Maryland takes great strides for the reproductive rights of women inmates!

In early April, the Maryland General Assembly approved two new bills that will greatly affect the healthcare of women inmates. Maryland becomes the first state to require a written reproductive healthcare and services policy for pregnant inmates and detainees. Lawmakers in Maryland approved measures requiring correctional facilities to have free menstrual hygiene products available upon request. The House and Senate both unanimously passed the hygiene product bill. Last summer, the Federal Bureau of Prisons declared that all federal prisons must give women free access to menstrual products. Women make up less than 7% of those housed in federal prisons, and so it is imperative to also push these bills at a state level.

The second bill disallowed the use of shackling of pregnant inmates throughout pregnancy and during labor, except in individualized cases when determined necessary by the medical professional responsible for the care of the inmate. Shackling pregnant women is inhumane and unnecessary. This bill also mandates that information on abortion access, adoption, kinship adoption and foster-care be made available to all pregnant inmates, along with new updates to prenatal care and miscarriage care procedures. This bill will be put into effect in October of this year.

The momentum for women’s rights in Maryland continues with the passing of the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act that enables pregnant rape victims to terminate parental rights of their rapist. Advocates in Maryland have been pushing for this bill to pass for over a decade. Currently, 45 states and Washington, D.C. have laws in place that allow the victim to limit or terminate the parental rights of their rapists.

Both the bill disallowing the shackling of pregnant inmates and the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act have been long advocated for in Maryland, so why are these bills finally being pushed through now? Maryland is now at an almost 35% ratio of women in state legislature positions, pushing it into the top 10 for representative gender equality in state legislatures in the country. Maryland also has a growing number of women led advocacy groups that are driven to get women’s rights bills signed into law.

When asked how these long desired bills were finally able to be pushed through, Brittany Oliver, the Founder and Director of  Not Without Black Women, said, “Those were important bills for women’s rights. We worked with a variety of organizations on these bills, including Reproductive Justice Inside. I think what we did was merge policy and organizing to finally get these bills passed. “

When asked what’s coming for women’s rights in Maryland during the next legislative session, Ms. Oliver replied, “This session just ended, so while we don’t yet have an official agenda for next session, one thing we are looking to advocate on is a bill making it illegal for police to have sexual relations with inmates.”

After this successful session, advocates in Maryland have nine months to prepare for the next legislative session. Along with women’s issues, they plan to push forward with economic issues including The Fight For $15, which would raise the minimum wage in Maryland, and a Gender Equity Bill, which would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their previous salary in hopes to close the gender and race pay gap. The struggle continues!

 

(Image Credit: The Hatcher Group) (Photo Credit: The Washington Post / Andre Chung)

In and beyond prison, reproductive justice is a State responsibility

Christiane Taubira the former French minister of justice likes to remind the public of the government’s responsibility toward the vulnerable.  She had to defend this position while trying to make the penal system in France more comprehensive. She was only partially successful. The state of vulnerability comes very fast when unwanted pregnancy starts. Even though such situations are produced by a man and a woman, the burden remains entirely on the woman. If we add another layer to the state of vulnerability, such as poverty, things become immediately more complicated for the woman.

In the United States, the state does not assume its responsibility toward the vulnerable, who are sexualized, racialized and declassified instead of being supported. The state uses the vulnerable as a source of surplus value through its imprisonment making the institution an industrial complex with contractors running the game. They even charge women prisoners for their basic amenities, such as soap. In this combination of neoliberal development of consumerism and unfettered capital gain, punishing women as members of the vulnerable combines growing inequalities with awesome wealth building.

Trump and his team have brought this idea to its paroxysm, but everything was in place before this election.

The right to abort is a constitutional right that should be respected everywhere, but the case of access to abortion points to the lack of reproductive justice, inside prison and outside. Women in need of abortion often experience stigmatization, reinforcing the sentiment of disqualification as full citizens. In prison, the challenge to wield this right to abortion is real, with enormous discrepancies from state to state and from county to county.

