Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
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Featured Blogs

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:02

"Think the 'Personhood' Issue Is Over? Think Again," (Turner, RH Reality Check, 5/1); "This State Is Actually Protecting Reproductive Rights," (Clark, Refinery29, 5/4).

May 5, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Think the 'Personhood' Issue Is Over? Think Again," Kathleen Turner, RH Reality Check: Despite the defeat of "personhood" measures in Colorado (Amendment 67) and North Dakota (Measure 1), opponents of abortion rights are pushing ahead with passing abortion restrictions that "eliminat[e] the right to choose not by fiat ... but by red tape," Turner writes. She says that efforts of "personhood" advocates have resulted in other abortion-rights opponents deceptively appearing "more 'moderate,' providing cover for more incremental abortion restrictions that make it much harder for women to access abortion," such as "TRAP laws and similar recent anti-choice measures [that] have already created drastic inequality by eliminating abortion access for far too many." Turner adds that "when those measures pass, 'personhood' advocates get closer to their goal: Without access to safe and legal abortion, a woman's right to choose is essentially meaningless" (Turner, RH Reality Check, 5/1).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Texas Lawmaker Introduces 'Coerced Abortion' Bill so Extreme That Even Her GOP Allies Are Running for the Hills," Jenny Kutner, Salon.

~ "Abortion Opponents Are Winning," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

FEATURED BLOG

"This State Is Actually Protecting Reproductive Rights," Meredith Clark, Refinery29: "In the conversation around state regulations on women's reproductive rights, it's been almost all bad news in recent months, but there's one state that has quietly fought off attempts to reduce abortion access," Clark writes. Specifically, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) last week "vetoed three bills that would have restricted abortion access in the state," she notes. According to Clark, the vetoed measures (SB 349, HB 479, HB 587) "would have placed restrictions on private insurance coverage for abortions, forced doctors to use fetal anesthesia for abortions at 20 weeks (a practice based on medically inaccurate claims about fetal pain), and banned healthcare providers from using telemedicine for medication abortions, which helps women in rural states that have few abortion providers, like Montana." Clark writes, "The first months of 2015 have seen more than 300 attempts by legislators to restrict abortion access, including laws signed by governors in Arkansas and Arizona that require doctors to give women medically inaccurate information," adding that such "[a]ttacks ... only underscore the importance of Governor Bullock's moves in Montana" (Clark, Refinery29, 5/4).


Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Have Caused 50 Percent of State's Clinics To Close or Limit Abortion Services

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:02

The number of abortion clinics and abortions in Ohio have decreased significantly since the enactment of several antiabortion-rights provisions in the state, according to a records analysis by the Associated Press.

Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Have Caused 50 Percent of State's Clinics To Close or Limit Abortion Services

May 5, 2015 — The number of abortion clinics and abortions in Ohio have decreased significantly since the enactment of several antiabortion-rights provisions in the state, according to a records analysis by the Associated Press.

Background

According to the AP, Ohio since 2011 has implemented several abortion restrictions, including requirements (HB 59) that women undergo testing to detect a fetal heartbeat before having an abortion and "mak[e] it difficult or impossible" for clinics to obtain required transfer agreements with local hospitals (Carr Smyth, Associated Press, 5/3). In addition, the state passed a law (HB 78) that bans abortions at 24 weeks and requires physicians to perform tests to determine if a fetus is viable beginning at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

Further, abortion-rights opponents are trying to pass legislation (HB 69) banning abortion as early as six weeks' gestation (Associated Press, 5/3). The measure would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26). Meanwhile, according to the AP, Ohio Right to Life and other abortion-rights opponents are working to implement additional abortion restrictions.

Analysis Details

For the analysis, the AP reviewed state records on licensing and businesses.

According to the analysis, seven of Ohio's 16 abortion providers have closed or limited abortion services since 2011. Meanwhile, an eighth abortion provider located in Toledo, Ohio, remains in operation, but faces litigation that could close the clinic.

According to the AP, the number of closings in Ohio is second only to Texas, where 17 of the state's 40 abortion providers have closed since 2011. Meanwhile, the third most prominent example of such closures is Virginia, where two of the 20 abortion providers, including one of the state's busiest clinics, have closed under various abortion restrictions.

The AP analysis also found that the number of induced abortions in Ohio fell from 25,473 to 23,216 between 2012 and 2013, the same time period during which five of the abortion clinics either closed or limited abortion services. According to the AP, the 2013 figure marks the lowest level recorded since 1976, when the state started tracking such data, and fits into a "general downward trend" that started in the late 1990s.

Comments

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said the decreasing number of abortions in the state is "a combination of a lot of things," including a reduced demand for abortion.

However, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said reduced demand for abortion was not a factor in the number of clinic closures. "If that were the case, and we've seen roughly half of our clinics close, the corollary you'd think would be we'd see roughly half the procedures -- and that's not the case," she said, adding, "These laws have all been about creating these false hurdles for clinics to have to jump through in order to provide safe, legal abortion care to their patients."

Copeland also noted that her organization has heard many stories from women who have had to travel long distances or go out of state to access abortion services.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, noted that the state has "for decades ... been incredibly conservative" on abortion. "It's one of the states people look to, to see what the next restriction is going to" be, she said (Associated Press, 5/3).


