Fall 2004
The Quarterly E-Newsletter of ACCESS/Women's Health Rights Coalition

Dear Friend,
Greetings from ACCESS! Fall has arrived and ACCESS has exciting news to share. First, we can now send our new quarterly e-newsletter directly to your inbox. As someone's who's requested an electronic version of our newsletter, you will now receive our e-newsletter instead of a paper version. But if you prefer a paper version, just let us know!

Second, we've started a new Email List! You can receive action alerts, ACCESS updates and invitations to events, and other relevant info every month or two. We will be sending an "opt-in" message to your email address soon so you can choose to join (or not!). Please encourage your friends, family, co- workers and classmates to join as well!


News You Can Use--Reproductive Rights Updates
Health Care in Cuba
Celebrate 5 Years with Parker
Women Can Decide Elections
Making Choice a Reality...Haciendo Realidad La Opcion
Choose to Shop!

News You Can Use
Reproductive Rights Updates
Abortion Ban Struck Down
On September 8th, the third and final ruling on the abortion ban cases was decided in Nebraska. Judges in all three challenges (the other two were in San Francisco and New York) agreed that the "Partial- Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003" is unconstitutional. Appeals are expected all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose future composition of judges will likely be decided by the next president.

Maternity Benefits: Optional?
A bill on Governor Schwarzenegger's desk would-if signed into law-require all individual health insurance plans to include maternity benefits. SB 1555 responds to the growing practice of health insurance companies to offer cheaper premiums to people who decline maternity coverage. Opponents of the bill, such as Blue Cross of California, say it's unfair to pass the costs of maternity coverage onto society because not everyone will become pregnant and use such benefits. If SB 1515 is signed into law, Blue Cross predicts that individual premiums could rise as much as 40%. In a time where health insurance is already financially out of reach for millions of Californians, this is a serious concern.

However, supporters of the bill, including Planned Parenthood and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, argue that rising health care costs are due to many factors and that excluding maternity benefits discriminates against women. It also jeopardizes the health of women and children by encouraging women to gamble that they will not need prenatal care-when in reality, nearly half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned.

Women who opt for a cheaper plan without maternity coverage and then become unexpectedly pregnant find themselves with a "pre-existing condition" - leaving them solely responsible for the large medical bills associated with prenatal care and delivery. If unable to pay, many women receive less than adequate care or turn to already over-burdened state programs like AIM and Medi-Cal for assistance.

Paid Family Leave in CA
A new law in California allows most employees to take up to six weeks off from work to care for a new infant, newly adopted child, or a sick spouse or parent while receiving up to 55% of their regular pay. The first of its kind in the nation, the law requires that a doctor verify a serious illness or a new child, and workers must provide verification that no other family member can serve as caregiver. Former Gov. Gray Davis signed the law over two years ago, and since January of this year, California workers have been paying into a fund for the law through payroll deductions. Unfortunately, a recent study found that the people most likely to benefit from the new law, especially women of childbearing age, are the least likely to be aware of the law's existence. Although not yet widely used, Family Leave is expected to provide some relief for those who have had to choose between work and family, especially working parents- to-be.

Plan B over-the-counter?
As you may remember, in May the FDA rejected over- the-counter status of the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, despite the recommendations of two FDA advisory panels. Despite rumors that the FDA will reverse its decision by the end of the year, most advocates are skeptical that a ruling will take place before the election, since a reverse decision could anger conservatives. To show the FDA that you support emergency contraception over-the-counter, visit the Feminist Majority's web site and send a message to the FDA at www.feminist.org/action/.

GOP Rejects 'Unity Plank'
The Republican Party platform committee rejected a proposed 'unity plank' that would have acknowledged that some Republicans have different views on abortion, contraception and gay and lesbian issues. The GOP rejected the plank in favor of more vague language: "members of our party can have deeply held and sometimes differing views." The committee also voted to endorse a constitutional ban on abortion and applauded George W. Bush's restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research.

Health Care in Cuba
By Joan Flores
My summer vacation had a little bit of the usual- beautiful beaches, loud festive music, a cocktail here and there. In between "summer vacation" antics, however, I had an opportunity to get a glimpse of a different kind of health care system, one that treats a woman's reproductive health pretty differently than is done here.

