Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
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8 hours 56 min ago

"New Report Shows How the 'Pregnancy Penalty' Drives Economic Inequality," (Dusenbery, Feministing, 10/20).

October 21, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"New Report Shows How the 'Pregnancy Penalty' Drives Economic Inequality," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "[T]he 'bias and inflexibility towards women in the workplace that starts when they become pregnant and snowballs into lasting economic disadvantages' is driving gender inequality and overall economic inequality" in New York City, according to a report from A Better Balance, Dusenbery writes. Specifically, the report critiques the "pregnancy penalty," which results from "both 'blatant discrimination' against pregnant workers ... and lack of workplace policies -- like paid family leave and flexible schedules -- to make it easier to juggle both a job and children at the same time -- particularly for poor families," Dusenbery writes. She notes that the penalty drives "overall economic inequality" by keeping "families on the treadmill of poverty" and adds that A Better Balance has called on New York lawmakers to address the issue through legislation (Dusenbery, Feministing, 10/20).

Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

8 hours 59 min ago

Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

October 21, 2014 — Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The race between Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley is the tightest in the country that does not involve an incumbent, according to the AP/Huffington Post. Polls show Braley has more support from women, while Ernst has greater support from men.

Final Debate

In their final debate last week, Ernst defended her belief that life begins at conception and her opposition to abortion rights, but she said for the first time that she would consider supporting a right to abortion to save a woman's life. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has criticized Ernst for her opposition to abortion rights in cases of rape and incest.

Ernst also backs a constitutional "personhood" amendment, which Braley and abortion-rights supporters say could ban abortions, some contraceptives and in vitro fertilization.

At the debate, Braley also criticized Ernst for agreeing with the Supreme Court's decision to allow some private employers to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) requirement that their health plans include contraceptive coverage. Ernst has said she supports access to birth control.

Braley said her stances are inconsistent. "You can't say you support that right and then say it's OK for employers to interfere with it," he said.

Braley supports abortion rights but said he does not support abortion later in pregnancy, except to protect the woman's life or health. He did not specify the point in pregnancy to which he was referring (Beaumont, AP/Huffington Post, 10/17).


Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

10 hours 33 min ago

The Department of Education on Monday published a final rule regarding changes to the Clery Act, emphasizing colleges' responses to sexual assault, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

October 21, 2014 — The Department of Education on Monday published a final rule regarding changes to the Clery Act, emphasizing colleges' responses to sexual assault, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, Inside Higher Ed reports (New, Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).

The Clery Act, first passed in 1992, requires colleges and universities that receive federal student financial aid to track and publish crime statistics (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

Details of Final Rule

Effective July 1, 2015, the act will require higher education institutions to disclose the number of reported crimes that were determined to be unfounded from the past three calendar years and moving forward. Until then, DOE officials encourage schools to follow the changes with "a good faith effort." Institutions that do not follow the changes by July may lose federal financial aid access.

According to the final rule, schools must now describe disciplinary proceedings used for each case, explain why that type of proceeding was used, and include a statement on policy and procedures for the relevant crimes in their annual security reports. In addition, schools must record stalking incidents based on where the perpetrator began the stalking or where the victim became aware of it.

Changes to the Clery Act resulted from the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (PL 113-4), which included the creation of a 15-member panel of sexual assault survivors and representatives of colleges, law enforcement and advocacy groups to develop the new regulations. The panel agreed on the new regulations in April and has changed them little since then.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the final rule does not vary much from what DOE officials proposed in June. As announced at that time, DOE added gender identity and national origin bias to the hate crime definition, increased victim confidentiality protections, and mandated that both accuser and accused be allowed to have an attorney or other adviser present during disciplinary proceedings. Previously, schools dictated what type of adviser students could have, although the new rule still allows the institutions to limit advisers' participation in the process.

Reaction

The inclusion of dating violence and stalking in the reporting requirements "is a wonderful step forward," Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women, said. She added, "When we talk about sexual and gender-based violence on campus, we're not often talking about the bogeyman jumping out of the bushes on the college green so this is a much more realistic way to look at these crimes."

SurvJustice Executive Director Laura Dunn, a sexual assault survivor and member of the 15-member panel, said of the changes that permit advisers, "Schools would limit who could be brought in, but in reality there would often be an attorney in the wings helping the accused," which could make the process "distinctly unfair" for the accuser (Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).


