Friday, April 4, 2014

Emergency Actions to Stop the War on Women

Dear Friends:

I’m inviting you to come to a program, “Emergency Actions to Stop the War on Women” on April 11, 2014. This program will be presented in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago.  If you cannot attend this program in person, you can watch the New York City Program webcast on at 7-9:30 P.M. EDT

In Los Angeles, you are invited to participate in a Bloody Coat-Hanger Street Action at 1:00 P.M. on April 12, 2014.  This action will be at the Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Avenue.

I agree with that the time is now to raise our voices to protest the state regulation that is forcing the closure of abortion clinics in Texas right now, and may soon be forcing the closure of abortion clinics in Mississippi if the 5th Circuit Court finds the same clinic regulation (clinic doctor has to be on staff of hospital within 30 miles of clinic) to be constitutional on April 28th.

Even if this particular regulation is found to be unconstitutional, the War on Women is raging and the time is now to organize protests and other types of events or social actions to push back against the offensive.

I hope that’s call for action will spark many women and men to become involved.  Right now, they’re the only group that is putting their computer aside for a few hours to leaflet, organize, hold programs and get out in the streets. 

When I started working to get abortion repealed in 1969, there was a lively interest in the broader community in decriminalizing abortion, but we had to go out to speak to various groups, hold demonstrations and even learn how to do abortions ourselves, so I know only too well how much has to be done.  I see that after 40 years, we need to rekindle the fire!

Hope you can attend either a program or the webcast.

Carol Downer

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hyde Amendment Alert

By Carol Downer

This September, President Obama will be presenting next year’s proposed budget to Congress. Last year, he included the Hyde Amendment language! This year, we must not let this go without objection. He needs to submit a “clean bill”. We have 6 months to plan campaign. 

More specific information about the Hyde Amendment and what women are doing about it coming soon with my report on the Women’s Policy Summit.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

About Us: Women's Health in Women's Hands is a project of Women’s Health Specialists in Northern California. Carol Downer heads up the project.

WHWH director, Carol Downer
Carol co-founded the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Los Angeles in 1971. The FWHC pioneered the “self-help clinic”, a type of meeting in which women learned vaginal self-examination using a plastic speculum. They travelled around the country sharing the self-help clinic concept forming a loose network of on-going self-help groups. After Roe v. Wade, self-help women across the country started women-controlled abortion clinics and joined together in the Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers. The Federation clinics influenced most abortion practitioners to abandon the old-fashioned “D&C” (dilation and curettage) procedure for the less traumatic vacuum aspiration method using smaller, flexible plastic instruments. They also fought TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) that would have blocked the establishment of abortion clinics.

The Federation has produced slide shows and films, and has published several women’s health books, A New View of a Woman’s Body”, “How to Stay Out of the Gynecologist’s Office”, “Women-Centered Pregnancy and Birth” and “A Woman’s Book of Choices”.

Women’s Health Specialists, WHWH Sponsor
WHS has six sites in northern California, which provides an array of women’s health services, predominantly birth control and abortion and adoption since 1975. WHS was a co-founder of the Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers in 1975.

Chico FWHC 1975
WHS, originally the Chico Feminist Women’s Health Center, was formed by 8 women in Chico. The immediately successful health center quickly gained acceptance in the rural community where the California State University at Chico is located, however they fought a legal battle against local physicians to force them to provide back-up for their clients who may experience complications requiring hospital facilities. Later, the staff successfully defended itself against charges of fraud from the Republican administration of Deukmajian. Some of the later attacks are well-publicized, like the ongoing raucous, hate-spewing protests from anti-abortionists and violent attacks like stink bombs and arson which destroyed the Redding WHS twice. Others, like repeated ill-founded investigations by the State Department of Health and Welfare attract less notice from the media, but require vigorous, lengthy and expensive defense efforts by the staff, its legal counsel, its board and its supporters. Throughout this tumultuous history of attack and victory, the Chico FWHC has expanded to become the Northern California WHS with 6 sites and enjoys the respect of pro-choice legislators, law enforcement agencies, other providers of women’s health services, and women in the community.

Many other women-controlled clinics, including most of the FWHC’s, closed during the 80’s. Today, Feminist Women’s Health Centers are located in Washington State, California and Georgia. There are 13 women-controlled clinics in the Feminist Abortion Network, FAN.

