Nationalist strongmen are bent on controlling women’s bodies | Afua Hirsch | Opinion | The Guardian


When Brazil, where I am writing from this week, became worried that almost two-thirds of its population was black or mixed race, radical steps were taken. Never mind that the blackness of its population was thanks to its own dependence on African slavery: in the first part of the 20th century, Brazil actively recruitedEuropean migrants with the explicit aim of whitening itself, or keeping, in the words of a presidential decree of 1945, “the most convenient features of its European ancestry”.

The resulting class and race inequalities in the South American country are part of a complex mix that has resulted in Brazil’s own variation on the populist theme. Now, under the Trump of the tropics, as Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is sometimes described, reproductive fascism is back, and focused – so far – on controlling women’s bodies.

One of Bolsonaro’s early acts in office was to replace the government department for human rights with a department for “family values”, and with a rightwing evangelical preacher at the helm. Damares Alves may have said she would help low-income women, but she is also anti-abortion, and is so comfortable with post-truth leadership that she has claimed the Dutch are taught to masturbate from the age of seven months.

In her wisdom, Alves has in turn appointed another woman to run public policy for motherhood. For this she chose Sara Winter, formerly a member of the feminist group Femen but now someone who credits Christianity with “curing” her feminism.

Populist strongmen love a good female antifeminist. Donald Trump recently appointed Rebecca Kleefisch – a conservative former TV anchor who says women should be subservient to their husbands – as the new head of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. Such appointments must be great fun for populist misogynist men – you get to kill two birds with one stone. First you weaponise anti-women’s rights women against other women, thereby infuriating feminists – who hate you anyway – while simultaneously reducing initiatives that were designed to promote gender equality to a laughing stock, which serves your interests quite nicely.

But when anti-women policies are masquerading as those intended to help women, things get more complicated. Take Poland’s Family 500+ measure, for example, a policy introduced by the ruling Law and Justice party that gives families 500 złotys (£100) a month for each second and subsequent child. As someone who cares equally about the suffering of low-income mothers and child poverty, I’m all for helping families with children. But the idea that assistance for those in poverty is conditional on obedient reproduction is verging on the dystopian.

 

Source: Nationalist strongmen are bent on controlling women’s bodies | Afua Hirsch | Opinion | The Guardian

TBT: When abortion wasn’t legal in Britain – The i newspaper online iNews


Last week, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that abortion was “morally indefensible” in all cases, including rape and incest; and some people were surprised at this.  Now, I would have been surprised to hear these views uttered by Basil Brush, for example, or by Caitlin Moran, but by Jacob Rees-Mogg? Not a jot. The British love an eccentric and the sight of Rees-Mogg wandering about like an extra from Downton Abbey, blithely unaware the last hundred years has happened, tickled us. But Rees-Mogg’s ‘old fashioned’ values extend to far more than tailored suits, a posh accent and having a nanny on staff; they extend to contraception too. Bringing down the flowers

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/explainers/iq/tbt-abortion-wasnt-legal-britain/

Source: TBT: When abortion wasn’t legal in Britain – The i newspaper online iNews

When the Catholic Church owns your doctor: The insidious new threat to affordable birth control


Original post from Salon

‘………….By 

Eight of the largest health systems in America are now Catholic-owned. More and more won’t prescribe contraception

(Credit: gualtiero boffi, salajean via Shutterstock/Salon)
(Credit: gualtiero boffi, salajean via Shutterstock/Salon)

Angela Valavanis had already had one bad encounter with the Catholic health care system when St. Francis Hospital, the hospital in Evanston, Ill., where she delivered her second baby, refused to allow her OB/GYN to tie her tubes because of Catholic restrictions on the procedure. When she went to her doctor’s office for a check-up after the birth and asked about going back on the Pill, since she hadn’t gotten the sterilization she wanted, she got another shock: “My doctor told me that she couldn’t prescribe birth control because she had sold her practice to a Catholic health system,” said Angela. “My mouth dropped open. I was so confused to hear those words coming out of the mouth of an OB/GYN.”

