Join Us on Oct. 18: Support Truth in Ads, San Francisco

Join us on Tuesday, October 18, at 2 p.m., at City Hall Room 250. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance, proposed by Supervisor Malia Cohen.  Come early to get a seat and support the the Supervisors’ historic vote to end the deceptive ads that mislead women seeking abortions into anti-abortion propaganda mills. Katie Stack describes her experience in the NY Times:  – and this video documents the abuses:

Will you join us?

Need More Letters on Contraception!

Another round of letters needed:  Thanks for continuing to be heard and seen on this important issue!

A recent Associated Press story ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and many other papers (see below) under the headline Religious Groups Oppose Birth Control Rule and focused on the conscience exemption, allowing certain religious employers to decline to cover birth control without copayments and deductibles. The story may still be picked up by others. Kathy Bonk <> asks us to write letters to the editor.

To write to the SF Chronicle Editor:

Here are key points to make:

• While the Catholic church and the association representing Catholic hospitals oppose the provision, the majority of religious women support including birth control as preventive care, as do the majority of religious groups, such as Catholics for Choice, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Institute and the National Coalition for American Nuns.

[thanks to Raising  Women’s Voices for the following,]:

•   Covering contraception without co-pays is a popular policy.  According to a recent Thomson Reuters- NPR poll, 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide no-cost birth control and 74 percent believe that government-sponsored plans should do the same.

•   Adopting the IOM recommendations will improve women’s health. Women have unique health care needs especially during the reproductive years. The new HHS guidelines acknowledge these unique needs and treat women’s health with respect.

•   Covering family planning is cost-effective and will likely save insurance plans money. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there was no increase in costs at all after Congress required coverage of contraceptives for federal employees in 1998. And a 2000 study by the National Business Group on Health estimated that it costs employers 15–17 percent more to not provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans than to provide such coverage.

•   HHS has made an historic decision that will benefit women for generations to come.  The HHS guidelines will be good for women’s health and pocketbooks. This decision will give women, their daughters and granddaughters access to the care they need to be healthy at all stages of their lives. It will also ease the budget pressures on families who are struggling in these tough economic times.

Publications that ran the “religious” article:

San Francisco Chronicle (CA):
Salt Lake Tribune (UT):
Seattle Post Intelligencer (WA):
Racine Journal Times (WI):
Washington Post:
Post-Tribune (IL):
Newsday (NY):
Bloomberg Businessweek:
New York Times:
Times-Union (NY): 
Stamford Advocate (CT):
Desert News (UT):
Boston Globe (MA):
Herald Democrat (TX):–3rdLd-Writethru-08-07-1088
Connecticut Post (CT):
Boston Herald (MA):
ABC News:
Ledger-Enquirer (GA):
News Times (CT):
Star Tribune (WI):
Oakland Press (MI):
Argus-Press (MI):
New Haven Register (CT):
Galveston Daily News (TX):
Las Vegas Sun (NV):
Miami Herald (FL):
The Herald (SC):
Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH):
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA):
Bellingham Herald (WA):
Syracuse (NY):
Kansas City Star (KS):
Modesto Bee (CA):
Evansville Courier & Press (IN):
New Hampshire Journal (NH):

Thanks! – Ellen

Comment on Religious Exception


August, 6, 2011

Internal Revenue Service
26 CFR Part 54
TD 9541
RIN 1545-BJ60
Employee Benefits Security Administration
29 CFR Part 2590
RIN 1210-AB44
45 CFR Part 147
RIN 0938-AQ07
Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive
Services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

We applaud HHS’ regulations accepting the Institute of Medicine’s well-grounded recommendations for adding 8 new preventive services for women to be covered without additional co-payments and deductibles.  The scientific recognition of these important services, including contraception and screening for domestic violence, and easing the economic burden to access them, will enormously improve the lives of all women and their partners and families.
We regret however the amendment offering certain religious employers the option not to include contraception as a preventive service.  We appreciate that the religious employers in question are narrowly defined, in accordance with earlier court cases;  in essence, church employees could be affected, but not church-affiliated hospitals or health plans.
Nevertheless, many women who work for and attend the Catholic Church, for example, do not necessarily agree with the Church’s position banning all but one method of contraception. Virtually all sexually active Catholic women have used a banned method of birth control, and 63% support covering contraception through insurance.  It is unfortunate that some of these women would be asked to choose among their faith, their families, and the opinions of their employers.
We request that HHS reconsider and reverse this amendment.
Ellen R. Shaffer, PhD MPH, Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign

Trust Women comment on religious exception

Birth Control? Really? (Yes, Really!)

