Monday MONITOR                  

Monday, March 25, 2013 


     Last week the Missouri Legislature was on spring break. Unfortunately, Rep. Tim Jones (R-110) was still active in trying to deny women and families access to birth control.  On March 18, a federal judge struck down the Missouri health insurance law that allows Missouri employers the ability to deny birth control coverage if they have a moral objection. The Missouri law conflicts with a federal mandate for insurers to cover birth control at no additional cost.

     Rep. Jones sent a letter to Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster requesting an appeal to the ruling.  At this time, no decision has been made by the Attorney General.

     Planned Parenthood believes in providing access to birth control.  Women's preventive care — including birth control — is basic health care. This shouldn't be a revolutionary idea, but unfortunately it is to some, and in the past few years, birth control has become increasingly politicized. 99 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some point, and a majority of Americans (70 percent) believe insurance companies should cover birth control without co-pay.


March 22nd, 2013 ~ Letters to the Editor ~ St. Louis Post Dispatch

     I was relieved to read "Birth control exception rejected" (March 19). Judge Audrey Fleissig’s ruling will ensure that all Missouri women, regardless of where they live or whom they work for, have access to basic preventive health care, including birth control, without a co-pay. As the article states, the Missouri law “appeared to be the first in the nation to directly rebut the Obama administration’s contraception policy,” so this decision will hopefully serve as a precedent for other states that might try to curtail their constituents’ access to birth control.

     Our health care system is founded on the notion of confidentiality; the Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons,” and suggesting that anyone else’s personal religious beliefs should impact my access to care violates the privacy that we all assume we have when it comes to our health. Whether birth control is right for you is a personal decision. Your employer wouldn’t ask about your sex life, so why should they have any right to know whether you’re on birth control or deny you access to it?

     Again and again we have protected equality among Americans, and this situation is no different: All women should have equal access. Their bosses don’t have to take birth control, and they don’t even have to pay for it, and, thanks to last week’s court ruling, their personal beliefs won’t restrict any of their employees’ access to what is undoubtedly an important preventive service.

Rachel Greene – University City


     Every week during March, Planned Parenthood will be profiling historical and modern activists, as well as young leaders.  Highlighted activists will include those active in key themes we’ll be exploring each week: Reproductive Rights, Violence against Women, HIV/AIDS and Gender Discrimination.

     Somaly Mam - Somaly Mam is a Cambodian author and human rights activist who focuses on eradicating sex trafficking.

     Mam was born in the early 1970s in Cambodia. After Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge terrorized the country and forced around two million Cambodians from cities into the countryside in an attempt to create an agrarian-based Communist society, Mam lost contact with her parents. She lived in a small village until a man picked her up, promising to help her find her father. Instead, Mam became his slave. At a young age, she was sold to a brothel and forced into prostitution. Mam was beaten, tortured, raped and threatened with death. After watching her best friend be murdered, Mam escaped.

     In 1993, a French aid worker helped Mam leave Cambodia. She moved to Paris, but chose to return to Cambodia to help women in sexual slavery. While working as a nurse for Doctors without Borders, Mam provided condoms, soap and information to women working in brothels. In 1996, she founded AFESIP, an organization that rescues, houses and rehabilitates women and children in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam who have been victims of sex trafficking.

     Her memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence, was released in 2009.

     Because of her work, Mam and her family are frequently the target of death threats and violence. When asked why she continues her work, Mam replied, “I don’t want to go without leaving a trace.”


     HB 386 was voted out of committee prior to the 2013 legislative spring break. Currently this bill has the potential to be brought up for debate on the house floor.  HB386 establishes the Abortion Ban for Sex Selection and Genetic Abnormalities. This bill prohibits abortions for the purpose of sex selection or genetic abnormalities. Opponents of abortion continue to look for new and different angles to intervene in personal and private decisions and play politics with abortion. A woman should not be forced by politicians to carry to term a fetus that has a genetic abnormality that may be incompatible with life.  Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman, and politicians should not be involved.


