Ms. Magazine
So...Are You Two Together?
You share a home and a life with your best girlfriend. What do you call that?

MS.CELLANEOUS
- What?
- Just the Facts
- Word: No
- Women to Watch

Uppity Woman
A puppet maker on a mission.
HEALTH
- Unconscionable Care
- Cardinal Sins
- Healthnotes
Life and Death in Iraq
Our reporter goes inside Iraq to learn firsthand what sanctions have done to the lives of women.
Did the Women's Museum Wimp Out?
While many have raved about the new Women's Museum in Dalls, others say it soft-pedals the details of the struggle for women's rights.
Portfolio: Eyes of the Beholder
African American women photographers turn the "gaze" inside out.
ART
Breaking from Tradition: Two Great Singers from Mali.
POETRY
My Dreams, My Works, Must Wait Till After Hell by Gwendolyn Brooks

Ms News

Editor's Page: Mothering Our Mothers

Books:
-A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom
-Freedom's Daughters, by Lynne Olson
-Kamikaze Lust, by Lauren Sanders
-Manmade Breast Cancers, by Zillah Eisenstein
-Smell, by Radhika Jha

-First Person: Slut, Interrupted
-Columns: Daisy Hernandez, Patricia Smith and Gloria Steinem
Call for Woman of the Year
Tell us who you think should be recognized in this special issue.

AN EXCERPT FROM "Unconscionable Care". The entire article can be read in our June/July, 2001 issue on newstands now.



Just six months after the supreme court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, Congress enacted the Church Amendment. Largely unnoticed, the statute exempted individuals and institutions with religious or moral objections from performing abortions or sterilizations, even though they were receiving federal funds. By 1978, nearly every state had passed its own version of the amendment, in many cases expanding the scope of the exemptions.

To the extent that these laws protected individual rights, they seemed reasonable enough to most pro-choice advocates; after all, the abortion debate had been waged on the battlegrounds of conscience and the rights of women to make their own decisions. It seemed fair to take into account the personal choice of the providers being asked to perform abortions. In an era when private doctors were the norm, this rationale made sense.

But these laws also covered hospitals and clinics, and so pitted an abstract notion of institutional conscience against a woman's individual right to have an abortion. They also declared that in the shadowy realm of conscience, the basic medical principle of full disclosure did not apply to everyone-in most states with these laws, providers were not required to publicly post their "conscientious objections."

Fast-forward to the present; the Church Amendment and its state progeny have spawned a new generation of exemptions, and they go even further than the originals. "Noncompliance clauses" (called "conscience clauses" by the religious right) began showing up in state legislatures in the early 1990s, not coincidentally at the same time that Bill Clinton's proposed health care reform bill was being debated. While they vary in specifics, the clauses allow religiously affiliated hospitals, employers, insurers, HMOs, or individual doctors to opt out, not only from performing abortions and sterilizations, but, in some cases, even from discussing abortions. They can also allow providers to refuse to offer, pay for, or talk about contraception. As with their predecessors, most of these clauses offer a veil of secrecy: providers are rarely required to inform anyone of their objections. By protecting a health care provider's right to refuse specific services, and giving this right precedence over a woman's right to make informed decisions about her health, noncompliance clauses create a parallel medical universe where professional obligations can be altered by personal beliefs.

- Emily Bass is a writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y.

AN EXCERPT FROM "Unconscionable Care". The entire article can be read in our June/July, 2001 issue on newstands now.