Severe Questions by Justices Ginsberg, Kagan, Sotomayor on Hobby Lobby

Supreme Court to Take Straw Poll on Extreme Case

Claiming that “any religion allowed to be practiced only inside a house of worship, and not in the day-to-day business of life, is a worthless faith,” evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s Washington Post op ed  calls on the Supreme Court to assign “religious freedom” to corporations, including the divinely authorized power to dictate and overrule the intimate personal health choices of the vast majority of Americans. Hobby Lobby, a multibillion-dollar business with more than 550 stores, seeks to deny health insurance coverage for contraception for its nearly 16,000 full-time employees.

As the Supreme Court nears a “straw poll” vote on this case, women and men across the country are speaking out in opposition to Mad Hatter-style extremism, and respecting women’s rights to make personal decisions about our health.
At the March 25 Supreme Court hearing, the three women Justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – sharply questioned whether Hobby Lobby’s mega-corporate crafts chain has religious rights, and whether its owners may opt out of providing some forms of birth control to employees as a result.
On corporations and religious freedom: Justice Sotomayor: “How does a corporation exercise religion? I mean, I know how it speaks and we have, according to our jurisprudence, 200 years of corporations speaking in its own interests. But where are the cases that show that a corporation exercises religion?” (court transcript, p. 18)

On contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act: Justice Kagan: …Congress has made a judgment and Congress has given a statutory entitlement … to women [that] includes contraceptive coverage. And when the employer says, no, I don’t want to give that, that woman is quite directly, quite tangibly harmed.” (court transcript, p. 37)

Denying some contraception coverage to employees is denying coverage to all contraception:
Justice Ginsburg: “…there are 20 FDA-approved contraceptives, all of them covered by the Healthcare Act…[to Hobby Lobby lawyer Clement] You picked out, in one case what, three, and the other case four? Suppose the employer says contraceptives all together are against my religion, so I’m not going to give any contraceptive coverage…your argument, it seems to me, would apply just as well if the employer said no contraceptives.” (court transcript, p. 38)

Public opinion matters. And we’re speaking out. Here’s what some supporters who have had enough are saying:

Contraception? Really? We’re re-doin’ the *!*!*! fifties here?
Maya Elashi, OakLand, CA

When will this madness end?
Stephanie Norliel Chico. CA

Only women should decide about women’s health issues. No boss or any men period.
Margo Westerlund, Chandler, AZ

My contraceptive choice is to be made by me after discussion with my doctor. This decision will not be made by my employer or the government!
Renee Carter, Falls Church, VA

Keep corporations out of my uterus. Separation of church and state is the law of the land. Neither churches nor corporations have the right to write laws.
Rebecca Kane, Goodells, MI

We must guarantee that women do not lose the right to make the best decisions for their bodies, their families and their lives. We will not give in to bullying, and stand united to protect women’s right to govern their own reproduction!
Suzanne Cowan, San Francisco, CA

Whether religious organizations or secular corporations, employers do not and ought not have the right to restrict the health care (and by extension, the health insurance coverage) of their employees. The only possible exceptions would be employees of religious organizations who have themselves taken some sort of holy orders, in other words they have dedicated their lives to a religion and vowed to obey the rules of a religious order. Free citizens must have the freedom to access health care without restrictions imposed by their employers that differ from the law of the land, no matter how strongly the people running the business or organization feel about contraception, abortion, or other legally sanctioned medical practices.
Nancy Dunn, Granby, CT

The only person with a right to impose religious beliefs on a woman is the woman herself.
Randi Kinman, San Jose, CA

To Corporations and the Government: get out of my bedroom and stay out of it.
Karen Duncan, Los Altos, CA

I will boycott Hobby Lobby and any other business that sticks their nose and religion in their employees’ business because that is also MY BUSINESS.
Beverly LaClair, Newport, MN

To the Justices of the Supreme court of the United States,
For god’s sake, do not allow the churches, synagogues and mosques in this country to dictate the law of the land. If the religious objection to contraception is the goal, let them preach to their own. If the health and welfare of all of the citizens of the United States is at issue, the court must rule in our favor. Let women and their husbands and physicians have the right to accept or reject birth control and abortion. It is a right of every citizen to decide. And it is your job to protect that right.
Ida Luckower, White Plains, NY

To the Supreme Court: If you are going to limit a woman’s right to health care insurance that will not cover birth control and abortions, then I suggest you consider legislation that would make vasectomies mandatory. Don’t you think it’s time for men to step up to the plate and take full responsibility for birth control and unwanted pregnancies? That way, you wouldn’t have to consider all this legislation around a woman’s right to choose.
Alyse Ceirante, San Francisco, CA

I have my fingers crossed that the Supreme Court will do the right thing for a change!!!!
Larry Griffin, San Francisco, CA

Thank you for speaking out!

