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 11 min ago

Featured Blogs

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 18:33

"The War on Reproductive Rights Will Get a Lot Uglier Next Year" (Redden, Mother Jones, 12/18); "D.C. Council Prohibits Employment Discrimination Based on Reproductive Health Choices" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 12/18).

December 19, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"The War on Reproductive Rights Will Get a Lot Uglier Next Year," Molly Redden, Mother Jones: "After a record-shattering year in 2013, the pace of harsh anti-abortion bills introduced in 2014 slowed down ... [b]ut brace yourself for 2015," Redden writes. She explains that in 2015, "Republicans will control 11 more legislative chambers than they did in 2014," lawmakers in Texas and North Dakota will reconvene, and "there are no major elections to take up lawmakers' time or cause them [to] worry about war-on-women attacks." Redden lists several antiabortion-rights measures pre-filed so far for next year in nine states: Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. The "list only covers states where bills have actually been submitted," Redden adds, noting that "[i]n other states, abortion foes are still scribbling away" (Redden, Mother Jones, 12/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Your Body, His Choice: Missouri GOP Bill Requires Men To Give Written Permission for Abortion," Katie McDonough, Salon.

FEATURED BLOG

"D.C. Council Prohibits Employment Discrimination Based on Reproductive Health Choices," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "The Washington, D.C., city council unanimously passed a bill Wednesday [B20-0790] that would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on reproductive health decision-making -- including the decision to terminate a pregnancy," Crockett writes. Specifically, she explains that the measure "amends the District's Human Rights Act ... to add that an employer cannot discriminate in 'compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment' because of an employee's or a dependent's 'reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service.'" Crockett notes that D.C. council member David Grosso, who sponsored the bill, has also clarified that the bill does not contradict the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling because it does not "force employers to purchase a certain kind of insurance or be involved in conversations about contraception or abortion with employees." Rather, the bill only ensures employers cannot "fire or retaliate against an employee if, for instance, the boss finds out the employee is using birth control or once had an abortion," Crockett writes (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 12/18).


Group Seeks Records on Wis. Decision To Not Enforce State Contraception Coverage Law

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 18:29

The Freedom From Religion Foundation on Wednesday filed a lawsuit requesting records related to a decision by Wisconsin officials to not enforce the state's contraceptive coverage law for certain employers, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Group Seeks Records on Wis. Decision To Not Enforce State Contraception Coverage Law

December 19, 2014 — The Freedom From Religion Foundation on Wednesday filed a lawsuit requesting records related to a decision by Wisconsin officials to not enforce the state's contraceptive coverage law for certain employers, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/17).

Background

The state law, passed in 2009, requires health plans to cover prescription birth control (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/24/11).

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that certain closely held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their employer-sponsored health plans if their owners have religious objections (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

After the ruling, the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance announced it would no longer enforce the state's contraceptive coverage law for employers with religious objections. State officials made the decision even though the high court's ruling was based on a federal law and does not affect state laws on contraceptive coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/8).

Details of Lawsuit

The latest suit requests that a judge force the state to release records related the decision to not enforce parts of the law.

According to the lawsuit, FFRF has submitted two open records requests with the state OCI asking for the release of records. The suit alleges that the state has not released all the relevant records (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/17).


NYT Editorial Applauds N.Y. Policies Protecting Transgender Health

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 18:28

A New York Times editorial praises Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for "advanc[ing] the cause of civil rights last week" by barring insurers from denying coverage for medically necessary gender dysphoria treatments, thus "declaring an end to a routine form of discrimination against transgender New Yorkers."

NYT Editorial Applauds N.Y. Policies Protecting Transgender Health

December 19, 2014 — A New York Times editorial praises Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for "advanc[ing] the cause of civil rights last week" by barring insurers from denying coverage for medically necessary gender dysphoria treatments, thus "declaring an end to a routine form of discrimination against transgender New Yorkers."

Under the changes, insurers in the state can no longer refuse to cover hormone therapy, gender affirmation surgery and "other steps deemed medically necessary by a doctor for a patient with gender dysphoria," the editorial explains, noting that New York requires health plans to cover "the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders."

According to the Times, the mandate "is unlikely to lead to an increase in insurance premiums" because "very few people choose to have the surgical procedure and the transgender community is a small part of the insurance pool." However, the policy will "relieve hardship and injustice for transgender individuals whose medical needs should be covered on the same basis as everyone else's," the editorial adds.

The editorial notes that the advisory to insurers aligns with other efforts Cuomo has headed "to protect transgender rights," including regulations proposed on Tuesday to cover "medically necessary transgender services and procedures in the state's Medicaid program." In addition, Cuomo in June changed state policy to make it easier "for transgender people to change the gender designation on their birth certificate to conform with their gender identity and expression."

Still, while the steps Cuomo has taken so far "are important," the editorial argues that state law "leaves room for discrimination against transgender people." The Times urges Cuomo to make a "vigorous effort to pass the long-stalled Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act" (A 5039) during the upcoming state legislative session, which would add protections for transgender people to a state law prohibiting "discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit and public accommodations" (New York Times, 12/18).


Mo. Lawmaker Says Abortion Consent Bill Would Not Apply in 'Legitimate Rape' Cases

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 18:27

A Missouri state lawmaker recently said his bill (HB 131) requiring a woman seeking an abortion to get permission from the man involved in the pregnancy would not apply in cases of "legitimate rape," a phrase that drew widespread criticism when used by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) two years ago, National Journal reports.

