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Editorials on Reproductive Rights from "Contraception"

by Ann Hwang, Wayne Shields, Felicia Stewart
A broad reframing of reproductive rights is a major project of the Longview Institute. We agree with many other progressive groups that the reproductive freedom movement has been losing the battle of language to the Right, and that this movement urgently needs to re-articulate a vision that resonates with more Americans. To further this goal, Longview Fellows and staff have been holding a series of very fruitful discussions on this topic with researchers from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

We reprint here portions of some editorials (with links to the full text) written by our UCSF colleagues, Felicia Stewart, M.D., and Ann Hwang. M.D., and Wayne Shields, CEO of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Dr. Stewart, in addition to being co-director of the Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy at UCSF, is also immediate past chair of the Board of ARHP.

These editorials originally appeared in the journal Contraception, published by ARHP. Though this journal is primarily read by health professionals, the following editorials are accessible to a broader audience as well, and stand as excellent examples of conversation about reproductive health and reproductive politics that is so urgently needed. The following represent the first of occasional pieces on reproductive rights written by colleagues of the Longview group that will appear on our website; these pieces will join the offerings written by our own Fellows and staff on this topic.

The War on Words: Sensible Compromise or Slow Suicide?

In this editorial, the authors address the "linguistic scrutiny" imposed recently on scientific researchers applying for government funding in the areas of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and also discuss other arenas where once neutral language pertaining to sexuality and reproductive health has become highly politicized. The authors give their recommendation of the appropriate response of the scientific community.

"In the wake of warnings that researchers who study AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases may face special scrutiny, complying with instructions from staff at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to cleanse grant application abstracts of potentially controversial terms appears a prudent course of action. After all, a quick document scan and a few minor wording changes seem like harmless compromises - but are they?" Read More

Title X: A Sure-Fire Investment with At Least a 300% Return

Title X of the Public Health Service Act is not only the major federal program supporting family planning services, it is also one of the most ideologically contested ones, under continual attack by conservatives, and chronically underfunded. This editorial astutely reframes Title X as a preventive health care service that is not only cost effective but cost saving.

"If Title X were a stock, it would be every analyst's top pick. Enacted more than 30 years ago, Title X of the Public Health Service Act provides family planning and other preventive reproductive health services to millions of low-income women in the United States. This year's budgetary haggling over Title X funding unfortunately misses the bigger picture: when it comes to the woeful underfunding of reproductive health services, our politicians are being penny-wise but pound-foolish." Read More

Faulty Assumptions, Harmful Consequences: Coming to Terms with Adolescent Sexuality

The authors challenge the assumptions underlying the restrictive policies on adolescent sexuality put in place by conservatives. They challenge such conservative arguments that "knowledge leads to sexual risk-taking," that "humans make decisions about their sex lives based (solely) on logical weighing of rewards and punishment," and that "government mandate is an appropriate and effective way to achieve good parent-child communication."

"For parents, teachers, and health professionals, caring for adolescents can seem like - and often is - one of the most challenging jobs around. It is not easy to find the right balance between the desire to shield and protect teens, and helping them become independent and self-sufficient adults. And of all the issues facing adults and teens, sex can be one of the most difficult. Sex is a private topic in many societies. Knowing that sex is an important and normal part of life does not mean that thinking in detail about or discussing the sex lives of people close to us is comfortable, and this is especially true for parents and children." Read More

The Federal Abortion Ban: A Clinical and Moral Dilemma, and International Policy Setback

The so-called "Partial birth abortion ban" has been one of the most effective political and rhetorical strategies of the anti-abortion movement. This editorial makes evident for the reader how this ban will actually impact physicians who care for women of reproductive age-and the untenable ethical and moral quandaries it will impose for those who will be forced to choose between the best course of action for their patients and the threat of incarceration. The authors also demonstrate the impact of abortion policy in the United States on countries in the developing world.

"At 3 am on a Saturday morning you are called to your hospital ER to admit a transfer patient, a 28-year-old woman at 20 weeks of pregnancy. The pregnancy - her first - had been proceeding normally until she began experiencing abdominal pain and heavy vaginal bleeding Friday afternoon. The treating doctor at the transferring hospital determined that the patient was miscarrying, that it was not possible to save the pregnancy, and that completing the spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) would be the most appropriate treatment. The patient is being transferred to your hospital because no one on staff at the outside hospital provides abortions at 20 weeks gestation." Read More

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