7 Disruptive Ways to Celebrate Mothers’ Day

It’s about time that we looked at Mothers Day expansively and rocked the boat. Lots of positive vibes could be set in motion. Some of my thoughts:

1.     Press for action and donate to organizations devoted to preventing unnecessary maternal deaths around the world and in the United States.

 Every Mother Counts is worthy of your donation, as are numerous other organizations, including Samahope, WeActx, the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, Partners in Health, and undoubtedly many more. India and Nigeria account for more than one-third of the world’s reported maternal deaths, but maternal deaths are far too high in many countries and are rising in the United States.

Expedited training of skilled birth attendants, access to emergency obstetrical care, ultrasound, promotion of prenatal care, and access to safe abortion are urgently needed. According to the World Health Organizations, the major complications that account for 80% of all maternal deaths are:severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth); infections (usually after childbirth); high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia); and unsafe abortion.

In the United States, maternal death rates are rising. Efforts to lower maternal deaths need to be comprehensive and target risk factors and environmental barriers to care. State differences, shown here, are striking. Disparities by race and class are also important. In the United States, since 2011, the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011 has been floating around Washington. It would establish accountability, fight maternal health disparities, and combat severe maternal complications. Ask your representative to co-sponsor the bill and get it through.

2.     Buy a copy of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves for your mom or a friend’s mom.

This book, compared to the landmark Our Bodies, Ourselves, looks like it could radically inform and transform views on transgender people. I have seen excerpts and I am very impressed. The Washington Post review is extremely positive. Let’s not let transgender equality lag behind. Think outside of the box: don’t forget that trans moms are out there.

3. Press your elected officials for a national long-term care policy for our moms and dads.

Please, don’t turn the page here. The safety net is failing our aging moms—and dads for that matter—and yes the population is getting older. Think about it: are you going to be able to support your parents? Will they be able to support themselves? (I won’t bore you with the obvious here.) We need a comprehensive, national long term care policy.

Older Women’s League National Mothers Day Report 2014, released Friday, points out:

“The American public still lacks understanding about long-term care; where it occurs, how to plan for it, and why comprehensive, thoughtful, and rational long-term care policy is of importance to all Americans.” 

The Report can help you get up to speed on how we could create and sustain a long-term care system that permits Americans to remain financially solvent, independent, and with a decent quality of life.

4.     Move beyond thinking about mother’s day with a narrow compass. Single moms, lesbian, gay, and transgender moms, and moms with HIV, are just some of the groups overlooked in traditional mother’s day celebrations. Shake up the usual mother’s day celebrations by including them.

 5.     Donate or volunteer to stop restrictions to abortion access in the United States and around the world. Every pregnant woman cannot go through a pregnancy.

A recent article by @irincarmon addressed the end of abortion access in the South. Of course, we know that this is far from the only restriction out there. Consider donating to abortion access projects. Here are some ideas: the National Network of Abortion Funds  A few others that you might want to consider are listed here: Texas , North Carolina, and in Kansas, the SouthWinds Women’s Center, where George Tiller worked.

Globally, access to safe abortion –all too often– does not exist. I addressed the outrageous roadblocks that Beatriz faced in El Salvador last year in getting access to abortion. Her story is emblematic of countries that have been firmly opposed to abortion as a basic human right. Donate to the groups linked to above, which can save women’s lives.

6.     Keep the pressure up to #bringbackour girls every day.

Take the pressure to your elected officials, to twitter, to Facebook. Stay informed. I wish I had a solution that would bring these girls back. If you have ideas, please put them in the comments.

7.     Make a yearlong commitment to the fight for equity and women’s health by volunteering in campaigns or donating what you can afford. Many organizations are happy to get donations as small as $5 a month.


Hope that you take time to comment below!

 …and now for a moment of shameless self promotion! There’s been a hiatus on PatientPOV. Writing about ways to disrupt healthcare, end inequality, and build social change is my first love, but I cannot afford to do work like this without $ support. Contact me @lauranewmanny for paid writing opportunities or support this blog with a Paypal donation above.


5 Wild Healthcare Stories Happening Right Now

In my journal of “healthcare is going to hell in a handbasket” this week, I’ve got a few items that will either make you laugh or cry. Hopefully, after that, you’ll mobilize yourself to fight for equity in health care and for penalizing the crooks. Here are five absurdities in healthcare that you won’t want to miss:

1. Severe Memory Loss. That’s the explanation John Reynolds, former CEO (1997 to 2006) of the illustrious Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, gave in his court appearance. He pleaded guilty to a $300K kickback scheme involving two hospital vendors and a British healthcare organization. Will “severe memory loss” be the avant garde explanation for corruption?  You have to wonder. As the New York Daily News reported, he’ll probably serve no more than 27 to 33 months, according to Federal guidelines.

According to Crains NY Business, the case was puzzling: Reynolds was one of New York City’s top-paid hospital CEOs. In his final year at the Hospital for Special Surgery, his salary was $1.3 million. When he retired, he got $1.4 million in severance.

2. “Choose Life” license plates. I didn’t know much about these until Felice Freyer, from the Providence Journal, Providence, R.I., tweeted earlier this month that the Rhode Island Legislature had authorized “Choose Life” vanity license plates. Here’s one from Texas.

It turns out, that the highly regarded Guttmacher Institute provides a nice overview of these license plates, noting that as of July 2013, 28 states have them. In what I consider a cruel irony, Guttmacher reports: “In some cases, money generated from their sale directly supports the activities of antichoice organizations or crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which often provide biased and medically inaccurate counseling to women seeking a pregnancy test or counseling with regard to an unintended pregnancy.” Think about it: is this constitutional or an acceptable use of state involvement? Is there some murky mix of church and state, endorsement of a political agenda? Reproductive rights groups have challenged the proliferation of these plates in some states, and successfully.

