Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 1 hour 18 min ago

Alaska Bill Restricting Medicaid Abortion Coverage Heads to Gov.

1 hour 24 min ago

An Alaska bill (SB 49) that would define "medically necessary" abortions that are covered under the state's Medicaid program cleared its final legislative hurdle this week after lawmakers stripped language to expand family planning funding, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.

Alaska Bill Restricting Medicaid Abortion Coverage Heads to Gov.

April 16, 2014 — An Alaska bill (SB 49) that would define "medically necessary" abortions that are covered under the state's Medicaid program cleared its final legislative hurdle this week after lawmakers stripped language to expand family planning funding, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (Buxton, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 4/15).

The measure defines an abortion as medically necessary if the pregnancy poses "serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman," including the risk of death, complications that could impair a major bodily function or one of 21 specified conditions, such as coma, heart failure or diabetes. It also includes a blanket provision that covers other physical disorders or injuries (Demer, Anchorage Daily News, 4/13). Under the bill, Medicaid would not cover abortions in cases of psychiatric conditions.

The measure is the first abortion-related bill to reach the governor's desk in almost a decade, according to the Daily News-Miner.

Legislative Background

When the state Senate first passed the measure in 2013, it included language that would have expanded family planning services for unmarried women who do not have children (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 4/15).

The state House Finance Committee later removed the family planning language from the bill. The House on Sunday passed the amended measure in a 23-17 vote, after rejecting an earlier effort to reintroduce the family planning provision.

During the House debate on Sunday, state Rep. Les Gara (D) said that failing to include the family planning provision makes the legislation an "anti-abortion bill that now serves to increase the number of abortions" (Anchorage Daily News, 4/13).

Legal Issues

The bill advanced as a legal challenge continues over similar restrictions on Medicaid abortion coverage. Those restrictions were introduced through state regulations, rather than legislation.

Opponents of the latest measure warned that it also could result in a legal challenge (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 4/15).


Ariz. Gov. Brewer Signs Bill Allowing Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

1 hour 53 min ago

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) on Tuesday signed into law a bill (HB 2284) that allows the state to conduct unannounced abortion clinic inspections without a warrant, the Arizona Republic reports.

Ariz. Gov. Brewer Signs Bill Allowing Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

April 16, 2014 — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) on Tuesday signed into law a bill (HB 2284) that allows the state to conduct unannounced abortion clinic inspections without a warrant, the Arizona Republic reports.

The measure will take effect 90 days after the current state legislative session closes, which could be as early as this week (Beard Rau, Arizona Republic, 4/15).

The new law -- proposed by state Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) and championed by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy -- eliminates a requirement that the state Department of Health Services obtain an administrative warrant before unannounced inspections at any of the state's nine abortion clinics. It also requires clinics to report to the state if "an infant is born alive after a botched abortion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/10).

In addition, the measure allows misdemeanor charges against any person who helps a minor circumvent parental consent laws to obtain an abortion.

It also includes a provision allowing county or city attorneys to defend the law if a future state attorney general declines to do so in the event of a legal challenge (Galvan, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/15).

Comments

Brewer spokesperson Andrew Wilder said the law "will ensure that the Arizona Department of Health Services has the authority to appropriately protect the health and safety of all patients." Brewer did not comment on the signing, according to Reuters (Schwartz, Reuters, 4/15).

Planned Parenthood of Arizona President Bryan Howard said warrants are needed to protect patients. He argued that the law "creates circumstances for health care to be interrupted and patients to be harassed and certainly for their privacy to be violated in the absence of any demonstrated need" (Arizona Republic, 4/15).

He added, "We're not surprised that ... Brewer singed this bill. She has been hostile to women's health care, including abortion and family planning, since the day she took office" (Reuters, 4/15).

Dispute Over Legality

According to the Republic, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona are deciding whether to file a legal challenge against the law, which they have called unconstitutional (Arizona Republic, 4/15).

A federal appeals court in 2004 struck down an identical law, ruling that the "boundless, warrantless search of physicians' offices" by state officials violates constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In response, the state agreed to a plan under which it would obtain a warrant before inspections.

However, state Sen. Nancy Barto (R) said that the 2004 ruling is no longer binding because it was issued when Arizona did not regulate abortion clinics. The state enacted comprehensive clinic regulations in 2010 (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/10).

CAP legal counsel Josh Kredit said he believes the law will survive a legal challenge because the court previously ruled that "to be able to have unannounced inspections, you have to have a closely-regulated industry" and CAP believes "that abortions are now closely regulated."

However, Howard noted, "The federal court has recognized that women receiving abortion health care have a heightened expectation of privacy that would be put at risk under the best of circumstances" (Arizona Republic, 4/15). He added, "We continue to believe that the legislation violates the rules governing abortion clinic inspections to which the state specifically agreed in 2010. It's on that basis that we expect a legal challenge" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/15).


Many Hospitals Do Not Allow VBACs, Despite Guidelines

1 hour 59 min ago

Despite the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' 2010 guidelines stating that vaginal births after cesarean sections are generally safe, many hospitals still do not offer them because of fears of complications, the New York Times reports.

Many Hospitals Do Not Allow VBACs, Despite Guidelines

April 16, 2014 — Despite the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' 2010 guidelines stating that vaginal births after cesarean sections are generally safe, many hospitals still do not offer them because of fears of complications, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, hospitals argue that VBACs are associated with a slightly higher risk of uterine rupture and that they cannot afford to keep staff members on hand in case complications arise.

Access to VBACs is especially sparse in rural communities with few providers, meaning that women in those areas who wish to avoid a repeat c-section must travel far distances to give birth. The Times highlights the situation in Casper, Wyo., where some women have begun a public campaign to change the local hospital's policy against VBACs.