Mo. Lawmaker Says Abortion Consent Bill Would Not Apply in 'Legitimate Rape' Cases

December 19, 2014 — A Missouri state lawmaker recently said his bill (HB 131) requiring a woman seeking an abortion to get permission from the man involved in the pregnancy would not apply in cases of "legitimate rape," a phrase that drew widespread criticism when used by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) two years ago, National Journal reports (Novack, National Journal, 12/17).

Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin's (R) pre-filed bill would require all abortion patients in the state to obtain written, notarized consent from the man involved in the pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/15). The bill would not require a woman to obtain such consent if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest (Ballentine, AP/Kansas City Star, 12/18).

Mother Jones Interview

During an interview with Mother Jones about the measure, Brattin said, "Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it" to qualify for the bill's exemption, adding, "So you couldn't just go and say, 'Oh yeah, I was raped,' and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape."

Brattin said he was inspired to propose the consent requirement after he recently obtained a vasectomy and needed to have a signed form saying that his wife agreed to the procedure. According to Brattin, the state of Missouri requires such a form.

In fact, there is no such law in the state, according to a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, which operates clinics that offer the procedure. The spokesperson noted that some providers might require consent of a person's partner, although its clinics do not (Redden, Mother Jones, 12/17).

Comparisons to Former Rep. Akin

Brattin's comments are reminiscent of those made by Akin during his 2012 campaign, when he said "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Akin went on to lose his bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) (National Journal, 12/17).

However, Brattin said his comments differ from Akin's in that he was "saying if there was a legitimate rape, you're going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed." He said that the bill would require women "to take steps to show that [they] were raped," which he thinks they would "be able to prove" (Mother Jones, 12/17).

Meanwhile, reproductive rights supporters said Brattin's comments are indicative of Republicans' tendency to be insensitive when talking about abortion (National Journal, 12/17). McCaskill in a statement called the bill "offensive and absurd," adding, "This is just a back-door way to eliminate any rape exception, unless the survivor gets a permission slip from her rapist" (AP/Kansas City Star, 12/18).

Other Issues With Bill

Mother Jones also asked Brattin about potential conflicts between his bill and the Supreme Court's 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which struck down a requirement that a woman inform her husband before an abortion. Brattin claimed the ruling would not affect his measure, which he said is constitutional because Missouri has another law requiring men to pay child support during pregnancy.

Brattin also noted that the bill would not apply if a woman's life were in danger or if she obtained a signed affidavit stating that the man involved in the pregnancy had died.

Reproductive rights supporters have said the consent requirement is particularly troubling for women in abusive relationships. Asked whether he would consider an exception to the consent requirement for women who have been abused, Brattin said he had not "really thought about that aspect of it" but that such women could obtain protective orders after giving birth.

M'Evie Mead, the director of statewide organizing for Missouri's Planned Parenthood affiliate, said, "This bill is insulting and a danger to women in abusive relationships," adding, "That's very much our concern. But when it comes to abortion, Missouri legislators are always trying to outdo each other" (Mother Jones, 12/17).


Group Seeks Records on Wis. Decision To Not Enforce State Contraception Coverage Law

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 18:01

The Freedom From Religion Foundation on Wednesday filed a lawsuit requesting records related to a decision by Wisconsin officials to not enforce the state's contraceptive coverage law for certain employers, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Group Seeks Records on Wis. Decision To Not Enforce State Contraception Coverage Law

December 19, 2014 — The Freedom From Religion Foundation on Wednesday filed a lawsuit requesting records related to a decision by Wisconsin officials to not enforce the state's contraceptive coverage law for certain employers, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/17).

Background

The state law, passed in 2009, requires health plans to cover prescription birth control (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/24/11).

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that certain closely held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their employer-sponsored health plans if their owners have religious objections (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

After the ruling, the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance announced it would no longer enforce the state's contraceptive coverage law for employers with religious objections. State officials made the decision even though the high court's ruling was based on a federal law and does not affect state laws on contraceptive coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/8).

Details of Lawsuit

The latest suit requests that a judge force the state to release records related the decision to not enforce parts of the law.

According to the lawsuit, FFRF has submitted two open records requests with the state OCI asking for the release of records. The suit alleges that the state has not released all the relevant records (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/17).


Blogs Comment on 2015 Abortion Legislation, Helms Amendment, More

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 16:06

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Mother Jones, Huffington Post and more.

Blogs Comment on 2015 Abortion Legislation, Helms Amendment, More

December 19, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Mother Jones, Huffington Post and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "The War on Reproductive Rights Will Get a Lot Uglier Next Year," Molly Redden, Mother Jones: "After a record-shattering year in 2013, the pace of harsh anti-abortion bills introduced in 2014 slowed down ... [b]ut brace yourself for 2015," Redden writes. She explains that in 2015, "Republicans will control 11 more legislative chambers than they did in 2014," lawmakers in Texas and North Dakota will reconvene, and "there are no major elections to take up lawmakers' time or cause them [to] worry about war-on-women attacks." Redden lists several antiabortion-rights measures pre-filed so far for next year in nine states: Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. The "list only covers states where bills have actually been submitted," Redden adds, noting that "[i]n other states, abortion foes are still scribbling away" (Redden, Mother Jones, 12/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Your Body, His Choice: Missouri GOP Bill Requires Men To Give Written Permission for Abortion," Katie McDonough, Salon.

HELMS AMENDMENT: "An Unhappy Birthday: Helms Still Hurts," Dawn Laguens, Huffington Post blogs: Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Laguens "wish[es] a very unhappy [41st] birthday to the Helms Amendment," explaining that the policy "prevents U.S. foreign assistance programs from supporting abortion 'as a method of family planning,'" but that it has been incorrectly implemented "as a total ban on funding for abortion -- even in cases of incest, rape and life endangerment." She writes that as a result, women "[a]round the world ... in especially traumatic situations are denied a health care procedure that's legal in their countries -- and in ours." She urges the Obama administration "to reduce the harm [the Helms Amendment] does around the world by correcting how the policy is implemented," adding that "eventually, we can and must get rid of the Helms Amendment entirely" (Laguens, Huffington Post blogs, 12/17).