This past July, I (along with 77 other folks from the U.S.) spent two weeks in Cuba as part of a travel challenge against the U.S. economic embargo and travel restrictions placed on the island. During the trip, we visited schools, clinics, and organic urban gardens, and we met with women's groups, unions, and student associations.

It was a truly eye-opening experience to witness so many different parts of Cuban life, but I was most impressed by Cuba's health care system. In spite of the country's limited resources, Cuba has managed to create a system of care that rivals that of "developed" nations.

Access to health care is a basic human right that is extended to everyone in Cuba, free of charge. People can visit their neighborhood consultation center for a general check-up, information on nutrition or safe sex, or to have their child immunized. Polyclinics exist in each community and treat a variety of health issues from abortion to high blood pressure. And there are of course hospitals for more serious illnesses and treatments.

I had the chance to speak with a few doctors and nurses about abortion, birth control, and other reproductive health issues-abortion training is part of the "general education" curriculum that doctors study in medical school, so all doctors are trained to provide abortions, no matter what their specialty is. Abortion in Cuba is generally legal up to 9-10 weeks. During the first 6 weeks, a woman can get regulaciones menstruales, or menstrual extraction; from 6 to 10 weeks, a vacuum aspirator is used. Abortions past 10 weeks but up to 20 weeks are also legal, but only under certain circumstances.

Health care professionals emphasized that prevention is very important in Cuba. Birth control methods like the pill, Depo shots, the IUD, Norplant, and condoms are available at neighborhood clinics and polyclinics, for free. Public education is equally important; "PSAs" on the radio and television teach the public about STIs, AIDS, safe sex, and other sexual health issues. Posters and murales (bulletin boards) provide information on anything from breast cancer to healthy relationships.

But issues of access also plague the Cuban health care system. The economic embargo placed on Cuba over 40 years ago has meant that medical equipment, medicine, and other supplies have to be donated to the country or purchased from "third party" countries at extremely high prices. Much of the equipment I saw at clinics is ancient compared to what you'd find here. One reason why abortion generally cannot be performed past 10 weeks is because the vacuums used are very old and pose health risks to women. Medical supplies as basic as surgical steel needles are hard to come by in a country that cannot trade directly with the U.S

As I chatted with doctors and nurses, visited clinics, and spoke with "everyday" women, it became apparent that many of the things we are working for here at ACCESS already exist in Cuba. I know that despite a health care system that truly puts people before profit, there are many issues and problems that Cubans and their country deal with. But witnessing Cuba's health care system instilled in me the belief that anything is possible. That's an important belief to hold onto, considering the many obstacles to health, peace, and justice that we witness at ACCESS and beyond!

If you have medical supplies or medicine that you can donate to benefit the health care system of Cuba, please contact me at joan@whrc-access.org or (510) 923-0739.

Celebrate 5 Years with Parker
Join the ACCESS Fundraising Challenge
August 2004 marked (Jennifer) Parker's 5th Anniversary as Executive Director of ACCESS. To celebrate this special occasion, "Jane"-an anonymous donor-has given a generous gift of $5,000 to ACCESS! Jane has also challenged ACCESS to raise another $5,000 in matching funds from our supporters, and we need your help!

Parker came to ACCESS as a volunteer back in 1996, then worked as the Hotline & Practical Support Coordinator and spent one year on the Board of Directors. As Executive Director, Parker has tirelessly worked to make ACCESS what it is today-a grassroots, multicultural organization fighting on the frontlines of the reproductive freedom movement.

Help ACCESS meet JANE'S challenge and celebrate Parker's 5th anniversary-make a gift of $25, $50, $100 or more by clicking on the "Donate Now" button on our homepage!

Women Can Decide Elections
Vote on November 2nd
On August 26, 1920 the 19th Amendment declared that the right to vote cannot be denied on the basis of sex.

Yet in the 2000 Election, almost 40% of eligible women voters - including 15 million women aged 18-34 - chose not to use their power to vote.

Women can decide elections. Your vote is your voice-let them hear you!

In California you must register to vote by October 18th for information on how to register or to get involved in voter registration activities contact ACCESS at joan@whrc-access.org.

