Raising Women’s Voices

Nebraska’s Abortion Debate

Posted in Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care, Sexual health, Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on April 15, 2009

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.

HHS Secretary Nominnee Sebelius and Abortion

Posted in Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care, Sexual health, State Reform by raisingwomensvoices on April 15, 2009

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.”

HHS Secretary Nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and enate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) (L)

HHS Secretary Nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) (L)

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.”

Maternity Coverage

Posted in Health Disparities, Maternity Care, State Reform by raisingwomensvoices on March 25, 2009

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the number of individual health insurance policies in California that do not include maternity coverage has increased from around 192,000 in 2004 to about 805,000 now. With a steady increase in the number of people losing their jobs, more and more are starting to pay for private plans, which oftentimes costs less than staying on a former employer’s plan.maternity

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-Los Angeles County) is introducing a bill that requires health insurance products regulated by the State Department of Insurance to include maternity benefits. Governor  Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has vetoed a similar bill brought forth in 2004 by then-Senator Jackie Speier, a Democrat, and one brought forth by De La Torre last year.

Those opposed to including maternity coverage say that they should not be forced to pay for a service they have no intention of using, especially because it would cause their premiums to increase. But those in support claim that for a monthly average of $7.17, society would save money if fewer women were on government supported programs.

De La Torre said, “Why do women pay for prostate cancer? Why do men pay for breast cancer? Because that’s the whole point of insurance,” arguing that excluding maternity benefits opposes the whole philosophy of shared risk.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York already have laws in place for maternity coverage, and Ben Singer, a spokesman for Anthem Blue Cross, claims that their costs are higher for individual insurance coverage than California’s. Pregnancy is a choice, Singer maintains, clearly overlooking the accidental pregnancies that occur yearly, unlike heart-disease or adult-onset diabetes, which is linked to poor eating and exercising habits, which can also be labeled as “choices”.

Patricia Bellasalma, president of California’s National Organization of Women, argues that not all pregnancies are by choice, and excluding maternity coverage in health insurance is discriminatory against women, the only ones in that pool. This discrimination is part of the reason Californian women pay as much as 39% more for health insurance than Californian men.

For the full article click here

Childbirth Connection 90th Anniversary Symposium!

Posted in Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on March 12, 2009

transforming-maternity-care-logoJoin Childbirth Connection for their 90th Anniversary Symposium in Washington, DC on April 3rd.

Transforming Maternity Care is Childbirth Connection’s project that brings together leaders from across the health care system to design a Blueprint for Action to improve the quality of maternity care.

Insurance Claim Rally!

Posted in Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on March 12, 2009

Join Choices in Childbirth at an insurance claim rally on Wednesday, March 18th, 11:30-1:30 outside SEIU 32BJ, 101 Avenue of the Americas!

Choices in Childbirth is hosting a rally to support Julie Finefrock, who is six months pregnant. Ms. Finefrock is medically eligible for a home-birth, yet is being denied coverage under Service Employees International Union (SEIU), her husband’s employer.

SEIU, because it provides a self-insured policy for its members, is making use of the Employee Retirement Income Support Act (ERISA) loophole to deny Ms. Finefrock coverage.

Ms. Finefrock’s hearing to appeal her denial of coverage will take place at 3pm.

Fore more information, contact Kelly Renn at kelly@choicesinchildbirth.org, 212-867-9646 or click here

International Women’s Day is this Sunday, March 8th, 2009!

Posted in Health Disparities, Maternity Care, Older Women's Issues, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on March 2, 2009

The first National Women’s Day took place in the U.S. in 1909.  The following year, the first International Women’s Day took place in Copenhagen where over 100 women gathered representing 17 different countries.

Looking for way to celebrate this Sunday?  Listen to a 2-hour radio special this weekend.  Check out the details below:

What: A New Agenda for Girls and Women’s Health and Rights”.

When:  Sunday, March 8th, 2009,  1-3 pm

Who:  Listen to an interview with Adrienne German, President of International Women’s Health Coalition

Where:  Tune into MA radio station WOMR at 92.1 FM or listen online .

Why: To learn more and support the global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Learn more about International Womens Day.

The Medical and Insurance Risks of C-Sections

Posted in Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on February 26, 2009

These days, it is easier for a woman to undergo a major abdominal surgery–a C-Section–than to deliver a baby vaginally. C-Sections are now the most common surgeries performed on women in the United States. In part that is because many doctors and hospitals refuse to perform vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). More than 90% of births following C-sections are surgical deliveries, and the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has found that, of 2,850 hospitals called, 28% don’t allow VBAC, up from 10% in 2004. Another 21% do not have an official policy on VBAC, but do not have any doctors that will perform them, rendering them inaccessible, as well.


If VBACs cost less and allow the mother to heal quicker, why is this the case? Yes, there is a real threat of uterine rupture, which can cause maternal or infant fatality, but this occurs in 0.7% of VBAC cases. 1 in 2,000 babies will die or suffer brain injury.

In 1999, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changed their VBAC guidelines stipulating that surgeons and anesthesiologists should be “readily available” during a VBAC to “immediately available,” due to a number of high-profile uterine ruptures. Because of malpractice suits, insurers have raised costs so they are unaffordable for some doctors. Other doctors see a potential 24-hour delivery as a loss of other patients, and prefer an hour-long Cesarean.

But this does not come without both health and insurance risks to women. Risks associated with repeat C-Section are routinely overlooked, but they are real. Placenta accreta, where the placenta attaches abnormally to the uterine wall, has increased thirtyfold in the past 30 years.