You can add your voice and support our video project to protest the extreme Mad Hatter right wing.

Please support our work:

Extreme Right Wing = Mad Hatter’s Tea Party ???

Does the extreme right wing sound like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland?

Attacks on access to birth control and abortion are out of touch, and off the deep end.

Legislators who are proudly ignorant about women’s anatomy and biology have been having a wild party setting new standards in government intrusion into our bodies.

Had enough?  Take a look at our new 1-minute pilot video to kick start our campaign to call out and push back against the extreme right wing, and to ramp up effective support for women’s reproductive health, rights, and justice.

This week, the Supreme Court heard from two corporations that claim they have a legal right to exclude 4 kinds of birth control from their employees’ health insurance coverage.  They claim they have this right because corporations have a religious conscience, a novel claim.

The Court is expected to take a “straw poll” vote on their verdict this week.

Public opinion matters.  Across the country, we’re speaking out.  See what some supporters who have had enough are saying (below).

This is insane!  These are businesses – not churches.  They have no business butting into their employees’ medical decisions!   M.L. Jones, Indianapolis, IN

Corporations have consciences?  Eggs are people?  But women are apparently not people with consciences who can be trusted to act responsibly.    Claire Wendland, Madison, WI

What is it going to take to make you get the clue that you have no damn business at all in making women’s personal medical decisions?    Jessica Kraskian, Park Ridge, NJ

Really!    Charlotte Taft, Glorieta, NM

Having lived when few birth control options were available I find it outrageous that men (mostly) still want to control women and their bodies…it is not theirs, it is ours…                          Marie Delloue, San Francisco, CA

Practicing one’s religion is all well and good, but enforcing those beliefs on others is wrong. The Bible doesn’t instruct us to force our beliefs on others, rather it teaches respect of the beliefs of others.    Hank Stevens, Gresham, OR

The Christian Taliban has no right to determine how women protect their own health.    Dianne Marsella, Aurora, IL

My body belongs to me.    Dolores Dempsey, San Diego, CA

Dear Supreme Court Justices,
Please uphold the Affordable Care Act by supporting a woman’s right to affordable birth control.  Thank You.        
Carol Garvey, San Jose, CA

Thank you Trust Women Campaign for keeping us informed on what our opponents are manipulating each and every day. Roma Guy, San Francisco, CA

Thank you for speaking out!

Please add your voice and contribute to support our video project to protest the extreme Mad Hatter right wing.

Speaking Out to Protect Our Right to Effective Birth Control!

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard from two corporations that claim they have a legal right to exclude 4 kinds of birth control from their employees’ health insurance coverage, based on the owners’ religious beliefs.

Public opinion matters. Now.

The justices plan to meet privately later this week to cast a straw vote on the outcome.

One member of the court will be assigned to write the final opinion, after weeks of closed-door deliberations.  A decision is expected in late June.  Justice Kennedy is expected to play a key role in the sharply divided court.

These cases are dangerous attacks on your rights to effective birth control.

Here’s a sample of what the Supreme Court justices had to say:

Chief Justice John Roberts said that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, the corporations challenging the requirement, believed that emergency contraception was a form of abortion.  (Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign blogs have debunked this fake science.)

“There is not a single case which says that a for-profit enterprise cannot make a freedom-of-religion claim,” said Justice Antonin Scalia.

Chief Justice Roberts suggested he was thinking of a narrow ruling allowing closely held companies like Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. to claim a religious exemption.

The court’s three female justices dominated the questioning during the first half of the session. Congress, said Justice Elena Kagan, made a determination that health plans must include coverage for a range of preventative care for women. When employers seek to deny that coverage on religious grounds, women are “quite tangibly harmed.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy asked, “Under the challengers’ arguments, do employer rights trump those of workers?”

Stop the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party! Protect contraception!

Join these supporters and sign the petition to tell the Supreme Court that the extremists who are attempting to hijack your right to effective birth control appall you.  Here’s a sample of what the American people have to say:

 Fake science??  You bet.    

Becky Mock, Burlington, NC


Corporations do not have a conscience. They are NOT alive. Thus, they do not have a religion. If people don’t like birth control, they don’t have to use it. Employers should NOT have the right to impose their religion on their employees.

Sophia Yen, MD MPH, Los Altos, CA


As an OB/Gyn physician, I see women who benefit from all types of contraceptives, both for pregnancy prevention and because of beneficial non-contraceptive side effects.  A woman’s employer has no business interfering in my ability to counsel and treat each woman according to her individual needs.

Jenny Robinson, Baltimore, MD


I fought this same battle 35 years ago when I needed birth control and could still reproduce. I don’t want to fight it again even though I can no longer have babies. It is still a woman’s choice to do with her body what she deems the right thing for her at the time.

