Brothers in Arms, Part 1: Racist Anti-Abortion Rhetoric from the Restell Years to Roe v. Wade

Newspaper illustration of Madame Restell in jail, February 23, 1878

This article is our first installment in a series that explores the historical and contemporary links between racial intolerance and opposition to abortion, from the fears of immigration that fueled abortion prohibition in the late 1800s to the gender-based hatred rooted in today’s white nationalist resurgence.

In the battle over abortion, Kentucky was this year’s ground zero. In Louisville, the EMW Women’s Surgical Center fought to keep its doors open, as a governor, a legislature, and a base of activists — all hostile to abortion — made it their mission to shut the clinic down. For reproductive justice advocates, the stakes were high, as EMW stands as the only abortion provider in Kentucky, the last one in a state that had more than a dozen such providers in the late 1970s.


In the 19th century, opposition to abortion was fueled by racist paranoia.


The situation in Louisville was emblematic of a national phenomenon. In 2011, state legislatures entered a fever pitch, passing new restrictions on abortion, including ultrasound requirements, waiting periods, state-mandated counseling, and prohibitions against telemedicine care and abortion medications. Within a few years, more than 200 restrictions were enacted, and by early 2016, The Washington Post was reporting that 162 abortion providers had closed in their wake.

Boom Years for Abortion

When Ann Lohman first opened her abortion practice, her experience could not have stood in starker contrast to the battle of attrition against regulations and harassment that shutters many of today’s providers. If there were any challenges to keeping her doors open, it was competing with the many other providers who clamored for attention, with advertisements in newspapers, popular magazines, and even religious publications. Lohman’s own advertising budget, to stand out from the crowd, eventually reached $60,000 a year.

Lohman’s experience, like the EMW Center’s, was a sign of the times — but they were very different times.  Continue reading

July 11 Is UN World Population Day

The following guest post comes to us via Esteban Camarena, a graduate student at the University of Arizona. He is currently in Brazil doing field research on politics and public health policy. He can be reached at estebanc@email.arizona.edu.

The world’s population is on the way to reaching 8.6 billion people by 2030 — that’s approximately 1.1 billion more inhabitants on the planet in less than 13 years. If we break it down further, that’s 84.6 million more people per year, 7.1 million per month, 1.8 million per week, or 252,0000 people added every day, roughly.

July 11 is UN World Population Day, which aims to create awareness of population growth issues and their relation to the environment and development. With the world’s population increasing every year, the limited amount of natural resources combined with the effect of climate change hinders any country’s ability to achieve sustainable economic growth and development. As the global population continues to grow, so too does the demand for food, water, energy, and land.


An investment in women’s health is an investment in families’ economic stability and a country’s development.


The inability to meet these demands will inevitably lead to malnutrition, poverty, and conflict between nations and people. This depletion of resources would particularly affect developing countries where the greatest amount of population growth is expected; in fact, more than half of the anticipated growth will occur in Africa, followed by Asia and Latin America. Among other factors, population growth is concentrated in these developing regions due to limited or lack of access to reproductive health care, family planning services, and sex education. Continue reading

What’s in a Name: Repealing the Affordable Care Act

Supporters drop off petitions and rally at Rep. Martha McSally’s Tucson office, March 15, 2017

As this post goes to press, word has come that Speaker Paul Ryan has pulled the American Health Care Act, being unable to muster enough votes to pass it. So we have escaped that disaster, and it appears no attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act will proceed in the near future. But the fight is not over. Aspects of this bill will come up in other forms and we will have to be vigilant. But this is a victory for activism, so many thanks to all of you who made phone calls, demonstrated, told your stories, and reminded the Republicans that destroying something is not the same as governing.

So as you read this, realize what we have escaped, and what we need to watch out for as we proceed.


People were going to die. But the free market would have triumphed.


Republicans called it Obamacare, and used that name as a slur to run against President Obama in 2012. It didn’t win that race for them, but there are enough people in this country for whom the name Obama is enough to damn a program. One woman, whose son lost his job and had his monthly insurance premium fall from $567 to $88, attributes that decrease to the tax credits in Trump and Ryan’s new American Health Care Act. You know, the bill that never passed. In actuality, her son became eligible for a subsidy under Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — which is still the law.

