My Past Work: On Reproductive Justice

Between my column and the blog I maintained as an intern for the Women’s Law Project, I wrote A LOT about reproductive justice. Here’s a roundup!



Fact 1: Abortion providers in Pennsylvania already comply with up to four different sets of guidelines, and all the facilities currently in operation have been praised for their high standards of safety and care.

Fact 2: Facilities that perform other minor surgeries such as oral surgery, foot surgery and laser eye surgery are not required to comply with ASF guidelines.

Fact 3: ASF guidelines are cumbersome, expensive and largely irrelevant to patient safety in abortion cases. SB 732 would require freestanding abortion clinics to as much as quadruple the size of their operating rooms and install hospital-grade elevators capable of lifting a small car, with no proven safety gains to justify these expensive measures. Some clinics would have to relocate to comply with additional zoning requirements. And although every licensed clinic has a registered nurse present when abortions are being performed, SB 732 would require that an RN be in attendance “at all hours when patients are present.” This means that all abortion care facilities, many of which only perform abortions one or two days per week, would have to hire an RN to oversee the regular gynecological exams, STD testing and birth-control consultations that constitute more than 90 percent of the services they provide.

Fact 4: Because no public funds can be used for abortion, the cost of hiring a full-time RN and installing a hospital-grade elevator cannot be reimbursed by Medicaid.

“Proposed Abortion Regulations Endanger Women,” October 2011


Karnamaya Mongar didn’t die because the elevators in Gosnell’s clinic were too small. She died because the regulations already in place were ignored.  If the cost of a safe, legal abortion increases or the number of safe providers decreases as a result of SB 732, stories like Mongar’s will become a lot more common in our state. Making abortion harder to access for all women is, to paraphrase David Bowie, like fighting fire with gasoline. These regulations are a backdoor tactic to severely limit abortion care, a hypocritical and disingenuous response to the atrocities allegedly committed by Dr. Gosnell.

“In Remembrance: Illegal Abortion Kills” October 2011.


These new guidelines encourage ob-gyns to do the following: ask patients about their gender open-endedly on their patient intake forms rather than requiring they check “male” or “female,” to post LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies visibly in their offices, and train staff to handle transgender patients professionally and with compassion.  ACOG says that physicians must be prepared to offer gender-nonconforming patients the same basic preventive services as their cisgendered patients (those who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth), such as STD testing and cancer screenings.

This is a huge, much-needed victory in LGBT health and wellness. In October 2010, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released the results of the largest survey of transgender people on healthcare discrimination to date, and the results were dismal.

“American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Time to Treat Trans Patients Right,” January 2012.


Religious institutions that oppose premarital sex may declare that they don’t want to pay for a woman’s sexual immorality, but unless Catholic hospitals refuse to cover prenatal care if the pregnant employee is not married to the father of her child — needless to say, probably not what Jesus would do — they’re paying for it anyway. Because prenatal healthcare — to say nothing of the astronomical costs of a hospital birth — is hundreds of times more expensive than birth control, refusing to cover the latter ultimately costs your insurance company, and anyone whose taxes subsidize it, a great deal more money. According to the Guttmacher Institute, unintended pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers $11.1 billion dollars a year, and that’s only factoring in public insurance costs for prenatal and first-year infant care.

“Religious Views Shouldn’t Exempt Hospitals From Insurance Mandate,” February 2012.


According to the Family Research Council (an ultra-conservative group that actively opposes abortiondivorce,LGBT rights, and embryonic stem-cell research), “eight in ten pregnancy resource centers report that ‘abortion-minded’ women decide to keep their babies after seeing ultrasound images,” and “[a]ccording to an executive director of an Iowa pregnancy resource center, 90 percent of women who see their baby by ultrasound choose life.” Americans United for Life insists that “medical evidence indicates that women feel bonded to their children after seeing them on the ultrasound screen” – as evidence, they refer to a 1983 study that reported exactly two cases of women, around three months pregnant, feeling bonded with their fetuses after viewing ultrasounds.

Now, almost thirty years later, assistant medical professor Tracy Weitz is conducting a more comprehensive study – interviewing twenty abortion-seeking women in two states and surveying ultrasound clinicians about their practices – to determine whether ultrasound advocates’ claims are accurate. And while research is far from over, preliminary results suggest that women consistently choosing to carry their pregnancies to term after viewing the ultrasound image is less documented phenomenon, and more pro-life fantasy.

“Ongoing Study: Mandatory Ultrasounds Have Very Little Impact on Abortion Decision,” March 2012.


I don’t think a woman should have to decide whether to keep taking a birth control pill that gives her terrible side effects, because it’s the only brand whose copay she can afford. I don’t think a woman should have to decide whether to enroll in a birth control study and rely on a pill that isn’t on the market yet, not because the compensation is great, but because it’s the only way to get contraception for free.

I don’t think a woman who lives with Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder should have to choose whether to suffer every month because the pill that gives her fewer periods has a higher co-pay than she can afford on her part-time salary, and I don’t think a woman should have to decide, when money is tight, whether it’d be smarter to go a week without her birth control or without her thyroid medication.

“One Less Tough Decision: What Birth Control Without Co-Pays Means For College Women,” August 2012


With the majority of Republican lawmakers apparently supporting an across-the-board abortion ban undaunted by the plight of rape or incest victims, it is worth asking exactly why so many of them are calling for Todd Akin to drop out of his Senate race.

I’m glad that the majority of GOP lawmakers are willing to believe the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology when it reports that “among adult women, an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.” But if they accept those statistics, they have to accept that what they’re advocating is 32,101 women every year involuntarily carrying a rape-conceived pregnancy to term. And frankly, I wish they’d act a little more embarrassed about that.

“Pro-life Platform Hurts ‘Legitimate Rape’ Survivors,” September 2012


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