The Philippines Might Get Access to Free Birth Control

Birth control pills (Salon)

Birth control pills (Salon)

Women in the Philippines might soon get access to free birth control.

The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order for women of the country to receive free birth control, as well as access to further reproductive health services.

The order implements the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act of 2012, which promotes family planning with the support of the state. It was signed into law that year. The order took 13 years to be signed into law (so it was introduced in 1999…yikes).

It’s estimated that there are currently 6M women without birth control within the country, with 2M women classified as poor. There are 24 live births per every 1K people, giving the country the 66th highest birth rate in the world. Considering that abortion is illegal, the need for some form of birth control is high:

More than half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and more than 90 percent of unintended pregnancies occurred in the absence of modern contraceptive methods.

Duterte’s goal is to completely eradicate any “unmet family planning needs” by 2018.

Trump Bans Funding for International Organizations that “Promote” Abortion

Trump signs international abortion ban (Lifesite)

Trump signs international abortion ban (Lifesite)

Well, that was quick.

On his third day in office, Trump showed his hand on female reproductive rights (not like we didnt already know…) He moved to block U.S. aid for organizations that “promote” abortion. In this case, “promoting” abortion means presenting it as a viable option and/or providing abortion counseling.

Similar rules have been in place since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan instituted the first rule known as the Mexico City policy. (The policy was named for the location in which Reagan announced it.) Depending on which party is in office, the bill has been repealed (by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) and reinstated (by George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush).

Despite the fact that the policy has been around for over 30 years, it’s unclear whether it’s actually working:

Health experts say the policy has not led to a decline in abortions in the affected countries. Some research suggests that it has had the opposite effect: increasing abortion rates by forcing health clinics to close or to restrict contraceptive supplies because of lack of funding. Others say the restriction only heightens the risk of illegal and often unsafe abortions.

A study completed by the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2011 found that the Mexico City policy was “linked to increases in abortion rates in sub-Saharan African countries.” But the study also found that it was difficult to link a country’s abortion rates back to the policy.


Ohio Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks

Ultrasound of fetus at 20 weeks (The Times in Plain English)

Ultrasound of fetus at 20 weeks (The Times in Plain English)

Another blow for women’s health: Ohio Governor John Kasich (yes, the former Republican presidential hopeful) signed a bill to approve banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. (To put this in context, most pregnancies are around 40 weeks long.)

The Senate Bill 127, signed December 2016, does not allow for exceptions in rape and incest cases. Supporters of the bill claim that the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. (I’m curious how they know this; did they ask the fetus through the ultrasound?) The only exception will be for women whose pregnancy puts their health at risk.

Providers caught performing abortions after 20 weeks will charged with a “fourth-degree felony.”

Earlier that month, Kasich tried to sign a “heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortion after six weeks. A heartbeat pulse can generally be found around that time, though women may not know they’re pregnant. He eventually vetoed it due to overwhelming public pressure.

Around 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks. The new law takes effect Mar. 14, 2017.

Poland Votes Against Abortion Ban

Polish protest against proposed abortion ban (Religion News)

People demonstrate against the Polish government’s plan to tightening the abortion law in Krakow, Poland April 3, 2016. The signs read: “I’m giving birth from love not from being forced” and “My womb does not belong to homeland” (R). REUTERS/Lukasz Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta

Last week, Poland voted against a proposal to completely ban abortion.

This is significant because Poland has stringent rules as to when abortions could be used: only in “cases of rape, incest, a threat to the life of the mother or irreparable damage to the fetus.” Poland has one of the strongest policies against abortion in Europe. Right now, that rule still stands, though the total abortion ban has not moved forward with the country’s Law and Justice ruling party.

The proposed ban would’ve carried a five-year prison sentence both for women undergoing the abortion and their doctors who assisted.

The day before the ruling, Polish women turned out in enormous numbers to protest the proposed ban. It’s estimated that Warsaw, the Polish capital, saw around 30K+ women protesting. There were also protests around the country, with many women not going to work and many offices had to shut down for the day.

The proposed abortion ban came from a petition signed by 450K+ people. This represents 1.2% of Poland’s 38M+ residents.

A recent poll, taken before the protest and subsequent ruling, found that 74% of Polish residents don’t want the current abortion laws to change.

China Ends Its Famous One-Child Policy

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Whoa. Here’s something I didn’t expect to happen within my lifetime: Last week, China officially ended its one-child-per-family policy. Now, married couples are allowed to have up to two children. Crazy! (Though I kind of doubt that many couples will get crazy, and have more than two.)

The one-child policy was informally adopted (i.e. “strongly encouraged”) in 1975, made into law by the country’s Communist Party four years later. The law followed China’s population exceeding 800M+ people in 1970, with leaders realizing that the then-current growth rate was unsustainable.

However, the law has been relaxed for exceptions. In 1984, parents were allowed to have two children if one parent was an only. In 2013, this became alright if only one parent was an only child.

