October 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Planned Parenthood of New York City will soon host its annual Fall Training Institute, a series of free and low-cost training sessions “for health professionals and anyone who wants to learn and remain knowledgeable on sexual and reproductive health issues.” Selected topic titles include Public Insurance & Reproductive Health Care; Empowering and Supporting Our Transgender Youth — Taking Lessons from the Film Gun Hill Road; Don’t Forget the Pleasure in Sex Education; and Talking About Abortion With Confidence.
For more information and to sign up for a training, visit the website here.
August 29, 2011 § 2 Comments
This is a guest post by Dr. Jim Kenley, the former Commissioner of Health in Virginia from 1976 — 1986. Thanks to Dr. Kenley and also to Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.
A few weeks ago, a disturbing situation arose in Kansas that brought the state perilously close to banning abortion within its borders. The legislature, with the governor’s support, enacted a new licensing and regulatory law that resulted in the creation of “emergency” regulations giving abortion providers just a few days to comply with impossible and medically unnecessary requirements.
These regulations, which demanded precise sizes for janitorial closets, no-variance room temperatures, and other ridiculous requirements, were purportedly established to protect the health and safety of women, but in truth had one and only one purpose: to shut down the three existing abortion facilities in the state.
Fortunately, a federal judge temporarily enjoined the new regulations, and all three clinics in Kansas are still able to provide services, at least for now.
The situation in Kansas should serve as a warning to Virginians. Our General Assembly passed its own regulatory law this spring motivated by the same anti-choice agenda that spurred the foolishness in Kansas. And now Governor Robert McDonnell is forcing the Board of Health to adopt new regulations in an unprovoked “emergency” process that bypasses the normal public notice and comment periods for changes in state regulations, and reduces opportunities for input from the trained professionals at the state agencies who know the most about the issues at hand.
As a retired doctor and former health commissioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am deeply concerned about these developments, because I fear that we, like Kansas, are attempting to turn back the clock on women’s health in a way that could have devastating effects.
Although I never performed an abortion, when I was a young physician in Cincinnati and Atlanta in the 1950s, I helped women who needed emergency medical care following either self-performed or “back alley” abortions. Later, in practice, one memorable case was a mature, educated mother of two whose spouse had recently survived a brain hemorrhage. Pregnant some 20 years before the Supreme Court legalized abortions and with nowhere to turn, she desperately tried to self-abort with a hat pin.
In the middle of the night, I was called to her house where I found her in excruciating pain suffering from severe chills and a fever of 105 degrees. After telling me what she had done, I rushed her to the hospital where she received emergency medical treatment that thankfully saved her life.
In September, the Virginia Board of Health will propose emergency regulations to require abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards of care, even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available in this country and is already heavily controlled by state and federal regulations.
To be certain, supporters of these new regulations will claim that elevating abortion providers to mini-hospitals by forcing them to make costly architectural upgrades will somehow protect women’s health and safety. Women definitely deserve the highest standard of medical care especially when it comes to reproductive healthcare. But women in Virginia are already receiving abortion care at the highest standard, and medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations will only serve to restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services and further marginalize young, low-income, uninsured and minority women by decreasing their health care options.
Early abortion care is already difficult to access in the Commonwealth, with 86% of Virginia’s counties lacking any abortion providers at all. The new regulations could make abortions both harder to get and more expensive, possibly taking us back to something akin to that time I recall with such great dismay, when every abortion was a health risk.
That’s why I hope my fellow medical professionals with the Board of Health will not bow to political pressure or rhetoric from special interest groups. Women in Virginia are already receiving outstanding abortion care, so there is no need for medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations that will not only reduce access to abortion for all women, but especially for existing marginalized women.
There are additional consequences of fewer providers and more expensive abortion services as a result of overregulation. Virginia abortion providers also offer an array of reproductive healthcare services to women as well as men, including life-saving cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment and pre and post-natal care. These critical health services could be reduced or eliminated altogether.
As the former Commissioner of Health under four governors, I urge the members of the Virginia Department of Health and the Board of Health to adhere to their charge — to protect the public health and safety of the people of the Commonwealth by adopting only those regulations that are medically appropriate, and based in science.
If they do, they will show us that on important matters involving constitutional rights and health care, Virginia can rise above politics. We can be better than Kansas.
