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  • 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

    Kathy Wollner

    Health Policy Chair, AMSA

    Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic Supreme Court decision that ensured a woman's right to safe and legal abortion. Unfortunately, since 1963, federal and state legislators have worked very hard to chip away at that right, decreasing access for women throughout the United States through restrictions on insurance coverage; waiting periods; and mandatory, medically unnecessary ultrasounds to name a few. The most significant of these is the Hyde Amendment, which keeps Medicaid from paying for terminations, leaving the poor and marginalized, those often at greatest risk for unplanned pregnancy, with the worst access. In the last couple years, we've even seen attacks on birth control. As future physicians, I believe it is our responsibility to be scientists in the face of ideology and stand up for the health and rights of our patients and communities.

    On this day, I'd like you all to take just a little bit of time to read about the current attacks on reproductive health in the U.S., and the new restrictions that have come into effect even in just the last year. Texas actually defunded Planned Parenthood and Mississippi is on a crusade to make sure the state's last abortion clinic closes its doors as soon as possible. This anniversary post on Mother Jones is a fantastic summary, including great research from the Guttmacher Institute, and here's another post on five states we need to be watching in 2013. In case your interested, here's some up to date Pew Forum polling.

    Today, I encourage you all to take action in support of reproductive health and rights:

    • Tell your legislators and President Obama how you feel, and visit This is Personal for additional info ways to be involved. 
    • Contribute to Not In Her Shoes a tumblr voicing that no one can walk in another woman's shoes but her and no one else can describe her personal experience. 
    • Check out the 1 in 3 Campaign, which brings stories and faces to the 1 in 3 women who will have an abortion in her lifetime.
    • Get involved with Medical Students for Choice at your school or create a chapter if there isn't one already.
    • Consider holding an event on women's health this semester to educate your classmates on this important issue.

    Not into reading today? I've got graphics!

    Please stand with me in saying we should treat reproductive health care like health care, by respecting women's decisions in the face of their own unique realities. Take a moment today to be thankful that our obstetric wards aren't flooded with self-induced, septic abortions as they were pre-Roe v. Wade, but also to realize that our past may come around to be our future if we don't take action!

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  • The House of Reps' Attack on Women's Health

    Kathy Wollner
    Women's Policy Coordinator, AMSA Gender & Sexuality Committee

    Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, a bill that creates new, harmful restrictions on reproductive health care. The Hyde Amendment already ensures that no taxpayer funding goes towards pregnancy termination; this bill goes beyond current law by raising taxes on small businesses and the self-employed who wish to purchase a private insurance plan that includes abortion care.

    Many of you out there in AMSA contacted your Representatives prior to the vote to tell them where you stand. Your voice will be needed as this bill moves on to the Senate as well. Before that goes down, there are five special, supposedly-moderate-formerly-pro-choice Representatives I want to point out and encourage you to follow up with if you happen to be so lucky as to be their constituents. Reps. Judy Biggert and Bob Dold of Illinois, Reps Rodney Frelinghuysen and Leonard Lance of New Jersey, and Rep. Richard Hanna of New York all underwent serious makeovers to vote for this bill. These Reps ran on pro-choice platforms in the campaign last year but voted for this very anti-choice bill. I encourage you to call them to let them know how this makes you feel.

    I'm particularly disappointed with my former Congresswoman, Rep. Judy Biggert (IL-13). She previously served as co-chair of the pro-choice caucus. I mean, how does one get that mixed up?

    But, moving on - you might be saying, well, it's not like it's going to pass the Senate, right? And the President would veto it anyway. What's the big deal?

    This bill was HR 3 - the third bill to get numbered when this new Congress came into session and clearly a priority of the majority party. After this bill was introduced, the budget battle over Planned Parenthood and its funding began. Those negotiations deferred the family planning funding issue for the time being but led to a deal that left the District of Columbia banned from using its own city funds to support abortion care for low income women. Another bill introduced in the House, The Protect Life Act (HR 358), seeks to expand conscious clause protections to apply to institutions and alters the obligation of referral/transfer (read: a woman with a miscarriage could present to an ER and be turned away if they thought she might have had an elective abortion and they're not comfortable completing it). Meanwhile another bill seeks to get rid of funding for comprehensive sex education.

    This is a big deal. These are things that will not go away the first time they are voted down. This is not about your tax money. It is a blatant attack on women's health and it is not just about abortion. By seeking to control basic sexual health education and access to family planning and preventive health the House of Representatives has made it clear that it finds itself to be more qualified than women to make important life decisions like when they're ready to be parents.

    This ideological battle is far removed from the reality of women’s health care in this country. Reproductive health care is just that, health care. As a medical student, I want all of my patients to be supported by health care providers when they are in need. If you feel the same, I urge you to speak out against these policies as they progress. There are some champions in Congress who will be right there with you:

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  • Take Action on "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act"

    Kathy Wollner
    Women's Policy Coordinator, AMSA Gender & Sexuality Committee

    Your voice is needed to challenge the House of Representatives' attack on women's health. Tell your Representative to vote NO on the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" (H.R. 3)!

    This bill creates new, harmful restrictions on reproductive health care that go far beyond current law by raising taxes on small businesses and the self-employed who wish to purchase a private insurance plan that includes abortion care. This extent of government overreach into the use of private funds is unprecedented. Medical decisions - including those to end a pregnancy - should be discussed between women and their health care providers, not among members of Congress or employees of the IRS.

    As medical and premedical students we must speak out in defense of our profession and the rights of our patients across the country. Reproductive health care is just that, health care. It is time for Congress to treat is as such.

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