority of parents find it a difficult topic to discuss and would rather not discuss it at the age at which it clearly needs to be discussed," she said.

"Sex education is highly variable, depending on who is teaching it, and some of the respondents say it comes too late in the cycle from an education point of view."

She said it was now time for sex education to be provided at an earlier age and for a "more open and mature dialogue" on the issue of young people and sex in what is increasingly a more sexualised society.

The research indicates that parents are often not authoritative, "open communicators" when it comes to sex, but instead fall into other categories, such as "silent witness" (where the issue of sex is not discussed), or "blind witness" (where parents view the school as managing the issue).

On the part of young people, some of those questioned in the focus groups said they believed becoming pregnant would be more acceptable than contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The use of condoms often went hand-in-hand with a fear of becoming pregnant, with the contraction of a STI down the list of considerations.

The report quotes the chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, Niall Behan, as suggesting Ireland follow countries such as the Netherlands in discussing sex more openly and at a younger age with children.

Aoife Price, welfare officer with the Irish Secondary Schools Union, said: "There is a lot of pressure on young people to have sex in order to fit in. If there was proper sex education, young people could learn that they do not have to have sex if they are not ready for it."


Monday, March 22, 2010

Irish Examiner: Young people 'unwilling to talk about STIs'

Monday, March 22, 2010 - 01:14 PM

Young people are putting themselves at risk of sexually transmitted diseases because they will not talk about them, a report claimed today.

A survey found most 18 to 20-year-olds would not tell anyone if they contracted an infection through sex because they are more concerned with the social stigma than the potential health consequences.

The majority also said they would not confront the partner from whom they contracted the sexually transmitted infection (STI) out of fear that they might be exposed or blamed for it.

Dr John Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases and genitourinary medicine, warned young adults they were risking illness, infertility and even death.

He said: “This research indicates that although young people’s awareness of the term sexually transmitted infection is relatively high, their knowledge of specific STIs and their respective symptoms and consequences, remains low.

“This lack of awareness and understanding is putting their health at risk.”

The survey on attitudes to sexual health was carried out among 12 groups of 18 to 20-year-olds in Dublin, Cork and Galway over December and January for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Both young men and young women believed the social stigma of contracting an STI would be worse than that of an unplanned pregnancy.

Most said they had become sexually active between the age of 16 and 17 years, with a minority reporting having sex as young as 15 years. The majority had already had sex with more than one partner.

A “sizeable” number said they have had a “one night stand” while a “notable” proportion have had sex more than once without using a condom, according to the researchers, who did not take percentages but gathered responses for the report.

Condoms were viewed by all to be a necessity, but more out of fear of unplanned pregnancy rather than protection against contracting an STI, the study found.

Dr Shirley McQuade, medical director at The Well Woman Clinic, warned that anyone can get an STI and having unprotected sex increases the risk.

“If you take a risk and have unprotected sex, get tested afterwards,” she advised.

“And if you are about to start a new relationship and begin to have unprotected sex, both partners should get tested beforehand. Don’t put yourself at risk.”


Friday, March 19, 2010

RH Reality Check: Ireland: You Can Force Women to Be Mothers, But You Can't Force Men to Be Fathers

By Jodi Jacobson
Created Mar 18 2010 - 2:55pm

A regular commentor at RH Reality Check, who goes by the handle of Princess Rot, recently wrote in response to an article we published:

I have found that there is a strong prediliction [in the anti-choice community] believe in what Amanda Marcotte who blogs here calls "sperm magic" - basically, the belief that shoring up male pride in virility trumps the bodily autonomy of women. Entitling the fetus to special rights is a by-proxy way of ensuring females and their reproduction remains under patriarchal control.

Her statement--and the contention that controversies about abortion, contraception, motherhood and social roles are about a broader power struggle around women's roles--is regularly contested on our site.

Yet in re-reading through some recent reports, I came across an article about the decision in December by the Irish Supreme Court that denied a woman access to her frozen embryos because her ex-partner objected and did not want embryos fertilized with his sperm to be implanted and brought to term.

According to the article [1]:

Despite the Irish constitutional guarantee for the right to life "from conception," the Supreme Court ruled that the three embryos cannot be implanted against the wishes of the woman's estranged husband. Mary and Thomas Roche underwent IVF treatment in 2001.