PEACE CORPS: "Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers, at Last," Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families blog: "The funding bill Congress passed last weekend" ensures that "women who serve their country in the Peace Corps finally have the same abortion coverage as other women who get their insurance through the federal government," writes Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. She explains that the law "lifts the terribly unfair ban on coverage for abortion services for Peace Corps volunteers who survive rape or incest, or whose lives would be jeopardized by continuing a pregnancy." Ness adds that while the law marks a "victor[y]" over injustice, women's health supporters "won't rest until all women have access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion care beyond the limited circumstances of rape, incest and life endangerment" (Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families blog,12/16).

What others are saying about the Peace Corps:

~ "Amidst the Budget Chaos, Long-Awaited Abortion Coverage for Women in the Peace Corps," Georgeanne Usova, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights."

~ "Congress Delivers for Women in the Peace Corps," Latanya Mapp Frett, The Hill's "Congress Blog."

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH DISCRIMINATION: "D.C. Council Prohibits Employment Discrimination Based on Reproductive Health Choices," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "The Washington, D.C., city council unanimously passed a bill Wednesday [B20-0790] that would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on reproductive health decision-making -- including the decision to terminate a pregnancy," Crockett writes. Specifically, she explains that the measure "amends the District's Human Rights Act ... to add that an employer cannot discriminate in 'compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment' because of an employee's or a dependent's 'reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service.'" Crockett notes that D.C. council member David Grosso, who sponsored the bill, has also clarified that the bill does not contradict the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling because it does not "force employers to purchase a certain kind of insurance or be involved in conversations about contraception or abortion with employees." Rather, the bill only ensures employers cannot "fire or retaliate against an employee if, for instance, the boss finds out the employee is using birth control or once had an abortion," Crockett writes (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 12/18).

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Journal of Adolescent Health Assesses Progress on Youth Sexual Health and Rights," Suzanne Ito, International Women's Health Coalition blog: "According to a special supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health," progress "on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights over the past 20 years ... has been 'limited and patchy' since governments made a series of commitments at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994," Ito writes. She notes that the supplement, "fostered by the World Health Organization and the International Women's Health Coalition," calls for "promising programs for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights [to] be implemented on a large, national scale." Specifically, "[t]he supplement defines five complementary and intersecting areas for intervention: scaling up comprehensive sexuality education programs that address gender and human rights; increasing access to effective, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services; preventing intimate partner violence and sexual violence; increasing youth participation in sexual and reproductive health policymaking; and addressing the key social, cultural, economic, and political factors that impact young people's ability to lead healthy lives," Ito writes, adding that the supplement also urges further research into new and existing "approaches for improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights" (Ito, International Women's Health Coalition blog, 12/18).

FAMILY PLANNING: "The Devastating Consequences of Chipping Away at Family Planning Programs," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler writes that federally funded Title X "family planning clinics that are supposed to offer a safety net for low-income Americans are in crisis," adding that as more U.S. residents "slipped into poverty" as a result of the recession, "Title X's patient load increased, but its budget didn't." Culp-Ressler explains that compared with 2012, last year "the program's clinics served about 206,000 fewer patients" and "[t]here were 21 fewer service sites available to visit," meaning that many people who needed care did not receive it. The program survived an unsuccessful defunding attempt in Congress in 2011, but "states like New Jersey, Montana, Texas and Maine have all slashed family planning funding," Culp-Ressler adds. Guttmacher Institute research "has actually shown that the program is one of the best investments that lawmakers can make," saving taxpayers an estimated "$7 for every dollar the government spends on family planning" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/18).


NYT Editorial Applauds N.Y. Policies Protecting Transgender Health

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 16:03

A New York Times editorial praises Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for "advanc[ing] the cause of civil rights last week" by barring insurers from denying coverage for medically necessary gender dysphoria treatments, thus "declaring an end to a routine form of discrimination against transgender New Yorkers."

NYT Editorial Applauds N.Y. Policies Protecting Transgender Health

December 19, 2014 — A New York Times editorial praises Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) for "advanc[ing] the cause of civil rights last week" by barring insurers from denying coverage for medically necessary gender dysphoria treatments, thus "declaring an end to a routine form of discrimination against transgender New Yorkers."

Under the changes, insurers in the state can no longer refuse to cover hormone therapy, gender affirmation surgery and "other steps deemed medically necessary by a doctor for a patient with gender dysphoria," the editorial explains, noting that New York requires health plans to cover "the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders."

According to the Times, the mandate "is unlikely to lead to an increase in insurance premiums" because "very few people choose to have the surgical procedure and the transgender community is a small part of the insurance pool." However, the policy will "relieve hardship and injustice for transgender individuals whose medical needs should be covered on the same basis as everyone else's," the editorial adds.

The editorial notes that the advisory to insurers aligns with other efforts Cuomo has headed "to protect transgender rights," including regulations proposed on Tuesday to cover "medically necessary transgender services and procedures in the state's Medicaid program." In addition, Cuomo in June changed state policy to make it easier "for transgender people to change the gender designation on their birth certificate to conform with their gender identity and expression."

Still, while the steps Cuomo has taken so far "are important," the editorial argues that state law "leaves room for discrimination against transgender people." The Times urges Cuomo to make a "vigorous effort to pass the long-stalled Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act" (A 5039) during the upcoming state legislative session, which would add protections for transgender people to a state law prohibiting "discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit and public accommodations" (New York Times, 12/18).