 An OB/GYN who can’t prescribe birth control? It’s not some bad joke. It could be a reality if your doctor’s practice is purchased by a Catholic health system that then imposes the Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a set of rules created by the U.S. Bishop’s Conference that prohibits doctors from doing everything from prescribing the Pill to performing sterilizations or abortions.

And Angela’s experience may be just the tip of the iceberg. Driven by health-care economics and incentives in the Affordable Care Act, health systems, which are a collection of hospitals and ancillary services, are acquiring physician practices at anunprecedented rate. The percentage of doctors who were employees of health systemsincreased from 20 percent to 26 percent between 2012 and 2013 alone; more than 40 percent of primary care doctors like OB/GYNs are now employed by health systems directly, and experts don’t see the trend slowing.

And with Catholic hospital systems accounting for eight of the 10 of the largest nonprofit health systems in the U.S., these hospitals are poised to become major owners of doctors’ offices, which could severely impede access to contraceptives if doctors are forced to follow the Directives. “The more we see these Catholic systems buying up these practices, the more we are going to see what Angela saw,” predicted Lorie Chaiten, director of the Illinois ACLU’s Reproductive Rights Project, who notes that such refusals are legal under Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

 “Angela went to the same provider for 15 years and all of the sudden she couldn’t get birth control. This could have a huge impact on women,” Chaiten said.

Last year, Ascension Health system, a Catholic system, and the largest nonprofit health system in the country, attracted national attention when it reportedly told doctors at an Oklahoma hospital that they couldn’t prescribe birth control. Ascension quickly backed down, deciding that it would “tolerate,” but not “approve, condone or permit,” the prescription of contraception by physician employees.

Now it appears that the largest system in Illinois, Presence Health, is also prohibiting doctors from providing contraceptives. Presence was created by the merger of two smaller Catholic systems, Resurrection Health Care, which was the system that bought Angela’s doctor’s practice, and Provena Health. Today, Presence Health owns 11 hospitals and dozens of doctor’s offices.

These health systems are merging, and gobbling up doctors’ practices, because of incentives in the ACA for systems to coordinate care across the range of services that patients need, from doctor’s visits to in-patient hospital procedures, and because of health care economics, that make it prohibitively expensive for doctors to maintain solo practices.

Asked directly whether its doctors in Evanston and elsewhere in Illinois were prevented from providing contraception, Presence said in a statement, “We abide by the Ethical & Religious Directives, and there are certain services which we do not provide. It is our expectation that all physicians associated with Presence Saint Francis Hospital share with their patients the options that are available in accessing the care they seek.”

But telling women about their options isn’t a solution when they are denied access to contraception, says Chaiten. “Even if they tell you what your options are, you have to have a second appointment with another doctor to get birth control. This seems inconsistent with whole idea of OB/GYN practice.”

Not only do women have to face the inconvenience of making—and paying—for another doctor’s appointment to get one of the most basic gynecological services, but there’s also a bigger problem: “The more we stigmatize and silo reproductive health care, the more it seems like it’s OK to treat it as not basic health care,” says Chaiten.

In fact, when Angela went back to her doctor after giving birth in mid-2013, the doctor indicated to Angela that she would provide her with a prescription for birth control if Angela would just make up a non-contraceptive reason, like severe menstrual bleeding or bad acne. But Angela refused to lie.

“I felt so betrayed that a doctor would essentially sell out her patients by selling her practice to an entity that won’t allow her to provide the same level of care. I haven’t been back to her,” she says.

But for some women, changing doctors may not be an option. Health insurers are becoming increasingly restrictive about which hospitals and doctors a patient is allowed to use and may charge a steep penalty for going out of the network of preferred providers. Smaller towns and rural areas may not have a large selection of OB/GYNs. The ACLU is backing a measure in the Illinois Legislature that would require health systems to tell patients beforehand what services they don’t provide and where they can get them. Chaiten also encourages women who have been denied reproductive health services for religious reason to report it to the ACLU, which is tracking this trend.

