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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One of Four Remaining Abortion Clinics in Kan. Closes

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:48

A Kansas reproductive health center that provided abortions closed on Saturday after its physician and manager both retired, leaving only three abortion clinics in the state, the AP/Lawrence Journal-World reports.

One of Four Remaining Abortion Clinics in Kan. Closes

July 30, 2014 — A Kansas reproductive health center that provided abortions closed on Saturday after its physician and manager both retired, leaving only three abortion clinics in the state, the AP/Lawrence Journal-World reports.

The Aid For Women clinic in Kansas City, Kan., announced its closure via a statement on its website. According to the AP/Journal-World, patients are being referred to two clinics located in suburban Kansas City and another facility in Wichita.

Jeff Pederson, former manager of the clinic, said, "The generation of patients whom we have helped need to step up and carry the torch instead of assuming clinic workers will always fight ... the battle for the right to have safe, legal, easily accessible birth control and abortions, and without having to travel to a few enlightened Democratic states."

Meanwhile, Troy Newman, the president of the antiabortion-rights group Operation Rescue, praised the clinic's closure, saying it resulted from "the faithful presence of local pro-life activists outside that facility" (AP/Lawrence Journal-World, 7/28).


Pa. Bill Aims To Protect Provider-Patient Relationship

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:47

Two Pennsylvania lawmakers on Monday introduced a bill (HB 2303) that aims to prevent government policies from impeding on patient-provider relationships, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports.

Pa. Bill Aims To Protect Provider-Patient Relationship

July 30, 2014 — Two Pennsylvania lawmakers on Monday introduced a bill (HB 2303) that aims to prevent government policies from impeding on patient-provider relationships, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports.

State Rep. Dan Frankel (D) and state Sen. Mike Stack (D) are co-sponsoring the Patient Trust Act, which would bar government entities from forcing providers to care for patients in ways that are not considered medically appropriate. In addition, the bill would prevent the government from requiring providers to tell patients information that is not medically accurate.

The bill is in response to requirements seen in numerous other states, such as laws that force doctors to tell women seeking abortions the inaccurate claim that there is a link between the procedure and breast cancer or laws that prohibit pediatricians from asking patients about guns in the home.

Frankel said in a statement, "Patients trust that their doctor is telling them the truth, the whole truth and that their health is the doctor's primary concern. We should protect that trust" (Mamula, Pittsburgh Business Times, 7/29).


Mass. Gov To Sign Bill Strengthening Security Around Abortion Clinics

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:46

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Tuesday said he will act quickly to sign a bill that would improve security surrounding the state's abortion clinics, the AP/Worcester Telegram reports.

Mass. Gov To Sign Bill Strengthening Security Around Abortion Clinics

July 30, 2014 — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Tuesday said he will act quickly to sign a bill that would improve security surrounding the state's abortion clinics, the AP/Worcester Telegram reports.

The state Legislature gave final approval to the bill on Tuesday (AP/Worcester Telegram, 7/30). It was introduced in response to a Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's "buffer zone" law, which prevented protesters from standing within 35 feet of an abortion clinic entrance (Bidgood, New York Times, 7/29).

Antiabortion-rights groups have said they would challenge the new measure in court if it becomes law (AP/Worcester Telegram, 7/30).

Legislation Details

The bill would give law enforcement personnel the authority to give dispersal orders if two or more protesters deliberately prevent patients or staff members from entering a clinic. Individuals who receive such orders would be required to stay at least 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance for up to eight hours.

The bill also would prohibit protesters from interfering with vehicles approaching or leaving the area, as well as intimidating or harming people accessing the clinic. In addition, victims of such intimidation would be allowed to seek damages through civil action.

The measure also would amend the state's current civil rights act to permit the state attorney general to pursue damages on behalf of individuals who have been blocked from accessing the clinics. The attorney general would be allowed to try to recover litigation costs and pursue civil penalties for individuals whose constitutional rights have been obstructed (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24).


Court Blocks Miss. Law Threatening State's Sole Abortion Clinic

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:45

A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law (HB 1390) that would have shut down the state's only abortion clinic, ruling that it illegally shifted Mississippi's constitutional obligations to other states, the New York Times reports.

Court Blocks Miss. Law Threatening State's Sole Abortion Clinic

July 30, 2014 — A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law (HB 1390) that would have shut down the state's only abortion clinic, ruling that it illegally shifted Mississippi's constitutional obligations to other states, the New York Times reports (Robertson/Eckholm, New York Times, 7/29).

