Policy & Practice


Study: Abortion Consent Ineffective

Laws mandating parental involvement in minors' access to abortion have shown “mixed results,” according to a literature review published by the Guttmacher Institute.

Although many studies have shown a small decrease in the abortion rate among young women in states with parental consent or notification laws, most such research has not accounted for the important factor of minors traveling out of restrictive states for abortions.

Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute, Ibis Reproductive Health, and the City University of New York reviewed 29 studies that examined various types of parental-involvement laws. Many of the studies had “serious limitations,” the team reported.

As of 2008, 34 states had laws in effect that require either parental consent or notification before a minor can receive an abortion.

ACOG Calls for Rural Services

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is calling on ob.gyns. in all areas of the country to do their part to reduce health care disparities for women living in rural areas.

In a committee opinion released in February, ACOG issued a list of suggestions for how ob.gyns. can help by undertakings ranging from telemedicine initiatives to working with rural health agencies to identify rural women's needs and barriers to their care.

ACOG also encouraged its members to partner with family physicians to ensure that appropriate training and consultation are available to providers in rural areas. Women who live outside urban areas are more likely to have cesarean deliveries, less likely to be offered a vaginal birth after cesarean, and more at risk of giving birth to low-birth-weight babies. They are also less likely to have received any family planning service within the past year, according to ACOG.

“Ob.gyns. have the ability to help improve health care for rural women,” Dr. Alan G. Waxman, chair of ACOG's Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, said in a statement.

“ACOG encourages ob.gyns. to get involved in the process because every woman deserves to be cared for, no matter where she lives.”

REAL Act Introduced

Congress is considering legislation that would authorize federal funding for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education.

The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), would establish the first grant program for comprehensive sex education. Programs funded would be age appropriate, medically accurate, and inclusive of both contraception and abstinence information.

Currently, federal funding is available only for sex-ed programs that exclusively promote abstinence before marriage—programs that opponents contend are unrealistically short on information about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

Group Targets Abortion Votes

The Susan B. Anthony List, an organization devoted to advancing “pro-life” women in politics, is launching a new campaign aimed at unseating members of Congress who support abortion rights.

The new effort, called the Votes Have Consequences initiative, will specifically attempt to unseat members of Congress whom the antiabortion group says vote according to proabortion views that are out of sync with those of their constituents.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said the project will probably identify a few key problem members, then pour as much money as possible into each of those districts. In the last election cycle, the group said it raised more than $7 million for antiabortion education and mobilization efforts.

However, at press time, Ms. Dannenfelser had not yet announced a fundraising target or identified which members of Congress are to be the focus of the campaign.

Most Newborns Are Now Screened

All 50 states and the District of Columbia now require that every newborn be screened for most life-threat-ening disorders, although Pennsylvania and West Virginia still are in the process of implementing their expanded programs, according to a report from the March of Dimes.

State laws and rules vary, but all states require screening for 21 or more of the 29 serious genetic or functional disorders on the panel recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics, the March of Dimes said in its report.

The screening laws and rules are a marked improvement over 3 years ago, when the charity's report card found that only 38% of infants were born in states that required screening for 21 or more of the 29 “core” conditions. Now, 24 states and Washington, D.C., require screening for all 29 disorders, with more states expected to join them this year, the report said.

“This is a sweeping advance for public health,” Dr. R. Rodney Howell, chairman of the federal Health and Human Services Secretary's Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children, said in a statement.

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