However, Carol Solie, chief medical officer at the hospital, Wyoming Medical Center, said the facility is not adequately staffed to have physicians and anesthesiologists on call whenever a woman who desires a VBAC goes into labor, which is what the ACOG guidelines recommend. Solie added that women seeking VBACs could still deliver vaginally at the hospital if they sign a consent form accepting responsibility for acting against their physicians' advice and stating that they were told of the "inappropriate risk" associated with doing so.

Meanwhile, ACOG notes that the risk of uterine rupture during VBAC is low, about 0.5% to 0.9%. In addition, the guidelines state that VBAC is a safe procedure for women to avoid the pain and infection risk associated with having a c-section.

ACOG President Jeanne Conry said the guidelines were intended "to bring about changes" regarding providers' VBAC policies, but she acknowledged a lack of progress (Frosch, New York Times, 4/14).


NYT Op-Ed Explores Endurance of Abortion as Political Issue

2 hours 8 min ago

The "political staying power" of abortion rights is rooted in the fundamental difference between opponents who view it as "an issue of life and death" and "pro-choice women," for whom abortion "is a question of personal autonomy and bodily integrity," New York Times op-ed contributor Thomas Edsall writes.

NYT Op-Ed Explores Endurance of Abortion as Political Issue

April 16, 2014 — The "political staying power" of abortion rights is rooted in the fundamental difference between opponents who view it as "an issue of life and death" and "pro-choice women," for whom abortion "is a question of personal autonomy and bodily integrity," New York Times op-ed contributor Thomas Edsall writes.

Edsall, an author and professor of journalism at Columbia University, compares the issue of abortion rights to same-sex marriage -- another "foundational issu[e] of American conservatism" -- and explores how the former, "as a political call to arms, has been around twice as long and shows no signs of disappearing." By contrast, same-sex marriage "burst onto the political scene in the early 1990s, lasted through the mid-2000s, and is now quietly fading," according to Edsall.

Meanwhile, abortion has remained a controversial political issue, with 205 antiabortion-rights state laws enacted between 2011 and 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute, Edsall writes. To analyze the issue's political endurance, Edsall cites comments from a "disparate group of contemporary experts," who link abortion's staying power in politics to its dual role as a "core political issue and a core evolutionary issue."

However, at the same time, the U.S. public has largely become more accepting of women's sexual freedom, Edsall writes, citing various surveys on issues such as unmarried cohabitation and sex outside of marriage.

"Despite these trends and survey findings, Republican-controlled statehouses continue to press for new restrictions on abortion," and the GOP on the national level "with its strong anti-abortion contingent could be headed toward a major victory this coming November," Edsall writes, noting that many election analysts predict the GOP will maintain control of the House, potentially win the Senate, and -- in 2016 -- the White House.

"In that event, the drive to restrict abortion -- perhaps, initially, incrementally -- may well re-emerge" in the "legislative and executive branches, but also in the Supreme Court," should one of the liberal justices retire and be replaced by a conservative jurist, Edsall writes. He concludes, "With all of their demographic problems, the question is, how much can Republicans afford to fool around with this particular kind of political dynamite?" (Edsall, New York Times, 4/15).


New GOP Program Aims To Fight 'War on Women' Reputation

2 hours 11 min ago

Republicans are trying to counter the "war on women" rhetoric that has been effective for Democrats by recruiting an "army of young female volunteers" to help them campaign, the Washington Post reports.

New GOP Program Aims To Fight 'War on Women' Reputation

April 16, 2014 — Republicans are trying to counter the "war on women" rhetoric that has been effective for Democrats by recruiting an "army of young female volunteers" to help them campaign, the Washington Post reports.

Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, on Monday announced the 14 in '14 program, which is aimed at younger women in suburban areas that tend to lean Democratic. The goal of the program is to recruit women to commit 30 minutes each week during the 14 weeks before the November elections to make calls, recruit other women, find potential voters and encourage individuals to go to the polls.

The GOP has been fighting the perception that it is "out of touch" with female voters, according to the Post. A CNN survey in February found that 55% of respondents said Republicans do not understand women.

According to the Post, Democrats fared better than Republicans among unmarried women in the 2012 election, while Republicans tend to do better than Democrats among married women. Day noted, "We know that we're not going to win elections if we're not reaching out to the 21-to-40-year-old groups of women, and we understand that and we're willing to earn that."

The new Republican effort will target counties in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Henderson, Washington Post, 4/14).


Featured Blogs

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 18:21

"It's Time To Pass the NY Women's Equality Act, Tenth Point Included," (Ruoff, Huffington Post blogs, 4/11); "While One State Wants To Criminalize 'Bad' Pregnant People, Another Goes After 'Bad' Mothers," (Marty, Care2, 4/11); "America's Abortion-Free Zone Grows," (Marty, Daily Beast, 4/14); "Is Preventing Surrogacy Feminist? No, It's Anti-Choice," (Matson, RH Reality Check, 4/11).

April 15, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

 "It's Time To Pass the NY Women's Equality Act, Tenth Point Included," Madeline Ruoff, Huffington Post  blogs: In his 2013 State of the State address, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) "announced long overdue plans to bring the Women's Equality Agenda, now the Women's Equality Act, into law," but the measure has never made it out of the state Legislature, Ruoff writes. Ruoff explains that while the measure's "first nine points are relatively uncontroversial," the 10th point, "which ensures a wom[a]n's reproductive freedoms," has drawn opposition in the state Senate. She adds that while the "left is being chided for refusing to split up the bill and just pass the first nine points without argument," the bill without the 10th point "significantly weaken[s]" the other nine because "social and economic equality is impossible without reproductive freedom." Ruoff writes that "it's time [to pass] the Women's Equality Act once and for all, with all 10 points included" (Ruoff, Huffington Post blogs, 4/11). 