Paul Ryan and his cronies in the House of Representatives hated the Affordable Care Act before it was written. They hated it even more when it passed and more than that when it was implemented.

What did they hate about it? Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • The wingnuts over at the Center for Arizona Policy are almost always behind every single awful anti-choice bill in on our state. This time’s no different. Senate Bill 1367, if passed, would require doctors to take measures to maintain the life of a fetus born “alive” during an abortion procedure. Arizona Republic writer E.J. Montini expounds upon why this legislation is harmful. (AZ Central)
  • The most important opinions on this subject, however? Those of the mothers whose last precious moments with their newborns would have been stolen due to this cruel, useless law. (AZ Central)
  • A bit of good news though — it’s highly unlikely we’d ever see a “bathroom bill” or other extreme/homophobic/transphobic anti-LGBTQ legislation hit Arizona. Let’s focus on the small victories, people. (AZ Central)
  • Speaking of homophobia, South Dakota has passed a bill allowing state adoption agencies to refuse to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. Now, seeing as many who are anti-LGBTQ cling fervently to the “pro-life” title, it’s interesting that they’d rather let orphan children suffer without families than allow them into loving homes, isn’t it? (Slate)
  • In case you missed it — an enormous, smelly wheelbarrow filled with excrement known as the American Health Care Act (aka Trumpcare) was rolled out last week and is a total sh*tshow that will really only benefit the rich and healthy. Everyone else will basically die. (NY Mag)
  • Pregnant women will definitely be among the hordes of “losers” under Trumpcare. Ironic considering the GOP does literally everything possible to force women to remain pregnant, whether they wish to be or not, and then they create atrocious legislation to make it financially impossible to be able to afford to have a child. (Salon)
  • Aside from pregnant women, other parents as well as millions of children would lose their vital health coverage. (Romper)
  • And I’m far from done, ’cause this plan is the gift that keeps on giving. Other losers under Trumpcare? Pumpkin-colored Pinocchio’s very supportive voter base. This is his thanks to you all, thanks for playing and helping “Make America Great Again,” folks! Better luck voting for a president and Legislature who give a damn about you next time! (WaPo)
  • Trumpcare’s provision to defund Planned Parenthood puts our patients in the loser category as well. (Planned Parenthood Action)
  • And defunding us means the number of births in the Medicaid program would increase, as well as direct spending for Medicaid — which would increase by $21 million in 2017 alone. (NPR)
  • Appallingly, some supporters of Trumpcare think the thousands of unintended pregnancies that will result from this asinine bill are a good thing. Forced birthers are elated at the possibility that more babies will be born under potentially horrendous conditions. They will ignore the fact that these babies weren’t wanted and their parents are economically disadvantaged in a country led by a party that has proven itself to be unsympathetic to the plight of the poor. More babies under those circumstances is not a win. It’s a tragedy with the potential to have long-term emotional, mental, and financial consequences for real people — especially children! (WaPo)
  • Illinois Republican John Shimkus idiotically complained about men having to pay for maternity care via their health insurance and it got a lot of women thinking. What if women didn’t have to pay for men’s health care? (Elle)
  • Florida bill HB19 would allow women to sue abortion doctors for “emotional distress” after undergoing the procedure, which is, by the way — elective and voluntary. Here’s why that’s a slippery slope — it is well known that MANY anti-choice activists have “secret” abortions (check out the riveting book, “This Common Secret: My Life As An Abortion Doctor” by Susan Wicklund, for stories about this). How horrendous would it be for them to have the power to ruin doctors’ lives under such a law? They benefit doubly — they terminated an unwanted pregnancy and then get to benefit financially. What.A.Sham. And what other elective, LEGAL medical procedures allow for lawsuits from patients over regrets or emotional distress? ZERO. (Orlando Sentinel)
  • For the billionth time, “community health centers” cannot “fill the gap” in care if Planned Parenthood is defunded. Don’t believe me? Look at Wisconsin and Texas. (Guardian)

STD Awareness: What Does “Congenital Syphilis” Mean?

Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that causes syphilis

Treponema pallidum, the bacteria that causes syphilis

Congenital syphilis, for centuries a leading cause of infant mortality, is often thought of as an antique affliction, relegated to history books — but it is on the rise again. Between 2012 and 2014, there was a spike in congenital syphilis rates, which increased by 38 percent and are now the highest they’ve been in the United States since 2001. As of 2014, the last year for which we have data, more babies were born with syphilis than with HIV.

