The following summarizes recent women's health-related blog entries.

~ "Health Care Now: Women's Health Takes Center Stage," Cecile Richards, Huffington Post: President Obama last week at the White House Health Care Summit "made the audacious statement that we would reform the health care system in America this year," Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes. Richards writes that she was "thrilled to be asked the first question about how, as a health care provider, Planned Parenthood sees the need to reform health care," adding that it was a "signal that this president was serious about making women's health a priority." Richards writes that she took the "opportunity to try and shed some light on what women in this country need to strengthen their health and the health of their families." According to Richards, "women need preventative care, including access to affordable and comprehensive family planning and reproductive health care." She adds that "increasing health care coverage will not work if we don't also increase access," particularly among low-income women. In addition, the health community "must recognize that the government" cannot reform the health care system "alone," Richards writes, adding that advocates "need to empower women and their families to make informed decisions about their health care needs." She adds that the U.S. "simply can't afford not to act [on health care], especially in light of these devastating economic times," concluding that Planned Parenthood is "glad to be not only along for the ride, but a willing and able driver to victory for desperately needed reform" and is "proud to have a president who has made women's health a priority" (Richards, Huffington Post, 3/6).

~ "A DeMinted Attack on College Women," Cristina Page, Birth Control Watch: Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) amendment to remove a provision in the fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill (H.R. 1105) that would increase the affordability of birth control at college health clinics "is just the latest ... in a month of repeated attacks against access to contraception," Page writes. "So routine now are the attacks on contraception that the anti-contraception crew will use any excuse, like the aunt who dolls up the house for every minor holiday," Page says, adding, "The anti-contraception team dresses up their attacks on birth control in whatever polemic is being celebrated that day even if, like that 'Kiss Me I'm Irish' shirt worn by your aunt's Chihuahua, the claim is not true at all." She continues that such attacks have been used in recent months to criticize the Prevention First Act, the stimulus package and now the Affordable Birth Control Act. Although Bush administration officials "claimed they did not inten[d]" for the 2005 Federal Deficit Reduction Act to lead to higher birth control prices at colleges, it "appears some mistakes are really worth fighting for," Page writes. "In the most recent attempt to stop the 'unintentional' act from being corrected, DeMint is now claiming that by re-establishing the price discount for birth control these health centers will keep the cost-savings for themselves and charge women the same inflated prices," she says, adding, "Maybe he is confusing college health centers with our banking system" (Page, Birth Control Watch, 3/6).

~ "Wicker Amendment Fails: U.S. Funding for UNFPA Will Be Restored," Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check: Last week "sane heads prevailed and the Senate voted to defeat the Wicker Amendment to the omnibus bill that could once again have been used to limit U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund," Jacobson writes, adding, "The omnibus bill includes $50 million for UNFPA, an organization that seeks to improve access to basic family planning services, ... essential maternal health, pre- and post-natal care, and emergency obstetric care aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality." According to Jacobson, U.S. funding for UNFPA had "become a political football during the Bush administration and was held up by baseless charges that the organization contributed to abuses under China's one-child family policy." She adds that no "credible evidence has ever been found to prove this charge." To "immunize UNFPA against future political attacks" such as those that occurred during the Bush administration, the omnibus bill "would provide funding for UNFPA for specific activities" and the "bill notes clearly that none of these activities could be used to fund programs in China," Jacobson writes, adding, "UNFPA does not fund, provide or support abortion services anywhere." She concludes, "Thankfully, leaders like" Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are "still willing to stand up for evidence, for women's rights and for the restoration of sane and commonsense approaches to promoting women's health. The difference now is that he and others have sufficient votes to prevail" (Jacobson, RH Reality Check, 3/6).

~ "Obama Lifts Stem Cell Ban But Opens Debate on Embryo Creation," Bernadine Healy, U.S. News and World Report's Heart to Heart: President Obama "left the door open" when he lifted the Bush administration's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research for research that "involves more than the frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization that Congress and most of the public seem to support," Healy writes in a blog entry. Healy adds that the question now is "whether scientists should be able to use federal dollars to create human embryos for the sole purpose of laboratory research, including harvesting their stem cells." The guidelines on stem cell research NIH instituted during the Clinton administration "are a good starting place" now that the Bush "restrictions have been lifted," Healy writes, adding that the Clinton guidelines aimed to "stringently oversee the use of frozen IVF embryos that were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, specifically because of ethical and legal issues that go beyond scientific peer review." Although Obama did "lay out one restriction": that scientists should "not be allowed to clone embryos for human reproduction," he left "unresolved the question of human cloning for research and therapy," Healy writes. Healy notes that Obama "made it clear that he is open to having full public discussion on human embryo research for all its many promises" and has asked NIH to "come up with new or revised ethical and legal guidelines for expanding its human embryo research portfolio." As NIH drafts the guidelines during the next 120 days, the public "must" discuss embryo creation, Healy says, adding that this is a "good time to critically analyze the promise of embryonic stem cells" and that the "evaluation must be done without bias and be based on the best science available." She adds that stem cell research "must remain within the bounds of a society that trusts and supports it," concluding that such research "has always been constrained by an ethical, legal and social framework that reflects far more than the needs and perspectives of scientists" (Healy, U.S. News and World Report's Heart to Heart, 3/9).

~ "IWD 2009: Repro Rights for Incarcerated Women," Choice USA's Choice Words: The "amount of reproductive health care an incarcerated woman can access varies so much by state," and "a woman who does not realize her rights while incarcerated might not be able to take advantage of her full range of options" a Choice USA blog entry says. It adds that county prison systems "often deny these options with little to no enforcement by the state government." The entry states that the Women's Prison Association reports between 5,000 and 10,000 women annually are pregnant when they begin a prison term, while many others become pregnant while in prison because "rape and sexual assault is often a way of life" for female inmates. "[D]ue to a lack of comprehensive reproductive health services," inmates who have been raped are "often forced to carry to term," according to the blog entry. "These women are further punished not for 'doing crime,' but for a crime done unto them while they're simply 'doing time,'" the blog entry says. The entry continues that the "right to an abortion hardly encompasses the full range of options needed to ensure every woman ... access to comprehensive reproductive health care," although many groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, "have made huge strides in ensuring abortion rights for incarcerated women in states like New York and Missouri." Immigrant women serving prison terms in the U.S. "face the most challenges" to the "right to an elective abortion," the entry says, adding that opponents have argued the right to an abortion does not "apply" to immigrant women in U.S. custody because they are not U.S. citizens. The blog entry adds, "In a world where borders and chain-link fences are barriers to basic human rights, we cannot afford to celebrate without keeping perspective on our mission," concluding that International Women's Day is a "day to remember those who have made advances not just for American women, not just for free women, but for all women regardless of status" (Choice USA's Choice Words, 3/9).

Reprinted with kind permission from nationalpartnership. You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

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