Pam Smith, Allentown, PA   


This is a horrible abuse of power by the right wing. What happened to separation of church and state.  I am a Christian but do not want religion in my government. Current abuses are horrendous but this attempt is really against the best interests of the constitution of the US.  Please do not allow this to proceed. 

Cheryl Traverse, San Francisco, CA


The “religious freedom” argument behind the suit is, preposterous, as today’s NY Times points out.  Don’t fall for it!                                              

Ben Neufeld, Los Angeles, CA


Contraception is a critical part of women’s overall health and should be universally available.  Lisa LeRoy, Newton, MA


Access to birth control is not a corporate decision.

Laura Powell, Easton, MD


Trust women to make the best decisions for their health.  Employers have no right to discriminate among legal medications!

Robin Roth, San Francisco, CA


Get out of women’s personal lives.  How dare you try to save money by denying this.  I wonder do you still pay for Viagra, penis pumps, Cialis, hair restorer, etc. for men? Talk about greedy discrimination. I used to drive a long way to shop at Hobby Lobby. Not ever again.

Jean Taylor, Navarre, OH


Thank you to all who have signed the petition. Your words are heard and we appreciate your support in sharing your message and this petition with your friends and family.


The more people that know about this, the greater our impact will be.


We will be sharing more of our supporter’s messages as the week goes by, on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Be sure to submit your own and check back in to see if it has been posted.




How Does Emergency Contraception Work?

Emergency Contraception: Controversies and Advocacy
The Fight for Fair and Science-based Regulation
Sarah Michelsen, Lisa Kernan Social Justice Fellow, and Ellen R. Shaffer, Co-Director,
Trust Women/ Silver Ribbon Campaign, a project of The Center for Policy Analysis

Transcribed from Sarah Michelsen’s Power Point presentation, San Francisco, July, 2013
What is Emergency Contraception?
Myths and Facts
What is Emergency Contraception?
A safe and effective birth control method used after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy
If regular birth control was used incorrectly or fails, or after sex without birth control
“Morning-after” pill
Recommended for use after a more reliable method fails, or is not used


How Does Progestin-Only Emergency Contraception Work?
Progestin-only EC works by preventing ovulation (the egg cell leaving the ovary).
It used to be thought that progestin-only EC could also prevent fertilization (the sperm and egg joining) or the implantation of a fertilized egg (blastocyst) after ovulation, but that has now been debunked.
The newest studies show the progestin-only EC is only effective before ovulation-if an egg is already present in the fallopian tube, EC will not be effective.


Myths and Facts about Progestin-Only Forms of EC
Myth: Progestin-only forms of EC, including Plan-B One Step and Next Choice, can cause abortions.
Fact: Progestin-only forms of EC work by preventing ovulation. They have no effect on a fertilized blastocyst before or after implantation.
Myth: Progestin-only forms of EC will cause birth defects or otherwise harm an embryo if the woman is already pregnant.
Fact: Progestin-only forms of EC have no negative effects on developing embryos, either before or after implantation.

Other Types of EC
Combined progestin and estrogen pill –rarely used
Ulipristal acetate pill
Copper IUD
Combined Progestin and Estrogen Pills
The same as regular birth control pills, in a larger dose.
None currently marketed as EC, although several brands of regular birth control have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as EC.
Women in rural areas or situations where they cannot access regular EC may take larger doses of their regular birth control pills to act as EC, but this is not as effective as a progestin-only form of EC.

Ulipristal Acetate Pills
Marketed in the US as Ella
Available by prescription only, for women of all ages
Significantly more effective than other methods at preventing ovulation, especially between 72 and 120 hours.
May have some post-ovulation effect, including possibly preventing implantation after fertilization has occurred.
Not an abortifacient-does not meet medical definition of an abortion,which is interrupting an established pregnancy, after a fertilized blastocyst is successfully implanted in the uterus.

Copper IUD
Intrauterine Device
Must be prescribed and insderted by a doctor or other trained clinician
Reduces the risk of getting pregnantby more than 99%
Can be effectively inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex
Can keep it in place for up to 10 years.

Opposition and Barriers to Access

Who is the Opposition to EC? Misleading Quotes
“The secret best kept from the American public is that these drugs can cause abortions. The time for covering up this unpleasant reality is long past.”
“It can irritate the lining of the uterus so that if the first and second actions fail, and the woman does become pregnant, the tiny baby boy or girl will die before he or she can actually attach to the lining of the uterus.”
[NOTE: This is NOT the official AAP –it’s a separate anti-choice rump group.]
“Despite self-reports denying it, ‘ready access’ to EC apparently increases the sexual activity of adolescents which is a risk factor for depression and suicide, poor school performance, more lifetime

Abortifacient Myth
Anti-choice leaders choose to define abortion differently from the medical definition.
The medical definition: interrupting an established pregnancy, after implantation of the fertilized egg [c. 50% of fertilized eggs do not implant].
Anti-choice position: Abortion includes even interrupting the release of the egg into the fallopian tube (ovulation)
Also: Confusion about the mechanisms of action of different forms of EC, and many believe that OTC forms of EC, progestin only pills, cause abortions.
Belief that ulipristal acetate forms of EC cause abortions.
Protecting” Women and Girls
Opponents have painted EC as a dangerous drug, and fanned fears that young girls accessing it without parental notification would lead to promiscuity.
Studies show increased access to EC does not increase promiscuity or reduce use of other contraceptives.
Scare tactics-US Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson said expanding access “undermines parents’ ability to protect their daughters … from the adverse effects of the drug itself.””

