Spring 2006
The Quarterly E-Newsletter of ACCESS

Dear Friend,

We hope you enjoy our spring newsletter!! Lots of great things have been happening with ACCESS, and in this issue you can read more about our Board of Directors, recent and upcoming community events, and recent stories from our hotline. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of distressing news to report from the reproductive rights world - we've tried to highlight a few of the most pressing or interesting issues here.

It has never been more important for people to speak openly about abortion and work together to provide real reproductive options for women. Thank you for being part of the ACCESS community and the fight to make reproductive choice a reality! We couldn't do it without you. :) Parker

- Meet the ACCESS Board of Directors
- Reproductive Rights News You Can Use
- ACCESS Around Town: Community Events
- Real Women, Real Choices... Life on the Hotline
- How Your Donation Makes Choice A Reality

Meet Our Board of Directors!
A fabulous new team of leaders
Over the past year, ACCESS has nearly doubled the size of our Board of Directors! As we start 2006, we are thrilled to welcome several new members with skills in fundraising, financial management, legal issues, nonprofit management and community organizing. Our ten member board is now working hard to increase the visibility of ACCESS, raise more money to support our programs, and plan for the future growth of the organization.

Pictured at our last meeting, clockwise from the top left: Nora Dye, Shailushi Baxi Ritchie, Yojani Hernandez, Raquel Donoso, Jerrie Meadows, Reichi Lee, Deb McSmith and Zoe Harte. Not pictured: Christine Powell and Ellen Schwerin. We would also like to thank Andy Wong, who completed his term of service on the Board in January, for his energy and work over the past two years.

If you have questions for a board member or would like information about applying for a future seat on the board, please contact our Board Chair, Shailushi Baxi Ritchie, at info@whrc-access.org!

Reproductive Rights Updates
News You Can Use
Supreme Court to Review Federal Abortion Ban

In February, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear Gonzales v. Carhart, a case challenging the federal abortion ban, later this year. President Bush signed the Federal Abortion Ban, also known as the so-called partial-birth abortion ban, into law in 2003. Immediately thereafter, three lawsuits were filed in federal courts by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Last year, all three trial courts declared the law unconstitutional because, among other things, the ban does not include an exception to protect womens health. Two of the courts also held that the law is unconstitutional because it is so broad that it would outlaw some of the most common abortion procedures performed as early as 12 weeks in pregnancy. The appellate courts in all three cases affirmed the lower courts rulings.

Just six years ago, the Supreme Court itself struck down an almost identical abortion ban passed by the state of Nebraska because it did not have a health exception. Justice O'Connor's was the critical swing vote that rejected the ban (5-4) and upheld protections for women's health, but as you know, Justice OConnor has now retired and been replaced on the court by Justice Alito. If upheld, the ban would represent the first outlawing of any abortion procedure since Roe was decided, and could obviously have a chilling effect on doctors' willingness to perform abortions.

Emergency Contraception Becoming More Available

Wal-Mart officials have announced that by March 20th the company will begin to stock and fill prescriptions for Plan B emergency contraception that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourseat its more than 3,700 pharmacies nationwide (Kabel, AP/Yahoo! News, 3/4). The Bentonville, Ark.-based company currently only stocks and fills prescriptions for the drug at pharmacies in Massachusetts and Illinois because it is required by law to do so. "We expect more states to require us to sell [EC] in the months ahead," Ron Chomiuk, Wal-Mart vice president of pharmacy, said in a statement on Friday, adding, "Because of this, and the fact that [Plan B] is an FDA-approved product, we feel it is difficult to justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not selling it." Right on!

State Abortion Bans Sweeping The Nation

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R) recently signed into law a bill (HB 1215see inset) that bans all abortions in the state except to save a pregnant woman's life, setting up potential litigation aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States by barring state level abortion bans.

While the lawwhich is scheduled to take effect on July 1 will not punish a woman who undergoes an abortion, it will make it a felony to perform one. Physicians convicted of performing the procedure will face a minimum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Physicians who save the life of a woman by performing an abortion will not be charged with a crime as long as they make "reasonable medical efforts" to "preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child.

When asked about the law's lack of an exception for cases involving rape or incest, Gov. Rounds replied, "I did not write this bill" (Woster, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 3/8). He added that although the law does not allow abortion in cases of rape or incest, survivors would still have access to emergency contraceptives, which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse. The fact that he could make this remark with a straight face gives you a clear idea how detached lawmakers are from the daily reality of womens lives. Or does the Governor really believe that girls who are being sexually abused by a family member can just run out to get EC each time they are molested?

