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 39 min ago

La. House Advances Pre-Abortion Information Bill

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:57

The Louisiana House on Monday passed a bill (HB 1262) that would require abortion providers to give women seeking abortions written materials on supposed negative psychological effects of abortion, as well as information on human trafficking and coercion, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

La. House Advances Pre-Abortion Information Bill

April 23, 2014 — The Louisiana House on Monday passed a bill (HB 1262) that would require abortion providers to give women seeking abortions written materials on supposed negative psychological effects of abortion, as well as information on human trafficking and coercion, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports (O'Donoghue, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/21).

Under current state law, women seeking abortions must be told about the physical risks of abortion, as well as alternatives to the procedure. Originally, the bill only included the information about supposed "increased risk of psychiatric and psychological harm" from an abortion, but state Rep. Barry Ivey (R) revised the measure in committee to add the information about trafficking.

The bill also would require that the information include resources for women facing any of those situations. The women would be required to receive the information at least 24 hours before an abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/11).

In addition, the bill specifies that the pamphlet information be developed by a committee comprised of state lawmakers and people who counsel women against having abortions. The committee is not allowed to include abortion providers or mental health providers who support abortion services (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/21).

Little Debate on Measure

According to the Times-Picayune, there was little debate over the measure, aside from state Rep. Pat Smith (D) questioning whether the brochure would be available in multiple languages and how it much it would cost the state.

The state's Legislative Fiscal Office was unable to provide an estimate on the bill's cost because the bill did not state if committee members would be compensated for travel costs or given a per diem payment (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/21).

The measure now proceeds to the state Senate (Baton Rouge Advocate, 4/22).


La. House Advances Pre-Abortion Information Bill

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:33

The Louisiana House on Monday passed a bill (HB 1262) that would require abortion providers to give women seeking abortions written materials on supposed negative psychological effects of abortion, as well as information on human trafficking and coercion, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

La. House Advances Pre-Abortion Information Bill

April 23, 2014 — The Louisiana House on Monday passed a bill (HB 1262) that would require abortion providers to give women seeking abortions written materials on supposed negative psychological effects of abortion, as well as information on human trafficking and coercion, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports (O'Donoghue, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/21).

Under current state law, women seeking abortions must be told about the physical risks of abortion, as well as alternatives to the procedure. Originally, the bill only included the information about supposed "increased risk of psychiatric and psychological harm" from an abortion, but state Rep. Barry Ivey (R) revised the measure in committee to add the information about trafficking.

The bill also would require that the information include resources for women facing any of those situations. The women would be required to receive the information at least 24 hours before an abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/11).

In addition, the bill specifies that the pamphlet information be developed by a committee comprised of state lawmakers and people who counsel women against having abortions. The committee is not allowed to include abortion providers or mental health providers who support abortion services (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/21).

Little Debate on Measure

According to the Times-Picayune, there was little debate over the measure, aside from state Rep. Pat Smith (D) questioning whether the brochure would be available in multiple languages and how it much it would cost the state.

The state's Legislative Fiscal Office was unable to provide an estimate on the bill's cost because the bill did not state if committee members would be compensated for travel costs or given a per diem payment (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/21).

The measure now proceeds to the state Senate (Baton Rouge Advocate, 4/22).


Supreme Court Seems Open To Antiabortion-Rights Group's Case

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 14:32

During oral arguments on Tuesday, several Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical of an Ohio law that bars false statements in political advertisements, as well as the state's assertion that an antiabortion-rights group lacks standing to challenge it, Politico reports.

Supreme Court Seems Open To Antiabortion-Rights Group's Case

April 23, 2014 — During oral arguments on Tuesday, several Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical of an Ohio law that bars false statements in political advertisements, as well as the state's assertion that an antiabortion-rights group lacks standing to challenge it, Politico reports.

The high court is weighing whether the group, Susan B. Anthony List, has the legal standing to challenge a law under which it has not been prosecuted. A lower court said it did not, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court. If the justices determine the group has the standing to sue, SBA List plans to proceed with its underlying lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 4/22).

Background

In August, SBA List asked the Supreme Court to review the law, which was invoked by former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) to block SBA List from erecting billboards that accused him of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions because he voted for the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Driehaus said the group's claim was false because federal law prohibits the use of public funding for most abortions.

According to SBA List, the Ohio law violates its First Amendment right to free speech. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the group's attempt to challenge the statute on those grounds (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/22).

SBA List's Arguments

On Tuesday, Michael Carvin, an attorney for SBA List, told the court that requiring individuals or groups accused of violating the law to go through an adjudication process during the limited time frame of an election cycle restricts their free speech. He argued that the groups or individuals would be harmed regardless of the outcome because the election cycle would likely be over by the time they receive a decision.

Carvin said, "You will never be able to adjudicate within that window -- speech becomes moot after an election," adding, "This means you'll literally never be able to challenge restrictions on election speech."

According to Politico, SBA List also raised questions about how the Ohio commission tasked with reviewing claims of violating the state law would determine what statements were sufficiently "false" enough for prosecution.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned Carvin on how the group is currently being harmed by the law. "You have to assume further the panel is going to render the same decision" as the preliminary panel that ruled there was a likelihood the group's statements about Driehaus were false, she said, adding that the group also would "have to assume further that a federal prosecutor is going to bring a case."