Blogs Comment on 'Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding,' 'Pregnancy Penalty,' More

10 hours 40 min ago

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Salon, the Center for American Progress and more.

Blogs Comment on 'Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding,' 'Pregnancy Penalty,' More

October 21, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Salon, the Center for American Progress and more.

BREASTFEEDING: "'You Sat in the Splash Zone': The Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding," Kathleen Founds, Salon: Founds, who considers herself a "breast-feeding advocat[e]," shares "the messy truth" about breastfeeding that she tells her "pregnant friends, in the hope that realistic expectations will empower them to persist through breast-feeding's challenges in order to secure its very real rewards." Breastfeeding, Founds explains, "involves a learning curve," is "messy," potentially "irritating" and "may make you envy your baby." Further, Founds writes that "[d]iscretion is overrated" when it comes to breastfeeding and that "bodily shame regarding breasts seems silly once their actual purpose sinks in" (Founds, Salon, 10/19).

ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Cecile Richards Shares an Important Abortion Story: 'It Wasn't a Difficult Decision,'" Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards shared "her personal abortion story in an essay published in Elle on [Thursday], writing that women who feel comfortable enough to share their experiences with the medical procedure can help decrease some of the stigma surrounding it," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler notes that Richards said her abortion "'wasn't a difficult decision,'" which differs from the typical discussion about abortion being "'the most difficult decision a woman has to make' -- a dynamic that implicitly forces women to prove why exactly they deserved to have an abortion." Culp-Ressler writes, "The way [Richards] speaks about her own experiences may help get us closer to creating a society for all women that's free of those demands" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/17).

WORKPLACE POLICIES: "New Report Shows How the 'Pregnancy Penalty' Drives Economic Inequality," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "[T]he 'bias and inflexibility towards women in the workplace that starts when they become pregnant and snowballs into lasting economic disadvantages' is driving gender inequality and overall economic inequality" in New York City, according to a report from A Better Balance, Dusenbery writes. Specifically, the report critiques the "pregnancy penalty," which results from "both 'blatant discrimination' against pregnant workers ... and lack of workplace policies -- like paid family leave and flexible schedules -- to make it easier to juggle both a job and children at the same time -- particularly for poor families," Dusenbery writes. She notes that the penalty drives "overall economic inequality" by keeping "families on the treadmill of poverty" and adds that A Better Balance has called on New York lawmakers to address the issue through legislation (Dusenbery, Feministing, 10/20).

BREAST CANCER: "Breast Cancer: Survivors' Wisdom for the Newly Diagnosed," Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana, Huffington Post blogs: In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Zeppieri-Caruana spoke with women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to share "their stories and pearls of wisdom for anyone who has recently received a breast cancer diagnosis." She notes that "[a]ll of the women shared one common goal for the future -- to be a solid foundation and source of support and knowledge for those newly diagnosed." Zeppieri-Caruana includes advice from the women on topics such as "work[ing] and taking care of themselves and family while undergoing treatment," support systems, "thoughts regarding cancer and hair loss," and their "top three pieces of advice for someone newly diagnosed" (Zeppieri-Caruana, Huffington Post blogs, 10/17).

What others are saying about breast cancer:

~ "Why are Black Women Dying of Breast Cancer, Even Though More White Women are Diagnosed?" Tiffany Denee Jones, Huffington Post blogs.

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Where's the '16, Parenting, and OK' Reality Show?," Gloria Malone, Echoing Ida/RH Reality Check: Malone writes that she "firmly believe[s] the negative ways in which the media ... portrays teenage pregnancy and parenting influenced how the adults in [her] life treated" her after she "became pregnant at 15" and also "affected [her] self-image and already low self-esteem." Specifically, she notes that the adults she told about her pregnancy "believed [her] life was over," treated her "differently and even stopped helping [her] look into colleges because they believed" she would drop out of high school. She writes, "The way the media represents teenage pregnancy and parenting has real-life consequences and effects on teen families, including depression and poverty because of lack of support from society." However, she writes that if the media "mov[es] away from these stereotypes, and featur[es] more positive story lines and outcomes," it could be easier for "teens to create thriving families" (Malone, Echoing Ida/RH Reality Check, 10/20).

