Monday, July 25, 2011

Why No-Cost Birth Control is for Me

As a women in her young twenties and recently married, several major changes have occurred during the past year of my life. Before we got married, my husband and I lived 6 hours away (he was attending doctoral school in the Twin Cities, while I was finishing my bachelors at the University of South Dakota. After undergrad, I was determined to pursue a master’s in Gender and Women’s studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

After our wedding in September of 2010, I didn’t realize how much paperwork was necessary for simply changing my status from single to married (and to change states, as I now attend school in Minnesota). Paperwork for joint bank accounts, paperwork for changing financial aid, paperwork for tax returns and W4 forms. Why can’t it just be like Facebook – change your relationship status, everyone congratulates and comment within seconds, and it’s a done deal – nice and simple. But never did I think I was going to run into trouble when it came time to get birth control.

I contacted student health services at MSU, Mankato. My appointment went great and my doctor was fantastic. But when it came time to picking up my pills, “that’ll be $240, please.” What?! Are you kidding me? I’m in graduate school; I can barely pay my rent, let along fork over that kind of money for three months’ worth of birth control. Turns out, my insurance plan doesn’t cover any form of contraceptive. Great…

I decided to pay for just the one month, and $80 later I was bound and determined to find another route for receiving birth control. It was then I decided to contact Planned Parenthood. I also decided to do a little research on my insurance plan and was disgusted when I read that male hormonal stimulates (i.e. Viagra) is covered, yet any form of contraception was not. Will someone please explain how that works?  The insurance company will pay for my husband’s sexual satisfaction, yet won’t do anything to prevent his sperm from fertilizing my eggs? Just another example of how society feels regarding women having sex – if we are going to do so, it best be for procreation. Long strong short, my visit to Planned Parenthood went wonderfully and the cost was donation based (which I think is completely understandable, and I gladly donated to the cause).

According to the NARAL Pro-Choice America Birth Control Cost Calculator, me (a 22 year old, no kids, and on the vaginal ring) could save $11,868 in my lifetime if the Health and Human Services Department includes birth control as preventative medicine under healthcare reform. That's a big chunk of change! I am proud to say I am a feminist and that I am a supporter the pro-choice movement and organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood. Who knows, maybe I’d be pregnant and without a master’s degree without reproductive rights’ organizations like them.

- Brittany, Intern, NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota

For more information on insurance coverage of birth control, check out:

Monday, February 7, 2011


This Saturday is our Twenty-First Annual Pro-Choice/Pro-Chocolate event!  This year's theme is "I Heart Chocolate." The evening will include a live auction of desserts created especially for the event by professional and amateur bakers, as well as a silent auction of items donated from friends of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota. It should be a grand evening of pro-choice fun!

This event is NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota's major yearly fundraiser, so we hope to see you all there!

 “I Heart Chocolate”
Saturday, February 12th, 2011
7:30-10:30 PM
Holiday Inn City Centre
Downtown Sioux Falls
Tickets: $25 per person
E-mail or call 605-334-5065 to reserve your tickets!

House Bill 1217: An Undue Burden on Women in South Dakota

We are pleased to have a guest post from Melanie Clatanoff, one of our out-of-state friends.  Below are Melanie's thoughts on the legalities of HB 1217.

House Bill 1217: An Undue Burden on Women in South Dakota

It doesn’t matter whether House Bill 1217 is morally right or wrong: it’s illegal.
Melanie Clatanoff, Esq.

I have read South Dakota’s proposed House Bill 1217.  As an uncompromising pro-choicer, it enrages me.  But I’m not writing now to discuss whether this bill is morally right: I’m writing to discuss whether it is legal.  The issue of abortion is often litigated, and the parameters of a state’s powers are well defined by Supreme Court jurisprudence.  House Bill 1217 violates the Supreme Court’s undue burden standard from Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833, 1992). 
Lawmakers must answer to the Constitution.  In 1992, with Casey, the Supreme Court revamped abortion law in a largely anti-choice decision.  The legislature of South Dakota is bound by this decision.  As activists from all sides of this issue duke it out in Pierre over this bill, remember that it doesn’t have to be about morality: the law is clear on a state’s power to restrict abortion pre-viability, and 1217 is on the wrong side of the law.