FEATURED BLOG

"While One State Wants To Criminalize 'Bad' Pregnant People, Another Goes After 'Bad' Mothers," Robin Marty, Care2: A Tennessee bill (SB 1391) would "charge a pregnant person with criminal assault for using drugs while pregnant, following the tide of other states that have created new charges specifically and solely focused on those who are carrying a pregnancy to term," Marty writes. The bill could potentially harm "babies who may be denied care because of a mother's fear of arrest and the pregnant person worried about criminal penalties" and also cause "pregnant people [to] seek out abortions rather than give birth." Marty notes that such legislation is quickly expanding across states and being extended to even after birth, such as in South Carolina, where a breastfeeding mother "is being charged for 'involuntary manslaughter and unlawful conduct toward a child' after her child died of a morphine overdose." Marty writes, "What all of these laws and cases underscore is that via our legislatures and our criminal system we are, in essence, seeking to punish women for not protecting their children, from egg stage to infant" (Marty, Care2, 4/11).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnant women:

~ "Tennessee Legislature Passes Bill Criminalizing Pregnancy," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."

FEATURED BLOG

"America's Abortion-Free Zone Grows," Marty, Daily Beast: From "the western border of Idaho to the eastern borders of North and South Dakota ... the total number of cities that offer any form of abortion access can be counted on just two hands," Marty writes. She adds, "Montana used to be an oasis in that abortion desert, with four clinics in four different cities offering both surgical and medication abortion options, but not anymore." After "an apparent pro-life vandal destroyed the abortion clinic in Kalispell, Montana," last month, the state has just two abortion clinics, a "crisis of access [that] affects not just Montana residents but thousands of women in neighboring states," Marty explains. She concludes, "Now, the question becomes how to reverse this trend and bring more care and choices back to the state" (Marty, Daily Beast, 4/14).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Awful South Carolina Bill Would Extend 'Stand Your Ground' to Fetuses," Callie Beusman, Jezebel.

~ "Virginia Bishops Use Medicaid Stalemate To Call for New Abortion Funding Restriction," Erin Matson, RH Reality Check.

~ "TRAP Laws and the Emptying of 'Roe,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

"Is Preventing Surrogacy Feminist? No, It's Anti-Choice," Matson, RH Reality Check: Citing a Kansas Senate hearing in January about a bill "that would make surrogate parents, gestational carriers, and anyone who assists them liable to up to a $10,000 fine or imprisonment of one year," Matson writes, "it's important to debunk the idea that criminalizing surrogacy should be part of the feminist project." She adds, "The assault on surrogacy, as well as fertility treatments in general, is yet another piece of the right's battle against reproductive self-determination." She argues, "Women don't need to be protected from themselves," adding, "They certainly don't need to be thrown in jail for harvesting their eggs or seeking assistance with infertility." Marty concludes, "Indeed, family is what you make it. That's a beautiful thing, and that's feminist" (Matson, RH Reality Check, 4/11).  


Backers of Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Ballot Measure Lead Fundraising Race

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 18:14

A campaign to decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution via a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) has raised over $300,000, while a counter-campaign launched by abortion-rights supporters has only collected around $4,000, according to financial disclosure forms released last week, the Tennessean reports.

Backers of Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Ballot Measure Lead Fundraising Race

April 15, 2014 — A campaign to decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution via a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) has raised over $300,000, while a counter-campaign launched by abortion-rights supporters has only collected around $4,000, according to financial disclosure forms released last week, the Tennessean reports.

State residents will vote on the ballot measure in November.

Background on Ballot Measure

According to the Tennessean, the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 found that the state constitution guarantees women in the state a fundamental right to abortion. The judges in their opinion wrote, "A woman's right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution."

Amendment 1 is a ballot measure that, if passed, would amend the state constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."

Supporters argue that passing the amendment would allow state lawmakers to pass "common-sense" abortion restrictions already enacted by other states, while opponents contend it would lead to "onerous new laws" that burden women seeking abortion care, the Tennessean reports.

Two competing campaigns -- called Yes on 1 and Vote No on One -- are fundraising to educate voters on the proposed amendment, the Tennessean reports.

Yes on 1 Campaign

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, said that the Yes on 1 campaign intends to raise about $2.5 million. According to information submitted to the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, the campaign raised about $250,000 last fall -- before it was formally launched -- during a fundraiser headlined by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R), while the remainder of its $300,000 in contributions were collected from individual and agency donors in the first quarter of this year.

Harris said that the campaign is reaching out to pastors and churches for additional funds and voter support.

Vote No on One Campaign

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee are working together on the Vote No on One campaign.

PPMET President and CEO Jeff Teague said, "We are going to be waging an aggressive campaign because we know we can defeat this amendment." He added, "We know it's going to be expensive, but we believe we will have all the resources."

Teague also said that he was not surprised by the amount of funding that the Yes on 1 campaign has raised, noting that the campaign was started months earlier than the Vote No on One initiative (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 4/11).


Groups Urge Veto of Tenn. Bill Allowing Criminal Charges Over Pregnancy Outcomes

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 18:13

Medical and women's rights groups are urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to file criminal charges against women suspected of misusing drugs during pregnancy, the New York Times reports.

Groups Urge Veto of Tenn. Bill Allowing Criminal Charges Over Pregnancy Outcomes

April 15, 2014 — Medical and women's rights groups are urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (Medical and women's rights groups are urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to file criminal charges against women suspected of misusing drugs during pregnancy, the New York Times reports.

Bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature approved the bill last week. According to the Times, if Haslam does not sign or veto the bill within 10 days of receiving it, it automatically becomes law.

Background

Tennessee and 37 other states have enacted "fetal protection" laws, which were originally intended to better protect pregnant women from violent crime and increase penalties on perpetrators, the Times reports. However, a few years ago, Tennessee started to use the law to prosecute women who gave birth to infants who tested positive for illegal drugs, according to Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff lawyer for National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

In 2012, the state enacted a law that barred criminal charges from being filed against the pregnant women themselves under the fetal protection law, and in 2013, it amended a child welfare law to make it more difficult to remove infants born with traces of illegal drugs from their mothers.

