Under a law recently passed by the Tennessee legislature, women may face prosecution for assault or criminal homicide if their drug use during pregnancy is believed to have harmed or killed their children. All Our Lives is calling on the governor of Tennessee to veto the bill. Although we share Tennessee lawmakers’ concern for the lives and health of children, we disagree that these laws are the best way — or even an effective way — to protect fetal and newborn life.

Determining the effects of maternal drug use on the developing child is not simple or straightforward. Mothers who struggle with drug addiction often face many other challenges. Their children may suffer adverse health effects of maternal poverty and stress, unhealthy environments, unplanned or poorly timed pregnancy, and lack of prenatal care. It can be difficult to separate these effects from any harms directly resulting from drug use. But even in those cases in which the link between a mother’s drug use and harm to her child is clear, the question remains: How does sending her to prison help her child, or any other child?

Punishment doesn’t heal. And as we’ve seen through decades of the drug war, the possibility of punishment isn’t much of a deterrent to drug use.

In 2011, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement titled “Substance abuse reporting and pregnancy: the role of the obstetrician–gynecologist.” They reported the following:

  • Incarceration and the threat of incarceration have not reduced the incidence of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • The fear of being reported to the police causes patients to avoid or distrust doctors. This can mean they don’t get adequate prenatal care, which leads to worse health outcomes for both mother and child.
  • It is often the case that pregnant women struggling with addiction have sought care. Unfortunately, many couldn’t get into a treatment program that serves pregnant women, couldn’t afford treatment, or found that available programs failed to accommodate their family and work lives.

All of this is the exact opposite of what people who are concerned about the lives and health of children should want. We’re also concerned that a pregnant woman struggling with addiction might see abortion as her only realistic way of avoiding criminal prosecution.

In our view, the most pro-life thing a society can do is to ensure that pregnant women have all the resources they need to care for themselves and their children. In the case of women who are addicted to drugs, that would include immediate access to affordable, high quality drug treatment programs.

SB1391 has a good intent behind it, but good intent does not guarantee good effect. And we fear that the effect of this law will be to discourage vulnerable women from seeking care that would benefit themselves and their babies, and even to provide an incentive for abortion. That doesn’t foster life.

RHRealityCheck has put up a petition to Governor Haslam. We know that there are a lot of pro-lifers who wouldn’t be comfortable signing a petition run by RHRealityCheck, so if you’d prefer to the governor’s office directly, the number is (615) 741-2001.

I’m a night owl by nature. Left to my own devices, I’d go to bed at 4am and wake up at noon. Sadly, employment and parenthood mean that’s not an option. (Not that employment and parenthood are sad. You know what I mean.) So to get my nocturnal brain kicked into gear in the morning, I check Twitter. I usually find something that’ll wake me right up.

“Pro-lifers should support sex ed… but pro-lifers aren’t welcome in our sex ed club!” http://t.co/ULFEvDTOPN #prolife #prochoice #catch22

— secularprolife (@secularprolife) March 11, 2014

Like this.

Better than coffee! (Full disclosure: I hate coffee.)

From a philosophical point of view, I get why this happens. I understand why pro-choicers see both birth control and abortion as questions of being able to control one’s own body, even though I think they’re wrong to dismiss the obvious difference between the two. And I understand why people who oppose birth control think that acceptance of contraception inevitably leads to acceptance of abortion, even though I think they’re wildly mistaken. In both cases, though, I just want to ask why they’re so sure that theirs is the only viewpoint that reasonable [birth control|pro-life] advocates could hold.

I also understand it from a practical point of view. Birth control is far more widely accepted than abortion. So if you want people to reject birth control or accept abortion, it’s in your interest to link the two. You might even get really protective of the idea that they have to be linked. But most people don’t see them as the same. So groups like All Our Lives and Secular Pro-Life will just keep on reaching out to those people, and advocating for family planning freedom as one component of our work against abortion.

A new meta-analysis published in PLOS Medicine provides more information on the link between intimate partner violence and abortion. You can read the entire analysis online, but this post at WECARE summarizes some of the main points, from the point of view of people working to reduce abortions.