The Mississippi law, like a Texas law (HB 2) with similar provisions, would require that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that the Texas law does not impose an unconstitutional burden on women because abortion access would still be available in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/29).

Tuesday's Ruling

In Tuesday's ruling, a different three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision that the impact of the law in Mississippi, with just one abortion clinic, makes it constitutionally distinct from the law in Texas. Judge Grady Jolly wrote in the majority opinion that the Mississippi law "effectively extinguishes" a woman's constitutional right to abortion in the state and illegally shifts the burden of ensuring that right to neighboring states. "A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens' federal constitutional rights," Jolly wrote (New York Times, 7/29).

Meanwhile, Judge Emilio Garza issued a dissenting opinion, writing, "The sole act of crossing a state border cannot, standing alone, constitute an unconstitutional undue burden of the abortion right because the Constitution envisions free mobility of persons without regard to state borders" (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 7/29).

Legal Impact

The ruling did not overturn the law or assess whether the admitting privileges requirement is a justified safety measure. Rather, the ruling preserved an existing stay against the law and leaves the lower courts to consider the measure under the now-clarified principle of state responsibility, the Times reports (New York Times, 7/29).

According to legal experts, the ruling only applies to the one clinic, meaning that if another clinic opened in the state, it would have to try to comply with the law (Le Coz, Reuters, 7/29). The physicians at the Mississippi clinic sought admitting privileges at multiple hospitals but were denied, prompting the state to order the clinic to close for violating the law (Politico, 7/29).

Broader Implications

The new ruling, combined with the legal challenges against similar laws in other states, could "set the stage" for a Supreme Court challenge, the Wall Street Journal reports (McWhirter, Wall Street Journal, 7/29).

According to the Times, federal courts have temporarily blocked admitting privileges laws in Alabama, Kansas and Wisconsin, while similar laws are in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah (New York Times, 7/29).

Julie Rikelman -- director of litigation for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argued the case on behalf of the Mississippi clinic -- said that while the 5th Circuit's ruling was narrow, it could have implications for other states in similar situations. For example, officials in Wisconsin and Alabama have both argued that women could cross state lines to access abortion if needed (Wagster Pettus, AP/U-T San Diego, 7/30).

Reaction

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) expressed disappointment with the ruling and indicated that the state would try to appeal to the full 5th Circuit (Reuters, 7/29).

CRR President Nancy Northup said the ruling "ensures women who have decided to end a pregnancy will continue, for now, to have access to safe, legal care in their home state." However, she added that there is "still only one clinic in the entire state, and it is still threatened by a law advanced by politicians over the opposition of respected medical associations, with the sole intent of closing that clinic permanently" (Politico, 7/29).

Similarly, Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said that while "[t]he fact that the Mississippi clinic can stay open is good news," there "are a lot of other cases pending in federal courts, and it's impossible to know if those laws will be upheld or struck down" (New York Times, 7/29).


Senate Bill Would Ensure Contraceptive Coverage, Counseling for Military Women

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 17:06

Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require the military's health plan, TRICARE, to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives without copayments or other cost-sharing by beneficiaries, Politico reports.

Senate Bill Would Ensure Contraceptive Coverage, Counseling for Military Women

July 30, 2014 — Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require the military's health plan, TRICARE, to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives without copayments or other cost-sharing by beneficiaries, Politico reports. The bill also would require TRICARE to cover contraceptive counseling.

TRICARE covers nearly 10 million individuals, including service members, military retirees and their families.

Currently, active-duty servicewomen have access to prescription drugs, including contraceptives, without copays. However, women who are not on active duty and other women covered through TRICARE have varying levels of copays, depending on the type of contraceptive, according to Politico.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Women's Law Center and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund support the legislation.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), author of the bill, said in a statement, "Female service members deserve access to the same basic health care as the women they protect, and it's unacceptable that they don't." She added, "Giving women in the military access to basic preventative health care, including contraception and family planning services, will strengthen our military as a whole and make sure no woman in uniform ever has to worry about how she's going to pay for her contraception" (Haberkorn, Politico, 7/30).


Pa. Bill Aims To Protect Provider-Patient Relationship

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:10

Two Pennsylvania lawmakers on Monday introduced a bill (HB 2303) that aims to prevent government policies from impeding on patient-provider relationships, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports.