Va. AG: State Abortion Clinic Building Standards Should Not Apply to Pre-Existing Facilities

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:02

Abortion clinic building standards adopted by Virginia in 2013 cannot apply to pre-existing facilities, according to a legal opinion from state Attorney General Mark Herring (D), the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Va. AG: State Abortion Clinic Building Standards Should Not Apply to Pre-Existing Facilities

May 5, 2015 — Abortion clinic building standards adopted by Virginia in 2013 cannot apply to pre-existing facilities, according to a legal opinion from state Attorney General Mark Herring (D), the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/4).

Background

Virginia's rules, passed under former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), specify various building standards, including exam room size, hallway width and ceiling height. The rules were written to specifically apply to health centers that provide abortion services (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14).

During the regulatory process to implement the rules, the Virginia Board of Health initially voted to grandfather in pre-existing clinics so they would not be subject to the new design and construction standards (Portnoy/Vozzella, Washington Post, 5/4). However, the state Board of Health reversed its decision after then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) in an opinion told the board that the rules should apply to pre-existing facilities (Fain, Hampton Roads Daily Press, 5/4).

The rules went into effect in June 2013 (Washington Post, 5/4). In addition to the design and construction regulations, the rules also created new requirements for inspections, recordkeeping and medical procedures for health centers that provide abortion services.

According to abortion-rights supporters, the rules have resulted in the closure of two Virginia clinics and imposed unnecessary costs on abortion providers with the aim of shuttering more clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14). In addition, one clinic stopped providing abortion services after the passage of the initial rules (Washington Post, 5/4).

Of the 18 clinics remaining in the state, five completed construction to be in compliance with the regulations (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14). Meanwhile, 13 clinics have been granted exemptions to have more time to be in compliance with the regulations (Washington Post, 5/4).

Review of Rules

In May 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) appointed five abortion-rights supporters to the state Board of Health and ordered the board to conduct a review, which began in June with a 45-day public comment period.

In October 2014, Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine suggested that the state overhaul the regulations, noting in a letter to McAuliffe that the state received more than 14,000 comments on the rules, the majority of which called for a repeal (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14). As part of the review, Levine requested that Herring write an advisory opinion on the rules (Washington Post, 5/4).

In December 2014, the Virginia Board of Health voted 13-2 to begin a process to revise the regulations (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14).

Details of Legal Opinion

Herring's advisory opinion only applies to the rules on building standards and does not call into question the board's authority to alter clinical operating rules for current clinics, according to the Hampton Roads Daily Press (Hampton Roads Daily Press, 5/4).

Herring said in a statement that the previous administration's advice to the state board of health was "incorrect." He said, "That inappropriate intrusion produced regulations that would impose a de facto abortion ban in Virginia by forcing many health care facilities to either shut down, leaving thousands of women without access to critical services, or to stop offering abortion services."

Herring added, "Virginia women can make their own health care decisions and they have a right to safely and affordably access the full range of health care services they may need in the communities where they live" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/4).

Next Steps

According to the Post, the advisory opinion does not have immediate implications for pre-existing clinics. However, it could have an effect on the Virginia Board of Health as its members revise the regulations.

The board is set to vote on the revised regulations on June 4. Any proposed changes would be subject to review by McAuliffe and Herring. In addition, the changes would be subject to a 60-day period for public comment, concluding with a final vote that is expected in fall 2015, according to the Post (Washington Post, 5/4).

Reaction

McAuliffe praised Herring's advisory opinion. He said, "These regulations were designed not to keep Virginia women safe, but to limit their constitutional right to make their own decisions" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/4).

Kathy Greenier, director of the ACLU of Virginia's Reproductive Freedom Project, said her group "welcome[s] the correction of that deeply flawed legal analysis that resulted in the imposition of medically unnecessary and financially burdensome requirements that would drive abortion providers out of business."

Meanwhile, Victoria Cobb, president of the antiabortion-rights Family Foundation of Virginia, said the ruling "ignor[es] the will of the legislature" (Washington Post, 5/4).


La. Legislature Might Not Consider 'Personhood' Measure Amid Constitutional Concerns

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:02

Amid constitutional concerns, the Louisiana Legislature might not consider a bill (SB 80) that would authorize a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

La. Legislature Might Not Consider 'Personhood' Measure Amid Constitutional Concerns

May 5, 2015 — Amid constitutional concerns, the Louisiana Legislature might not consider a bill (SB 80) that would authorize a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

The "personhood" measure, sponsored by state Sen. Elbert Guillory (R), effectively would ban abortion at any point of gestation. It would require approval from two-thirds of the state Legislature to appear on the ballot for the Oct. 24 statewide election.

Potential Constitutional Issues

Guillory on Friday said several antiabortion-rights groups "indicated [that] some constitutional issues exist."

For example, Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills said his group does not support the current bill because it has doubts about its "counsel's ability to defend [the measure] in a court of law." He added that the Louisiana Right to Life Federation also opposes the bill in its current form.

Guillory said he was working with the two antiabortion-rights groups and others to potentially "tweak" the measure if it requires only minor fixes. However, he said he would "go back to the drawing board" and pull the bill from consideration during the 2015 state legislative session if it requires more substantive changes (Lane, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5/1).


Blogs Comment on 'Ineffective Abstinence Only' Sex Ed, Violence Against Abortion Providers, More

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 15:35

Read the week's best commentary from the Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," Salon and more.