The word “congenital” simply means that the baby was born with syphilis after being infected in the womb. When an expecting mother has syphilis, the bacteria that cause the disease can cross the placenta to infect the fetus — and will do so 70 percent of the time. As many as 40 percent of babies infected with syphilis during pregnancy will be stillborn or will die soon after birth. It can also cause rashes, bone deformities, severe anemia, jaundice, blindness, and deafness. Congenital syphilis is especially tragic because it’s almost completely preventable, especially when expecting mothers have access to adequate prenatal care and antibiotics. Penicillin is 98 percent effective in preventing congenital syphilis when it is administered at the appropriate time and at the correct dosage.


More babies are being born with syphilis — but this trend can be reversed with wider access to prenatal care.


Incidence of congenital syphilis is growing across all regions of the country, but rates are highest in the South, followed by the West. Rates have also been increasing across ethnic groups, but, compared to white mothers, congenital syphilis rates are more than 10 times higher among African-American mothers and more than 3 times higher among Latina mothers, illustrating the need to increase access to prenatal care for all expecting mothers — and to ensure that this prenatal care is adequate.

Anyone receiving prenatal care should be screened for syphilis at their first visit, and some pregnant people — including those at increased risk or in areas where congenital syphilis rates are high — should be screened a second time at the beginning of the third trimester and again at delivery. Continue reading

World Prematurity Day: A Time to Reflect on the Importance of Prenatal Care

The following guest post comes to us via Edna Meza Aguirre, regional associate development director for Planned Parenthood Arizona. Edna is a native Tucsonan, bilingual and bicultural. She received her JD from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and worked in the area of criminal defense for 12 years before changing careers. Edna is in her 16th year of volunteering at the University of Arizona Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit helping comfort newborn babies.

baby_feetThe neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) I volunteer in is among the best in the country. It is known nationwide for the cutting-edge research and techniques that not only save the life of a premature baby, but encourage that same infant to thrive.

The moment the delivery health care staff senses the as-yet unborn child is in stress, the amazing doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists are on the scene in the delivery room. As in a well-coordinated symphony, the lifesaving process begins. Through the priceless intervention of these medical professionals, I have seen babies born blue return to a normal color. I have seen listless children born with no sign of life emerge back into this world through the medicine and touch of these professionals. I’ve seen sobbing parents struggling with this difficult reality as hospital staff explain the problem at hand with caring words and a gentle tone.


There isn’t a single parent who isn’t deeply emotionally affected by watching their vulnerable baby receive treatment.


Premature birth, also called preterm birth, occurs when a baby is born before the pregnancy has reached 37 weeks, and affects 1 out of every 10 babies born in the United States. Because the last few weeks of pregnancy are so crucial to a baby’s development, being born too early can lead to death or disabilities, such as breathing, vision, or hearing problems, as well as cerebral palsy and developmental delays. Treatment can sometimes depend on how premature the baby is. With a normal gestation period of 40 weeks, a premature baby might be born at 25 weeks, 30 weeks, etc. This time frame can be calculated easily enough with mothers who are receiving prenatal care.

There are, however, cases where the mother has received no prenatal care and doesn’t know how many weeks pregnant she is. Continue reading

What Is Preeclampsia?

Prenatal care is important for a healthy pregnancy.

Prenatal care is important for a healthy pregnancy.

May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, and to be fully honest I didn’t know a thing about what preeclampsia was until I sat down to write this blog post. What I found out is alarming.

Preeclampsia is a blood pressure disorder and it affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnant women. It belongs to a group known as hypertensive disorders, which is the leading cause of maternal deaths. As a group, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which includes preeclampsia as well as other disorders, account for 11.1 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in this country.


Prenatal care from a trusted ob/gyn is crucial!


Symptoms of preeclampsia can include a constant headache, belly pain under the ribs on the right side, swelling (legs, hands, and feet), decreased urination, protein in your urine, nausea with vomiting, and vision changes such as temporary blindness. In extreme cases, when preeclampsia develops into eclampsia, it is characterized by high blood pressure and seizures. Continue reading