Pa. Bill Aims To Protect Provider-Patient Relationship

July 30, 2014 — Two Pennsylvania lawmakers on Monday introduced a bill (HB 2303) that aims to prevent government policies from impeding on patient-provider relationships, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports.

State Rep. Dan Frankel (D) and state Sen. Mike Stack (D) are co-sponsoring the Patient Trust Act, which would bar government entities from forcing providers to care for patients in ways that are not considered medically appropriate. In addition, the bill would prevent the government from requiring providers to tell patients information that is not medically accurate.

The bill is in response to requirements seen in numerous other states, such as laws that force doctors to tell women seeking abortions the inaccurate claim that there is a link between the procedure and breast cancer or laws that prohibit pediatricians from asking patients about guns in the home.

Frankel said in a statement, "Patients trust that their doctor is telling them the truth, the whole truth and that their health is the doctor's primary concern. We should protect that trust" (Mamula, Pittsburgh Business Times, 7/29).


Court Blocks Miss. Law Threatening State's Sole Abortion Clinic

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 15:05

A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law (HB 1390) that would have shut down the state's only abortion clinic, ruling that it illegally shifted Mississippi's constitutional obligations to other states, the New York Times reports.

Court Blocks Miss. Law Threatening State's Sole Abortion Clinic

July 30, 2014 — A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law (HB 1390) that would have shut down the state's only abortion clinic, ruling that it illegally shifted Mississippi's constitutional obligations to other states, the New York Times reports (Robertson/Eckholm, New York Times, 7/29).

The Mississippi law, like a Texas law (HB 2) with similar provisions, would require that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that the Texas law does not impose an unconstitutional burden on women because abortion access would still be available in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/29).

Tuesday's Ruling

In Tuesday's ruling, a different three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision that the impact of the law in Mississippi, with just one abortion clinic, makes it constitutionally distinct from the law in Texas. Judge Grady Jolly wrote in the majority opinion that the Mississippi law "effectively extinguishes" a woman's constitutional right to abortion in the state and illegally shifts the burden of ensuring that right to neighboring states. "A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens' federal constitutional rights," Jolly wrote (New York Times, 7/29).

Meanwhile, Judge Emilio Garza issued a dissenting opinion, writing, "The sole act of crossing a state border cannot, standing alone, constitute an unconstitutional undue burden of the abortion right because the Constitution envisions free mobility of persons without regard to state borders" (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 7/29).

Legal Impact

The ruling did not overturn the law or assess whether the admitting privileges requirement is a justified safety measure. Rather, the ruling preserved an existing stay against the law and leaves the lower courts to consider the measure under the now-clarified principle of state responsibility, the Times reports (New York Times, 7/29).

According to legal experts, the ruling only applies to the one clinic, meaning that if another clinic opened in the state, it would have to try to comply with the law (Le Coz, Reuters, 7/29). The physicians at the Mississippi clinic sought admitting privileges at multiple hospitals but were denied, prompting the state to order the clinic to close for violating the law (Politico, 7/29).

Broader Implications

The new ruling, combined with the legal challenges against similar laws in other states, could "set the stage" for a Supreme Court challenge, the Wall Street Journal reports (McWhirter, Wall Street Journal, 7/29).

According to the Times, federal courts have temporarily blocked admitting privileges laws in Alabama, Kansas and Wisconsin, while similar laws are in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah (New York Times, 7/29).

Julie Rikelman -- director of litigation for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argued the case on behalf of the Mississippi clinic -- said that while the 5th Circuit's ruling was narrow, it could have implications for other states in similar situations. For example, officials in Wisconsin and Alabama have both argued that women could cross state lines to access abortion if needed (Wagster Pettus, AP/U-T San Diego, 7/30).

Reaction

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) expressed disappointment with the ruling and indicated that the state would try to appeal to the full 5th Circuit (Reuters, 7/29).

CRR President Nancy Northup said the ruling "ensures women who have decided to end a pregnancy will continue, for now, to have access to safe, legal care in their home state." However, she added that there is "still only one clinic in the entire state, and it is still threatened by a law advanced by politicians over the opposition of respected medical associations, with the sole intent of closing that clinic permanently" (Politico, 7/29).

Similarly, Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said that while "[t]he fact that the Mississippi clinic can stay open is good news," there "are a lot of other cases pending in federal courts, and it's impossible to know if those laws will be upheld or struck down" (New York Times, 7/29).