Blogs Comment on 'Ineffective Abstinence Only' Sex Ed, Violence Against Abortion Providers, More

May 5, 2015 — Read the week's best commentary from the Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," Salon and more.

SEXUALITY EDUCATION: "Inside Federally-Funded Abstinence-Only Education: 'Flushing Taxpayer Dollars Down The Toilet,'" Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "[N]ational controversy about what kind of information American kids are actually learning in their sex ed classes" broke after "Michigan resident Alice Dreger attended an abstinence-focused presentation at her son's high school, and live-tweeted the information that the students were hearing about how condoms are full of holes and sex is a component of a bad lifestyle," Culp-Ressler writes. However, she notes that "[o]n the very same week that Dreger successfully raised awareness about the harmful nature of abstinence education ... Congress quietly approved ... $25 million in additional funding for Title V, an 18-year-old federal program that doles out matching grants to states that agree to implement abstinence-only programs." According to Culp-Ressler, experts want the federal government to "eliminate ineffective 'abstinence only until marriage' programs" and instead "to invest solely in the comprehensive sex ed programs that have actually been scientifically proven to help kids delay sex and make healthy sexual decisions" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 5/4).

What others are saying about sexuality education:

~ "School That Teaches Abstinence Education Experiences Chlamydia Outbreak," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Sex Education or Sex Ignorance?" Gabrielle Van Tassel, Huffington Post blogs.

ABORTION PROVIDERS: "'When It Got to the Murders, I think I Was Surprised by That': An Abortion Provider's Story," David Cohen/Krysten Connon, Salon: In an excerpt from their book, "Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism," authors Cohen and Connon detail the threats and attacks that an abortion provider, Rodney Smith, has experienced through his more than two decades of work. According to Cohen and Connon, Smith's "first experience with targeted protest," which stemmed from "the regular large-scale protests outside of the clinic where he first worked as an abortion provider," involved protesters targeting his son's wedding. Later, in the early 1990's, Smith's house and barn were set on fire, causing Smith and his family to lose "everything they owned," including "[t]heir dog, cats, and seventeen horses." Cohen and Connon note that while the arsonist was never caught, the incident "strengthened [Smith's] resolve" to provide abortions as a full-time rather than part-time job. Despite enduring several more attacks and threats over the years, Smith says they only thing he would have done differently in his career would "have [been to] star[t] working in abortion" earlier to help serve patients in need of abortion services, Cohen and Connon write (Cohen/Connon, Salon, 5/2).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Think the 'Personhood' Issue Is Over? Think Again," Kathleen Turner, RH Reality Check: Despite the defeat of "personhood" measures in Colorado (Amendment 67) and North Dakota (Measure 1), opponents of abortion rights are pushing ahead with passing abortion restrictions that "eliminat[e] the right to choose not by fiat ... but by red tape," Turner writes. She says that efforts of "personhood" advocates have resulted in other abortion-rights opponents deceptively appearing "more 'moderate,' providing cover for more incremental abortion restrictions that make it much harder for women to access abortion," such as "TRAP laws and similar recent anti-choice measures [that] have already created drastic inequality by eliminating abortion access for far too many." Turner adds that "when those measures pass, 'personhood' advocates get closer to their goal: Without access to safe and legal abortion, a woman's right to choose is essentially meaningless" (Turner, RH Reality Check, 5/1).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Texas Lawmaker Introduces 'Coerced Abortion' Bill so Extreme That Even Her GOP Allies Are Running for the Hills," Jenny Kutner, Salon.

~ "Abortion Opponents Are Winning," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

ABORTION PROTECTIONS: "This State Is Actually Protecting Reproductive Rights," Meredith Clark, Refinery29: "In the conversation around state regulations on women's reproductive rights, it's been almost all bad news in recent months, but there's one state that has quietly fought off attempts to reduce abortion access," Clark writes. Specifically, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) last week "vetoed three bills that would have restricted abortion access in the state," she notes. According to Clark, the vetoed measures (SB 349, HB 479, HB 587) "would have placed restrictions on private insurance coverage for abortions, forced doctors to use fetal anesthesia for abortions at 20 weeks (a practice based on medically inaccurate claims about fetal pain), and banned healthcare providers from using telemedicine for medication abortions, which helps women in rural states that have few abortion providers, like Montana." Clark writes, "The first months of 2015 have seen more than 300 attempts by legislators to restrict abortion access, including laws signed by governors in Arkansas and Arizona that require doctors to give women medically inaccurate information," adding that such "[a]ttacks ... only underscore the importance of Governor Bullock's moves in Montana" (Clark, Refinery29, 5/4).


Va. AG: State Abortion Clinic Building Standards Should Not Apply to Pre-Existing Facilities

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 15:03

Abortion clinic building standards adopted by Virginia in 2013 cannot apply to pre-existing facilities, according to a legal opinion from state Attorney General Mark Herring (D), the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Va. AG: State Abortion Clinic Building Standards Should Not Apply to Pre-Existing Facilities

May 5, 2015 — Abortion clinic building standards adopted by Virginia in 2013 cannot apply to pre-existing facilities, according to a legal opinion from state Attorney General Mark Herring (D), the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/4).

Background

Virginia's rules, passed under former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), specify various building standards, including exam room size, hallway width and ceiling height. The rules were written to specifically apply to health centers that provide abortion services (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14).

