In Texas, Defunding Planned Parenthood Harms Women’s Health

In January of 2013, Texas eliminated Planned Parenthood clinics from their Medicaid program. In an effort justify the move, state legislators cited an undercover video recording that purportedly showed Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue. The video has since been discredited as a heavily-edited hoax designed to villainize Planned Parenthood.

In 2011, prior to being removed from Medicaid, family planning clinics in Texas had their grant money slashed by 66 percent statewide. As a result, 82 family planning clinics were closed, about one-third of which were affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

Now, new data is revealing the effects that these funding cuts have had on women in Texas.

A group of sociologists at the University of Texas at Austin recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that analyzed the impact of the funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and found that they have been especially detrimental to low-income women in the Lone Star State.

The study found that in 2013, Planned Parenthood clinics served roughly 60 percent of the state’s low-income women of childbearing age. Without these clinics, women lost access to essential healthcare services such as mammograms and birth control.

Three months prior to the initial funding cuts, the researchers identified 1,042 pharmacy and medical claims for long-term birth control options such as IUDs, hormone injections and implants. Three months after the cuts, this figure had fallen by nearly 36 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the decrease in access to birth control was followed by an increase in pregnancies.

To get an accurate picture of changing contraception and childbirth rates, the researchers focused on women using injectable birth control options because these require regular visits to a healthcare provider and are only effective for about 3 months at a time. “These features of the method allowed us to observe changes in the rate of childbirth within 18 months after the claim, which would not be possible with LARC methods (which last longer) or oral contraceptive pills (which may be dispensed for a single month or up to 12 months per claim),” wrote the study’s authors.

Based on this data, the researchers found that in counties that had previously been served by Planned Parenthood clinics, the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid increased by 1.9 percentage points within 18 months of the initial claim. These 1.9 percentage points represent a relative increase of 27 percent from the study’s baseline statistics.

“It is likely that many of these pregnancies were unintended, since the rates of childbirth among these women increased in the counties that were affected by the exclusion and decreased in the rest of the state,” the research team added in the analysis of their findings.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is urging legislators in other states to use these findings as a cautionary tale. “This new research shows the devastating consequences for women when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood. Politicians have claimed time and time again that our patients can simply go to other health care providers – and tragically that’s not the case. Instead, women were left out in the cold,” Richards said in a statement.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the researchers’ findings is the fact that these funding cuts have the greatest negative impact on women living below the poverty line who have no other means by which to access reproductive health services. Furthermore, if more unwanted pregnancies are being covered by Medicaid, then the removal of Planned Parenthood from Texas’ Medicaid program has failed to accomplish the state’s apparent goal of saving government funds.

“Our data are observational and cannot prove causality. However, our analyses suggest that the exclusion of Planned Parenthood affiliates from the Texas Women’s Health Program had an adverse effect on low-income women in Texas by reducing the provision of highly effective methods of contraception, interrupting contraceptive continuation and increasing the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid,” said the authors of the study in their discussion of the data.

This isn’t the first study to suggest that politicians in Texas are making decisions that are harming the reproductive health of women in their state. Last year, a study conducted by researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) estimated that over 100,000 women in Texas have attempted to self-induce abortion. Without reliable access to healthcare facilities, low-income women in Texas have been forced to take drastic measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

We can only hope that research findings such as these will force politicians in Texas and in other states to provide women’s healthcare clinics with the funding they so desperately need to operate effectively.

Long-Term Options for Birth Control

Choosing the right birth control for you is an important decision. With the wide range of options for women today, it is best to schedule an appointment with a certified OB/GYN to answer all of your questions. Before attending your appointment, though, take some time to explore the different long-term birth control options available to prepare for your discussion with your doctor about the right fit for you.

Cervical Cap

A Cervical Cap, also known as a FemCap, is a silicone cup shaped like a sailor’s hat that you insert into your vagina over your cervix. The cap acts as a protector from sperm moving into your uterus. Like all birth control, there are pros and cons to using the cervical cap. Women like the cervical cap because it can last for up to two years, it can be inserted up to six hours prior to intercourse and it isn’t felt by your partner. Unfortunately, women who have been pregnant before have a higher risk of becoming pregnant again when using the cap, and it doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It also shouldn’t be used during your period. If you decide to give the cervical cap a try, it is recommended to be used with spermicide cream or jelly. Learn more about this birth control option at PlannedParenthood.org.