SUPREME COURT: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Wants To See 9 Women on the Supreme Court," Katie McDonough, Salon: McDonough discusses a recent interview conducted by NPR's Nina Totenberg with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during which Ginsburg reflected her experience as a female justice and called for more women on the bench. Ginsburg said the high court would have enough female justices "[w]hen there are nine," adding, "For most of the country's history, there were nine and they were all men. Nobody thought that was strange." Ginsburg also reflected on how she felt "lonely" after Sandra Day O'Connor retired. Ginsburg said, "No one wants to be a one-at-a-time curiosity, and that's what I was. I was the only one. It wasn't the way the court should be at this time in our history" (McDonough, Salon, 10/20).


Planned Parenthood's Richards Discusses Abortion Stigma, Shares Her Abortion Story in Elle

12 hours 20 min ago

Abortion carries a "stigma and judgment" unlike any other medical procedure, but women's increasing openness in sharing their experiences can help reduce those perceptions, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in Elle magazine.

Planned Parenthood's Richards Discusses Abortion Stigma, Shares Her Abortion Story in Elle

October 21, 2014 — Abortion carries a "stigma and judgment" unlike any other medical procedure, but women's increasing openness in sharing their experiences can help reduce those perceptions, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in Elle magazine.

Women's abortion experiences "are often seen through the lens of cultural and political battles," leaving "hardly any real firsthand experiences at the center of the discussion," she notes. "If a woman says that she's relieved after having an abortion, she may be judged for being heartless or unfeeling," but "[i]f she says that she feels regret, anti-abortion activists use this to push for laws that restrict access to abortion or laws that assume women are incapable of making their own decisions without the interference of others," according to Richards.

"[T]he point is that women shouldn't have to answer" questions about their need for an abortion "at all," she writes. Voluntarily sharing abortion stories can help women "connect with each other and begin to end myths and misconceptions about both the procedure and the women who have it," but "[t]here's a big difference between sharing your story and being forced to justify your decision," she adds.

Richards "know[s] this firsthand" because she had an abortion, which "wasn't a difficult decision" for her and her husband. However, "[w]hatever a woman's reason for having an abortion, for some people it will never be good enough," she writes. While there is "a long way to go to end abortion stigma in this country," women who are sharing their stories and advocates who are creating platforms for them to do so "show what's possible, and why it matters so much," Richards concludes (Richards, Elle, 10/16).


Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

12 hours 21 min ago

Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

October 21, 2014 — Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The race between Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley is the tightest in the country that does not involve an incumbent, according to the AP/Huffington Post. Polls show Braley has more support from women, while Ernst has greater support from men.

Final Debate

In their final debate last week, Ernst defended her belief that life begins at conception and her opposition to abortion rights, but she said for the first time that she would consider supporting a right to abortion to save a woman's life. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has criticized Ernst for her opposition to abortion rights in cases of rape and incest.

Ernst also backs a constitutional "personhood" amendment, which Braley and abortion-rights supporters say could ban abortions, some contraceptives and in vitro fertilization.

At the debate, Braley also criticized Ernst for agreeing with the Supreme Court's decision to allow some private employers to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) requirement that their health plans include contraceptive coverage. Ernst has said she supports access to birth control.

Braley said her stances are inconsistent. "You can't say you support that right and then say it's OK for employers to interfere with it," he said.

Braley supports abortion rights but said he does not support abortion later in pregnancy, except to protect the woman's life or health. He did not specify the point in pregnancy to which he was referring (Beaumont, AP/Huffington Post, 10/17).


More Colleges Adopt Affirmative Consent Standard Amid Ongoing Debate

12 hours 26 min ago

Colleges and universities are increasingly implementing affirmative consent standards for sexual assault cases, although debate continues over the definition of active consent and the legal implications of such a standard, Inside Higher Ed reports.

More Colleges Adopt Affirmative Consent Standard Amid Ongoing Debate

October 21, 2014 — Colleges and universities are increasingly implementing affirmative consent standards for sexual assault cases, although debate continues over the definition of active consent and the legal implications of such a standard, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Spread of Affirmative Consent Standard

More than 800 colleges and universities currently use a definition of affirmative consent in their sexual assault policies, according to the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. For example, the State University of New York system adopted a uniform affirmative consent definition across its 64 campuses, and the California State University System and most Ivy League schools have adopted similar standards (New, Inside Higher Ed, 10/17).