Let me say at the outset that I am not in favor of forcing anyone to become a parent, and I am in favor of every person having full access to the information and services they need to exercise their reproductive and sexual rights (including not to reproduce or have sex), and to ensure their own sexual and reproductive health. I also do not believe in the "personhood" of embryos.

But the decision by the Irish Supreme Court underscores the hypocrisy that underlies not only the "pro-life" position when it comes to women versus men--in Ireland, the US and elsewhere--it also underscores the hypocrisy of the wider ranging public conversations about abortion and contraception in which we are now engaged.

In Ireland, according to the Human Rights Watch report A State of Isolation: Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland [2]"abortion is legally restricted in almost all circumstances, with potential penalties of penal servitude for life for both patients and service providers, except where the pregnant woman's life is in danger."

There is, however, according to HRW:

Little legal and policy guidance on when, specifically, an abortion might be legally performed within Ireland. As a result, some doctors are reluctant even to provide pre-natal screening for severe fetal abnormalities, and very few - if any - women have access to legal abortions at home. The government has indicated that it has no current plans to clarify the possible reach of the criminal penalties. The government does not keep figures on legal and illegal abortions carried out in Ireland, or on the number of women traveling abroad for services.

So women are left hanging as to what exactly their rights are in what circumstances and under what potential "penalities" and doctors are effectively prohibited by the same lack of clarity from providing women a full range of services and information pertaining to pregnancy.

And as a result of lack of access to abortion care at home, every year thousands of women and girls travel from Ireland to other European countries for abortions. In a 57-page report entitled "A State of Isolation: Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland," [2] HRW details how women "struggle to overcome the financial, logistical, physical, and emotional burdens imposed by restrictive laws and policies that force them to seek care abroad, without support from the state."

Ironically, the severe curtailment of women's rights coexists with "ambiguity" about the status of the embryo.

In short, according to the Irish Supreme Court, an embryo is apparently an "unborn person" when it is inside the womb of a woman--and is then equal to and can compromise her own health--but it is not an "unborn person" when a man does not want it to be.

The five judges ruled that the human embryo does not enjoy protection under Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution that says, "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother." An embryo frozen in storage does not constitute "the unborn," the ruling said.


This is confusing! And indeed both lawyers and doctors also find it confusing.

In an article for Irish Medical News, Solicitors Tom Hayes and Hilary Coveney outline Ireland’s current legal position on fertility treatment and the status of the embryo.

Medical and scientific advances have generated a “reproductive revolution” through new or assisted reproductive technologies. These technologies include artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation (IVF), surrogacy and use of sperm, egg and embryo donation. They have been available in Ireland since the 1980s with the first Irish “test tube” baby having been born in 1987.

Multiple embryos are often created in the course of IVF treatment to avoid women undergoing further courses of treatment where possible. Surplus embryos can then be stored or frozen for a period of time to be used at a later date. However, the status of these embryos and how they are to be used and protected raise many important questions.

Yet "unlike many other jurisdictions," they write, "there is currently no statutory or legislative guidance in relation to the practice of IVF or the status of the embryo in Ireland."

Embryo = person once inside a woman. Embryo = not-a-person when a man decides he does not want it to be.

To be fair, while pro-life groups in Ireland apparently disagreed with the ruling, they did so on the grounds that they prefer invitro-fertilization be entirely banned, thereby of course strengthening the control of patriarchal institutions over the unborn and ensuring patrimony, while of course ensuring that no single women or gay couples can bear children using new technologies.

"Although it would be unethical for embryos outside the body to be implanted, it is permission for IVF, and not the Roches' estrangement, which has created this tragedy in which their children will never be born. Any legislation, therefore, which may be passed following this case should ban IVF," said Pat Buckley, spokesperson for the Society of the Unborn in Ireland.

It's never unethical to control a woman, though.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guardian Blog: Utah bill reduces women to incubators

by Melissa McEwan
Tuesday 16 March 2010

It's already hard to get an abortion in Utah. Now a new bill opens the door to prosecuting women who 'intentionally' miscarry

Last week, Utah governor Gary Herbert signed into law Utah HB 462, known ignominiously as "the miscarriage bill". It was a reworked version of the original bill, introduced by Republican State Representative Carl D Wimmer, adjusted to address criticisms that the initial language "could have got women sent away for lifelong prison terms for falling down stairs or staying in an abusive relationship". The revised version "designates the 'intentional or knowing' miscarriage as criminal homicide" and "stipulates that a woman can be charged with homicide for 'the death of her unborn child', unless the death qualifies as legal abortion".

