FIGHTING POLITICS WITH SCIENCE Tracy Weitz.
In Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and elsewhere around the country, anti-choice activists and politicians are waging a concerted assault on women’s rights. In the first half of 2013, states enacted 43 measures restricting access to abortion, the second-highest number ever at the mid-year mark and as many as were enacted in all of 2012, according to the New York- and Washington DC-based Guttmacher Institute, which studies these issues.
Laws adopted include those that ban early abortions, discourage medical professionals from providing abortion services (or make it virtually impossible for them to do so), restrict medication abortions, and allow health-care providers to withhold information about a woman’s pregnancy if they are concerned that it might lead her to consider abortion. (Earlier this year, Maine legislators voted against a suite of bills that would have tightened abortion laws and established fetal personhood.)
The Supreme Court and state courts have stepped in several times, with mixed results. Just last week, in Texas, in a blow to pro-choice advocates, a federal appeals court lifted an injunction that another federal judge had put on a provision requiring doctors at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals. As a result, at least four abortion clinics in rural Texas (and possibly three more) are being forced to shut down.
“It’s clearly a targeted effort,” says Tracy Weitz, a leading women’s health-care expert and director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California San Francisco. Weitz was instrumental in the passage of a bill recently signed into law by California governor Jerry Brown that allows nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions, which are common during the first trimester. (Citing the current trend toward autonomy for midlevel health professionals, she says this approach could and should be pursued in all states, including Maine.) Weitz will be at the University of New England in Portland this Thursday, November 7, delivering a talk called “Healthcare Policy and the Politics of Abortion; From BAD (Biased Agenda Driven) Science to Clinical Best Practices.”
Laws that require physicians to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, such as the one in Texas, have “no medical or health rationale at all,” Weitz says. In fact, while abortion opponents claim these laws are written to increase patient safety, they are in fact likely to have the exact opposite effect by hampering women’s access to safe and reliable health-care.
“We have to hold politicians accountable for science-based policies,” Weitz says, a goal she hopes to achieve by re-engaging the medical-provider community in what for too long has been a conversation about politics rather than science. “We have to make health-care service independent from the political fight.”
MAINE WOMEN’S HEALTH CAMPAIGN ROUNDTABLE with Tracy Weitz | Thursday, November 7 @ 6 pm | University of New England (Portland campus), CHP Lecture Hall, 716 Stevens Ave, Portland | For more information contact Andrea Irwin, 207.622.7083 or firstname.lastname@example.org