In the Wake of Roe v. Wade: The Helms Amendment

USAID is essential in reducing infant and maternal mortality in the developing world.

This Sunday, December 17, is the 44th anniversary of the Helms Amendment.

What is the Helms Amendment and why should we care about it?

The simple answer to the first part of that question is that it is language added to the 1973 foreign aid bill. It reads:

No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.


The Helms Amendment was the first federal legislative attack on abortion rights in the post-Roe era.


But of course nothing to do with abortion is ever simple. Think of the Senate in December 1973, just 11 months after the Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal. In the intervening months the war in Vietnam ended; Henry Kissinger visited China; the Watergate hearings and the first trials of the conspirators began; Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned after being convicted of accepting bribes; President Nixon named Gerald Ford to replace Agnew; there were bloody coups in Greece and Chile; the Yom Kippur War was fought in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia led the oil embargo against the United States, raising gasoline prices from 25 cents per gallon to more than a dollar; Nixon tried to stop the Watergate investigation by firing the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox; the top two people in the Justice Department resigned rather than do so, leaving Robert Bork to carry out that order, in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre; eventually Nixon was compelled to turn over his tapes after fighting the order in court.

In other words, 1973 was a turbulent year, a time of great change and political turmoil in Washington. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Earlier this week, the tools in Congress voted to ban abortion at 20 weeks. They totally, ignorantly ignored the fact that many fetal anomalies cannot be discovered until past that period in a woman’s gestation. Alexis Miller, who was overjoyed to be pregnant, is one of those women and her story of needing a late abortion is powerful. (Time)
  • More Congressional tomfoolery to report on this subject. These morons justified their vote to criminalize abortion after 20 weeks by using the awful mass shooting that took place a few days ago in Las Vegas to illustrate how much they value life and “have” to protect it. Really? How about passing some restrictions on guns, then? How many 5-, 6-, and 7-year-old children died in Sandy Hook? Why do these lawmakers value an unborn fetus the size of a kidney bean more than they do living, breathing human beings??? (Think Progress)
  • Studies indicate that black women have fewer sexual partners and are more likely to use condoms than white women from similar economic backgrounds. And they are not members of the highest-risk demographic: gay and bisexual men. So why are black women in Philadelphia at a higher risk of contracting HIV than their white counterparts? (Philly.com)
  • One thing I never hear anti-abortion folk (who cling to the term “pro-life”) cry over? The fact that the U.S. infant mortality rate among black babies is more than twice as high as it is for white babies. How can you be “pro-life” and never put your advocacy efforts toward helping born children survive? It’s baffling, isn’t it? Luckily, some people DO care, and many cities are turning to doulas to help these babies survive. (WaPo)
  • Anyway, while the folks in the House were passing an abortion ban because they care so much about babies, children, and “life” … they let the Children’s Health Insurance Plan expire, potentially leaving millions of poor children without any health insurance. I guess it’s OK if already-born children suffer and die since technically they’re out of the womb? (HuffPo)
  • Republican hypocrite Tim Murphy, who is SO pro-life he’s never fostered or adopted any children in need, is resigning from Congress after the news that he urged his mistress to have an abortion became public. Murphy, a House Pro-Life Caucus member, voted this week to restrict abortion AGAIN and has a lengthy record of similar votes. The hypocrisy, while not at all stunning, is infuriating. This wretched human being has done everything in his legislative power to take away women’s choices and dominion over their bodies under the guise of valuing life. Yet when a life that HE helped create threatened to disrupt his double life, he was all too willing to terminate it. Good riddance to this trash legislator. Pennsylvania deserves better. (Politico)
  • Could male birth control finally be on the horizon, like, for real?! Maybe! The creators of a male birth control gel (which will be applied on the shoulders, of all places!) designed to inhibit sperm production — while maintaining healthy testosterone levels in the bloodstream — will soon start recruiting 420 couples from around the world to enroll in a new clinical trial. (Scientific American)
  • Rewire has a heartbreaking write-up on the first victim who lost her life due to the Hyde Amendment. Rest in grace, Rosie Jimenez. (Rewire)
  • STDs are at an ALL-TIME HIGH in this country right now! (Time)
  • The Ontario government has introduced groundbreaking legislation that will create protest-free buffer zones around abortion clinics, the homes of doctors and staff, and even pharmacies and offices that provide pills used to terminate pregnancy. Yasss Canada! Kudos to you! (Toronto Star)

