In a country so dedicated to individual liberty, it is perplexing that conservatives oppose a most fundamental freedom - to control one’s own reproduction. State legislatures have passed increasing numbers of restrictions on abortion in recent years – 70 in 2013. (California is not included, we are one of the most liberal states with regard to abortion laws and access.) Both sides in the abortion debate are preparing for new political campaigns and court battles this year.
Texas made news in June when State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours against regulations that required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in local hospitals, imposed costly surgery-center standards for clinics, sharply limited medication abortions and adopted a 20 week ban. Senator Davis was not successful in her attempt to block the new bills, but is planning to run for governor this year, along with another woman State Senator for lieutenant governor. The primary is in March – stay tuned for that. The restrictions on abortion have left much of Texas without access to family planning and abortion clinics. A federal judge blocked the rules as medically unnecessary, but the US Court of Appeals reinstated them pending a trial. Stay tuned – the Appeals Court is about to hear arguments in New Orleans.
South Dakota has a law mandating a 72-hour waiting period between a first visit for an abortion and the procedure. Weekends and holidays cannot count as part of this wait. This can only be seen as punitive - some women will be waiting 6 days.
North Dakota has passed a law to criminalize all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about 6 weeks. By passing this law, which has been blocked while it is being contested, its supporters hope for a reconsideration of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court. North Dakota voters will also vote on a bill granting personhood to fertilized eggs this year.
North Carolina passed anti-abortions restrictions inserted at the last minute into a motorcycle safety law. It required clinics to meet the same safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers, to have transfer agreements with local hospitals, to have physicians present for medication abortions, and a restriction on abortion coverage in the state healthcare exchange.
Oklahoma passed a law in 2011 to ban off-label use of abortion-inducing medications – legal challenges and state appeals to defend the law continued into 2013. Numerous other states –including Texas - are attempting to block medication abortions, which are becoming more popular with women. The Oklahoma law even blocked doctors from treating tubal pregnancies with medication. The alternative treatment is surgery. Tubal pregnancies will never develop but will rupture, causing serious internal bleeding, and are fatal if not treated as a surgical emergency.
If you support a woman’s right to plan her family, or to plan not to have a family, this is a time to get active. You can contact Planned Parenthood locally or nationally, and send a contribution or volunteer your time. The same is true for NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League). Both organizations have a long track record on behalf of women, men and couples. NARAL’s work is political, while Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of reproductive health care as well as education on the issues that might limit it.
Flu Season is here! The viruses circulating this year include H1N1, which caused a major pandemic in 2009 with thousands of deaths worldwide. Young and healthy people are not immune. Who wants fever, coughing, sore throat, weakness, headache, aches and pain in the joints and muscles, pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, and dehydration or hospitalization?? If you have not had the vaccine yet, get it at once!
Sadja Greenwood MD, MPH Check out past issues on this blog - it is finally indexed. My novel, Changing the Rules, is in local bookstores and on Amazon.