Ironically, Angela’s experience with her OB/GYN wasn’t her last run-in with Catholic health care. After she was refused a tubal ligation and a prescription for birth control, Angela’s husband decided to get a vasectomy. His doctor, who was also part of the Catholic system, said his practice couldn’t do the procedure or make a referral. “The whole situation is so unbelievable to me. I had no idea these limitations occurred,” she says. “When I tell my friends about it, they say it’s medieval. We have to worry that if they keep buying up all these practices, it will get harder and harder to find someone who can prescribe birth control.”

Patricia Miller is the author of “Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church.” Her work on politics, sex and religion has appeared in the Atlantic, the Nation, Huffington Post, RH Reality Check and Ms. Magazine. 

 

It isn’t justice for Purvi Patel to serve 20 years in prison for an abortion


Original post from The Guardian

‘…….When women are desperate to end their pregnancies, they will. The answer to this shouldn’t be punitive, but supportive

purvi patel sentenced

Tell me again how anti-abortion laws won’t be used against women. Photograph: Robert Franklin/AP

Abortion is illegal in the United States. So is having a stillbirth – not officially, perhaps, but thanks to a case in Indiana, we’re halfway there. On Monday, Purvi Patel, a 33 year old woman who says that she had a miscarriage, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent and feticide. She is the first woman in the United States to ever be sentenced for such a crime.

In July 2013, Patel went to the emergency room with heavy bleeding. She eventually admitted to miscarrying a stillborn fetus and placing it in a bag in a dumpster. (Patel lived with her religiously conservative parents who did not believe in premarital sex.) After police searched Patel’s cellphone, they found text messages that suggested she bought abortion-inducing drugs online.

Despite the fact that no traces of any abortifacent were found in Patel’s blood work taken at the hospital, the prosecution argued that she had taken the drugs mentioned in her text messages and caused her miscarriage at 23-24 weeks of pregnancy. And, in legal maneuvering that defies imagination, Patel was chargednot just with fetal homicide, but with neglecting a child. As the Guardian reported last year, these charges are completely contradictory: neglecting a child means that you neglected a live child, and feticide means that the baby was born dead.

But logic has never been at the center of the draconian laws and arrest policies that target pregnant women: control is. As Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told me last year about laws aimed at drug-using pregnant women, this kind of prosecution “is about making pregnant women – from the time an egg is fertilized – subject to state surveillance, control and extreme punishment.”

And, as with other laws that hurt pregnant women, Indiana’s feticide law was not intended (explicitly, anyway) to be a policy that affected women: it was supposedly designed to target illegal abortion providers. But despite the anti-choice insistence that women are “victims” of abortion providers, the history of how similar laws are used show just how much it’s women – and women of color in particular – who are directly impacted by “fetal protection” policies.

After a feticide law was passed in Texas in 2003, for example, a local district attorney used the opportunity to send a letter to all doctors in her county that they were now legally required to report any pregnant women using drugs. Doctors complied, and and more than 50 women were reported and charged with crimes.

We may never know what really happened in Patel’s case. She has repeatedly said that she had a miscarriage which, if true, means that the state is sending a woman to jail for not having a healthy pregnancy outcome. But even if Patel did procure and take drugs to end her pregnancy, are we really prepared to send women to jail for decades if they have abortions? Even illegal ones?

When women are desperate to end their pregnancies, they will. The answer to this shouldn’t be punitive, but supportive: women need better access to education, affordable contraception and abortion without harassment or delay.

Patel’s case opens the door for any woman who expresses doubt about her pregnancy to be charged if she miscarries or has a stillbirth. It’s a terrifying thought, but one that is already impacting real women: the anti-choice movement is now sending women to jail for what happens during their pregnancies. So tell me again how abortion is totally legal. Or tell Purvi Patel.  ……’