Vaginal Ring

Known by most as the NuvaRing, this form of long-term birth control is a small ring inserted into the vagina once a month. Hormones are released from the ring that prevent eggs from leaving your ovaries while also creating a thicker barrier to make it more difficult for sperm to get through. If the instructions are followed properly, the NuvaRing is a very effective form of birth control. In addition to the ease of using the vaginal ring, it is a popular choice with many women as it can lead to lighter periods and offer other health benefits, such as protection against acne and cramps. Negative effects from vaginal rings include discomfort, nausea and vomiting. To read more about the risks and benefits of the NuvaRing, visit PlannedParenthood.org.

Birth Control Sponge

This safe and convenient form of birth control involves a spermicidal sponge being inserted deep into the vagina before intercourse. The Birth Control Sponge, or the Today Sponge, has a nylon loop for quick and easy removal. The spermicide inside the sponge is released to immobilize sperm while the sponge blocks the cervix. Women who have been pregnant find the Today Sponge to be less effective, and the sponge does not protect users against STDs. More information can be found at PlannedParenthood.org. The Today Sponge can easily be carried with you, usually isn’t felt by your partner and can be inserted hours ahead of time. If this sounds like a good form of birth control for you, ask your doctor for more information and discuss any potential concerns that he or she may have at your next appointment.

Birth Control Shot

If you are looking for a birth control method where you don’t need to do anything before sex, then the birth control shot may be a good option for you. Also known as Depo-Provera, this is a shot in the arm that prevents pregnancy for three months. The shot releases a hormone that inhibits your eggs from leaving your ovaries and makes your cervical mucus thicker to stop sperm. If you receive the shot when instructed, this is an effective form of long-term birth control. Some side effects may occur, including either lighter periods or heavier periods. It is important to note that Depo-Provera will not protect you from STDs. For more information on risks and advantages, visit PlannedParenthood.org.

Birth Control Implant

A birth control implant, commonly sold under the name brands Implanon and Nexplanon, is a small rod that is inserted into a numbed area of your arm by a health care provider. Lasting up to three years, this long-term birth control option is great for women who do not want to take medicine every day and do not wish to become pregnant for a long length of time. Like many birth control methods, the implant releases hormones into your body to create thicker cervical mucus which hinders sperm and stops eggs from exiting the ovaries. According to PlannedParenthood.org, less than 1 out of 100 women will become pregnant when using a birth control implant. Although some women experience irregular bleeding with the implant, most adjust with no issues.

Scheduling an appointment with a comprehensive reproductive care center, like South Avenue Women’s Services, is the safest approach when choosing the best birth control for you. Contact our friendly and highly trained medical staff today at 585-271-3850 for a professional and discreet consultation.

Supreme Court Rejects Two Restrictive Abortion Laws

More than 40 years after their landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court is continuing to defend the reproductive rights of women from repressive pieces of state legislation. This month, two of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country were thrown out by the Supreme Court after being deemed unconstitutional. Both laws included harsh bans on abortions that were incompatible with the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. Thanks to these important rulings, women in Arkansas and Nebraska have regained a measure of control over their reproductive health.

The first victory came in Arkansas.

Enacted in 2013, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act included a ban that made it illegal for women to get abortions in Arkansas after 12 weeks of pregnancy if a heartbeat could be detected. After being challenged by doctors, lower courts were able to prevent the ban from going into effect. Now, two years after it was first passed, the Supreme Court has upheld the lower courts’ decisions, definitively eliminating the 12 week ban.

In 1973, the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade established fetal viability as the determining factor in a woman’s right to an abortion. A fetus is “viable” if it is “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” Viability typically occurs at around 23 or 24 weeks in a pregnancy – twice the duration of the ban in the Human Heartbeat Protection Act.

“Arkansas politicians cannot pick and choose which parts of the Constitution they want to uphold,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement. At 12 weeks, fetuses may have a heartbeat, but they are far from viable. Likewise, the ban in Arkansas is in direct contention with the long-upheld ruling of the highest court in the nation.