1) Intimate partner violence, including history of rape, sexual assault, contraception sabotage, and coerced decision-making, was associated with abortion.   Unfortunately with the limited data available to the authors, it was not possible to ascertain the typical timing of exposure to violence relative to abortion. However, it is likely that various patterns exist, with violence both preceding and following abortion in many victims’ lives. Escalation of violence after the procedure is a strong possibility, particularly when partners are against the abortion.In a high quality study by Fisher and colleagues (2005) published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the authors reported that women presenting for a third abortion were over 2.5 times more likely to have a history of physical or sexual violence than women presenting for their first.

2) Women in violent relationships were more likely to have concealed their abortion from partners compared to women who were not victims of violence. Women likely believed they could not continue the pregnancy and were afraid of the abusive partner’s behavior if the abortion had been revealed. Many women in abusive relationships may feel they have to abort, because they are trying to free themselves from the relationship, they do not want to bring a child into a home with violence, and/or they do not believe they have the emotional energy to go through a pregnancy and raise a child, among other reasons. With sensitive, appropriate pre-abortion counseling, women in abusive relationships can be identified and safely assisted out of the violent, dangerous situation and helped to continue their pregnancies if desired. Without sensitive, substantive care, abortion is often perceived as the only option available.

3) Women welcomed the opportunity to disclose IPV and to be offered help. Women who present at abortion clinics are often at a point where they are quite receptive to help, and if screening and intervention do not occur, countless women will continue their lives feeling trapped and afraid in a violent relationship. If the abortion take place, then there is a high probability that they will suffer psychological consequences as a result that further compound a life marked by significant suffering. Numerous studies from the peer-reviewed literature have documented the fact that women, who feel pressured by partners, abortion counselors, other people in their lives, and/or by life circumstances, are more likely to experience post-abortion mental health problems.

The study focused on women having abortions, but the findings also have obvious implications for crisis pregnancy centers.

(Thanks to Consistent Life for the tip.)

What is family planning freedom? In short, it is the freedom to choose whether and when to attempt to conceive a child or to attempt to prevent conception, and to choose the prevention method that is best for one’s own life circumstances and health.

Even though most self-identifed pro-lifers favor family planning freedom, we haven’t succeeded in making our voices heard in the public sphere. Too often, pro-life advocates link opposition to abortion with opposition to family planning, and pro-choice advocates link support for family planning with support for abortion.

All Our Lives rejects this opposition. We have developed a presentation outlining ten ways in which family planning freedom is prolife:

  • It prevents millions of maternal and child deaths every year.
  • It measurably reduces abortion rates.
  • It is a critical solution to the overlapping injustices of violence against women and abortion.
  • Contraceptives truly prevent rather than take lives.
  • Contraception can be and is widely practiced without a “contraceptive mentality.”
  • Some contraceptives help prevent HIV/AIDS.
  • Most abortion opponents favor contraception.
  • Family planning freedom is a recognized universal human right, and one that encompasses all prevention methods.
  • Family planning freedom includes the freedom to bear children, and precludes forced sterilization and abortion.
  • Contraception secures the sexual/reproductive and life rights of people with disabilities.

We hope that you will be able to use this resource (now available in English & Spanish) in discussions with pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike.

 

VOLUNTEER TRANSLATORS NEEDED. We are looking especially for people who are fluent in both English and at least one of the remaining United Nations languages: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, and Russian. We also want to translate our presentation into Hindi, Polish, Portuguese, Swahili, Tagalog, and Urdu. Please contact volunteer at-sign allourlives dot org.

Personally, not speaking for All Our Lives as a whole, I feel a deep ambivalence about the focus on the Roe v. Wade anniversary in general and the March for Life in particular. That said, All Our Lives believes that being pro-life means being pro-everybody’s-life. That’s why we support the For Peace & ALL Life Meetup and March group at today’s event. Thanks for representing, folks, and keep warm!

Happy New Year!

The last year has been a difficult one for All Our Lives. 2013 marked our first year without our co-founder, Mary Krane Derr, who passed away late in 2012. Her insights, dedication, and fellowship are simply irreplaceable.

We miss you, Mary.

It’s been a rebuilding year, but we’re still moving forward. Looking ahead to 2014, we have a new board member and some new projects in the works. In particular, we are collaborating with another organization on a new outreach opportunity that I will be very excited to announce soon! I hope that for everyone who had a rough year in 2013, 2014 will be kinder to you.

