Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 10 min 14 sec ago

Featured Blogs

1 hour 49 min ago

"Illinois Commits To Protect Pregnant Workers," (Martin, "Womenstake," NWLC, 8/26); "'Hobby Lobby' Aftermath: Illinois Seeks To Expand Birth Control Access," (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 8/26).

September 2, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Illinois Commits To Protect Pregnant Workers," Emily Martin, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": Although "most women continue working throughout their pregnancies with no need for changes in their jobs, some -- particularly those in physically demanding jobs -- will need temporary adjustments to continue working safely," writes Martin, vice president and general counsel at NWLC. These women often "need only a simple accommodation -- like avoiding heavy lifting for a few months, being permitted to sit occasionally during a long workday, or staying off high ladders" -- but many employers refuse to accommodate their requests and "fire pregnant workers or push them onto unpaid leave," Martin writes. Other women continue working without accommodations, putting their health at risk, "because they cannot afford to lose their income," she adds. Martin applauds Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) for signing a new law that "will protect pregnant workers in Illinois" and urges Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 942), which is pending in the House and Senate, to "require employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers who need it so that they can continue working safely through their pregnancies" (Martin, "Womenstake," NWLC, 8/26).

FEATURED BLOG

"'Hobby Lobby' Aftermath: Illinois Seeks To Expand Birth Control Access," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check: Wilson reports on new regulations proposed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services that aim to "directly address the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby" by expanding access to contraception for low-income state residents. Wilson writes that the policy changes, scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, "would increase Medicaid funding for health-care providers to provide" contraception, including doubling "[p]ayments for vasectomies and intrauterine devices." The new rules would also "requir[e] health providers that object to contraception to refer patients to providers that will provide contraceptive care," he writes (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 8/26).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "The Awesome Idea That Led to a Huge Drop in Teen Births," Judy Molland, Care2.

~ "Why the Right Will Reject the Administration's Latest Birth Control 'Fix,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

Planned Parenthood Asks Iowa Supreme Court To Stay Telemedicine Abortion Ban

1 hour 54 min ago

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Thursday asked the Iowa Supreme Court to stay a lower court's ruling that said the state Board of Medicine has the authority to ban the administration of medication abortion via telemedicine, the Des Moines Register reports.

Planned Parenthood Asks Iowa Supreme Court To Stay Telemedicine Abortion Ban

September 2, 2014 — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Thursday asked the Iowa Supreme Court to stay a lower court's ruling that said the state Board of Medicine has the authority to ban the administration of medication abortion via telemedicine, the Des Moines Register reports.

According to the Register, PPH would be forced to stop use of its telemedicine system on Sept. 17 if it does not obtain the stay.

PPH's system in Iowa is the first in the nation to administer medication abortion via a telemedicine system, and clinics in other states have put off establishing similar systems until the legal issues are settled in Iowa, the Register reports (Leys, Des Moines Register, 8/28).

Background

Although the Iowa Board of Medicine in 2010 ruled that doctors at PPH could continue to dispense medication abortion drugs via its telemedicine system, Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) later replaced all of the board members, who then approved rules barring PPH from administering medication abortions through the system.

PPH sued, and a judge last November issued a temporary stay against the ban (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/20). Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell upheld the rules in August.

PPH's Stay Request

PPH on Thursday asked the Iowa Supreme Court to let its physicians continue to use the telemedicine decision while the justices consider its appeal of Farrell's ruling.

In its request for a stay, PPH wrote, "If this court does not grant a stay, the rule will make it impossible for [PPH physicians] to provide abortion services at seven out of nine clinics where they provided them until today."

The organization added that women seeking abortion care "will have to travel up to more than 500 miles round trip, multiple times, to Des Moines or Iowa City, the only two cities with clinics where a physician is present" (Des Moines Register, 8/28).


State 'Feticide' Laws Come 'Dangerously Close to Criminalizing Pregnancy,' Columnist Writes

1 hour 55 min ago

"Anyone who doubts that laws restricting abortion rights actually restrict the freedom of women to fundamentally control their bodies and health should look at Indiana," Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn writes.

State 'Feticide' Laws Come 'Dangerously Close to Criminalizing Pregnancy,' Columnist Writes

September 2, 2014 — "Anyone who doubts that laws restricting abortion rights actually restrict the freedom of women to fundamentally control their bodies and health should look at Indiana," Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn writes.

Kohn highlights the case of Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman who faced charges in the state "after suffering premature delivery," allegedly at home, "and seeking hospital treatment." She explains that "Patel said when she saw the fetus wasn't breathing or moving, she placed it in a bag and put the bag in a dumpster."

Kohn notes that the state charged Patel with both felony neglect -- under which the state would have to "prove she gave birth to a live baby" -- and with "'feticide'" -- under which the fetus would have to have died -- even though "the facts necessary for filing the one charge ... entirely contradict the facts necessary for filing the other."

Kohn writes that "the utter illogic of the legal prosecution simply echoes the illogic of Indiana's [feticide] law and others like [it] -- which not only unconscionably (and arguably unconstitutionally) restrict a woman's right to abortion but tread dangerously close to criminalizing pregnancy as a whole."

