The Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Office on Women’s Health, Office of the Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has announced a Call To Action on Breastfeeding, in which it is asking for comments from individuals and organizations about breastfeeding promoting policies and activities. According to the group,
“Breastfeeding is unquestionably healthier for mothers and babies compared to feeding with infant formula.
We are especially interested in new ideas that will increase equity in breastfeeding rates among all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Ideas should build on programs and policies that are recognized to be effective or evidence-based. In addition, we welcome suggestions to adopt, expand, implement, research, or improve existing strategies.”
12 topic areas have been created for individuals to submit comments.
- Maternal and Infant Care Practices: Prenatal, Hospital, and Post-Delivery Care
- Access to Lactation Care and Support
- Health Professional Education, Publications, and Conferences
- Use of Banked Human Milk
- Work-site Lactation Support, On-site Child Care, and Milk Expression
- Paid Maternity Leave
- Portrayal of Breastfeeding in Traditional Popular Media and New Electronic Media
- Support for Breastfeeding in Public Settings
- Peer Support and Education of Family Members and Friends
- Community Support for Breastfeeding in Complementary Programs (e.g., Early Head Start, Home Visitation, Parental Training)
- Research and Surveillance
- Other Areas
Submit your comments and recommendations before the May 31st, 2009 deadline.
According to The National Partnership for Women and Families , Texas has the third highest teen birth rate in the nation — 50% higher than the national average, yet 94% of Texan students receive abstinence-only sex education. Texas is also the nation’s largest recipient of abstinence-only funds, totaling more than $18 million.
Texas state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D), vice chair of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, expressed his feelings on the subject in an opinion piece written for San Antonio Express News. Castro mentioned that teen pregnancy can lead to high drop-out rates; 60 % of mothers who have a child before they turn 18 do not graduate from high school. According to Castro, “Texas students need a complete, medically-accurate and age-appropriate sex education curriculum. And, if parents desire, they can opt-out their children from receiving any type sexual education curriculum.”
House Bill 741 has been introduced in the Texan Legislature, a measure that would continue to provide abstinence education, but also information related to birth control and protection from sexually transmitted infections.
Nebraska’s Legislature Judiciary Committee voted 6-0 to pass legislation that would require doctors to show women seeking abortions to an ultrasound of the fetus one hour prior to the performing the procedure. The bill is now set to move to Nebraska’s full legislature for a vote. The bill passed by the Judiciary Committee states that the woman must look at the monitor to view the image, while the full legislature will consider alternate language that may allow women the choice to avert their eyes. According to The National Partnership for Women and Families, another amendment called for by Senator Kent Rogert (D), removed legislative language that would require doctors to inform women that the procedure places them at risk for psychological trauma.
On April 2nd, 2009, HHS Secretary Nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) answered a number of questions at the Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearings. Answering Senator Kyl’s queries about abortion, the Kansas Governor responded, “I am personally opposed to abortion, and my faith teaches me that all life is sacred. Throughout my career as a public official I have tried to reduce unwanted pregnancies, and thus curtail the need for abortion. In Kansas, the abortion rate dropped over 10 percent during my administration. I also signed into law bills to support adoption.”
While Sebelius does not hide the fact that she is personally opposed to abortion, she believes in protecting the Constitutional rights of America’s citizens. Sebelius went on to answer Senator Kyl’s question about her position on abortion and legislation that she vetoed while serving as Governor of Kansas. “Most of the abortion-related bills I vetoed as Governor threatened the constitutional rights or medical privacy of women. Some sought to provide people other than a woman’s doctor access to her medical records. Like most Americans, I strongly believe the privacy of medical records must be protected. In addition, I vetoed two bills that attempted to put specific regulations on abortion facilities without applying those same standards to all outpatient surgical centers. I favored treating all outpatient surgical centers equally.”
“…[W]e are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.”
Women’s health is inextricably tied to our nation’s economic well-being, and economic policy should not be void of considering women’s reproductive health issues. Republic House leader, John Boehner, asks
“”How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?
Women and children make up a majority of the nation’s poor. Comprising 70 percent of minimum-wage and below-minimum-wage workers, women struggle to attain financial equity in within the workforce. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argues that the inclusion of family planning in Medicaid would prove to be money-saving. In 2007, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the Family Planning Medicaid Expansion would actually save the federal government more than $200 million over 5 years. The recent rescinding of family planning expansion from the economic recovery package in an effort to garner Republican support ignores the importance of women’s health and its link to the economy.
Amerigroup on Tuesday said it will enter a $225 million settlement agreement with Illinois and the federal government over allegations that it denied coverage to eligible pregnant women, the Baltimore Sun reports (Baltimore Sun, 7/23).
Cleveland Tyson, former vice president of government relations at Amerigroup’s Illinois subsidiary, in 2002 filed a whistle-blower lawsuit that claimed the company cherry-picked the healthiest patients to reduce spending. The U.S. attorney in Chicago and the Illinois attorney general later joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs. Illinois paid Amerigroup a flat fee per beneficiary that took into account that some people require more costly treatment than others. In March 2007, a federal judge in Chicago ruled against Amerigroup and awarded $334 million in the lawsuit.