Ohio's Arguments

Meanwhile, Ohio State Solicitor Eric Murphy argued that SBA List does not have the standing to sue because it was never prosecuted under the law. He said that while the preliminary panel found "probable cause" that the group's statements were false, that decision was "a long way off" from a formal prosecution.

"The credible threat of any criminal prosecution is really low," he argued (Politico, 4/22).

According to the Washington Post, the justices generally appeared unconvinced by Murphy's arguments.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said groups accused under the law could still suffer harm even if they were not prosecuted. "They're brought before the commission, they have to answer this charge that they lied, that they made a false statement," she said, adding, "And just that alone is going to diminish the effect of their speech because they have been labeled false speakers, and it costs money to defend before the commission, right?"

Similarly, Justice Samuel Alito said, "You have a system that goes on and on, year after year, where arguably there's a great chilling of core First Amendment speech, and yet you're saying that basically [defendants] can't get into federal court" to challenge the law (Barnes, Washington Post, 4/22).

Chief Justice John Roberts noted that other groups could be potentially "intimidated" by the accusations leveled at SBA List, while Justice Anthony Kennedy speculated that requiring the group "to justify what [it is] going to say" could already impinge on free-speech rights (Biskupic, Reuters, 4/22).

SBA List President Pens Op-Ed

In related news, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a USA Today opinion piece defends her group's claim that the ACA permits "both the direct use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion and the provision of new tax credits that subsidize abortion-covering plans."

Although she argues that this claim is at the "heart" of the group's case, she adds that the case "is not just about the differences in world view between two sides in the abortion debate, it is about the liberty of every American -- liberal, conservative and in-between -- to make his or her case without fear of censorship and prosecution by the state" (Dannenfelser, USA Today, 4/22).


Public Widely Supports Contraceptive Coverage, Study Finds

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 14:16

A strong majority of U.S. residents favor a requirement that health plans cover contraceptives, according to a research letter published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Los Angeles Times' "Science Now" reports.

Public Widely Supports Contraceptive Coverage, Study Finds

April 23, 2014 — A strong majority of U.S. residents favor a requirement that health plans cover contraceptives, according to a research letter published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Los Angeles Times' "Science Now" reports (Kaplan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/22).

Under federal rules being implemented through the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), most insurers are required to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage to their employees (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

The rules have prompted lawsuits from religiously affiliated groups and private businesses, including a case involving the arts-and-crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby that has reached the Supreme Court.

Study Details

For the study, University of Michigan researchers surveyed 2,124 adults in November.

They found that 1,452 (69%) agreed with the statement that "health plans in the United States should be required to include coverage" for "birth control medications." Among the other respondents, 436 (19%) did not agree, 197 (10%) were uncertain and 39 (2%) declined to answer ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/22).

Support was "significantly higher ... among women, black, and Hispanic respondents," the researchers wrote (Fox, NBC News, 4/22). Parents with children under age 18 also expressed high levels of support.

Other Coverage

The survey also asked respondents about requiring coverage for other types of services, such as vaccines and mental health care.

Support for the other categories of coverage was even higher than contraceptive coverage, with large majorities backing mandatory coverage of mammograms and colonoscopies (85%), vaccines (84%), cholesterol and diabetes screenings (82%), mental health care (77%), and dental care (75%).

However, 7.8% of respondents said employer-sponsored health plans should be required to cover everything on the list except contraceptives. The researchers said people in this group tended to be male, older than age 60 and not residing with children under age 18. In general, this group "included a higher proportion of persons unlikely to use [contraceptive] coverage," the researchers noted ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/22).


Study: False-Positive Mammograms Increase Anxiety Temporarily

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 14:01

Women who receive false-positive results from breast cancer screenings experience slightly "increased anxiety" that ends within one year, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Reuters reports.

Study: False-Positive Mammograms Increase Anxiety Temporarily

April 23, 2014 — Women who receive false-positive results from breast cancer screenings experience slightly "increased anxiety" that ends within one year, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Reuters reports.

A false-positive result usually occurs when a mammogram suggests the possibility of breast cancer, but follow-up tests find that there is no cancer present.

A woman who undergoes annual mammograms over a 10-year period has about a 61% chance of having at least one false-positive result, according to Kurt Kroenke of the Regenstrief Institute, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study (Seaman, Reuters, 4/21).

Study Methods

The study followed more than 1,000 women of similar ages who were tested at the same medical centers and were not diagnosed with breast cancer. Of the women, 494 had false-positive readings on a mammogram and 534 had negative results (Kaplan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/21).

The researchers first interviewed the women after their mammogram -- usually before they knew they were actually cancer-free -- and again a year later (Reuters, 4/21). The women also completed a survey about their general health, anxiety levels and their breast-related medical care during the year after their mammograms. The women's anxiety levels were rated on a scale of 20 to 80, with 20 being least anxious and 80 most anxious.