"What these laws do deter is pregnant women seeking the health care they need or help from police or other authorities," she argues, adding that it is becoming "increasingly obvious to anyone paying attention that the supposed quest to protect fetuses is quite plainly and simply a war on the women who carry them" (Kohn, Daily Beast, 8/27).


Ill. Gov. Signs Anti-Discrimination Law for Pregnant Workers

1 hour 56 min ago

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Tuesday signed a bill (HB 8) into law that improves protections against job-based discrimination for pregnant workers, the AP/Rockford Register Star reports.

Ill. Gov. Signs Anti-Discrimination Law for Pregnant Workers

September 2, 2014 — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Tuesday signed a bill (HB 8) into law that improves protections against job-based discrimination for pregnant workers, the AP/Rockford Register Star reports. The law will take effect in January (Tareen, AP/Rockford Register Star, 8/26).

The law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as more-frequent bathroom breaks, places to sit, space for breastfeeding, limits on heavy lifting and assistance with manual labor (Lazare, Chicago Business Journal, 8/26). Employers will be permitted to ask women for a doctor's note related to their request, according to the Chicago Tribune (Chicago Tribune, 8/26).

The law also specifies that a pregnant woman cannot be forced to take a leave of absence if other workplace accommodations can be made and that employers cannot reject a qualified applicant because of potential pregnancy accommodations.

Women who do not believe their employers are complying with the law will be able to file complaints (AP/Rockford Register Star, 8/26).

Supporters Explain Need for Law

"This legislation is especially important for low-income workers, who typically have the most physically demanding jobs and are least likely to have access to maternity leave and sick time," said Wendy Pollack, director of the Women's Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, in a statement issued by Quinn's office. "Women can't afford to lose their jobs, along with their income, seniority, and their employer-provided health insurance, or put their pregnancies at risk, due to the denial of a reasonable accommodation," she added (Chicago Tribune, 8/26).

Quinn said in the statement, "Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job," adding, "These common-sense accommodations will provide peace of mind, safety and opportunity for moms-to-be and also help strengthen our workforce across the state" (Chicago Business Journal, 8/26).


Calif. Tells Insurers To Cover Abortion 'Neutrally'

1 hour 57 min ago

California law requires health plans to "treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally," the state Department of Managed Health Care said in a recent letter to seven insurers, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Calif. Tells Insurers To Cover Abortion 'Neutrally'

September 2, 2014 — California law requires health plans to "treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally," the state Department of Managed Health Care said in a recent letter to seven insurers, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Seipel, San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

The letter comes after two Catholic universities in California -- Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University -- said their employer health plans would no longer cover "elective" abortions.

The change partially took effect this year at Loyola and was slated to take effect at Santa Clara next year (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12).

Details of Letter

In the letter, DMHC Director Michelle Rouillard wrote the department had "erroneously approved or did not object" to some plans' exclusion of abortion coverage and directed insurers to review their plans for compliance (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/23). According to the letter, DMHC's decision is effective immediately (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

Rouillard explained that a 1975 state law requires health plans to cover all basic health care services, which the law defines as those that are "medically necessary." Abortion is considered a basic health care service, she said.

Further, "the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy," Rouillard wrote (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/22).

Anthem Blue Cross of California and Kaiser Permanente, which provide the universities' health plans, have said they will comply with the order, according to the Mercury News (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

Reaction

Several groups that support abortion rights -- including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, the National Health Law Program, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the Trust Women: Silver Ribbon Campaign -- said in a statement, "This clarification about statewide abortion coverage in health plans follows both the spirit and the letter of California law" (NHeLP release, 8/22).

Depti Singh -- an attorney with the National Health Law Program, a not-for-profit group that has worked to ensure abortion coverage is included in group health plans -- applauded DMHC's "action in really enforcing what current California law is" (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

However, the antiabortion-rights groups Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation sent a letter to Rouillard on Friday saying that they plan to file a civil rights complaint about the new directive.

Catherine Short, legal director of LLDF, said, "California cannot be allowed to discriminate against health plans that don't cover elective abortions and force people to purchase coverage that conflicts with their convictions" (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/23).

In addition, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights President Bill Donohue in a statement on Friday wrote, "Paying for abortions is in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church" (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).


Judge Stalls Enforcement of La. Admitting Privileges Law for Some Abortion Providers

1 hour 59 min ago

A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked Louisiana from enforcing an admitting privileges law (HB 388) while some doctors are attempting to comply with it and a court challenge continues, the AP/New York Times reports.

Judge Stalls Enforcement of La. Admitting Privileges Law for Some Abortion Providers

September 2, 2014 — A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked Louisiana from enforcing an admitting privileges law (HB 388) while some doctors are attempting to comply with it and a court challenge continues, the AP/New York Times reports. The law likely would have closed the state's five abortion clinics if it were enforced (AP/New York Times, 8/31).

The law, which took effect on Sept. 1, requires abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic where they practice (DeSlatte, AP/ABC News, 9/1).

