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© 2019 by Pregnancy Options Wisconsin: Education, Resources, Support

A Full-Spectrum Pregnancy Options Network Serving Wisconsin

updated 25 February 2020

POWERS

The Blog

At POWERS, the E stands for education. 

We are always learning and growing and want to take you along with us.  

Edition 7, March 2020

Abortion is Essential Healthcare

Wisconsin Governor, Evers' Safer At Home Order

This week, the governors of Texas and Ohio banned abortion as "nonessential" healthcare. 

 

As midwives, doctors, doulas and health care activists, we at Pregnancy Options Wisconsin can confirm that abortion health care is just as essential as health care for pregnancy and birth.

During the shutdown of non-essential services in Wisconsin, pregnant people must be able to access all their legal and necessary pregnancy options.

 

A rational and evidence-based response to COVID-19 in Wisconsin would be to get rid of telemedicine abortion bans, 24-hour waiting periods, and physician-only restrictions. This would immediately reduce pressures on clinics that provide essential services and reduce opportunities for illness transmission.

 

People who need abortion in Wisconsin already face significant political obstacles to accessing the health care they need. Delays due to multiple-visit and same-physician rules already cause increased mental and financial stress.

 

Moreover, because most hospitals no longer provide abortion, people who seek care due to maternal health concerns or a tragic pregnancy diagnosis rely exclusively on clinics that specialize in abortion care.

 

Without the important work of the few remaining health centers that provide abortion in Wisconsin, people who are forced to continue pregnancies against their best decision-making for their own and their families' lives would be traumatized. It would result in increased delays, expenses, hardships, exposures, as they find their way across state lines to Minnesota or Illinois.

 

We support the joint statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, the American Gynecological & Obstetrical Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Society for Academic Specialists in General Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society of Family Planning, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine which states: 

 

Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.

 

We are pleased that Gov. Tony Evers safeguarded abortion services today, within the broadly defined Healthcare and Public Health Operations of his Safer At Home Order.

 

However, state and federal abortion mandates continue to pose unnecessary health risks and hardships for Wisconsinites.

 

This is a moment for national leadership. We call on Governor Evers to lead the country in proclaiming abortion services to be essential health care. Then, we might be able to begin creating a dignified, safe, equitable reproductive health care system. Then, we might be able to dream of a rational and evidence-based response of the kind the UK proposed last week – telemed abortion at home, in order to decrease the possibility of viral spread and to save lives.

You can ask Governor Evers to join the governors of Washington state and New Jersey and proclaim abortion to be essential health care.

Sign the POWERS petition!

Edition 6, March 2020

Think Globally, Act Locally

PFAS & Pregnant People

Even during a national emergency, body-harming industries and politics do not go away. Sometimes, they thrive.  

Body autonomy begins with safe skies, air, water and food.

 

After World War II, a group of wartime chemicals gave rise to what many of us know as Teflon. Today that group of chemicals, known as PFAS, continues to be used in hundreds of everyday stain/water-repellent products, despite decades of documented dangers.

PFAS stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and show up in nonstick cookware, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, body products like cosmetics and teeth floss, clothing, shoes, furniture, and carpets. 

 

PFAS are “forever” chemicals that can remain in our bodies and the environment for decades. They lurk in water, soil, blood, amniotic fluid and breastmilk.

 

Repeated studies of PFAS exposure in humans and other mammals have shown: lowered fertility and birth weights; increased preeclampsia and gestational hypertension; developmental effects in fetuses, babies and children; lowered immunity; endocrine disruption; cancer (testicular, kidney, liver, pancreatic); and increased cholesterol.

 

In Wisconsin, concerning levels of PFAS have been found in areas where these compounds are produced, buried in landfills, and/or used in manufacturing or fire-extinguishing exercises by emergency services and the military. Tyco/Johnson Control Inc. in Marinette has been a major Wisconsin contaminator of area surface and well water.

 

Another major contamination site may be coming to Madison, if plans are realized for siting 18 F-35 nuclear-capable fighter jets at the Truax Air Force Base. As a result of base expansion and military trainings, increased PFAS could further threaten surface and drinking water in an area where, already, PFAS contamination has caused one municipal well to be shut down and the Wisconsin DNR to advise against fish consumption. Present and potential dangers are severely compounded by noise pollution, stress and threatened displacement of families and homes. Lower income Madison neighborhoods are hit hardest.

 

But there is hope!

 

In both Marinette and Madison, activist-led coalitions of citizens, politicians, DNR and other health and science professionals are rocketing PFAS awareness and fueling research & policy development.

We hope you will join POWERS in urging PFAS action.  We demand protections for our most vulnerable community members, including pregnant people and babies.