Worldwide, 33% of women prisoners are in the US, and so it is important to examine the reasons for the push to punish women with the detention conditions worsening the punishment itself. The number of incarcerated women in the United States has increased 700% between 1980 and 2014. Being poor is a condition for incarceration and particularly affects women. As the Prison Policy Initiative exposed in its latest report 72% of incarcerated women had an income less than $22 500 while the rate is 48% for non-incarcerated women, and for men 23% for non-incarcerated men compared to 57% for incarcerated men.

Pregnant women are sent to prison, jail, or immigration detention centers. In federal prisons 1 in 33 women and 1 in 25 in state prisons are pregnant. The number is hard to establish in other kinds of detention facility.

If women decide or are intimidated to pursue their pregnancy behind bars, they face harsh conditions with disastrous prenatal conditions in detention facilities in general. In 2011, 38 states had no prenatal policies and 41 states did not require prenatal nutrition. Children born in prison are removed from their mothers right after birth, which demonstrates that a child’s well-being has no meaning when the child is born in prison, another double standard.

In addition, there is no adequate health care for inmates in the United States, though, based on the 8th Amendment, prisoners are the only ones who have a constitutional right to medical care. Instead, medical care in prison is often decided through court orders by penal and judicial personnel who have no medical expertise, and so treatments are delayed, ignored, or never performed.

If women inmates don’t want to become mothers, although it is their constitutional right to have access to abortion, few states offer comprehensive solutions. In most of states, the women must deal with a hodgepodge of rules and regulations, all defined from the male-standard of incarceration. Generally, the hurdles are numerous, high, and burdensome. From having access to a clinic to payment to transport, every step is an “undue burden” for women prisoners in most states. As ACLU attorneys recall, the US Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision clearly said “laws that restrict abortion access cannot create an `undue burden.’”

The legal dispute around abortion in prison should be taken seriously by everyone outside of prison who believe that respecting the dignity of women as full citizens means ensuring they control their reproduction. Women have been sentenced to jail for the failure of the state to provide abortion or prenatal services to the vulnerable. The Purvi Patel case is one of too many cases that proves that the State is not concerned with women’s well-being, especially when in a state of vulnerability.

ACLU and other groups have called for more research on the application of reproductive rights inside the United States penal systems. Although this demand is important to resist the conservative anti-abortion wave, the invisibility of living conditions of women behind bars is full of lessons about the way attacks on women’s right and reproductive justice is waged in general and its social meaning. When state leaders are ready to fulfill their responsibilities to serve the vulnerable, often women and more often women of color and/or women prisoners, they will serve all women and the society better.

 

(Photo Credit: National Women’s Law Center) (Infographic credit: Prison Policy Initiative)

The battle for women’s reproductive rights in the United States rages on!

The latest campaign against women’s health in the United States has taken place in the background of the Presidential Republican primaries.

Not surprisingly, the infamous videos filmed illegally in a Planned Parenthood office that spurred national propaganda against the organization were rigged. Amazingly, the anti abortion organization the Center for Medical Progress that released the videos with false assumptions claim, on their home page, to be a group dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances. They even claim to be concerned with bioethics and human dignity. In fact, their work is a distinct attack on women’s dignity and against all principles of ethics.

This group cannot produce medical progress and that is exactly the point. This imposture is inscribed in the larger project to eliminate and/or control a section of the population defined by gender, race and class. Low and middle-income women and women of color are the ones who are primarily going to be hurt. In 2013, 52% of all patients were Medicaid patients, 22% were Latinos, 14% African Americans. This campaign is formed in the political Republican discourse of discrimination.

This scheme is fueling the ongoing crusade against Planned Parenthood and against women’s health and rights in Republican states. We have already seen the consequences in Texas where 55% of women reported at least one barrier to accessing reproductive health care services including cervical cancer screening. Additionally, Bill HB2 has already effectively reduced women’s rights in Texas with only 6 ambulatory abortion centers left.

Each state has contracts with Planned Parenthood. What is being done is to eliminate public state money that was allocated to the organization to provide public health services to women.