Study Findings

The study found that women in the false-positive group scored an average of 36 on the anxiety scale after their mammogram but before they received the final results, and an average of 35 after they learned they were cancer-free. Meanwhile, women who received negative results after their initial mammogram scored an average of 33.

After a year, the average score for women in the false-positive group decreased to 34 and the score for women with normal mammograms stayed the same. Women with false-positive mammograms reported more breast-related medical treatment than women with normal mammograms. For example, 14.6% of women with false-positive results had a biopsy, compared with 1.1% of women with normal mammograms, the Los Angeles Times' "Science Now" reports.

About 50% of women in the false-positive group said their anxiety related to follow-up care was "moderate," "a lot," or "extreme," compared with 15.6% of women with negative mammogram results. However, 93% of women in both groups reported they would have another mammogram in the next two years ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/21).

Meanwhile, the researchers found no difference between the two groups on a measure of overall health after receiving mammogram results, which was what they were most interested in, according to Reuters (Reuters, 4/21).


Featured Blogs

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:50

"Florida Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Pregnant Workers" () and "Dallas Hospital Revokes Privileges, Tells Abortion Providers They Damage its 'Reputation'" ()

April 22, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

 "Florida Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Pregnant Workers," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: In "an important ruling for pregnant workers in the state," the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday "ruled 6-1 that a state law barring discrimination based on gender can cover claims of pregnancy discrimination," Mason Pieklo writes. However, the ruling "also highlights the need for updated protections for pregnant workers nationwide," she argues. Although Congress in 1978 "amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which explicitly prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy," there are many "gaps in protections," according to Mason Pieklo. Two bills (SB 220, HB 105) before the Florida Legislature would "codify into statute the Florida Supreme Court's decision," she adds (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 4/21).

What others are saying about pregnant workers' rights:

~ "How Walmart's 'Support' for Pregnant Employees Falls Short," Deborah Widiss, Huffington Post blogs.

 

FEATURED BLOG

 "Dallas Hospital Revokes Privileges, Tells Abortion Providers They Damage its 'Reputation,'" Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: "Two North Texas doctors have filed suit against a Dallas hospital that told them it had revoked their admitting privileges because they provide legal abortion care," Grimes writes, noting, "Federal and state laws prevent hospitals from discriminating against doctors who perform abortions." According to Grimes, the physicians "received identical letters" in March from the hospital's CEO stating "that because the doctors performed legal abortion procedures at locations wholly separate from the hospital, the doctors were engaging in 'disruptive behavior,' in violation of the hospital's bylaws." Grimes notes that "a Dallas County judge has temporarily granted a restraining order that forces the hospital to reinstate the doctors' privileges until the case can receive a full hearing, which has been scheduled for April 30" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Alaska Law Limits Which Abortions Can Be Deemed 'Medically Necessary,'" Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

~ "Repro Wrap: The Arbitrary Approval of Admitting Privileges and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "'You Can't Always Trust People To Do the Right Thing': How a Law Split Pro-Life GOPers in Tennessee," Katie McDonough, Salon.



Editorial: Fla. Lawmakers Should Stop Targeting Abortion Rights

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:46

"It seems every year the Florida Legislature wants to interfere with and test the legality of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, impacting a woman's legal right to choose to have an abortion," and "[t]his year is no different," a Fort Myers News-Press editorial states.

Editorial: Fla. Lawmakers Should Stop Targeting Abortion Rights

April 22, 2014 — "It seems every year the Florida Legislature wants to interfere with and test the legality of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, impacting a woman's legal right to choose to have an abortion," and "[t]his year is no different," a Fort Myers News-Press editorial states.

The editorial points to a bill (HB 1047) that passed the state House earlier this month and "would further restrict abortions and increase protections for the fetus" in the state, noting that the state Senate also will "address the bill, and another related abortion bill" this week.

Instead of "continu[ing] to test the law of the land" on abortion rights, the state should be "educating people and having public debate on this emotional decision," the editorial argues. It notes, "A woman's right to choose is protected by the Constitution and has been supported by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Florida "already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, so there is no reason to continue to flirt with a legal disaster by looking at further limitations for women," the editorial argues (Fort Myers News-Press, 4/20).


Lawsuit Over Antiabortion-Rights Campaign Ad Reaches Supreme Court

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:42

A case being heard before the Supreme Court Tuesday morning will decide whether an antiabortion-rights group has legal standing to challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false statements in political ads, Politico reports.

Lawsuit Over Antiabortion-Rights Campaign Ad Reaches Supreme Court

April 22, 2014 — A case being heard before the Supreme Court Tuesday morning will decide whether an antiabortion-rights group has legal standing to challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false statements in political ads, Politico reports (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 4/22).

Background

In August, the antiabortion-rights group Susan. B. Anthony List asked the Supreme Court to review the law, which was invoked by former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) to block SBA List from erecting billboards that accused him of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions because he voted for the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Driehaus said the group's claim was false because federal law prohibits the use of public funding for most abortions.

According to SBA List, the Ohio law violates its First Amendment right to free speech. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the group's attempt to challenge the statute on those grounds.

In January, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/16).

Issue of Harm

SBA List's underlying argument is that the government does not have the constitutional right to decide what can be considered false speech in the context of a political campaign, NPR reports (Barlow/Totenberg, NPR, 4/22).

