In the News, March 2020

Written by Stacie Murphy, Director of Congressional Relations | Published: March 2, 2020

World Population Tops 7.75 Billion

Germany’s Foundation for World Population estimates that global population reached 7.75 billion by the end of 2019. According to their calculations, the world grows by 156 people every minute, or 83 million annually—the rough equivalent of adding a new Germany each year. Looking ahead, they project that global population will surpass 8 billion within the next four years, and that by 2027, India will have overtaken China as the world’s most populous country.

Report: Nearly 900 U.S. Clinics Have Lost Funding Due to Domestic Gag Rule

According to a new report from Power to Decide, 876 clinics across the United States have lost federal Title X funding for refusing to comply with Donald Trump’s Domestic Gag Rule.

The rule, which went into effect last year, prohibits Title X providers from using their own, non-federal dollars to offer abortion services. It also prohibits them from referring patients to other providers for abortion services and from counseling patients with complete and accurate information about their pregnancy options.

Planned Parenthood, which had served 41 percent of Title X patients, exited the program, as did many independent clinics. Five states—Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington—currently have no remaining Title X providers.

Planned Parenthood Awarded $2.2 Million in Lawsuit Over Fraudulent Videos

On November 15, 2019, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded up to $2.2 million to Planned Parenthood in its suit against David Daleiden, president of the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress. In 2015, Daleiden posed as a representative of a biotechnology company and secretly recorded Planned Parenthood employees talking about reimbursements for handling of fetal tissue used in scientific research. The recordings were edited to make it sound as though the group was profiting from the practice, sparking conservative outrage and multiple state and congressional investigations.

Planned Parenthood was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Daleiden, through his attorney, vowed to appeal the decision.

Planned Parenthood Partners with 50 Los Angeles High Schools

Planned Parenthood has announced that, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Health Department and Board of Education, it will open 50 school-based clinics designed to offer the full range of birth control options, STD testing and treatment, and pregnancy options counseling to up to 75,000 teens. Two Planned Parenthood-trained public health officials will be stationed at each location, and a nurse practitioner or other medical provider will visit at least once a week. The initiative will also train several hundred teens as “peer advocates.”

Studies Debunk Claims of Abortion Regret, Increased Suicide Risk

A pair of new studies contradict claims from anti-choice advocates that abortion often leads to negative long-term emotional consequences, including an increased risk of mental health problems and suicide.

In November, a University of Maryland study of 520,000 Danish women spanning 17 years found no link between abortion and attempted suicide. According to Julia R. Steinberg, the study’s lead author, “The view that having an abortion leads to suicidal thoughts, plans, or even suicide attempts has been used to inform abortion policies in some regions of the world. The evidence from our study does not support this notion.” The strongest risk factor, instead, was the presence of pre-existing mental health problems.

In January, researchers from the University of California San Francisco released results from their study of 667 women who were asked about their feelings about their abortions one week after the procedure and twice a year after that. At one week, 51 percent of participants reported feeling mostly positive emotions about their decision, while only 17 percent expressed negative feelings. One-fifth said they had few or no feelings about the experience. After five years, 84 percent reported either positive or no feelings, while only 6 percent reported negative feelings. Nearly all (99 percent) respondents reported that they felt they had made the right decision for themselves. “I in no way want to reduce the struggles of those who regret their abortions,” said Corinne Rocca, the study’s lead author, “but it is misguided to take away the options for everyone based on this minority.”

The study’s authors said the results “challenge the rationale for state-mandated counseling protocols … and other policies regulating access to abortion premised on emotional harm claims (e.g. waiting periods).”

“Abortion Reversal” Study Halted After Safety Concerns

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, ended a study of so-called “abortion pill reversal” after several participants developed bleeding heavy enough to require hospital visits. Medication abortion typically consists of two drugs given 24 hours apart. The first part of the process involves taking a dose of mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone, causing pregnancy tissue to die. A later dose of misoprostol causes uterine contractions, which expel tissue.

The study was intended to examine the anti-choice claim that large doses of the hormone progesterone can preserve a pregnancy if administered after the mifepristone. Researchers planned to enroll 40 pregnant people who had scheduled surgical abortions. After taking a dose of mifepristone, the volunteers would either be given a dose of progesterone or a placebo, then have their pregnancies monitored by ultrasound. Ultimately, only 12 participants were enrolled before the study was stopped. Three participants—one who had received progesterone and two who had gotten the placebo—experienced heavy bleeding. Two others dropped out of the study due to side effects. Four patients who had received progesterone showed evidence of continued pregnancy, along with two who had received the placebo.

At least seven states require the inclusion of information about the potential for reversal as part of their informed consent guidelines.

Monthly Birth Control Pill in the Works

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a once-a-month birth control pill. Based on earlier work on long-acting HIV/AIDS and malaria drugs, the new pill contains the same hormones as other pills, but uses a novel mechanism. A star-shaped delivery device is folded inside a gelatin capsule. The user swallows the capsule, which dissolves in the stomach and allows the arms of the star to unfold. Each arm dissolves at a different rate, dispensing the medication over time. Tests in pigs show that the level of hormones in the blood remains constant. Although the daily pill is a highly effective form of birth control when used correctly, studies show that up to 9 percent of people using it will become pregnant over the course of a year, largely as a result of missed doses.

New Argentine President Promises Legal Abortion

Calling it “a public health issue,” Argentina’s new president, Alberto Fernández, has vowed to push for the legalization of abortion during his administration.

Less than a month before the end of his term, Fernández’s predecessor, Mauricio Macri, revoked a protocol put in place by the Minster of Health which would have broadened the criteria under which abortion was available. The move led to the health minister’s resignation.

Currently, abortion is only legal in cases of rape or when the life or health of the pregnant person is threatened. However, critics claim that those exceptions are not always honored. Fernández’s new Health Minister, Ginés González García, has already released a new protocol aimed at ensuring rape victims have the access to which they are legally entitled.

Moroccan Journalist Pardoned after Abortion Conviction

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has pardoned journalist Hajar Raissouni, who was sentenced to a year in jail for having an abortion—a charge she denied. Raissouni was convicted, along with her fiancé, two doctors, and an office assistant, of violating Morocco’s draconian laws against premarital sex and abortion. Supporters maintain that the prosecution was nothing more than retaliation for her criticisms of the government.