Why do Barriers to Accessing EC Matter?
Need for ID is shaming and stigmatizing.
Need to find an open pharmacy, regardless of age.
Precludes immigrant women, young women, or others without ID from purchasing, regardless of age.
Creates a barrier for the trans* community.
Disproportionately affects low income women and women of color.
Confusion among the public and pharmacists about who can and can’t purchase leads to older teens and men being denied their right to purchase EC.
Young women under the age of 15 seeking EC are the most vulnerable, and yet have the highest barriers to purchase.
HIGH COST CAN REMAIN A BARRIER –Insurance should cover

The Long Fight for Fair Access
Over a decade of court battles and politically motivated decisions

The Fight for Fair Access
EC first approved by the FDA in 1999
2004: The non-partisan scientific committee assigned by FDA to review the evidence on safety and effectiveness voted 23 to 4 to approve an application to make EC available over the counter without any age restrictions.
Recommendation supported by 50+ medical/health organizations
2005: FDA commissioner overruled decision of the FDA scientific committee
Unprecedented action
Aug.2005: Dr. Susan Wood resigned as FDA Director of Women’s Health and Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health in protest political influence over science.

Science Vs. Politics
In 2006 EC was made available OTC for those over 18
In 2009 a court ordered the FDA to review that decision, calling it arbitrary and capricious, and to immediately lower the age to 17. FDA lowered age restriction but did not reconsider making it available to all women OTC.
In 2011 FDA Commissioner announced they were prepared to grant Teva’s application to remove all age restrictions on OTC sale-but this decision was blocked by HHS Secretary Sebelius.
Unprecedented for HHS Sec, to overrule her appointed FDA chief .

The Fight For Fair Access: 2013
April 5, 2013-U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to make Plan B and generics of the two-pill medication available for OTC sale to people of all ages.
April 30 2013-FDA approves Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive without a prescription for women 15 years of age and older
May 1 2013-Department of Justice files appeal, and moves for a stay pending the appeal.
May 10 2013-Judge Korman refuses to grant the stay


Judge Korman Calls Out the Administration
“You made that announcement to sugar-coat this appeal.”
“The bottom line is that it’s not possible to provide the data on 11-and 12-year-olds,” Judge Korman said. “You’re using these 11-and 12-year-olds to place an undue burden on the ability of older women to get this contraceptive.”
“These emergency contraceptives would be among the safest drugs sold over the counter.”
“If this were a voting rights case, you’d be here telling me this was voter suppression,” he said. “You’re disadvantaging poor people, young people, and African Americans. That’s the policy of the Obama administration?”
Victory? And What’s Next?
June 11, 2013-Obama administration announces in a letter to Judge Korman that they will accept court defeat, and no longer pursue an appeal.
June 12-Judge Korman approves administration’s plan to comply.

What Did We Win? The Who What and Where of EC SalesOnce this is all implemented…

The Who What and Where of EC SalesOnce this is all implemented… Product Who Can Purchase, OTC or Prescription Location Point of Sale Restrictions
Plan-B One Step Everyone Retail Shelf none
Next Choice One Dose (and any other generics) Age 17 and Older: OTCUnder 17: Prescription Only Behind Pharmacy Counter must ask pharmacist and show ID
Next Choice, Levonorgestrel Tablets, and other 2-pill generics Age 17 and Older: OTCUnder 17: Prescription Only Behind Pharmacy Counter must ask pharmacist and show ID
Ella and Ulipristal acetate generics Prescription only for all ages Behind Pharmacy Counter Must ask pharmacist to fill prescription



What Do Advocates Need to Be Aware Of?
Only makes Plan-B One Step available OTC with no age restrictions. Two-pill versions of the drug will still require a prescription if under age 17.
Gives marketing exclusivity to Teva, preventing generic forms from being available OTC for at least 3 years.
Administration says that the re-labeling process will happen “without delay.” Really?

What Should Advocates Do?
Hold the Administration accountable for sticking to their compliance plan in a timely manner
Keep the public informed and pressure the Administration and FDA to continue to make more forms of EC, and other types of birth control, widely available.
Propose ways to keep the cost of EC down, and prevent future marketing exclusivity that create monopolies
Inform the public about the decision and how their access to EC will change, as well as hold the administration accountable for doing the work to educate the public.