Then, In North Dakota, the Supreme Court blocked a similar law as well.

This “fetal heartbeat” law was similar to the legislation in Arkansas, but potentially even more restrictive. Under this law, a woman could be prevented from having an abortion just six weeks into a pregnancy. NPR’s Jennifer Ludden points out that many women don’t even realize they’re pregnant six weeks after conception in a recent article. In an attempt to defend the law, North Dakota legislators argued that, due to recent advances in medical technology, a fetus is effectively viable at conception.

After this defense was rejected by a lower court, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem made a bid for a review by the Supreme Court. Now that the bid has been rejected, there’s nothing more state lawmakers can do to revive the law.

Legal victories such as these are critical, but the fight for women’s reproductive rights is far from over.

In March, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case fighting a Texas law which has effectively crippled all but nine of the state’s 48 abortion clinics. Under the HB 2 law, abortion clinics can only employ doctors with admitting privileges to hospitals as far as 30 miles away. This stipulation has left millions of women in rural Texas without access to reproductive care.

Laws such as HB 2 take a somewhat different approach to restricting reproductive care than the laws in Arkansas in North Dakota. Rather than directly limit a woman’s right to have an abortion, they indirectly limit their access to reproductive care while claiming to make abortion clinics safer. It’s not clear, however, how the 30 mile restriction makes abortion services safer for women. Rather, it simply makes it more difficult for women to access any kind of reproductive care. With this in mind, many lawmakers are expecting the Supreme Court to overturn HB 2 in March.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, there are still 24 states with laws or policies that “regulate abortion providers and go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety.” We can only hope that further judicial review by high courts will reduce this number drastically in the years to come.

What to Expect When You Stop Taking the Pill

If you’ve been taking an oral contraceptive for many years, the idea of stopping your birth control regimen might seem like a daunting prospect. After all, you don’t have to look far on the internet to find unpleasant anecdotes about women going off the pill and suffering from debilitating cramps or sudden acne outbreaks. While these stories are undoubtedly true, it’s important to take them with a grain of salt. Bear in mind that most people don’t share their experiences on the internet unless they are either especially great or terrible. When people have more benign, unremarkable experiences, they tend to just go on with their lives instead.

In any case, if you feel that you need to go off the pill – whether it’s because you want to get pregnant or because of other health concerns – you shouldn’t let these stories deter you. Generally speaking, the adverse effects of stopping birth control are minimal and short-lived. So what should you expect? That depends largely on your own personal physiology, but there are a few common changes associated with going off oral contraceptives.

Slight Weight Loss  

When you started taking birth control, you may have noticed a slight fluctuation in your weight. Likewise, when you stop taking birth control, you may experience similar symptoms as well. Many women lose a few pounds when they stop taking birth control due to changes in their hormonal balances and lost water weight.

Increased Libido

If you found that your sex drive was suppressed upon starting your birth control regimen, you will likely find that it returns when you stop taking the pill. This is because testosterone levels drop in some women while they’re on birth control. Once testosterone levels return to normal, their libido tends to return as well.

Heavier, Irregular Periods

This symptom is particularly common in women who started taking birth control to regulate their menstrual cycles in the first place. If your periods were regular prior to taking to birth control, you may not notice much of a difference when you stop taking it. It can also take a few cycles for your hormone levels to return to their pre-birth control levels.

Acne Breakouts

This is another symptom that will generally only flare up if it was an issue before you started taking birth control. Like the weight fluctuations mentioned earlier, it’s also caused by changes in testosterone levels.

You Can Get Pregnant

This one should be fairly obvious, but it’s still worth noting. Pretty much as soon as you stop taking oral contraceptives, you will be able to get pregnant again. In terms of your fertility, there is not a transitional period after you stop taking the pill. As such, if you’re going to be sexually active and you don’t want to get pregnant, you should to switch to a backup form of contraception immediately.

To get a general idea of what going off the pill will be like, just think back to life before you started taking oral contraceptives.

“Most women can pretty much count on getting a return to what their periods were like before the pill, rather than getting really bad side effects going off the pill,” said Dr. Alyssa Dweck, an OB/GYN and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in an interview with The Huffington Post. “If you went on the pill in the first place to regulate symptoms of hormone imbalance, those imbalances may return after you go off the pill and cause fertility issues.”