Mass. Gov To Sign Bill Strengthening Security Around Abortion Clinics

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:46

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Tuesday said he will act quickly to sign a bill that would improve security surrounding the state's abortion clinics, the AP/Worcester Telegram reports.

Mass. Gov To Sign Bill Strengthening Security Around Abortion Clinics

July 30, 2014 — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Tuesday said he will act quickly to sign a bill that would improve security surrounding the state's abortion clinics, the AP/Worcester Telegram reports.

The state Legislature gave final approval to the bill on Tuesday (AP/Worcester Telegram, 7/30). It was introduced in response to a Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's "buffer zone" law, which prevented protesters from standing within 35 feet of an abortion clinic entrance (Bidgood, New York Times, 7/29).

Antiabortion-rights groups have said they would challenge the new measure in court if it becomes law (AP/Worcester Telegram, 7/30).

Legislation Details

The bill would give law enforcement personnel the authority to give dispersal orders if two or more protesters deliberately prevent patients or staff members from entering a clinic. Individuals who receive such orders would be required to stay at least 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance for up to eight hours.

The bill also would prohibit protesters from interfering with vehicles approaching or leaving the area, as well as intimidating or harming people accessing the clinic. In addition, victims of such intimidation would be allowed to seek damages through civil action.

The measure also would amend the state's current civil rights act to permit the state attorney general to pursue damages on behalf of individuals who have been blocked from accessing the clinics. The attorney general would be allowed to try to recover litigation costs and pursue civil penalties for individuals whose constitutional rights have been obstructed (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24).


Small Changes Aid Birth Control Pill Effectiveness in Obese Women, Study Finds

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:29

Slightly increasing the dosage of birth control pills or continuously taking the pills without a weekly break each month can increase their efficacy in women who are obese, according to a new study in Contraception, the Portland Business Journal reports.

Small Changes Aid Birth Control Pill Effectiveness in Obese Women, Study Finds

July 30, 2014 — Slightly increasing the dosage of birth control pills or continuously taking the pills without a weekly break each month can increase their efficacy in women who are obese, according to a new study in Contraception, the Portland Business Journal reports (Hayes, Portland Business Journal, 7/28).

According to Medical Xpress, previous studies have demonstrated that obesity has an adverse effect on drug levels in the body, meaning that birth control pills might not be as effective for obese women as they are for women of lower weights. The drugs take longer to reach a steady-state level in obese women, resulting in a greater risk of pill failure than lower-weight women experience if they forget or postpone taking a pill, Medical Xpress reports.

Study Results

Researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University explored how to address these changes and identified two strategies that appear to offset the effect obesity has on the drugs. They found that either increasing the dosage from a very low dose to a low dose or refraining from taking a week off -- when a pill user would normally menstruate -- appeared to counteract obesity's effect on the drugs.

Study co-author Alison Edelman, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, said, "[I]t's important to find methods of contraception that work for all women, no matter what their weight," given that birth control pills are among the most popular contraceptive methods in the U.S. and that "the majority of our population is obese or overweight" (Medical Xpress, 7/28).


One of Four Remaining Abortion Clinics in Kan. Closes

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 13:22

A Kansas reproductive health center that provided abortions closed on Saturday after its physician and manager both retired, leaving only three abortion clinics in the state, the AP/Lawrence Journal-World reports.

One of Four Remaining Abortion Clinics in Kan. Closes

July 30, 2014 — A Kansas reproductive health center that provided abortions closed on Saturday after its physician and manager both retired, leaving only three abortion clinics in the state, the AP/Lawrence Journal-World reports.

The Aid For Women clinic in Kansas City, Kan., announced its closure via a statement on its website. According to the AP/Journal-World, patients are being referred to two clinics located in suburban Kansas City and another facility in Wichita.

Jeff Pederson, former manager of the clinic, said, "The generation of patients whom we have helped need to step up and carry the torch instead of assuming clinic workers will always fight ... the battle for the right to have safe, legal, easily accessible birth control and abortions, and without having to travel to a few enlightened Democratic states."

Meanwhile, Troy Newman, the president of the antiabortion-rights group Operation Rescue, praised the clinic's closure, saying it resulted from "the faithful presence of local pro-life activists outside that facility" (AP/Lawrence Journal-World, 7/28).