You know what I’d like to see: A “Choose Choice” vanity license plate. But I don’t have a car, and honestly, I don’t want to die because of some anti-nut. Note: since publishing this, Marilyn Mann points out in the comments below that opposing licensing plates have been approved in a handful of states. In addition, Providence Journal’s Felice J. Freyer reports that Governor Lincoln Chafee has vetoed the “Choose Life” license plates. 

3. More abortion regulation insanity (when you thought you heard it all). Here’s a new spin on state abortion-laws that are unconstitutional and outrageous. In Kansas, if you work in an abortion clinic, you cannot chaperone your kid’s class on a school trip, involve yourself in purchase of healthcare books, or in any way represent the School Board. You are drek and better stay away from school kids. The ACLU is fighting this as unconstitutional, along with the numerous other abortion-restrictive laws in Kansas. Carol Joffee does a good job here describing this section of Kansas abortion law.

4. “Obesity stigma du jour” – that’s what @stevesilberman calls this decision by the National Boy Scouts to ban obese Boy Scouts from its annual Boy Scout Jamboree.

Gee, America is the land of excess. I sure wish we’d go after corporate America more for the excesses than to take it out on those low on the food chain. How many more “blame the victim” for excesses are we going to have to see? And. as for the Boy Scouts, how many more fiascoes are they going to be involved in? Add this one to the Gay Boy Scout debacle and the organization could soon be history.

I’ll pass on the macaroons for now.

5. Looking forward to the health exchanges? Think again. This one makes me sad. This just in from today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Large insurers in Missouri are opting out of health exchanges. What anybody who wants decent insurance does NOT want are health plans with absolutely zip experience in insuring large populations.

Plus earlier this year, Trudy Lieberman reported that the model health exchange in Connecticut was deemed unaffordable. Kind of makes me cringe. This is the tip of the iceberg. I am hoping it’s growing pains as Lieberman calls it. The Accountable Care Act was looking like the next big advance after Medicare. But lots of powers are out to sabotage it. Vigilance, my friends!

Do you have an absurd story about U.S. healthcare to tell? Tell me your story. You can send me an email to “patientpov” at gmail dot com. I’ll be sure to credit you.

We Need to Recognize Conscience
In Provision of Reproductive Services

The Obama Administration made a concession to Catholic leaders yesterday, bowing to conscience-based refusals to subsidize contraception coverage. At the same time, a compromise was struck enabling women who work for Catholic nonprofit institutions to use separate insurance plans independent from the church to obtain coverage for contraception at no out-of-pocket cost. The National Health Law Program stated: “Today’s announcement is largely a victory for women who have been fighting alongside health advocates for the past two years while employers threatened to deny women coverage for birth control in the courts and as lawmakers attacked and resisted implementation. No employer should be able to make personal decisions for their employees, including whether or when a woman is able to access birth control.”

However, the conscience-based contraception and abortion refusers are unlikely to let rulings like this stick. They promise to keep pressing for exemptions to providing reproductive services based on conscience.

But the Catholic Church does not have a monopoly on conscience. I neglected to cover an important New England Journal of Medicine Perspectives piece last fall, also overlooked by the mainstream press by Lisa H. Harris, MD, PhD.  Harris drew attention to recognizing conscience in abortion provision.

Harris pointed to “an ongoing false dichotomization of abortion and conscience, making it appear that all abortion opponents support legal protections of conscience and all supporters of abortion rights oppose such protections, with little nuance in either position.” What perpetuating this falsehood has done is permitted laws that fail to protect caregivers who are compelled by conscience to offer care, rather than refuse it, Harris argues.

Like many readers, I cannot believe that we are back to trying preserve the legalization of abortion and access to contraceptive care services. Day after day, roadblocks to reproductive care services are introduced, many claiming moral superiority, we need to underscore, as Harris and many others before her have done, that before the legalization of abortion, providers performed abortions “for reasons of conscience.”

Harris points out that before abortion was legal, many providers rallied to provide safe abortions to prevent women from dying from self-induced abortions and abortions provided by unskilled providers. This was a matter of conscience. Today, Harris explains, “abortion providers working within the law continue to describe their work in moral terms as “right and good and important” and articulate that the failure to offer abortion care generates a crisis of conscience.” It’s a moral imperative that underlies belief in “women’s reproductive autonomy as the linchpin of full personhood and self determination.”

On one hand, I am glad that the compromise yesterday ensures that women who work for religious organizations will be able to gain the same access to contraception as other women. However, I think we must continue to press for equitable access to contraception for all women. If we must work around conscience-based refusals, it is high time that we recognized conscience-based provision of reproductive care services.

At Last, Women’s Essential Health
Benefits Now In Health Reform

This is a great day for women’s health — and we need many more like these as we go forward. The day has come when health reform is actually helping women, giving women parity with men. I’ll be running a guest post directly in front of this today more in the spirit of this blog, from the patient’s point of view.

It’s ironic that this blog has taken up so much ink on prostate cancer recently, because I have been involved in pushing for women’s health for decades, before Roe v. Wade, home pregnancy tests, the HPV vaccine, and even HIV.

We really need to join forces to make sure that the #waronwomen is stopped in its tracks.

Abortion must remain legal without obstacles. The mandatory ultrasound, waiting periods, psych consults, need to stop. We need our contraception, and well woman visits.

We need to expose who is behind these regressive policies and get them out of our lives. Enuf said. Don’t sit still. Organize. Stay tuned for guest blog.