These multilevel attacks are well orchestrated. Blocking them demands much resources a great deal of mobilization. Numerous inspections and bureaucratic hassles are put in place. Florida redefine gestational age. Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Utah and New Hampshire plan to end their contracts with Planned Parenthood.

Clearly, the intent is to continue to make the safety net thinner for the most vulnerable.

Pregnancy is already a risky business in the United States since women, and again especially low-income women and women of color, are under scrutiny and may end up in prison as well as deprived of medical and social support.

Jeb Bush declared that half a billion of dollars on women’s health is too much. Then, he shared his vision of public responsibility when it comes to women’s rights, asserting, “But abortion should not be funded by the government, any government in my mind.” Meanwhile, US women’s life expectancy is only 32nd in the world.

Should the role of the state be to allow women to control their reproductive health by guaranteeing them access to reproductive health services? Remember, half of all pregnancies are unintended in the United States, and pregnancy services are not free of charge. Remember as well, women have higher quality of life and life expectancy in countries where the government funds abortion and where pregnancy services are free of charge.

How the “life” of the unborn has toppled the life of a woman is no mystery: a great dose of political cynicism serves vested interest and neoliberal economics to create a geography of increasing discrimination and vulnerability.

As for morality, these videos, falsified and published by a dubious organization, got more traction and visibility than the reality of women’s reproductive health and lives! Why? Why are women’s universal rights to reproductive health and health care being systematically erased?

 

 

(Photo Credit: Anne Savage / eclectablog.com)

Women are attacked in the mirror of reproduction, and where is the outrage?

 

I often hear women in France wondering how it is possible that women’s access to abortion or to safe delivery is so outrageously compromised and mostly a source of revenue rather than inalienable rights in the United States. The current political landscape might help them, and us, understand.

Once again women and their bodies occupy the center stage of the presidential elections in the United States. While the last attempt to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass, there were still too many votes in favor. The issue continues to obsess the GOP candidates and allows them to stigmatize women. They used the usual recipe to fabricate a scandal, this time targeting Planned Parenthood. They made deceptive images in order to emotionally manipulate a large portion of the population, brush aside the truth and reality, and focus on the anti women’s reproductive rights credo. The videos were assembled to manufacture false images of the use of “for-money tissues” coming from aborted embryos; ironically these accusations came from the candidates who defend profiteering at any cost. Actually, women who had had an abortion donated tissues for research on diseases such as Parkinson, Alzheimer, or orphan diseases, but does it really matter? The press was reluctant to explain the scam.

Planned Parenthood provides health care to women. One out of five have had recourse to their services because nothing exists for them in a for-profit medical system. This is not only about abortion. Across the United States, pregnant women are also mistreated: sent to prison, denied basic rights, and having no labor protection and no legally supported maternity leave.

It seems that nothing can impede the United States Republican candidates from bawling out injurious slurs toward minorities and women, while keeping silent about the reality of the violence of their economic views. But this time the farce is grotesque as well as threatening. As witnessed by the first GOP debate, the current US conservative battle for the primaries sheds light on the debacle of “democratic” debates in the cradle of neoliberal conservatism.

I asked in France what if the shocking Sarkozy or the heinous Le Pen had said something similar to launch their campaigns. Most said that this would not be accepted, not that there is no anti immigration sentiments. They said it would have triggered more mockery as well as indignation. Additionally, the response coming from the numerous associations that work on immigration rights and immigrant women’s rights would have been strong and irrefutable and accompanied with legal actions.

The question of reproductive rights is also shaped differently as deliveries and abortions are free, and pregnant women’s labor rights are still guaranteed in France as well as in many other countries, and the commitment to these rights, in France and across Europe, is robust, and again a vast range of associations is watching.

For example, when the conservative Spanish Prime Minister attempted to reduce reproductive rights in Spain, women and men from all over Europe went to the streets in support of Spanish women’s rights, thanks to these very associations, and forced the withdrawal of the bill.

