Friday, February 27, 2009

BREAKING NEWS!!! Obama Rescinding HHS midnight rule!!!!

Obama Administration Takes First Step to Repeal Rule that Limits the Rights of Patients To Receive Complete and Accurate Health Information and Services

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) applauds the Obama administration for taking the first step in rescinding a midnight regulation that undermines the country’s fragile health care system as well as patients’ access to health care information and services.

“Today’s action by the Obama administration demonstrates that this president is not going to stand by and let women’s health be placed in jeopardy. By taking the first step in rescinding the harmful midnight regulation, the Obama administration is standing up for patients having the right to receive complete and accurate health information and services,” said PPFA President Cecile Richards.

According to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) website, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has sent a proposed rule titled “Rescission of the Regulation Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services on December 19, 2008, Implementing the Church Amendments (42 U.S.C. 300a-7), Section 245 of the Public Health Service” to OMB for review.

“Our priority is ensuring that the millions of patients we see every year receive complete and accurate health information and services,” said Richards. “In these difficult economic times and with more than 45 million Americans currently uninsured, it is critical that we work to increase, not limit, access to health care. When a patient walks into a hospital, pharmacy, or any health care center she should be confident she will receive complete and accurate health care information and services.”

When the Bush administration proposed the Rule, roughly 200,000 U.S. citizens, federal and state elected officials, medical organizations, and health care advocacy and religious organizations submitted comments opposing the misguided rule, including

a bipartisan coalition of more than 100 members of Congress
a bipartisan group of governors, including Governors John Baldacci (D-ME), Chet Culver (D-IA), Jim Doyle (D-WI), Christine Gregoire (D-WA), David Paterson (D-NY), M. Jodi Rell (R-CT), Edward Rendell (D-PA), and Ted Strickland (D-OH)
a bipartisan group of attorneys general, including those from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont
state legislators from a number of states, including Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin
nongovernmental organizations ranging from American Nurses Association, the American Medical Student Association, the American Social Health Association, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, and several prominent HIV/AIDS, international health, and gay rights organizations

In addition, the legal counsel and two commissioners from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also submitted comments, explaining that the rule creates unnecessary confusion for the nearly 600,000 health care facilities it reaches.

By allowing health insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, physicians, and health care workers of all kinds to deny patients vital health care information and services, without the patient even knowing, the rule undermines health care access and creates chaos in an already stressed health care system, particularly for low-income women and families whose options are already limited.

In January, Planned Parenthood filed legal action challenging the regulation. In addition, the Connecticut attorney general, joined by the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island filed a separate but parallel legal action challenging the regulation. These states have taken proactive steps in enacting legislation that protects patients’ access to vital health care services and information — for example, laws that guarantee rape survivors have access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms. The current HHS regulation poses a serious barrier to the states’ enforcement of their laws protecting patients.

PP Applauds President's Budget, Expands Medicaid Family Planning Programs

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) applauds President Barack Obama for living up to his commitment to supporting women’s health and investing in commonsense proposals to expand family planning programs. President Obama’s 2010 budget includes a provision to expand family planning under Medicaid, which would help extend basic health care to millions more women. In addition, the president’s budget promotes “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention programs.

“We commend the president for his commitment to make family planning and basic health care services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, more accessible and affordable to millions of low-income women and their families,” said PPFA President Cecile Richards. “With women and their families losing health coverage every day, we applaud the president for making women’s health a priority as he works to reform our health care system.”

The president’s budget includes a line item under the Health Reform Reserve Fund to “Expand availability of family planning services under Medicaid.”

Expanding family planning under Medicaid has been one of Planned Parenthood’s top priorities under our Prevention First Agenda. Also known as the Medicaid Family Planning State Option, it would simply allow states to expand their Medicaid family planning services, including cancer screenings and other preventive care, to more women in need, without having to go through the burdensome Medicaid waiver process.

The Medicaid Family Planning State Option would have a significant impact on women’s health and is vital to expanding care to the millions of women who are losing either their jobs or their health insurance in this economic downturn. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this provision would provide coverage to 2.3 million low-income women by 2014. A study by the Guttmacher Institute finds that this flexible option would help 500,000 women avoid unplanned pregnancy.

