PA Legislature Introduces Abortion Ban

A bill  was introduced today in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would effectively ban second trimester abortions.  House Bill 1948, introduced by Representative Kathy Rapp and Rep. Bryan Barbin, Rep. Bryan Cutler was introduced late to the House Health Committee Friday and this morning was fast track to the full assembly without a public hearing.

The cosponsors of HB1948 claim the bill is intended to prevent fetal pain and reduce complications of an abortion. But in this Trojan horse bill hides an agenda to ban ALL second trimester abortions.

HB1948 contains language that would rename the most common and safest 2nd trimester abortion procedure (dilation and evacuation, or D&E) as a “dismemberment” abortion and then would ban it’s implementation. Doing this would effectively ban all 2nd trimester abortions in Pennsylvania as they are currently performed.  This part of HB1948 would limit doctors’ choices concerning first trimester procedures as well, since a D&E is not uncommon choice in the first trimester. Banning the safest available type of abortion procedure would NOT protect women from complications of abortion. On the contrary, HB1948 would increase the chance of complications after ending a pregnancy.
In addition, although the bill’s sponsors claim a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks there is inadequate scientific evidence to conclude fetal brain development is sufficient to feel pain at that stage of development. The authors may cite Dr.Kanwaljeet Anand to support their claims. However, Dr. Anand’s findings have not been corroborated by any independent research; and remain an outlier in this area of study. In fact, a preponderance of the scientific evidence leads one to exactly the opposite conclusion. The majority of the scientific research on the subject of fetal brain development has found the neural pathways required to experience pain are not formed until at least 24 weeks gestation and more likely later.
Whether a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks should be a moot point in the debate over second trimester abortion. For most women seeking an abortion after 20 weeks – that’s only 1.4 percent of all abortions performed – the abortion is needed because something has gone very wrong with the pregnancy (i.e. – it is not an elective abortion).
It is clear the cosponsors’ characterization of HB1948’s purpose is insincere at best. And rather than giving the people of Pennsylvania a thoughtful review of HB1948 and it’s very real and detrimental consequences, the Health Committee passed it to the general assembly floor for a vote without even 24-hours of consideration. This is just another attempt to slowly chip away at the right to terminate a pregnancy until that right completely disappears.
It’s time to call your state legislator and make your voice heard on House bill 1948. To contact your PA House Representative click here.

**Edited to note the D&E ban would affect first trimester procedures as well.

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Punish Women for Having an Abortion? GOP says YES!

Donald Trump has spent the better part of the last week playing mopping boy to all his gaffes. But there is one thing Donald said this week that – bob and weave as he may – he will not be able to dodge. In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews this week, Donald Trump admitted he supports punishing women who have an abortion.

The Donald has spent the better part of the week trying to back away from his words. He’s claimed the interview was edited. He’s claimed he “misspoke.” And he keeps trying to offer an alternative to his genuine belief that women should be punished for seeking reproductive care by offering that the doctors who provide that care should be punished in lieu of the woman who decided to obtain it – as if we women are unthinking, naive victims of these money grubbing health care providers.

But I’m not buying it, and neither should you.

The GOP platform is clear about their stance on abortion. The GOP “support a human life amendment to the Constitution.” No matter then rest of their pretty words on the sanctity of life and supporting pregnant women, ratification of the “personhood” amendment the GOP so pointedly seeks means women will go to jail.

I am not just talking through my teeth about this. The evidence is clear. It has been demonstrated time after time that women ARE punished when abortion is made illegal. Take one look at the countries where abortion is illegal and you cannot deny the evidence. In countries where abortion is illegal, women go to jail for having abortions, women go to jail for having miscarriages, and women die due to unsafe abortion.

Even in the United States women have been prosecuted for obtaining abortion inducing drugs or miscarrying after attempting to self-abort.

So when Ted Cruz says he does not agree with Donald Trump’s position – that women be punished for abortion –  he is LYING to you. Ted Cruz supports a personhood amendment. He KNOWS that women will go to jail if a personhood amendment is passed. Ted Cruz supports punishing women. John Kasich supports punishing women. Mitch McConnell supports punishing women. The whole damn GOP supports punishing women.

A Fate Worse Than Pseudoscience

You have to be careful what information you believe nowadays. The internet is chock full of wannabe experts trying to sell you on their various theories on health, wealth, and child rearing. It isn’t even limited to the internet anymore. Even that television doctor Doctor Mehmet Oz was dragged in front of the United States Senate to explain his charlatan ways. It’s one thing when such pseudoscience causes unwitting dupes to shell out their hard-earned cash on some useless panacea. It’s quite another when personal opinion masquerading as science actually causes harm.