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state over the law on behalf of several Louisiana abortion clinics. In the lawsuit, CRR argued that the law -- which was signed in June -- did not give abortion providers adequate time to comply and that it would impose an undue burden on women seeking abortion care (Villacorta, Politico, 9/1).

According to the AP/ABC News, CRR sued on behalf of clinics located in Shreveport, Bossier City and Metairie. Two clinics located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge did not participate in the lawsuit (AP/ABC News, 9/1).

Ruling Details

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles on Sunday did not grant a request for a temporary restraining order against the law and instead barred the state from penalizing abortion providers who are in the process of applying for privileges, Politico reports (Politico, 9/1).

DeGravelles said that the plaintiffs "will be allowed to operate lawfully while continuing their efforts to obtain privileges" (Kaminsky, Reuters, 8/31). He also noted that because "the applications of the doctors have not been acted upon at this time, the Court believes any undue burden that might occur if they were denied is speculative" and that evidence provided by the physicians suggesting their applications will be denied is "insufficient to carry their burden" at this time (Politico, 9/1).

DeGravelles said that he would arrange a status conference within 30 days to monitor progress on the doctors' admitting privileges applications. He said he also would schedule a hearing to reconsider the plaintiffs' request for an order to block the law at that time (AP/ABC News, 9/1).

According to Reuters, it is unclear whether deGravelles' ruling applies to all of the state's abortion clinics, or only to the plaintiffs (Reuters, 8/31).

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said the ruling "ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights." She added that CRR "continue[s] to look to the courts to uphold the Constitution and protect access to safe and legal abortion for all women regardless of where they happen to live" (Politico, 9/1).

State To Comply

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals spokesperson Olivia Watkins on Monday said that the state would comply with the ruling.

"The department's policy is in accordance with governing precedent from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and is in line with what the state offered the plaintiffs previously," she said (AP/ABC News, 9/1).


Federal Judge Finds Texas Abortion Clinic Restrictions Unconstitutional

2 hours 26 sec ago

A federal judge on Friday barred enforcement of a provision in a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that would have closed more than a dozen of the state's remaining abortion clinics, the New York Times reports.

Federal Judge Finds Texas Abortion Clinic Restrictions Unconstitutional

September 2, 2014 — A federal judge on Friday barred enforcement of a provision in a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that would have closed more than a dozen of the state's remaining abortion clinics, the New York Times reports (Eckholm/Fernandez, New York Times, 8/29).

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, 9/1).

Background

The provision was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 and would have required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of several abortion providers in the state, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the provision unconstitutionally limits women's access to abortion because it would leave Texas with fewer than 10 abortion facilities, none of which are south or west of San Antonio. Meanwhile, the state's court filings claimed that abortions are more dangerous than providers acknowledge and that the ambulatory surgical centers requirement will improve safety and patient care.

Earlier this year, a panel of three judges on the 5th Circuit upheld two other provisions in the law, ruling that they do not unduly burden abortion rights. One provision requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, while the other imposes restrictions on medication abortion. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the admitting privileges provision last year (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).

Friday's Ruling

In his ruling, Yeakel wrote that the ambulatory surgical center provision "is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion."

He added, "Even if the remaining clinics could meet the demand," the effects of long travel times and additional restrictions would be akin to "a complete ban on abortion."

In addition, Yeakel reissued a stay on the admitting privileges rule for two clinics -- in El Paso and McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley -- because the restrictions would significantly reduce access to abortion in the West and South regions of the state (New York Times, 8/29). After the decision, Whole Woman's Health announced that it has reopened a clinic in McAllen (Houston Chronicle, 9/1).

Reaction

Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said she is pleased with Yeakel's decision, adding that "requiring every abortion clinic to turn into a surgical center is excessive and not based on good medicine" (New York Times, 8/29).

Meanwhile, Abbott called Yeakel's decision "inexplicable." He wrote in his appeal, "The district court failed even to mention (much less follow) precedent from the Supreme Court." He asked the 5th Circuit to decide on his appeal this week (Houston Chronicle, 9/1).


Blogs Discuss Why 'Women's Equality Matters,' Need for Medicaid Abortion Coverage, More

2 hours 16 min ago

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Washington Post, The Nation and more.

Blogs Discuss Why 'Women's Equality Matters,' Need for Medicaid Abortion Coverage, More

September 2, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Washington Post, The Nation and more.

WOMEN'S EQUALITY DAY: "Women's Equality Matters," Debra Ness, Huffington Post blogs: While Women's Equality Day commemorates the day when U.S. women "took a giant step toward equality by winning the right to vote," the change "was just one step on the long road to equality -- and we're not there yet," writes Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Women are "breadwinners in two-thirds of U.S. households" but also "remain our families' primary caregivers," she notes, adding, "Families, our economy and our country are suffering because the nation's workplace policies have failed to keep pace with these realities." She urges lawmakers to pass legislation such as the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (S 1810, HR 3712) and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 942), among other bills, which "would go a long way toward advancing women's equality and economic security" (Ness, Huffington Post blogs, 8/27).

What others are saying about Women's Equality Day:

~ "8 Things Women Couldn't Do on the First Women's Equality Day in 1971 -- And 6 They Still Can't," Emma Gray, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "Which States Ranks the Best and the Worst for Gender Equity?" Brigid Schulte, Washington Post's "She The People."

