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Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel

Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel, first joined the Center in 2009 as a law fellow and was promoted to Counsel, focusing on health care reform implementation and preventing discrimination in health care. She subsequently worked as a law fellow at the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, where she worked on scholarship related to global health and human rights, health care reform and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Kelli returned to the Center in April 2012, and now oversees the Center's efforts to address religious restrictions on women's access to reproductive health services, including its work on hospital mergers and crisis pregnancy centers. Kelli holds a law degree from Yale Law School, a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an A.B. from Princeton University.

My Take

Women Deserve Health Care, Not Lies

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: March 05, 2014 at 01:52 pm

Women of color are being left behind when it to comes to reproductive health care. African-American women are three to four times more likely than white women to die in pregnancy or childbirth. Women of color are less likely than white women to have regular pap smears, even though they have the highest rates of cervical cancer. African American women have a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than white women.

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All Women Deserve Access to Abortion

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: January 22, 2014 at 01:31 pm

Forty-one years ago Roe v. Wade made clear that women have a fundamental right to choose when and whether to have children. But, today, as some states restrict abortion, many women find themselves unable to exercise this fundamental right. Women of color and low-income women, who have never had equal access to abortion, bear the brunt of these restrictions. Seventy-percent of low income women who obtained an abortion report that they would have preferred to have the abortion earlier. Waiting periods and required ultrasounds force low-income women to take additional time off of work and find child care and transportation. For many women, these can be insurmountable obstacles. One study found that after Texas enacted its waiting period and ultrasound requirements, women had to wait an average of 3.7 days between their initial visit and the abortion. The wait times were primarily caused by scheduling difficulties. Women traveled an average of 84 miles, round-trip and incurred an additional $146 in travel expenses, child care costs and lost wages.  Dr. Willie Parker, who has traveled from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi twice a month to work at the state’s sole abortion clinic recently told Salon, “The women who are disproportionately affected by these cumbersome laws are poor women of color . . . There is virtually no financial support because of the Hyde Amendment. Women who are on Medicaid or public assistance cannot use that money for their care.”

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Texas Abortion Bill Sparks Outrage

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: July 15, 2013 at 05:04 pm

On Friday, the Texas Senate passed sweeping anti-abortion restrictions, that unconstitutionally ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and will unnecessary require abortion clinics to meet the standards set for hospital style-surgical centers, among other provisions. The bill now awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s signature. Once signed, it will force most of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics to close. This is certainly a sad day for women’s health.

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El Salvador Case is a Reminder that Abortion Restrictions Threaten Lives

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: June 11, 2013 at 11:13 am

Today, reproductive rights advocates in D.C. will hold a vigil in support of safe, legal, and affordable abortion care for all women, no matter where they live. This vigil comes after the Salvadorian Supreme Court denied a critically ill woman, known only as Beatriz, a therapeutic abortion. Beatriz was pregnant with a nonviable, anencephalic fetus. Due to complications related to lupus, cardiovascular disease and kidney functioning, the pregnancy threatened Beatriz’s life. The Supreme Court waited seven weeks while Beatriz’s health deteriorated before issuing its ruling. Last Monday, the Health Ministry allowed Beatriz to undergo a cesarean section. Beatriz is currently recovering; but, as expected, the fetus, which was missing part of its brain and skull, did not survive.

Think this can’t happen here? Think again. If anti-abortion activists get their way, abortion could be banned in all circumstances. Already, women seeking care at Catholic affiliated hospitals may be denied medically appropriate treatment. One study found that doctors practicing at Catholic-affiliated hospitals, which are required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, were forced to delay treatment for miscarriages while performing medically unnecessary tests. Even though these miscarriages were inevitable and nothing could save the fetus, some patients were transferred because doctors could still detect a fetal heartbeat or required to wait until there was no longer a fetal heartbeat to provide the needed medical care.

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Report on the "Crack Baby" Myth Serves as Reminder of the Risks of Prosecuting Pregnant Women

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: May 24, 2013 at 01:45 pm

The "crack baby" scare of the 1980s helped fuel a movement by prosecutors across the country to charge women who used drugs while pregnant or whose newborns tested positive for drugs with child abuse, neglect and even manslaughter [PDF]. But what really happened to those babies who were supposed to "overwhelm every social service delivery system that they come in contact with for the rest of their lives," according to one newscaster at the time? Were they, in the words of columnist Charles Krauthammer, doomed to "a life of certain suffering, of probably deviance, or permanent inferiority"? In a word — no. A recent New York Times "Retro Report" video revisited the crack baby hysteria and found no evidence that these dire predictions came true. These findings, which were being reported as early as 1992, should remind prosecutors and judges that the causal link between drug use and a specific pregnancy outcome is speculative, at best. While no one condones drug use in pregnancy, punitive measures do nothing to improve maternal, fetal, or child health [PDF]. Instead, they discourage women from seeking prenatal care and drug-treatment for fear of being prosecuted. 

The Mississippi state Supreme Court recently heard the case of Nina Buckhalter who tested positive for methamphetamine after suffering a stillbirth and was charged with manslaughter. The prosecutor in the case claims the drugs caused the stillbirth even though the actual cause is unknown and there is no clear evidence that methamphetamine use can cause a stillbirth.

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