Case in point – the anti-vaccination wave. A 6 year old boy recently died in Spain because his parents chose not to vaccinate him against a preventable disease – diphtheria – because one money-grubbing doctor wrote an article based on pure falsehood that associated vaccines with autism.

So imagine my [lack of] surprise when I ran across an article aimed at convincing women that mammograms cause cancer. The article, to the unscientific eye, looks legitimate. There are no flashy ads, no claims of CIA schemes or Obama plots, and two scientific articles are even referenced. But a simple examination of the details revealed this blog to be full of unscientific bullshit.

For example, the author straight up claims mammograms cause cancer. [This is where my jaw nearly fell off, it dropped so low.] To support this argument, the author cites Paul Yaswen, a researcher with the Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and links to a journal article by the same. Taking a look at the article, one can clearly determine the study findings are taken out of context. Yaswen’s study proved that epithelial breast cells respond to radiation by creating variant cells, which he postulates to be more likely to be pre-cancerous. However,Yaswen’s finding cannot be logically interrelated to the claims being made in the mammogram article. Yaswen did not even prove radiation caused the cells to become cancerous. In addition, the radiation dose applied to the epithelial cells in Yaswen’s research is far, FAR higher than that which would result from a mammogram. (Sorry to pick on you Yaswen.) In fact, some of Yaswen’s samples were dosed with 200 Rads – a dose that would cause visible skin inflammation (burns). In contrast, a mammogram results in around 0.3 Rads. And I don’t know anyone who every got a skin burn from a mammogram.

[Smooshed Boobie Syndrome – now that’s another story…]

The author goes on to make many other bogus claims. I’m not going to enumerate them all. Suffice to say it is bull crap like this that could potentially cause real, actual harm. What if a woman reads that crap and then decides not to get a mammogram? If she develops cancer, it might not be detected in time to save her breasts or, possibly, her life.

I wish there was a way to scour the internet and zap away all the harmful falsehoods to make it easier for users to discern fact from fiction. Or better, we need a way to hold people accountable for things they post on the web. As replacement, I give you this warning – beware the internet pseudo-expert.

When does life begin?

I was enjoying a visit from my sister and brother-in-law a while back when I was asked a very interesting and enlightening question. You see, I’ve been through a life changing event. Last year, in a feat of strength, I conceived. And nine months later, I had a baby. It was an amazing, life-changing event.

And so, while sitting on the couch taking in the breath, feel and sound of a newly born human, my brother asked me, “So, now that you’ve had a baby, when do you think life begins?” When he asked me this question, I was deep in the thrall of sleep deprivation, and didn’t really realize where the question was coming from. I think my response was something on the lines of, “What? I don’t know.”

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I assume he asked me this in light of my political history. If you know me or have read this blog at all, you know I am pro-choice – staunchly so. I’ve written many blog posts supporting a woman’s right to chose if and when to have a child. I’ve also been an abortion clinic escort for many years. And so I can only assume my brother wondered whether, having experienced pregnancy and childbirth, my views on reproductive matters had changed.

So, when does life begin?

At conception? At implantation? At 12 weeks? 20 weeks? At quickening? At viability? When you’re born? When you start to remember things? Maybe. It is such a subjective question. There is no right answer.

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But the thing is, for me, being pregnant only more keenly highlighted the importance of self determination. Until you’ve been pregnant, you haven’t actually faced the possibility that, under different circumstances, someone else could control your health outcome and even whether you live or die. Being pregnant made me even more grateful that if I had to make a choice about my pregnancy it would be MY decision – not some priest’s or politician’s or some health board’s decision. If I chose to sacrifice my health for the sake of the baby it would be my decision. I was in control of my own body.

So does the moment life begins matter to me? Sure it does. I mean, I AM alive. But the moment life begins cannot bring back the any of the millions of women killed by illegal abortion. The moment life begins cannot put food into the mouths of a poor family. The moment life begins cannot make a woman’s teeth grow back. And the moment life begins doesn’t make me willing to relinquish control of my body and my life for the sake of another.

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I am a mother. I am pro-child. I am pro-family. And I am pro-choice.