REPRODUCTIVE-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Why 2014 is the Year To Demand Medicaid-Funded Abortions," Dani McClain, The Nation: The All* Above All campaign is "part of the latest effort to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which for nearly four decades has banned the use of federal funds for abortion and limited the options available [to] women who depend on Medicaid" for healthcare coverage, McClain writes. Because nearly "9 million women of reproductive age are Medicaid beneficiaries ... advocates use that number to quantify how many are denied access to abortion," McClain continues. One goal of All* Above All "is to mobilize elected officials who lead on issues of choice but who rarely talk about the need to repeal Hyde," she writes, noting that this is a critical time to address the issue "because of the Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148] and the opportunity it has created through Medicaid expansion for more women and families to access healthcare" (McClain, The Nation, 8/27).
What others are saying about the reproductive-rights movement:

~ "'Moral Mondays' Movement Expands to 12 States for 'Moral Week of Action,'" Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.

~ "The Price of Our Blood: Why Ferguson is a Reproductive Justice Issue," Katherine Cross, RH Reality Check.

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "Illinois Commits To Protect Pregnant Workers," Emily Martin, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": Although "most women continue working throughout their pregnancies with no need for changes in their jobs, some -- particularly those in physically demanding jobs -- will need temporary adjustments to continue working safely," writes Martin, vice president and general counsel at NWLC. These women often "need only a simple accommodation -- like avoiding heavy lifting for a few months, being permitted to sit occasionally during a long workday, or staying off high ladders" -- but many employers refuse to accommodate their requests and "fire pregnant workers or push them onto unpaid leave," Martin writes. Other women continue working without accommodations, putting their health at risk, "because they cannot afford to lose their income," she adds. Martin applauds Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) for signing a new law that "will protect pregnant workers in Illinois" and urges Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 942), which is pending in the House and Senate, to "require employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers who need it so that they can continue working safely through their pregnancies" (Martin, "Womenstake," NWLC, 8/26).

CONTRACEPTION: "'Hobby Lobby' Aftermath: Illinois Seeks To Expand Birth Control Access," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check: Wilson reports on new regulations proposed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services that aim to "directly address the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby" by expanding access to contraception for low-income state residents. Wilson writes that the policy changes, scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, "would increase Medicaid funding for health-care providers to provide" contraception, including doubling "[p]ayments for vasectomies and intrauterine devices." The new rules would also "requir[e] health providers that object to contraception to refer patients to providers that will provide contraceptive care," he writes (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 8/26).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "The Awesome Idea That Led to a Huge Drop in Teen Births," Judy Molland, Care2.

~ "Why the Right Will Reject the Administration's Latest Birth Control 'Fix,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

HEALTH DISPARITIES: "Low Birth Weight Linked to Increased Risk of Diabetes in Black Women," Crystal Shepeard, Care2: Shepeard reports on research conducted as part of Boston University's ongoing Black Women's Health Study that found the risk of type 2 diabetes for black women "may have started at birth." She writes, "Researchers looked at 16 years of health data for 21,000 black women," finding that "[w]omen who had a low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds) had a 13 percent increase of risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life" and that "[w]hen the birth weight was even lower, the risk went as high as 40 percent." Shepeard notes that the study is "the first ... to highlight the association of low birth weight to type 2 diabetes." She adds that it "could be significant considering babies born to black mothers are twice as likely to have a low birth weight as those born to white mothers" and "have the highest incidence of low weight births among all racial groups in the United States," a "disparity [that] has persisted for decades" (Shepeard, Care2, 8/29).


Ill. Gov. Signs Anti-Discrimination Law for Pregnant Workers

2 hours 19 min ago

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Tuesday signed a bill (HB 8) into law that improves protections against job-based discrimination for pregnant workers, the AP/Rockford Register Star reports.

Ill. Gov. Signs Anti-Discrimination Law for Pregnant Workers

September 2, 2014 — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Tuesday signed a bill (HB 8) into law that improves protections against job-based discrimination for pregnant workers, the AP/Rockford Register Star reports. The law will take effect in January (Tareen, AP/Rockford Register Star, 8/26).

The law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as more-frequent bathroom breaks, places to sit, space for breastfeeding, limits on heavy lifting and assistance with manual labor (Lazare, Chicago Business Journal, 8/26). Employers will be permitted to ask women for a doctor's note related to their request, according to the Chicago Tribune (Chicago Tribune, 8/26).

The law also specifies that a pregnant woman cannot be forced to take a leave of absence if other workplace accommodations can be made and that employers cannot reject a qualified applicant because of potential pregnancy accommodations.

Women who do not believe their employers are complying with the law will be able to file complaints (AP/Rockford Register Star, 8/26).

Supporters Explain Need for Law

"This legislation is especially important for low-income workers, who typically have the most physically demanding jobs and are least likely to have access to maternity leave and sick time," said Wendy Pollack, director of the Women's Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, in a statement issued by Quinn's office. "Women can't afford to lose their jobs, along with their income, seniority, and their employer-provided health insurance, or put their pregnancies at risk, due to the denial of a reasonable accommodation," she added (Chicago Tribune, 8/26).