However, women’s rights have been threatened in relation to the restructuring of the European Union, as we saw in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and France. This signifies another form of violence against women’s bodies, taking the oppressed body, the migrant’s body, hostage.

In the United States, the threat of these attacks against women persists in a distractive form. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore has explained, energy is going to be spent fighting each scandalous initiative while the source of the problem will be kept blurred. The debt economy that works with violence, stigmatizing women and people of color and/or lower social status, is forgotten in these debates.

Women are particularly targeted. Many women in the United States, including in my own family, have struggled during pregnancy to keep employment, to have pregnancy health particularities respected, to keep 100 % of their salary, or to pay for delivery.

Where is the outrage? Where are the images of the united colors of precarity, of women living precariously?

The neoliberal order bathes in this spectacle, and the reality of life disappears. Let’s keep in mind that the state of the status of women and women’s reproductive rights mirrors the fate of most of the population.

 

 

(Photo Credit 1: Javier Barbancho / Reuters / Landov / AlJazeera)

(Photo Credit 2: Marlon Headen of Headen Photography / RH Reality Check)

Convergence, tous et toutes ensemble, resistons, all together we can resist

La Maternite des Lilas

On September 23d, an important demonstration was organized in front of the Minister of Health in Paris. The demonstration was organized by the movement Convergences of the hospitals fighting against Hosterity (Convergences des hopitaux en lutte contre l’Hosterity), which gathers together personnel from public hospitals associated with numerous associations defending women’s reproductive rights. They coined the term hosterity to indicate the strong correlation between the disassembling of the public hospital and the austerity measures that have shattered public services throughout Europe.

The neoliberal grip on the European population through the implementation of austerity measures has opened the way to uncontrollable privatization of hospitals and health care services. In Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, France and beyond, public hospitals are sold to private firms or health care systems. In particular, the French health care service, once praised for its efficiency and quality, has been the target of a series of neoliberal restructurations.

In 2012, the Chairman of the European Bank, Mario Draghi stated that the European Social Model was gone. What he meant was that under the aegis of neoliberal ideologues the rhetoric of needed reforms was going to force a drastic change for the public and its services. The immediate target has been the reproductive health sector, followed by other health care services.

The story of the maternity hospital of les Lilas epitomizes the gendered techniques employed to disassemble a solidarity system and the need for an active and political convergence of resisting forces. And so the Convergence movement was created.

On September 23d the women of the maternity hospital arrived with their now famous banderole that says, “La maternité des Lilas vivra”. The Maternity hospital of Les Lilas will live. The determination of its personnel is remarkable. They know first hand the accounting manipulations that have strangled their department and have denounced this attack on public health care. Giving birth is free of charge by national law, and so the way to attack this principle was to create administrative constraints and force many local maternity departments to close down and send women to maternity “factories” with fewer and fewer midwives and ob-gyn.

I talked with head of the department Marie Laure Brival and the midwives and the nurses, and the members of the supporting collective. In 2009, said Marie Laure Brisal, the budget for the necessary renovations was agreed on by the experts and signed by the Minister of Health. Then, under the same government, the restructuration of the health administration created the conditions through this new health plan for a retroactive review of this budget. The goal was to create big health structures in which ob-gyn departments had to be rearranged in factory-like structures with fewer personnel, and more deliveries and other reproductive services. In France, maternity hospitals take care of delivering babies as well as contraception and abortion services since both are what women need.

The maternity hospital les Lilas is located in a populous suburb of Paris and provides personal non-threatening service to women. The dedication of the staff to the comfort of women has been a model for many.

“Our fight has been going on for the past four years and has taken a national dimension, we receive support from everywhere. They even come from beyond the French borders from all over Europe” said Marie Laure, adding, “They fought with obstinacy and elegance.” When candidate to the presidency of France, Francois Hollande gave his support to the fight and promised that Les Lilas would remain open. “Unfortunately,” said Maris Laure Brival, “Political statements do not last long.”

The midwives told me that they were exhausted. Besides providing an excellent and peaceful environment, they have to organize and continue the actions in every way possible. I talked with women who have been patients there and all explained that it was a memorable experience.