Dominican Lawmakers Move Forward on Decriminalizing Abortion in Some Cases

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 15:25

Lawmakers in the Dominican Republic's Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday approved a bill that would decriminalize abortion in limited circumstances, Dominican Today reports.

Dominican Lawmakers Move Forward on Decriminalizing Abortion in Some Cases

December 19, 2014 — Lawmakers in the Dominican Republic's Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday approved a bill that would decriminalize abortion in limited circumstances, Dominican Today reports (Dominican Today, 12/16).

The bill would permit abortion to save a woman's life, according to the AP/Yahoo! News. Abortion is currently illegal in all circumstances in the Dominican Republic.

In addition, Chamber of Deputies President Abel Martinez has promised that lawmakers will introduce a second bill that would decriminalize abortion in instances of rape, incest or fetal anomalies.

President Calls for Fewer Abortion Restrictions

Two weeks ago, President Danilo Medina urged lawmakers to decriminalize abortion in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest and fetal anomalies (AP/Yahoo! News, 12/16). Medina previously vetoed a bill that would have reinforced the criminalization of abortion in all circumstances (Dominican Today, 12/18).

The Senate is also expected to consider measures related to decriminalizing abortion in the coming weeks, according to the AP/Yahoo News! (AP/Yahoo! News, 12/16).

The proposals also face heavy resistance from the influential Catholic Church. The church has launched a nationwide campaign to maintain the criminalization of abortion.

According to a presidential administrative minister, 85.7% of the public support Medina's position (Dominican Today, 12/16).


Mo. Lawmaker Says Abortion Consent Bill Would Not Apply in 'Legitimate Rape' Cases

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 14:12

A Missouri state lawmaker recently said his bill (HB 131) requiring a woman seeking an abortion to get permission from the man involved in the pregnancy would not apply in cases of "legitimate rape," a phrase that drew widespread criticism when used by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) two years ago, National Journal reports.

Mo. Lawmaker Says Abortion Consent Bill Would Not Apply in 'Legitimate Rape' Cases

December 19, 2014 — A Missouri state lawmaker recently said his bill (HB 131) requiring a woman seeking an abortion to get permission from the man involved in the pregnancy would not apply in cases of "legitimate rape," a phrase that drew widespread criticism when used by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) two years ago, National Journal reports (Novack, National Journal, 12/17).

Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin's (R) pre-filed bill would require all abortion patients in the state to obtain written, notarized consent from the man involved in the pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/15). The bill would not require a woman to obtain such consent if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest (Ballentine, AP/Kansas City Star, 12/18).

Mother Jones Interview

During an interview with Mother Jones about the measure, Brattin said, "Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it" to qualify for the bill's exemption, adding, "So you couldn't just go and say, 'Oh yeah, I was raped,' and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape."

Brattin said he was inspired to propose the consent requirement after he recently obtained a vasectomy and needed to have a signed form saying that his wife agreed to the procedure. According to Brattin, the state of Missouri requires such a form.

In fact, there is no such law in the state, according to a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, which operates clinics that offer the procedure. The spokesperson noted that some providers might require consent of a person's partner, although its clinics do not (Redden, Mother Jones, 12/17).

Comparisons to Former Rep. Akin

Brattin's comments are reminiscent of those made by Akin during his 2012 campaign, when he said "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Akin went on to lose his bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) (National Journal, 12/17).

However, Brattin said his comments differ from Akin's in that he was "saying if there was a legitimate rape, you're going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed." He said that the bill would require women "to take steps to show that [they] were raped," which he thinks they would "be able to prove" (Mother Jones, 12/17).

Meanwhile, reproductive rights supporters said Brattin's comments are indicative of Republicans' tendency to be insensitive when talking about abortion (National Journal, 12/17). McCaskill in a statement called the bill "offensive and absurd," adding, "This is just a back-door way to eliminate any rape exception, unless the survivor gets a permission slip from her rapist" (AP/Kansas City Star, 12/18).

Other Issues With Bill

Mother Jones also asked Brattin about potential conflicts between his bill and the Supreme Court's 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which struck down a requirement that a woman inform her husband before an abortion. Brattin claimed the ruling would not affect his measure, which he said is constitutional because Missouri has another law requiring men to pay child support during pregnancy.

Brattin also noted that the bill would not apply if a woman's life were in danger or if she obtained a signed affidavit stating that the man involved in the pregnancy had died.

Reproductive rights supporters have said the consent requirement is particularly troubling for women in abusive relationships. Asked whether he would consider an exception to the consent requirement for women who have been abused, Brattin said he had not "really thought about that aspect of it" but that such women could obtain protective orders after giving birth.

M'Evie Mead, the director of statewide organizing for Missouri's Planned Parenthood affiliate, said, "This bill is insulting and a danger to women in abusive relationships," adding, "That's very much our concern. But when it comes to abortion, Missouri legislators are always trying to outdo each other" (Mother Jones, 12/17).


D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 18:00

The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports.

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

December 18, 2014 — The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports (Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 12/17).

Council member David Grosso introduced the measure, called the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, in May, a few months after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. The court later ruled in the case that certain closely held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their employer-sponsored health plans if their owners have religious objections.

"An employer should not be able to tell their employee whether or not they can access certain kinds of health care," Grosso said in May.

The measure now heads to Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is expected to sign it into law.

Measure Details

The measure would amend Washington, D.C.'s Human Rights Act of 1977 to include language prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions and from limiting the extent of employees' reproductive health coverage and services.

