The American Bear


Salvadoran woman, "Beatriz" will be allowed to end pregnancy | The Guardian

A seriously ill Salvadoran woman whose struggle to get a medical abortion drew international attention has received permission to end the troubled pregnancy with a caesarean section.

El Salvador’s health minister approved the C-section for the 22-year-old woman who suffers from kidney failure and lupus, a day after the supreme court ruled that she could not have an abortion despite her lawyers’ appeal that the pregnancy was life-threatening.

Ultrasound images indicate that her fetus was developing with only a brain stem and was given no chance of surviving.

The case of the mother known only as Beatriz drew widespread attention and criticism as she sought to end the pregnancy in a country with some of the strictest abortion laws in Latin America. Salvadoran laws prohibit all abortions, even when a woman’s health is at risk, and the woman and any doctor who terminated her pregnancy would face arrest and criminal charges.


"Seriously, if we believe a 14 year old is too immature to know how to take a pill, do we really think she’s adult enough to handle an unwanted pregnancy?

"The truth is that the age restriction is completely arbitrary, tied only to our puritanical comfort levels. And listen, I get it; I think it’s fair to say that most people are uncomfortable with the idea of a 14 year old having sex. But here’s the thing - access to Plan B isn’t about keeping a 14 year old from having sex - by the time she gets to the pharmacy, that ship has sailed - it’s about keeping a 14 year old who has already had sex from getting pregnant. And despite what urban legend (or past embarrassing FDA memos) may tell you, making emergency contraception more available is not more likely to make young teens have sex - it will just make them less likely to end up pregnant.

"We can’t let our discomfort with teen sex trump young people’s right to sexual and reproductive health and we can’t continue to let politics trump science. If we care about young women’s health and bodily autonomy and integrity, we’ll drop all age restrictions from emergency contraception. Anything less isn’t just illogical - it’s immoral."

“Hey, FDA: Drop the Plan B Age Restriction,” my latest at The Nation (via jessicavalenti)

(Source: jessicavalenti)

Obama Administration Continues Blocking Access to Emergency Contraception | Kate Sheppard

On Wednesday night, President Barack Obama’s administration indicated that is challenging an April court decision that would make emergency contraception available to everyone without a prescription. The announcement means that, after a decade of fighting between reproductive rights advocates and the Food and Drug Administration over this issue, there’s still no resolution.

In 2011, the FDA approved Plan B One-Step, one of the most common forms of emergency contraception, for purchase over-the-counter for all women. But the Department of Health and Human Services overruled the FDA, instead making it available without a prescription only to women ages 17 and older. Reproductive rights groups sued, and on April 5, Federal District Court Judge Edward R. Korman issued a scathing decision that said that the administration’s policy was “was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.” His ruling directed HHS and the FDA to make emergency contraception available to all by May 5.

On Wednesday evening, however, the Department of Justice announced that it is appealing Korman’s ruling. “The Court’s Order interferes with and thereby undermines the regulatory procedures governing FDA’s drug approval process,” said the DOJ in a statement.

The DOJ statement is misleading. The FDA actually approved Plan B for women of all ages in 2011. Then HHS interfered.

The appeal comes a day after the FDA announced that it has approved the sale of Plan B One-Step to women ages 15-and-over without a prescription. In its announcement, the FDA claimed that decision “is independent of” the lawsuit and “is not intended to address the judge’s ruling.” However, as Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff reports, the DOJ’s appeal uses the FDA’s decision to make its case:

The Justice Department, in fact, relied on that new decision to argue that none of the federal case’s plaintiffs — who are 15 or older — would be harmed by a court decision to delay Korman’s ruling from taking effect.

"The approval has the effect of ensuring that all of the plaintiffs in this case (including the youngest of them) now have access without a prescription and without significant point-of-sale restrictions to at least one form of emergency contraceptive containing levonorgestrel," the Justice Department argued, referring to the active ingredient in Plan B.

The judge’s ruling clearly stated that Plan B should be available to everyone without a prescription and without government-issued ID. The Obama administration is not complying with that order. This doesn’t sound like the same Obama who, just last week, said in a speech to Planned Parenthood that he is a president “who is going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way” on reproductive rights.

