Archive for the ‘Women’s health’ Category

Culture War Casualty: Women’s Health Care

March 1, 2012

The religious right’s crusade to restrict women’s access to birth control and reproductive health care services is increasingly fueled by falsehoods and distortions. A press release yesterday from The Heidi Group, a Round Rock-based anti-abortion organization, is a classic demonstration of the problem.

The press release actually praises a measure passed by the Texas Legislature last year that could end the Medicaid-funded Women’s Health Program. That program provides services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control and STD prevention for 130,000 low-income and uninsured women across the state. Nearly half of those women get such services through Planned Parenthood clinics. But the new law bars providing any Medicaid money to doctors or clinics that are affiliated with organizations that provide abortions — a ban targeting Planned Parenthood even though that organization’s clinics offering services through the Women’s Health Program are legally and financially separate from facilities that offer abortion services.

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Rush Limbaugh: She’s a Birth Control Slut!

February 29, 2012

You just knew that right-wingers have been wanting to say something like this since the controversy over birth control erupted a few weeks ago.

Last week Georgetown University law school student Sandra Fluke told a congressional panel why she believes health insurance plans  should cover birth control, even for women working at religiously affiliated institutions. Today Rush Limbaugh made it pretty clear that the right’s opposition to such a policy isn’t really about religious freedom:

What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.

The johns, that’s right. We would be the johns — no! We’re not the johns. Well — yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word.

OK, so, she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled. I take it back.

So that’s what Limbaugh and other extremists on the right think about women, instead of their employers, making decisions about their own bodies and their own reproductive health.

Texas RR Groups Push War on Contraception

February 14, 2012

UPDATE: A CBS News/New York Times poll released yesterday shows that a large majority of Americans — including 61 percent of Catholics — appear to support the new rule requiring insurance plans to cover contraception even for women working at religiously affiliated institutions.

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Some religious-right groups in Texas are eagerly entering the war on women’s access to contraception and reproductive health care. As usual, truth is an early casualty.

Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, goes so far as to claim that the Obama administration is “mandating that Catholic institutions and other religious organizations must provide abortifacents and birth control in violation of their own teachings and consciences.” Of course, that’s not true. The policy would require that insurance companies provide, if religious institutions do not, coverage for contraceptive services for women.

Texans for Life Coalition, an anti-abortion and anti-sex education group based in Irving near Dallas, is also denouncing the new federal policy. The organization’s blog even argues that birth control is bad for women’s health:

“I am so sick of people lumping abortion and birth control together and calling it ‘women’s health.’ Neither one of these two things are necessary for women to be healthy. In fact, you can make a pretty solid argument that both of these things are damaging to women’s health, emotionally and physically.”

This new eruption in the culture wars follows a 2011 legislative session in which Texas lawmakers passed a number of measures limiting women’s access to contraceptive and health services. One legislator even acknowledged that he and his political allies were engaged in a “war on birth control.”

Hypocrisy and Women’s Health Care

February 7, 2012

The hypocrisy is pretty clear to see.

Last week religious-right groups expressed outrage that the Austin City Council passed an ordinance requiring so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” to post signs telling visitors if they have no licensed healthcare professionals on site. Such facilities are typically not medical clinics and exist primarily to persuade pregnant women not to have an abortion. The ordinance would let a pregnant woman know upfront that she will not receive medical care at the facility.

But such a requirement is government-mandated speech, religious-right groups say, and thus a violation of the First Amendment. Samuel B. Casey of the Law of Life Project said the First Amendment protects the right of free speech as well as the right not to speak:

The government cannot “make a private citizen speak the government’s message. It doesn’t matter what the message is. What matters is that it’s the government’s message.”

Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, similarly charged that the new Austin ordinance suffers from the same legal defects it claimed in an earlier, broader ordinance that the City Council repealed. The group said it opposes measures “requiring pregnancy centers, under the threat of criminal penalties, to disclose government-mandated information about their services at their front entrances.”

But Liberty Institute’s opposition to “government-mandated information” is rather selective. Consider the new Texas law — passed by the Legislature in 2011 — requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram on a woman 24 hours (in most cases) before proceeding with an abortion the woman has requested. The new law mandates that the doctor show the sonogram image and describe the fetus in detail to the woman, “including a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of external members and internal organs.” The doctor must also make the heartbeat audible and describe it to the woman. Liberty Institute says this government-mandated message is just fine:

“Liberty Institute argues that HB 15 is consistent with Supreme Court and only requires the disclosure of truthful and accurate information to allow women to make informed decisions regarding their pregnancies.”

So let’s recap. According to religious-right groups, it’s a violation of the First Amendment if government requires a “crisis pregnancy center” to post a sign simply stating, truthfully, that it does not have a licensed healthcare professional on site. But they claim it’s not a violation of the First Amendment if government requires a physician to subject a woman to a detailed description of her fetus if she has requested an abortion.

This isn’t really about just the First Amendment. It’s about hypocrisy and using government to intrude in one of the most private, intimate and difficult decisions a woman can make. Some folks are for “limited government,” except when they’re not.