Works Cited

American College of Pediatricians. “Emergency Contraception Should Not Be Passed out like Candy.” LifeSiteNews. N.p., 4 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 June 2013.

Bapat, Sheila. “Justice Doesn’t Just Happen: Feminist Activists Were Essential to EC Ruling.” RH Reality Check. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.

Boonstra, Heather. “Emergency Contraception: Steps Being Taken to Improve Access.” Emergency Contraception: Steps Being Taken to Improve Access. The GuttmacherReport on Public Policy, Dec. 2012. Web. 19 June 2013.

”Center for Reproductive Rights Reopens Lawsuit Against FDA Restrictions on

Emergency Contraception.” Center for Reproductive Rights. N.p., 8 Feb. 2012. Web. 19 June 2013.

“The Fight for Emergency Contraception: Every Second Counts.” Center for Reproductive Rights. N.p., n.d.Web. 19 June 2013.

Jacobson, Jodi. “Court Orders FDA to Make Emergency Contraception Available Over-the-Counter for All Ages.” RH Reality Check. N.p., 5 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.

Jacobson, Jodi. “Judge Approves Administration’s Strategy for EC Over-the-Counter …With Reservations.” RH Reality Check. N.p., 12 June 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.

Works Cited

Jefferson, Erica. “FDA Approves Plan B One-Step Emergency Contraceptive without a Prescription for Women 15 Years of Age and Older.” US Food and Drug Administration. US Food and Drug Administration Press Release, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.

Keenan, J. A. “Ulipristal Acetate: Contraceptive or Contragestive?” The Annals Of Pharmacotherapy45.6 (2011): 813-15. Print.

Kempner, Martha. “Http://” RH Reality Check. N.p., 17 June 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.

Mozzanego, Bruno. “Ulipristal Acetate in Emergency Contraception: Mechanism of Action.” Trends in PharmologicalSciences34.4 (2013): n. pag. Print.

Noé, Gabriela, HoracioB. Croxatto, Ana MaríaSalvatierra, VerónicaReyes, Claudio Villarroel, Carla Muñoz, Gabriela Morales, and Anita Retamales. “Contraceptive Efficacy of Emergency Contraception with Levonorgestrelgiven before or after Ovulation.” Contraception84.5 (2011): 486-92. Print.

Trussell, James, PhD, and Elizabeth Raymond, MPH, MD. “Emergency Contraception: A Last Chance to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy.” Princeton University, June 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.

Tumminov. Hamburg. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK. 4 Apr. 2013. US District Court Eastern District of New York. N.p., 4 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.

Works Cited

United States Attorney, Eastern District of New York. “Re : Tummino v. Hamburg , No. 12 -CV -0763 (ERK/VVP).” Letter to Honorable Edward R. Korman. 10 June 2013. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

Wills, Susan E., Esq. “Emergency Contraception -Boon or Bane?” Emergency Contraception -Boon or Bane?United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

Zaidi, Sidra. “Emergency Contraception and Moral Panic: Dissecting the Newest Misinformation Campaign.” RH RealityCheck. RH Reality Check, 9 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.


For More Information

Princeton University Office of Population Research

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

TEDxBayArea Women -Sophia Yen -Cutting Edge Adolescent Medicine12/8/10

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health

Food and Drug Administration Birth Control Guide

Guttmacher Institute


Trust Women/Silver Ribbon CampaignPO Box 29586San Francisco, CA

REALLY??? The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party On Birth Control


Attacks on access to birth control and abortion are out of touch, and often off the deep end.

These attacks don’t make sense.

But they are damaging people.

On March 25, the Supreme Court will hear a case to decide whether a for-profit private corporation can deny employees health insurance coverage for contraception. It’s bad enough that the employers’ opposition in this case is based on fake science, putting public health and the well-being of millions of women at risk. In addition, they claim that the corporations they run have a religious conscience.

Sound like a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party?  Check out our short punchy video (click below).

Had enough of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party?  You can make a difference! Join the Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign.   We’re speaking up and speaking out.  We are the people you’ve been waiting for! (and so are you.)

Together, we will safeguard reproductive health, rights, and justice, and reclaim common sense in public debate.


Don’t be stunned into silence on women’s abortion rights

Silence equals death.

California AIDS activists taught the world the power of plain and direct talk about gender bias and sexuality to save lives.

The ability to control whether and when to have a child are key to the physical, social and economic health of women and families, and access to legal, safe and affordable birth control and abortion are essential to guarantee that ability.

Currently, a barrage of extreme and punitive laws restricting these rights are streaming out of state legislatures and the House of Representatives.  These shockingly offensive departures from the American mainstream demand bolder leadership by our elected officials, and concerted organizing by pro-rights advocates that engages and mobilizes the majority of the American public who are appalled by these assaults but will otherwise remain stunned into silence.   Polling and politics as usual are not turning the tide.