Last month, California became the first state to enact a law (SB 967) that requires colleges and universities that receive state funds to determine whether active consent occurred when investigating or adjudicating alleged sexual assaults (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/30). According to Inside Higher Ed, lawmakers in New Hampshire and New Jersey (S 2478) have introduced similar legislation, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is planning to propose a similar bill.

Advocacy groups have also propelled the spread of affirmative consent standards by increasingly adopting "yes means yes" messaging in sexual assault prevention efforts, rather than "no means no," Inside Higher Ed reports.

Debate Over Scope, Definition of 'Yes Means Yes'

SurvJustice Executive Director Laura Dunn said that affirmative consent standards are particularly helpful for colleges because they normally have a lower burden of proof -- preponderance of evidence -- than criminal courts, which require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction. Dunn added that she hopes states eventually adopt affirmative consent standards in their criminal codes, which often define consent based on whether an individual physically or verbally resisted sexual conduct.

Meanwhile, American Council on Education general counsel Ada Meloy said the push for affirmative consent standards "is likely to be a generally positive thing," but she argued that "it's not easy to develop a good definition of affirmative consent" and that her organization "wouldn't want a one-size-fits-all approach for a variety of institutions."

George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf said affirmative consent standards that depend on nonverbal cues are too ambiguous. Instead, states and colleges should remove the ambiguity around the "no means no" standard, he said (Inside Higher Ed, 10/17).


Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:33

The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

October 20, 2014 — The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Over the last 25 years, the teen pregnancy rate has been "cut in half nationwide and by more than half in some 20 states, including North Carolina." The editorial notes that "[t]he same percentage of kids are having sex, but dramatically fewer are getting pregnant," in part because more of them are "using contraceptives and using them correctly."

The Observer argues that it is "important to understand what's working, so we can continue it and not undercut it." For example, the North Carolina Legislature in 2009 "changed public schools' curriculum from abstinence-only to a more comprehensive education, including teaching about contraceptives."

The state Legislature "should get behind teen pregnancy prevention efforts," the editorial argues, adding, "Policymakers should help keep driving that number down to nearly zero by further empowering the teens themselves" (Charlotte Observer, 10/16).


NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:32

New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

October 20, 2014 — New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

The law, which took effect in January, "requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers -- such as providing rest and water breaks, modified schedules and light duty -- so long as the accommodations don't cause undue hardship for the employer," Swarns explains. Such accommodations are "critical, particularly for low-income women who sometimes get pushed out of their jobs -- and into poverty -- when they become pregnant," she writes.

During the law's first year, city officials and women's advocates have been working with business groups, health care providers and other relevant parties "to ensure that women know their rights and employers know their obligations under the statute," Swarn continues.

Continued Challenges

However, not all women have been made aware of their rights, and others continue to face barriers to working during pregnancy. Swarns details the story of Angelica Valencia, who had previously experienced a miscarriage and was told by her physician when she became pregnant again to work a maximum of eight hours per day. Valencia, whose employer wanted her to work overtime, "had no idea that the law existed" and "said her company never informed her of her rights, even though that is required," according to Swarns.

Valencia provided a doctor's note and co-workers agreed to help with tasks like lifting that she could not safely perform. However, her supervisors informed her that "she could not work without a full-duty medical clearance," and she left the job, Swarns writes.

Swarns notes that Valencia is now being represented by A Better Balance, a legal advocacy group, to help her "recoup the wages she lost." Further, like other women who have successfully received pregnancy-related accommodations or regained their jobs as a result of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Valencia "knows now that the law is on her side," Swarns adds (Swarns, New York Times, 10/19).


Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:31

An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports.

Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

October 20, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports (Clay, Oklahoman, 10/18).

The law is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1. It also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions.

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of physician Larry Burns, who performs about half the abortions in the state and is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma.

According to the latest suit, Burns will be forced to close his clinic when the law takes effect because he has not been able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the 16 hospitals in qualifying distance of his clinic.

CRR argued that the law violates constitutional rights of equal protection and due process and that it violates a requirement that all bills in the state address only one topic (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/6).

Oral Argument Details

CRR attorney Ilene Jaroslaw urged Judge Bill Graves to issue an injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

Jaroslaw said that Burns had applied and been rejected for admitting privileges at 16 hospitals and had made "diligent efforts" to comply with the requirement.