Sunday, March 10, 2013 ~ Op-Ed ~ Columbia Tribune ~By Tracy Weitz 

     I visited Columbia during the True/False Film Fest to see the "After Tiller" documentary. This Sundance award-winning film follows four physicians who continue to provide third-trimester abortions after the assassination in 2009 of their colleague George Tiller in Wichita, Kan. In the abortion context, the third trimester starts at about 24 weeks of pregnancy.

     The film is an insightful look into how these physicians make sense of their decisions to offer this controversial care. It also offers a rare intimate view into the world of patient decision-making. As the filmmakers themselves explain, the take-home message of this film is the issue is more complicated than we think. It isn't black or white; it is gray. The doctors and patients both struggle with complex moral and ethical questions and in the end make the decisions they believe are best for their circumstances.

     Currently, Missouri law requires physicians to perform viability testing after 20 weeks. If a fetus is "viable," an abortion is prohibited. Because there is no easy way to interpret the law, most physicians in the state limit their abortion practice to gestations before 22 weeks. As I sat in the room watching the film, I wondered whether people there knew none of the women in the film would be able to get an abortion in Missouri, even if there were a doctor willing to perform this service. Most women in those very circumstances would have to carry an undesired pregnancy to term, the decision stripped from them as a result of a law few people know anything about.

     I also wondered whether the people watching this film knew state lawmakers 30 minutes away in Jefferson City were preparing to debate the merits of HB 386, the "Abortion Ban for Sex Selection and Genetic Abnormalities Act of 2013," to prohibit an abortion provided solely because of the sex of the unborn child or for a genetic abnormality diagnosis. For many of the women in the film, no matter when during their pregnancies the genetic abnormalities were diagnosed, they would be prohibited from having an abortion in Missouri.

     Abortion rights advocates, especially those who were among the 2,000 people who saw "After Tiller" at the True/False Film Fest, will be tempted to object loudly to how incredibly cruel such a law would be to families facing the news of a wanted pregnancy diagnosed with a genetic abnormality. But advocates for abortion rights need to be careful not to take the bait. This law is unacceptable not because the banned abortions are more justifiable than other abortions, but rather because it limits women's ability to make decisions about their pregnancies. As advocates fight against these types of laws, they need to be careful not to make disability the villain in the story and abortion the hero.

     A diagnosis of a fetal anomaly poses a challenge for anyone facing that information, but different people will come to different conclusions. Central to these decisions will be whether families feel like they can parent the children who would be born. It is exactly the same decision-making process all of us go through when making a decision to terminate a pregnancy.

     Abortion is fundamentally a parenting decision: "Is it the right time, are there enough resources, can I be a parent at this time to this child?" The status of the fetus is one factor that goes into people's decisions about parenting, but fundamentally people decide based on what they know they can handle.

     It is these complex deliberations that the film champions and the law ignores. It is also critical to remember that while abortion is an important option for people facing a diagnosis of a fetal anomaly, it is not the only option. When I look at Missouri, I'm astounded by how much lawmakers care about restricting one decision, with no attention to the other options. The bill contains no expansion in supports for families who have children with disabilities. It is silent on in-home support services, special education and paid family medical leave. Most egregious, Missouri is poised to make the decision not to expand access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — the very program necessary to support families the ban affects.

     I am struck by how art and politics seem to have traded places in Missouri. "After Tiller" represents everything that is messy and complicated about the world, while politics here seem to exist in a fantasy world. Lawmakers feel entitled to decide how families are formed while simultaneously denying them the tools necessary to take care of those families. I choose art: Abortion is complicated; people make those decisions because they care about their families and their futures. To support those decisions, a much larger set of resources is needed — resources that support both the decision not to parent and the decision to parent a child diagnosed with a fetal anomaly.

Tracy Weitz, PhD, MPA, is a medical sociologist and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research examines abortion in the United States as a social and health care issue.  


LOBBY DAY: April 3rd, 2013

For more information on upcoming lobby days contact: - Springfield/SWMO - (417) 883-3800 ext 809 - St. Louis area - (314) 531-7526 ext 333 – Columbia/Mid-MO (573) 443-0427 ext 228 KC area –(913) 312-5100 x257 | FB: PPMO Advocates @PPMO_Advocates