Casey’s Undue Burden Standard

Planned Parenthood v. Casey litigates five different Pennsylvania laws restricting abortion.  It upholds four of them.  The decision set forth an undue burden standard for deciding whether a state statute is unconstitutional: “only where state regulation imposes an undue burden on a woman's ability to make this decision does the power of the State reach into the heart of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause” (Casey, at 847).
This standard is largely bad news for the pro-choice movement, as it recognizes that states have the right to push “life” and advocate a clear anti-abortion agenda.  A regulation has to have the “purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus” (Id., at 877, emphasis added) to be unconstitutional.  Regulations that “express profound respect for the life of the unborn are permitted, if they are not a substantial obstacle to the woman's exercise of the right to choose” (Id.).  In Casey, the only restriction found to be a substantial obstacle was a law requiring married pregnant women to inform their husbands they were obtaining an abortion.  Casey upheld a 24-hour waiting period and an informed consent statute, two regulations that relate to HB 1217.

 “Informed Consent” in Casey and in House Bill 1217

HB 1217 is presenting itself as an informed consent statute.  Casey held, “requiring that the woman be informed of the availability of information relating to fetal development and the assistance available should she decide to carry the pregnancy to full term is a reasonable measure to insure an informed choice” (Id., at 883).  Although HB 1217 purports to mirror this Pennsylvania regulation, a quick reading of the South Dakota bill demonstrates that both its purpose and its effect are to place a substantial obstacle on a woman’s ability to make an informed choice.
There is a world of difference between a Pennsylvania statute requiring that a woman be informed of the availability of information or resources, and dictating where, when, how, and what information a woman hears when making a choice.  HB 1217 does not propose to ensure that every woman contemplating abortion receives information that is “truthful and not misleading” (Id., at 881).  Casey allows states to ensure informed consent between a doctor and his pregnant patient.  HB 1217 stretches Casey beyond recognition, permitting any number of hoops for women to jump through, without any rational relation to a woman’s medical or psychological well-being.
                This supposed “informed consent” bill also encroaches upon a physician’s first amendment rights and the doctrine of physician-patient privilege.  It forces doctors to refer women to religious or other counseling centers he or she might disagree with, and forces a woman to seek medical advice from someone other than her chosen medical provider.  Casey also touches upon these issues, and notes that the only reason the Pennsylvania informed consent provision was valid is that it did not involve a “straightjacket” of particular information which must be given in every case (Id., at 883).  The Pennsylvania statute allowed doctors to skip informing patients about the developmental stage of the fetus and about adoption options if the doctor could demonstrate (by a preponderance of the evidence) that she reasonably believed furnishing the information would result in a severely adverse effect on the physical or mental health of the patient.  The Court held that the Pennsylvania informed consent statute “does not prevent the physician from exercising his or her medical judgment” (Id., at 884).
                HB 1217 will remain unconstitutional until it is modified to include some of Pennsylvania’s safeguards.  As is, it lacks Pennsylvania’s escape-valve for doctors who believe that a visit to an anti-choice clinic threatens their patients’ individual health.  More fundamentally, it mandates “straightjacket” information from state-registered anti-choice facilities instead of mandating that women be informed of the availability of resources outside her doctor’s office.

Casey and Coersion

                As a final kick, much of HB 1217 seems to mirror the one provision of Pennsylvania law actually struck down in Casey.  The Supreme Court held that spousal notification put some women (far less than 1% of the women who might seek abortion in Pennsylvania, the Court held) in fear of coercion or abuse (Id., at 894).  A negative effect even on this small set of women constituted an unfair burden (Id.).
                Let’s pretend that the purpose of mandating specific anti-choice counseling is not to place a substantial obstacle on a woman’s decision, but is instead to ensure informed consent.  Under the factual findings adopted in Casey, this counseling will still have the effect of a substantial obstacle.  If women do confess to their doctor or to a state-registered clinic that they are being coerced, Casey found that this would unfairly force women to “reveal their most intimate decision-making” to their doctors, and that, “the confidentiality of these revelations could not be guaranteed, since the woman's records are not immune from subpoena” (Id., at 888-889).  This is especially true as HB 1217 mandates that the government-registered clinics’ reports be a permanent part of the woman’s medical file.  This information about an abused woman’s family life endangers her and her children as long as it is part of her medical record.  According to the Supreme Court:
“Secrecy typically shrouds abusive families. Family members are instructed not to tell anyone, especially police or doctors, about the abuse and violence. Battering husbands often threaten their wives or her children with further abuse if she tells an outsider of the violence” (Id., at 889-890).
                It is a violation of Casey that a woman’s confessions to her doctor or to a clinic should be written down, passed between offices, made a permanent part of her medical file, and used as grounds for the state to deny her an abortion.

HB 1217’s coercive aspect is secondary to the more obvious point that the very purpose of HB 1217 is to create an undue burden, in violation of the law.  This bill is intelligently crafted in an attempt to hide behind Supreme Court jurisprudence. It imitates valid informed consent provisions.  I hope opponents will be able to see through the bill’s language, hopefully invoking legislative history and other smoking guns, to prove that HR 1217’s sole purpose and inevitable effect are an illegal undue burden on a woman’s right to choose.