Quinn said in the statement, "Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job," adding, "These common-sense accommodations will provide peace of mind, safety and opportunity for moms-to-be and also help strengthen our workforce across the state" (Chicago Business Journal, 8/26).


New York Times Magazine Profiles Global Online 'Support Service' for Medication Abortion

2 hours 20 min ago

This week's New York Times Magazine cover story profiles Women on Web, an online "support service" for women in need of medication abortion, and its founder, Rebecca Gomperts, an activist and physician.

New York Times Magazine Profiles Global Online 'Support Service' for Medication Abortion

September 2, 2014 — This week's New York Times Magazine cover story profiles Women on Web, an online "support service" for women in need of medication abortion, and its founder, Rebecca Gomperts, an activist and physician.

Gomperts designed the service as a way to provide "abortions without direct contact with a doctor -- for women in countries where abortion clinics are nonexistent or highly restricted," according to the Times Magazine. She and a small team field email queries from women around the world who want to end their pregnancies but do not have access to safe or legal abortion. According to Gomperts, the organization receives 2,000 such queries each month.

Gompert's efforts also are inspiring abortion-rights advocates in the U.S., where abortion "is simultaneously legal and increasingly hard to access," the Times Magazine reports.

How It Works

Women on Web will help a woman obtain medication abortion drugs only if she is fewer than nine weeks pregnant, to ensure that the pills reach her before the end of the first trimester. The Times Magazine notes that mifepristone and misoprostol -- the two drugs used in the medication abortion regimen -- are 95% to 98% effective at ending a pregnancy when used correctly.

To use the service, a woman fills out an online form that is reviewed by one of five physicians who work part time for Women on Web. The prescription is processed electronically through a drug exporter in India and mailed to the woman with a tracking number that Women on Web uses to follow the packages' progress. The group then emails the recipient with instructions on how to use the drugs and what to expect as they take effect.

Women also can contact the group's help desk with questions or concerns afterward. The help desk staff members will send them a standard list of warning signs and urge them to contact a doctor, but they do not advise on individual symptoms. Women on the Web also counsels women about how to avoid criminal charges if they live in areas where they could face prosecution (Bazelon, New York Times Magazine, 8/28).


Judge Stalls Enforcement of La. Admitting Privileges Law for Some Abortion Providers

4 hours 6 min ago

A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked Louisiana from enforcing an admitting privileges law (HB 388) while some doctors are attempting to comply with it and a court challenge continues, the AP/New York Times reports.

Judge Stalls Enforcement of La. Admitting Privileges Law for Some Abortion Providers

September 2, 2014 — A federal judge on Sunday temporarily blocked Louisiana from enforcing an admitting privileges law (HB 388) while some doctors are attempting to comply with it and a court challenge continues, the AP/New York Times reports. The law likely would have closed the state's five abortion clinics if it were enforced (AP/New York Times, 8/31).

The law, which took effect on Sept. 1, requires abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic where they practice (DeSlatte, AP/ABC News, 9/1).

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state over the law on behalf of several Louisiana abortion clinics. In the lawsuit, CRR argued that the law -- which was signed in June -- did not give abortion providers adequate time to comply and that it would impose an undue burden on women seeking abortion care (Villacorta, Politico, 9/1).

According to the AP/ABC News, CRR sued on behalf of clinics located in Shreveport, Bossier City and Metairie. Two clinics located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge did not participate in the lawsuit (AP/ABC News, 9/1).

Ruling Details

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles on Sunday did not grant a request for a temporary restraining order against the law and instead barred the state from penalizing abortion providers who are in the process of applying for privileges, Politico reports (Politico, 9/1).

DeGravelles said that the plaintiffs "will be allowed to operate lawfully while continuing their efforts to obtain privileges" (Kaminsky, Reuters, 8/31). He also noted that because "the applications of the doctors have not been acted upon at this time, the Court believes any undue burden that might occur if they were denied is speculative" and that evidence provided by the physicians suggesting their applications will be denied is "insufficient to carry their burden" at this time (Politico, 9/1).

DeGravelles said that he would arrange a status conference within 30 days to monitor progress on the doctors' admitting privileges applications. He said he also would schedule a hearing to reconsider the plaintiffs' request for an order to block the law at that time (AP/ABC News, 9/1).

According to Reuters, it is unclear whether deGravelles' ruling applies to all of the state's abortion clinics, or only to the plaintiffs (Reuters, 8/31).

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said the ruling "ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights." She added that CRR "continue[s] to look to the courts to uphold the Constitution and protect access to safe and legal abortion for all women regardless of where they happen to live" (Politico, 9/1).

State To Comply

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals spokesperson Olivia Watkins on Monday said that the state would comply with the ruling.

"The department's policy is in accordance with governing precedent from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and is in line with what the state offered the plaintiffs previously," she said (AP/ABC News, 9/1).


Federal Judge Finds Texas Abortion Clinic Restrictions Unconstitutional

4 hours 37 min ago

A federal judge on Friday barred enforcement of a provision in a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that would have closed more than a dozen of the state's remaining abortion clinics, the New York Times reports.