The latest legislation would allow criminal charges to be brought against women who misuse drugs during their pregnancy. The measure includes a provision that allows a defense against conviction if a woman is "actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remained in the program after delivery, and successfully completed the program."

Concerns About Criminalization

Specialists in obstetrics and illegal drug use have joined with women's rights groups in objecting to the legislation. Medical specialists argue that the purported effects of drug use on fetuses have been exaggerated and that any withdrawal symptoms that do occur can be resolved without long-term consequences.

In addition, legal specialists argue that the bill could potentially allow the prosecution of pregnant women for any illegal act that could affect their pregnancies, such as reckless driving. They also argue that the defense provision leaves some women vulnerable for prosecution if they are in treatment programs that use buprenorphine or methadone, which are used indefinitely.

Comments

Memphis District Attorney Amy Weirich, a supporter of the bill, said, "The focus of the legislation is not to punish these mothers," but instead "to get them help for their drug addiction, using the drug courts."

However, Cherisse Scott, CEO of SisterReach, a reproductive-rights group that opposes the bill, said, "It's poor women, black and brown women, rural women who will be criminalized."

Meanwhile, Diaz-Tello said, Tennessee is "going from a state with some of the best practices [for pregnant women who misuse drugs] to one of the worst" (Eckholm, New York Times, 4/14).


Blogs Comment 'Things Your Ob-Gyn Won't Tell You,' Criminalizing Pregnancy, More

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 17:40

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the Huffington Post, Care2 and more.

Blogs Comment 'Things Your Ob-Gyn Won't Tell You,' Criminalizing Pregnancy, More

April 15, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the Huffington Post, Care2 and more.

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH: "6 Things Your Ob-Gyn Won't Tell You (Unless You Ask)," Napala Pratini, Huffington Post blogs: "Expecting mothers, or even women looking to get pregnant, should know the right questions to ask to find the highest-value pregnancy [care] provider," Pratini writes. She outlines six such questions, including asking about an ob-gyn's statistics on past deliveries, such as cesarean section rates; whether he or she works with midwives; the ob-gyn's emergency availability; the practice's policies on high-risk pregnancies; how patient medical records are kept; and an ob-gyn's practices to promote mother-infant bonding (Pratini, Huffington Post blogs, 4/14).

ABORTION-RIGHTS PROTECTIONS: "It's Time To Pass the NY Women's Equality Act, Tenth Point Included," Madeline Ruoff, Huffington Post blogs: In his 2013 State of the State address, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) "announced long overdue plans to bring the Women's Equality Agenda, now the Women's Equality Act, into law," but the measure has never made it out of the state Legislature, Ruoff writes. Ruoff explains that while the measure's "first nine points are relatively uncontroversial," the 10th point, "which ensures a wom[a]n's reproductive freedoms," has drawn opposition in the state Senate. She adds that while the "left is being chided for refusing to split up the bill and just pass the first nine points without argument," the bill without the 10th point "significantly weaken[s]" the other nine because "social and economic equality is impossible without reproductive freedom." Ruoff writes that "it's time [to pass] the Women's Equality Act once and for all, with all 10 points included" (Ruoff, Huffington Post blogs, 4/11).

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "Sexual Assault is a Crime Against Women's Health," Nancy Lee, Huffington Post blogs: According to CDC statistics, "about one in five women has been raped in her lifetime, and more than one in three has experienced other forms of sexual violence," writes Lee, director of the Office on Women's Health at HHS. Those figures "are shocking," Lee states, adding, "For those of us who work in women's health, they strengthen our resolve to prevent sexual assault and reduce the pain of the victims." She highlights President Obama's creation of the "White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, which will identify and share evidence-based best practices with high schools, colleges and universities to help them better protect students and support those who are assaulted." She also notes that the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) gives insured women "access to a comprehensive set of preventive services, including screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence, without having to pay a co-pay or deductible" (Lee, Huffington Post blogs, 4/14).

What others are saying about violence against women:

~ "For Some Woman Immigrants, Fear of Sexual Abuse is a Constant," Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Speaking Out on Men's Role in Preventing Sexual Assault," Kevin Powell, Huffington Post blogs.

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANT WOMEN: "While One State Wants To Criminalize 'Bad' Pregnant People, Another Goes After 'Bad' Mothers," Robin Marty, Care2: A Tennessee bill (SB 1391) would "charge a pregnant person with criminal assault for using drugs while pregnant, following the tide of other states that have created new charges specifically and solely focused on those who are carrying a pregnancy to term," Marty writes. The bill could potentially harm "babies who may be denied care because of a mother's fear of arrest and the pregnant person worried about criminal penalties" and also cause "pregnant people [to] seek out abortions rather than give birth." Marty notes that such legislation is quickly expanding across states and being extended to even after birth, such as in South Carolina, where a breastfeeding mother "is being charged for 'involuntary manslaughter and unlawful conduct toward a child' after her child died of a morphine overdose." Marty writes, "What all of these laws and cases underscore is that via our legislatures and our criminal system we are, in essence, seeking to punish women for not protecting their children, from egg stage to infant" (Marty, Care2, 4/11).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnant women:

~ "Tennessee Legislature Passes Bill Criminalizing Pregnancy," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "America's Abortion-Free Zone Grows," Marty, Daily Beast: From "the western border of Idaho to the eastern borders of North and South Dakota ... the total number of cities that offer any form of abortion access can be counted on just two hands," Marty writes. She adds, "Montana used to be an oasis in that abortion desert, with four clinics in four different cities offering both surgical and medication abortion options, but not anymore." After "an apparent pro-life vandal destroyed the abortion clinic in Kalispell, Montana," last month, the state has just two abortion clinics, a "crisis of access [that] affects not just Montana residents but thousands of women in neighboring states," Marty explains. She concludes, "Now, the question becomes how to reverse this trend and bring more care and choices back to the state" (Marty, Daily Beast, 4/14).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Awful South Carolina Bill Would Extend 'Stand Your Ground' to Fetuses," Callie Beusman, Jezebel.