When this newsletter went to press, Louisiana had just introduced a similar ban, although they included exceptions for rape and incest if the abortion is performed within 13 weeks in pregnancy. There are now 12 states that have bills (introduced or carried over this session) that would ban abortion or trigger abortion bans if Roe were overturned. Those states are: AL, GA, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, OH, OK, SD, TN, WV. As many as 26 states have currently unconstitutional and unenforceable bans that would outlaw abortion as early as the 12th week of pregnancy, if Roe were overturned: AL, AK, AZ, AR, FL, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, NE, NJ, ND, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WI.

Vaccine to prevent cervical cancer on the horizon; access to pap smear test remains uneven

On October 6, Merck & Company announced that an experimental vaccine against two of the strains of human papillomavirus (HPV the virus that causes genital warts) that are most likely to lead to cervical cancer has proven to be 100% effective in clinical trials.

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, causing an estimated 225,000 deaths each year. The vast majority of these deaths occur among women in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Thanks to major advances in early detection, notably the Pap test, cervical cancer is far less common in the United States, accounting for just 1% of cancer deaths among women. In fact, since the introduction of the Pap test in the 1950s, cases of cervical cancer in the United States have decreased dramaticallyby 74% between 1955 and 1992 despite our high rates of HPV infection (20 million people in the US are thought to have HPV at any given time).

Although overall rates of cervical cancer are low in the United States, however, large disparities exist in certain populations and geographic areas. The highest mortality rates from cervical cancer include African American women in the South, Hispanic women along the Texas-Mexico border, and white women in Appalachia, American Indians of the Northern Plains, Vietnamese American women, and Alaska Natives. Not surprisingly, a July 2005 report from the National Cancer Institute found that high rates of cervical cancer in these communities is an indication of broader problems with access to health care. For poor women and communities of color, this lack of access to health care is often related to poverty, being underinsured or uninsured, language and cultural barriers, and a history of abuse by and resulting distrust of the medical community.

While it does not solve the problem of unequal access to preventative health care like pap smears, the new vaccine would provide additional protection to women in the United States and women in countries where Pap screening remains rare. Nevertheless, it already faces opposition among some social conservatives who allege that it will encourage young women to have sex. Because the vaccine must be administered to women before they are exposed to a cancer- causing virus, it will ideally be provided to young girls who have not yet become sexually active. Thus, some fear it will have a disinhibiting effect on young women, giving them a green light to have sex.

This is similar to the argument that the availability of condoms leads to more and riskier sexual behavior. However, research analyzing the sexual behavior of adolescents in the United States has shown that sex education and the availability of condoms and contraceptives do not lead to earlier initiation of sexual activity, more sex or more sexual partners. And seriously, even if it did increase sexual activity, is that really enough reason to choose NOT to prevent cervical cancer? The new vaccine, like condoms, promises to vastly reduce the risks associated with sex, and to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Pope declares IVF embryos have right to life

Pope Benedict XVI during a conference said embryos developed for in vitro fertilization have a right to life even before they are implanted in a woman's uterus (Winfield, AP/ Detroit Free Press, 2/28). Appearing before the Pontifical Academy for Life, which opened the international conference on the scientific and bioethical considerations of "The Human Embryo Before Implantation," Benedict declared every human life "sacred and inviolable." He added, "This moral judgment is valid from the start of the life of an embryo, even before it is implanted in the maternal womb." Exactly how these embryos are supposed to exercise their right to lifenamely, where the surrogate mothers will come from (The Handmaids Tale, here we come) was not addressed. The pope also emphasized the Catholic Church's opposition to IVF, saying it replaces love between a husband and wife. The church only allows reproductive assistance if it "facilitates" sexual activity between a couple.

The Guttmacher Institute summarizes abortion restrictions

Although the nation is currently focused (with good reason) on the changing Supreme Court and its impact on the future of abortion rights, The Guttmacher Institute reminds us that an increasing number of state-level restrictions already jeopardize access to safe abortion.

- Twenty-nine states mandate that a woman seeking an abortion be given counseling including information intended to discourage her from obtaining the procedure, such as a purported link with breast cancer; 24 states require a woman seeking an abortion to wait a specified period of time, usually 24 hours, between when she receives counseling and when the procedure is performed.

- Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of public funds to pay for abortion for low-income women, even when it is medically necessary, generally making exceptions only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Only 17 states use their own funds to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions for Medicaid enrollees.

- Thirty-four states require some type of parental involvement in a minors decision to have an abortion: Twenty-one states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, while 13 require that a parent be notified.

The above reports were compiled from alerts by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Guttmacher Institute. Visit their web sites to learn more about the latest in reproductive health and rights issues!

ACCESS Around Town
Recent & Upcoming Events
Have you seen ACCESS lately? Weve been hosting and attending events around the Bay Area and California, and hope to see you at one soon! Heres just a little review of past and future eventsand how you can help us organize an event in your area!