It’s estimated that the policy has prevented 400M+ births.

But why was the policy abolished, and why now? There are a few reasons. One is that the male-to-female sex ratio is becoming unbearably skewed, which tends to happen when preference for one sex greatly outweighs the other. (In this case, the Chinese preferred boys to girls, even going so far as to commit infanticide if a child was born a girl.) The birth rate is also declining, and the mortality rate is on track to outpace it. Per “The New York Times:”

China’s working-age population, those 15 to 64, grew by at least 100 million people from 1990 until a couple of years ago. But that expansion is petering out, and more people are living longer, leaving a greater burden on a shrinking work force. Now, about 10 percent of the population is 65 or older, and according to earlier estimates, that proportion is likely to reach 15 percent by 2027 and 20 percent by 2035.

China’s population is now 1.3B+, with 30% being over 50. It’s estimated that the decision will affect 100M+ couples.


How Do Most Women Feel About Their Abortions?

Pregnant woman (SLO County)

Pregnant woman (SLO County)

The popular media image of a woman who has had an abortion is that she regrets it. She sighs with longing whenever she sees a child around the age of her unborn one, thinking that it could have been them.

While the emotional aspect might pop up now and again, many women who’ve had abortions feel that they’ve made the right choice for themselves. A recent study followed women who’ve undergone the procedure and followed up with them for years to determine their emotional wellbeing.

From 2008 to 2010, researchers looked at 667 women across 30 U.S. clinics, and divided them into two groups: women who terminated a pregnancy within the first trimester, and women who terminated within two weeks of the mandated limit. The researchers then called the women every six months afterwards for three years to identify negative and positive emotions associated with the act.

Overall, women felt that they had made the right decision 99% of the time, and experienced “decreased emotional intensity” over time. Those who felt negative emotions were likely to have had a planned pregnancy, and/or difficulty in making the decision to undergo an abortion. There was virtually no difference between how the two groups of women processed the experience.

This is very important information, as it overturns a popularly-held misconception. Hopefully, these results will act as a catalyst so that the Supreme Court will stop basing abortion rulings on “abortion regret.”

By The Numbers: How Many States Require an Ultrasound Viewing Before an Abortion?

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union held its annual conference in the suburb of Washington, DC to rally conservatives and generate ideas.  (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 16: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American Conservative Union held its annual conference in the suburb of Washington, DC to rally conservatives and generate ideas. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Wisconsin Republican governor/maybe-presidential hopeful Scott Walker signed a new law requiring that women who wanted to get abortions be required to get an ultrasound of the fetus before making their decision. Walker’s reasoning was that he wanted women to make informed choices (i.e. choose life!) about their unborn children. (Side note: he also referred to ultrasounds as “a cool thing out there.” I’m not touching that one.)

I wanted to find out how widespread the practice of requiring expectant mothers to view an ultrasound before proceeding with an abortion was. So I turned to trusty source The Guttmacher Institute for some stats.

Number of states that require giving contextual information (i.e. written materials and/or verbal counseling) around the ultrasound: 12

Number of states that require the abortion provider to show and describe the ultrasound: 3

Number of states that require the abortion provider to offer a viewing of the ultrasound if it’s part of the abortion process: 9

The Guttmacher has more numbers on this topic. Personally, I find it fascinating that these laws are essentially banking on the assumed fact that women are ruled by their emotions and are baby-crazy, and so seeing an ultrasound before an abortion would change their minds.

The U.S. Abortion Rate Has Been Decreasing Since 2002

Baby (Santa Banta)

Baby (Santa Banta)

Abortion rates have been falling over the years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) completed a study last year that analyzed long-term abortion trends, spanning from 1969 to 2011.

The Declining Abortion Rate (The Atlantic)

The Declining Abortion Rate (The Atlantic)

The CDC counted 730K+ abortions in 2011, which works out to 16.9 abortions per 1K women ages 15-44. This is the lowest ratio for abortions since 1973, where 16.3 abortions were recorded for every 1K women within the aforementioned age range. The study’s abstract notes that abortions were highest among adolescents and lowest among women ages 30-39 for the duration of the study. Women in their 20s had the majority of abortions.

Researchers speculate that the decrease in abortions is linked to changing social attitudes about the practice, as well as marriage. When marriage was the socially-acceptable default setting for relationships, abortions were much more rare. But now that marriage rates have decreased, many women are choosing to terminate an unplanned pregnancy rather than have a shotgun wedding with the father.

An article on “The Atlantic” also notes that American attitudes toward abortion have shifted in recent years. While only 20% of the surveyed population would like to see the practice outlawed, 38% surveyed believe it’s “morally objectionable.” This prevailing idea is likely preventing some women from having abortions, and so carrying the fetus the term. It’s very possible that the numbers on abortion are higher than reported, due to any lingering shame or stigma (either internal or external) women who’ve gone through it may face.