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  • The Health of All Women

    By Aliye Runyan
    AMSA Education and Research Fellow

    Do you know Roe v. Wade is currently under attack and the health of all women is at stake?

    Cleverly disguised as "state-based regulation", seven states have passed or will soon pass devastating legislation affecting access to family planning, especially in rural and underserved areas. This impacts not only the women and families in those states, but taken collectively, is a serious and deliberate blow to national family planning services.

    AMSA believes matters of reproductive health to be private and sensitive, and support the right of patients to make these decisions in confidence with their physician without the interference of any third party. In that spirit, we disagree with and discourage wholeheartedly the recent legislation affecting Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi. These laws, sometimes "stuck in" along with other, completely unrelated legislation, do nothing more than prevent access to safe options for abortion. In cases of such legislation where clinics like Planned Parenthood are defunded, this not only prevents safe abortion options ( in those clinics which provide it) but also restrict and discourage access to family planning resources such as contraception and scientifically based sexual education, which in turn, reduce the need for abortion.

    The way most of these bills decrease access is through TRAP laws. TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Six states have made it illegal for abortion clinics to operate unless the physician has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In rural areas of Virginia and Wisconsin, two states that have recently passed TRAP laws, there is not a hospital close by.

    Dozens of rural clinics face closure because of TRAP laws. Those who support TRAP laws say they help ensure the safety of women by requiring their doctors to have admitting privileges. The vast majority of abortions are outpatient procedures that are less invasive than some dental work, colonoscopies, vasectomies, and plastic surgeries, yet only abortion providers are targeted for these unnecessarily restrictive measures.

    In an article in today's Chicago Tribune, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology Dr. John Sciarra writes, "in those days [before Roe v Wade], 20 American women died for every 100,000 live births, many from unsafe abortions. We knew that legalizing abortion could save many of those lives, and we were right: today's maternal mortality rate is half of what is was then, because legal abortion is safe and back alley attempts are much rarer. We were optimistic that society would hail legalized abortion as a win for everyone. [...] Rather than increasing contraceptive availability as we recommended in 1972, ideologues attack family planning and are making all reproductive health care less available to the poor."

    Sciarra concludes with "no law that has ever been passed and no law that ever will be passed can prevent a determined woman from trying to end an unwanted pregnancy. Society and hospitals must accept their role in keeping women safe in that process."

    As a physician in training who believes in her patient's abilities to make their own choices and in the privacy and privileges of the doctor patient relationship, I absolutely agree with Sciarra's words.

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  • Don't Let the Supercommittee Cut Residency Positions!

    As you have probably heard, the Congressional "Supercommittee," or the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, is scheduled to announce its recommendations to cut $1.5 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The Supercommittee was created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 back in August to avert the debt ceiling crisis. Congress is scheduled to vote on these recommendations by Dec. 23. If Congress fails to adopt Supercommittee recommendations, there will be an automatic sequestration, or across-the-board cuts.

    The Supercommittee is rumored to be contemplating substantial (up to 60%) cuts to Medicare Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding which supports vast majority of residency programs in the U.S. As a result, it is critical that we, as physicians-in-training, make our voices heard on this issue. Please take a few seconds to email your members of Congress and urge them to protect Medicare GME:

    The American Medical Student Association strongly supports continued Medicare GME funding and condemns any effort to cut this funding. Massive cuts to Medicare GME will compromise patient access to care and, in some cases, may result in the closure of some residency programs. As the United States seeks to insure millions of previously uninsured Americans, it is critical that the federal government continue to invest in a robust health professional workforce to meet our nation's health care needs. Sustained GME funding is an essential element of this investment.  



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  • AIDS Activists Gather in NYC

    Merrian Brooks, DO

    Hundreds of people from many AIDS activist groups joined together on Wednesday to demand sound policies and greater funding for HIV. The group marched 12 blocks, first stopping at the EU building, demanding that the EU stop endorsement trade agreements that support big pharmaceutical companies and result in HIV medicines being more expensive than they could be given generic more open generic competition. Next the rally stopped in front of a NYC gym where Mayor Bloomberg was exercising and demanded that he maintain funding for housing programs that people living with HIV desperately need. Finally, the march ended with a rally outside of the UN building where the coalition made its demands and raised awareness about pressing issues.

    One issue brought up, by many of the speakers at the rally is the growing very disturbing trend of treating people with HIV as biological weapons. One case mentioned, was of a man who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for spitting on a police officer a normally minor offense, unless you have HIV. Given that one needs gallons of saliva to transmit HIV to another person, the harshness of this sentence is difficult to justify. The speakers asked citizens and leadership to be aware of these policies and to block them whenever they can.

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