A Letter to my Senator on PA HB818

Dear Senator,

When the Pennsylvania Senate reconvenes, you face an ominous choice. While I had hoped that a new chamber session would bring renewed focus on protecting Pennsylvania’s economic future, I am again disappointed that the focus has not been aimed where it should. Instead of discussing Governor Corbett’s state liquor privatization initiatives, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives chose to debate and pass legislation that would prohibit Pennsylvanian women from purchasing insurance plans that cover a medical procedure that some people have a religious objection to. I am sure you know I am talking about House Bill 818, which would prohibit the sale of insurance plans that cover abortion on the health insurance exchange market in Pennsylvania.
Proponents of HB818 have tried to sell the logic that this bill prevents government funding of abortion. But the crux of this rumination is illogical. Government funding of abortion is already illegal under existing law, which includes the new health care law. Proponents also say that, “since Pennsylvania would pay for the health insurance exchange, the state would be paying for abortions” by association. However, by this logic, since all Pennsylvanians fund public education and one of three Pennsylvania women will have an abortion for various reasons during her life, all Pennsylvanians are funding abortion with our education dollars. It is a transparent non-truth.
The health insurance exchange is simply a market stand for insurers to sell insurance plans. Whether an insurance plan covers abortion is not germane to the cost of administering the insurance market. When a person purchases private insurance, in no way does the state of Pennsylvania foot any part of the bill. If an abortion is performed and covered by an insurance provider as part of a private insurance plan, the cost of that abortion is paid directly by the insured and the insured’s employer if the employer shares costs.
Some try to tell a story of lost state revenue from the pretax nature of health care premiums. But this is a smoke and mirror tale as well.
I therefore reject the premise posited by proponents of HB818. I find the only logical objection to the sale of comprehensive insurance plans on the insurance exchange to be a religiously motivated logic set. And I therefore cannot support legislation in favor of this religious establishment.
As your constituent, I expect that you will consider my position carefully when you cast your vote on HB818 if it should come to the floor.

Sincerely yours,

NuclearGrrl
Continue reading “A Letter to my Senator on PA HB818”

The Prochoice Case Against Free Abortion

Access to abortion care is a vital aspect of comprehensive health care for women of reproductive age. Lack of access to abortion services leads to later term abortions that come with an increase in the risk of health complications like unmanageable pain or bleeding. Lack of access also opens the door for disreputable individuals to offer clandestine abortion services, which often lead to dangerous and deadly side effects.

Socioeconomic factors affecting abortion access are exacerbated by state-enacted, targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws. TRAP laws are laws passed that apply only to abortion providers, which are often passed under the guise of protecting women’s health, while serving only to reduce the number of freestanding abortion clinics in a state, thus reducing access.

However, the primary and most immediate barrier to abortion care for many women is purely economic: the cost of an abortion. The cost for a surgical abortion in the first trimester ranges from $300 – $950. The cost for a medical abortion very early in pregnancy using an abortifacient like mifepristone costs $300 – $800. The price goes up week-per-week as a pregnancy progresses.

When I was a student working my way through college, taking the minimum student loans, and scraping by each month, raising an extra $600 in just a couple of weeks while still paying the rent and feeding myself would have been almost impossible! I’d have had to pick up extra shifts beyond the 30 hours a week I was already working. I think it would have taken me 5 or 6 weeks to earn the money. If I was diligent and found out I was pregnant at 6 weeks*, by the time I’d raised the money, made an appointment, and traversed the needlessly obligatory waiting period, the pregnancy could have progressed into the second trimester – and the price would have progressed right with it. And so I paint the picture of the unforgiving situation of chasing the cost of an abortion.

Because of this impact that cost chasing has on poor women, some prochoice activists advocate “abortion – free, on demand”. Other reproductive health care professionals advocate for increases and expansion of Medicaid coverage to pay for medically necessary as well as elective abortions for poorer Americans. But I, as a Prochoice activist, cannot fully support these position. To explain, I’ll break this motto up into two parts.

Abortion on demand!

When was the last time you walked into a doctor’s office who you’d never met, shook his or her hand and said “I want you to perform procedure X – which requires sedation, maybe a narcotic prescription, and possibly follow up – on me today.” I highly doubt you’d get what you want without an in-depth consultation at the least. Abortion in the first trimester is a minor procedure. But a patient history, pregnancy testing, and consultation is important for patient wellbeing for even minor procedures. Many states, including mine, have enacted a compulsory waiting period between the first appointment with an abortion care professional and the abortion being performed. However, a 24-hour waiting period may not be necessary (and is certainly not effective) for ensuring patient wellbeing.

Waiting periods are just another barrier. Decisions about patient care should be left to the doctor and the patient, without unwarranted intervention by the government. Compulsory waiting periods without careful consideration of and compensation for the burden such waiting periods would have on women with no childcare arrangements,  lacking private transportation or needing to travel great distances to access an abortion pose an undue burden.

Another aspect of abortions “on demand” is allowing abortion at any stage of pregnancy for any reason. Not many people support this position. The United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a state’s vested interest in the wellbeing of a fetus cannot override the interests of a pregnant woman until such time the fetus could be viable outside the womb – variably 22 – 24 weeks into pregnancy. Most states criminalize third trimester abortions, with exception for when the life of the mother is in danger. (One marked exception is Maryland, which has no such laws on the books and is home to one of the very few late-term abortion providers in the country.)