During the regulatory process to implement the rules, the Virginia Board of Health initially voted to grandfather in pre-existing clinics so they would not be subject to the new design and construction standards (Portnoy/Vozzella, Washington Post, 5/4). However, the state Board of Health reversed its decision after then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) in an opinion told the board that the rules should apply to pre-existing facilities (Fain, Hampton Roads Daily Press, 5/4).

The rules went into effect in June 2013 (Washington Post, 5/4). In addition to the design and construction regulations, the rules also created new requirements for inspections, recordkeeping and medical procedures for health centers that provide abortion services.

According to abortion-rights supporters, the rules have resulted in the closure of two Virginia clinics and imposed unnecessary costs on abortion providers with the aim of shuttering more clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14). In addition, one clinic stopped providing abortion services after the passage of the initial rules (Washington Post, 5/4).

Of the 18 clinics remaining in the state, five completed construction to be in compliance with the regulations (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14). Meanwhile, 13 clinics have been granted exemptions to have more time to be in compliance with the regulations (Washington Post, 5/4).

Review of Rules

In May 2014, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) appointed five abortion-rights supporters to the state Board of Health and ordered the board to conduct a review, which began in June with a 45-day public comment period.

In October 2014, Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine suggested that the state overhaul the regulations, noting in a letter to McAuliffe that the state received more than 14,000 comments on the rules, the majority of which called for a repeal (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14). As part of the review, Levine requested that Herring write an advisory opinion on the rules (Washington Post, 5/4).

In December 2014, the Virginia Board of Health voted 13-2 to begin a process to revise the regulations (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14).

Details of Legal Opinion

Herring's advisory opinion only applies to the rules on building standards and does not call into question the board's authority to alter clinical operating rules for current clinics, according to the Hampton Roads Daily Press (Hampton Roads Daily Press, 5/4).

Herring said in a statement that the previous administration's advice to the state board of health was "incorrect." He said, "That inappropriate intrusion produced regulations that would impose a de facto abortion ban in Virginia by forcing many health care facilities to either shut down, leaving thousands of women without access to critical services, or to stop offering abortion services."

Herring added, "Virginia women can make their own health care decisions and they have a right to safely and affordably access the full range of health care services they may need in the communities where they live" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/4).

Next Steps

According to the Post, the advisory opinion does not have immediate implications for pre-existing clinics. However, it could have an effect on the Virginia Board of Health as its members revise the regulations.

The board is set to vote on the revised regulations on June 4. Any proposed changes would be subject to review by McAuliffe and Herring. In addition, the changes would be subject to a 60-day period for public comment, concluding with a final vote that is expected in fall 2015, according to the Post (Washington Post, 5/4).

Reaction

McAuliffe praised Herring's advisory opinion. He said, "These regulations were designed not to keep Virginia women safe, but to limit their constitutional right to make their own decisions" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/4).

Kathy Greenier, director of the ACLU of Virginia's Reproductive Freedom Project, said her group "welcome[s] the correction of that deeply flawed legal analysis that resulted in the imposition of medically unnecessary and financially burdensome requirements that would drive abortion providers out of business."

Meanwhile, Victoria Cobb, president of the antiabortion-rights Family Foundation of Virginia, said the ruling "ignor[es] the will of the legislature" (Washington Post, 5/4).


Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Have Caused 50 Percent of State's Clinics To Close or Limit Abortion Services

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 14:23

The number of abortion clinics and abortions in Ohio have decreased significantly since the enactment of several antiabortion-rights provisions in the state, according to a records analysis by the Associated Press.

Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Have Caused 50 Percent of State's Clinics To Close or Limit Abortion Services

May 5, 2015 — The number of abortion clinics and abortions in Ohio have decreased significantly since the enactment of several antiabortion-rights provisions in the state, according to a records analysis by the Associated Press.

Background

According to the AP, Ohio since 2011 has implemented several abortion restrictions, including requirements (HB 59) that women undergo testing to detect a fetal heartbeat before having an abortion and "mak[e] it difficult or impossible" for clinics to obtain required transfer agreements with local hospitals (Carr Smyth, Associated Press, 5/3). In addition, the state passed a law (HB 78) that bans abortions at 24 weeks and requires physicians to perform tests to determine if a fetus is viable beginning at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

Further, abortion-rights opponents are trying to pass legislation (HB 69) banning abortion as early as six weeks' gestation (Associated Press, 5/3). The measure would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26). Meanwhile, according to the AP, Ohio Right to Life and other abortion-rights opponents are working to implement additional abortion restrictions.

Analysis Details

For the analysis, the AP reviewed state records on licensing and businesses.

According to the analysis, seven of Ohio's 16 abortion providers have closed or limited abortion services since 2011. Meanwhile, an eighth abortion provider located in Toledo, Ohio, remains in operation, but faces litigation that could close the clinic.

According to the AP, the number of closings in Ohio is second only to Texas, where 17 of the state's 40 abortion providers have closed since 2011. Meanwhile, the third most prominent example of such closures is Virginia, where two of the 20 abortion providers, including one of the state's busiest clinics, have closed under various abortion restrictions.