According to Jaroslaw, two of the hospitals rejected Burns' application because he could not guarantee that his facility would admit at least six patients annually. Jaroslaw said that was indicative of Burns' high quality of care and that he "has an impeccable health record."

Jaroslaw argued that the law's requirements are "very onerous" and unconstitutionally require abortion providers to adhere to the admitting privileges requirement despite the fact that many other doctors perform more risky procedures but are not required to obtain admitting privileges (Talley, AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19). She added that the measure could result in the state's other two clinics -- in Tulsa and Oklahoma City -- having appointment backlogs, if the clinics would be able to remain open at all (Oklahoman, 10/18).

Meanwhile, state Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman argued that the law was constitutional. He said Burns had waited more than 50 days after the measure was signed into law prior to beginning to seek the required admitting privileges.

Next Steps

Graves said he would issue a ruling on whether to temporarily block the law by next week (AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19).

According to the Oklahoman, Graves is a former state representative who supported several antiabortion-rights measures while in the state Legislature (Oklahoman, 10/18).


Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 16:03

An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports.

Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

October 20, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports (Clay, Oklahoman, 10/18).

The law is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1. It also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions.

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of physician Larry Burns, who performs about half the abortions in the state and is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma.

According to the latest suit, Burns will be forced to close his clinic when the law takes effect because he has not been able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the 16 hospitals in qualifying distance of his clinic.

CRR argued that the law violates constitutional rights of equal protection and due process and that it violates a requirement that all bills in the state address only one topic (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/6).

Oral Argument Details

CRR attorney Ilene Jaroslaw urged Judge Bill Graves to issue an injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

Jaroslaw said that Burns had applied and been rejected for admitting privileges at 16 hospitals and had made "diligent efforts" to comply with the requirement.

According to Jaroslaw, two of the hospitals rejected Burns' application because he could not guarantee that his facility would admit at least six patients annually. Jaroslaw said that was indicative of Burns' high quality of care and that he "has an impeccable health record."

Jaroslaw argued that the law's requirements are "very onerous" and unconstitutionally require abortion providers to adhere to the admitting privileges requirement despite the fact that many other doctors perform more risky procedures but are not required to obtain admitting privileges (Talley, AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19). She added that the measure could result in the state's other two clinics -- in Tulsa and Oklahoma City -- having appointment backlogs, if the clinics would be able to remain open at all (Oklahoman, 10/18).

Meanwhile, state Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman argued that the law was constitutional. He said Burns had waited more than 50 days after the measure was signed into law prior to beginning to seek the required admitting privileges.

Next Steps

Graves said he would issue a ruling on whether to temporarily block the law by next week (AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19).

According to the Oklahoman, Graves is a former state representative who supported several antiabortion-rights measures while in the state Legislature (Oklahoman, 10/18).


LA Times Op-Ed: Over-the-Counter Birth Control Should Not Come at the Expense of Insurance Coverage

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:40

Ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage for contraceptives and making birth control pills available over the counter "shouldn't be an either/or debate," Daniel Grossman, vice president of research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a clinical professor at the University of California-San Francisco, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

LA Times Op-Ed: Over-the-Counter Birth Control Should Not Come at the Expense of Insurance Coverage

October 20, 2014 — Ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage for contraceptives and making birth control pills available over the counter "shouldn't be an either/or debate," Daniel Grossman, vice president of research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a clinical professor at the University of California-San Francisco, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

Grossman notes that the issue has drawn increased attention amid conservative candidates' proposals to allow OTC sales of "birth control pills as an alternative to the contraceptive coverage guarantee built into" the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Meanwhile, Democrats "emphasize the importance of maintaining the contraceptive coverage guarantee in Obamacare," he writes.

Grossman explains that even though birth control pills have "not yet been approved for over-the-counter sale, most of the medical establishment is in favor of that outcome" and agrees it is a safe option. In addition, reliable studies "show that women can use simple checklists to determine on their own whether the pill is right for them, and that when they can obtain the pill without a prescription, they stay on it longer than if they have to keep getting a prescription renewed." Further, public opinion polling has found that U.S. women support nonprescription access to birth control pills. However, women have concerns that birth control would be costly without insurance coverage, according to Grossman.

Grossman argues, "The best policy, the one that would help women effectively meet their family planning needs and reduce the high rate of unintended pregnancy in this country, is over-the-counter availability and insurance coverage for birth control pills," as well as "coverage for all other contraceptives approved by" FDA.

