This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Friday, February 3, 2012

Women's Reproductive Health Under Attack

The news has been full of the genuinely incredible saga of the Susan B. Komen for the Cure decision to stop funding breast cancer education and screening at Planned Parenthood clinics. The decision was clearly a political one. The founder of the organization, the sister of Susan B. Komen whose death from breast cancer was the inspiration for the organization, is known to be a staunch Republican supporter, and the Republican Party in the US has increasingly moved into the anti-choice camp with respect to abortion. Since a small portion of the work that Planned Parenthood does is legal, safe, induced abortion (thereby keeping a woman from seeking an unsafe abortion), this has led to Planned Parenthood being targeted, as happened last year in Congress. The decision to defund Planned Parenthood seemed to come not long after Komen added a solidly pro-life former candidate for Governor of Georgia to its board, although the specific decision was cloaked in the excuse that Planned Parenthood was "under investigation." In fact, as the Associated Press notes, "Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups." So, the investigation itself was politically motivated.

After two tumultuous days in which a Komen executive resigned in protest, several Komen chapters around the country revolted, and a torrent of support for Planned Parenthood came forward, Komen reversed its decision.

"We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political," Komen said Friday. "That is what is right and fair."
As a result, Komen said, "we will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants."

Unfortunately for Komen, it has been caught in the middle of the abortion debate, even though breast cancer has nothing to do with abortion.
Buried in the crush of news about the Komen issue was a statement put out by Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Catholic, that the new health care law requiring health care plans to cover birth control might be unconstitutional.
Under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, most employers and insurance plans will have to cover birth control free of charge as preventive care for women. Churches and houses of worship do not have to follow that requirement, but administration officials recently announced that many religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals, colleges and charities must comply after a year's phase-in period."I think this mandate violates our Constitution," Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday. "I think it violates the rights of these religious organizations. And I would hope that the administration would back up and take another look at this."At issue is a provision of the health care law that requires insurance plans to cover preventive care for women free of charge to the employee. Last year, an advisory panel from the respected Institute of Medicine recommended including birth control on the list, partly because it promotes maternal and child health by allowing women to space their pregnancies.

So, once again, the reproductive health of women is under threat not for public health or medical reasons, but for political reasons.

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