Draconian restrictions on facilities that provide abortions in Texas have <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>reduced their number from 44 in 2011 to 24 today.</a> The number is expected to drop to 6 by September. Reports are already surfacing from Texas of women returning to desperate — and deadly — measures</a> of self-abortions, like coat hangers and bleach.

Part of the problem is that the health consequences of the attacks are graphically real but have been surgically isolated to the most vulnerable in our society, by income, race and education. Unintended pregnancies and unplanned births <a href=”” target=”_hplink”>are 5 to 6 times higher among women</a> with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and also higher for women of color and those without a high school degree.

<p>The odious Hyde Amendment, a congressional measure, prohibits federal funding for abortions. 35 states choose not to supplement Medicaid with state funds for abortions.</p> But its insidious effects extend to California. Although we use public funds to pay for abortions, and a range of family planning services, California’s rate of unintended pregnancy is among the highest in the nation, on par with Mississippi and New York.

We must fund abortions.  But we can’t just can’t just slip the money under the table. We need to inform and empower women and men to claim our rights to determine our futures.  That includes understanding both our biology and the language we need to stick up for ourselves. The reality is that gender bias has repercussions for all of us, and that procreation involves both sexes.

In case we needed further motivation, opponents are now using the club of funding sources to threaten coverage for everyone.  This year the House passed HR 7, that would prohibit private health insurance plans that get a drop of federal funds from covering abortions; this includes virtually all employers who get a tax break if they contribute to the cost of employees’ health insurance.

In California two Jesuit universities unilaterally cancelled coverage for abortions in 2013  for their faculty.

The Supreme Court will hear cases on March 25 that could authorize your boss to cut off covering your birth control.

Some are genuflecting to the strategic wisdom of keeping a low public profile on the subject. They  claim they can’t campaign on abortion and birth control in 2014 because it’s an election year. But 2015 will be the run-up to the presidential election. And then 2016 — well, you know.

In other words: Chances are 100 percent that if political leaders refrain from taking action on this issue in 2014, we are doomed to live in the present for the foreseeable future.

The fact is, voters have demonstrated solid support at the state and local levels for access to legal, affordable reproductive health care services.

  • Florida voters defeated a state ballot initiative to prohibit public funding for abortions.
  • Mississippi voters defeated a statewide initiative to declare a fertilized egg a person, with 80 percent of black make voters leading the opposition vote.
  • Voters in Albuquerque defeated a proposal to outlaw most late-term abortions.
  • Otherwise vulnerable Democrats won in 2012 against challengers who revealed their Mad Hatter theories about rape and incest.
  • Virginia voters chose a machine Democrat as governor, defeating state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, an originator of rules forcing women to get — and pay for — invasive ultrasounds before proceeding with an abortion they’ve already decided to have.

We have the chance to do a solid: unite all of us to defend both the funding for reproductive health care, and the rights of all of us to enjoy it if we choose.</p><p>    We can also prevent poor women from being forced by politicians who hate them to bear children they decide they don’t want and can’t afford, and then subjected to the further indignity of suffering cuts in their food stamps. Or worse, to die from self-induced abortions.</p>

Leaders. muster up your moxie and campaign on women’s rights and human rights.  Opposing the Hyde Amendment would be a good start. We’ll support you.  Chances are good, we’ll all win.


[Published in San Francisco Chronicle, March 12, 2014

San Francisco Supervisors Oppose False Claims About Abortion

San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution opposing  “anti-abortion banners” on January 28, 2014.  Click here for a short video of public testimony on the resolution, and a statement by lead sponsor Supervisor David Campos.  Other sponsors were Supervisors Chiu, Cohen, Weiner, Mar, Yee, Farrell, and Kim.

The Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign presented petitions with hundreds of sharply worded comments from San Francisco and nationwide, who expressed outrage that the City posted banners with the false statement that “abortion hurts women.”

Elizabeth Creely:  Stating that a medical procedure is “hurtful” or damaging is wrong. There is plenty of evidence that a lack of medical care is what hurts women.

Dr. Ellen Shaffer, Director, Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign. This debate is both about reproductive rights and justice – and also about the ability of forces with an entirely different political and economic agenda to tie up our political system in knots, so that virtually nothing is accomplished. We are trying to figure out how to deal with an annual march by outsiders who don’t represent San Francisco’s views or values, their efforts to use our rules to post banners saying “Abortion hurts women,” and how we represent our own views in public.

Joe Brenner, Men Who Trust Women: I’ll read an excerpt from a joint statement from Dr. Harvey Cohen, Stanford Professor of Pediatrics, Peter Coyote, actor and writer, father to a grown daughter, grandfather to her young girl, political activist, and ordained Zen Priest, Steve Heilig, healthcare ethicist, and Stephen Keese, realtor in Palo Alto, all members of Men Who Trust Women.