Featured Blog: 'Number of Texas Women Living 200 Miles From an Abortion Clinic Has Jumped by 2,800 Percent'

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:59

The omnibus antiabortion-rights package (HB 2) approved in Texas a "year ago this month" has "wreaked havoc on reproductive health access in the state, and half of Texas' clinics have been forced to shut down," writes Tara Culp-Ressler of the Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

July 25, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

 "Number of Texas Women Living 200 Miles From an Abortion Clinic Has Jumped by 2,800 Percent," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The omnibus antiabortion-rights package (HB 2) approved in Texas a "year ago this month" has "wreaked havoc on reproductive health access in the state, and half of Texas' clinics have been forced to shut down," writes Culp-Ressler, citing research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. According to TPEP's research, "the new abortion law is compromising women's ability to exercise their right to choose," as demonstrated by a "13 percent decline in the legal abortion rate in the Lone Star State," Culp-Ressler writes. She adds that because the rate is "steeper than the recent declines in the number of abortions observed across other states," it suggests that "the decreased access to clinics is preventing some Texas women from being able to have the medical procedure," an unsurprising finding given that "the number of women of reproductive age who live at least 200 miles away from an abortion clinic has skyrocketed by 2,800 percent -- jumping from 10,000 women in 2013 to 290,000 women in 2014." Culp-Ressler adds, "[I]t's important to remember that the new report focuses solely on legal abortions obtained in clinics, and doesn't reflect the number of women who may be resorting to illegal means of ending a pregnancy" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/23).




One Year After Law's Passage, N.C. Yet To Release Abortion Clinic Regulations

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:55

North Carolina health care officials have not finished drafting abortion clinic regulations authorized under a 2013 state law (SB 353), leaving many abortion providers unsure how the rules could potentially affect them, the AP/Virginian-Pilot reports.

One Year After Law's Passage, N.C. Yet To Release Abortion Clinic Regulations

July 11, 2014 — North Carolina health care officials have not finished drafting abortion clinic regulations authorized under a 2013 state law (SB 353), leaving many abortion providers unsure how the rules could potentially affect them, the AP/Virginian-Pilot reports (Ferral, AP/Virginian-Pilot, 7/9).

The expansive antiabortion-rights measure, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in July 2013, allows the state Department of Health and Human Services to "apply any requirement" for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, so long as the regulations do not impede access to abortion.

DHHS was required to provide an update on its progress in developing the rules by Jan. 1, but there is no deadline to create the rules for abortion clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/28).

According to the AP/Virginian-Pilot, just one of the state's clinics currently meets the ambulatory surgical center requirements, meaning that the remaining 15 clinics will likely have to make changes.

Abortion-Rights Groups 'In the Dark'

Abortion-rights supporters are "in the dark" about what will be included in the new regulations or when they will be released, the AP/Virginian-Pilot reports.

Paige Johnson, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, said, "The question is, what will DHHS come up with? Will these be regulations based on women's health ... or will these regulations be politically motivated?" She added, "Everybody is waiting to see what they're going to do."

However, Johnson said she is encouraged by the fact that rules are being drafted by health officials and not lawmakers.

Planned Parenthood will host a "Too Far Tillis" rally on Thursday night to mark the law's one-year anniversary and encourage residents to vote against state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) -- who helped pass the measure -- in his bid for the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, DHHS said in an email that it is following the standard rulemaking procedures. "We are fully committed to complying with (the law) in that any revised regulations will address patient safety and privacy without unduly restricting access," the agency said (AP/Virginian Pilot, 7/9).


La. Enacts Admitting Privileges Law That Could Close Clinics

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:55

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) signed into law a bill (HB 388) that critics say could close three of the states' five abortion clinics, Reuters reports.

La. Enacts Admitting Privileges Law That Could Close Clinics

June 13, 2014 — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Thursday signed into law a bill (HB 388) that critics say could close three of the states' five abortion clinics, Reuters reports (Kaminsky, Reuters, 6/12).

HB 388 requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. It also will create a database with anonymous statistics on the number of abortions performed in the state.

In addition, the new law requires physicians to acquire a license from the state if they perform more than five abortions annually, up from more than five monthly under current rules. The doctors' names, locations and status as an abortion provider will be public information. Further, the law will extend the state's restrictions on surgical abortions to apply to medication abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/22).

Impact of Admitting Privileges Law

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the admitting privileges requirement -- which is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 -- threatens to close the Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge, the Women's Healthcare Center in New Orleans and a clinic in Metairie.

Sylvia Cochran, administrator for both the Delta Clinic and Women's Healthcare Center, said that physicians at both facilities are trying to obtain admitting privileges but likely will be unable to comply with the law (Lane, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 6/12).