The AP analysis also found that the number of induced abortions in Ohio fell from 25,473 to 23,216 between 2012 and 2013, the same time period during which five of the abortion clinics either closed or limited abortion services. According to the AP, the 2013 figure marks the lowest level recorded since 1976, when the state started tracking such data, and fits into a "general downward trend" that started in the late 1990s.

Comments

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said the decreasing number of abortions in the state is "a combination of a lot of things," including a reduced demand for abortion.

However, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said reduced demand for abortion was not a factor in the number of clinic closures. "If that were the case, and we've seen roughly half of our clinics close, the corollary you'd think would be we'd see roughly half the procedures -- and that's not the case," she said, adding, "These laws have all been about creating these false hurdles for clinics to have to jump through in order to provide safe, legal abortion care to their patients."

Copeland also noted that her organization has heard many stories from women who have had to travel long distances or go out of state to access abortion services.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, noted that the state has "for decades ... been incredibly conservative" on abortion. "It's one of the states people look to, to see what the next restriction is going to" be, she said (Associated Press, 5/3).


La. Legislature Might Not Consider 'Personhood' Measure Amid Constitutional Concerns

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 14:20

Amid constitutional concerns, the Louisiana Legislature might not consider a bill (SB 80) that would authorize a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

La. Legislature Might Not Consider 'Personhood' Measure Amid Constitutional Concerns

May 5, 2015 — Amid constitutional concerns, the Louisiana Legislature might not consider a bill (SB 80) that would authorize a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

The "personhood" measure, sponsored by state Sen. Elbert Guillory (R), effectively would ban abortion at any point of gestation. It would require approval from two-thirds of the state Legislature to appear on the ballot for the Oct. 24 statewide election.

Potential Constitutional Issues

Guillory on Friday said several antiabortion-rights groups "indicated [that] some constitutional issues exist."

For example, Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills said his group does not support the current bill because it has doubts about its "counsel's ability to defend [the measure] in a court of law." He added that the Louisiana Right to Life Federation also opposes the bill in its current form.

Guillory said he was working with the two antiabortion-rights groups and others to potentially "tweak" the measure if it requires only minor fixes. However, he said he would "go back to the drawing board" and pull the bill from consideration during the 2015 state legislative session if it requires more substantive changes (Lane, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5/1).


Obstacles in N.D. Hinder Access to Abortion Services, Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 18:19

Women in North Dakota face several obstacles to obtaining abortions and preventing unintended pregnancies, from the state's numerous antiabortion-rights laws to the lack of comprehensive sexuality education, the Huffington Post reports.

Obstacles in N.D. Hinder Access to Abortion Services, Comprehensive Sexuality Education

May 4, 2015 — Women in North Dakota face several obstacles to obtaining abortions and preventing unintended pregnancies, from the state's numerous antiabortion-rights laws to the lack of comprehensive sexuality education, the Huffington Post reports.

'Canary in the Coal Mine'

According to Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup, "North Dakota is like the canary in the coal mine" in that the state serves as a testing ground for antiabortion-rights activists before they decide whether to pursue legislation at the federal level.

The state bans abortion at 20 weeks' gestation, requires minors to have consent from both parents in order to have an abortion and prohibits public funds from going toward abortion services except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment to a woman's life.

In addition, a law (HB 1456) that would ban abortions as early as six weeks' gestation is pending before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Kassie, Huffington Post, 4/30). The law would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).

Access Issues

North Dakota only has one remaining abortion clinic, Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo. Clinic staff only see patients on Wednesdays, when they treat an average of 25 women. According to the Huffington Post, women who live in the northwest portion of the state need to drive up to eight hours to get to the clinic. Clinic volunteer Warren Christensen said, "It's a tremendous financial burden to drive a car, to take a day off work. There are some stories of women who are basically prepared to sleep in their car overnight because they can't afford to get a hotel."

In addition, a surgical abortion at the clinic costs between $575 and $975, varying based on stage of pregnancy. While RRWC has a not-for-profit program, called the Women In Need fund, to provide financial assistance to women seeking abortions, it does not guarantee funding for all women, the Huffington Post reports.

According to clinic director Tammi Kromenaker, the access issues have spurred some women to consider unsafe abortion methods.

Meanwhile, Northup said the state could improve access to abortions by allowing local providers to administer medication abortions and by expanding access to telemedicine services.

Lack of Comprehensive Sexuality Education

In addition to limited abortion access, the state also lacks a comprehensive sexuality education program that could help reduce unintended pregnancy rates, according to the Huffington Post.

The state's health education standards, written in 2008, mention abstinence as a potential way to improve health, but do not mention condoms or other contraceptives. However, research has shown that abstinence programs do not cause teenagers to delay sexual activity.

Northup said, "What we need to have for the health and well-being of girls and women is comprehensive sexual and reproductive programs, so that women and girls understand how their reproductive systems work, understand how to get the health care they need and how to make good decisions around their reproductive health" (Huffington Post, 4/30).


Calif. Assembly Advances Bill To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 18:18

The California Assembly Judiciary Committee last week approved a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, according to a column in the Los Angeles Times' "California Journal."

Calif. Assembly Advances Bill To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

May 4, 2015 — The California Assembly Judiciary Committee last week approved a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, according to a column in the Los Angeles Times' "California Journal" (Abcarian, "California Journal," Los Angeles Times, 4/30).