However, the Supreme Court is not likely to decide the law's constitutionality, according to Politico. Rather, the justices will decide whether SBA List has legal standing to challenge the law, given that the group was never prosecuted under it (Politico, 4/22).

According to NPR, lower courts have found that any harm the group is claiming is merely "speculative." SBA List in its appeal to the Supreme Court argues that it has the legal standing to challenge the law because it could chill speech in future campaigns (NPR, 4/22).

David Langdon, an Ohio-based attorney who works with SBA List, said that the Ohio law is "used as a tool" in every election. "It's become a part of campaigns, and it's very speech-inhibiting," he said.

According to Politico, the group has announced similar ads targeting Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

ACA Debate Persists

SBA List and other antiabortion-rights groups are also invested in the case because they want the Supreme Court to rule on whether the ACA permits taxpayer funding of abortion, Politico reports (Politico, 4/22).

NPR notes that antiabortion-rights Democrats like Driehaus only signed onto the ACA after President Obama agreed to issue an executive order applying a federal policy prohibiting funding for abortion coverage -- except in cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life -- to health plans sold through the law's marketplaces (NPR, 4/22).

Comments

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said, "Free speech is the qualifier for any argument, including our argument, abortion." She added, "If we can't take that for granted, then we have no ability to argue that abortion is the taking of the life of a person equal to you and me."

American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Steven Shapiro said in an amicus brief filed with the court that voters -- not the state -- should decide what political speech qualifies as misleading. "It's not the state's role to be the referee of political truth," he said, adding, "I think that's the job of voters" (Politico, 4/22).


Lawsuit Over Antiabortion-Rights Campaign Ad Reaches Supreme Court

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:45

A case being heard before the Supreme Court Tuesday morning will decide whether an antiabortion-rights group has legal standing to challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false statements in political ads, Politico reports.

Lawsuit Over Antiabortion-Rights Campaign Ad Reaches Supreme Court

April 22, 2014 — A case being heard before the Supreme Court Tuesday morning will decide whether an antiabortion-rights group has legal standing to challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false statements in political ads, Politico reports (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 4/22).

Background

In August, the antiabortion-rights group Susan. B. Anthony List asked the Supreme Court to review the law, which was invoked by former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) to block SBA List from erecting billboards that accused him of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions because he voted for the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Driehaus said the group's claim was false because federal law prohibits the use of public funding for most abortions.

According to SBA List, the Ohio law violates its First Amendment right to free speech. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the group's attempt to challenge the statute on those grounds.

In January, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/16).

Issue of Harm

SBA List's underlying argument is that the government does not have the constitutional right to decide what can be considered false speech in the context of a political campaign, NPR reports (Barlow/Totenberg, NPR, 4/22).

However, the Supreme Court is not likely to decide the law's constitutionality, according to Politico. Rather, the justices will decide whether SBA List has legal standing to challenge the law, given that the group was never prosecuted under it (Politico, 4/22).

According to NPR, lower courts have found that any harm the group is claiming is merely "speculative." SBA List in its appeal to the Supreme Court argues that it has the legal standing to challenge the law because it could chill speech in future campaigns (NPR, 4/22).

David Langdon, an Ohio-based attorney who works with SBA List, said that the Ohio law is "used as a tool" in every election. "It's become a part of campaigns, and it's very speech-inhibiting," he said.

According to Politico, the group has announced similar ads targeting Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

ACA Debate Persists

SBA List and other antiabortion-rights groups are also invested in the case because they want the Supreme Court to rule on whether the ACA permits taxpayer funding of abortion, Politico reports (Politico, 4/22).

NPR notes that antiabortion-rights Democrats like Driehaus only signed onto the ACA after President Obama agreed to issue an executive order applying a federal policy prohibiting funding for abortion coverage -- except in cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life -- to health plans sold through the law's marketplaces (NPR, 4/22).

Comments

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said, "Free speech is the qualifier for any argument, including our argument, abortion." She added, "If we can't take that for granted, then we have no ability to argue that abortion is the taking of the life of a person equal to you and me."

American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Steven Shapiro said in an amicus brief filed with the court that voters -- not the state -- should decide what political speech qualifies as misleading. "It's not the state's role to be the referee of political truth," he said, adding, "I think that's the job of voters" (Politico, 4/22).


Blogs Comment on Pregnant Workers' Rights, Military Justice System, More

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:32

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the RH Reality Check, the Daily Beast and more.

Blogs Comment on Pregnant Workers' Rights, Military Justice System, More

April 22, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the RH Reality Check, the Daily Beast and more.

PREGNANT WORKERS' RIGHTS: "Florida Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Pregnant Workers," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: In "an important ruling for pregnant workers in the state," the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday "ruled 6-1 that a state law barring discrimination based on gender can cover claims of pregnancy discrimination," Mason Pieklo writes. However, the ruling "also highlights the need for updated protections for pregnant workers nationwide," she argues. Although Congress in 1978 "amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which explicitly prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy," there are many "gaps in protections," according to Mason Pieklo. Two bills (SB 220, HB 105) before the Florida Legislature would "codify into statute the Florida Supreme Court's decision," she adds (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 4/21).