• Join the Safe Skies Clean Water WI movement & sign the petition

• Demand that your political representatives set PFAS health standards and mandate soil and water testing! 

Find your legislators.

• Check WI fish advisories!

• Educate and protect yourself! Read updated PFAS research and an evidence-based Guide to Avoiding PFAS Chemicals.

• See 2 riveting films! The Devil We Know and Dark Waters tell the story of how PFAS came to poison our bodies and world.

**Sources: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease StudyEnvironmental Working GroupSafe Skies Clean Water WISOH2OU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWisconsin Department of Natural ResourcesWisconsin Environmental Health Network

 

 

Edition 5, March 2020

We Are All In This Together!

U.S. Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Pregnancy in the time of Coronavirus may intensify a person's stress from a sense of isolation due to social distancing, from sudden loss of income and childcare, from clinic and hospital restrictions, from hard-to-access testing sites and from countless unknowns - on top of the numerous barriers to healthcare that some pregnant people already face.

 

POWERS supports the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

1.Free testing for people who need it.

2.Emergency paid sick leave.

3.Additional Medicaid funding to help states meet the crisis. 

Last Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, an important response package in efforts to address the needs of families and individuals as the pandemic continues to spread.

 

The House bill provides free access to tests for Coronavirus. It also gives workers affected by the virus paid family and sick leave, boosts unemployment benefits, strengthens food programs for children, older people and those with low incomes, and helps states meet expenses for Medicaid. 

 

The bill passed the House 363 to 40, with overwhelming bipartisan support. Among the 40 votes against the bill, all of Wisconsin's Republican members of congress voted against the bill, while all Democratic representatives voted in favor.

 

Although the president tweeted his strong support for the House bill, H.R. 6201, and encouraged "all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES", anti-abortion politicians in Congress tried to insert anti-abortion language in the House bill, a move that slowed down negotiations.

 

The POWERS community can urge the Senate to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act As Soon As Possible!

 

CALL OR EMAIL YOUR SENATOR AND DEMAND THEY PASS THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT!

 

And speaking of Coronavirus and Voting...did you know that the Wisconsin Election Commission is encouraging people to vote in the April 7 primary election by absentee ballot? It's super fast and easy to request one, and the ballot will be sent straight to your residence. You must be a registered voter OR have registered online by March 18. The deadline for registered voters to request an absentee ballot is April 2. The ballot must be received by the election clerk before 8 p.m. on April 7.

Edition 4, March 2020

We Oppose Non-Consensual Pelvic Exams on Unconscious People

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 694 | Senate Bill 635

by guest writer, Janine Gardner, POWERS Intern

A woman goes into the ER of a teaching hospital with non-stop vomiting, sharp abdominal pain and an inflamed gallbladder. The doctor informs her that she has to have emergency surgery to remove her gallbladder, which should immediately relieve her symptoms. The woman consents. If there is a way to permanently alleviate this pain and discomfort, she thinks, then please remove the gallbladder. What she is not informed of, is that simply by being treated in a teaching hospital, she has unwittingly consented to the possibility of pelvic exams being performed on her by medical students during her surgery.

*record scratch* Wait. What? 

 

Nope, you heard that right.

Informed consent is an ethical concept that states that people must be made fully aware of any medical treatments, research, and participation in student teaching exercises. Since its implementation in 1980 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), people could rest assured that no unnecessary medical interventions or testing were being performed without their knowledge and permission. Or could they? 

 

According to research, testimony provided by the people involved, medical students and certain medical practitioners, countless student-led pelvic exams have been performed on people with vaginas while under anesthesia for procedures that may or may not have been gynecological in nature and without their expressed knowledge or consent. It’s quite jarring to consider, that in 2020, in the age of being informed at each step of a tooth extraction, people are still being subjected to violation and assault while at their most vulnerable - unconscious.

 

In Wisconsin, Assembly Bill 694 (also Senate Bill 635) would require “. . .hospitals to have a policy requiring written and verbal informed consent before a medical student may perform a pelvic exam on a patient who is under general anesthesia or otherwise unconscious.” Shockingly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Medical College of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Hospital Association, and Wisconsin Medical Society have all opposed Assembly Bill 694. 

 

According to a New York Times article  She Didn’t Want A Pelvic Exam. She Received One Anyway , eleven states have adopted laws and protections similar to AB 694, assuring people with vaginas that while vulnerable under anesthesia, no one will perform unnecessary pelvic exams. The article also states that when polled, most people declared that, had they simply been informed of a learning need and request for permission, they most likely would have granted it. Imagine that. If you ask a woman if she would consent to helping students learn, she would probably say yes. Instead, pregnant people endure violation, assault and trauma in the name of medical “science”. 