Though the antichoice movement would have one believe otherwise, the majority of prochoice activists support restrictions on third trimester abortions with exceptions for serious or life-threatening health circumstances and when lethal fetal anomalies are confirmed.

Abortion – for free?

Health care costs money. Many people disagree with the notion of health care as a civil right. Personally, I reject the philosophy that some lives are worth more than others if they have enough money. In my view, some fundamental level of health care is indeed a civil right. As health care costs money, a threshold exists where the obligation to protect the common wellbeing ends and a personal agenda of wellbeing begins.

There will be an estimated 56.9 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid in 2013**. In most states, Medicaid covers an abortion if it is a medically necessary health care procedure. But the majority abortions are arguably not medically necessary. The question in the case of non-medically indicated health care procedures becomes – who is obligated to fund your life? Is the government supposed to take care of you?

Under the Constitution, our government provides vital services for the indigent and those that cannot care for themselves. This does not mean the government (the people) should pay for laser eye surgery because a Medicaid recipient is burdened by wearing glasses. As another analogy, this also does not mean the government is obligated to pay for tubal ligation or vasectomy. Likewise, an elective, non-medically indicated medical procedure does not fall under the financial obligation of our government (the people) to protect the welfare and national security of our country.

The government does (the people do) , however, pay or free contraception access (and in some cases, tubal ligation sterilization procedures) for Medicaid recipients and other qualified persons. This is because our government (the people) takes advice from the medical industry and the experience of our and other countries, which shows that in the long term it is in our best interest to prevent disease and unintended pregnancy rather than fight the symptoms.

Contraception access and comprehensive sex education prevent unplanned pregnancies. Offering elective abortion for free is not a preventative measure, and does nothing to prevent future unplanned pregnancies. A switch from a curative health care system to a preventative health care system is the single most important step the people (the government) can take toward protecting the common welfare of our country.

Offering abortion for free could have additional indirect consequences. If there is no consequence (cost) for needing an abortion, then there is no incentive for preventing unplanned pregnancy in the first place. Sure, there is always the desire to prevent the more uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy. But if abortion were free, there would be no issue with pregnancy symptoms, because as soon as a woman found out she was unwelcomely pregnant, she could just jaunt right over, have an abortion within a day or two, and rid herself of the symptoms. Studies have shown money to be an effective incentive for eliciting many good behaviors – good grades and weight management for example. Why should avoiding pregnancy be any different?

Bad behavior with no consequences is no bad behavior at all. Personally, I worked quite well to make sure I never ended up pregnant unexpectedly. Neglecting contraceptive measures, getting pregnant, and then footing the people with your unnecessary medical bill is bad behavior. We should all be tasked with assuming a measure of personal responsibility when it comes to our health care. And when we choose to practice safe (or not) sex, we have accepted not only the protection, but also the risk that our chosen contraception method will fail. This is a calculated risk, one for which we should all be prepared to pay.

*More commonly, women discover they are pregnant at between 6 and 12 weeks.

**U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Fiscal Year 2013 Budget in Brief, Strengthening Health and Opportunity for All Americans,” http://www.hhs.gov/budget/fy2013/budget-brief-fy2013.pdf

Why is Preventative Medicine Only Wrong When Abortion is the Subject?

A great article by Caperton on Feministe raises the oft controversial subject (among abortion rights activists, that is) about whether discussing abortion as a medical procedure that should be rare is appropriate. Caperton takes the position that, as is the case for angioplasty, preventative medicine should make the demand for abortion lower. Caperton argues, and I agree:

“So yes, we should want abortion to be rare–not because there’s anything wrong with it as a procedure, or because it’s horrific or universally traumatizing, but because we’d generally rather not have to pay money and undergo minimally invasive medical procedures if we can avoid them. Um, hi.”

Yeah, um, hello. Medical intervention should be a rarer occurrence. Americans have come to rely too much on getting a pill or a simple operation to cure all the ills they did themselves over the course of their lives. Preventable, medical intervention costs the U.S. billions of dollars every year. Effective preventative medicine saves money and lightens burden on our health care system.

The fact that abortion is the topic of this particular preventative medicine debate doesn’t change the math. Tiptoeing around abortion and the desire to reduce the number of abortions needed due to fear of negative publicity has more of a negative impact that addressing abortion as you would address any other preventable medical procedure. The simple fact is, the majority of unwanted pregnancy is preventable. If we change the way our society views a woman’s right to control her reproductive life and her general health, we benefit her, her children and our society economically and socially.