Back in early December, ACCESS held our holiday Open House at our office in Oakland. This annual party gives folks a chance to learn more about our programs and see how we actually work, and of course to meet our board, staff and volunteers in person! As always, the event included lots of good food, fun conversation, and fabulous door prizes. Attendees who made a donation of $5 were entered in our drawing and had the chance to win goodies and gift certificates donated by Good Vibrations, Peets Coffee, La Mediterranee, The Parkway Theater, PlantIt Earth and others. We want to again extend a warm 'thank you' to all the those who made it out to celebrate with us! And for those of you who missed it, we hope youll join us this year on Tuesday, December 12, 2006!

In January 2006, to mark the 33rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, ACCESS hosted an event featuring a screening of PBS Frontlines The Last Abortion Clinic and a panel discussion of access to abortion in California. The event was co-sponsored by New College's Center for Education and Social Action and held in their theater on Valencia in San Francisco. If you havent seen it, "The Last Abortion Clinic" provides a stark look at access to abortion in Mississippi, where anti-abortion forces have driven all but one abortion provider out of business. This dire lack of providers, combined with a maze of restrictive laws and no public funding for abortion, leaves poor women and women in rural areas of Mississippi, who are disproportionately women of color, with few reproductive options.

The film was followed by a panel of abortion providers and ACCESS practical support volunteers discussing the situation here and how women in California areand are notbetter off when seeking an abortion than women in Mississippi. About thirty people turned out to see the film, and ACCESS raised $350 and recruited several new Practical Support volunteers to provide housing and transportation for women coming to San Francisco to get an abortion. There was also a lot of interest in holding similar events around the state. If you would like to host or organize a party to show the Frontline video and raise awareness of barriers to abortion, let us know! We are already planning more house parties and events in San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz, and wed love to come to your area too!

On Wednesday, March 29th, ACCESS will be in Sacramento for Reproductive Freedom Day, an annual event put on by the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom. This years program includes workshops, visits with state legislators, dynamic speakers, a rally at the capitol and lots more all with hundreds of reproductive rights activists from around the state! To join us at CCRF Day, visit the ACCESS website at www.whrc-access.org for more information and a registration form.

Finally, dont miss the new ACCESS monthly volunteer night, held from 5:30-8:30pm on the second Tuesday of each month in our Oakland office (near Macarthur BART)! Each month we'll work on a combination of special projects and on-going office needs. Come every month or just when you can. Food and fun provided by ACCESS! RSVP to join us next time on Tuesday, April 11th!

Make sure that you know about all our future events and activities! Update your email address and preferences below to get all the info you want, when you want it. You can sign up for our quarterly newsletter, action alerts, event and conference invitations, and/or volunteer opportunities! And don't forget that ACCESS is always available to speak at your office, school or community group about reproductive health issues or access to abortion. Just contact us for more information at 510-923-0739 or info@whrc-access.org!

Real Women, Real Choices
Life on the ACCESS Hotline
Names and other identifying information have been changed to protect each caller's confidentiality.

Molly called for abortion referrals. She took a home pregnancy test that came out positive. She has insurance and although shes not absolutely sure what she wants to do, whether to get abortion or possibly keep the pregnancy, she was very upset by the pregnancy counseling center in the small town where she went for a pregnancy test. Molly said they more or less shoved her in a room by herself, showed her the video The Silent Scream and told her she would be going to hell if she had an abortion. She said she just got up and left. While she was telling me the story she got upset and said she was just trying to make the right decision and didn't want to be pushed into feeling that she was considering doing something wrong. I sympathized and told her that because she was so early in pregnancy, she had time to think about things before she made her decision. I gave Molly the referrals and then suggested that she call her insurance and make sure that they will cover the cost.

Laura from San Francisco General Hospital called about a 16 year old girl there who is pregnant and doesnt want an abortion. However, her family does not support this. They want her to get an abortion or else they will kick her out. She was hoping we can help get some referrals to help house the girl. I told her I would get some info and call her back. I called the teen pregnancy and parenting program in Richmond because that was where the girl is from. I spoke to someone named Cecilia who was wonderful! She gave me some referrals for places that could help with housing. I also called Huckleberry house and asked if they would help. I spoke to the supervisor and she said they would be able to temporarily house her. I referred all this info to SFGH.