The administration’s latest position seems to be that lowering the age to 15 is a compromise. Yes, it is two years younger than the previous limit, and the FDA’s new guidelines would also mean Plan B is now available on the shelf and not only during pharmacy hours. But it still means that women will need to have some manner of government-issued ID to obtain it. Not every woman has that sort of ID—especially 15- and 16-year-olds that can’t yet drive and don’t have a passport, or simply don’t want to have a cashier know their names.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit challenging the restrictions, said on Thursday that they will continue to press for universal access. “We are deeply disappointed,” CRR president Nancy Northup said in a call with reporters, pledging to “continue the battle in court to remove these arbitrary restrictions.”

Administration Again Fails on Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception | Common Dreams

Today, in a proposal that can best be described as adding insult to injury, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved making emergency contraception (EC) available over-the-counter for teens and women ages 15 and up. This convoluted proposal from the Obama administration comes despite a court order in early April by U.S. District Court Judge Edward R. Korman to make EC available over-the-counter to all ages within 30 days of his decision. It comes from an administration which pledged to make science the cornerstone of public policy and instead has consistently flouted a wealth of accumulated evidence on emergency contraception. It also comes after several studies showing that current policy requiring prescriptions for some groups and not others has confused so many pharmacists that access to EC has been denied to many who were in fact legally eligible to obtain it quickly. In practice, the new policy will almost certainly perpetuate, not resolve, that confusion.

The battle to make EC available over-the-counter has gone on for over a decade and spanned both the Bush and Obama administrations. Judge Korman’s ruling was issued in response to the Center for Reproductive Rights’ (CRR) renewed lawsuit against the FDA seeking to expand over-the-counter access for all women to all brands of the morning-after pill, including Plan B One-Step and Next Choice. The most recent CRR lawsuit was filed after Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, overruled a 2011 FDA decision to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter to all ages, underscoring that the Obama administration, like its predecessor, has difficulties dealing with the realities of sex and pregnancy prevention.

The administration’s newest plan is to make EC available over-the-counter to individuals ages 15 and up, but still require prescriptions for those under age 15. While pharmacies can stock it in the family planning section of main store shelves, people seeking to buy EC will have to show identification with a birth date to a cashier. The plan comes after approval this week by the FDA of an amended application submitted by Teva, the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step, to allow OTC sale to those ages 15 and over, after an earlier request to do so had been denied by FDA in December 2011. The amended application was in any case superceded by the scientific evidence that led the FDA to rule in 2011 on making emergency contraception available OTC to all ages, the decision that was, as noted above, subsequently overturned by Sebelius. So in using the approved Teva application as the reason for this newest decision, the FDA is essentially reversing itself and ignoring the science on which its 2011 decision was based. Confused yet? Me too. It’s a complete circus, and I have no doubt that leadership at the FDA, which tried to make evidence-based policy in 2011, came under pressure from the White House to find the “fix” it announced today.

According to the FDA press release:

The product will now be labeled “not for sale to those under 15 years of age *proof of age required* not for sale where age cannot be verified.” Plan B One-Step will be packaged with a product code prompting a cashier to request and verify the customer’s age. A customer who cannot provide age verification will not be able to purchase the product. In addition, Teva has arranged to have a security tag placed on all product cartons to prevent theft.

In addition, Teva will make the product available in retail outlets with an onsite pharmacy, where it generally, will be available in the family planning or female health aisles. The product will be available for sale during the retailer’s normal operating hours whether the pharmacy is open or not.

NPR reported that “the FDA said … Plan B One-Step will be packaged with a product code that prompts the cashier to verify a customer’s age. Anyone who can’t provide such proof as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport wouldn’t be allowed to complete the purchase. In most states, driver’s licenses, the most common form of identification, are issued at age 16.”

There are several serious problems with this approach, apart from the fact that it ignores scientific and medical findings that call unequivocally for over-the-counter access for all.

First, the policy is not in compliance with the court ruling and therefore may in fact be thrown out. The Department of Justice will have to bring it before Judge Korman for approval and potentially seek a stay of his ruling altogether, throwing EC once again back to the courts.

