Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blogs Comment On Abortion Myths, 'Pro-Life Atheists,' PEPFAR, Proposed HHS Conscience Rule

The following summarizes selected women's health-related blog entries.

~ "Abortion Myth About Depression Falls Before Science," Bonnie Erbe, U.S. World and News Report's Thomas Jefferson Street blog: The claim by antiabortion-rights advocates that abortion can lead to mental health problems is "another claim [that] fell prey to scientific accuracy" with the release of a Johns Hopkins University review that said there is no study to-date that supports the argument, Erbe writes. "The list of myths propagated by the right-wing abortion foes goes on and on," she writes, adding that the "fight to deny women the right to control their own fertility is still going on," despite the election of President-elect Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights. President Bush "is trying to pay off debts to the Christian right" with a proposed HHS conscience rule that would allow health care providers who receive federal grants to opt out of care based on their moral or religious beliefs. Erbe writes that she "remember[s] in 2001 watching President Bush undo so many of the gains women's rights advocates made under President Clinton." She concludes that "this time the pendulum is swinging in the direction of the future, not the past" (Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog, 12/4).

~"Not on Our Watch: Part Two of Two," National Right to Life blog: The "deception" of abortion rights advocates "to make inroads into constituencies that normally would never have given a pro-abortion maximalist like [President-elect Barack Obama] a second thought" is the "fabricated out of whole cloth myth that pro-abortionist and pro-life alike are bent on 'reducing the number of abortions,'" a National Right to Life blog post says in response to a recent Newsweek article on atheists who oppose abortion rights. The blog says that the "strategy" of reducing the need for abortions is one that "Obama and his ilk will nonetheless carry in front of them like a banner." It continues, "provided they offer a rhetorical crumb or two along the way," abortion-rights supporters "are to accept that 'progress' is made in" compromise between the two sides. Although the Newsweek article said "such honest reflection" about the complexity of the issues involving abortion is "progress indeed," the blog concludes it is "nothing of that sort. Far from honest reflection, it is both morally tone-deaf and plagued by an arrogant self-assurance that allows them to believe that if they speak loud enough and long enough and insincerely enough, truth can be turned on its head" (National Right to Life blog, 12/2).

~ "Strengthening PEPFAR: A Plan for Immediate Action," Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check: Although President-elect Barack Obama will face "many challenges" when he takes office Jan. 20, "[h]e will also inherit the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief," Jacobson writes. She continues that "PEPFAR presents both opportunities and challenges," including "several controversial policies originally supported by the Bush administration" that "undermine efforts to stop the spread of HIV by denying critical services to the most vulnerable, blocking effective integration of health services and failing to effectively address the social and economic roots of this pandemic." Jacobson's blog post suggests steps that Obama should take to "initiate the change PEPFAR needs, ensuring we simultaneously save more lives and strengthen health systems while making the best possible use of scarce public dollars." Among her suggestions, Jacobson recommends appointing a Global AIDS Coordinator who "embraces both the public health and human rights dimensions of risk and disease and who recognizes that sex and sexuality are normal attributes of being human." She writes that Obama also should "talk about the role of safer sex in prevention" and "immediately direct" the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator "to support flexible interpretations of requirements in the law affecting spending on 'abstinence and be faithful' programs." She continues that PEPFAR funding should also support programs that "equip all individuals ... with the education, information, skills and methods necessary to engage in sexual relations," in order to "move beyond the formulaic 'ABC' approach and away from the 'abstinence versus condoms' debate." Obama also should instruct OGAC "to promote wherever necessary the integration of relevant HIV and AIDS services with broader reproductive and sexual health services." In addition, he should reverse the "Mexico City policy," or "global gag rule," and restore funding for the United Nations Population Fund (Jacobson, RH Reality Check, 12/4).

~ "Still Waiting for Administration to Impose 'Conscience Rule'", Our Bodies, Our Blog: The proposed HHS conscience rule "would likely have the effect of seriously reducing access to legal health care such as oral contraceptives," an Our Bodies, Our Blog entry says. The blog states that "we're watching closely to see it if is rammed through during the last days of the Bush administration." According to the blog, recent newspaper articles "suggest that the rule could still be finalized" even though the Bush administration has "obviously missed" its own regulation deadline of Nov. 1. The blog entry also highlights a recent discussion on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" (Our Bodies, Our Blog, 12/3).

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