Melanie Clatanoff is a member of the New York Bar and a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, where she was an active member of Law Students for Reproductive Justice.  She works for the federal government in Northern Virginia.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

SCR 1 - Honoring Crisis Pregnancy Centers

On January 26th SCR1 passed both the House and the Senate. SCR1 is a concurrent resolution intended to “honor “and protect South Dakota Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). Like most anti-choice bills and resolutions SCR1 is written in a way that the dangers are hidden within its subtlety. Among these dangers is a line in the resolution that discourages “national, state or local groups attempting to prevent pregnancy care centers from effectively serving women and men facing unplanned pregnancies.” This could greatly limit legitimate advocates from holding CPCs accountable for any further manipulation or misuse of funding.

 Many CPCs are advertised as a safe place for teens and women who are facing unplanned pregnancies where they will receive comprehensive care and balanced information about the options they have. Once a female seeks their alleged services they are given inaccurate and sensationalized information on abortion as an effort to coerce them into completing the pregnancy despite the potential ramifications on the female and their families. This kind of marketing is trickery aimed to manipulate females’ right to choose. This is a direct violation of their claims that they provide adequate services to females and families by “equipping them with complete and accurate information regarding their pregnancy options and the development of their unborn children.” The use of the term “unborn children” alone indicates the anti-choice philosophy that drives SCR1.

Misinformation being disseminated by many CPCs includes the usual go-to rhetoric utilized by the anti-choice movement such as: abortion causes depression, increases the chances of breast cancer and decreases the chances of later conception.  Although many CPCs are unlicensed organizations they make medical claims and conceal themselves as legitimate medical establishments. Females who are facing unplanned pregnancies are lured in by promises of receiving care only to have their fears taken advantage of and their perceptions manipulated. 

NARAL Pro-choice South Dakota and affiliates focus our honor on women and families not on deceptive CPCs. We are committed to assuring women receive adequate health care and education.  We do not support the actions taken in SCR1 which potentially further limits access to reproductive healthcare,  increases the number of unplanned pregnancies and leaves vulnerable females and families having to negotiate their way through heavy-handed propaganda techniques that detour them from their right to choose.

-Catherine Fiss
Communications Intern
NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blog For Choice Post: Are You Concerned For Choice in 2011?

 Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?
Yes. I’m concerned about choice every year. For every pro-choice proponent tracking activity surrounding clinical services, legislation, and education there is an anti-choice advocate passionately working against our right to choose.  I suspect the year 2011 will be deceptively quiet all the while having a constant flow of anti-choice activism behind the scenes whose work we will not see demonstrated until 2012. As prochoice advocates we cannot be diligent only during open sessions or election years. We must remember the ways in which females and their rights are being accosted on a daily basis by people and through discourse. Whether we are working with a pro-choice or anti-choice majority, females are being harassed outside abortion providing clinics, abortion providers have to watch their backs for anti-choice zealots and females have to negotiate their way around some pharmacists who cite their personal religious beliefs as the reason they refuse to distribute safe and effective contraception.  Birth centers who advertise to pregnant youth by falsely claiming they present all options will remain in operation, in some states parental notification laws will still force teens to carry through with an unwanted pregnancy, anti-choice propaganda will remain readily available in all media, and abstinence only curriculum will continue to be taught.
I currently live in South Dakota. Anyone who has followed anti-choice legislation is well aware of who and what South Dakota is up against. There have been two attempts to ban abortion here in South Dakota, one in 2006 and the other in 2008. Both failed, but barely. The 2006 attempt included a ban on abortion for rape victims when that failed, the language of the 2008 proposed bill attempted to appear less harsh on women by excluding rape victims from the ban. Because that failed as well, I believe South Dakota can expect another attempt to ban abortion with strategic efforts to word the bill in such a way that will appeal to the less than 10% of voters whose votes ultimately stopped the bill from passing. Yes. I am concerned about choice every year.
-Catherine Fiss
Communications Intern
NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota

Note:  Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, Alisha Sedor, had the following to add:

“Though we have seen anti-choice gains in an already anti-choice legislature, NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota is not disheartened.  We have fought to keep reproductive healthcare safe and accessible in South Dakota and will continue to do so in this unfavorable political climate.  The citizens of South Dakota have spoken on this issue more than once, and it is clear that they oppose government interference in a woman’s right to choose.  With the support of our members and friends, we will continue to work to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices.”