What others are saying about pregnant workers' rights:

~ "How Walmart's 'Support' for Pregnant Employees Falls Short," Deborah Widiss, Huffington Post blogs.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "Caught Between Military and Civilian Justice, a Battered Wife Waits and Waits for Help," Jacob Siegel, Daily Beast: For more than a year, Bobbie Herron "has been working through the military system, appealing for justice against the Marine ex-husband she says routinely raped and beat her," Siegel writes. "As a civilian pursuing sexual assault charges against an active duty Marine who is also her ex-husband, Herron is caught between two worlds," Siegel explains, noting that Herron "can freely express her frustration in public forums," but her voice within the military justice system is "very limited." However, the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders became involved and connected Herron with U.S. senators, who "have been in continual contact with her and launched investigations into her case." Soon after, "Marine authorities suddenly expressed a newfound interest," but she has still struggled to obtain adequate legal representation in the military justice system, Siegel notes, adding, "As Herron's case shows, even the more modest changes put in place [to reform the military justice system] have not yet been fully adopted" (Siegel, Daily Beast, 4/21).

What others are saying about violence against women:

~ "Standing Our Ground: Reproductive Justice for Marissa Alexander," Monica Simpson, RH Reality Check.

~ "How Football Culture Can Change Rape Culture," Jessica Luther, The Nation.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Dallas Hospital Revokes Privileges, Tells Abortion Providers They Damage its 'Reputation,'" Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: "Two North Texas doctors have filed suit against a Dallas hospital that told them it had revoked their admitting privileges because they provide legal abortion care," Grimes writes, noting, "Federal and state laws prevent hospitals from discriminating against doctors who perform abortions." According to Grimes, the physicians "received identical letters" in March from the hospital's CEO stating "that because the doctors performed legal abortion procedures at locations wholly separate from the hospital, the doctors were engaging in 'disruptive behavior,' in violation of the hospital's bylaws." Grimes notes that "a Dallas County judge has temporarily granted a restraining order that forces the hospital to reinstate the doctors' privileges until the case can receive a full hearing, which has been scheduled for April 30" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Alaska Law Limits Which Abortions Can Be Deemed 'Medically Necessary,'" Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

~ "Repro Wrap: The Arbitrary Approval of Admitting Privileges and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "'You Can't Always Trust People To Do the Right Thing': How a Law Split Pro-Life GOPers in Tennessee," Katie McDonough, Salon.

CONTRACEPTION: "Top Catholic Leader Defends Hobby Lobby, Claims Women Can Just Buy Birth Control at 7-11," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": During a recent appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that "women don't need insurance coverage for birth control because they can purchase it at 'any shop on the street,' including a gas station like 7-11," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that Dolan was "defend[ing] for-profit companies' right to deny birth control coverage to their workers, an issue that's at the heart" of a case before the Supreme Court. While Culp-Ressler acknowledges that Dolan was "likely referring to the male condom, which is typically available for purchase at gas stations ... that's not what's up for debate in the Hobby Lobby case," which centers on whether a private business "should have the right to refuse contraceptive coverage to thousands of its employees based on the owners' religious beliefs" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 4/21).

PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH: "9 Ways Childbirth Looks Different for Women Around the World," Catherine Pearson, Huffington Post blogs: While the "core elements of labor and delivery are pretty universal," a woman's overall "childbirth experience, and the postpartum practices that shape her first weeks and months as a mother, are very much informed by cultural traditions and geography," Pearson writes, outlining several ways that childbirth differs in the U.S. and other nations. For example, Finland since the 1930s has supplied mothers with an infant "care package" with baby items. Childbirth in many other areas of the world -- such as parts of Asia, Africa and Central and South America -- involves the woman squatting or using other upright positions to deliver, rather than the U.S. tradition of lying down, she adds. Among other cultural differences, many countries, including Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden, guarantee paid maternity leave (Pearson, Huffington Post blogs, 4/21).


Editorial: Fla. Lawmakers Should Stop Targeting Abortion Rights

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:11

"It seems every year the Florida Legislature wants to interfere with and test the legality of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, impacting a woman's legal right to choose to have an abortion," and "[t]his year is no different," a Fort Myers News-Press editorial states.

Editorial: Fla. Lawmakers Should Stop Targeting Abortion Rights

April 22, 2014 — "It seems every year the Florida Legislature wants to interfere with and test the legality of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, impacting a woman's legal right to choose to have an abortion," and "[t]his year is no different," a Fort Myers News-Press editorial states.

The editorial points to a bill (HB 1047) that passed the state House earlier this month and "would further restrict abortions and increase protections for the fetus" in the state, noting that the state Senate also will "address the bill, and another related abortion bill" this week.

Instead of "continu[ing] to test the law of the land" on abortion rights, the state should be "educating people and having public debate on this emotional decision," the editorial argues. It notes, "A woman's right to choose is protected by the Constitution and has been supported by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Florida "already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, so there is no reason to continue to flirt with a legal disaster by looking at further limitations for women," the editorial argues (Fort Myers News-Press, 4/20).


