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Nation Topics - Reproductive Rights

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Though polls consistently show a majority of Americans supporting freedom of choice, abortion rights are facing their greatest attack since the Supreme Court decision Roe V.

"We are in a funding emergency today," read the e-mail from the New York
Abortion Access Fund.

Thirty years later, abortion's political terrain is more complicated than ever.

Bush's handpicked delegates disrupt global conferences on women's
rights.

In Hicksville, Long Island, on any given Sunday afternoon, pierced and
tattooed teenagers in black clothing gather to listen and watch as
groups of kids like themselves tear their fingertips on

The night after the Bush Administration announced its refusal to grant the United Nations Population Fund $34 million dollars, Jane Roberts was so outraged she couldn't sleep.

In some parts of China, local officials keep track of women's menstrual periods. We haven't come to that, but anyone who thinks women's reproductive and sexual privacy is secure in America wasn't following the news this summer.

The one thing that activists on every side of the abortion debate agree
on is that we should reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

America's rate of unwanted pregnancy is a huge public health scandal,
but five years after being approved by the FDA, emergency
contraception--the use of normal birth control pills to block pregnancy
within seventy-two hours of unprotected sex--has yet to fulfill its
potential. Part of the problem has to do with the difficulty of getting
EC in time; many doctors don't want the hassle of dealing with walk-in
patients, many clinics are closed on weekends and holidays (times of
peak demand) and some pharmacies, like Wal-Mart's, refuse to stock it.
That anti-choicers falsely liken EC to abortion and tar it as a
dangerous drug doesn't help.

The main barrier to EC use, though, is that most women don't know what
it is. To spread the word, Jennifer Baumgardner and I have written an
open letter explaining how EC works, how to get it and why women should
even consider acquiring it in advance. If every Nation
reader with access to the Internet forwards it to ten people and one
list, and those people do the same and on and on, it could reach
thousands, even millions of women. Like ads for Viagra, only not spam.
Activism doesn't get much easier than this!

An Open Letter About EC

The one thing that activists on every side of the abortion debate agree
on is that we should reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. There
are 3 million unintended pregnancies each year in the United States;
around 1.4 million of them end in abortion. Yet the best tool for
reducing unwanted pregnancies has only been used by 2 percent of all
adult women in the United States, and only 11 percent of us know enough
about it to be able to use it. No, we aren't talking about
abstinence--we mean something that works!

The tool is EC, which stands for Emergency Contraception (and is also
known as the Morning After Pill). For more than twenty-five years,
doctors have dispensed EC "off label" in the form of a handful of daily
birth control pills. Meanwhile, many women have taken matters into their
own hands by popping a handful themselves after one of those nights--you
know, when the condom broke or the diaphragm slipped or for whatever
reason you had unprotected sex.

Preven (on the market since 1998) and Plan B (approved in 1999), the
dedicated forms of EC, operate essentially as a higher-dose version of
the Pill. The first dose is taken within seventy-two hours after
unprotected sex, and a second pill is taken twelve hours later. EC is at
least 75 percent effective in preventing an unwanted pregnancy after sex
by interrupting ovulation, fertilization and implantation of the egg.

If you are sexually active, or even if you're not right now, you should
keep a dose of EC on hand. It's less anxiety-producing than waiting
around to see if you miss your period; much easier, cheaper and more
pleasant than having to arrange for a surgical abortion. To find an EC
provider in your area, see www.backupyourbirthcontrol.org,
www.not-2-late.com or ec.princeton.edu/providers/index.html.

Pass this on to anyone you think may not know about backing up their
birth control (or do your own thing and let us know about it). Let's
make sure we have access to our own hard-won sexual and reproductive
freedom!

The Things You Need to Know About EC

EC is easy. A woman takes a dose of EC within seventy-two hours of
unprotected sex, followed by a second dose twelve hours later.

EC is legal.

EC is safe. It is FDA-approved and supported by the American College
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

EC is not an abortion. Anti-choicers who call EC "the abortion
pill" or "chemical abortion" also believe contraceptive pills,
injections and IUDs are abortions. According to the FDA, EC pills "are
not effective if the woman is pregnant; they act primarily by delaying
or inhibiting ovulation, and/or by altering tubal transport of sperm
and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization), and/or altering the
endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation)."

EC has a long shelf life. You can keep your EC on hand for at least two
years.

EC is for women who use birth control. You should back up your
birth control by keeping a dose of EC in your medicine cabinet or purse.

What You Can Do to Help

Forward this e-mail to everyone you know. Post it on lists, especially
those with lots of women and girls. Print out this information,
photocopy it to make instant leaflets and pass them around in your
community. Call your healthcare provider, clinic, or university health
service and ask if they provide EC. Spread the word if they do. Lobby
them (via petitions, meetings with the administrators, etc.) to offer EC
if they don't.

Make sure that your ER has EC on hand for rape victims and offers it to
them as a matter of policy. Many hospitals, including most Catholic
hospitals, do not dispense EC even to rape victims.

Get in touch with local organizations--Planned Parenthood, NOW, NARAL,
campus groups--and work with them to pressure hospitals to amend their
policies.

If you can't find a group, start your own. Submit an Op-Ed to your local
paper or send letters to the editor about EC.

Make sure your pharmacy fills EC prescriptions. Some states have
"conscience clauses" that exempt pharmacists from dispensing drugs that
have to do with women's reproductive freedom.

The Nation reported on Dr. Pendergraft's troubles in
"Abortion on Trial" by Hillary Frey and Miranda Kennedy, June 18, 2001.

Blogs

Using bait-and-switch strategies and confusing language, anti-choice advocates are trying to restrict access to safe, legal abortion.

October 31, 2014

Anti-abortion groups are using fear, misinformation and possibly even illegal meddling at the polls to push a constitutional amendment that would open the door to restrictive legislation.

October 28, 2014

How one reproductive justice organization is working to make sure black voters help defeat Amendment 1.

October 27, 2014

"Having children when you want to have children is very important for women's lives."

October 16, 2014

It's important for women to have access to egg freezing if they want it, but it's a terrible solution to the fact that our society makes it so hard to parent and work.

October 16, 2014

Laws requiring teens to tell their parents they’re having an abortion are a problem everywhere they exist, but Alabama’s represents a new low.

October 9, 2014

Clinics in Texas that were recently forced to stop providing abortions because of sweeping new regulations have filed an emergency appeal to the court.

October 7, 2014

Calls for the pill to be available without a prescription are just naked attempts to woo female voters and mask opposition to the Obamacare birth control mandate.

October 2, 2014

The city becomes the first in the nation to say 'no' to bans on sex-selective abortions.

September 19, 2014

Long-acting reversible contraceptives could revolutionize reproductive healthcare—if only politicians would get out of the way.

September 15, 2014