Background

The bill comes after an undercover investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice California found that CPCs provide pregnant women with misleading and false information (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

There are about 160 CPCs in California, many of which are not licensed to provide medical care, according to "California Journal." The centers often operate through private funding, while some receive federal funding that has been set aside for abstinence programs ("California Journal, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).

Bill Details

The measure, which was introduced by Assembly members David Chiu (D) and Autumn Burke (D), aims to expand protections in a 2011 San Francisco ordinance (212-11) that bars CPCs from disseminating misleading information.

The proposed legislation would require licensed facilities that provide services related to pregnancy and family planning to let women know about how and where they could access affordable and timely abortion, contraception and prenatal care services.

Further, the bill would mandate that unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services inform patients that the facility is not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Such facilities would be required to disseminate a notice to patients at the facility and in any digital or print advertising materials stating, "This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services" (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

Comments

Assembly member Donald Wagner (R) spoke out against the bill, suggesting that everyone in California already knows that "abortion is available."

Meanwhile, Chiu said that California "has a compelling interest to make sure all pregnant women have timely access to healthcare ... whether prenatal care or an abortion." He added that the measure "does not require referrals to abortion clinics, does not provide a preference over one kind of clinic or another, and it doesn't discriminate on the basis of viewpoint or religion" ("California Journal," Los Angeles Times, 5/1).


Colo. Senate Panel Kills Funding Bill for Family Planning Program

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 18:17

The Colorado Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 3-2 to kill a measure (HB 15-1194) that would have provided $5 million in funding for a program that helps improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives among low-income women in the state, the Durango Herald reports.

Colo. Senate Panel Kills Funding Bill for Family Planning Program

May 4, 2015 — The Colorado Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 3-2 to kill a measure (HB 15-1194) that would have provided $5 million in funding for a program that helps improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives among low-income women in the state, the Durango Herald reports (Marcus, Durango Herald, 4/29).

Background

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative offers no- or low-cost LARCs, such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants, to low-income women at 68 clinics throughout the state. The initiative was established as a five-year pilot program through a $25 million private donation. The program needs $5 million to continue, but state lawmakers have disagreed over whether such funding can be provided through the state budget (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/13).

The initiative has provided more than 30,000 IUDs and other LARC methods to low-income, uninsured or underinsured Colorado women (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/16). In addition, since the initiative began, the state's teen birth rate has decreased by 40%. Meanwhile, the abortion rate among teens has decreased by 34%, according to Larry Wolk, Colorado's chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Further, in that period, the state has saved about $23 million from averted Medicaid costs associated with birth. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials have predicted the program could save the state up to $40 million in Medicaid costs that would otherwise go toward pre- and postnatal care (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/25).

Supporters Seek Alternative Funding

According to the Herald, supporters of the program now are working to solicit donations to fund the initiative.

Wolk brought before the committee an award that the program received Tuesday from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. He said, "We have the will to make this program successful. The will of the governor, the will of a number of legislators, the will of evidence-based organizations ... who say [LARCs] are safe and the preferred method of birth control for ... young women."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Don Coram (R) said of the vote, "It is a little disappointing because I don't think this should be a political issue. This should be a policy issue. Lives do matter, and if we're going to break the cycle of poverty, this is a very good tool" (Durango Herald, 4/29).

Antiabortion-Rights Ultrasound Requirements Die in Colo. Senate Committee

In related news, Colorado's Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday voted 3-2 to kill a measure (SB 15-285) that would have required women to have an ultrasound before an abortion and implemented a mandatory delay before the procedure, the Durango Herald reports.

Specifically, the measure would have required women to wait 24 hours after their initial consultation with a physician to have an abortion. In addition, the bill would have required women to hear a description of the fetus' development and be offered a picture of the fetus.

Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R) opposed the measure, saying it would have infringed on women's right to liberty, noting, "I've heard time and time again during this legislative session about the protection of liberty and personal responsibility. I believe individuals who are females should be able to do that, as well."

During testimony on the measure, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton called the bill "insulting to Colorado voters and values, to Colorado women, and to Colorado medical providers" (Marcus, Durango Herald, 4/30).


D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Law Takes Effect

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 18:16

A Washington, D.C., reproductive health non-discrimination law (Act 20-593) took effect on Saturday despite attempts by House conservatives to block the measure, the Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Law Takes Effect

May 4, 2015 — A Washington, D.C., reproductive health non-discrimination law (Act 20-593) took effect on Saturday despite attempts by House conservatives to block the measure, the Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (Davis, Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/2).

Background

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 was passed by the D.C. Council in December 2014. It amends the District's Human Rights Act of 1977 to include language prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions.

Congress faced a Saturday deadline to block the law before it took effect. On Thursday, the House voted 228-192 on a measure (HJR 43) to block the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/1). However, the Senate did not take up a companion measure, according to the Post/Post-Gazette (Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/2).

In addition, the White House had issued a veto threat of the measure if it were to pass both chambers of Congress. The White House wrote that the House bill, by blocking the District law, would have "give[n] employers cover to fire employees for the personal decisions they make about birth control and their reproductive health" (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/1).

Conservatives Considering Further Action

Conservative lawmakers and antiabortion-rights group are considering potential steps to undermine the law now that it has taken effect, according to the Post/Post-Gazette.

For example, some conservative lawmakers have proposed freezing funds that would go to Washington, D.C., to enforce the measure.

