The legal abortion rate continues to drop, but will this be the case with more restrictions?

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In 2011, the Guttmacher Institute reported that the “U.S. abortion rate declined to 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2011, well below the 1981 peak of 29.3 per 1,000 and the lowest since 1973 (16.3 per 1,000)”. This is a 13% drop since 2008.

In more recent years, the CDC reported that the U.S. abortion rate declined again with “12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 200 abortions per 1,000 live births”. It is important to note however that “from 2004–2013, the number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions decreased 20%, 21%, and 17%, respectively. In 2013, all three measures reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2004-2013).”

So then in 2008, why did then presidential-candidate Barack Obama claim that abortion rates had not gone down?

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It turns out that “Obama made his comments to Warren in the context of cutting the number of abortions. He said he wanted to find ‘ways that we can work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, so that we actually are reducing the sense that women are seeking out abortions.’ In that context, his comment about abortions made sense. Guttmacher data showed that 49 percent of pregnancies were unintended in 2001, unchanged from 1994.”

Knowing this, what is really causing the abortion rate to decrease in the United States? The Guttmacher Institute did not provide a full explanation in addition to their reported findings, however they suggested that “the decline in abortions coincided with a steep national drop in overall pregnancy and birth rates. Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD. Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.”

With this, we are left to ask the question: what will happen to the abortion rate if we see the GOP nominee make his way to the White House?

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Some of his policy positions listed above from NARAL suggest that women will not have the same access to contraception use as they did under the former Republican presidency. The issue always seems to come back to access and limiting those who are disadvantaged by way of money, transportation, and schedules, in whatever way possible. Something to worry about come election day? It does not seem to be however this is a point that must be considered when looking at both the state and federal levels of government.

And that’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek

Written by: Lauren King

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No need to worry about Roe v. Wade overturning; we already have TRAP Laws.

Overturning Roe v. Wade, as presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested would happen should he be elected president, is the least of American women’s worries. The real issue we should be focusing on today and not what could happen come January are TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion) Laws. They exist and they are preventing many women from obtaining the safe abortion they want and need. TRAP Laws are a product of the anti-choice movement looking to “impose unnecessary and burdensome regulations on abortion providers—but not other medical professionals—in an obvious attempt to drive doctors out of practice and make abortion care more expensive and difficult to obtain” argues Pro-Choice America.

The unnecessary and burdensome regulations range anywhere from requirements on room size and corridor width to the distance from the nearest hospitable but are all characteristically overcompensating for patient safety when it is in fact unneeded. “State standards, however, do vary, with the most burdensome standards in place in states such as Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia” reveals the Guttmacher Institute.
Here are some of the statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institution illustrating what some states are doing through TRAP Laws to prevent women from obtaining abortions:

  • 25 states have laws or policies that regulate abortion providers and go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety; all apply to clinics that perform surgical abortion.
    • 15 states’ regulations apply to physicians’ offices where abortions are performed.
    • 18 states’ regulations apply to sites where medication abortion is provided, even if surgical abortion procedures are not.
  • 21 states have onerous licensing standards many of which are comparable or equivalent to the state’s licensing standards for ambulatory surgical centers.
  • 20 states have specific requirements for procedure rooms and corridors, as well as requiring facilities be near and have relationships with local hospitals.
    • 11 states specify the size of the procedure rooms.
    • 10 states specify corridor width.
    • 10 states require abortion facilities to be within a set distance from a hospital.
    • 8 states require each abortion facility to have an agreement with a local hospital in order to transfer patients in the event complications arise. (Including requirements on clinicians a total of 21 states require a provider to have a relationship with a hospital.)
  • 11 states place unnecessary requirements on clinicians that perform abortions.
    • 11 states require abortion providers to have some affiliation with a local hospital.
      • 4 states require that providers have admitting privileges.
      • 7 states require providers to have either admitting privileges or an alternative arrangement, such as an agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges.
    • 1 state requires the clinician to be either a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist or eligible for certification.

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In 2015, the Supreme Court decided to take on the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which brought before the court “two provisions in a Texas law – requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and requiring abortion clinics in the state to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center”. This is a very typical TRAP Law.

But on June 27, 2016, the Court ruled 5-3 on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that Texas cannot place restrictions on the delivery of abortion services that create an undue burden for women seeking an abortion. The next day the Supreme Court refused to hear challenges from Wisconsin and Mississippi where federal appeals courts had struck down similar laws. Perhaps this was a small victory and a move in the right direction for Pro-Choice policy. The staying power of the decision is yet to be seen. Your move Anti-Choice proponents.

And that’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek

Written by: Lauren King

#ExpertOpinion: So where is this money coming from?