Federal Judge Finds Texas Abortion Clinic Restrictions Unconstitutional

September 2, 2014 — A federal judge on Friday barred enforcement of a provision in a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that would have closed more than a dozen of the state's remaining abortion clinics, the New York Times reports (Eckholm/Fernandez, New York Times, 8/29).

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, 9/1).

Background

The provision was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 and would have required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of several abortion providers in the state, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the provision unconstitutionally limits women's access to abortion because it would leave Texas with fewer than 10 abortion facilities, none of which are south or west of San Antonio. Meanwhile, the state's court filings claimed that abortions are more dangerous than providers acknowledge and that the ambulatory surgical centers requirement will improve safety and patient care.

Earlier this year, a panel of three judges on the 5th Circuit upheld two other provisions in the law, ruling that they do not unduly burden abortion rights. One provision requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, while the other imposes restrictions on medication abortion. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the admitting privileges provision last year (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).

Friday's Ruling

In his ruling, Yeakel wrote that the ambulatory surgical center provision "is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion."

He added, "Even if the remaining clinics could meet the demand," the effects of long travel times and additional restrictions would be akin to "a complete ban on abortion."

In addition, Yeakel reissued a stay on the admitting privileges rule for two clinics -- in El Paso and McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley -- because the restrictions would significantly reduce access to abortion in the West and South regions of the state (New York Times, 8/29). After the decision, Whole Woman's Health announced that it has reopened a clinic in McAllen (Houston Chronicle, 9/1).

Reaction

Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said she is pleased with Yeakel's decision, adding that "requiring every abortion clinic to turn into a surgical center is excessive and not based on good medicine" (New York Times, 8/29).

Meanwhile, Abbott called Yeakel's decision "inexplicable." He wrote in his appeal, "The district court failed even to mention (much less follow) precedent from the Supreme Court." He asked the 5th Circuit to decide on his appeal this week (Houston Chronicle, 9/1).


Planned Parenthood Asks Iowa Supreme Court To Stay Telemedicine Abortion Ban

6 hours 33 min ago

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Thursday asked the Iowa Supreme Court to stay a lower court's ruling that said the state Board of Medicine has the authority to ban the administration of medication abortion via telemedicine, the Des Moines Register reports.

Planned Parenthood Asks Iowa Supreme Court To Stay Telemedicine Abortion Ban

September 2, 2014 — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland on Thursday asked the Iowa Supreme Court to stay a lower court's ruling that said the state Board of Medicine has the authority to ban the administration of medication abortion via telemedicine, the Des Moines Register reports.

According to the Register, PPH would be forced to stop use of its telemedicine system on Sept. 17 if it does not obtain the stay.

PPH's system in Iowa is the first in the nation to administer medication abortion via a telemedicine system, and clinics in other states have put off establishing similar systems until the legal issues are settled in Iowa, the Register reports (Leys, Des Moines Register, 8/28).

Background

Although the Iowa Board of Medicine in 2010 ruled that doctors at PPH could continue to dispense medication abortion drugs via its telemedicine system, Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) later replaced all of the board members, who then approved rules barring PPH from administering medication abortions through the system.

PPH sued, and a judge last November issued a temporary stay against the ban (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/20). Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell upheld the rules in August.

PPH's Stay Request

PPH on Thursday asked the Iowa Supreme Court to let its physicians continue to use the telemedicine decision while the justices consider its appeal of Farrell's ruling.

In its request for a stay, PPH wrote, "If this court does not grant a stay, the rule will make it impossible for [PPH physicians] to provide abortion services at seven out of nine clinics where they provided them until today."

The organization added that women seeking abortion care "will have to travel up to more than 500 miles round trip, multiple times, to Des Moines or Iowa City, the only two cities with clinics where a physician is present" (Des Moines Register, 8/28).


State 'Feticide' Laws Come 'Dangerously Close to Criminalizing Pregnancy,' Columnist Writes

6 hours 38 min ago

"Anyone who doubts that laws restricting abortion rights actually restrict the freedom of women to fundamentally control their bodies and health should look at Indiana," Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn writes.

State 'Feticide' Laws Come 'Dangerously Close to Criminalizing Pregnancy,' Columnist Writes

September 2, 2014 — "Anyone who doubts that laws restricting abortion rights actually restrict the freedom of women to fundamentally control their bodies and health should look at Indiana," Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn writes.

Kohn highlights the case of Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman who faced charges in the state "after suffering premature delivery," allegedly at home, "and seeking hospital treatment." She explains that "Patel said when she saw the fetus wasn't breathing or moving, she placed it in a bag and put the bag in a dumpster."

Kohn notes that the state charged Patel with both felony neglect -- under which the state would have to "prove she gave birth to a live baby" -- and with "'feticide'" -- under which the fetus would have to have died -- even though "the facts necessary for filing the one charge ... entirely contradict the facts necessary for filing the other."

Kohn writes that "the utter illogic of the legal prosecution simply echoes the illogic of Indiana's [feticide] law and others like [it] -- which not only unconscionably (and arguably unconstitutionally) restrict a woman's right to abortion but tread dangerously close to criminalizing pregnancy as a whole."