“Abortion is safe. Access to legal abortion services is essential. Access to legal and affordable family planning health care services including abortion has been critical for expanding economic, educational and professional success and emotional satisfaction for women, the men and children in their lives and for communities as a whole. Denied abortion care can perpetuate poverty.

“San Francisco must preach what the City practices. Public pronouncements matter. By approving these banners for prominent display on public property on Market Street, the City has contributed to undermining women’s personal and private medical decisions, and undermining public health.

Cheryl Traverse:  I can’t think of five issues that are more not neutral than abortion in the United States of America right now.  It is hugely not neutral.

Professor Susan Englander: The display gives a false imprimatur of the City’s approval.. I believe that action on this issue should have been more immediate and decisive; these banners should never have seen the light of day.

Hene Kelly:  The truth is that abortion did hurt women.  The truth is that as I was growing up as a young girl, I lost one of my best friends.  She was raped.  She had nowhere to turn.  Her parents wouldn’t help her; nobody did.  She went and got an illegal abortion, and died from the infection.  I became a teacher.  I had a student who was raped, and got pregnant.  She didn’t know where to turn.  She went to Planned Parenthood.  She got an abortion.  Now’s she’s a social worker, working with young women.  She was saved by that abortion.

Justine Marcus:  Low income and women of color, who are disproportionately affected in terms of access to medical education, in terms of domestic violence, rape, abuse, and also who have escalating rates of teen pregnancy, are especially vulnerable to this kind of public health misinformation.

Supervisor David Campos:  I think it really is important for us to send a very clear message about how we in San Francisco do trust women and we respect their right to decide for themselves what to do with their bodies.  This is not about free speech, this is about misinformation that has been put out by fringe groups that have no backing for the claim that somehow abortion hurts women.  I think that the medical evidence and scientific evidence on this point is very clear. We need to carefully look at the policies and procedures that got us to this point, to make sure that there isn’t misinformation that is put out.

I especially was touched by the comment that these kinds of tactics are especially negative when it comes to the disproportionate impact on poor women, and I have seen that myself because of the work that we have done with Planned Parenthood in my District, where anti-choice extremists have come out to target poor, working class, middle income women, as they are trying to access reproductive rights.  I also hope that the City is proactive, not only in using whatever proceeds are coming in to educate women, but also in putting out the correct information about the safety of abortion as a procedure.  I think that if we allow these kinds of groups to put up this kind of misinformation, that we should also have our own information presented and that we make it clear by posting similar banners that clearly say that we trust women.

I think that what is happening is really sad, and it certainly does not reflect the values of San Francisco.



Ellen Shaffer on Roe v Wade Celebration, Jan. 22, 2014

Ellen Shaffer, Director and Co-Founder, Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women
Celebration of the 41st Anniversary of Roe v Wade
American Association of University Women – Los Altos/Mountain View Chapter; and the
Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women
Los Altos, CA Jan. 22, 2014

We’ve accomplished so much since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on Jan. 22, 1973!  We’ve won competence and independence, and kept our sense of humor. There have been tremendous changes in our professional, educational and personal opportunities. Women have entered professions that were virtually closed to us, including medicine, journalism, science and the law.  We’re catching up as engineers and members of Congress, though much progress remains ahead. We’ve continued to have children, and to build families and communities.

We still earn only 70 cents to the dollar earned by men.

We need support for employment, including child care, and paid family leave.

And we need to preserve and expand access to legal, affordable abortions and to birth control, as a fundamental human right.

The Trust Women/Silver Campaign aims to build visibility for this important agenda.

To link it to our trust in science.

To build unity and momentum in our movement.

We face several threats this year.  And we have some encouraging signs, including the Women’s Health Protection Act, and a pending resolution at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

First, the assaults.  There has been a rash of measures enacted at the state and federal levels that are intended to reverse our progress, and specifically our access to abortion and contraception. As many of us have heard, states adopted more such restrictions in 2011-13 than in the previous decade.  The House of Representatives introduced the “right to let women die” bill,  that would authorize hospitals to withhold lifesaving abortion care, even if it meant the mother would die.  So far a slim majority in the Senate has kept these bills from becoming law.

At the state level, we’ve seen an explosion of “TRAP” laws, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.  As Dahlia Lithwack noted in Slate (11/13/13), “The anti-choice strategy has been to close as many clinics as possible and to sideline as many providers as possible by crafting … regulations that force women to view ultrasounds, listen to inaccurate medical scripts, and find time to undergo multiple appointments; that force doctors to attempt to obtain ever-elusive hospital admitting privileges, and that force clinics to widen hallways and rejigger broom closets” to meet standards intended for hospital surgery suites.  The requirement for MD licensing is a deliberate obstruction. Where abortions are under fire, some doctors who perform them may not reside in the area.  If they do practice locally, there have been campaigns to deny them hospital admitting privileges for that very reason. In the rare case of an emergency during or after an abortion, the woman would be admitted to a hospital, but often under another doctor’s care.