Speak with your doctor before you stop taking birth control. They may be able to provide you with some more personalized insights as to how it will affect you. They will also be able to provide you with strategies for dealing with the potential effects of hormonal changes.

If you have any more questions about birth control or any of the procedures performed at South Avenue Women’s Services, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Study Uncovers Troubling News About Women’s Health in Texas

According to a recent study conducted by the researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), over 100,000 women in Texas have attempted to self-induce an abortion at some point in their lives.

The researchers surveyed 779 women between the ages of 18 and 49, and found that 1.7 percent had tried to terminate their own pregnancy without seeking medical assistance. Another 4.7 percent reported that they knew someone who had attempted to self-induce an abortion. The researchers extrapolated based on this data to conclude that of the 6 million women between the ages of 18 and 49 living in Texas, between 100,000 and 240,000 have attempted to self-induce abortion.

The most common reasons cited by women surveyed in the study were a lack of access to clinical care, fear of the social stigma associated with abortion, and a lack of money to pay for the procedure. This is a harsh reminder that these issues are often most detrimental to economically disadvantaged women.

The TxPEP found that women typically attempted one of two methods to terminate pregnancies. Some would acquire medication from nearby Mexico, while others would try ineffective folk remedies that call for the ingestion of certain herbs and vitamins.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, weighed in on the study’s findings in a recent statement. “We are getting a sense of the very real impact these restrictions have on women, and it’s deeply disturbing. Most people thought we were well past the days of women taking matters into their own hands, but laws that make it impossible to get safe and legal abortion are taking us backwards,” said Richards.

We’re fortunate enough to live in a state where the legislation governing women’s health is not nearly as restrictive. Remember: you are not alone. Please feel free to call us any time to speak confidentially with one of the caring, qualified healthcare professionals at South Avenue Women’s Services.

Religion, America, and Abortion

Now that the 2016 Presidential Election is heating up (as much as something can heat up although more than a year away), we are seeing a lot of rhetoric and hatred being spewed and spun by Republicans and other conservatives. They are throwing the book out on just about every freedom in America – and none more prominent on the campaign trail than a woman’s right to choose, what she does with her body, and the issue of abortion. Watching these speeches and how many Americans are in the audience may lead you to believe that most religious people are against progressive sexual healthcare, but you would be wrong, according to a recent study by the Religious Institute.

Alex Zielinski writes, “The Religious Right tries to say it owns these issues, but the majority of religious Americans support sexual health. It’s time to change the conversation. The year-long study found that the majority of religious Americans (excluding evangelicals) support legalizing abortion, and that more religious women get abortions in their lifetime than those who don’t affiliate themselves with a religion.”

It seems that pundits are using religious fervor to promote their sexist and narrow-minded agendas. That’s not that surprising; people have been doing that for years, but it’s refreshing to see that America’s spiritual side isn’t as discriminatory and inflammatory as the TV makes it out to be. Maybe there’s hope for the nation after all. Maybe there’s too much power in the hands of TV pundits. Who really wants to take away your rights and threaten your health?

Why It’s Okay to Have an Abortion

You likely have at least a few people in your life that would look down on you if you got an abortion. The good news is it’s not their decision, it’s yours! Whether you just found out you’re pregnant or you’re worried in general about what would happen if you became pregnant, we’re here to tell you having an abortion is okay. The following are just some of the reasons why abortions should be an option available to every woman.

One of the most obvious and urgent issues to have an abortion is because the pregnancy put’s your life at risk. Regardless of the reason, some pregnancies have complications that can result in the death of the mother. While not common, it can be an incredibly scary prospect for anyone to face. You should always have the choice to save your life when it’s possible, which is why abortions are a viable solution in these instances.

Slightly less serious but still important, you may simply not be ready to have a child. Whether you have a demanding career and no one else to help you take care of the baby, or you’re still in school and don’t have the financial means to take care of one, it’s okay. Having an abortion now doesn’t mean you don’t ever want to have a child. Now just may not be the right time in your life.

Many women choose to have an abortion because they have no relationship or a bad one with the father. They don’t want a child to tie this person to their life forever. Worse yet, many pregnancies are the result of nonconsensual sex. You shouldn’t be forced to carry, deliver, and a raise a child that was conceived during a sexual assault.