Helms Amendment Contributes To Maternal Mortality, Columnist Writes

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:08

"U.S. foreign policy exacerbates [the] global public health crisis" of women dying from unsafe and illegal abortions by hindering access to abortion services "in countries receiving U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance," Al Jazeera America columnist Jill Filipovic writes.

Helms Amendment Contributes To Maternal Mortality, Columnist Writes

April 22, 2014 — "U.S. foreign policy exacerbates [the] global public health crisis" of women dying from unsafe and illegal abortions by hindering access to abortion services "in countries receiving U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance," Al Jazeera America columnist Jill Filipovic writes.

Filipovic writes that while maternal mortality has declined since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development identified "unsafe, illegal abortion" as a "leading cause of maternal death and a driver of gender inequality," noting that the overall "proportion of maternal death and injury caused by unsafe abortion has not changed."

"Ending death and injury from unsafe abortion is also one of the easiest goals to achieve -- early-term abortion is a simple procedure and, when done by a trained provider, remarkably safe," she notes. Yet international statistics identify unsafe abortion as the "third leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide," while the World Health Organization "identifies safe abortion care as one of seven necessary interventions to ensure quality reproductive, maternal and child health care," Filipovic writes.

U.S. Policy

Filipovic traces the problem to the Helms Amendment, which was passed 40 years ago to prevent "U.S. funds from paying for abortions overseas 'as a method of family planning' or to 'motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.'" Although the 1994 Leahy Amendment clarified that the policy does not ban organizations that receive federal aid from providing information about abortion "'consistent with local law,'" most "organizations that receive U.S. dollars remain wary of abortion care, knowing the political tides may change," she writes.

In addition, Filipovic writes that several private foundations that aim to reduce maternal mortality -- such as Merck for Mothers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- also do not fund abortion services.

However, there "is some hope," as "leaders from more than 30 countries" in late March "called for the decriminalization of abortion and a renewed commitment to the provision of safe abortion services," Filipovic reports. Areas where initiatives to provide safe abortions have taken root -- such as Ghana and Nepal -- have seen substantial declines in the rate of post-abortion complications.

"Much of the opposition to safe and legal abortion originates in the United States -- and it is both well organized and well funded," Filipovic writes. She adds that organizations need to pay "real attention ... to the high cost of unsafe abortion" if they want to actively pursue equality for women, which cannot be attained as long as women do not have the "right to both prevent and end pregnancies" (Filipovic, Al Jazeera America, 4/21).


Lawmakers Widen Fight Against Sexual Violence Beyond Military

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 14:59

Several lawmakers are developing bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing sexual violence in areas ranging from college campuses to child abuse and human trafficking, the New York Times reports.

Lawmakers Widen Fight Against Sexual Violence Beyond Military

April 22, 2014 — Several lawmakers are developing bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing sexual violence in areas ranging from college campuses to child abuse and human trafficking, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the legislative push -- which follows high-profile efforts by Congress to stem sexual assault in the military -- comes amid a "confluence of conspicuous assault cases," such as those involving former Pennsylvania State University football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of child sex abuse, and Florida State University football player Jameis Winston, a Heisman Trophy winner accused of raping another student (Steinhauer, New York Times, 4/21).

Sexual Assaults at Colleges

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) submitted a letter to the White House Task Force To Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which is scheduled on Tuesday to release recommendations on addressing sexual assault on campuses, the Huffington Post reports.

The letter suggested several strategies, such as requiring colleges and universities to conduct annual, anonymous surveys about sexual violence on campus. The lawmakers also recommend that the Department of Education designate someone to oversee federal policy on the issues of rape, sexual harassment and related misconduct at colleges and universities.

The letter also called for disclosure of federal investigations into how campuses have handled sexual assault cases, as well as the creation of an online, searchable database of Title IX and Clery Act complaints, compliance reviews and investigations (Kingkade, Huffington Post, 4/21).

Other Legislation

Other measures designed to address sexual violence include a bill by Sens. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that would improve background checks for school employees and bar schools from pushing child abusers to other school district.

Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has proposed a measure that would restrict federal matching funds for group homes in the foster care system, which are targeted by people in the sex trafficking business. According to a recent Senate hearing, 60% of child sex-trafficking victims come from the foster care system.

Separately, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) spent last week in Mexico as part of their efforts to stop cross-border human trafficking. Klobuchar is proposing legislation that would require states to treat child prostitutes as victims, rather than defendants, and help enroll them in the Job Corps program (New York Times, 4/21).


Kan. Gov. Approves Changes to Antiabortion-Rights Law

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:07

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Friday signed into law a measure (SB 448) that makes several technical changes to existing abortion restrictions, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Kan. Gov. Approves Changes to Antiabortion-Rights Law

April 21, 2014 — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Friday signed into law a measure (SB 448) that makes several technical changes to existing abortion restrictions, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports. The bill will take effect this week (AP/Topeka Capital Journal, 4/18).

The law includes changes such as revising a requirement that abortion providers' websites link to a state site about pregnancy and fetal development. Under the revision, providers' websites no longer have to say that the state's information is accurate and objective. In addition, the law revises certain regulations on medical emergencies under which abortion restrictions are waived.

