Elaine Sierra: Caring for women means honoring health-care choices
The landmark Roe v. Wade decision was made on Jan. 22, 1973, 43 years ago. It is commonly recognized as the Supreme Court ruling that affirmed every woman’s Constitutional right to reproductive choice in the United States.
Yet, our state legislature concluded just last year that a new law was needed to provide additional safeguards for women to access timely pregnancy care and related healthcare information. The Reproductive FACT Act became that law.
In our view, the FACT Act (for Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency) is a welcome assurance that all California women are able to exercise the choice guaranteed to them under Roe. And, by promoting informed decision making, it protects a broader public interest, that of women’s health. It empowers women to make their own best healthcare choices for themselves and for their families.
The law does this by requiring licensed clinics to provide clients with information about California’s comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care and abortion services. And it requires licensed clinics to notify patients about available financial assistance and specific contact information for those services, enabling prompt access to needed care. The FACT Act also requires that unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy-related care inform their clients that they are not licensed medical facilities and have no licensed provider on staff. Who would deny that, when women get timely, accurate pregnancy related information, and access the care they need without undue delay, they and their families are healthier? The FACT act simply ensures that all California women get the basic facts they need about accessing timely pregnancy related care.
How soon women get into care affects maternal and infant health, including mortality and morbidity. In Nevada County, an alarmingly high 25 percent of births were to mothers having late or no prenatal care, compared to 16.4 percent in California as a whole (according to the most recent Nevada County Health Status Report by the Health and Human Services Agency, for 2010-2012). Providing earlier access to prenatal care would help to reduce infant mortality and improve pregnancy outcomes.
Like the overwhelming majority of Californians, we believe that women should have rights to accurate information about pregnancy related care. And, we support the FACT Act as one means of protecting those rights.
There is a wealth of information showing the extent of the deceptive practices of many crisis pregnancy centers. According to a Sacramento Bee editorial last October, for example, “… undercover investigators sent by NARAL Pro-Choice California into 45 crisis pregnancy centers in California found that 72 percent falsely told women that abortion was linked to depression, 46 percent repeated the myth that abortion is linked to breast cancer and 35 percent claimed abortion was linked to infertility, which is untrue.”
The law was slated to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Three federal lawsuits, and one in Riverside County Superior Court, were filed in October 2015, soon after the FACT act was signed, on behalf of several crisis pregnancy centers that provide pregnancy related counseling and services. In three of the four cases, judges denied requests for preliminary injunctions in December. In the fourth case, a pending preliminary injunction is scheduled for hearing on Jan. 25 in San Diego. Since none of the injunctions has been granted to date, the law has in fact gone into effect, while the court cases proceed.
Let us hope that the victory for California women that the FACT Act represents is not delayed further, or overturned, in the pending lawsuits.
Elaine L. Sierra. J.D., is the public policy director of Nevada County Citizens for Choice. She lives in Grass Valley.
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