Thus are the women of Utah left with a new law that criminalises illegal abortion in a state that increasingly discourages legal abortions.

Utah already requires parental notification and consent for minors seeking abortions, mandates a 24-hour waiting period to terminate a pregnancy, subjects women seeking abortions to state-directed counselling which overtly discourages abortion, and allows public funding for terminations only in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or threat to the women's life or physical health. (Don't think you can get away with claiming your psychological health is at risk, ladies! Everyone knows that women would just lie about that to get an abortion because there's nothing conceivably traumatising about being forced to carry a pregnancy you don't want to term.)

As of 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 93% of Utah counties had no abortion provider, leaving 25% of women in the state to travel at least 50 miles, and 8% to travel more than 100 miles, to get an abortion. There were six abortion providers in the whole of the state in 2005, and currently the state has only one licensed abortion clinic.

Utah has become, like many other states, a frontline in the war against legal abortion. Yes, Roe is still in place, but anti-abortion activists are battling to render it an impotent and largely symbolic statute, hollowed out by state legislation that chips away at abortion rights with "partial-birth abortion bans" and "parental consent laws" and mandatory (ostensible) disincentives like "look at your foetus on an ultrasound".

The Democrats, and the leftwing activists who try to use the spectre of a world without Roe to coerce progressive feminists into line during every election, tend to regard legal abortion like an on-off switch, but it doesn't work that way. Legal abortion is only worth as much as the number of women who have reasonable and affordable and unencumbered access to it, and that number is dwindling: the National Abortion Federation reports that 88% of counties in the US have no identifiable abortion provider – a figure that rises to 97% in non-metropolitan areas.

That's not merely an inconvenience – between travel expenses and time off work, especially when a 24-hour waiting period necessitates at least two days of one's time, the cost of securing an abortion can become an undue burden. It can put legal abortion out of a woman's reach.

That's what state legislatures like Utah's are hoping. And because even the most publicly mendacious anti-choice activists know that even criminalising abortion doesn't stop women from getting them, they know that merely restricting access to legal abortion isn't enough – a woman who doesn't want to be pregnant will find a way to not be pregnant.

Thus is their current strategy is to make legal abortion as inaccessible as possible and criminalise everything else. An abortion performed by someone other than a doctor is ergo illegal. An abortion performed on a minor without parental consent, or on an adult without state-mandated counselling and a 24-hour waiting period, is ergo illegal. An abortion late in the pregnancy is ergo illegal. Inducing a miscarriage is ergo illegal. Terminating a pregnancy by any other method than the one which has been most ruthlessly restricted – via piecemeal legislation and the defunding of clinics and the unfettered terrorising of abortion providers – is illegal.

In Utah, women still have a technical legal right to abortion, but very little means to exercise that right.

And now, in pursuit of ensuring that women's right to abortion is as limited as possible, the state has opened the door to prosecuting women who miscarry after having a drink of caffeinated coffee or a beer or a cigarette, or take a vigorous walk, or miss a prenatal care appointment, or shoot up heroin, or go to spinning class, or any one of a number of things that pregnant women do every day, good and bad, during pregnancies that come to term, if there's someone who will testify she did it to miscarry; she was trying to miscarry; she told me.

In pursuit of ensuring that women's right to abortion is as limited, the state has conferred personhood on foetuses, and reduced women to incubators. And watch out if the machinery breaks.

The architects of this legislation insist it was not designed to punish women, but to protect the unborn. Somehow I don't find that comforting, coming from the same lot who won't properly fund childhood education or support universal healthcare. Or any other legislation that would make a material difference in the lives of the born.


Irish Health: Free contraception link to less abortion

Posted: Mon 15/03/2010 by Deborah Condon

Offering young women free hormonal contraception could lead to a significant fall in abortions, the results of a new health project indicate.

As part of the project, 3,500 women aged 20-24, who were living in two different cities in Norway, were offered free hormonal contraception for one year. By the end of the year, the abortion rate in both cities had halved.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health initiated the project after a previous project led to similar success. In 2002, Norwegian women aged between 16 and 19 were offered free hormone-based contraception. Abortion rates fell dramatically and reached their lowest level in 2005.