This website is designed to provide women with the information to control her own body, to counter centuries of systematic attack by patriarchal institutions against women’s freedom to enjoy their sexuality and to control their reproduction. When women share our sexual and reproductive experiences frankly and openly in a supportive environment, we cast off the invisible shackles caused by shame and ignorance, and are empowered to remake the world according to feminist values, such as equality between all people, social justice, and promoting a society that creates a healthy environment and nurtures our children.

A Gentle Revolution
WHWH believes that it is a revolutionary act for a woman to learn to use a speculum, a mirror and a light to look at her own cervix, and to share this knowledge with other women. “Women’s Health in Women’s Hands” means educating ourselves about our bodies and our healthy functioning, and helping each other, so that we are empowered consumers. WHWH also means establishing women’s clinics to provide abortions and birth control or birth centers; it means using self-help principles to become midwives, doulas, and lactation consultants to rebuild the knowledge and lore of natural childbirth.

FULL SPECTRUM has a Pro-Woman Agenda which comes from the perspective that in order for a woman to control her sexuality and reproduction, she must enjoy the full spectrum of her sexual and reproductive rights. opposes all state restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, whether it be laws prohibiting or forcing abortion or those prohibiting pregnant women choosing work or lifestyles that might pose risks to her fetus, or laws limiting women’s options in the birthing process.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hyde Amendment Update

By Carol Downer

New Hyde Amendment--never discussed in Committee, much less debated on the floor of the Senate--and only discussed in Democratic-dominated Committee in the House last Friday and resulting in the decision of the Republican-dominated Committee to send a favorable “message bill” including the provisions that would expand last year’s Hyde Amendment.  This “message bill”, which doesn’t legally constitute an amendment, apparently wafted through the Halls of Congress and landed on the desks of the top level congressional negotiators to become a rider on the omnibus spending bill which will be voted on by both houses by this Saturday

The negotiations between the “appropriators” from both houses were secret, but everyone speculates that they vigorously debated this and other controversial items, and the language in the bipartisan spending bill contains the provisions of the democrat-sponsored Senate bill, S.142, and some, but not all of the provisions of the House H.R.7.  Significantly, the part of the message bill that died along the way was the provision to interfere with the provision of abortion coverage by private insurance companies.  Not coincidentally, this provision would have expanded Hyde to ban coverage to middle-class women who have insurance coverage.  Medicaid-eligible poor women and many women of color have once again been left out in the cold.

So, what are we to conclude?  Once again, despite the new and very welcome efforts of the All Above All organizations, including strong leadership from organizations of women of color, this anti-woman legislation has passed without the fingerprints of the legislators.  Once again, we’re told that the Democratic Party, who most of us faithfully support, has done its best.  Has it?

The Hyde Amendment has done more harm to the unity and strength of our women’s movement than all the right-wing fanatic attacks combined, because we have not made the fight against it the top priority.  After the significant but not unmarred victory of Roe v. Wade, Henry Hyde figured out a way to finagle his way through the congressional maze to strike a grievous blow against American women.  He used the ancient tactic of “divide and conquer”.  This idea of attaching the legislation to the appropriations bill was brilliant; it put congress members, both Democrats and Republicans, in the position of having to vote the budget down in order to defeat the ban on abortion funding.  But, over the 37 years that have passed since the Hyde Amendment slid through, both Democrats and Republicans have obviously had to cooperate in order for this strategy to work.  After all, both parties have had ups and downs, and the Democratic Party, which has a pro-choice platform, has enjoyed sessions where they had much more power than today, but still they winked at the legislative sleight of hand.

In the meantime, women’s organizations and abortion providers have all worked very hard to ameliorate the impact of the Hyde Amendment.  Many abortion providers offer sliding scale fees and both local and national fund-raising efforts have been able to offer full or partial help to women who could not afford their abortion.  THESE EFFORTS HAVE BEEN BAND-AIDS ON THE WOUNDS OF AN UNJUST SYSTEM.  Many individual women have been helped, but the fact remains that the Republican Party has been successful in keeping poor women and women of color down, and the Democratic Party has participated in this devious legislative charade to throw poor women under the bus in the name of the larger needs of the Democratic Party.

But, social injustice is only part of the harm.  Another, equally important is that we allowed the anti-abortion forces to separate us; of dividing us by race and class. 

We need to get real about this fight.  It’s not enough to decry the Hyde Amendment.  All Above All is correct in identifying the racist and classist Achilles Heel of the white, middle-class women’s movement, but we will make the same mistake today if we don’t go past this necessary step and start making the pro-choice advocates stop being apologists for the Democratic Party.    