However, the National Right to Life Committee has argued that such an approach could still subject groups to potential lawsuits for discriminating against individuals based on their reproductive rights views. NRLC said it would look into alternative ways to counter the law (Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/2).


Op-Ed: State Abortion Restrictions About Controlling Women, Not Safety

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 18:15

The trend of state lawmakers passing antiabortion-rights measures under the guise of protecting women's safety is "a tiresome, fill-in-the-blank news story," columnist Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times.

Op-Ed: State Abortion Restrictions About Controlling Women, Not Safety

May 4, 2015 — The trend of state lawmakers passing antiabortion-rights measures under the guise of protecting women's safety is "a tiresome, fill-in-the-blank news story," columnist Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times.

Morrison describes antiabortion-rights legislation in several states, including a 72-hour mandatory delay measure (HB 465) in North Carolina that "is so nakedly intrusive that it might as well be wearing a 'Sue Me, I'm Unconstitutional' sign." Similarly, she notes that "South Dakota upped the waiting-period ante by excluding weekends, federal and state holidays from its three-day requirement"; Oklahoma's "legislature just sent a 72-hour waiting period bill [HB 1409] to the governor"; and Florida approved legislation (HB 633) imposing a 24-hour delay before an abortion.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Morrison notes that one state lawmaker "wants to extend the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks' gestation to include fetuses with severe genetic abnormalities, and another wants to prohibit even private health insurers [SB 575] in Texas from covering abortions except as medical emergencies." According to Morrison, these measures "would be on top of" a Texas law (HB 2) that mandates "that abortion facilities meet several criteria that have nothing to do with providing safe abortion services and everything to do with forcing the providers out of business."

Morrison also touches on a Tennessee bill (SB 1280) that would require the state's seven abortion facilities "to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers, potentially putting them out of business too -- for the good of the state's women, of course, though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls such rules 'medically unnecessary.''' Moreover, she notes that a new Arizona law (SB 1318) "will force doctors who perform drug-induced abortions to tell women the procedure can be reversible, which most physicians say is medical malarkey."

Morrison writes that amid such restrictions, she is "waiting for more sinister and macabre bills to emerge, maybe one requiring pregnant women to fill out death certificates for their fetuses before having an abortion." No such law has been passed yet, she writes, though a Kentucky measure (SB 7) would "not only requir[e] an ultrasound for women seeking an abortion, but fin[e] a doctor $100,000 if it doesn't happen."

"None of these laws is really about women's health," Morrison notes, adding that "[l]egal abortion is safer than any number of other surgeries." Rather, the antiabortion-rights legislation is "about preventing women from getting abortions, and controlling them by controlling their fertility," Morrison writes. She adds, "If legislators were sincere about safeguarding women's health" laws would address "better sex education, more and cheaper health clinics and counseling and contraceptives" (Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).


Colo. Senate Panel Kills Funding Bill for Family Planning Program

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 15:59

The Colorado Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 3-2 to kill a measure (HB 15-1194) that would have provided $5 million in funding for a program that helps improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives among low-income women in the state, the Durango Herald reports.

Colo. Senate Panel Kills Funding Bill for Family Planning Program

May 4, 2015 — The Colorado Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 3-2 to kill a measure (HB 15-1194) that would have provided $5 million in funding for a program that helps improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives among low-income women in the state, the Durango Herald reports (Marcus, Durango Herald, 4/29).

Background

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative offers no- or low-cost LARCs, such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants, to low-income women at 68 clinics throughout the state. The initiative was established as a five-year pilot program through a $25 million private donation. The program needs $5 million to continue, but state lawmakers have disagreed over whether such funding can be provided through the state budget (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/13).

The initiative has provided more than 30,000 IUDs and other LARC methods to low-income, uninsured or underinsured Colorado women (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/16). In addition, since the initiative began, the state's teen birth rate has decreased by 40%. Meanwhile, the abortion rate among teens has decreased by 34%, according to Larry Wolk, Colorado's chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Further, in that period, the state has saved about $23 million from averted Medicaid costs associated with birth. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials have predicted the program could save the state up to $40 million in Medicaid costs that would otherwise go toward pre- and postnatal care (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/25).

Supporters Seek Alternative Funding

According to the Herald, supporters of the program now are working to solicit donations to fund the initiative.

Wolk brought before the committee an award that the program received Tuesday from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. He said, "We have the will to make this program successful. The will of the governor, the will of a number of legislators, the will of evidence-based organizations ... who say [LARCs] are safe and the preferred method of birth control for ... young women."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Don Coram (R) said of the vote, "It is a little disappointing because I don't think this should be a political issue. This should be a policy issue. Lives do matter, and if we're going to break the cycle of poverty, this is a very good tool" (Durango Herald, 4/29).

Antiabortion-Rights Ultrasound Requirements Die in Colo. Senate Committee

In related news, Colorado's Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday voted 3-2 to kill a measure (SB 15-285) that would have required women to have an ultrasound before an abortion and implemented a mandatory delay before the procedure, the Durango Herald reports.

Specifically, the measure would have required women to wait 24 hours after their initial consultation with a physician to have an abortion. In addition, the bill would have required women to hear a description of the fetus' development and be offered a picture of the fetus.

Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R) opposed the measure, saying it would have infringed on women's right to liberty, noting, "I've heard time and time again during this legislative session about the protection of liberty and personal responsibility. I believe individuals who are females should be able to do that, as well."