In 2006, after the authorities modified the scheme and introduced part-payment for hormonal contraception, the number of terminations among this age group began to rise again. Since then, the abortion rate among 16 to 19-year-olds has risen every year.

This latest project focused on women aged 20 to 24 because they have the highest abortion rate in Norway and this rate has risen steadily over the past few years.

According to the project manager, Anita Øren, this study demonstrates that when women in this age group are offered free contraception, their abortion rate falls.

The participants claimed that an important reason for their continuous use of the contraception was the fact that it was free. Many indicated that they tend to avoid using contraception when they are less well-off.

The researchers also looked at how the contraceptives were picked up from chemists, both before and during the study period. The figures clearly showed that users picked up their contraception more often during the period when it was free.

“The offer of free hormonal contraception does not necessarily lead to more users, but to more frequent use. If the aim is to reduce the number of terminations, the project shows that the offer of free hormonal contraception can be an effective measure. It is also what women themselves say that they want,” Ms Øren said.

In the cities involved in the trial, the use of long-term methods of contraception such as IUDs/implants more than doubled. These methods work continuously for three to five years and provide the best protection against unwanted pregnancies. As a one-off investment, however, they are regarded as more expensive alternatives to the oral contraceptive pill.

“Women themselves say that they are very pleased to have the freedom to choose the type of product they prefer, irrespective of price,” Ms Øren added.


Sonya Renee "What Women Deserve"

Monday, March 8, 2010

Irish Examiner: Women on maternity leave targeted by employers

By Catherine Shanahan

Monday, March 08, 2010

WOMEN who are pregnant, on maternity leave or returning to work after having a baby are being illegally targeted by employers engaged in cost-cutting exercises, according to the Equality and Rights Alliance.

The Alliance said discrimination has become more widespread since the recession took hold and includes:

* Cuts to women’s salaries.

* Changes in terms and conditions of employment.

* Withdrawal of full or top-up maternity pay which the employer had previously paid.

Joanna McMinn, chairwoman of the Alliance, said pregnancy-related discrimination was "a very blunt, overt form of unfairness and gender discrimination".

"It is against the law and, despite 30 years of legislation against it, we are seeing evidence that this particular form of discrimination is getting worse because of the recession," Ms McMinn said.

She said women could not be soft targets simply because they took the time out to have a family.

Member groups of the Alliance coalition, including the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) and the trade unions, are tracking an increasing number of calls from women with pregnancy-related employment enquiries and complaints.

In April 2009, the number of queries represented just 1.3% of all employment-related calls. In January 2010, it had increased to 14.3%. Issues reported by women include being guilt-tripped into not taking full maternity leave or not taking the extra unpaid maternity leave; getting a P45 while still on maternity; notice that there is no more work to do upon returning from maternity leave; denial of bonuses due while on maternity; bullying or deteriorating position upon return as a means of "managing them out" and denial of previously agreed work-sharing or part-time work.

The Alliance, a coalition of 130 organisations and activists lobbying for improved equality and human rights, chose to highlight the issue of pregnancy-related discrimination on March 8, International Women’s Day.

The Marie Stopes Reproductive Choices sexual health agency also chose International Women’s Day to launch a new booklet providing information for women seeking abortion advice and treatment.

The launch of the booklet coincides with the publication of new independent research into attitudes towards abortion, conducted by YouGov Plc. The research suggests that the majority of Irish men and women agree that abortion should be permitted in Ireland in some circumstances.

About nine out 10 respondents (87%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted, if the pregnancy seriously endangers the woman’s life; more than four out of 10 respondents (41%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the woman believes it is in her and/or her family’s best interest. Only 3% of respondents felt abortion in Ireland is not acceptable under any circumstances.

The Irish Family Planning Clinic (IFPC) welcomed the poll’s findings and called on the Government to "face up to its responsibilities and stop exiling women who are experiencing crisis pregnancies".

Separately, some of Ireland’s leading women writers and feminists will gather at the Dublin Book Festival today to celebrate International Woman’s Day.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, March 08, 2010


Cork Women's Right to Choose Group Welcomes YouGov/Marie Stopes Poll

Monday 8th March 2010


To mark the 100th International Women's Day, Cork Women's Right to Choose Group welcomes the results of a new YouGov poll commissioned by Marie Stopes International, which shows that over three quarters of the Irish population support increased access to abortion in Ireland.