And women who have had C-sections, whether they have elected to do so, have been pressured by doctors, or have had emergency C-sections due to fetal distress, now find themselves uninsurable in some cases, or subject to higher premiums in others, a C-Section now acting as a pre-existing condition.

Peggy Robertson, who has had a C-section, was denied coverage from Golden Rule Insurance Company, and was told if she had been sterilized after the procedure, or if she were over 40 and had given birth two or more years before applying, she might have qualified for coverage. Golden Rule also explained that if they could cover her with the exclusion of paying for another Cesarean in three years, they would, but in Colorado that is considered discriminatory. Somehow, not covering a woman who has had a Cesarean, is not.

The number of women looking for insurance outside group plans and the number of women having C-sections is only increasing, meaning more women will find themselves in Ms. Roberton’s position. “Obstetricians are rendering large numbers of women uninsurable by overusing this surgery,” said Pamela Udy, president of ICAN, by pushing for C-sections, whether the first time, or in lieu of VBACs. Women now find themselves having surgery they might not want, and with insurance companies that will not cover the cost.

Perhaps most disturbing about this C-Section epidemic is that women can be red-flagged if they answer “yes” to having been denied coverage before, even if they applied without knowledge of the C-Section stipulation. And medically, many women are steered towards doctors’ preferences, rather than being provided with accurate medical information. Childbirth Connection, an NYC based maternal-care advocacy group, has found that 57% of women who had had C-Sections and gave birth again  in 2005 were interested in a VBAC but were denied the option of having one.

For more, click for the Time article here and the New York Times article here

sara siegel

Maternal health and the well-being of our communities

Posted in DC Reform, Health Disparities, Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on February 20, 2009

Last week, we posted on a conference on Capitol Hill at which congressional leaders unveiled a comprehensive framework for women’s health in national health care reform.  Kimberly Seals Allers, over at Womens eNews, has looked in-depth at the central importance of maternal health in the well-being of not only women, but our families and communities.

By targeting women, you reach millions more, says Dr. Vivian Pinn, director of the office of research on women’s health at the National Institute of Health. “Women are the portal to family and community health. When we talk about maternal health, we are talking about improving families and communities. This is one of the most important things we can address for the health care of the whole country.”

The author discusses how care for early-born babies can cost up to 15 times as much as full-term newborns, not to mention the lifelong ailments and disabilities that result from poor prenatal and maternal care.  It’s yet another example of the costs of the system’s inadequate focus on preventative, routine care.

black-maternal-healthA disturbing figure, the United States ranks 41st out of 171 countries on maternal mortality rates.  Perhaps more disturbing, however, are the racial disparities hidden behind the statistic of 13.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.  While the number is only 9.3 for non-Hispanic white women, it is 34.7 among non-Hispanic black women.  Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative and dedicated advocate for health care rights of women, girls and communities of color, says, “Women are suffering from the breakdown of their reproductive systems and if this does not become an agenda item on health care reform, women will continue to not have the support of the country.”

It has become clear that better maternal health cannot begin with conception, or even the childbearing years of a woman’s life.  Public health and medical experts are advocating a “life continuum” approach that will consider women’s reproductive health throughout their lifetimes, from childhood to old age.

On the Issues: Women’s Healthcare

Posted in Insurance companies, Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on February 19, 2009

womens_healthcare-l1In her article Health Care ‘Reform’ Is Not Enough, Susan Yanow criticizes health care initiatives, most of which look to provide the uninsured with affordable access, but fail to look at the underlying problems with the healthcare system. This is perhaps a suitable allegory for most healthcare today, which treats disease rather than working on prevention.

Ms. Yanow laments that the existing system allows insurance providers to decide who gets care, what providers we can use, and what services will be covered, all of which are based on finance, rather than health. Oftentimes healthcare is based on moral grounds, too, including the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion care.

Ms. Yanow claims that the top five healthcare problems facing women today are:

1) Overhead costs deplete funds for services–If we had a single payer program with administrative costs similar to Medicaid, she claims, $20 billion would be saved and redirected towards services.

2) Hospitals are driven by the bottom line–this leads to an abundance of specialized services and a lack of preventative services; in addition, the cost of medical training keeps doctors from primary care or geriatric, which tend to pay less

3) Malpractice policies drive healthcare decisions–this leads to less options for women in terms of birthing choices

4) Hospitals with religious agendas restrict services–18% of hospitals are owned by the Catholic Church, and receive the same funding as non-denominational hospitals, but tend to restrict or deny abortion care, contraceptive services, infertility treatment, and end-of-life decisions

5) Healthcare is not a Central Value–we work to treat disease, not keep people healthy

Ms. Yanow maintains that with healthcare as a right, it must not be dependent on employment status or influenced by pre-existing conditions or religiously-imposed moral values. To be comprehensive, our healthcare must include mental health, dental health, and the choice of those who we feel can best provide for us.

sara siegel

Paying Too High a Price? A Diagnosis for Over-the-Counter Contraception

Posted in Affordability, Maternity Care, Reproductive Health Care, Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on February 3, 2009

Myra Batchelder of RH Reality Check blogs about accessing over-the-counter contraception.  Emergency Contraception (EC) is now available over-the-counter, but the high cost still leaves the resource out of reach to many low-income women.  Furthermore, over 10% of women rely on Medicaid for care during their reproductive years.  Many states have Medicaid programs that require women to obtain a prescription in order to receive EC.  Given that EC is a time-sensitive option, the stipulation only adds to the barriers that women who desire EC face.  Also, the Hyde Amendment, which declares that no federal Medicaid funds shall be used for abortion services, denying many women the reproductive care that they desire.

Click  here to read Myra’s blog!