DIY abortions: To do or not to do?

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By Roshni Chakrabarty

When 19-year old Shalini Mundra (name changed) sat down to take a breather from her badminton game, she felt that something was wrong. When she got up, she found a bloody patch on the seat. “The blood had totally soaked through my jeans! I didn’t even know when I started bleeding,” she said.

An hour and a half earlier, Shalini had pushed in four pills vaginally to induce a miscarriage of the 7-week-old fetus in her uterus. The bleeding lasted throughout the night. “I was going through one sanitary napkin per hour. I had never seen this much blood,” she added.

The next day the bleeding trickled down to a light flow but she still didn’t feel right. She waited for five more days to get most of the chemically-induced hormones out of her system and took a pregnancy test again. It turned out to be positive. An ultrasound confirmed her pregnancy; she made an appointment with a gynecologist and subsequently got a clinical abortion.

Not many are as lucky as Shalini when it comes to illegally sold over-the-counter abortion pills. “The guy took extra money because the pills are only supposed to be sold through a doctor’s prescription.” This trend has seen a huge rise in the sale of abortion pills with more and more women going to the doctor due to complications.

CYTOTEC
Sold under the brand name Cytotec, misoprostol is approved to induce abortion when taken with mifepristone, or RU-486. At times, doctors use it to induce labor, though it is not approved for that use. Apparently, the side effects from taking the pill vary from woman to woman.  Additionally, after the procedure, if a tiny portion of the foetus remains in the uterus, the woman would suffer from continuous bleeding. If left untreated, she could die. An ultrasound scan needs to be done to make sure that the abortion is complete. If not, the fetal remains need to be scraped out of the womb surgically in time. A medical abortion cannot be carried out in case of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy, where the fetus grows outside the uterus. Doing so can rupture the fallopian tube leading to infertility.

Though Shalini regrets not consulting a doctor before taking the pills, she vouches for the medical procedure and goes on to say: “If I had seen a doctor, he could have told me exactly how to take the pills and if my body was ready for it or not. However, I still think that if perchance this happens again, I would always choose the medical procedure rather than the surgical one.”

There are complications if the pills are not taken under medical supervision and if the pregnancy is of more than seven weeks. If taken at a later stage, the pills may cause severe infection, profuse bleeding and in rare cases, it even causes infertility making conception impossible in future.

“If the pills are taken without appropriate medical consult, many complications can surface. Understanding the duration and nature of the pregnancy is very important. Sometimes, it is an unnecessary intake of pills and at times, it might not even work. The chemists are unable to guide the buyers properly,” said gynecologist Anita Gupta to NewsGram.

Due to social stigma faced by any unmarried woman going in for an abortion, many don’t even report to have used a pill when they go in to the hospital for treatment in case of complications. Young girls try to dress and talk in a more mature manner to hide their age. It is due to these stigmas and a lack of proper sex education that more and more women are resorting to go for a discreet pill-popping. To avoid unsafe practices, doctors and health officials are training the pharmacists to responsibly dispense abortion pills. “However, to ensure their safety, one should always consult a doctor before buying these pills,” says Dr Gupta.

 

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US States Start Supporting Planned Parenthood Clinics

US States Step Up Funding for Planned Parenthood Clinics

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Parenthood
Several US states have begun picking up the tab for family planning services at clinics run by Planned Parenthood. Pixabay

Several states have begun picking up the tab for family planning services at clinics run by Planned Parenthood, for a healthy lifestyle, which last year quit a $260 million federal funding program over a Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.

States including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii already are providing new funding, and Democratic governors in Connecticut and Pennsylvania have proposed carving out money in state budgets to counter the effects of the national provider’s fallout with the Republican presidential administration.

The proposals have stirred political debates over abortion at the state level, with some opponents claiming it’s a government endorsement of abortion and an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont earmarked $1.2 million for Planned Parenthood in his new budget proposal. The executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, Christopher Healy, criticized it as a purely political act.

“Where is the pressing need here to do this?” Healy said, arguing Planned Parenthood does not need taxpayer money. “They have the ability to raise money.”

Parenthood
Nationwide, about 4 million women across the U.S., many low-income and uninsured and that is why a planned parenthood is necessary. Pixabay

Lamont said he wants to help cover an expected shortfall for Planned Parenthood to ensure women in Connecticut have access to all the health services they need. A spokesman for Lamont said the administration doesn’t want the abortion debate to stymie access to things like contraception and cervical cancer screenings.

“Look, this is the law of the land. Here in a state like this, we believe that abortion rights are right, and we believe they ought to be affordable for folks who otherwise might not have that availability,” Lamont said. “So I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Nationwide, about 4 million women across the U.S., many low-income and uninsured, were receiving services last year under the Title X federal program, including STD testing, various screenings, education and wellness exams. Planned Parenthood and some other providers decided to withdraw from the program  rather than comply with what Planned Parenthood calls the Trump administration’s “gag order,” which bars clinics that participate in Title X from referring women for abortions. The move caused a money crunch for some clinics.