"What these laws do deter is pregnant women seeking the health care they need or help from police or other authorities," she argues, adding that it is becoming "increasingly obvious to anyone paying attention that the supposed quest to protect fetuses is quite plainly and simply a war on the women who carry them" (Kohn, Daily Beast, 8/27).


Calif. Tells Insurers To Cover Abortion 'Neutrally'

6 hours 38 min ago

California law requires health plans to "treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally," the state Department of Managed Health Care said in a recent letter to seven insurers, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Calif. Tells Insurers To Cover Abortion 'Neutrally'

September 2, 2014 — California law requires health plans to "treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally," the state Department of Managed Health Care said in a recent letter to seven insurers, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Seipel, San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

The letter comes after two Catholic universities in California -- Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University -- said their employer health plans would no longer cover "elective" abortions.

The change partially took effect this year at Loyola and was slated to take effect at Santa Clara next year (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12).

Details of Letter

In the letter, DMHC Director Michelle Rouillard wrote the department had "erroneously approved or did not object" to some plans' exclusion of abortion coverage and directed insurers to review their plans for compliance (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/23). According to the letter, DMHC's decision is effective immediately (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

Rouillard explained that a 1975 state law requires health plans to cover all basic health care services, which the law defines as those that are "medically necessary." Abortion is considered a basic health care service, she said.

Further, "the California Constitution prohibits health plans from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy," Rouillard wrote (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/22).

Anthem Blue Cross of California and Kaiser Permanente, which provide the universities' health plans, have said they will comply with the order, according to the Mercury News (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

Reaction

Several groups that support abortion rights -- including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, the National Health Law Program, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the Trust Women: Silver Ribbon Campaign -- said in a statement, "This clarification about statewide abortion coverage in health plans follows both the spirit and the letter of California law" (NHeLP release, 8/22).

Depti Singh -- an attorney with the National Health Law Program, a not-for-profit group that has worked to ensure abortion coverage is included in group health plans -- applauded DMHC's "action in really enforcing what current California law is" (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).

However, the antiabortion-rights groups Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation sent a letter to Rouillard on Friday saying that they plan to file a civil rights complaint about the new directive.

Catherine Short, legal director of LLDF, said, "California cannot be allowed to discriminate against health plans that don't cover elective abortions and force people to purchase coverage that conflicts with their convictions" (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/23).

In addition, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights President Bill Donohue in a statement on Friday wrote, "Paying for abortions is in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church" (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).


Some Insurers Failing To Cover All Contraceptives; Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 14:35

Some insurers that are required to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) are only providing coverage for a limited number of methods, Kaiser Health News reports.

Some Insurers Failing To Cover All Contraceptives; Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

August 22, 2014 — Some insurers that are required to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148)are only providing coverage for a limited number of methods, Kaiser Health News reports.

Federal guidance on the contraceptive coverage rules states that insurers must cover the full range of FDA-approved methods without cost sharing. Insurers are permitted to use "reasonable medical management techniques" to curb costs, such as only covering the generic version of an approved contraceptive. In addition, some plans qualify for an exemption to the rules because they have "grandfathered" status or are for certain religious employers.

However, some women have found that health plans that are subject to the rules are not covering certain methods, KHN reports.

"[W]e've seen this happen, plenty," Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, said. Despite guidance mandating full coverage, some "insurance companies think things are ambiguous enough that they can get away with it," he added.

Sonfield said that if a person is denied coverage, the individual should appeal the decision to his or her state insurance department. "The state has the right and responsibility to enforce this law," he said (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 8/22).

Ill. To Increase Medicaid Reimbursement for Contraception

In related news, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on Wednesday proposed a plan that aims to increase access to long-acting contraceptive methods by raising Medicaid provider reimbursements for contraceptive services, the Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports.

DHFS Director Julie Hamos said that the policy was spurred in part by the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed some private businesses to deny contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. She said that while Illinois' policy change would only affect Medicaid beneficiaries, not employers, the court ruling created "an opportune time when women across the country are paying attention," which can be used "to focus on what's available to them through Medicaid."

The Illinois proposal would double provider reimbursement rates for vasectomies and intrauterine devices. The plan also would boost reimbursements for non-surgical sterilization kits and bar "step therapy" rules that require women to try certain forms of contraception before others.

Under the plan, DHFS would immediately increase the reimbursement rates for Planned Parenthood clinics and other walk-in health care providers, the Tribune/KHN reports. The changes for other providers would take effect Oct. 1.

In addition, DHFS is weighing whether it has the authority to add a new rule that would require health care providers who object to contraception to refer patients to other providers who offer the services. Federal law bars the agency from requiring providers with such objections to inform patients about contraceptives.

According to the Tribune/KHN, the department is accepting comment on the proposed policy through Sept. 15 and expects to finalize the rule later this fall (Venteicher, Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 8/21).


Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 12:14

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on Wednesday proposed a plan that aims to increase access to long-acting contraceptive methods by raising Medicaid provider reimbursements for contraceptive services, the Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports.

Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

August 22, 2014 — The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on Wednesday proposed a plan that aims to increase access to long-acting contraceptive methods by raising Medicaid provider reimbursements for contraceptive services, the Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports. 


DHFS Director Julie Hamos said that the policy was spurred in part by the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed some private businesses to deny contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. She said that while Illinois' policy change would only affect Medicaid beneficiaries, not employers, the court ruling created "an opportune time when women across the country are paying attention," which can be used "to focus on what's available to them through Medicaid."

The Illinois proposal would double provider reimbursement rates for vasectomies and intrauterine devices. The plan also would boost reimbursements for non-surgical sterilization kits and bar "step therapy" rules that require women to try certain forms of contraception before others.

Under the plan, DHFS would immediately increase the reimbursement rates for Planned Parenthood clinics and other walk-in health care providers, the Tribune/KHN reports. The changes for other providers would take effect Oct. 1.

In addition, DHFS is weighing whether it has the authority to add a new rule that would require health care providers who object to contraception to refer patients to other providers who offer the services. Federal law bars the agency from requiring providers with such objections to inform patients about contraceptives.

According to the Tribune/KHN, the department is accepting comment on the proposed policy through Sept. 15 and expects to finalize the rule later this fall (Venteicher, Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 8/21).


HHS Updates Contraceptive Coverage Rules for Not-for-Profits, Considers Changes for Businesses

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 21:13

HHS on Friday announced two rules designed to preserve contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) in light of recent court decisions on the issue, MSNBC reports.

HHS Updates Contraceptive Coverage Rules for Not-for-Profits, Considers Changes for Businesses

August 22, 2014 — HHS on Friday announced two rules designed to preserve contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) in light of recent court decisions on the issue, MSNBC reports.

The changes are meant to address gaps in coverage created by the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which allowed a business to deny contraceptive coverage in its employer-sponsored health plan, as well as the court's decision to grant an injunction to Wheaton College, an evangelical university that objected to filling out a form that would authorize a third party to provide the coverage for its employees and students (Carmon, MSNBC, 8/22).

"Women across the country deserve access to recommended preventive services that are important to their health, no matter where they work," HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said (Bassett, Huffington Post, 8/22).

Rule for Religious Not-for-Profits

One rule maintains the accommodation for religiously affiliated not-for-profits that object to contraceptive coverage but creates a second way for those entities to inform the government of their objections (MSNBC, 8/22).

Under the new option, religiously affiliated not-for-profits can send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans. Such organizations still have the option of filling out the form if they prefer.

The rule takes effect immediately upon publication, but HHS will take comments, it said.

Comments Sought on Accommodation for For-Profit Entities

The second rule seeks comments on allowing the same accommodation for "closely held for-profit entities, like Hobby Lobby."

Specifically, HHS called for comments "on how to define a closely held for-profit company and whether other steps might be appropriate to implement this policy" (HHS release, 8/22).


Video Round Up: Abortion Provider Explains Threats to Clinics, Anti-Choice Activists Track Patients

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 20:02

Abortion provider Willie Parker describes how state restrictions are making it harder for women to access the procedure. We also feature a video from two Texas reproductive-rights groups that includes undercover audio from a training session for antiabortion-rights activists.

Video Round Up: Abortion Provider Explains Threats to Clinics, Anti-Choice Activists Track Patients

August 22, 2014 — Abortion provider Willie Parker describes how state restrictions are making it harder for women to access the procedure. We also feature a video from two Texas reproductive-rights groups that includes undercover audio from a training session for antiabortion-rights activists.



Physician Willie Parker, who travels from Chicago to Mississippi to provide abortions at the state's only abortion clinic, talks with MSNBC's Joy Reid about restrictive state laws that are leaving women with no nearby abortion clinics in increasingly larger regions of the South. Parker also discusses a recent documentary about the Mississippi clinic, "The Last Clinic," in which he was featured.

"It's really easy to say that women can [take] other measures, like leave the state," if the Mississippi clinic closes, "but that presumes that women have those resources, and ... most of the women that I see are women who are in desperate circumstances," Parker explains (Reid, "The Reid Report," MSNBC, 8/6).




A video from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Progress Texas compiles undercover audio recorded at a training session for antiabortion-rights activists. The speakers at the training explain disturbing tactics they use to track and harass patients and clinic staff members, such as recording license plates, searching tax records and lining sidewalks to discourage patients from entering facilities (NARAL Pro-Choice Texas release, 8/12).

Planned Parenthood v. Iowa Board of Medicine

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 19:25

State court challenge to a rule prohibiting the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion to patients.

Planned Parenthood v. Iowa Board of Medicine

State court challenge to a rule prohibiting the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion to patients. The rule requires a physician to have an in-person exam with the patient and to be present when the medication abortion is dispensed. The Polk County District Court issued a temporary stay of the rule, allowing providers to continue to use telemedicine to administer medication abortion until a court ruling on the merits of the case. Current Status: In August 2014, the Polk County District Court upheld the rule, allowing it to take effect 30 days after the court issued its decision. Planned Parenthood immediately announced plans to appeal the ruling. (Read more about the case here.)