These are just some of the many reasons why women choose to have abortions, and regardless of your reason we’re always here for you.

Early Signs You May Be Pregnant

Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or it’s the last thing on your mind, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you actually are. There are many symptoms associated with pregnancy, especially in the early stages, and many of them can be caused by a wide range of health conditions. The odds of being pregnant increase with the more of these symptoms you’re experiencing at once. The following are a few of the early signs you should be on the lookout for.

Cramps can be a major indication that you are pregnant, but they are also a common symptom of having your period? How can you tell the difference? Well, if you missed your period that should be one sign. On top of that if you’re still getting cramps, it could be caused by a fertilized egg implanting in the wall of your uterus. The cramps can feel almost identical to the type you get during your period.

Unusual fatigue and soreness is also an early sign of pregnancy. While of course these are symptoms of a lot of things, coupled together and with a few other signs there is a good chance you may be pregnant. Hormone levels change in the body once you become pregnant, which could drastically alter your sleeping schedule. As for soreness, you may be feeling most of the pain in your breasts if you’re actually pregnant. That’s because pregnancy often leads to breasts growing bigger and tenderer.

Other early signs include unusual cravings for food, frequent urination, and nausea. If you’re experiencing any or all of the symptoms for more than a few days, you may want to visit a health care professional or at least take a pregnancy test.

Ireland’s Abortion Pill Bus

The world at its worst makes us sick, with increasing numbers of politicians hopping on the pro-life bus essentially doing all they can to destroy the rights of women. We see stories about this on a daily basis, much of which we cover in this blog. There are some stories, however, that pull us out of the abyss of political reality and into the realm of uplifting, positive possibility, a world where equality is had by all and a woman’s body is not used as political soapbox for a talking head to stand on and preach. Who would’ve thought that this world would come in the form of an abortion bus in Ireland? Vice News covered the topic and it makes for a very fascinating read.

Sally Hayden, who covered the journey of the abortion bus, writes, “Limerick was the third destination on a whistle-stop tour for the “abortion pill bus,” an action by an Irish activist group called ROSA (short for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism, and Austerity), which has seen a group of mainly young, mostly Irish women openly defy Ireland’s strict abortion laws. Those laws prohibit the distribution of medical abortion pills, and criminalize abortions in almost any situation, including in cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal impairment.”

Because Ireland is a strict Catholic country, abortion is cause for much strife, with the rights of women being constantly scrutinized and, in some areas, limited. The people who work the bus vary in ages, from 16 to 48. The entire journey is a two-day, 409-mile trip around Ireland. Workers on the bus are handing out abortion pills to women who take the time to board the bus, this of course coming after an online talk with a doctor. People on the abortion bus are playing with fire and risking possible jail time. At South Avenue Women’s Services, we salute them and lend our support. There are brave people all over the world fighting the good fight.

Determining Which Form of Birth Control Is Right for You

Whether you’re thinking up asking your doctor about birth control for the first time in your life, or you’re unhappy with your current birth control, we’re here to help. The good news is that there are a wide range of options to choose from, all of which come with positives and negatives. Fortunately, most forms of birth control today are highly effective at preventing pregnancies, but finding the right one for you may seem like a challenge. We’re here to give you a few things to consider that may help you narrow down your selection.

One of the first things you should determine is whether or not you ever want to have children, and if so, how soon. Birth control pills, condoms, and some other forms can be stopped at any time, allowing you to get pregnant whenever you want. Other forms, like an IUD, are designed to last several years at a time. You may want to choose a less permanent option if you aren’t sure when you want kids.

You also need to look at the side effects of each option, and also take into account any health conditions you are currently dealing with. While many forms of birth control have minimal side effects, some can affect you in potentially unexpected ways. For example, because birth control pills affect your hormones, they can affect everything from the frequency of your period to changes in mood. Any side effects that you experience should be discussed with your doctor.

Take some time to learn about all of the forms of birth control available to you, and talk with your doctor if you have any questions. You can also ask friends and family members about their experiences with various types of birth control if you want a more personal opinion. With a little bit of research you should have no trouble finding the right option for you.