Specifically, the measure states, "An employer or employment agency shall not discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service, because of or on the basis of an employer's personal beliefs about such services."

The D.C. Council on Wednesday amended the measure to explicitly state that it applies to both men and women (Gryboski, Christian Post, 12/17).

According to Politico Pro, the measure would apply to all employers, whether or not they hold themselves out as religious (Politico Pro, 12/17).

The D.C. Council acknowledged concerns from the district's Office of the Attorney General about the lack of a "ministerial exemption" to the measure. However, the council concluded that the measure did not present First Amendment concerns because such an exemption likely would be "read into" the law upon enactment (Christian Post, 12/17).


Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 17:41

In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.

Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

December 18, 2014 — In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.



HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski and the Huffington Post's Chris Gentilviso talk about the prospects for numerous antiabortion-rights measures pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers, including proposed 20-week abortion bans (S 28, S 130) and a "personhood" measure (S 129). Minkovski notes that, according to Planned Parenthood, more than 2,000 South Carolina residents made calls to state legislators urging them not to pass abortion restrictions last year, and that efforts to pass several such bills were stalled (Minkovski, HuffPost Live, 12/9).




As part of a roundtable on MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," Feministing's Alexandra Brodsky speaks with the host about the legal and cultural framework that college sexual assault survivors contend with when they come forward. Brodsky, a Yale Law School student and founder of Know Your IX, is joined by Byron Hurt, an anti-sexism activist and filmmaker, and Salamishah Tillet, an author and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, for additional discussion on the language surrounding sexual assault prevention and adjudication (Harris-Perry, "Melissa Harris-Perry," MSNBC, 12/14).

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 17:34

The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports.

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

December 18, 2014 — The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports (Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 12/17).

Council member David Grosso introduced the measure, called the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, in May, a few months after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. The court later ruled in the case that certain closely held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their employer-sponsored health plans if their owners have religious objections.

"An employer should not be able to tell their employee whether or not they can access certain kinds of health care," Grosso said in May.

The measure now heads to Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is expected to sign it into law.

Measure Details

The measure would amend Washington, D.C.'s Human Rights Act of 1977 to include language prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions and from limiting the extent of employees' reproductive health coverage and services.

Specifically, the measure states, "An employer or employment agency shall not discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service, because of or on the basis of an employer's personal beliefs about such services."

The D.C. Council on Wednesday amended the measure to explicitly state that it applies to both men and women (Gryboski, Christian Post, 12/17).

According to Politico Pro, the measure would apply to all employers, whether or not they hold themselves out as religious (Politico Pro, 12/17).

The D.C. Council acknowledged concerns from the district's Office of the Attorney General about the lack of a "ministerial exemption" to the measure. However, the council concluded that the measure did not present First Amendment concerns because such an exemption likely would be "read into" the law upon enactment (Christian Post, 12/17).


Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 17:15

In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.

Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

December 18, 2014 — In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.



HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski and the Huffington Post's Chris Gentilviso talk about the prospects for numerous antiabortion-rights measures pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers, including proposed 20-week abortion bans (S 28, S 130) and a "personhood" measure (S 129). Minkovski notes that, according to Planned Parenthood, more than 2,000 South Carolina residents made calls to state legislators urging them not to pass abortion restrictions last year, and that efforts to pass several such bills were stalled (Minkovski, HuffPost Live, 12/9).




As part of a roundtable on MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," Feministing's Alexandra Brodsky speaks with the host about the legal and cultural framework that college sexual assault survivors contend with when they come forward. Brodsky, a Yale Law School student and founder of Know Your IX, is joined by Byron Hurt, an anti-sexism activist and filmmaker, and Salamishah Tillet, an author and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, for additional discussion on the language surrounding sexual assault prevention and adjudication (Harris-Perry, "Melissa Harris-Perry," MSNBC, 12/14).

President Obama Signs Omnibus That Includes Limited Peace Corps Abortion Coverage

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 16:48

President Obama this week signed into law a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending measure that includes a provision lifting a 35-year ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in instances of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life, the Washington Post's "Federal Eye" reports.

President Obama Signs Omnibus That Includes Limited Peace Corps Abortion Coverage

December 18, 2014 — President Obama this week signed into law a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending measure that includes a provision lifting a 35-year ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in instances of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life, the Washington Post's "Federal Eye" reports (Hicks, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 12/18).

Health insurance coverage for Peace Corps volunteers has been prohibited from covering abortion in any circumstance since 1979. The new policy brings the Peace Corps' standard in line with other federal policies that bar the use of federal funding for abortion in cases other than rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger. Currently, the volunteers are one of the only groups with federal health coverage that does not receive abortion coverage in those cases.

Earlier this year, the House and Senate Appropriations committees both approved measures calling to end the Peace Corps policy for the first time. Lawmakers lifted a similar ban last year that had been in place for members of the military and their dependents (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/12).

Comments

Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet on Wednesday said, "The health, safety and security of volunteers are our absolute highest priorities, and this important step forward furthers our work to enhance volunteer support as we build a better, stronger Peace Corps."

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) proposed similar legislation last year. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who proposed this year's version with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), said in a statement on Wednesday, "Peace Corps service members deserve the same basic health care benefits provided to other women on federal health care plans" ("Federal Eye," Washington Post, 12/18).


Blogs Comment on Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers, Over-the-Counter Birth Control, More

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 15:15

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" and more.

Blogs Comment on Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers, Over-the-Counter Birth Control, More

December 16, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" and more.


ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Government Spending Bill Quietly Resolves Peace Corps Abortion Coverage Debate," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The Senate's passage of "a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill ... signals the quiet end to a fight over abortion coverage that has been playing out over the past year," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that the legislation "includes a provision to extend abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment -- bringing volunteers' coverage in line with the health care that all federal employees receive." According to Culp-Ressler, reproductive rights advocates are "celebrating" the provision's passage after attempts to extend such coverage to Peace Corps volunteers was repeatedly "blocked by GOP lawmakers in the House" over the last several years. Still, she notes that the bill generally "maintains the status quo on insurance coverage for abortion services" for recipients of federally funded health benefits by "includ[ing] longstanding bans on abortion coverage for [Washington, D.C.'s] Medicaid recipients and for federal prisoners." The spending bill also "maintains about the same level of funding for family planning programs" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/15).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Court Passes up RU-486 Abortion Issue, Again," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog.

~ "The GOP's Hidden Ban on Prison Abortions," Harold Pollack, Daily Beast.

~ "The Helms Amendment: Facepalm," Emily Gillingham, Law Students for Reproductive Justice's "Repo Repro."

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Climate Change, Evolution, and Now Abortion: Why Conservatives Mislead About Facts," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: While it has "long been a media and political truism that the abortion debate is primarily a struggle over morals and values, pitting concern for embryonic life against women's right to bodily autonomy," the recent "political landscape" has made it "clear that the anti-choice movement has basically abandoned that moralistic strategy when it comes to their actual political activism," Marcotte writes. She notes that while antiabortion-rights advocates "still lean on the 'pro-life' angle in internal messaging to supporters and while harassing women outside of clinics," they "[c]reate the illusion of a scientific controversy where none exists, and use that as a pretext to push a right-wing agenda" when trying to "mak[e] change happen on a legislative or judicial level." According to Marcotte, their "idea is to create the illusion ... that there is a serious medical debate over the dangers of abortion to a woman's physical and mental well-being, and use that to argue that a bunch of laws making it harder to obtain abortions are necessary," when in fact "abortion is extremely safe" when conducted "in legal clinics in the United States" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 12/15).

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Pregnant Wisconsin Woman Jailed Under State's 'Personhood'-Like Law," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Mason Pieklo compares a Wisconsin substance-misuse law (Act 292) to antiabortion-rights "personhood" laws by discussing the case of Tamara Loerstcher, a woman in Wisconsin who was arrested under Act 292 after disclosing her past substance use to hospital workers during her pregnancy. Mason Pieklo explains that the Wisconsin law effectively "grants 'personhood' rights to fertilized eggs and embryos by granting the state power to initiate child protective actions against the expectant mother anytime the state believes she has substance use issues that will 'seriously affect' the health of the egg, embryo, fetus, or child." Mason Pieklo notes that Loerstcher was "not the first" woman prosecuted under Wisconsin's law and that several other states "have some kind of process in place that allows the state to effectively suspend the civil rights of pregnant people in the name of protecting against fetal harm" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 12/12).

CONTRACEPTION: "We've All Been There, and an Over-the-Counter Pill Should Be There for Us," Mara Gandal-Powers, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center: "[T]here should be at least one birth control pill available over-the-counter" so that "women will be able to use the birth control method that they have determined is best for them when they need it," writes Gandal-Powers, counsel for health and reproductive rights at NWLC, noting that many women using birth control have had a situation in which they "needed to get pills and couldn't because [they] couldn't get a prescription in time." Gandal-Powers urges people to learn "more about why an over-the-counter birth control pill makes sense" by visiting FreethePill.org. OTC availability "doesn't mean every pill that anyone could ever want should be on the shelves," she writes, noting that the OTC pill "could be one specific ... progestin-only pill, which has very few contradictions" and for which "women are able to self-screen." Further, she notes that if an OTC policy were enacted, women "should still see their providers regularly for well-woman visits" and insurers would still be required to cover contraceptives in accordance with the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), as long as women have a prescription (Gandal-Powers, "Womenstake," NWLC, 12/15).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Surprise, Surprise: Increased Contraceptive Use Leads to Fewer Unintended Pregnancies," Anita Little, Ms. Magazine blog.

~ "The Right is Coming for Your Birth Control -- They Just Don't Want You To Know it Yet," Katie McDonough, Salon.

SEX EDUCATION: "California Parents Outraged Their Kids Are Learning About Consent, Gender Identity," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": In November, a group of parents in the Acalanes Union High School District in Northern California "formed a coalition called NOISE -- which stands for 'No to Irresponsible Sex Education' -- to pressure school officials to drop Planned Parenthood's [sex education] curriculum," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler explains that the parent group has accused "Planned Parenthood of trying to pressure their kids into having sex," with specific objections against "a 'genderbread person' tool that teaches kids about the spectrum of sexuality and gender" and "a checklist that helps kids decide whether they're ready for sex" and communicate effectively with potential partners. Culp-Ressler notes that district officials "have defended the sex ed courses," adding that "a recent study confirmed that a sex education curriculum developed by [Planned Parenthood] effectively helps kids delay having sex" and that "[m]ost Americans overwhelmingly support comprehensive sex ed" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/12).


CDC STI Report: Chlamydia Rate Declines for First Time

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:59

The rate of reported chlamydia cases in the U.S. per 100,000 residents declined by 1.5% from 2012 to 2013, marking the first reported decrease in the infection rate since national reporting began, according to an annual CDC report on sexually transmitted infections released Tuesday, MedPage Today's "The Gupta Guide" reports.

CDC STI Report: Chlamydia Rate Declines for First Time

December 18, 2014 — The rate of reported chlamydia cases in the U.S. per 100,000 residents declined by 1.5% from 2012 to 2013, marking the first reported decrease in the infection rate since national reporting began, according to an annual CDC report on sexually transmitted infections released Tuesday, MedPage Today's "The Gupta Guide" reports.