And if you had a great 2013, may 2014 be even better!

By now, you’ve probably heard that the maker of the European emergency contraception pill NorLevo has changed its labeling to indicate that it is not effective in women weighing more than 80kg (176 pounds), and that it’s less effective in women who weigh 75 kg (165 pounds) or more.

What you may not have heard is that the NorLevo label was also updated to reflect the current scientific consensus on its method of action. The label now reads:

NorLevo works by stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg. It cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.

NorLevo is identical to Plan B One-Step, which is sold in the United States. The FDA should allow the manufacturers of Plan B, NextChoice, and other levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills to bring their labels up to date as well.

Our fact sheet, Emergency Contraception: The Facts Every Pro-Life Advocate Should Know, has been updated to include the news about NorLevo. Please share it with pro-lifers who are concerned about the possibility of emergency contraception acting as an abortifacient.

I don’t disagree with the rest of the paragraph, but honestly [emphasis added]:

The elitism is a big part of this, but so is the sex part. As Franke-Ruta notes, the only other coverage point that has created as much conservative ire is the contraception benefit. What do contraception and maternity coverage have in common? Both imply that the woman who is using the benefit willingly chose to have sex. It really isn’t much more complicated than that. Which is why Mankiw insists that having children is a “choice”, even though it’s not that simple. Half of pregnancies in this country are unintended. Of those, not an insignificant number result in childbirth because the woman felt that abortion was not really a choice, either because she’s been guilt-tripped by anti-choice propaganda, bullied by family members, or simply couldn’t afford to jump through the rapidly expanding number of hoops that Republicans are putting in place to keep women from abortion. When conservatives say it’s a “choice”, they are pretending that abstaining from sex is a realistic expectation to place on the majority of American women who are not members of the economic elite, full stop. That’s what this is about.

Shorter Amanda Marcotte: no woman acting according to her own free will and moral compass would ever feel that abortion was an unacceptable choice for her in the event of unintended pregnancy.

Mankiw, in the blog post Marcotte quoted, was pretty repulsive himself:

But having children is more a choice than a random act of nature. People who drive a new Porsche pay more for car insurance than those who drive an old Chevy. We consider that fair because which car you drive is a choice.  Why isn’t having children viewed in the same way?

Because a child isn’t a consumer good, he or she is a human being who both needs and deserves care. Because none of that is any less true if that child’s mother could have had an abortion and didn’t. And because parenthood shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for the well-off.

A professor of Social Work in Mississippi has this genius idea for preventing teen pregnancy:

Social workers should explain to teenage females that if they get pregnant, while in middle school or high school, there is no money for prenatal care, no money for prenatal exams, no money for a birth at a hospital, no money for formula or baby food, no money for diapers.

Dr. Swindell calls this “an unconventional approach.” Yes, punishing teen moms and their children is bold and innovative.

I hope this professor doesn’t call herself pro-life, because this is a great way to guarantee more abortions.

Two recent news items highlight the need for better education about pregnancy and birth control. The first is a survey by the American College of Nurse-Midwives:

Despite the broad range of options available to women for birth control and family planning, a survey of more than 1200 US women between 18 and 45 released today by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) shows that women do not feel knowledgeable about many of these options and have harmful misperceptions about their effectiveness. The survey also found that many women don’t feel they are able to have in-depth conversations with their health care providers to make well-informed decisions on birth control and family planning.

And what are the consequences of lack of knowledge and misperceptions?

We interviewed a sample of women obtaining abortions in the U.S. in 2008 (n=49) and explored their attitudes towards and beliefs about their risk of pregnancy. We found that most respondents perceived themselves to have a low likelihood of becoming pregnant at the time that the index pregnancy occurred. Respondents’ reasons for this perceived low likelihood fell into four categories: perceived invulnerability to pregnancy without contraceptive use, perceptions of subfecundity, self-described inattention to the possibility of conception and perceived protection from their current use of contraception (although the majority in this subgroup were using contraception inconsistently or incorrectly).

Far too many people don’t get factual education from their schools or adequate information from their doctors about how their own bodies work. The result is unintended pregnancy and, often, abortion.