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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

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.


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.


West Virginia Crisis Pregnancy Center Locates Next to Abortion Provider

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: May 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

The Women's Health Center of West Virginia, a full service health clinic and abortion provider just got a new neighbor, the Women's Choice Pregnancy Resource Center. Women's Choice isn't a health clinic and it doesn't provide medical services. Instead, it offers counseling to try to persuade women not to have an abortion and provides free pregnancy tests, some diapers and some baby clothes. But, would you know the difference just from the names? Imagine how easy it would be for a woman looking for Women's Health Center to walk into Women's Choice instead, thinking, perhaps, that it is an affiliated clinic offering pregnancy and abortion care. It is called Women's Choice, after all, suggesting that it supports choice rather than an ideological anti-abortion agenda. In fact, it used to be called Lifeline of Charleston but changed its name in 2002. Referring to the name change, Sharon Lewis, the executive director of Women's Health Center, noted,  "[M]y only conclusion is that that's part of a deceptive practice to get women in there because they're confused, thinking that they're going to a reproductive-health center." 

These tactics — locating near an abortion provider, using a misleading name — are all common ways in which Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) try to get women into their doors. Unfortunately, deceptive practices by CPCs are fairly common and they don't stop with advertising and location.


Hospital Mergers Threaten Reproductive Health Care in Washington State

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: May 14, 2013 at 04:08 pm

Hospital mergers don’t typically come to mind when thinking about threats to reproductive health.  But, because Catholic hospitals do not provide certain reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, tubal ligation and vasectomies, a wave of mergers between secular (and even public) hospitals and Catholic affiliated hospitals in Washington state is doing just that.

If all of the proposed mergers in the state were to be completed, almost half of Washington’s hospital beds would be controlled by Catholic health systems. In fact, all of the beds in 10 of Washington’s 39 counties could be subject to religious restrictions, forcing residents to travel significant distances to find a secular hospital.  If the proposed merger between Harrison Medical Center and Franciscan Health Systems is completed, for example, residents in Bremerton would have to take an hour long ferry ride to get to the next closest acute care hospital.


MO Attorney General Won’t Appeal Ruling Striking Down an Exemption to the Contraceptive Coverage Requirement

Posted by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel | Posted on: April 17, 2013 at 10:41 am

Score one for sanity! Last Thursday, the Missouri Attorney General announced that he will not appeal a federal court ruling that struck down a Missouri law that would have required insurance issuers to issue polices without contraceptive coverage to employers who claim that birth control violates their “moral, ethical or religious beliefs.”

The law directly conflicted with the federal health care law’s contraceptive coverage requirement, which requires all new health insurance plans to cover contraceptives with no co-pay. In his announcement, the Attorney General aptly stated, “the attempt to deny contraceptive coverage to women in Missouri is just plain foolishness” and “cannot be supported by case law or sound policy.”