Ellie Schilling, an attorney who represents abortion clinics in New Orleans, said there "will certainly be a court challenge to the [law's] constitutionality." She said that the law unconstitutionally restricts a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion by imposing standards that clinics are unable to meet, forcing them to shut down.

Schilling added that while the clinics are assessing "their litigation strategy," they will try also "to comply with the law" before the Sept. 1 deadline (Shuler, Baton Rouge Advocate, 6/13).

Other Comments

Jindal in signing the measures said, "These new laws will give women the health and safety protections they deserve, and continue to make Louisiana a state that values individual human life."

However, Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, said, "We all want women to be safe, but this law doesn't protect women's health" (Reuters, 6/12).

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said in a statement, "With these same restrictions enacted in neighboring states, the United States is becoming a country where a woman's ability to make personal medical decisions without interference from politicians will be dependent upon where she happens to live" (Baton Rouge Advocate, 6/13).


Okla. Enacts New Medication Abortion Restrictions After Court Rejects Similar Law

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:54

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has signed into law a bill (HB 2684) that will restrict the use of medication abortion drugs in the state, the AP/New York Times reports.

Okla. Enacts New Medication Abortion Restrictions After Court Rejects Similar Law

April 24, 2014 — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Tuesday signed into law a bill (HB 2684) that will restrict the use of medication abortion drugs in the state, the AP/New York Times reports. The measure takes effect on Nov. 1 (AP/New York Times, 4/22).

Bill Details

Fallin previously signed a similar piece of legislation, which was later struck down by the state Supreme Court because it effectively banned all medication abortions in the state.

The new legislation was written in direct response to the court decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/17). The law will require that physicians in the state administer medication abortion drugs according to FDA protocol, which is a higher dose than is currently used in practice (AP/New York Times, 4/22). The new bill specifies that it does not ban the use of the drug misoprostol in medication abortions, nor prohibit the off-label use of drugs for the treatment of ectopic pregnancies (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/17).

Concerns From Abortion-Rights Supporters

According to the AP/Times, abortion-rights supporters argue the measure will deny women access to newer medication abortion regimens.

They also note it would force women seeking abortions to have a surgical procedure, rather than a medication abortion, after 49 days of pregnancy, which is the limit for the drugs under the FDA protocol (AP/New York Times, 4/22).


'Political Intrusion on Exam Rooms' Must Stop, Op-Ed States

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:52

"There is a trend across the country that deeply concerns us and our fellow health-care advocates and providers: political intrusion on exam rooms," Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, and Charles Cutler, former chair of the American College of Physicians Board of Regents, write in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece.

'Political Intrusion on Exam Rooms' Must Stop, Op-Ed States

July 29, 2014 — "There is a trend across the country that deeply concerns us and our fellow health-care advocates and providers: political intrusion on exam rooms," Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, and Charles Cutler, former chair of the American College of Physicians Board of Regents, write in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece.

Ness and Cutler explain that several "states have considered or enacted laws that mandate bad medicine, undermining the relationships between patients and health-care providers." These laws regulate what providers can or must say to patients about abortion, gun safety, environmental hazards and other topics. For example, a Pennsylvania law mandates that "providers offer women irrelevant and unnecessary information designed to discourage them from seeking an abortion."

Ness and Cutler write, "Interference like this has to stop, and there is a chance to make that happen here in Pennsylvania." The Pennsylvania legislation, called the Patient Trust Act (HB 2303), "was recently introduced by Sen. Mike Stack [D] as part of the Pennsylvania Women's Health Agenda" and is "expected to be introduced in the House this week by Rep. Dan Frankel [D]," they explain.

The bill would "help ensure that health-care providers are not required to give their patients information that is medically inaccurate or, conversely, prohibited from giving them information that is appropriate and accurate," they write, adding that it would "also help ensure that providers are not required to deliver care that is inconsistent with evidence-based medical standards, or prevented from delivering care that adheres to such standards."

Ness and Cutler argue that enacting the legislation "would be an important step toward protecting the patient-provider relationship and ensuring that politics don't trump high-quality health care" (Cutler/Ness, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/28).


Admitting Privileges Laws Threaten Abortion Access in Large Swaths of U.S.

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:52

State laws requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals threaten to leave women in broad areas of the country without abortion access in their region, particularly in rural and low-income parts of the South and Midwest, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Admitting Privileges Laws Threaten Abortion Access in Large Swaths of U.S.