Birth Control?  Really?
Yes, Really!
Ellen R. Shaffer
Co-Director, Center for Policy Analysis  Posted: 7/20/11 06:22 PM ET

On Tuesday, the Institute of Medicine reported what most breathing humans know more or less reflexively: That contraception is a preventive health care service. Why is this even a question?  And why must we answer it now?

Birth control is a safe and legal service that is both cost effective and particularly beneficial to women’s health. It not only protects us from the social and economic burdens of unintended pregnancies, which are relatively high in the United States. It empowers us to imagine and pursue autonomous and fulfilling lives that include the joys of healthy parenthood if and when we’re ready for it.

 Most Americans believe that contraception should be affordable and accessible, whether or not they personally use it, including most Catholics, according to numerous studies reported this year by Catholics for Choice .  Nearly 100 percent of heterosexually active women have used a birth control method currently banned by the Vatican, and most continue to. Ready access should be a matter decided by women and their clinicians, certainly not by politicians.  

The IOM report on gaps in coverage under health reform recommends that contraception be readily available at no cost, as should screenings for cancer, HIV, diabetes, and domestic violence. The next step is asking HHS to adopt these life-saving recommendations. This should be a slam-dunk.  But it may not be. The remaining gaps are not in our science but in our advocacy. 

Opposition arguments to these recommendations are so flimsy that they are rarely reported in the mainstream media. They are promulgated largely by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an organization that does not represent the practices or beliefs of their own congregations, or most people of other faiths, and whose lapses in sexual ethics are threatening the vitality of the Church.

So, why is the issue of contraception still a question, and why must we answer it now? The fact is that years of bullying have escalated into a war on women. Despite our most careful and strategic parrying, the words “women” and “women’s health” have become stigmatized in the fickle world of mainstream politics.

It’s time to trust ourselves with decisions about our destiny. It’s time for people of conscience to raise our voices and visibility on fundamental matters of choice. This petition to HHS is a perfect place to start.

See also:

View on HuffPo:

IOM: No-Cost Prevention To Include Contraception, Violence Counselling

Sign the petition asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to accept these medically-based recommendations and to support no-cost contraception.

And this excellent petition:

IOM Report: Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) addresses preventive services for both men and women of all ages, and women in particular stand to benefit from additional preventive health services. The Department of Health and Human Services charged the IOM with reviewing what preventive services are important to women’s health and well-being and then recommending which of these should be considered in the development of comprehensive guidelines. The IOM recommends that women’s preventive services include, among other services, improved screening for cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV; a fuller range of contraceptive education, counseling, methods, and services; services for pregnant women; at least one well-woman preventive care visit annually; and screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.

From Trust Women/SilverRibbon:

An expert Institute of Medicine panel commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services has recommended 8 preventive health services that should be provided without copayments or deductibles, under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.
The IOM panel report embraces a number of public health priorities identified in testimony to the panel by the EQUAL Health Network .

“Women’s health will benefit substantially from better access to these key services once they are cost-free: contraception, breastfeeding and support services, screening and counseling for domestic violence, and an annual well-woman visit, ” said Ellen R. Shaffer, PhD, Co-Director of the Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign and the EQUAL Health Network.  “This constellation of services offers women and their families enormous opportunities to better control and to improve their life circumstances.”
“The IOM’s nonpartisan evidence-based decision to cover contraception without charge is long overdue,” according to Dr. Sophia Yen, MD, an adolescent medicine physician practicing at Packard Children’s Hospital.  “This will be a huge stride in preventing unintended pregnancies and thus unnecessary abortions.  I’ve seen too many women change to less effective methods of birth control because of costs in these dire financial times.  Cost-free coverage for birth control is a critical life-line to millions of women and their families.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, New York Times: “We are one step closer to saying goodbye to an era when simply being a woman is treated as a pre-existing condition,” Ms. Mikulski said. “We are saying hello to an era where decisions about preventive care and screenings are made by a woman and her doctor, not by an insurance company.”

Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific:

As part of the Affordable Care Act (aka Health Care Reform), an independent panel (the IOM) was charged with recommending which women’s health services were to be considered preventive care – thus free or at low cost. The final decision now lies with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which is expected in August of this year.

The new health care reform law represents the single biggest opportunity to advance women’s health in 45 years, and this recommendation could have one of the most far-reaching impacts we have seen in generations.  Medical data, public opinion, now the IOM are now all on the same page– for the first time in our national history, Birth Control without access-blocking cost barriers is within reach.

Sign the Birth Control Matters Petition now!