Abortion: 1 in 3 Speakout

Here we stood, a score of women at the U.S. Capitol, there to share our personal abortion stories privately with lawmakers and online with the public on March 21, 2017. We were storytellers in the fifth annual “1 in 3 Speakout: Stories from the Resistance.” Our goal — to put a human face on abortion; said in another less ladylike way, to get in our representatives’ grills. We were all darned tired of being characterized by ignorant anti-abortion advocates as shadowy, irresponsible, hypothetical women.

“Hey, talk to us,” we demand of our lawmakers. “We’re real people.”

First, we took our rally to the Capitol steps. Just as crowds began to gather, no doubt curious about our megaphone and pointing to our “I HAD AN ABORTION” and “I STAND WITH 1 IN 3” signs, we were shooed away by police to the more distant location shown in the above photo. We had been in the path of — you guessed it — President Trump’s motorcade. He was making his last-gasp attempts to salvage the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. How appropriate to see, just days later, his plan aborted. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

phone-operator

Time to call your senators!

Happy 2017, readers! I hope the first days of this new year have brought you happiness, love, joy, and hope.

Not that you needed a reminder, but we are mere days away from having a narcissistic, Twitter-addicted, habitual liar, and numbskull as our president.

  • Everyone knows he’s a prolific teller of untruths, including the Washington Post, who gave “The Donald” ALL THE PINOCCHIOS for his bazillion lies in 2016. Hope they’re ready for another blockbuster year! Actually … #MakeThatFour (WaPo)
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has hijacked Donald Trump’s campaign slogan and flipped the script to reveal the truth — by repealing the Affordable Care Act, Trump and the GOP want to “Make America Sick Again.” (Politico)
  • Ugghhh. Paul Ryan … what can we even say? He has sucked in the past, he sucks at the present, and he will continue to suck in the future. He spearheaded last night’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which will strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding. And the irony is, the funding he wants to strip from us DOES NOT GO TOWARD ANY ABORTIONS. The Hyde Amendment banned federal monies going toward abortion care in 1976. The money Speaker Ryan wants to rob from us is Medicaid payouts for low-income patients who receive preventive and diagnostic care and low-cost or free condoms and contraceptives. This is heartlessness and cruelty on a savage level. So today, our advocates are hand-delivering 80,000 petitions to Ryan’s office to express just how furious we are! (NY Mag) *Sadly though, we could lose our federal funding as early as next month*
  • Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Kentucky) is championing a 20-week abortion ban in the state because he thinks when women consent to sex, they also consent to pregnancy. Guess a-freaking-gain, pal. (Raw Story)
  • A federal judge in Texas decided that doctors, who take an oath to help people and never cause harm, can deny patients care on the basis of gender identity and history of abortion. (Rewire)
  • Mississippi legislators = a bunch of bigots who want to make hatred of LGBTQ folks an actual religion. (Slate)
  • The National Institutes of Health is entering the first-ever worldwide clinical trial of an HIV vaccine! (NBC News)
  • In 2016, 57 percent of American women of reproductive age lived in a state considered either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights. Just think about the magnitude of that statistic. Most of us live in a state that wants to take away our right to a safe, LEGAL medical procedure. (Guttmacher)
  • 106 lawmakers asked Trump to repeal the Hyde Amendment. Brace yourselves: He won’t. (NY Mag)
  • Texas’ craptasic governor, Dan Patrick, wants to pass a “bathroom bill” similar to North Carolina. But this one only targets trans women and girls because, according to his preposterous, archaic logic, men “can defend themselves.” (Texas Tribune)
  • As a matter of fact, six states are now working on this “bathroom bill” nonsense. (Time)
  • Did women break new ground in 2016? Slate delves in with an astute analysis. (Slate)
  • One ground we didn’t break? We still make up the majority of low-wage workers in this country. (NY Mag)
  • Our relentlessly fearless president, Cecile Richards, gave an interview to Rolling Stone promising to continue to fight the hostile political climate that threatens the health and very lives of our patients. (Rolling Stone)