Having just won a battle with the guarantee that they will not be absorbed by a bigger structure, they still have to obtain the complete funds to continue to put women first in a maternity hospital.

The bureaucratic structure Regional Health Authority have been operating since April 1 2010, Although they were presented as a necessary tool to enhance the health care system efficiency, their real function was to rationalize in a financial/accounting manner the delivery of care, in other words reduce social expenditures.

The American for-profit health care system is becoming the norm. The most universal systems are being transformed with the usual neoliberal tools that have the capacity of turning social responsibility into a violent arithmetic of profitability and deficits reduction. With this logic, the rhetoric of competitive enterprise and dehumanized factory production is applied to places of care.

In this context the struggle of the maternity hospital des Lilas is emblematic of the fight of women against the impoverishment of their lives with an overall continuously contested reproductive rights and health. Women are enormously affected by austerity measures or hosterity. First, they fill the ranks of poor workers, an expanding category. Women are overwhelmingly employed in care facilities, 49.8% of the public sector employment in France. In addition, when public care services are curtailed, women become unpaid care providers with all the consequences that implies. Finally, the restructuration of the reproductive health structures that are being pushed with this Hosterity represents an enormous set back for the entire health care system.

Last week, the demonstrators reaffirmed that health and social protection are not for sale. The convergence is broad. Other movements were represented from the struggle against austerity measures in Greece to the Spanish struggle for reproductive and health rights. Solidarities are being formed against the fragmentation of the civil society that characterizes the neoliberal order with its rhetoric of competition. Marie Laure Brival took the microphone and ended her speech with Tous ensemble resistons (all together we can resist) and the crowd repeated it several times. We are not competing we are cooperating against the neoliberal order!

It is the responsibility of the State to defend reproductive rights and health

 


Twenty years ago the Cairo conference, also called the Cairo Consensus, stated that women’s reproductive health and rights, as well as women’s empowerment and gender equality, were the cornerstone of population and development programs. A few weeks ago, panelists at a conference in Paris agreed that the anticipated advances for women had not materialized. To the contrary.

The backlash against women’s advances isn’t a function of developing countries. For example, what is happening in the United States is remarkable. Women’s health and rights are now under the control, and at the mercy, of some powerful men, such as those on the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. One of the great mistakes is to look at the demise of women’s rights as an isolated event. Soaring inequality and legislative measures to control women’s health and rights work together to disempower women and civil society.

This past June two terrible bills were passed. The US House of Representatives passed a bill with the distorted name of “Pain-capable Infant Protection Act” (HR1797), banning all abortions for any reason including the health of the woman after 20 weeks. Then, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a state budget that restricted reproductive rights and defunded many women’s services, with the potential to defund poor children’s programs as well. Three amendments strategically embedded in the budget bill severely restrict women’s rights. Two of those amendments are part of the TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) strategy to impose constraints on medical facilities and providers that deliver abortion services.  These included banning public hospitals from making transfer agreements with abortion clinics, or requiring clinics to perform sonograms and make women listen to the iconic sound of a heartbeat, with criminal charges applicable.  The third amendment said that a state program “Parenting and Pregnancy” would be created and funded by public money and run by private organizations with the requirement that the word abortion not be used. This last amendment carries the neoliberal mark of transferring public money to private interest groups that work against women’s interests.

The ACLU Ohio has challenged the three Ohio amendments on the basis, arguing that they were tacked onto a budget bill in violation of the “single subject” rule of the Ohio constitution, meant precisely to prevent such practices.

Working on all fronts, the federal bill has just been introduced in the US Senate. It will certainly not pass with a democratic Senate. Nonetheless this ban has passed in 13 States. These bills are there to threaten women’s civil rights as they are devalued in comparison with the fetus they carry.

Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin recently warned against the legal implications of these series of bills (feticide bills and ban on abortion after 20 weeks). National Advocates for Pregnant Women has documented an increase of forceful actions against pregnant women. They report the case of a doctor who threatened his “patient” that he would send the police to take her to the hospital for a cesarean, if she didn’t go by herself that very day. These are not isolated cases. Across the country pregnant women report a climate of constant and intimidating surveillance of their pregnancy.

Whether the fetus is viable or not is not the issue. These attacks on women’s rights, using the threat of criminal charges against women, are not accidental. This type of legislative action is designed to bring women and civil society to its knees. It is designed to make them obey absurd authoritarian laws that only serve the neoconservative, religious fundamentalist neoliberal consortium, with its forceful and violent surveillance system of racialized and gendered bodies.

The threat is global and it is real. This is not only a problem for women. We should hear “clear and distinct voices,” to use Christiane Taubira’s phrase, to denounce and thwart the dehumanization process that is plaguing the American society.

 

(Photo Credit: RhReality Check)

 

Twenty years after Cairo, women’s rights are reduced around the world

Lise-Marie Déjean

Almost 20 years ago, the Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) took place in Cairo (1994). ICPD, also called the Cairo Consensus, declared women’s reproductive and health rights as fundamental to the well being of women and to the full political and economical participation of women.

In Paris last week, Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), Planning Familial and Equilibres et populations hosted a briefing, titled: “Access to contraception, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions:  the state of reproductive rights and health in the global South.” The briefing panel consisted of Margarita Gonzales and Catherine Giboin, both of Medecins du Monde; Serge Sabier, from Equilibres et Populations; Lise Marie Dejean from Solidarité Fanm Ayisyen, SOFA, a Haitian feminist organization; and Véronique Séhier, of French Family Planning. They all agreed that the global conservative turn has had tremendous and destructive consequences for women. Serge Sabier, who participated in the drafting of the Cairo resolutions, said that today it would be impossible to get 172 countries to agree to sign such a document.

Véronique Séhier added that these rights are still not considered fundamental. The goals have not been reached. For young women, access to reproductive health services, and to education and education about sexuality in particular, is limited. In many regions, and not only in the South, contraceptives are difficult to obtain or unavailable. Meanwhile, many countries oppose the right to abortion. In Europe, three countries officially deny access to abortion services, thereby defying European law.  Séhier insisted that no dissociation should be made between contraception and abortion; access to both is a fundamental right.

Catherine Giboin reminded the audience that data on reproductive health were almost non-existent until 1985. She then shared some data to show that evidence is not enough to have sound politics to support women’s rights. One fourth of women in the world have no access to contraceptives. In 2012, 73% of the women who did not receive the contraceptives they needed were in the poorest countries. About 40% of the pregnancies in the world are unwanted, and this rate climbs to about 60% in Latin America and the Caribbean. One out of ten births occur with girls between the age of 15 and 19. The ratio of unsafe abortions has increased from 44% in 1995 to 49% in 2008; 98% of unsafe abortions are in developing countries. In 2008, 47000 women died as a result of not having access to safe abortion and 8 million had complications. 40% of the world women live in countries that have very restrictive abortion legislations. Chile, Malta, Nicaragua, and El Salvador forbid abortion without exception.

Lise Marie Dejean put these data and numbers in the reality of Haitian women who represent 52% of the country’s population. Haiti’s high maternal mortality and high rate of complications after abortion have to be linked to women’s under-representation and invisibility in Haitian institutions and politics.  Dejean affirmed the crucial role that the colonial and post-colonial patriarchal power has played, reminding the audience that contraceptive pills were tested on Haitian women, who now have little to no access to those very contraceptives. She insisted that women’s reproductive health and women’s health in general, are interdependent with women’s levels and quality of participation, women’s poverty, and rape. As Dejean noted, in Haiti “our body doesn’t belong to us, the patriarchal system has profited from this body to establish places of domination (des lieux de domination).” Across Latin American and the Caribbean, women are organizing to demand that their right to control their body be respected as well as their right to have equal participation in the decisions of their countries.