Grossman notes that while OTC birth control pills are likely "still several years down the road ... the apparent agreement among liberals and conservatives about the merits of moving the birth control pill over the counter is cause for excitement." Still, Grossman cautions that "constructive policy change" should only be made "as long as the gains made in one kind of access aren't undercut by losses in another" (Grossman, Los Angeles Times, 10/18).


NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:47

New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

October 20, 2014 — New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

The law, which took effect in January, "requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers -- such as providing rest and water breaks, modified schedules and light duty -- so long as the accommodations don't cause undue hardship for the employer," Swarns explains. Such accommodations are "critical, particularly for low-income women who sometimes get pushed out of their jobs -- and into poverty -- when they become pregnant," she writes.

During the law's first year, city officials and women's advocates have been working with business groups, health care providers and other relevant parties "to ensure that women know their rights and employers know their obligations under the statute," Swarn continues.

Continued Challenges

However, not all women have been made aware of their rights, and others continue to face barriers to working during pregnancy. Swarns details the story of Angelica Valencia, who had previously experienced a miscarriage and was told by her physician when she became pregnant again to work a maximum of eight hours per day. Valencia, whose employer wanted her to work overtime, "had no idea that the law existed" and "said her company never informed her of her rights, even though that is required," according to Swarns.

Valencia provided a doctor's note and co-workers agreed to help with tasks like lifting that she could not safely perform. However, her supervisors informed her that "she could not work without a full-duty medical clearance," and she left the job, Swarns writes.

Swarns notes that Valencia is now being represented by A Better Balance, a legal advocacy group, to help her "recoup the wages she lost." Further, like other women who have successfully received pregnancy-related accommodations or regained their jobs as a result of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Valencia "knows now that the law is on her side," Swarns adds (Swarns, New York Times, 10/19).


Policymakers Must 'Stand Up' to Gun Lobby To Stop Domestic Violence, Advocate Argues

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:19

To help protect women from gun violence, the U.S. needs "legislators who are willing to stand up to the gun lobby," Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts writes in a Daily Beast opinion piece.

Policymakers Must 'Stand Up' to Gun Lobby To Stop Domestic Violence, Advocate Argues

October 20, 2014 — To help protect women from gun violence, the U.S. needs "legislators who are willing to stand up to the gun lobby," Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts writes in a Daily Beast opinion piece.

Watts notes that "an average of 48 American women are shot to death by a current or former intimate partner" monthly, but 38% "fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners" in states that require background checks to be performed on every person seeking to purchase a handgun. She adds, "[M]illions of guns are sold every year without a background check, so the ease with which a prohibited purchaser can buy a gun in this country is hard to overstate."

Watts also calls on policymakers to take stronger action to "prevent abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers from purchasing a firearm." She explains that more U.S. women die annually "at the hands of dating partners rather than spouses," but federal laws restricting gun purchases by abusers do not apply to non-spouses in most circumstances.

While lawmakers in some states have "achieved significant victories" in addressing gun violence this year, Watts argues that "[t]he best thing we can do for survivors of domestic violence is to provide them with avenues of support and ensure that the laws don't make their lives harder or more dangerous."

To do so, the U.S. "need[s] leaders at every level -- state, local and federal -- to understand the lives of women matter more than their NRA rating," Watts writes. She concludes, "We must enact the reforms necessary to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and that work begins with our vote on November 4" (Watts, Daily Beast, 10/16).


Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:16

The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

October 20, 2014 — The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Over the last 25 years, the teen pregnancy rate has been "cut in half nationwide and by more than half in some 20 states, including North Carolina." The editorial notes that "[t]he same percentage of kids are having sex, but dramatically fewer are getting pregnant," in part because more of them are "using contraceptives and using them correctly."

The Observer argues that it is "important to understand what's working, so we can continue it and not undercut it." For example, the North Carolina Legislature in 2009 "changed public schools' curriculum from abstinence-only to a more comprehensive education, including teaching about contraceptives."

The state Legislature "should get behind teen pregnancy prevention efforts," the editorial argues, adding, "Policymakers should help keep driving that number down to nearly zero by further empowering the teens themselves" (Charlotte Observer, 10/16).