~ "Virginia Bishops Use Medicaid Stalemate To Call for New Abortion Funding Restriction," Erin Matson, RH Reality Check.

~ "TRAP Laws and the Emptying of 'Roe,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

SURROGACY: "Is Preventing Surrogacy Feminist? No, It's Anti-Choice," Matson, RH Reality Check: Citing a Kansas Senate hearing in January about a bill "that would make surrogate parents, gestational carriers, and anyone who assists them liable to up to a $10,000 fine or imprisonment of one year," Matson writes, "it's important to debunk the idea that criminalizing surrogacy should be part of the feminist project." She adds, "The assault on surrogacy, as well as fertility treatments in general, is yet another piece of the right's battle against reproductive self-determination." She argues, "Women don't need to be protected from themselves," adding, "They certainly don't need to be thrown in jail for harvesting their eggs or seeking assistance with infertility." Marty concludes, "Indeed, family is what you make it. That's a beautiful thing, and that's feminist" (Matson, RH Reality Check, 4/11).


Groups Urge Veto of Tenn. Bill Allowing Criminal Charges Over Pregnancy Outcomes

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 17:39

Medical and women's rights groups are urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to file criminal charges against women suspected of misusing drugs during pregnancy, the New York Times reports.

Groups Urge Veto of Tenn. Bill Allowing Criminal Charges Over Pregnancy Outcomes

April 15, 2014 — Medical and women's rights groups are urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (Medical and women's rights groups are urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to file criminal charges against women suspected of misusing drugs during pregnancy, the New York Times reports.

Bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature approved the bill last week. According to the Times, if Haslam does not sign or veto the bill within 10 days of receiving it, it automatically becomes law.

Background

Tennessee and 37 other states have enacted "fetal protection" laws, which were originally intended to better protect pregnant women from violent crime and increase penalties on perpetrators, the Times reports. However, a few years ago, Tennessee started to use the law to prosecute women who gave birth to infants who tested positive for illegal drugs, according to Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff lawyer for National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

In 2012, the state enacted a law that barred criminal charges from being filed against the pregnant women themselves under the fetal protection law, and in 2013, it amended a child welfare law to make it more difficult to remove infants born with traces of illegal drugs from their mothers.

The latest legislation would allow criminal charges to be brought against women who misuse drugs during their pregnancy. The measure includes a provision that allows a defense against conviction if a woman is "actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remained in the program after delivery, and successfully completed the program."

Concerns About Criminalization

Specialists in obstetrics and illegal drug use have joined with women's rights groups in objecting to the legislation. Medical specialists argue that the purported effects of drug use on fetuses have been exaggerated and that any withdrawal symptoms that do occur can be resolved without long-term consequences.

In addition, legal specialists argue that the bill could potentially allow the prosecution of pregnant women for any illegal act that could affect their pregnancies, such as reckless driving. They also argue that the defense provision leaves some women vulnerable for prosecution if they are in treatment programs that use buprenorphine or methadone, which are used indefinitely.

Comments

Memphis District Attorney Amy Weirich, a supporter of the bill, said, "The focus of the legislation is not to punish these mothers," but instead "to get them help for their drug addiction, using the drug courts."

However, Cherisse Scott, CEO of SisterReach, a reproductive-rights group that opposes the bill, said, "It's poor women, black and brown women, rural women who will be criminalized."

Meanwhile, Diaz-Tello said, Tennessee is "going from a state with some of the best practices [for pregnant women who misuse drugs] to one of the worst" (Eckholm, New York Times, 4/14).


Study: Lab-Grown Vaginas Successfully Transplanted in Women With Rare Disorder

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 17:39

Four women who were born with abnormal or absent vaginas were successfully implanted with lab-grown vaginas created from their own genital cells, according to a study published in The Lancet, Reuters reports.

Study: Lab-Grown Vaginas Successfully Transplanted in Women With Rare Disorder

April 15, 2014 — Four women who were born with abnormal or absent vaginas were successfully implanted with lab-grown vaginas created from their own genital cells, according to a study published in The Lancet, Reuters reports.

Treatment Process

The women in the study were born with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, a rare genetic condition in which the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or missing. Traditional treatments involved the creation of grafts made from intestinal tissue or skin cells, both of which have drawbacks, according to Anthony Atala, a researcher in the study and director of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The women were ages 13 or 18 at the time of the surgeries, which took place between June 2005 and October 2008. Two of the four women were born with a working uterus but no vagina.

Researchers began by collecting a small quantity of genital tissue cells, which they used to grow muscle cells and epithelial cells, which line body cavities. After about four weeks, researchers applied layers of cells onto a collagen scaffold. Collagen can be absorbed into the body, and the scaffolds were molded to uniquely fit each patient's physical anatomy.

A cavity was then created inside the women's bodies, and the vaginal implants were surgically attached to individuals' existing reproductive organs.

The researchers monitored the individuals for up to eight years after the initial implantation surgeries and took tissue biopsies, MRI scans and internal exams.

Study Findings

Six months after the initial surgeries, "you couldn't tell the difference between [the] engineered organ and the normal organ," Atala said. The two women who were born with uteruses but no vaginas are now menstruating normally.

Follow-up tests show that the lab-grown vaginas "were similar in makeup and function to native tissue," noted Atlantida-Raya Rivera, director of the Mexico City-based HIMFG Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the Metropolitan Autonomous University, where the surgeries were performed (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 4/10).

All four women have reported normal sexual function, and pregnancy is a theoretical possibility, although none have become pregnant (Hays, UPI, 4/11).