May 29, 2014 — State laws requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals threaten to leave women in broad areas of the country without abortion access in their region, particularly in rural and low-income parts of the South and Midwest, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The laws are especially harmful for abortion clinics in the South because their doctors often come from out of state to perform abortions and do not have connections to local hospitals, according to the AP/Bee. In addition, some hospitals have religious affiliations that bar them from entering into agreements with abortion providers, while others might not grant privileges to out-of-state physicians, the AP/Bee reports.

Some states already have the admitting privileges requirements in place, and others are under court review. For example, a court allowed a law (HB 2) with the requirements to take effect this year in Texas, where 19 of 33 clinics have closed. Tennessee has a similar law, and measures in Mississippi -- which has just one abortion clinic -- and Alabama are on hold while courts consider lawsuits. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 10 states have laws with admitting privileges requirements, including measures about to be enacted in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Comments

Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for CRR, said there are potentially "huge swaths of the country where women's options are becoming severely limited." She disputed claims by supporters of the laws who argue that the requirements safeguard women's health. Admitting privileges requirements are "absolutely not medically necessary" and are really designed to restrict abortion access, she said.

However, Denise Burke, vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life, said the laws are "obvious and medically appropriate regulation[s] of the abortion providers" (Wagster Pettus, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/29).

Richards: Fight Back on Restrictions

The spread of admitting privileges laws across the South threatens to make the U.S. "a country in which a woman's ability to make the private and personal medical decision best for herself and her family will be dependent upon where she happens to live," Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards writes in a CNN opinion piece.

Richards adds that the "only effective way to stop these attacks on women's health is to change who is in office passing these laws." She writes that lawmakers "who are attacking women's health are on the wrong side of this issue," and "thousands of women, men, and young people across the country ... are willing to fight tooth and nail to stop" the abortion restrictions (Richards, CNN, 5/28).


States Slow Pace of Antiabortion-Rights Legislation, But Restrictions Up Overall, Guttmacher Report Shows

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:44

States passed fewer abortion restrictions in the first half of this year compared with the same time period in any of the past three years, but state laws restricting abortion access continue to vastly outnumber those expanding access, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, Vox reports.

States Slow Pace of Antiabortion-Rights Legislation, But Restrictions Up Overall, Guttmacher Report Shows

July 9, 2014 — States passed fewer abortion restrictions in the first half of this year compared with the same time period in any of the past three years, but state laws restricting abortion access continue to vastly outnumber those expanding access, according to a report released Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, Vox reports (Kliff, Vox, 7/8).

According to the report, 13 states passed 21 abortion restrictions in the first half of 2014, about half of the number of restrictions passed during the same time period last year and nearly one-fourth of the number passed in the first half of 2011 (Chokshi, "GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).

However, Guttmacher researchers said part of the shift is cyclical, as some state legislatures had shorter sessions than past years because of the midterm election and others states that heavily restrict abortion rights, such as Texas, do not hold legislative sessions in even-numbered years (Viebeck, The Hill, 7/8). In addition, researchers noted that legislatures focused more on other health care issues this year, which shifted the focus away from abortion-related legislation (Novack, National Journal, 7/8).

New Abortion Restrictions

The laws enacted this year include measures in Arizona and Indiana granting state health agencies the ability to conduct unannounced inspections of abortion clinics, while Georgia and Indiana limited abortion coverage in health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplaces. Mississippi banned abortions after a certain point in pregnancy, Oklahoma restricted access to medication abortion and South Dakota banned abortions based on the sex of the fetus.

Among other changes, states passed abortion restrictions related to mandatory counseling, Medicaid funding, gestational limits, parental consent, mandatory delay periods and provider refusal ("GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).

Overall, states have passed 226 new abortion restrictions since 2011 (Vox, 7/8). The number of states with Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws has increased to 26, up from 11 in 2000. TRAP laws impose restrictions on abortion providers, such as licensing rules or requiring physicians to have hospital admitting privileges, with the aim of forcing clinics to close for noncompliance, according to Guttmacher ("GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).

According to the report, "59 percent of women of reproductive age live in a state that has enacted targeted regulation of abortion providers" (The Hill, 7/8).

Laws Protecting Reproductive Health Access

So far this year, the report found that three states have increased access to abortion services. Utah waived a mandatory counseling requirement for women seeking the procedure because of fetal impairment. Meanwhile, Vermont took a law off the books from before Roe v. Wade that banned abortion, while New Hampshire enacted a "buffer zone" law, although the Supreme Court's recent ruling on a similar measure could put it in jeopardy, according to the Washington Post's "GovBeat."