The Kansas Legislature approved the bill earlier this month (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/7).

Comments

Brownback in signing the measure said it affirms "the sanctity of human life at all stages."

According to the AP/Capital-Journal, abortion-rights opponents have said that the bill makes minor changes to current laws without establishing new policies.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has remained neutral on the bill (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/18).


Pressure Mounts for Tenn. Gov. To Veto Bill on Drug Use During Pregnancy

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 17:06

Reproductive-rights and women's rights groups continue to pressure Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to prosecute women who use illicit drugs during their pregnancies, CNN reports.

Pressure Mounts for Tenn. Gov. To Veto Bill on Drug Use During Pregnancy

April 21, 2014 — Reproductive-rights and women's rights groups continue to pressure Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to prosecute women who use illicit drugs during their pregnancies, CNN reports (Presto/Ford, CNN, 4/17).

The legislation would permit criminal charges in such cases and includes a provision that allows defense against conviction if a woman is "actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remained in the program after delivery, and successfully completed the program."

Bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature approved the bill earlier this month. If Haslam does not sign or veto the bill within 10 days of receiving it, it automatically becomes law (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, in 2013, there were about 900 infants in the state who were born with withdrawal symptoms. The department also reported a tenfold increase in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome over the last 10 years.

Groups' Comments

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, in a letter to Haslam last week said that "SB 1391 is constitutionally unsound and enacting this law would threaten the health and well-being of Tennessee women and their families."

Weinberg explained that while ACLU of Tennessee also wants "to promote healthy pregnancies by providing pregnant women struggling with a drug or alcohol dependency" with opportunities to receive treatment, "policies that threaten women with criminal prosecution and the loss of their children drive women away from health care and discourage them from seeking invaluable prenatal and pregnancy-related care."

Meanwhile, Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said that the bill's stipulation that a woman can use participation in treatment as a defense is inadequate.

"One of our primary concerns is making sure women have healthy pregnancies and then healthy children, and the big concern here is that this is going to frighten women away from the treatment they need for a healthy pregnancy, as well as treatment for any substance abuse issues that they have," he said, adding that there is particular concern about women in rural areas because there are "not enough facilities that have the ability to provide addiction counseling for pregnant women."

Reaction From Governor's Office

Haslam spokesperson Laura Herzog declined to say whether the governor would sign the bill. However, Herzog highlighted several provisions of the bill, including the defense for women in treatment, how charges would only be filed in the case of illegal drug use and how the charges would be limited to misdemeanors (CNN, 4/17).


Many Employers Confused Over Accommodations for Pregnant Workers, Despite Laws

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 15:03

Although Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PL 95-555) 36 years ago, there still is debate over how employers should accommodate pregnant women, NPR's "All Things Considered" reports.

Many Employers Confused Over Accommodations for Pregnant Workers, Despite Laws

April 21, 2014 — Although Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PL 95-555) 36 years ago, there still is debate over how employers should accommodate pregnant women, NPR's "All Things Considered" reports.

According to "All Things Considered," New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia and West Virginia all recently have passed laws that explicitly require employers to "reasonably accommodate" pregnant workers, similar to proposals in Congress and several other states.

While some of the business community supports such legislation, others argue the measures spur legal confusion for businesses that already must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other regulations.

Jeffrey Risch, Illinois Chamber of Commerce chair of the employment law and litigation committee, said such laws can "be both costly and confusing," particularly for small businesses.

Meanwhile, National Women's Law Center general counsel Emily Martin said such laws need more clarity. She explained, "Unfortunately, a lot of employers don't understand that they have legal obligations" to accommodate pregnant women. She added that employers that most often do not comply with such requirements are those in low-wage professions -- such as retail and food services -- or industries that are typically dominated by male workers (Noguchi, "All Things Considered," NPR, 4/17).


Pressure Mounts for Tenn. Gov. To Veto Bill on Drug Use During Pregnancy

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 15:00

Reproductive-rights and women's rights groups continue to pressure Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to prosecute women who use illicit drugs during their pregnancies, CNN reports.

Pressure Mounts for Tenn. Gov. To Veto Bill on Drug Use During Pregnancy

April 21, 2014 — Reproductive-rights and women's rights groups continue to pressure Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to veto legislation (SB 1391) that would allow the state to prosecute women who use illicit drugs during their pregnancies, CNN reports (Presto/Ford, CNN, 4/17).

The legislation would permit criminal charges in such cases and includes a provision that allows defense against conviction if a woman is "actively enrolled in an addiction recovery program before the child is born, remained in the program after delivery, and successfully completed the program."

Bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature approved the bill earlier this month. If Haslam does not sign or veto the bill within 10 days of receiving it, it automatically becomes law (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, in 2013, there were about 900 infants in the state who were born with withdrawal symptoms. The department also reported a tenfold increase in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome over the last 10 years.

Groups' Comments

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, in a letter to Haslam last week said that "SB 1391 is constitutionally unsound and enacting this law would threaten the health and well-being of Tennessee women and their families."