Government Responds to Catholic Contraceptive Coverage Case; ACLU Asks To Submit Brief

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 16:15

In court filings last week, attorneys for the federal government outlined several arguments against a request from a group of Catholic organizations in Wyoming for an injunction to block the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/Kansas City Star reports.

Government Responds to Catholic Contraceptive Coverage Case; ACLU Asks To Submit Brief

April 15, 2014 — In court filings last week, attorneys for the federal government outlined several arguments against a request from a group of Catholic organizations in Wyoming for an injunction to block the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the AP/Kansas City Star reports (Neary, AP/Kansas City Star, 4/11).

The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most insurers to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage to their employees.

Case Details

In February, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., and several Catholic schools and charities filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the rules.

They argued that the requirements violate the groups' constitutional right to religious freedom. The suit states that religious schools and charities do not meet the government's definition of "religious employers" and would have to provide the coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/3).

U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl has scheduled a court hearing for early next month on the organizations' request for an injunction to stop the federal government from enforcing the requirements while the lawsuit proceeds.

Federal Response

In their response, lawyers for the federal government urged Skavdahl to deny the request for an injunction, stating that the Diocese of Cheyenne is already exempt from the contraceptive coverage rules based on a similar injunction previously issued in a comparable case in Tennessee.

ACLU Asks To Submit Amicus Brief

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday filed papers asking Skavdahl to allow it to submit an amicus brief supporting the federal government's position, the AP/Washington Times reports.

ACLU of Wyoming attorney Jen Horvath said the group seeks to participate in the case because it has previously worked to protect women's right to access reproductive health care.

According to Hovarth, the group plans to argue that requiring the Catholic groups to complete the certification exempting them from the rules would not place an undue burden on their religious freedom. She said the rule only "requires the Diocese of Cheyenne to send a two-page form to their third-party administrator, basically the health care plan, that due to religious objections, they want to exclude contraceptive coverage from their health care, their health insurance." She added, "It's no different materially from what they had to do before this rule went into effect and it's not a burden on their religious freedom" (Neary, AP/Washington Times, 4/14).

In addition, the attorneys said that the Wyoming Catholic College, which is also a plaintiff in the case, is covered under a separate injunction issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in a different pending case. According to the AP/Star, the college provides insurance through the same church plan involved in the other case.

Further, the federal attorneys argued that the remaining plaintiffs in the case can choose to sign a certification that they meet the religious criteria and therefore do not have to provide the coverage. The filing stated that requiring the groups to do so does not violate their religious freedoms "because the regulations don't require plaintiffs to change their behavior in any significant way."

In addition, the response noted that the groups' "extraordinary contention suggests that plaintiffs not only seek to avoid paying for, administering, or otherwise providing contraceptive coverage itself, but also seek to prevent the women they employ from obtaining such coverage, even through other parties."

Groups Respond

The Rev. Carl Gallinger, vicar general of the Cheyenne diocese, on Friday said that church officials still think they have strong disagreements with the federal government over the interpretation of the rules. "[W]e look forward to the opportunity to present those to court at the hearing next month," he said (AP/Kansas City Star, 4/11).


Backers of Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Ballot Measure Lead Fundraising Race

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 14:49

A campaign to decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution via a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) has raised over $300,000, while a counter-campaign launched by abortion-rights supporters has only collected around $4,000, according to financial disclosure forms released last week, the Tennessean reports.

Backers of Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Ballot Measure Lead Fundraising Race

April 15, 2014 — A campaign to decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution via a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) has raised over $300,000, while a counter-campaign launched by abortion-rights supporters has only collected around $4,000, according to financial disclosure forms released last week, the Tennessean reports.

State residents will vote on the ballot measure in November.

Background on Ballot Measure

According to the Tennessean, the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 found that the state constitution guarantees women in the state a fundamental right to abortion. The judges in their opinion wrote, "A woman's right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution."

Amendment 1 is a ballot measure that, if passed, would amend the state constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."

Supporters argue that passing the amendment would allow state lawmakers to pass "common-sense" abortion restrictions already enacted by other states, while opponents contend it would lead to "onerous new laws" that burden women seeking abortion care, the Tennessean reports.

Two competing campaigns -- called Yes on 1 and Vote No on One -- are fundraising to educate voters on the proposed amendment, the Tennessean reports.

Yes on 1 Campaign

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, said that the Yes on 1 campaign intends to raise about $2.5 million. According to information submitted to the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, the campaign raised about $250,000 last fall -- before it was formally launched -- during a fundraiser headlined by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R), while the remainder of its $300,000 in contributions were collected from individual and agency donors in the first quarter of this year.

Harris said that the campaign is reaching out to pastors and churches for additional funds and voter support.

Vote No on One Campaign

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee are working together on the Vote No on One campaign.

PPMET President and CEO Jeff Teague said, "We are going to be waging an aggressive campaign because we know we can defeat this amendment." He added, "We know it's going to be expensive, but we believe we will have all the resources."

Teague also said that he was not surprised by the amount of funding that the Yes on 1 campaign has raised, noting that the campaign was started months earlier than the Vote No on One initiative (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 4/11).


Information on Abortion Coverage Hard To Find for Marketplace Plans

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 14:26

There is a lack of information available to consumers on whether private health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) health insurance marketplaces cover abortion services, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, Kaiser Health News reports.

Information on Abortion Coverage Hard To Find for Marketplace Plans

April 15, 2014 — There is a lack of information available to consumers on whether private health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) health insurance marketplaces cover abortion services, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, Kaiser Health News reports.

The ACA allows states to decide whether marketplace plans sold in their state may include abortion coverage. Currently, 26 states and Washington, D.C., allow marketplace plans to cover abortion, while 24 states do not, although some allow exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or if a woman's life is in danger, KHN reports. In 22 of the states that prohibit or restrict abortion coverage, the federal government operates the marketplace, meaning consumers use the federal HealthCare.gov website, according to KHN.