The poll indicates a significant shift in public support for legal access to abortion in Ireland and a comprehensive understanding of the many different and difficult situations faced by women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. The results are in line with a recent poll commissioned by the Irish Examiner and conducted by Red C published in January 2010, which showed that three out of five adults aged 18-35 believe abortion should be legalised in Ireland.

Cork Women's Right to Choose spokesperson Dr. Sandra McAvoy said, "It is time for the government to face the reality of people's changing attitudes towards abortion. The majority of the Irish population recognises that safe and legal access to abortion protects women's life and health. The government must stop exiling women and legalise abortion in Ireland."

Irish Independent: Call to relax abortion laws

Monday 8 March 2010

The Government has been urged to relax abortion laws after a poll showed more than three-quarters of the population favour such a move.

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said the survey reveals a significant shift in public attitudes to pregnancy termination.

The YouGov opinion poll showed 78% of those questioned support access to abortion in Ireland if the pregnancy endangers a woman's health or is the result of sexual abuse, rape or incest. Where a pregnancy seriously endangers a woman's life, support for abortion rose to 87%.

Niall Behan, chief executive of the IFPA, said Irish laws on abortion are out of step with the population and with those of European neighbours.

"Attitudes towards abortion in Ireland have changed dramatically in recent years and the vast majority of Irish people now recognise that many women face difficult dilemmas in pregnancy," he said.

"This poll is the latest in a long line of opinion polls which indicate that the Irish people want the Government to face up to reality of women's and girls' lives."

The IFPA said the current laws merely add to the burden and stress experienced by women experiencing crisis pregnancies.

Since 1980, at least 138,000 women have travelled from the Irish Republic to Britain for abortion services.

The IFPA said an increasing number of women are opting for abortion services in European countries other than Britain.

The organisation called on the Government to stop exiling women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy.

Press Association


IFPA Press Release on results of new YouGov/Marie Stopes Poll

New poll to mark International Women's Day finds that three quarters of Irish population want liberalisation of abortion laws

8th March, 2010

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has welcomed the publication today of a new YouGov national opinion poll which indicates high levels of support for increased access to abortion in Ireland.

The poll reflects a significant shift in public attitudes with three quarters of those questioned in favour of liberalisation of Irish abortion laws. 78 per cent of those questioned support access to abortion in Ireland if the pregnancy endangers a woman’s health or if the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse, rape or incest.

Support for abortion when a pregnancy seriously endangers a woman’s life increases further to 87 per cent.

The IFPA believes that the criminalisation of abortion in Ireland has little impact on abortion rates; it merely adds to the burden and stress experienced by women experiencing crisis pregnancies.
It is the view of the Irish Family Planning Association that Irish laws on abortion are out of step with those of its European neighbours. Forty four out of 47 European countries provide for abortion to protect women’s health.

In the light of growing public support for liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws the IFPA has called on the Government to face up to its responsibilities and stop exiling women who are experiencing crisis pregnancies.

Niall Behan, Chief Executive of the IFPA said: “Attitudes towards abortion in Ireland have changed dramatically in recent years and the vast majority of Irish people now recognise that many women face difficult dilemmas in pregnancy. This poll is the latest in a long line of opinion polls which indicate that the Irish people want the Government to face up to reality of women’s and girls’ lives.”

The YouGov poll comissioned by Marie Stopes found:
- Approximately nine out 10 respondents (87%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the pregnancy seriously endangers the woman’s life;
- More than three quarters of respondents (79%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the woman’s health is at risk;
- Nearly eight out of 10 respondents (78%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse / rape or incest;
- Just under two thirds of respondents (62%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if there is evidence of a profound foetal abnormality;
- Over four out of 10 respondents (41%) agreed that termination of pregnancy should be permitted if the woman believes it is in her and / or her family's best interest;
- Only three per cent of respondents felt that abortion in Ireland is not acceptable under any circumstances

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guttmacher Institute: Spain Expands Legal Access to Abortion

March 3, 2010

On February 24, the Spanish senate approved a new law on sexual and reproductive health, which relaxes restrictions on women’s access to abortion. The law allows abortion under any circumstances up to 14 weeks’ gestation and declares the procedure a woman’s right. It also permits abortion at up to 22 weeks if two doctors certify that the pregnancy poses a serious threat to the woman’s life or health, as well as in cases of fetal impairment, and beyond 22 weeks in cases of severe fetal impairment. Previously, safe abortion was widely available in Spain, but was legal only to save the life of a woman, or to preserve her physical and mental health.