We have to insist that they throw a spotlight on the back room deals.  We need to question the automatic support of the democratic candidate, especially if he’s anti-choice.  Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania may have personal feelings toward abortion.  He may even exercise those convictions by choosing to vote to outlaw abortion.  That’s something he’ll have to explain to his constituency.  But when he takes the lead in proposing Hyde Amendment legislation (S.142), then he is colluding with this deceptive process where bills are proposed and never get out of committee, but end up magically being hidden in the Budget Bill, so that Democrats can merely pretend to recognize the fundamental right of a woman to control her body, but vote for anti-abortion legislation. 

We must hold the Democratic National Committee accountable for supporting a Democratic legislator who is actively working against their pro-choice platform.

September is our next opportunity to force our pro-choice advocates in Washington, D.C., to stop pleading political expediency to justify their silence.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hyde Amendment - Where Is It Now?

By Carol Downer

Where is this year’s version of the Hyde Amendment, a rider that Congress tacks on the Appropriations Bill?  In the House, it was in the “Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice” until Thursday, January 9, until Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton announced that the Republican-controlled Committee had decided to send a “message bill”, a way that gets around having to send the proposed legislation to the full House for debate and a vote.

Norton shed a spotlight on the hearing on this nasty piece of proposed legislation which expands the usual Hyde Amendment prohibition of federal monies to fund Medicaid abortions, when she spoke from the House floor to complain about the Committee’s chairman,Trent Franks (R) not having permitted her to speak before the Committee hearing even though her district would be directly impacted by the proposed bill which would prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women, and define the D.C. government as part of the federal government for the purposes of abortion.

In the Senate, the Hyde Amendment has been lying dormant in the “Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee” since January 24, 2013.  This legislation’s sponsor is Senator Robert “Bob” Casey, Jr. (D, PA). Casey, this Democrat who is a liberal on all other issues than abortion, was given the dubious honor of leading the Democrat-controlled Senate in this war on women.

Now, leaders of both parties are expected to meet secretly and hammer out a much-delayed budget agreement and avoid another government shutdown. Somehow the House and Senate Appropriations Bills will appear magically containing some or all of the prohibitions of abortion funding listed in these two bills with no legislator’s name on it, and most, if not all, of the members of the House and the Senate will okay the budget.

Once again, the Hyde Amendment will get its annual lease on life, and we won’t be able to hold anyone accountable except the outspoken anti-choice legislators.

Whenever a pro-choice advocate talks about “repealing” the Hyde Amendment, you can bet that they know that the Hyde Amendment is a rider that lives only a year and it has to be re-attached each year, but they don’t want to risk revealing that for 38 years, no matter who was in power in the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats have voted for it.

The old saying is that no one would eat sausage if they could see how it’s made. This week - the money runs out Wednesday - the sausage-making is happening, and women will be the losers.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Women's Health in Women's Hands

In 1973, feminists scored a victory for women’s reproductive rights in the courts with Roe v. Wade.  For almost 40 years, the courts have mostly upheld those rights.  Those same 40 years, state and federal legislatures have waged a relentless battle against these rights, mostly successful in withholding federal funding for abortion and forcing minors to get parental consent, but otherwise unable to bar abortion. 
Today, legislatures are scoring victories.  Clinics in Texas have been shut down, pending further court review of restrictive regulations.  So, the masses of women must cease to rely solely on the courts and abortion advocates fighting in the courts and doing lobbying in the state and federal capitols.  We must take the issue to the streets or to other mass protest methods.
Our protests must be focused and directed.  We need to identify the who, the what, the where and the when of these legislative attacks.
- Carol Downer

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December Newsletter: Hyde Amendment, OC NWPC Report, and Next Meeting
Women's Health in Women's Hands
December Newsletter

Women’s Health in Women’s Hands is a website by Carol Downer.  It features DIY Gynecology, with lots of woman-to-woman information about our reproductive and sexual anatomy, choices in the birth setting and breastfeeding, safe and effective birth control, abortion, menstruation, menopause, and menstrual extraction—told frankly from an independent woman’s point of view.

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Newsletter Features:

  • Orange County National Women’s Political Caucus Gathering/Presentation (Report by Carol Downer)
  • UNFINISHED BATTLE DISCUSSION GROUP in Los Angeles, CA (Note: Meeting postponed til January 11, 2014)