Report Details

For the report, researchers at Guttmacher examined the online coverage descriptions for 12 states that permit abortion coverage. The researchers focused on plans' "summary of benefits and coverage" overview -- which the ACA requires all plans to include -- but they also scanned for other coverage details if available.

Under the ACA, health plans that offer abortion coverage beyond cases of rape, incest and life endangerment are required to disclose that information in their SBCs. However, the template that the federal government issued to insurers to help guide them in developing their SBCs did not include abortion information, according to KHN.

In states that permit abortion coverage, a few plans in four states clearly specified that they include it, while at least one plan in six states specified that it did not cover abortions. In states that do not allow most abortion coverage, no plans included a general statement explaining that fact.

Reaction

Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights said information about abortion coverage should be included in plans' SBCs.

Kinsey Hasstedt, a public policy associate at Guttmacher and a report co-author, said, "Abortion should be considered basic health care and consumers should know whether it's covered or not."

Gretchen Borchelt, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, said, "It's not in the [federal government's SBC] template, and plans are just following that." She added, "I think it's a lack of awareness on their part, a lack of familiarity with what should be included."

Meanwhile, Chuck Donovan, president of the antiabortion-rights Charlotte Lozier Institute, said, "The people we communicate with are looking for [the information]," adding, "We're hearing complaints about it."

According to KHN, HHS did not respond to a request for comment (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 4/15).


Colo. Reproductive Health Freedom Act Advances

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 18:26

A Colorado Senate committee has advanced a bill (SB 175) that would prohibit government entities from enacting policies that deny or interfere with reproductive health care, Fox31 Denver reports.

Colo. Reproductive Health Freedom Act Advances

April 14, 2014 — A Colorado Senate committee has advanced a bill (SB 175) that would prohibit government entities from enacting policies that deny or interfere with reproductive health care, Fox31 Denver reports.

The measure, known as the Reproductive Health Freedom Act, passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday in a 4-3 vote. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

According to Fox31 Denver, the bill would bar state and local governments from restricting individuals' reproductive health decisions or their access to evidence-based information on reproductive health. Although Democrats currently control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governorship, the bill aims to prevent future attacks on reproductive rights that have taken place in other, Republican-led states, Fox31 Denver reports.

Comments

State Sen. Andy Kerr (D), the bill's sponsor, said it is "an effort to keep politics and politicians away from Coloradans' health care and reproductive decisions."

NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton said the organization "appreciate[s] the fact that legislators are implementing mainstream Colorado values, sound health care policy, and reflecting the will of Colorado voters." She added, "[W]omen have the right to make their own health care decisions. We need to protect that right and ensure government doesn’t get in between women and their doctors" (Stokols, Fox31 Denver, 4/10).


Ark. Appeals Ruling That Struck Down 12-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 18:25

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) announced Friday that he will appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a ruling that overturned a state law (Act 301) banning abortion as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters/Chicago Tribune reports.

Ark. Appeals Ruling That Struck Down 12-Week Abortion Ban

April 14, 2014 — Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) announced Friday that he will appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a ruling that overturned a state law (Act 301) banning abortion as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters/Chicago Tribune reports (Bose McDermott, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 4/11).

The law prohibits abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal disorder.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber overturned the law, saying that the attempt to restrict abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than on fetal viability is unconstitutional. However, Webber let stand a part of the law mandating that a woman seeking an abortion receive an ultrasound and be notified by her doctor if the fetus has a heartbeat (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/17).

Concerns Over Cost

McDaniel said he warned state Sen. Jason Rapert (R), the sponsor of the 12-week measure, about the "risks and costs associated with an appeal." In a statement, McDaniel said he agreed to pursue the appeal "as long as there would be no impact on the budget of the Arkansas State Medical Board, the defendant in this matter, should the state be required to pay attorneys' fees to the plaintiffs."

Rita Sklar, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the lawsuit against the measure, said the appeal is "a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money" (DeMillo, AP/Baxter Bulletin, 4/13).


S.C. Senate Panel Advances 'Stand Your Ground' for Fetuses

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 18:24

A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday considered legislation (SB 527) that would expand the state's "stand your ground" self-defense law to apply to fetuses, the Columbia State's "The Buzz" reports.

S.C. Senate Panel Considers 'Stand Your Ground' for Fetuses

April 14, 2014 — A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday considered legislation (SB 527) that would expand the state's "stand your ground" self-defense law to apply to fetuses, the Columbia State's "The Buzz" reports (Self, "The Buzz," Columbia State, 4/10).

The state Senate Judiciary Subcommittee voted 3-2 to approve SB 527, the Pregnant Women's Protection Act, which would allow a pregnant woman to use deadly force to defend her fetus from threats.

According to the AP/Charlotte Observer, supporters of the measure said it is necessary even though state law already permits people to use deadly force to protect themselves or a third party. State Sen. Greg Hembree (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, argued that some situations might not be covered by current law, such as if a pregnant woman was injured in her stomach.

Opponents called the bill redundant and said it is designed to undermine abortion rights and access to contraception. They noted that the bill includes language that defines a fetus as "the offspring of human beings from conception until birth."

Opponents raised concerns that the language could be used to block access to contraception. Emma Davidson, spokesperson for South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, said that while "[n]o one disputes that violence against pregnant women is a concern in our state," it is "hypocritical to introduce legislation claiming to protect victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence while simultaneously outlawing emergency contraception, a key treatment option for those victims" (Coffman Smith, AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/10).



S.C. Senate Panel Delays Vote on 'Personhood' Bills

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 18:23

A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday delayed votes on two bills (S 83, S 457) that would grant constitutional rights beginning at fertilization, the Columbia State's "The Buzz" reports.

S.C. Senate Panel Delays Vote on 'Personhood' Bills

April 14, 2014 — A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday delayed votes on two bills (S 83, S 457) that would grant constitutional rights beginning at fertilization, the Columbia State's "The Buzz" reports. 