In addition, Connecticut; Maryland; New Mexico; South Carolina; and Washington, D.C., expanded access to other reproductive health services ("GovBeat," Washington Post, 7/8).


Featured Blog

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:35

"Pennsylvania Law Requires Doctors To Read Scripts to Pregnant Patients With Prenatal Down Syndrome Diagnoses (Updated)," (Murtha, RH Reality Check, 7/25).

July 29, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Pennsylvania Law Requires Doctors To Read Scripts to Pregnant Patients With Prenatal Down Syndrome Diagnoses (Updated)," Tara Murtha, RH Reality Check: "A new law in Pennsylvania mandates that doctors read a script to pregnant patients after delivering the diagnosis of prenatal Down syndrome," Murtha writes. She explains that the law will take effect 60 days after it was signed on July 18 and that the materials will include "'up-to-date, evidence-based information about Down syndrome,' including 'physical, developmental, educational and psychosocial outcomes,' life expectancy, and 'any other information the [state Department of Health] deems necessary.'" However, Murtha writes that because the script is still under development, "there is no way to assess if the materials are biased, or comply with scientific consensus -- which is not always the case when it comes to government-mandated physician scripts, especially when the targeted patients are pregnant women." Meanwhile, two state lawmakers this week introduced a bill, called the Patient Trust Act (HB 2303) responding to state laws that "that force providers to practice medicine in a way that is not in line with basic medical standards," she adds (Murtha, RH Reality Check, 7/25).

Boston Globe Editorial Urges Activists To Delay Judgment on 'Buffer Zone' Replacement Law

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:32

The Massachusetts "Legislature last week took a big step toward addressing the US Supreme Court's objections to the state's 'buffer-zone' law" when both the state "House and Senate ... passed bills (S 2283) that would give police new powers to curb obstruction and harassment outside abortion clinics while allowing peaceful protests," according to a Boston Globe editorial.

Boston Globe Editorial Urges Activists To Delay Judgment on 'Buffer Zone' Replacement Law

July 29, 2014 — The Massachusetts "Legislature last week took a big step toward addressing the US Supreme Court's objections to the state's 'buffer-zone' law" when both the state "House and Senate ... passed bills (S 2283) that would give police new powers to curb obstruction and harassment outside abortion clinics while allowing peaceful protests," according to a Boston Globe editorial.

The editorial explains, "The new law would allow police to order protestors to withdraw if they impede access to a clinic." In such a case, "a protestor would have to stay at least 25 feet from the building for up to eight hours, or until the end of the clinic's business day." While some antiabortion-rights activists believe "the bill is too restrictive," Boston Police Commissioner William Evans "said it creates clear guidelines for easier enforcement."

The editorial calls the legislation "a sensible bill that balances the need for safety and free access to clinics with the rights of protestors" and urges "[b]oth sides" of the debate to "wait and see how it works in practice before rushing to judgment" (Boston Globe, 7/27).


Tenn. Campaigns Prepare for November Battle Over Abortion Rights

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:31

Supporters and opponents of a Tennessee ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would change the state's constitutional language regarding abortion are preparing to rapidly increase their efforts over the next few months, Nashville Public Radio reports.

Tenn. Campaigns Prepare for November Battle Over Abortion Rights

July 29, 2014 — Supporters and opponents of a Tennessee ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would change the state's constitutional language regarding abortion are preparing to rapidly increase their efforts over the next few months, Nashville Public Radio reports (Allyn, Nashville Public Radio, 7/28).

Background

In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court said 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."

If it passes in November, Amendment 1 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/15). According to the Jackson Sun, the amendment also would impose a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could obtain an abortion, as well as new inspection and regulation requirements for abortion facilities (Manna, Jackson Sun, 7/27).

Campaign Efforts

The opposing sides of the amendment have raised almost $1 million collectively, and there are expectations that millions more will be raised.

Campaigns will involve canvassing, distributing mailers and launching advertisements. Both sides have been waiting until after the August primary to launch the campaigns, according to Nashville Public Radio (Nashville Public Radio, 7/28).

In the meantime, Director of the Vote No on One campaign and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee President and CEO Jeff Teague said, "We've been ... getting [volunteers] trained so they can be warriors in this fight this fall" (Bruck, WRCB, 7/26).