Second, it still requires a prescription for a subset of the population potentially in need of EC, and therefore creates a significant barrier, especially for low-income teens under 15 years of age or those without ID who “look” younger and are denied access. Emergency contraception is for emergencies. It prevents unintended pregnancy by preventing ovulation, and is therefore most effective when taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse (including in cases when another contraceptive method may have failed). The need to see a physician to obtain a prescription that the public health and medical communities have deemed unnecessary is both time-consuming and expensive, and will entail additional indirect costs in terms of loss of time at school and work, likely on the part of both teens and their parents. This requirement serves the interests of no one except anti-choice opponents of birth control, and those in the Obama administration who still seem unable or unwilling to think beyond their own fears of teens and sex, or to go beyond personalizing policy to accommodate their own paternalistic fears of their daughters as sexual beings.

Third, language, lack of identification, and other potential barriers will remain an obstacle for many communities. Many 15- and 16-year-olds do not have IDs that display birth dates, and those who are well above the age limit but “look younger” to a clerk will be required to produce identification, documentation that many people in this country still do not have readily available or that, in a hurry, some might not remember to bring with them to the store.

The belated conservative reaction to the Gosnell case is a classic example of the bait-and-switch at the heart of the increasing proliferation of abortion regulations. Anti-choicers talk a great deal about the relatively tiny number of medically unnecessary post-viability abortions—which Roe v. Wade explicitly allows to be banned and are already illegal—in order to pass regulations that apply at every stage of pregnancy. The most common of these regulations—prohibitions on public funding for abortion, waiting periods, parental-involvement laws, mandatory ultrasounds, and the targeted regulation of abortion providers—are not merely irrelevant, but counterproductive. All of these legal burdens make obtaining a safe first-trimester abortion more difficult. Although the Gosnell case will be used by opponents of reproductive freedom to advocate for more arbitrary regulations, to argue that a single doctor performing already illegal post-viability abortions means that we should make safe pre-viability abortions less accessible is self-refuting nonsense. As Carmon puts it, women kept going to Gosnell’s clinic ‘because they felt they had no alternative.’ That alternative is clinics where even poor women can obtain safe first-trimester abortions in a timely manner, without having to navigate a blizzard of regulatory impediments with the sole purpose of inhibiting access to abortion. Five Lessons from the Gosnell Abortion-Clinic Controversy (via dendroica)

(via dendroica)

BREAKING NEWS: A judge has ordered the FDA to make the morning-after pill available over-the-counter nationwide—no matter how old you are.


Previously, the pill required a prescription for girls aged 16 or under. In 2011, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius made a controversial move, blocking an FDA recommendation that the pill be available over-the-counter to anyone.

(via robotmonastery-deactivated)


Arkansas Enacts Strictest Abortion Law In The Country
Arkansas has just enacted the most extreme abortion law in the country - barring abortion at 12 weeks.
Despite the Governor’s veto, both chambers of the legislature voted to override, making it illegal to have an abortion after 12 weeks - still in the first trimester and only shortly after most women will have learned they are pregnant. This ban is two months earlier than any other state in the country. And it comes soon after the legislature banned abortion after 20 weeks.
Certain politicians in Arkansas don’t seem to care that this law is unconstitutional. Nor do they care that this law strips women of their ability to make deeply personal reproductive health decisions.
The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision affirmed the right to a safe & legal abortion. However, opponents of abortion in Arkansas disregard this ruling in their effort to both remove the right that Roe affords women and to force the Supreme Court to reconsider the constitutionality of abortion. These bans in Arkansas are one more step in their strategy to make all abortions completely illegal.


Arkansas Enacts Strictest Abortion Law In The Country

Arkansas has just enacted the most extreme abortion law in the country - barring abortion at 12 weeks.

Despite the Governor’s veto, both chambers of the legislature voted to override, making it illegal to have an abortion after 12 weeks - still in the first trimester and only shortly after most women will have learned they are pregnantThis ban is two months earlier than any other state in the country. And it comes soon after the legislature banned abortion after 20 weeks.

Certain politicians in Arkansas don’t seem to care that this law is unconstitutional. Nor do they care that this law strips women of their ability to make deeply personal reproductive health decisions.

The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision affirmed the right to a safe & legal abortion. However, opponents of abortion in Arkansas disregard this ruling in their effort to both remove the right that Roe affords women and to force the Supreme Court to reconsider the constitutionality of abortion. These bans in Arkansas are one more step in their strategy to make all abortions completely illegal.