Making Choice A Reality...
Haciendo Realidad La Opcion
"Tiffany" called ACCESS fearing that at 14 weeks she was too far along to get a safe abortion. Our hotline intern Janet explained to Tiffany that she was still well within the time frame to have the procedure. Tiffany was particularly anxious about experiencing pain during the abortion and was relieved to hear of the different types of anesthesia available to her. At the end of the conversation, Janet sensed that Tiffany still had some doubts, and encouraged Tiffany to call back any time if she wanted to talk more.

A young Stockton woman called in search of an abortion referral. When ACCESS intern Alexis asked how she planned to pay for her abortion, the woman said her mother was going to pay for the procedure because a Medi-Cal worker had told her it would take 40 to 45 days to receive coverage. Alexis explained that she could apply for Emergency Medi-Cal, which would allow her to get insurance within a few days and schedule her abortion without delay. The young woman was relieved-her mother earned minimum wage and did not have a lot of money. Alexis encouraged the woman to call back if she needed more referrals or if she experienced any problems obtaining Medi-Cal.

"Rocio," a teen from the Central Valley, wanted to begin taking birth control pills but could not afford to pay for it. She was concerned that her parents would not approve and could not ask them for the money. Hotline intern Becca told Rocio about Family PACT, a comprehensive family planning service for low income women and men. Becca provided a list of doctors and clinics participating in FamilyPACT and encouraged Rocio to call them. Becca also described the various other methods of birth control available-the patch, the ring and Depo Provera. Rocio was very thankful for her help.

Alma received a call from "Carla," a 19 year-old mother-to-be. She needed information on housing for low income pregnant women. Alma gave her information about Section 8, a federal program of housing vouchers that are distributed locally. She also told Carla about WIC, a program that benefits women, infants and children with funds for healthy and nutritional foods as well as other important information and services. Alma explained that Social Services could help Carla apply for these programs and gave her local telephone numbers to call.

Sonia de 18 a�s de edad, llam�a ACCESS desde Visalia porque estaba embarazada y necesitaba informaci� sobre donde encontrar un proveedor de los servicios de aborto. Sonia vive con sus padres y ten� seguro m�ico por medio de ellos, pero no quer� usarlo por temor a que se enterar� de su embarazo y la corrieran de casa. Alma entendi�su dilema, y le inform�sobre el Medical de Emergencia bajo el Programa de Consentimiento del Menor (seguro m�ico estatal que cubre los servicios relacionados con embarazo), en el cual no se requiere el consentimiento de los padres y se respeta la confidencialidad del menor.

Una adolescente de nombre Roc�, llam�a ACCESS desde el Valle; porque quer� comenzar a tomar la pildora anticonceptiva pero no pod� pagar por ella. No quer� pedir dinero a sus padres porque tem� que no lo aprobaran. Becca, una interna en ACCESS le explic�a Roc� sobre Family PACT (programa estatal que cubre los servicios de planificaci� familiar y de salud reproductiva). Becca la provey�con una lista de participantes del programa y la alent�a que obtuviera anticonceptivos de manera gratuita. Adem�, le describi�los diferentes m�odos anticonceptivos disponibles -el parche, el anillo y Depo (inyecci�). Roc� agradeci�a Becca por su ayuda.

Choose to Shop
ACCESS goodies now available online!
Wear your commitment for reproductive freedom with a t-shirt, hoodie, messenger bag, and more from ACCESS!

Each time you shop at our on-line store, ACCESS will receive a portion of your purchases. Choose from different sizes and styles, or find a special gift for a friend, child, or your dog!

phone: 510-923-0739; 510-923-0822

ACCESS Mission Statement
ACCESS exists to make reproductive health and freedom a concrete reality for all women. We believe that women's right to make our own reproductive and sexual decisions is fundamental to our full social, economic and political equality. ACCESS opposes coercive population control efforts and views reproductive freedom, including access to abortion, as a social justice and human rights issue.

Shailushi Baxi, MPH
Raquel Donoso, MPH
Jerrie Meadows
Ellen Schwerin, MPH
Andy Shie-Kee Wong

Alma Avila-Pilchman
Joan Flores
(Jennifer) Parker, MSW