Teresa has been in a relationship with her boyfriend for two years, during which there was a period of separation when he was sexually active with other women. Teresa has been experiencing blisters and warts and pain during and after intercourse. Her boyfriend was tested for STIs and was negative (although shes not entirely sure if hes being honest with her about the test results). She says he is taking no responsibility and that makes her feel angry. I gave her info about Family PACT and several referrals and also encouraged her to discuss her concerns with him and to perhaps take him with her to get retested. I also said that although I'm not a doctor and can't diagnose her over the phone, what she's describing sounds like it could be herpes, which doesn't always show up on the tests they do for STIs, so she should be sure to tell them her symptoms in detail. She expressed feelings of shame and embarrassment and I tried to comfort her by validating her concerns and letting her know that taking care of herself is a priority, and the fact that shes calling us shows her concern for her health. I told her that many other women are in her situation and that there are treatments available that can make her sex life pleasurable again. I also advised her that its very important to use a condom during intercourse so that theres no more sharing of the disease.

Melinda called from the Central Valley needing abortion clinic referrals. She started the call by asking is abortion still legal? [This was in December 2005!] I said yes and gave her the referrals and procedure info she wanted. I also told her about Medi-Cal and that it covers abortion because she is uninsured and was planning on paying cash.

This girl called asking for Jane (the name we use to leave a message when a call is confidential). I told her I could talk to her. I asked what she was calling about and she said Um, my baby I guess. Then, I dont know, I'm kinda ashamed. I let her know we dont judge and she could feel comfortable talking to us. Antionette started to tell me she found out she was pregnant not long ago and she is pretty far along, 18.5 weeks by LMP (date of her last menstrual period). She said she wasnt sure what she wanted to do because her boyfriend wants her to have his baby, thats why they had unprotected sex, although she didnt really want a baby right now. She just started college and wants to finish school. She is living with her mom right now but her mom is planning to move out of the area and she would stay there on her own to finish school, so financially this would be a problem. She seems pretty sure she doesnt want a baby now (she says maybe later), but she is still ambivalent because her boyfriend wants her to have it although he said hell support whatever choice she makes. She said she just wants this over with and asked for abortion referrals. I gave her numbers for the second-trimester abortion providers in San Jose and San Francisco and let her know how long she had to get an abortion. I also gave her the number to her local Planned Parenthood for more options counseling if she wants it, and encouraged her to call us back if she wanted to talk more or if she had any problems along the way.

Fred was calling as a way to be supportive to his girlfriend who had a medical abortion a few months back and had been doing well until recently. Now she has been having major problems dealing with the post-abortion emotions, and as a way of being supportive he had called the clinic and they referred him to us. I explained that we offer peer counseling over the phone, but he asked for referrals to in-person counselors and I gave him the ones I had in his area. We talked for a while and he seemed very supportive of his girlfriend. He said hed encourage her to call us herself.

Marisol was just turned away from a clinic in Concord because shes 20 weeks pregnant and has Medi-Cal (which they don't accept). They had told her to call us for help with money to pay for an abortion there. I explained that San Francisco General Hospital would still take Medi-Cal up to 23 weeks and that she should call them and try to make an appointment. I also told her if she cant get an appointment, to call me back so I can help her weigh her other options. Theres also a clinic in Oakland that goes up to 22 weeks if she can get there before its too late. She said she has transportation to get there. She was very sad because her boyfriend passed away 3 months ago and she was so overwhelmed with grief that she just found out 2 weeks ago that she was pregnant and needs this abortion.

You Can Make Choice A Reality
Donate to ACCESS today!
ACCESS relies on the financial support of people like you to keep our programs running. Every dollar you give helps us reach another woman in need of reproductive health information or support. What can your donation help us do?

$10 = makes 150 copies of our bilingual English and Spanish hotline outreach cards
$25 = pays for an ACCESS outreach table at local community events and health fairs
$36 = one month of phonebook advertising in Monterey County for the English and Spanish hotlines
$67 = a roundtrip bus ticket to Sacramento from Merced, a county with no abortion provider
$85 = one night in a San Francisco hotel for a woman getting a second trimester abortion
$150 = monthly stipend for an intern who volunteers 10 hours or more each week on the hotline
$450 = one month's phone bill, including the more than 600 calls to our toll-free hotlines

phone: 510-923-0739

ACCESS is dedicated to making reproductive choice a reality. Our programs promote real reproductive options and access to quality health care for all women. No other California organization provides the same range of support to women who are considering or seeking an abortion.

Board of Directors
Raquel Donoso, Nora Dye, Zo�Harte, Yojani Hernandez, Reichi Lee, Deborah McSmith, Jerrie Meadows, Christine Powell, Shailushi Baxi Ritchie, Ellen Schwerin

Alma Avila-Pilchman, J. Parker Dockray

Sepi Aghdaee, Elena Foshay, Janet O'Connor, Becca Palmer, Kristin Simonson, Sophia Song, Aby Vanterpool