(via randomactsofchaos)

Three Rulings Against Women’s Rights -

At a time when abortion rights and women’s access to affordable contraception are threatened by political attacks, judges in three newly decided federal cases failed to preserve constitutional protections for women.


On Monday, Judge James Teilborg of the United States District Court in Phoenix upheld an Arizona law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April that bans all abortion procedures at 20 weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period, which is about 18 weeks after fertilization.

It is the most aggressive of the previability abortion bans passed recently by a handful of states. It defies binding Supreme Court precedent that prevents states from banning abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb, which generally occurs at about 24 weeks.

To get around that pesky barrier, Judge Teilborg erroneously characterized Arizona’s outright ban as a permissible “regulation” that limits only “some” previability abortions. To make that argument, he relied, in part, on the fact that the ban contains a dangerously narrow exception for a “medical emergency.”


In United States District Court in Denver on Friday, Judge John Kane issued a temporary injunction forbidding the Obama administration from requiring a secular, for-profit heating, ventilation and air-conditioning company from complying with the new requirement that it provide employees with contraceptive coverage.

There is no constitutional precedent for individuals, much less corporations, allowing them to violate generally applicable laws because they may have a religious objection. Conversely, the company’s claim that its owners or officers have a First Amendment right to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporation’s employees is groundless. The health insurance mandate does not place a substantial burden on religious exercise, so a federal statute protecting such exercise should not be in play.

The Justice Department argued that the notion of a religious freedom violation should be dismissed, but, disappointingly, Judge Kane declined to do so.

The third ruling was a decision last Tuesday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis. The court, sitting en banc, upheld, by a 7-to-4 vote, a 2005 South Dakota law requiring doctors to misinform women seeking an abortion that they face an increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts if they go ahead. This dreadful ruling ignores the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence.

(Source: sarahlee310)

Contraception and the New Crusades | Scott Charney

[Besides] the larger debate over abortion, concerns about contraception have been germinating in some quarters for several years. In 2003, on the 30th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, Cristina Page, of the National Abortion Rights Action League, and Amanda Peterman, from Right to Life Michigan, co-wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, titled “The Right to Agree.” In this op-ed, Page and Peterman wrote of finding common ground on such issues as support for single mothers, affordable child care, an end to violent rhetoric and actions, and supporting legislation that would require that health insurance plans cover contraceptives. While there was reportedly little strong response from pro-choice organizations, Peterman found herself ostracized from her fellow activists.  Page has subsequently written about how this chain of events helped her to realize that much of the purported anti-abortion activity actually is not focused on abortion per se, but on larger anxieties about families and sexuality.

So what does this have to do with the world outside? Despite the very low rates of abortion (and sexually-transmitted diseases) in the Netherlands, that country’s policies of sex education, along with subsidizing and promoting contraception, do not endear themselves to American conservatives. The exact opposite is true. While the Times, in a 2006 article titled “Contra-Contraception” highlighted the ethical reasons for such seeming cognitive dissonance, it also seems likely that there is a subconscious (and sometimes very conscious!) strategic explanation. In other words, if the Netherlands, and many other countries in Europe and around the world, manage to prevent abortions by preventing pregnancy, that is not considered an acceptable strategy, partially because the resulting low fertility rates allegedly leave such countries open to conquest by Muslim immigrants.

This hypothesis, sometimes awkwardly referred to as “Eurabia” (most Muslim immigrants, like most Muslims in general, are not Arab), has become a staple of right-wing rhetoric in the past decade. Pat Buchanan has mentioned this trope repeatedly, beginning with his book Death of the West in 2001.  Mark Steyn has largely built a career on this sort of thing; he made a considerable impact with America Alone in 2006, and was continually invoking concerns of low fertility, though without explicitly mentioning an Islamic takeover, in recent months. Numerous other authors have added their voices to this chorus of fear, and opponents of the idea also responded in kind. Indeed, such fears are not only misplaced, they are comprehensively wrong across the board. The numbers regarding fertility and immigration patterns, as well as the social and political beliefs of many Muslims in Europe, do not even remotely support the hypothesis of people like Steyn, and yet their ideas have stuck in the minds of many. Anders Behring Breivik and the English Defence League share these concerns. Perhaps more importantly, so does the American Christian Right, the most bellicose demographic in America, and the same one responsible for the wave of legislation targeting contraception and abortion. […]

American conservatives seem to want “more babies” more than they want fewer abortions, partially due to fear that the wrong people are reproducing too often. This is one reason, though not the largest, why Cristina Page and Amanda Peterman had such a brief opportunity to agree.