Since then, some of the rejected federal funds have been replenished by state or local funds in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, California and New York. Hawaii’s current fiscal year budget sets aside $750,000 to partly cover a $2 million loss in Title X grant money.

In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation authorizing up to $8 million. In California, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors last year voted to cover a $482,000 expected shortfall for six Planned Parenthood clinics serving 36,274 patients. And Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, has included a $3 million line item in his proposed 2020-21 budget to also help offset the funding loss for Planned Parenthood providers.

In Oregon, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s rule, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon said the agency has been “working closely with state officials to create critical backstops and protect access to care for all Oregonians who need it, regardless of federal action on Title X,” and commended Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, for prioritizing funding for reproductive health services.

Parenthood
Abortion rights and anti-abortion rights protesters stand outside Planned Parenthood as a deadline looms to renew the license of Missouri’s sole remaining Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. VOA

Abortion opponents have accused governors of providing the money to gain favor with an organization that often supports Democrats at election time.

In New Jersey, where Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy last month signed legislation that set aside $9.5 million in state money for family planning at Planned Parenthood, New Jersey Right to Life called it a disgraceful money grab.

“The taxpayers of NJ should not be forced to fund abortion, and make no mistake, that is what this bill will do,” Marie Tasy, the group’s executive director, said in a written statement.

Title X regulations prohibit funds from being used for abortions, with some narrow exceptions, and the money Lamont has proposed would fund Title X services and not on abortions, according to Connecticut’s Department of Public Health.
Abortion opponents in Connecticut have argued for years that state funds should not be used for abortions or abortion referrals. The state’s health insurance program paid for 6,995 abortions in 2018. A Department of Social Services spokesman said Connecticut is under a court order to pay for any abortion for a Medicaid-covered woman that she and her doctor have determined to be necessary.

The state money budgeted by Lamont would not go toward abortions, as it would fund only Title X services, according to state health officials. But opponents say that regardless of where it goes, the money for Planned Parenthood makes it appear the state is outwardly advocating for abortion.

“I’m disturbed by it, that it’s now state policy to outwardly advocate it no, matter what,”said Chris O’Brien, executive director of Connecticut Right to Life.

It’s unclear how long the help from states will continue.

Also Read- Young Mothers are More Prone To Have Mental Health Problems: Study

Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said it’s “encouraging” that governors and state legislators are trying to fill the gap, but said the state-by-state efforts cannot replace the nearly 50-year-old Title X program.

“While we applaud leaders in the states for taking these temporary but critical steps, we must continue fighting for a nationwide solution,” Ayers said. “Only Congress has the power to permanently stop this harmful rule, and people across the country are continuing to call on them to do so.” (VOA)

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Leaders of Texas Abandoning Proposal that Would have Essentially Banned Abortions in Their Community

Mineral Wells Mayor Christopher Perricone says he proposed making his town a "sanctuary city for the unborn"

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Texas, Proposal, Abortions
Image Description FILE - Abortion-rights campaigners attend a rally against new restrictions on abortion passed by legislatures in eight states including Georgia and Alabama, in New York City, May 21, 2019. VOA

Leaders of a small town in Texas are abandoning a proposal that would have essentially banned abortions in their community.

Mineral Wells Mayor Christopher Perricone says he proposed making his town a “sanctuary city for the unborn” after the town of Waskom became the first in Texas to do so . But at a meeting Tuesday in Mineral Wells, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Dallas, city leaders voted 5-2 to take no action at the recommendation of the city’s legal staff.

Texas, Proposal, Abortions
Leaders of a small town in Texas are abandoning a proposal that would have essentially banned abortions in their community. Pixabay

The Star-Telegram reports that earlier Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas sent a letter to Mineral Wells council members warning that its proposal was unconstitutional.

Also Read- Support for U.S. President Donald Trump Increases Slightly among Republicans

There are currently no abortion clinics in either Waskom or Mineral Wells, so the measures are largely symbolic. (VOA)

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In Effort To Reduce Unplanned Pregnancies And Abortions, Some Conservative States Easing Access to Birth Control

Like Planned Parenthood’s Burch Elliott, Matson agreed that this bill would be just one step in providing more access to birth control for women in rural parts of the state.

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Birth Control
Several Republican-led state legislatures are advocating for women to gain over-the-counter access to birth control in what they say is an effort to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions, Ames, Iowa, March 15, 2019. VOA

Several Republican-led state legislatures are advocating for women to gain over-the-counter access to birth control in what they say is an effort to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

State legislatures in Arkansas and Iowa, for example, are working on legislation that would allow women older than 18 the ability to receive birth control from a pharmacist rather than going first to a doctor for a prescription. The measures are seeing bipartisanship support in those states and come after similar laws have passed in nearly a dozen other states.

Iowa state legislators have proposed a bill that would allow women to access birth control directly from a pharmacist, Ames, Iowa, March 15, 2019.
Iowa state legislators have proposed a bill that would allow women to access birth control directly from a pharmacist, Ames, Iowa, March 15, 2019. VOA

Arkansas legislation

Arkansas state Representative Aaron Pilkington, a Republican, said he started working on the bill after seeing “about a 15 percent decrease of teen births” after other states passed similar legislation. Arkansas consistently has one of the highest birth rates among teenagers in the country.