As of September 30, 2016, the Hillary Clinton campaign had raised $1.1 billion compared to the Donald Trump campaign’s  $712.1 million. As of September 30, 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign had $68.4 million left to burn compared to the Donald Trump campaign’s $50.3 million.
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With such a large amount of support, where do supporters and opponents of women’s reproductive health and rights fall in their donations towards the two candidates? In the case of the women’s issues overall, a total of $24,794,008.00 were contributed. As shown in the graphic belimg_3623ow, most contributors tended to donated 100% of their contributions to one party over the other. Only two organizations, EMILY’s List and the Women Under Forty PAC split their contribution totals among Democrat and Republican candidates, but even so, EMILY’s list donated a mere 0.6% of their $3,220,580.00 in contributions or $19,3750.02.
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Diving deeper into financial contributions of various interest groups, I decided to analyze the contributions based on an individual issue. Looking at the issue of abortion policy, contributions were divided among anti-abortion and pro-abortion supporters. For those contributing on the basis of anti-abortion support, $992,551.00 were contributed during this election season by four groups. Unsurprisingly, the groups gave overwhelmingly to the Republican candidates. Susan B. Anthony List stood alone in contributing 5.4% or $4,967.00, of the $91,983.00 to a Democratic candidate.
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On the other hand, eleven organizations contributed to the pro-abortion initiative contributing $2,599,803.00 to support the issue. Pro-abortion supporters were even more decided in their initiative to support democratic candidates with only Planned Parenthood contributing a very low 1.6% to a Republican candidate totaling $14,450.62 out of the $903,164.00. Interestingly, pro-abortion policy interest groups contributing 38% more in funds than interest groups supporting anti-abortion policy. It is important to note however that only four interest groups contributed on behalf of anti-abortion policy compared to the eleven supporting pro-abortion policy.
So how exactly our interest groups helping candidates not only in supporting the issue effort but also the candidate? Well, Planned Parenthood is a great example of this effort contributing money in order to create powerful advertisements on behalf of Hillary Clinton like the two included below. Have a look!
And that’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek
Written by: Lauren King

#ExpertOpinion: The Hyde Amendment hides the funds from impoverished

Over 40 years ago, the original Hyde Amendment was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 207-167. The chief sponsor of the amendment, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, led the Pro-life Movement to their first victory since the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 1981, the Hyde Amendment was revised to prohibit the use of federal funds for abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.

In 1993, the Hyde Amendment was revised again under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1994 to expand the use of federal funds available under Medicaid to include cases of rape and incest.

The Hyde Amendment has not been nationally discussed since, until this past January when Hillary Clinton, upon accepting an endorsement for President from Planned Parenthood, called for its dissolution.

According to a study published by the Guttmacher institute in 2006, “most poor women in need of an abortion manage to obtain one; however, many have to postpone their abortion”, a result that is can be economically, physically and emotionally straining. “Studies conducted over the last three decades show that poor women take up to three weeks longer than other women to obtain an abortion” and even worse, “studies published over the course of two decades indicate that 18–37% of women who would have obtained an abortion if the government had paid for it instead continued their pregnancies”.

With this known, it is obvious that opponents of dissolving the Hyde Amendment exist; supporters like Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio.“We celebrate 40 years of Henry Hyde’s lifesaving Hyde Amendment, which keeps taxpayer dollars from paying for most abortions,” Jordan said in a statement. “The amendment has saved the lives of as many as two million people.”

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Saving real lives is great and all, but let’s reserve that statement for actual people. Outlined below is a breakdown of the percentage of women reporting that they could not have abortions for various reasons. These reasons span age, number of children, relationship status, race and ethnicity, percentage of the federal poverty level, education, and employment. Nothing seems to be left out except for the funding itself.

The economic effects of the Hyde Amendment over the course of 40 years has been such a problem that studies were conducted to provide strategies for securing funding for abortion under the Hyde Amendment.

Access to abortion is just as imperative of an issue now as it was in 1976. Overturning the amendment could benefit seven million women of reproductive age, including 3.4 million who are living below the federal poverty level. The Hyde Amendment reduces a woman’s right to chose to her health because it purposefully targets impoverished women with limited access and resources and prevents them from choosing. Seems pretty unconstitutional to me .

And that’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek

Written by: Lauren King

#ExpertOpinion: No, Mike. More and more young people are not embracing life!

On Tuesday evening, the candidates nominated for the position of Vice President of the United States faced off at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Many mainstream news commentators predicted that the goal of the two candidates would focus on defending their respective nominated presidents. While this was the case in many instances, there was a lot of room left for Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana to be caught in lies by fact-checking.

In the last minutes of the debate, moderator Elaine Quijano switched to the topic of “social issues”. In the context of abortion and the discussion surrounding being pro-life or pro-choice, Governor Mike Pence made the claim that “more and more young people today are embracing life”. The simple fact of the matter is that this claim made by Governor Pence, is wrong.