The Hyde Amendment at 40: Constitutional Rights Are for Everyone … Who Can Afford Them

The debate around the Hyde Amendment has been squarely focused around abortion. Rightly so. The procedure is still a delicate topic, despite approximately 2 out of 5 women getting an abortion in their lifetimes. But the Hyde Amendment has another angle that no one is talking about. Do poor women actually have a constitutional right when they cannot afford access to that right?


The Hyde Amendment turns 40 this Friday. So what’s the Hyde Amendment?


In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided that individuals have a right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. Roe v. Wade, along with several other cases, saw SCOTUS reasoning that a right to privacy extends to a woman’s right to an abortion. Women who lived through centuries of dangerous back-alley abortions, botched abortions, and dangerous abortifacient drugs saw Roe as a pivotal case for women’s rights.

Three years after Roe v. Wade — 40 years ago this Friday, on September 30, 1976Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois attached a rider to the annual appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment forbade federal funds to be used for abortions. This rider has been renewed yearly, but never officially added to the bill itself. Years later, two more provisions were added to the Hyde Amendment to allow exceptions for the health of the mother and cases of rape or incest. The effect of this provision meant that thousands of poor women would no longer be able to afford an abortion. Their access to a constitutional right had been considerably decreased. Continue reading

A Conversation with Faye Wattleton: Part 1, Historical Perspectives

Faye Wattleton reflects on her career in the family-planning movement. Image: Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona, 1981

Faye Wattleton was president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1978 to 1992. At 34 years old, she was not only the youngest and the first African American to head PPFA, but was also the first woman since Margaret Sanger to hold that position. She had already been executive director of the affiliate in Dayton, Ohio, for seven years, and is still PPFA’s longest-serving president.

Ms. Wattleton received her nursing degree from Ohio State University in 1964, and a master’s degree in maternal and infant care, with certification as a nurse midwife, from Columbia University in 1967. Working in obstetrics, she saw a wider world than she had known and was exposed to the choices women in other circumstances needed to make. She saw the results of illegal abortions when women were desperate to end unwanted pregnancies, and saw the judgmental attitudes of many of the doctors and nurses who treated them. These experiences, along with her religious upbringing by a strong mother who was a preacher in the Church of God, led her to a career in the movement for reproductive rights.


“What is different today is that the element of violence is much less of a factor in the struggle” for abortion rights.


Ms. Wattleton was generous enough to speak to me on January 7, 2013, and throughout the month of February we’ll be sharing her experiences and perspectives in observance of Black History Month. In this first installment, she speaks about the battle for women’s reproductive rights as it has evolved over time.

In the years since Roe, states have been passing more and more restrictive laws, such as Arizona’s strict 20-week cutoff for abortions, and mischaracterizing some birth control methods as abortifacients. I asked if it had been difficult to watch the worsening attacks against reproductive rights since she left Planned Parenthood — and was surprised when Ms. Wattleton said she does not think the struggle for reproductive rights has gotten more difficult. In some ways, she said, things have gotten better. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • This has GOT to be some kind of record: 90 Teens Pregnant in one Memphis High School (Jezebel)
  • How the Hyde Amendment violates the civil rights of women (Huff Po)
  • And since it violates our civil rights so egregiously, Republicans are chomping at the bit to make the Hyde Amendment permanent. Naturally. (Politico)
  • 2011 won’t likely be a banner year for choice in general, thanks to our legislators (RH Reality Check)
  • Rabid anti-choice terrorist planning a presidential run and would like to show graphic TV ads featuring aborted fetuses during the 2012 Super Bowl (The Raw Story)
  • The Nation has an interesting article on the benefits of using contraceptives (The Nation)
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America honors our former (and fabulously pro-choice, pro-woman) Governor Janet Napolitano (New American)