Pilkington said support for the bill “in many ways, it’s very generational. … I find that a lot of younger people and women are really in favor of this, especially mothers.”

Arkansas state Rep. Aaron Pilkington, a Republican, said he started working on a bill easing women's access to birth control after seeing “about a 15 percent decrease of teen births” after other states passed similar legislation.
Arkansas state Rep. Aaron Pilkington, a Republican, said he started working on a bill easing women’s access to birth control after seeing “about a 15 percent decrease of teen births” after other states passed similar legislation. VOA

According to the Oral Contraceptive (OCs) Over the Counter (OTC) Working Group, a reproductive rights group, more than 100 countries, including Russia, much of South America and countries in Africa, allow access to birth control without a prescription.

Women are required to get a doctor’s prescription to obtain and renew birth control in most of the U.S., much of Europe, Canada and Australia, according to the reproductive rights group.

Pilkington, who identifies as a “pro-life legislator,” said he brought the bill forward partly as an effort to counter unwanted pregnancies and abortions. The bill would require a doctor’s visit about every two years to renew the prescription.

Rural residents

Arkansas has a population of about 3 million people, a third of whom live in rural areas. Pilkington said the bill would likely benefit women who reside in rural areas or those who have moved to new cities and aren’t under a doctor’s care yet.

“A lot of times when they’re on the pill and they run out, they’ve gotta get a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor says, ‘I can’t see you for two months,’” he said. “Some people have to drive an hour and a half to see their PCP (primary care physician) or OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist), so this makes a lot of sense.”

What Pilkington is proposing is not new. In 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed the idea of making birth control available without a prescription. Today, at least 11 other states have passed legislation allowing for patients to go directly to the pharmacist, with some caveats.

FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her inaugural address in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 18, 2018.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her inaugural address in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 18, 2018.. VOA

In October, ahead of a tight midterm race, Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds raised a few eyebrows when she announced she would prioritize over-the-counter access to birth control in her state. Like Pilkington, she cited countering abortion as a main driver behind the proposed legislation. The bill closely models much of the language used in another Republican-sponsored bill In Utah that passed last year with unanimous support.

The planned Iowa legislation comes after the Republican-led state Legislature passed a bill in 2017 that rejected $3 million in federal funds for family-planning centers like Planned Parenthood.

The loss of federal funds forced Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides health care and contraception for women, to close four of its 12 clinics in the state.

Since then, Jamie Burch Elliott, public affairs manager of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa, said that anecdotal evidence shows that sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies have gone up.

“With family planning, it takes time to see the impacts, so there are long-term studies going on to really study the impact of this,” said Burch Elliott. “Right away, we saw STI (sexually transmitted infections) and STD (sexually transmitted diseases) rates go up, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea. As far as unintended pregnancy rates, we are hearing that they are rising, although the data is not out yet.”

Pro-life pushback

So far the Iowa legislation has received some pushback, mostly from a few pro-life groups.

The Iowa Right to Life organization has remained neutral on the issue of birth control, but the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops of Iowa, and Iowans for LIFE, a nonprofit anti-abortion organization, have come out against the bill, citing concerns that birth control should not be administered without a visit to a physician.

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for LIFE, also pointed out that oral contraception can be an “abortifacient [that] sometimes cause abortions,” challenging Reynolds’ motivation for introducing the bill.

On the other hand, Iowa family-planning organizations and Democratic legislators are mostly on board.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, center, talks with State Rep. Heather Matson, right, at the Ankeny Area Democrats' Winter Banquet, Feb. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, center, talks with State Rep. Heather Matson, right, at the Ankeny Area Democrats’ Winter Banquet, Feb. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.. VOA

“Policywise, I think this is really good,” said Heather Matson, a state representative of a district located just outside the state capital, Des Moines. She appreciated that insurance will still cover birth control, but took issue with the age restriction, saying she would like to see an option for people younger than 18. “Is it exactly the bill that I would have written, if given the opportunity? Not exactly.”

While Matson represents one of the fastest-growing districts in the country, she pointed to the number of “health care deserts” in rural Iowa, where a shortage of OB-GYNs is leading to the closure of some maternity wards.

Like Planned Parenthood’s Burch Elliott, Matson agreed that this bill would be just one step in providing more access to birth control for women in rural parts of the state.

“Even before Planned Parenthood was defunded, there wasn’t great access to birth control in Iowa to begin with,” Burch Elliott said. “Having said that, [this bill] is not a solution. Pharmacists are never going to be a replacement for Planned Parenthood, for example, where you’ll get STI and STD screenings, and any other cancer screenings or other preventive care that you might need.”

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Regardless of whether the bills pass in Des Moines or Little Rock, Arkansas Representative Pilkington expects other states to follow suit.

“As the times have changed and you have a lot of conservative states like Tennessee, Arkansas, Utah (pass this legislation), I think it makes it way less of a partisan issue” and more of a good governance issue, he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see other states kind of pushing this as well. Especially when they see the success that other states are having with this.” (VOA)