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A study published by the Pew Research Center tells us that in face “young people” those ages 18-29 share comparable views as those who are ages 30-49 and 50-64. 58% of the individuals age 18-29, believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, 59% of the individuals age 30-49 believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 56% of the individuals age 50-64 believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Notably, there is a larger gap in agreement between those who are 50-64 and those who are 30-49, but even this is a mere 3 percent.

As noted by the Washington Post, this is one of the few social issues in which young peoples’ opinion mirror that of their elders. On issues like marijuana use and gay marriage, young people tend to be far more liberal in their stances.

 

The issue of women’s reproductive health sadly did not get a lot of air time during the Vice Presidential Debate, however this is better than the zero coverage given during the first Presidential Debate. This debate garnered just 37 million viewers, the lowest since 29 million voters tuned in to watch the 2000 Vice Presidential Debate between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman, but for those who will read the “ICYWI” or “in case you missed it” articles or for those who will follow the memes without doing the proper fact checking, the idea that “more and more young people today are embracing life” will be out there, and that is a false statistic I do not want people rallying behind.

 And that’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek
Written by: Lauren King

#ExpertOpinion: Increase of “Contraception Deserts” is no accident

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Introduced by the framing of the Zika Virus spreading to the United States, Rebecca Kreitzer and Candis Watts Smith, two assistant professors of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll, dive into the concern over whether or not women in every part of the country can protect themselves from the possibility of pregnancy through contraception.

For anyone who has ever read a little bit about women’s reproductive health, the answer should be an obvious “absolutely not”. Unfortunately, the fairly unknown federally subsidized Title X program, the only one dedicated solely to family planning and related preventive health care, is being abused by a number of states and Congress, making it even more difficult for some women around the country to access contraception.

Contraception deserts. Think: “desolate or forbidding area” or “uninhabited and uncultivated tract” and that is what a large number of women in the United States deal with in regards to accessing contraception on a day-to-day basis. Zika is an issue; that is undeniable. However, Congress did not reduce Title X funding by 9.8 percent over the course of six years because they were not worried about Zika. (That’s $317.5 million in 2010 to $286.5 million in 2016, by the way!) Congress and states like North Carolina and Texas are reducing these budgets for ideological and religious purposes, not to mention control. Worse, Obstrics & Gynecology published a study demonstrating that their reckless behavior is a contributing factor to the increase in the United States’ maternal morality rates between 2000 and 2014. For the record, maternal mortality rates around the world are decreasing.

So, whom is this affecting? Not me. I get three months of brand birth control covered by my family’s health insurance whenever I need a refill and if I happen to lose a month’s packet, I can just call my doctor and have her contact the pharmacy down the road. Then, I take my car, drive to Walgreens and the problem is solved. Perhaps, this is why I have never worried about having a baby infected by Zika; perhaps, this is why I did not even realized we had a Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Lucky for me, I am not one of the 55% of American women who every day experience at least one barrier in accessing reproductive health care. The figure of 55% is bone chilling. Over half of American women could be facing the fear of becoming pregnant with a Zika infected child; more importantly over half of American women face the fear of becoming pregnant.

An inability to pay, getting time off work or lack of transportation are the three biggest barriers that contribute to the contraception desert and these deserts are in pockets around the country mainly affecting poor, less educated, minority women (especially Hispanic women). Every woman deserves the comfort I experience everyday in knowing that I do not have to worry about getting pregnant (Zika infected country or not). With the election just weeks away, American women need to be told what these candidates’ plans to do about Title X and I hope the moderators in the upcoming debate feel the same.

And that’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek

Written by: Lauren King

EMILY’s List’s first endorsement for president finally a candidate

For the past 30 years, EMILY’s List, short for “Early Money Is Like Yeast”, has supported pro-choice candidates in key races around the country. The organization has had a hand in electing over 100 pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. House of Representatives, 19 to the U.S. Senate, 11 to governors’ seats and hundreds of women to state and local office positions.

While the organization has operated since 1985, EMILY’s List never endorsed a candidate for the presidential election until January 2007 when Hillary Clinton announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee. Within hours of the announcement, EMILY’s List backed Hillary Clinton and launched a campaign that raised money for Clinton’s camp and “turned out millions of women to vote for her in the primaries – helping spark a surge of enthusiasm for the the 2008 elections”.

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The organization chose to endorse Hillary Clinton 9 years ago not only for her pro-choice support, but also because she is “a lifelong champion for women and families, who will fight for fairness”, would be “a president who’ll change the economic reality Americans face” and is the “most qualified candidate for president, who has what America needs in a leader”. Here’s more on why EMILY’s List supports Hillary Clinton.

Reflecting on theme of Nelson Poslby’s book, Presidential Elections, the argument that interest groups do not actually have a real effect on voters, it would be interesting to analyze whether or not EMILY’s List has the real impact that it claims to have in elected women officials on the federal, state, and local levels.

And there’s your #ExpertOpinionoftheWeek

Lauren King