Oklahoma court strikes down ultrasound abortion law | Yahoo! News

District Judge Bryan Dixon ruled the statute passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2010 is an unconstitutional special law, and is can’t be enforced because it addresses only patients, physicians and sonographers dealing with abortions without addressing other medical care.

Oklahoma is one of several states that have passed laws requiring doctors to both perform an ultrasound and provide a verbal description of the fetus before an abortion, while others are considering similar measures. The laws have been on hold in Oklahoma and North Carolina as legal challenges proceed, while Texas’ recently was upheld.

Former Democratic Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry had vetoed his state’s bill after it passed the Republican-controlled Legislature, warning the measure likely would lead to a “potential futile legal battle.” Republicans overrode the veto with help from several Democratic anti-abortion lawmakers.

Enforcement has been blocked since May 2010 when the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of Nova Health Systems, operator of Reproductive Services of Tulsa, and a doctor who practices in Norman.

The group’s lawsuit claimed the statute violated the principles of medical ethics by requiring physicians to provide unnecessary and unwanted services to patients and discounting a woman’s ability to make decisions about her pregnancy.

(Source: sarahlee310)

Tennessee Bill May Expose Identities Of Women Seeking Abortions | ThinkProgress


Tennessee lawmakers will consider a controversial measure on Wednesday that could intimidate women seeking abortions by requiring that the names of doctors who perform the procedures be published online. The legislation, known as the Life Defense Act of 2012 or House Bill 3808, would restrict access to the procedure in two ways:

The first would require doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital near where they perform abortions, while the second would require the Department of Health to release more information on abortions, including the name of the doctor who performed the procedure and demographics about the women who receive them.

The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said at an initial hearing on the bill earlier this month that the reporting requirement writes into law a form that the Department of Health already asks providers to fill out whenever they perform an abortion.

“The Department of Health already collects all of the data, but they don’t publish it,” he said. “All we’re asking is that the data they already collect be made public.”

But the measure goes beyond existing reporting requirements and could undermine women’s right to privacy by allowing opponents to identify — harass and intimidate — patients who undergo the procedure.

The state’s Department of Health already reports information on the age, race, education, and number of children of women who receive abortions, and aggregates the data by region, “making it impossible for others to figure out who underwent an abortion procedure.” This bill, however, would require the department “to release patient data broken down by county” and could “reveal the identities of some women who receive abortions, particularly in small, rural communities.” “I think in some small communities that woman would be identified,” State Rep. Gary Odom (D) warned when a subcommittee advanced the measure earlier this month. “I think that by publicizing this, it would have serious consequences. … We know what has happened to physicians who perform abortions that there has been violence. … There could be violence against the women. … This is a dangerous piece of legislation. … I think this is full of meanness.”

Abortion providers could also be at risk, as abortion foes would now have a comprehensive list of the names of the doctors who perform the procedure. “In an environment where doctors are victims of violence — and we’ve had physicians who provide abortion care murdered in the past few years — I think this is an attempt to intimidate and allow for providers to be terrorized,” said Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee.

Tennessee women - you had best be lighting up the phones and burning the faxes of your state reps.

Limbaugh, the man who once mocked Michael J. Fox’s limbs twitching from Parkinson’s and ridiculed Bill Clinton’s “ugly” daughter, said of Fluke: “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.” He then told her he wanted to see tapes of the “paid” sex she was having on his dime. His attack on Fluke was so violent that President Barack Obama telephoned her to thank her for her bravery and told her that her parents should be proud. What a kind, decent thing for Obama, father of two girls, to do.

We Need a Women’s Rights Reawakening

Shout out to the President for doing the right thing here. This was a class act by any measure. Strike that - any non-rightwing batshit demagogue measure. Good show.