April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
Late Tuesday night, on March 29, 2011, Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) handed down an amendment to Delegate Terry’s Kilgore’s HB 2434 bill, which directed the Commonwealth to establish a health exchange in accordance with the federal health care legislation. The Governor’s amendment will restrict Virginia’s health insurance exchange from covering abortion services, except in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
Abortion is part of basic health care for women. For some that may seem like an odd thing to say. Abortion has become such a hotly contested issue in this country that we’ve lost sight of the role abortion plays in women’s lives. But if you stop and think about it, every woman’s situation is different and many things can go wrong in a pregnancy. Every woman deserves the opportunity to make the best decision for her circumstances, whether her decision is raising a child, adoption or abortion. No woman plans to have an abortion, but if she needs one, insurance should cover the procedure just as it covers all other pregnancy related care.
Unfortunately, some politicians have introduced legislation that would make it harder for women to access the health care they need. These measures have been proposed throughout the country, including here in Virginia, to prevent insurance companies from covering abortion care. By introducing the amendment to HB 2434, the Governor reopens the debate on an issue that has already been addressed in the General Assembly. HB 2147 and SB 1202, bills to ban abortion coverage in health insurance plans, were introduced at the start of session and received hearings. Both bills were defeated in the Senate Education and Health committee. These measures would have taken, and the amendment to HB 2434 could take away insurance coverage that millions of women currently have and make it difficult if not impossible for many women to take care of themselves and their families.
March 30, 2011 § 6 Comments
Last week, I spent 72 hours in the hospital after being diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis. In normal terms: I have a blood clot in my leg. The cause? My birth control, which I had been on since the start of June.
I’m lucky. I have insurance, and access to heath care and physical therapy. I’m on rounds of blood thinner medication, and am slowly beginning to recover, and move around normally. However, I am not allowed to use any hormonal birth control for an entire year. Any extra dose of estrogen could be fatal.
So, most contraceptive methods, and Plan B are off-limits to me. And while having a bad leg and withdrawals from painkillers mean that sex is not the highest priority on my list, I know that will not always be the case. And I also know that my options for a contraceptive other than condoms (which are always a given for me anyway) are slim. They include diaphragms and the copper, non-hormonal IUD.
Sometimes I think we forget that hormonal contraceptives are not always the be-all-end-all solution for wanting to enjoy sex without the risk of unplanned pregnancy. I can’t just take a pill every day, or take a more expensive pill if a condom should break. Those pills could kill me.
March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s the 10th anniversary of the Back Up Your Birth Control day of action. Today is an opportunity to learn about emergency contraception (EC), how it works, when you can take it, and why access to it is threatened — and a reminder to back yourself up!
— Sign the petition calling on the FDA to end restrictions on EC. Tell the FDA to stop stalling and expand over-the-counter access to EC to women of all ages.
— Sign the petition to say that contraception is prevention. Speak out to help ensure that comprehensive contraceptive care, including EC, is covered free of charge under the preventive care provision of health care reform.
Sign ’em! And back it up, ladies. It’s so much easier to buy over-the-counter emergency contraception now so you have it on hand; if the need arises, you can skip the anxious rush to the drugstore when you or your friend is in a bind.
March 25, 2011 § 1 Comment
This is a guest post by Katherine A. Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.
Legislative maneuverings are nothing new, but the Virginia General Assembly, with some last minute shenanigans during this past session, may have just maneuvered itself into reproductive rights morass with very real legal implications.
On February 24, 2011, the House of Delegates passed SB 924, a bill that requires the Board of Health to issue regulations related to infection prevention and disaster preparedness for hospitals, nursing homes and certified nursing facilities. As approved by the Senate, SB 924 had nothing to do with abortions, but House members added a last minute amendment that classifies “facilities in which 5 or more first trimester abortions per month are performed” as a category of hospitals.
Lt. Governor Bill Bolling broke a 20-20 tie in the Senate when he voted in favor of the bill as amended in the House, sending it to Governor Bob McDonnell, who will almost certainly sign it.
The effect of SB 924? That will depend on the regulations produced by the Board of Health, but clinics in the state that currently provide safe and legal first-trimester abortions will have to meet at least some of the facilities requirements now imposed on the various types of hospitals classified under state law, possibly the requirements now mandated for outpatient surgical centers. Even doctor’s offices that provide medication abortions in the very beginning stages of pregnancy could be affected.