NYT Op-Ed Notes Medical Limitations of Egg Freezing

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:14

Apple and Facebook's decision to "include egg freezing in their benefits packages" spurred debate "over egg freezing's role in women's careers," but "there has been less talk about the still serious limitations of the medical procedure," author Sarah Richards writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

NYT Op-Ed Notes Medical Limitations of Egg Freezing

October 20, 2014 — Apple and Facebook's decision to "include egg freezing in their benefits packages" spurred debate "over egg freezing's role in women's careers," but "there has been less talk about the still serious limitations of the medical procedure," author Sarah Richards writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

Richards notes that amid all the reactions to the decision, "[w]e are forgetting an essential fact: Egg freezing isn't going to work for all women." According to Richards, the procedure's success rate "varies according to the expertise of doctors and the quality of eggs, but even the best fertility centers report that a woman's chance of pregnancy per embryo transferred to the uterus is between 30 and 50 percent."

Further, she notes that while the "American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the experimental label from the procedure in 2012, [it] still doesn't recommend it to healthy women who simply want to delay childbearing."

While Richards believes that women "should take advantage of every opportunity to freeze" their eggs if they "are anxious to preserve their fertility" and that more companies will likely "follow Facebook and Apple's example," she cautions that women "should never forget" the procedure's "power to disappoint" (Richards, New York Times, 10/16).


Featured Blogs

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:50

"Polling Confirms That Voters See Abortion Access as an Economic Issue for Women," (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/16); "Pregnant Texans are Being Charged With Crimes That Don't Exist," (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 10/16).

October 17, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Polling Confirms That Voters See Abortion Access as an Economic Issue for Women," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": A majority of voters see abortion "as a mainstream policy that's inextricably linked to women's financial stability," according to a new poll released by the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Culp-Ressler writes. The poll surveyed "voters in New York and Pennsylvania, both states where lawmakers have proposed broad legislative agendas with several policies intended to advance women's rights." The findings suggest that the "legislative agendas were very popular with voters in both" states, with many of them saying "they see abortion as one piece of the larger push to help women lead fuller lives," Culp-Ressler notes. According to NIRH President Andrea Miller, the results also "should be a 'wake up call for elected officials' who insist on separating abortion issues from financial issues, even though that's out of step with their constituents' views on the subject," Culp-Ressler writes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/16).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions and access:

~ "The Hidden Costs of Abortion Restrictions," Carole Joffe, RH Reality Check.

~ "This Year's Most Outrageous Anti-Abortion Strategy," Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's "Jurisprudence."

~ "Supreme Court Surprises Everyone, Allows Texas Abortion Clinics To Reopen. For Now." Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."

FEATURED BLOG

"Pregnant Texans are Being Charged With Crimes That Don't Exist," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Despite Texas' "fetal homicide" law clearly stating that a "pregnant person cannot be charged with injury to [her] own fetus," prosecutors in West Texas have not stopped "charging women with reckless child endangerment for ingesting controlled substances while pregnant," Grimes writes. Grimes notes that while "these erroneous [child] endangerment charges don't stick," women "are nearly always persuaded to plead guilty to possession or other drug-related offenses, which often carry heftier penalties of incarceration" and that "judges may take the child endangerment charges into consideration as well." Grimes writes that these "attempts to criminalize pregnancy in Texas could not only break up families by forcing pregnant women into prisons and children into foster care; they could be the starting point for a new strike on reproductive rights across the state" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 10/16).

Pittsburgh Approves Workplace Protections for Pregnant City Employees

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:45

Pittsburgh's City Council last week passed a measure (Ordinance 2014-0809) that will expand workplace protections for city workers who are pregnant, the Pittsburgh City Paper reports.

Pittsburgh Approves Workplace Protections for Pregnant City Employees

October 17, 2014 — Pittsburgh's City Council last week passed a measure (Ordinance 2014-0809) that will expand workplace protections for city workers who are pregnant, the Pittsburgh City Paper reports.

The ordinance will require the city and contractors that hold more than $250,000 in city contracts to facilitate "reasonable accommodations" for pregnant employees, such as access to drinking water, unpaid breaks and allowing employees to sit while working.

The measure applies to more than 800 city employees and an undetermined amount of contract workers, according to Pittsburgh City Councilor Dan Gilman, one of the measure's co-sponsors. Although the ordinance applies only to city employees and contractors, the City Paper notes that the ordinance could spur similar safeguards at the state level and spark larger conversations about factors related to working during and after pregnancy.