Report Details

For the report, researchers analyzed data on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, the three STIs for which there are dedicated federal control programs and national reporting in place, as well as several other STIs. The researchers used data provided by state and local STI programs and other projects that monitor STIs, in addition to national surveys conducted by the federal government and private organizations.

According to CDC, the data likely represent an underestimate of STI infection rates as the result of incomplete reporting and diagnosis (Smith, "The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 12/16). Overall, CDC estimates that there are 20 million new cases of STIs in the U.S. annually, including STIs that are not regularly reported to CDC, such as the human papillomavirus (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 12/16).

Key Findings on Chlamydia

Overall, the report found that although the rate of reported chlamydia cases declined last year, it was still the most commonly reported STI, with 1.4 million new cases (Stobbe, AP/ABC News, 12/16). Specifically, CDC found that there were roughly 446.6 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people. By comparison, the chlamydia rate increased from 1993 through 2011 from 178.0 to 453.4 cases per 100,000 people, then held steady at 453.3 per 100,000 people in 2012.

CDC also found that reported cases of chlamydia declined among women by 2.4% between 2012 and 2013 and increased among men by 0.8%.

However, CDC noted that women continued to report a higher overall rate of the infection than men, at least partly because they are more likely than men to undergo screening for the infection. Specifically, CDC said there were about 993,348 cases reported in 2013 among women, accounting for a rate of 623.1 per 100,000 women.

Additional Findings

CDC also found that there were 333,004 reported cases of gonorrhea in 2013.

According to CDC, the gonorrhea rate declined by 0.6% compared with the 2012 rate, but increased by 8.2% compared with the 2009 rate. CDC said the reported rate of gonorrhea among women deceased by 5.1% compared with 2012, while it increased among men by 4.3%.

In addition, CDC found that there were 17,535 reported U.S. cases of primary and secondary syphilis in 2013, increasing by nearly 11% since 2012 and marking the highest rate since 1995.

CDC noted that compared with 2012, the syphilis rate among women held steady at 0.9 cases per 100,000 in 2013, while increasing among men by 12%, from 9.2 to 10.3 cases per 100,000 men ("The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 12/16).

Researchers said cases of syphilis among men who have sex with men accounted for much of the overall rate increase among men (Washington Times, 12/16). Further, CDC found 52% of MSM who reported having syphilis also reported having HIV, compared with 9.9% of men who have sex with women and 5.2% of women ("The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 12/16).


Blogs Comment on Harsher Prison Sentences for Pregnant Women, Safety of Abortion, More

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:41

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at ACLU, RH Reality Check and more.

Blogs Comment on Harsher Prison Sentences for Pregnant Women, Safety of Abortion, More

December 12, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at ACLU, RH Reality Check and more.

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "What's Next? Prosecuting a Pregnant Woman for Working Full Time?" Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights": After Tennessee resident Lacey Weld's prison sentence for committing drug-related crimes was enhanced because she was pregnant, the American Civil Liberties Union joined an amicus "brief filed by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, on behalf of leading constitutional, medical, and public health experts, asking the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision to punish Ms. Weld for her pregnancy," Kolbi-Molinas writes. Kolbi-Molinas notes that ACLU has "also asked Attorney General [Eric] Holder to renounce the federal prosecutor in Tennessee's actions and ensure that no other federal prosecutor takes this position in the future." Criminalizing pregnancy is "flatly unconstitutional [and] it's dangerous for women, families, and babies," she writes, adding, "Those really concerned with the welfare of women and babies would do well to make sure pregnant women struggling with addiction have better access to health care, not use them as examples to further their own private or political gain" (Kolbi-Molinas, "Blog of Rights," American Civil Liberties Union, 12/11).

ABORTION CARE: "Study of Over 50,000 Abortion Patients Finds Low Complication Rate," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Researchers involved in a new study demonstrating the safety of abortion have noted that the findings "cal[l] into question many conservative lawmakers' claims that requiring legal abortion care be provided in ambulatory surgical centers, or requiring abortion-providing doctors to have hospital admitting privileges, would increase the safety [of] the procedure," Grimes writes. She notes that the study found that "'major complications' after legal abortion care are extremely rare, and that overall, legal abortion care has a 'very low complication rate.'" Grimes adds that while antiabortion-rights lawmakers in several states have expressed safety concerns to advance abortion restrictions, the study's "researchers warned ... that the shuttering of abortion providers as a result of these more stringent laws could put those who need abortion care in danger, forcing them to travel longer distances to access legal abortion care or attempt illegal pregnancy terminations at home" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 12/9).

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Where are All the LGBTQ-Inclusive Sex Ed Books?" Christen McCurdy, RH Reality Check: "Too often, sex education materials meant to explain the 'basics' to kids are not written with a broader understanding of what those basics are," McCurdy writes, noting that this absence "is particularly evident considering the dearth of books describing reproduction, puberty, and sexuality in a way that acknowledges -- implicitly or explicitly -- LGBTQ identities." According to McCurdy, roughly 9% "of teenagers identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning" and "as many as six million" U.S. residents "have an LGBT-identified parent," but adolescents have "few options" for sex education materials that include such individuals. "The puberty guide I'd like to see would describe the process of growing up using a variety of authors and voices with a variety of experiences and gender identities," she writes (McCurdy, RH Reality Check, 12/10).