In California, it’s been impossible to pass restrictive legislation or ballot measures at the state level, and in most local areas, so the opposition acts as picadors, generating misinformation and promoting ignorance.  Flouting – and obscuring – state law, several Catholic universities have attempted to cancel covering abortions through the insurance provided to faculty and staff.

What is particularly galling about these campaigns is the occasional pretense that this assault is actually good for us, and motivated by a tender concern for the wellbeing of women and children.

In San Francisco, anti-abortion rights groups are this week displaying banners claiming that “Abortion hurts women.”

During a debate over the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act,” or HR 7, an anti-abortion bill currently advancing in Congress, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) suggested that Republicans support restricting access to abortion because it will ultimately benefit the economy if women have more children.  Goodlatte noted that carrying pregnancies to term “very much promotes job creation.” [Dara Culp, Think Progress, Jan. 15, 2014]

This has been going on for awhile.  And til now, women and our representatives have been somewhat stunned.
A new bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, is starting to turn this around.

Again, Dahlia Lithwick: “The bill is an effort to reaffirm Roe and Casey by pre-empting state efforts to enact measures like heartbeat bills, fetal pain legislation, and regulations that result in clinic closures, added expenses, and unnecessary delays.  It’s worth being perfectly clear that the bill will likely never pass the GOP-controlled House. But what’s important is that it represents Democrats—including male Democrats—taking a strong, long-overdue stand against state efforts to simply nullify Roe v. Wade with legislation that assumes Roe has already been overruled.

“The purpose of the new bill is to force states to prove that the dozens of measures ostensibly aimed at protecting women’s health actually do that. It would no longer be enough to simply assert that anything the state deems necessary to promote a woman’s health, does so. The law forces states to either find a meaningful connection between the regulations and a woman’s health, or openly admit they just want to end abortion.”

Not only that.  We expect to have legislation imminently that will challenge the Hyde Amendment, the notoriously destructive provision that prevents federal funding for abortions.  Low-income women are vastly more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy compared with women earning 200% or more over the federal poverty level – in fact, they’re 5 times more likely.  The Hyde Amendment has been both ideologically and directly responsible for this divide since it was first adopted in 1976, and never challenged.

This is a key year for us to become informed, to join together, to show that we Trust Women to make our own decisions about our health and our bodies.  We know that we all benefit when women can safely and effectively decide whether and when to have children, and to experience the social and economic support we all require to assure that we raise our families in safe and thriving communities.

Right now, Trust Women has three immediate opportunities for you to collaborate:
Sign the TWSR petition ( asking San Francisco City officials to take down the false and misleading banners stating “Abortion Hurts Women.”  It points out:

Campaigns to defund and stigmatize abortion, and impose repressive views about sexuality, disempower and subordinate women and girls, and prevent them from choosing and using the vital reproductive health care services they think best. In addition to legislation, tactics include violence against abortion providers, and harassment of patients at health centers. These actions hurt women and girls.

Next Tues., Jan 28, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution condemning the anti-abortion banners.  On Feb. 4, they’ll present an additional resolution supporting the Women’s Health Protection Act.  We’d welcome your visit up to see us in San Francisco.
A new development this year is the emergence of a solidarity group, Men Who Trust Women.  I’d like to invite Joe Brenner, Director of Men Who Trust Women, to say a few words.

And once again, thanks so much to the American Association of University Women for creating and maintaining this wonderful annual celebration of Roe v Wade, and for inviting the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women to enjoy this great day with you.



Men Who Trust Women: Jan. 22, 2014

Statement by Joe Brenner, Director, MWTW:

I’m proud to be here with you today for the commemoration and celebration of the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and women’s rights to make personal health decisions, including access to safe and legal abortion. 

It’s great to see everyone here, including the men. 

We know that the majority of people, women AND men, in the United States support reproductive choice. 

The minority of mostly pale male extremists in Congress and in state legislatures across the country who oppose women and reproductive choice do not represent the majority of the American people.  We should show them the door.

It’s time for the many men in the nation to stand up for their beliefs and be visible and vocal to trust, respect, and support women and women’s right to make decisions about their health, including access to contraception, and safe and legal abortion.  A new national network, called Men Who Trust Women, is aiming to do just that.  Tell your friends, your partners, your families. Our website is “”

While reproductive rights are women’s rights, they are also human rights.  An injury to women is an injury to us all.  So let’s celebrate, commemorate, and strengthen the rights enshrined in the historic Roe v. Wade decision today.  Thank you.