Gilman noted, "The number of complaints being filed [against employers] by women across Pennsylvania was on the rise," adding that he hopes the ordinance "sends a message to pregnant women that they have rights in the workplace."

Meanwhile, state Sen. Matt Smith (D), who sponsored a similar measure in the state Legislature, said reasonable accommodation measures are "a great first step before moving on to addressing other issues facing women in the workplace" (Nuttall, Pittsburgh City Paper, 10/15).


Supporters, Opponents of Abortion Rights Disagree Over Potential Effects of Colorado 'Personhood' Amendment

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:44

Opponents of a proposed "personhood" amendment (Amendment 67) in Colorado say the ballot measure could further restrict abortion rights, contrary to the claims of many supporters of the measure, Colorado Public Radio reports.

Supporters, Opponents of Abortion Rights Disagree Over Potential Effects of Colorado 'Personhood' Amendment

October 17, 2014 — Opponents of a proposed "personhood" amendment (Amendment 67) in Colorado say the ballot measure could further restrict abortion rights, contrary to the claims of many supporters of the measure, Colorado Public Radio reports (Verlee, Colorado Public Radio, 10/15).

The ballot initiative will ask Colorado voters whether the state's constitution should be amended so that "the words 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings" (Amendment 67 text, 3/13/13).

Supporters, Opponents Disagree About Potential Impact

Coloradans have rejected a personhood measure twice before, in 2008 and 2010. However, some supporters of the amendment contend that this year's would not affect abortion or other medical services, according to Colorado Public Radio.

Opponents of the amendment counter that the measure could be used to classify post-fertilization medical procedures -- including abortions and in vitro fertilization -- as homicide.

Christina Aguilar, director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, said, "Amendment 67 is written in language that tries to trick us. It would criminalize women and outlaw all abortion."

In addition, opponents point out that Colorado Right to Life appears to agree with their interpretation of the measure. The antiabortion-rights group states on its website that "the Brady Amendment 67 makes abortion a criminal offense."

Further, abortion-rights supporters argue that the ballot measure would set a dangerous legal standard that could undermine a pregnant woman's rights. Advocates for Pregnant Women Director Lynn Paltrow said, "As soon as you empower state actors and others, including physicians and husbands, to act as if the fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus is already outside of the woman's body, they can do almost anything they want to her" (Colorado Public Radio, 10/15).


Supporters, Opponents of Abortion Rights Disagree Over Potential Effects of Colorado 'Personhood' Amendment

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:26

Opponents of a proposed "personhood" amendment (Amendment 67) in Colorado say the ballot measure could further restrict abortion rights, contrary to the claims of many supporters of the measure, Colorado Public Radio reports.

Supporters, Opponents of Abortion Rights Disagree Over Potential Effects of Colorado 'Personhood' Amendment

October 17, 2014 — Opponents of a proposed "personhood" amendment (Amendment 67) in Colorado say the ballot measure could further restrict abortion rights, contrary to the claims of many supporters of the measure, Colorado Public Radio reports (Verlee, Colorado Public Radio, 10/15).

The ballot initiative will ask Colorado voters whether the state's constitution should be amended so that "the words 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado Criminal Code and the Colorado Wrongful Death Act must include unborn human beings" (Amendment 67 text, 3/13/13).

Supporters, Opponents Disagree About Potential Impact

Coloradans have rejected a personhood measure twice before, in 2008 and 2010. However, some supporters of the amendment contend that this year's would not affect abortion or other medical services, according to Colorado Public Radio.

Opponents of the amendment counter that the measure could be used to classify post-fertilization medical procedures -- including abortions and in vitro fertilization -- as homicide.

Christina Aguilar, director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, said, "Amendment 67 is written in language that tries to trick us. It would criminalize women and outlaw all abortion."

In addition, opponents point out that Colorado Right to Life appears to agree with their interpretation of the measure. The antiabortion-rights group states on its website that "the Brady Amendment 67 makes abortion a criminal offense."

Further, abortion-rights supporters argue that the ballot measure would set a dangerous legal standard that could undermine a pregnant woman's rights. Advocates for Pregnant Women Director Lynn Paltrow said, "As soon as you empower state actors and others, including physicians and husbands, to act as if the fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus is already outside of the woman's body, they can do almost anything they want to her" (Colorado Public Radio, 10/15).