Heather Saunders Estes, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific

From RWV:

Want to know more about the recommendations?  Join Raising Women’s Voices coordinators and Susan Wood, Director of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health, on Thursday, July 21 at noon EDT, to review the IOM report and discuss what it means for women.  Register here for the call and to get the call-in information.

Spread the word! Share the news about the IOM report with your network on Twitter.  Include #ThankYouIOM to show your support and encourage your followers to do the same.  Also check out RWV’s twitter profile for the #ThankYouIOM Twibbon. 

The National Women’s Law Center

We women already know it, but it’s nice to have a panel of experts confirm it: contraception is preventive health care!

But we’re not done yet – Obama Administration officials will decide soon whether to accept the expert recommendations released earlier today.

Sign our petition asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to accept these medically-based recommendations and to support no-cost contraception.

The Hill: Women’s health advocates praise IOM recommendations 

Statement from Dr. Susan Wood Regarding IOM Report that Recommends Eight Additional Women’s Health Preventative Services for Coverage


Statement from Susan F. Wood, PhD
Associate Professor of Health Policy
Director, Jacob Institute of Women’s Health
The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services

Former Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health, FDA

Women know that preventive services for women includes family planning.  Today the IOM confirmed that contraception is prevention and is part of the prevention package that should be covered by all health care plans.  By reducing co-pays and deductibles for women getting contraception, this will help women and couples plan their families, space their children, reduce unintended pregnancies, and promote better health for women and children.   Preventing unintended pregnancies is the best way to prevent abortion.

Women spend decades of their lives trying to prevent pregnancy, and only a few years actually trying to get pregnant and having children.  Making contraception affordable by eliminating co-pays and deductibles is common sense for millions of women and couples across the country – and a real benefit that women will see immediately in their pocketbooks.  This coverage of contraception will truly help “Close the Gaps” for women.

Contraception is not controversial – except sometimes for politicians.  But this should not be political; coverage of contraception should be based on the evidence as outlined by IOM, which shows that contraception for women is indeed safe and effective prevention. Along with well-woman visits and critical screening for gestational diabetes, STDs, domestic violence, and other important women’s health preventive services, the IOM report “Closing the Gaps” has helped ensure that women’s health counts when we talk about prevention. Women should not be blocked from these critical preventive services due to cost or political debate.

IOM Report July 20 – Wear Your Silver Ribbon!

Is contraception a preventive health care service? Wear your “Trust Women” Silver Ribbon pin on July 20-22 if you think so.  

An Institute on Medicine panel will  recommend their findings on July 20 to the federal Department of Health and Human Services whether contraception should be covered under the Affordab;e Care Act for free, without co-payments or deductibles, like all other preventive  services.

Join Ttust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign partners at media events July 20-22. Wear your Silver Ribbon to show that you stand with the majority who trust women to make decisioms about our health.

From the IOM:

The report will be released at a one-hour public briefing starting at 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday, July 20, in the First Amendment Room of the National Press Club, 529 14th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Those who cannot attend may participate through a live audio webcast that will be posted on the IOM’s webpage ( shortly before the event begins.

To register to attend the briefing in person, please use this link:

To register for the audiocast, please use our separate online form, which can be found here:

Please direct all media/reporter calls about the report to: News Office – National Academies, (202)-334-2138<tel:%28202%29-334-2138> or<>.

See the IOM’s primary webpage,, which is a “one-stop shop” for the project. That webpage has links to past meetings, the upcoming public briefing, and will have future announcements and materials related to the project.

From Crisis to Progress: This Week In Health Care Politics

So Republicans say they will not push Medicare repeal as a condition of raising the debt ceiling, which begins to expire on May 16 and still has life through August. Turns out even those deluded by Fox News aren’t buying that one just yet, even though the House voted for the Ryan budget bill for 2012 a few weeks ago that featured turning Medicare into a scantily-funded voucher program.

So what other egregious demands can we expect?

Well for one hint take a look at H.R. 3, and the Dems’ concession in the 2011 budget fight to sacrifice abortions for poor women in DC. H.R. 3 is the bill that would strip abortion coverage from private health insurance plans, on the grounds that employers that provide these plans receive a federal tax credit for doing so. Women who receive the small number of abortions still permitted because the pregnancies were caused by rape or incest could be required to document their trauma to insurance agents or regulators to get coverage. It passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 251 to 175, with zero R’s voting No and 16 Democrats in support: Altmire, Boren, Costello, Critz, Cuellar, Donnelly (IN), Holden, Kaptur, Kildee, Lipinski, Matheson, McIntyre, Peterson, Rahall, Ross (AR), and Shuler.