Weinberg explained that while ACLU of Tennessee also wants "to promote healthy pregnancies by providing pregnant women struggling with a drug or alcohol dependency" with opportunities to receive treatment, "policies that threaten women with criminal prosecution and the loss of their children drive women away from health care and discourage them from seeking invaluable prenatal and pregnancy-related care."

Meanwhile, Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said that the bill's stipulation that a woman can use participation in treatment as a defense is inadequate.

"One of our primary concerns is making sure women have healthy pregnancies and then healthy children, and the big concern here is that this is going to frighten women away from the treatment they need for a healthy pregnancy, as well as treatment for any substance abuse issues that they have," he said, adding that there is particular concern about women in rural areas because there are "not enough facilities that have the ability to provide addiction counseling for pregnant women."

Reaction From Governor's Office

Haslam spokesperson Laura Herzog declined to say whether the governor would sign the bill. However, Herzog highlighted several provisions of the bill, including the defense for women in treatment, how charges would only be filed in the case of illegal drug use and how the charges would be limited to misdemeanors (CNN, 4/17).


FDA Warns Against Use of Morcellation During Uterine Fibroid Surgery

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 14:55

FDA on Thursday issued a safety communication notice discouraging the use of a procedure performed on tens of thousands of U.S. women undergoing uterine surgery each year, the New York Times reports.

FDA Warns Against Use of Morcellation During Uterine Fibroid Surgery

April 21, 2014 — FDA on Thursday issued a safety communication notice discouraging the use of a procedure performed on tens of thousands of U.S. women undergoing uterine surgery each year, the New York Times reports (Grady, New York Times, 4/17).

The procedure -- called laparoscopic power morcellation -- was developed as an alternate to invasive surgery for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, which are responsible for about 40% of the 500,000 hysterectomies performed each year in the country (Kamp/Levitz, Wall Street Journal, 4/17). It uses a power device to grind uterine tissue so it can be removed through a tiny incision (AP/Modern Healthcare, 4/17).

However, the procedure has come under fire in recent years for its potential to spread a type of cancer -- known as a uterine sarcoma -- within the body. In its safety notice, FDA cited estimates that uterine sarcoma affects about one in 350 women undergoing fibroid removal procedures and that laparoscopic power morcellation could significantly worsen the chances of long-term survival.

"For this reason, and because there is no reliable method for predicting whether a woman with fibroids may have a uterine sarcoma, the FDA discourages the use of laparoscopic power morcellation during hysterectomy or myomectomy for uterine fibroids," the notice states (Wall Street Journal, 4/17).

FDA is not seeking to ban morcellation, or the two dozen approved devices used to perform it, according to the Washington Post. However, hospitals and surgeons are unlikely to continue using the procedure given the potential liabilities.

Following FDA's announcement on Thursday, the heads of obstetrics and gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital notified staff to stop using the procedure until further notice. Temple University Hospital in February also limited the use of the procedure (Dennis, Washington Post, 4/17).


Kan. Gov. Approves Changes to Antiabortion-Rights Law

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 14:51

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Friday signed into law a measure (SB 448) that makes several technical changes to existing abortion restrictions, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Kan. Gov. Approves Changes to Antiabortion-Rights Law

April 21, 2014 — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Friday signed into law a measure (SB 448) that makes several technical changes to existing abortion restrictions, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports. The bill will take effect this week (AP/Topeka Capital Journal, 4/18).

The law includes changes such as revising a requirement that abortion providers' websites link to a state site about pregnancy and fetal development. Under the revision, providers' websites no longer have to say that the state's information is accurate and objective. In addition, the law revises certain regulations on medical emergencies under which abortion restrictions are waived.

The Kansas Legislature approved the bill earlier this month (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/7).

Comments

Brownback in signing the measure said it affirms "the sanctity of human life at all stages."

According to the AP/Capital-Journal, abortion-rights opponents have said that the bill makes minor changes to current laws without establishing new policies.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has remained neutral on the bill (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/18).


Featured Blog

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 17:33

"The Abortion Restriction That's Too Extreme for Most Pro-Lifers" (Thomson-Deveaux, American Prospect, 4/15).

April 18, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"The Abortion Restriction That's Too Extreme for Most Pro-Lifers," Amelia Thomson-Deveaux, American Prospect: "Earlier this month, lawmakers in Kansas ended this session's debate over abortion on a surprisingly low-key note," Thomson-Deveaux states, asking, "Why, in a state where nearly every strain of anti-abortion restriction has taken root with ease, are advocates of the fetal heartbeat ban facing such stiff opposition from their fellow abortion opponents?" She explains that the conflict reflects "a deepening fissure in the pro-life movement," adding, "The proliferation of fetal heartbeat legislation is due to the growing influence of a certain brand of anti-abortion activist, who sees incrementalism as a morally distasteful compromise." In some ways, "far-reaching legislation" like fetal heartbeat bans can benefit antiabortion-rights advocates because other restrictions "look mild by comparison," but they also are "a distraction they can't always afford" (Thomson-Deveaux, American Prospect, 4/15).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Federal Court Permanently Blocks North Dakota 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

~ "Anti-Choice Advocates Seize on West Virginia Democrats' Support of 20-Week Abortion Ban," Sofia Resnick, RH Reality Check.