CONTRACEPTION: "The Rise of the IUD," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": While long-acting reversible contraceptives have "historically been one of the least popular" forms of birth control, a new CDC report shows the trend "may be slowly changing," with the rate of women opting for intrauterine devices and hormonal implants increasing from 3.8% between 2006 and 2010 to 7.2% between 2011 and 2013, writes Culp-Ressler. According to Culp-Ressler, the uptick is linked to several factors, including changing physician practices and attitudes, policy changes such as the federal contraceptive coverage rules, and studies that "repeatedly confirmed that IUDs are safe for younger women." However, she notes that despite increased use, IUDs still are controversial because of "[r]ight-wing religious groups" that "claim that IUDs are a form of abortion, even though there's no scientific evidence to back that up" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/11).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Anti-Abortion Laws Are Expected To Get Even Worse in the New Year," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": After the 2014 elections "handed significant victories to abortion opponents," state legislators have begun planning "harsher restrictions" to propose in 2015, Culp-Ressler writes, noting that states that "have already managed to heavily restrict" access to abortion "will likely double down on their agenda, making their existing anti-choice laws even tougher." For example, she notes that states that already impose mandatory counseling requirements could "tighten their laws so that women are required to make an in-person trip to the clinic," rather than receiving the information over the phone, before an abortion, while states that have imposed "strict building code standards could increase the pressure even further" by enacting admitting privileges requirements (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/10).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "States Facilitate Abortion Disinformation," David Grimes, Huffington Post blogs.


FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:38

FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

December 18, 2014 — FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report (Preidt, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16).

Background

Unlike health care providers, commercial sonographers offer non-medically necessary ultrasound videos and images to women for profit, often promoting the idea that the image will aid bonding. Commercial sonographers typically operate in shopping malls and charge women several hundred dollars for the service, according to The Hill (Viebeck, The Hill, 12/16).

FDA first discouraged non-medical ultrasounds in 1994, according to The Atlantic. Thereafter, the agency has continued to advise against the practice, issuing a warning in 2002 that it is illegal to administer an ultrasound to a person without a prescription.

FDA has also noted that women could use images from medical professionals, rather than commercial providers, for bonding purposes, if they were so inclined.

Several major medical organizations oppose commercial ultrasounds as well, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the American Medical Association and the American Pregnancy Association (Romm, The Atlantic, 12/16).

Latest Warning

In an FDA statement, Shahram Vaezy, a biomedical engineer at the agency, said that while there is no evidence that women or their fetuses have been harmed by the commercial scans, "prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important."

Vaezy explained, "Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles [cavitation] in some tissues."

The long-term effects of cavitation and tissue heating are unknown, and, as a result, ultrasounds should be conducted only by trained medical professionals and when medically necessary, Vaezy added (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16). For example, commercial operators can take up to an hour to capture video of the fetus and could be inattentive to power and heat settings (The Hill, 12/16).


FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:33

FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

December 18, 2014 — FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report (Preidt, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16).

Background

Unlike health care providers, commercial sonographers offer non-medically necessary ultrasound videos and images to women for profit, often promoting the idea that the image will aid bonding. Commercial sonographers typically operate in shopping malls and charge women several hundred dollars for the service, according to The Hill (Viebeck, The Hill, 12/16).

FDA first discouraged non-medical ultrasounds in 1994, according to The Atlantic. Thereafter, the agency has continued to advise against the practice, issuing a warning in 2002 that it is illegal to administer an ultrasound to a person without a prescription.

FDA has also noted that women could use images from medical professionals, rather than commercial providers, for bonding purposes, if they were so inclined.

Several major medical organizations oppose commercial ultrasounds as well, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the American Medical Association and the American Pregnancy Association (Romm, The Atlantic, 12/16).

Latest Warning

In an FDA statement, Shahram Vaezy, a biomedical engineer at the agency, said that while there is no evidence that women or their fetuses have been harmed by the commercial scans, "prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important."

Vaezy explained, "Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles [cavitation] in some tissues."

The long-term effects of cavitation and tissue heating are unknown, and, as a result, ultrasounds should be conducted only by trained medical professionals and when medically necessary, Vaezy added (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16). For example, commercial operators can take up to an hour to capture video of the fetus and could be inattentive to power and heat settings (The Hill, 12/16).


Vatican Report Praises Nuns' 'Feminine Genius,' Lacks Criticism on Abortion Issues

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:30

A Vatican report released Tuesday heavily praised U.S. nuns' social work, marking a "sharp contrast" with the Roman Catholic Church's previous complaints that nuns have "promoted 'radical' feminist themes" about abortion and other issues, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Vatican Report Praises Nuns' 'Feminine Genius,' Lacks Criticism on Abortion Issues

December 18, 2014 — A Vatican report released Tuesday heavily praised U.S. nuns' social work, marking a "sharp contrast" with the Roman Catholic Church's previous complaints that nuns have "promoted 'radical' feminist themes" about abortion and other issues, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, the report comes from a multi-year Vatican investigation into U.S. nuns' actions amid concerns that some nuns were not promoting the church's stance on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

However, the report noted the nuns' "feminine genius" and said the church should act on Pope Francis' desire to give women a larger role in the church (Kington, Los Angeles Times, 12/16).

The report did not offer any direct criticisms of the nuns or demand they make any changes, although it recommended that nuns make sure their ministries are "in harmony with Catholic teaching" (AP/New York Times, 12/16).

Reaction

Various nuns said the report was well received. Sister Sharon Holland, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said, "One can read the text and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on" (Los Angeles Times, 12/16).

The University of Dayton's Jana Bennett, who specializes in Catholic theology and ethics, said, "The report is clearly focused on cooperation. It's clearly focused on dialogue, which I think is not necessarily what people expected back in 2008 when this issue came up" (AP/New York Times, 12/16).