Reproductive rights has lost majority support in the House and the Senate. The 40-plus dependable champions in the Senate can muster a filibuster, but that’s still short of the majority that would reflect pro-choice opinion in the country.

Of the 33 Senate seats up in 2012, 23 are Democrats (or Independents who vote with Ds) and 10 are Republicans


Come to the May 13 conference From Crisis to Progress: Health Care Reform, Public Health, and Women’s Preventive Services

Friday, May 13, 2011 ~ 8:30am to 4:00pm

Elihu Harris State Office Building at 1515 Clay Street, Oakland CA


Meanwhile, in California, there is progress;

State Senator Mark Leno’s state single payer bill, SB 810, moved forward from the Senate health committee this week.

And CA Assembly member Mike Feuer’s AB 52 moved ahead. This bill would authorize the state Insurance Commissioner to limit excessive health insurance increases, a power now available for auto insurance but not for health care. AB 52 moved out of the Assembly Health Committee and on to the financing committee (Appropriations) . If successful in Approps, it should go to the Assembly for a vote in June. Think your health insurance costs to much? Call or write your state assembly member and senator and let them know – and send a copy to Mike.

Wear Your Silver Ribbon- Stop HR 3!

The House leadership continues to harm women’s health by restricting women’s access to reproductive health services. Tomorrow they’re going even further by bringing up H.R. 3 to the floor for a vote, a bill that places dangerous restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion.

H.R. 3 is a dangerous and extreme bill that threatens women’s health by aiming to deny access to health insurance that includes coverage for abortion services, whether that insurance is public or private.  The bill catapults from the fact that the federal government provides a tax break on most employer-provided health insurance most women rely on, to assert that the government can dictate that this workplace-based insurance cannot cover abortion. 

 HR 3 allows no health exception: it would leave women whose health is seriously threatened by their pregnancies without access to the care their doctors recommend to protect their health. This would especially endanger the health of underserved women and those with greater health care needs. Women with illnesses like cancer and heart disease sometimes face severe, permanent health damage if they don’t have access to abortion care.

H.R. 3 would invite an unprecedented, radical level of government intrusion into deeply private and personal health care decisions. While there is an exception in cases of rape or incest, incredibly, a rape or incest survivor seeking to include the cost of an abortion in her medical expense deductions or to use tax-advantaged savings to pay for the service could have to provide evidence of the rape or incest in the event of an IRS audit in order to prove herself eligible under longstanding exceptions for those circumstances. Clearly this level of government intrusiveness into an individual’s private and personal life is unacceptable.

The legislation would also codify harmful riders that deny women access to abortion care, including the recently reinstated interference with the District of Columbia’s use of its own local funds and the restriction on federal Medicaid, both of which disproportionately affect women of color and low-income women.

By banning abortion coverage for millions of women in the new health exchanges and imposing tax penalties on small businesses that offer comprehensive insurance plans, H.R. 3 would rob women of insurance coverage for abortion. According to the Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, the bill would likely take away health insurance coverage that women have today and would impose new tax penalties on millions of families and small businesses.

Contact Congress or Call 888-907-9762 TODAY and tell your Representative to oppose this harmful bill and protect women’s health. 

Wear your Silver Ribbon and show that you Trust Women to make essential choices about our lives and our health!

May/June Calendar of Events

SisterSong has a series of ForePlay sex-positive pre-conference celebrations

These events will have cultural and political art, fiery performances and VIPs like you!

May 18 – Boston

May 19 NYC

Atlanta June 3

SF June 9th

contact Monica Simpson for more information  Monica Simpson <>

Their conference is July 14-17 in Miami

Act Online at the Summit on Women, Money, Power

1. From Feminist Majority: watch it live:

Were you unable to come to DC for the 2011 summit? Not to worry, we are streaming it live!  Go to our Ustream Channel and watch the Opening General Assembly on Women’s Rights Issues in the 112th Congress with Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Karen Bass right now.
 Women, Money, and Power Live on Ustream!
We will also be streaming the wonderful lunch we have lined up later today. Join us from 12pm to 2pm  – Women, Money, and Power Luncheon Honoring Nancy Pelosi and Liz Shuler

2. From Planned Parenthood: Sign on:

At the Stand Up for Women’s Health Rally today in Washington, DC, Planned Parenthood will join with Senate and House leaders, celebrities, and activists and allies from all over the country to tell Congress that women’s health is non-negotiable.

You don’t have to be there in person to be a part of this movement — add your message of support now and it will be displayed online and at the rally.