The expansion of legal access to abortion—which takes effect in June—is part of a comprehensive law aimed at improving universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and information, especially for young people. It grants 16- and 17-year-olds abortion access, but requires notification of at least one parent or legal guardian.

Spain’s new law also requires that public policies related to health, education and social issues promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and programs—including family planning services—and makes comprehensive sexuality education mandatory in schools. Additionally, it requires public health facilities to provide pregnancy-related care and effective family planning methods to all women and their partners.

This legislative change echoes a global trend toward liberalizing abortion laws. Between 1997 and 2008, according to a 2009 report by the Guttmacher Institute, 19 countries significantly liberalized their abortion laws, while only three substantially increased restrictions. Despite this trend, 40% of the world’s women live in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, virtually all of them in the developing world.

The report also showed that while the incidence of abortion is closely related to the rate of unintended pregnancy, it does not correlate with abortion’s legal status. Indeed, abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is broadly legal and in regions where it is highly restricted. The key difference between permissive and restrictive countries is safety—illegal, clandestine abortions cause significant harm to women, especially in developing countries.

Worldwide, unsafe abortion causes an estimated 70,000 deaths each year, and an additional five million women are treated annually for complications resulting from unsafe abortion. Approximately three million women who experience serious complications from unsafe procedures go untreated.

While increasing access to legal and safe abortion is a necessary step toward protecting women’s health, a more integrated approach is needed to improve their lives. Addressing the unmet need for contraception, which remains very high in many parts of the world, is a critical step toward promoting the well-being of women and their families.

Click here for more information: Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress and Facts on Abortion Worldwide


Monday, March 1, 2010

Irish Times: Women cannot get abortion to save lives, says group


Mon, Mar 01, 2010

FAILURE TO legislate on the X-case means that a woman cannot access an abortion even when it is necessary to save her life, according to a pro-choice organisation.

Choice Ireland has criticised what it believes to be the failure of successive governments to legislate on the issue. “Without legislation many medical practitioners do not know what services they may lawfully provide to women and what the standard of medical care should be when an abortion is performed in Ireland,” according to Choice Ireland activist and founding member Sinéad Ahern.

She was speaking at Choice Ireland’s third annual conference, marking the 18th anniversary of the controversial X-case on abortion. Ms Ahern said “service providers also do not know when they can advise their clients to request an abortion”.

Doctors have stated it is not absolutely clear-cut when an abortion can be performed to save the life of a woman, she said. “And as a result no doctor is willing to take a risk. And even though the ethical guidelines of the medical council of Ireland do admit that abortion is available where there is a grave risk to the life of the mother, doctors are given no guidance as to how they might make that assessment.

“The result of this is that despite the legal and constitutional position, without legislation a woman cannot practically access abortion even when it is necessary to save her life.”

In the X-case of the Attorney General vs X, the Supreme Court ruled that the 14-year-old girl, whose pregnancy resulted from rape, faced a real and substantial risk to her life due to threat of suicide and this threat could only be averted by the termination of her pregnancy. Therefore the court found that she was entitled to an abortion in Ireland under the provision of article 40.3.3 of the Constitution that requires the State to have “due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”.

Ms Ahern said “there have been two attempts to hold referenda to overturn the X-case, in 1992 and again in 2002. On both occasions the Irish electorate has refused to reject suicide as grounds to access abortion.

“We are now 18 years later and our governments have refused to listen to the will of the Irish people and have refused to legislate for the X-case judgment.”

Ireland is “perhaps unique in the western world of having no effective means for a woman, even when her life is gravely threatened, to access an abortion on Irish soil”.

Ireland is one of only three countries in the EU along with Malta and Poland which “place stringent restrictions on a woman’s right to access abortion services. Even in Malta however there is some leeway on this issue and there have been documented cases of women being able to access life-saving abortions in the country without being prosecuted.”

© 2010 The Irish Times