“As the nation’s leading advocate and provider of women’s health care, including reproductive health services, we see every day that the best way to prevent unintended pregnancies and promote healthy families is to invest in family planning programs and ensure more women and families have access to affordable, quality reproductive health care and comprehensive sex education programs,” said Richards. “In addition, President Obama’s budget blueprint makes reducing teen pregnancy using ‘evidence-based models’ a priority.

“With President Obama, we have a leader who agrees with what doctors, scientists, parents and teens have been saying for years: comprehensive sex education, including information about abstinence as well as contraception, helps prevent teen pregnancies,” said Richards. “President Obama’s budget makes clear that the government won’t waste federal dollars on programs that don’t work, that won’t reduce teen pregnancy, and that won’t keep teens healthy and safe. He has clearly stated that our shared goal must be to reduce unintended pregnancies and ensure that all women, regardless of income, have access to affordable care to lead healthy lives.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Who's It Going to Be?

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) is being vetted as the leading contender for Secretary of Health and Human Services. As Kansas insurance commissioner from 1994 to 2002, Gov. Sebelius protected state health programs and boosted Medicaid reimbursement to physicians. Most recently, the Governor negotiated a difficult state budget crisis by cutting about $300 million from the state budget, but in doing so largely spared health programs like the state’s Medicaid services.

In public statements, the Governor fended off requests about the HHS post by commenting that she was focused on balancing the Kansas state budget. The Governor is expected to be in Washington DC over the weekend for the National Governor’s Association (NGA) meeting (Feb. 21 – 24) and this visit to the nation’s capital has led to the speculation that an announcement may come as early as this weekend.

Gov. Sebelius emerged as the leading choice for the position following the February 3 withdrawal of former US Senator Tom Daschle as President Barack Obama’s nominee. Daschle was expected to serve as both HHS Secretary and in a White House health reform post. It is now expected that these roles will be filled by two different individuals.

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration is also considering at least two other individuals for Secretary of HHS. These dark horses include Nancy-Ann DeParle, a former administrator of the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid and a former Office of Management and Budget official, and Jack Lew, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

We will keep you updated once a formal announcement is made!

Friday, February 20, 2009

So much to celebrate!

I think there is so much to celebrate this year with the new administration - a new hope for our country, new voices speaking out for Planned Parenthood issues, and new issues to be talked about.

As it was mentioned yesterday, Michigan's US Senator, Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Health Care for Women Resolution, designed to highlight the importance of women’s health and ensure that health care reform addresses the needs of women and families. Kudos to them for taking a stand and making women's health a priority! I am celebrating this today.

Everyonce in a while I look for fun holidays to celebrate or ways to brighten these gloomy winter afternoons. So today as we near the weekend, and the looming winter storm over Lake Michigan - I encourage you to take sometime out of not just Friday but February 20 - the day the toothpick was patented, or for those up in Traverse City, National Cherry Pie Day. So all readers, have a wonderful weekend, and celebrate this new hope and energy spilling into Americans (and Canadians too, I hear President Obama was a HUGE hit this week on his first Foreign Trip there).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Health Care for Women Resolution Introduced

Great news sent to us from our PPFA President, Cecile Richards:

Three cheers for healthy women! On Feb. 11, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Health Care for Women Resolution, designed to highlight the importance of women’s health and ensure that health care reform addresses the needs of women and families. The Health Care for Women Resolution sets the framework for ensuring equity in health care by recognizing the multiple roles women have as health care decision makers, caregivers, and providers, and calls on Congress to pass legislation that “guarantees a level of benefits and care, including comprehensive reproductive health care, pregnancy-related care, and infant care, that is necessary to achieve and maintain good health throughout a woman’s lifetime and lessen the burdens caused by poor health.”

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's National Condom Week!

February 14–21 is National Condom Week — a time to raise awareness about condom use and to make sure people have all the facts about condoms.