France’s Minister for Gender Equality, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, presented the position of her ministry. Although France has some problems of access to abortion services, its situation is still one of the best in the world, with free-of-charge reproductive services, including for undocumented immigrant women. Vallaud-Belkacem insisted on the commitment of France and its diplomacy in asserting women’s rights and also more practically in supporting women’s organizations through its embassies. One NGO representative asked how activists from poor countries who are often poor themselves could have a voice in international instances. Vallaud-Belkacem replied that feminist diplomacy is there to facilitate their travel and to increase the visibility and real participation of those activists in international conferences.

The Minister’s language radically departed from the usual monolithic paternalistic language that often prevails in such meetings. She recognized the difficulties and said that while her action in promoting women’s rights and also participation of feminist organizations has been oriented to francophone countries, she also inscribed that in a broader feminist diplomatic perspective. For example, at the conference des ambassadeurs (ambassador conference) in August 2013, she argued for a new diplomacy for women’s rights. Additionally, according to Vallaud-Belkacem, France is the fourth country in terms of financial aid in the world and 500 million Euros were dedicated between 2012 and 2014 to support reproductive health initiatives around the world.

A member of the Greek’s family planning and the vice president of UNICEF Greek committee then made a striking remark that demonstrated once again that women are the first affected by the neoliberal order, which begets crisis. In Greece, women’s rights registered a major set back when austerity measures privatized public services and gutted the social state. And so now 40% of the population cannot access health services. While abortion remains legal, it now costs too much for many Greek women. The fee for an abortion is about half a minimum monthly wage, and contraceptives are expensive and hard to find. Greece, which had a good health care system, has seen a significant increase in infant mortality.

Greece demonstrates the pervasiveness of the neoliberal order on women’s health and reproductive rights. The current reduction of women’s reproductive rights and health has to be recognized as part of a political and economic order rather than as some unfortunate situation.

 

(Photo and Video Credit: Daily Motion)

A gynecologist faces the epidemic of guidelines for teenage girls


In the United States, a recent set of guidelines for teenage girls’ reproductive health has been released, declaiming various ages for marketing “healthy reproductive practices”.

There is a burgeoning recently of updated guidelines that fix teenage sexual health and life. These include: Chlamydia testing advised for the sexually active adolescent starting as young as 10; LARC (long acting reversible contraception) recommended as first line contraception for girls as young as 14; Plan B available over the counter for 15-18 year olds; HPV vaccination beginning at 12 years of age; and delaying pap smears until the age of 21.

We should wonder: why teenage girls, and why now?  The answer is simple. Teenage girls are engaged, and embedded, in a range of ages and activities that make them targets for the for-profit medical industry.

Why does the Plan B over the counter availability start at the age of 15, while the newly designed, streamlined IUD chose 14 years for its recommendation?  Why is the newly patented DNA testing for Chlamydia, that is not perceived as sensitive as the old culture, being promoted as an inescapable test for girls on birth control for acne?  Meanwhile, pap smears that have proven to be the most effective method to diagnose HPV infection leading to cervical cancer are being withheld until 21 regardless of the woman’s sexual history.

Tests are being indiscriminately assigned by guidelines on a time frame with no connection to the needs of the girl.  Doctors are told to follow these guidelines that are based on studies with a positive cost/benefit ratio to the system. The underlying system is not driven by the art of medicine, which demands patients and doctors to talk to each other on an intimate level. Products, devices, and profit margins are the driving force. This epidemic of guidelines keeps teenagers disconnected, fragmented and voiceless.

Once again, in the great scheme of population control, privatization of services and a dearth of social protection, these guidelines have the greatest negative effect on the most vulnerable: teenage girls. In this scheme, girls’ sexuality is not linked to being or becoming a woman (and how is that defined?), but rather something comparable to a package.

The teenage girl is treated as a health package with no prospect of becoming a woman, and yet somehow is treated “like an adult” inasmuch as girls suffer restrictive reproductive health care and reproductive health rights. What does the future hold for teenage girls in this regime, that they are meant to become increasingly and more intensely marginalized women?

(Photo Credit: NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon / Facebook)