Edition 3, January 2020

Join POWERS in Opposing Racial Profiling in Pregnancy

U.S. State Department's Rule on Pregnancy & Racial Profiling

On January 24, 2020, the U.S.State Department issued a new rule, targeting visitors to the U.S. who are pregnant people of color or people believed to be pregnant. The new rule took effect immediately, without advanced notice or opportunity to comment. 

 

The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health drafted a strong letter to Secretary Pompeo in opposition to this rule. 

This rule is a way to control entry to the United States of Asian people, people of color generally, and people who may be pregnant and is driven by racist and misogynist assumptions about women born outside of the United States.

 

  • The fear is real: An airline required a Japanese woman to take a pregnancy test and prove that she was not pregnant before she was allowed to board a flight to Saipan, a U.S. Territory, where she had lived for more that a decade.

 

The implications of this rule on pregnant people are alarming.

 

  • Despite the fact that it’s legal for people to travel to the U.S. to receive necessary medical treatment, including for a pregnancy, this rule potentially puts their lives at risk by denying entry. It also discriminates against poor pregnant people and pregnant people of color by requiring them to prove that they can afford treatment in the U.S. before being allowed to travel.

  • The rule gives consular officials with no medical experience vast discretion without due process to deny visas to people they “have reason to believe” are pregnant, without any review or oversight. 

  • The example of the Japanese woman being forced to take a pregnancy test before she was able to board a flight demonstrates the dangerous extremes to which this policy can be interpreted.

  • The motivation behind this ugly policy is similar to sex-selective abortion bans -- to target and shame pregnant women and spread harmful, racist stereotypes about Asian immigrants as part of a larger effort to demonize and control them.

 

The new rule is one of a long line of anti-immigrant policies enacted by the Trump administration to signal the world that people of color are not welcome.

 

  • This administration has detained thousands of pregnant women in detention centers with inhumane conditions and with inadequate access to health care. 

  • The administration has severely limited eligibility for asylum for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

  • The administration tried to coerce detained immigrant minors into carrying their pregnancies to term by blocking their access to abortion and tracked the pregnancies and menstrual periods of unaccompanied minors in custody.

Edition 1, August 2019 

Supporting All Pregnant People as the Authorities Over Their Bodies & Lives

Wisconsin's Anti-Shackling Bill, SB 316

DID YOU KNOW THAT IT'S LEGAL IN WISCONSIN TO SHACKLE PREGNANT WOMEN TO THEIR BEDS DURING LABOR?

 

And to force them to walk with shackles between their legs when they are pregnant?  Can you imagine having to keep your balance with your legs tied while eight months pregnant, or to be tied to a bed during labor?

The U.S. federal government, the United Nations and some States have laws to prevent the inhumane practice of shackling, but these laws don’t do anything to protect women in Wisconsin jails and prisons. The practice of shackling and the human rights of pregnant, birthing and postpartum women need to be addressed in Wisconsin! 

Studies tell us: “Shackling pregnant women increases the substantial medical risks of childbirth. Shackling of pregnant women is a harmful, painful, and demeaning practice that is rarely necessary to preserve safety. Most female prisoners are non-violent offenders, and women who are pregnant, in labor, or in postpartum recovery are especially low flight and safety risks.”*

Wisconsin Senate Bill 316 Relating to the treatment of Pregnant and Postpartum Incarcerated Women addresses shackling and must be passed in 2019!

Another important part of SB 316 is the ability for people who are in labor or who just gave birth to have a doula. Doulas provide one-on-one support and education. A 2017 Cochrane Review of 26 randomized trials including more than 15,000 people compared continuous one-on-one support to usual care in birth and found significantly improved outcomes in the doula group.

SB 316 needs all our support. POWERS registered in favor of SB 316 at a Capitol hearing on the bill and encourages you to make your opinion known to your elected representative - feel free to use the sample letter at the end of this blog entry. Find your Senator here: https://legis.wisconsin.gov/. You can also sign up for notifications.  

 

Pregnant people who are in our jails and prisons deserve the medical care and support that all Wisconsin residents deserve.This includes pregnancy testing and all-options pregnancy counseling, testing and treatment for STIs and HIV, evidence-based prenatal and postpartum care, a safe and supportive environment for the process of abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth, and support for breastfeeding and human milk for babies.

 

*University of Chicago Law School - International Human Rights Clinic, Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, and ACLU National Prison Project, "The Shackling of Incarcerated Pregnant Women: A Human Rights Violation Committed Regularly in the United States" (2014). 

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