Condoms used consistently and correctly provide the best protection against sexually transmitted infections for sexually active individuals. They also protect against unintended pregnancy.

Latex condoms have been scientifically proven to:
  • Reduce the risk of pregnancy. Condoms are an effective, inexpensive over-the-counter form of birth control.
  • Reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission. The condom is a highly effective barrier against HIV infection.
  • Reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted infections. Condoms significantly reduce the risk of getting or passing many other sexually transmitted infections.

Celebrate National Condom Week by learning all you need to know about condoms and safer sex! Click here for more information:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

S.E. in the MI

That’s right, I have sex ed on the brain. While researching the current sex ed laws and policies in the State of Michigan, I came across a pretty impressive document. It’s the State of Michigan-State Board of Education’s Policy to Promote Health and Prevent Disease and Pregnancy. I was excited to learn that the Board recommended comprehensive sexuality education for Michigan schools. The Board recommended that sex ed programs be initiated early, before students reach the age when they begin to engage in sexual activity. The policy also included a statement that sex ed should be centered on a positive, healthy definition of sexual health rather than one that focuses only on avoiding negative outcomes. I was shocked. Were there really others who understood that scaring students about sex doesn’t lead to abstinence? Talk about your revelations.

You would think that with the experts on education in the State of Michigan on your side, getting comprehensive sex ed legislation passed would be a breeze. Not so fast. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about our legislators, it’s that they often vote ideals and not reality. They’d rather vote along party lines, than use factual information to make their decisions. I hope that the new legislature stops gambling with the lives of our young people and instead, passes laws that protect them. The last thing we need is one more legislative pontificator. Let’s stop the rhetoric. It’s time to put up or shut up. Let’s get our comprehensive sex ed programs funded and reject abstinence only.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

National Black AIDS Awareness Day

Saturday was the 9th annual National Black AIDS Awareness Day and health centers and community organizations around the country took action to raise awareness about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in African American communities and to encourage people to get tested.

This annual day that highlights a problem over half a million African Americans live with every day ( was brought to people's attention here in Detroit as well. Dozens of organizations, including our Planned Parenthood health center in Midtown (, provided free HIV testing that day.

Knowing your status and practicing safe sex are the first steps in helping to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Empowering your friends to get tested as well is essential for our communities' well-being.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thank You Vox Students!

This past Saturday, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan had our third annual Vox Conference. It is a conference for all of the pro-choice campus groups we work with. It was a great day, full of excellent training, motivational speakers, and helpful discussion.

For me, the most inspirational part of the day was seeing what all these amazing activists are up to on their campuses. College students all across Michigan are working every day to raise awareness of reproductive justice on their campus, and their work is irreplaceable!

So I'd like to thank all of the students who attended the conference on Saturday for all of their hard work! Thank you for all you do, and we here at PPAM are honored to work with you!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Checking In

Hey all -

Megan here. The field team is hard at work prepping for the 2009 VOX Conference - it's tomorrow.
Dessa (Senior Organizer) finished the HUGE task of getting all the photos from the past 3 YEARS online and I spent majority of my day sifting through all of the wonderful events, trainings, and election work PPAM staff and volunteers accomplished - talk about a walk down memory lane. We encourage our volunteers to take pictures at our events and volunteer nights and send them to us!!

Stay tuned for a complete update on the 2009 VOX conference - in the mean time enjoy this photo of your PPAM Field Team!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Economics of Birth Control

In case you haven’t heard, the US economy is in the midst of a horrible, downward spiral called Recession. We all know this, right? What a lot of people don’t know is that women spend 68% more on health care costs than men. Because many women do not have insurance that provides contraceptive coverage, they bear the burden of paying out of pocket, month after month. When 95% of a population uses a health-related product or service, it’s pretty safe to call this product or service basic health care.