According to "The Buzz," the two "personhood" measures are designed to ban abortion by granting constitutional rights starting at fertilization (Self, "The Buzz," Columbia State, 4/10).

Emma Davidson, spokesperson for South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, said that defining personhood as starting from the moment of fertilization could be used to ban birth control pills, EC, stem cell research and certain fertility treatments. She added that women who miscarry or have a stillbirth could potentially be prosecuted under the law. 

Marcia Zug, a professor of family law at the University of South Carolina, said the legislation is "clearly unconstitutional" because it would "outlaw abortions in even the most life-threatening of circumstances." 

State Sen. Greg Hembree (R) argued that the law was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, and he asked Zug how it could be amended to avoid other consequences. Zug said the measure would be clearer if it said that life begins when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus (Coffman Smith, AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/10).

 






Rifts Over Abortion in Rape Cases Resurface in Policy Debates

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:55

Disputes over abortion rights for rape survivors are testing alliances on both sides of the issue, even as polls consistently show widespread public support for abortion access in such cases, the AP/ABC News reports.

Rifts Over Abortion in Rape Cases Resurface in Policy Debates

April 14, 2014 — Disputes over abortion rights for rape survivors are testing alliances on both sides of the issue, even as polls consistently show widespread public support for abortion access in such cases, the AP/ABC News reports.

According to the AP/ABC News, national polls conducted since the 1970s have demonstrated that at least 70% of U.S. residents support abortion rights in cases of rape. However, a recent schism between antiabortion-rights groups and concerns from abortion-rights supporters about President Obama's foreign policy demonstrate that that the "issue remains divisive," the AP/ABC News reports.

National Right to Life Dispute

The National Right to Life Committee recently broke off ties with one of its state affiliates, Georgia Right to Life, after the state group refused to endorse a federal antiabortion-rights bill because it would not have applied to some pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

According to David O'Steen, executive director of NRLC, both groups share an overarching goal of banning abortion entirely, but the national group is willing in the short term to support measures that reduce access to abortion even if they include exceptions. "We want to save all the lives that we can," O'Steen said, adding, "You have to deal with the reality of the social and political climate."

Michael New, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, said the antiabortion-rights movement could be undermined by continuing friction between groups that favor an incremental approach and those that want to push for absolute abortion bans. "The risk is that when elected officials see a lot of intense disagreement among like-minded groups, they tend to sit back and do nothing," rather than risk alienating one group or the other, he said.

U.S. Foreign Policy Dispute

Meanwhile, the Global Justice Center is leading a loose coalition of abortion-rights and women's rights groups in pushing President Obama to issue an executive order to clarify that U.S. law does not prohibit the use of foreign aid funds to pay for abortion care for rape survivors in war zones.

GJC said that recent conflicts in areas such as Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Rwanda have left thousands of women impregnated by rape and unable to obtain assistance from international humanitarian services that fear losing funding from the U.S. if they help the women access abortion services.

GJC Legal Director Akila Radhakrishnan said, "Since the U.S. is the largest humanitarian aid donor, its abortion ban has become the de facto policy in most war zones where rape is used as a weapon of war."

The National Security Council declined to comment on the issue. The push to increase abortion access for rape victims has made some progress among other nations, with countries such as Britain, Norway and the Netherlands endorsing such use of their foreign aid funds (Crary, AP/ABC News, 4/12).


S.C. Senate Panel Considers 'Stand Your Ground' for Fetuses, 'Personhood' Bills

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:32

A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday considered legislation (SB 527) that would expand the state's "stand your ground" self-defense law to apply to fetuses and two bills (S 83, S 457) that would grant constitutional rights beginning at fertilization, the Columbia State's "The Buzz" reports.

S.C. Senate Panel Considers 'Stand Your Ground' for Fetuses, 'Personhood' Bills

April 14, 2014 — A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday considered legislation (SB 527) that would expand the state's "stand your ground" self-defense law to apply to fetuses and two bills (S 83, S 457) that would grant constitutional rights beginning at fertilization, the Columbia State's "The Buzz" reports (Self, "The Buzz," Columbia State, 4/10).

Deadly Force Bill

The state Senate Judiciary Subcommittee voted 3-2 to approve SB 527, the Pregnant Women's Protection Act, which would allow a pregnant woman to use deadly force to defend her fetus from threats.

According to the AP/Charlotte Observer, supporters of the measure said it is necessary even though state law already permits people to use deadly force to protect themselves or a third party. State Sen. Greg Hembree (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, argued that some situations might not be covered by current law, such as if a pregnant woman was injured in her stomach.

Opponents called the bill redundant and said it is designed to undermine abortion rights and access to contraception. They noted that the bill includes language that defines a fetus as "the offspring of human beings from conception until birth."

Opponents raised concerns that the language could be used to block access to contraception. Emma Davidson, spokesperson for South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, said that while "[n]o one disputes that violence against pregnant women is a concern in our state," it is "hypocritical to introduce legislation claiming to protect victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence while simultaneously outlawing emergency contraception, a key treatment option for those victims" (Coffman Smith, AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/10).

'Personhood' Bills

Meanwhile, the panel delayed votes on two "personhood" measures designed to ban abortion by granting constitutional rights starting at fertilization, "The Buzz" reports ("The Buzz," Columbia State, 4/10).

Davidson said that defining personhood as starting from the moment of fertilization could be used to ban birth control pills, EC, stem cell research and certain fertility treatments. She added that women who miscarry or have a stillbirth could potentially be prosecuted under the law.

Marcia Zug, a professor of family law at the University of South Carolina, said the legislation is "clearly unconstitutional" because it would "outlaw abortions in even the most life-threatening of circumstances."

Hembree argued that the law was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, and he asked Zug how it could be amended to avoid other consequences. Zug said the measure would be clearer if it said that life begins when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/10).