Population Connection cites “…research shows that full contraceptive coverage would cost the employer, at most, $24.40 per employee per year. While birth control pills cost an average of $300-$359 per year, the average cost of having a healthy baby is $10,000. The fact is that not covering contraception in employee health plans costs employers 15-17% more in direct and indirect costs than providing coverage. “

In an economy such as ours, everyone is doing all they can to stay afloat. It is absolutely wrong not to cover contraceptives. Not covering them makes no economic sense for our nation and it does not make financial sense for businesses….which begs the question: Would contraceptive equity even be an issue if men used birth control? I doubt it. Let’s call it what it is…it is sexism and classism. It is unfair and unacceptable. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission ruled that employers who exclude prescription contraceptives from their health plans (when other prescription drugs and devices are covered) violate the prohibition against sex discrimination. They have determined that not providing contraceptives as a part of a basic health insurance plan is discrimination…and I agree 100%.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Healthy Families: Kids are a Great Start, but Let's Keep Going

Today the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, having passed through Congress again last week (it was vetoed by Pres. Bush twice), was signed by President Obama. This new expansion gives 4 million more children access to health care their parents couldn't have afforded with out this assistance.

It's a great start to supporting families by keeping them healthy, but we've got many more preventative measures needed! For example, affordable birth control, comprehensive sex ed, and funding for reproductive health and pre-natal care.

And even with this expansion, there are still a lot of kids who don't qualify for CHIP, but whose parents can't afford insurance for them. To learn more and to take action, check out The Children's Defense Fund:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Planned Parenthood Sues Bush Administration Over Disasterous Midnight Regulation

Planned Parenthood Federation of America Press Release:

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and Planned Parenthood of Connecticut filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut asking the court to invalidate the administrative regulation finalized in December by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The midnight regulation, issued by the outgoing Bush administration, poses a serious threat to women’s health care by limiting the rights of patients to receive complete and accurate health information and services.

“We filed this lawsuit today on behalf of the millions of women whose health care has been put in jeopardy by the Bush administration’s parting shot at women’s health. As a critical provider of health care information and services for women, Planned Parenthood cannot simply stand back and let this harmful regulation go into effect,” said PPFA President Cecile Richards.

“Every day, women and men who walk through Planned Parenthood health center doors are confident that they will receive complete and accurate health information and services,” said Richards. “That is our priority, and it should be a shared priority among all those committed to strengthening public health. Unfortunately, this new rule puts this critical priority at risk.”

The complaint charges that the final regulation goes far beyond the intent of Congress when it enacted the laws in question. The regulation is in conflict with other existing laws and regulations. In addition, in its rush to finalize the regulation, HHS failed to follow the appropriate regulatory steps, including failing to respond adequately to the many comments that raised significant problems with the regulation.

PP Staff Focus on Advocacy

At our annual All Staff meeting, nearly 120 Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan staff gathered for a day of camaraderie and departmental updates. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan, the advocacy arm, took this opportunity to do a few things.

First, we explained what was going on with the Stimulus Package that was making its way through Congress, and we handed out background info, as well as everyone’s members of Congress’ phone numbers (and the number to the White House) and told them to get out their cell phones. In just 10 minutes, we got about 100 calls in to our Senators, Congress People, and the President, letting them know that we wanted to see the Medicaid Waiver stay in the package. We had billing folks, IT people, nurses, organizers, medical assistants, VPs, and our CEO calling all at once…it was a beautiful sight!

Jaunella and Cinnamon making calls

Next we divided all the staff up into groups, gave each group a prop box, some talking points, and about 15 minutes to come up with persuasive commercials around our Prevention Agenda, which includes, access and info about emergency congtraception, comprehensive medically-accurate, age-appropriate sexuality education, family planning funding, and contraceptive equity. They were fabulously creative and hilarious! I encourage everyone to give a group of Planned Parenthood staff an atlas, an umbrella, a condom hat, and a harmonica just to see what happens!

Finally, we gathered up the enormous amount of donations we’d received from staff throughout January when we held our Women’s Essentials Drive in honor of Dr. King. We wanted to get a look at it all in one place and take the opportunity to snap a picture of our success. Staff from Detroit, Lansing, East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Brighton, and Ypsilanti posed with pride. Since then, the donations have been distributed to local women’s shelters near each health center.

MLK Donations 1/09