During testimony on the measure, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton called the bill "insulting to Colorado voters and values, to Colorado women, and to Colorado medical providers" (Marcus, Durango Herald, 4/30).


Calif. Assembly Advances Bill To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 15:55

The California Assembly Judiciary Committee last week approved a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, according to a column in the Los Angeles Times' "California Journal."

Calif. Assembly Advances Bill To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

May 4, 2015 — The California Assembly Judiciary Committee last week approved a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, according to a column in the Los Angeles Times' "California Journal" (Abcarian, "California Journal," Los Angeles Times, 4/30).

Background

The bill comes after an undercover investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice California found that CPCs provide pregnant women with misleading and false information (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

There are about 160 CPCs in California, many of which are not licensed to provide medical care, according to "California Journal." The centers often operate through private funding, while some receive federal funding that has been set aside for abstinence programs ("California Journal, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).

Bill Details

The measure, which was introduced by Assembly members David Chiu (D) and Autumn Burke (D), aims to expand protections in a 2011 San Francisco ordinance (212-11) that bars CPCs from disseminating misleading information.

The proposed legislation would require licensed facilities that provide services related to pregnancy and family planning to let women know about how and where they could access affordable and timely abortion, contraception and prenatal care services.

Further, the bill would mandate that unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services inform patients that the facility is not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Such facilities would be required to disseminate a notice to patients at the facility and in any digital or print advertising materials stating, "This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services" (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

Comments

Assembly member Donald Wagner (R) spoke out against the bill, suggesting that everyone in California already knows that "abortion is available."

Meanwhile, Chiu said that California "has a compelling interest to make sure all pregnant women have timely access to healthcare ... whether prenatal care or an abortion." He added that the measure "does not require referrals to abortion clinics, does not provide a preference over one kind of clinic or another, and it doesn't discriminate on the basis of viewpoint or religion" ("California Journal," Los Angeles Times, 5/1).


Op-Ed: State Abortion Restrictions About Controlling Women, Not Safety

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 15:48

The trend of state lawmakers passing antiabortion-rights measures under the guise of protecting women's safety is "a tiresome, fill-in-the-blank news story," columnist Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times.

Op-Ed: State Abortion Restrictions About Controlling Women, Not Safety

May 4, 2015 — The trend of state lawmakers passing antiabortion-rights measures under the guise of protecting women's safety is "a tiresome, fill-in-the-blank news story," columnist Patt Morrison writes in the Los Angeles Times.

Morrison describes antiabortion-rights legislation in several states, including a 72-hour mandatory delay measure (HB 465) in North Carolina that "is so nakedly intrusive that it might as well be wearing a 'Sue Me, I'm Unconstitutional' sign." Similarly, she notes that "South Dakota upped the waiting-period ante by excluding weekends, federal and state holidays from its three-day requirement"; Oklahoma's "legislature just sent a 72-hour waiting period bill [HB 1409] to the governor"; and Florida approved legislation (HB 633) imposing a 24-hour delay before an abortion.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Morrison notes that one state lawmaker "wants to extend the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks' gestation to include fetuses with severe genetic abnormalities, and another wants to prohibit even private health insurers [SB 575] in Texas from covering abortions except as medical emergencies." According to Morrison, these measures "would be on top of" a Texas law (HB 2) that mandates "that abortion facilities meet several criteria that have nothing to do with providing safe abortion services and everything to do with forcing the providers out of business."

Morrison also touches on a Tennessee bill (SB 1280) that would require the state's seven abortion facilities "to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers, potentially putting them out of business too -- for the good of the state's women, of course, though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls such rules 'medically unnecessary.''' Moreover, she notes that a new Arizona law (SB 1318) "will force doctors who perform drug-induced abortions to tell women the procedure can be reversible, which most physicians say is medical malarkey."

Morrison writes that amid such restrictions, she is "waiting for more sinister and macabre bills to emerge, maybe one requiring pregnant women to fill out death certificates for their fetuses before having an abortion." No such law has been passed yet, she writes, though a Kentucky measure (SB 7) would "not only requir[e] an ultrasound for women seeking an abortion, but fin[e] a doctor $100,000 if it doesn't happen."

"None of these laws is really about women's health," Morrison notes, adding that "[l]egal abortion is safer than any number of other surgeries." Rather, the antiabortion-rights legislation is "about preventing women from getting abortions, and controlling them by controlling their fertility," Morrison writes. She adds, "If legislators were sincere about safeguarding women's health" laws would address "better sex education, more and cheaper health clinics and counseling and contraceptives" (Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).


Obstacles in N.D. Hinder Access to Abortion Services, Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 14:05

Women in North Dakota face several obstacles to obtaining abortions and preventing unintended pregnancies, from the state's numerous antiabortion-rights laws to the lack of comprehensive sexuality education, the Huffington Post reports.

Obstacles in N.D. Hinder Access to Abortion Services, Comprehensive Sexuality Education

May 4, 2015 — Women in North Dakota face several obstacles to obtaining abortions and preventing unintended pregnancies, from the state's numerous antiabortion-rights laws to the lack of comprehensive sexuality education, the Huffington Post reports.

'Canary in the Coal Mine'

According to Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup, "North Dakota is like the canary in the coal mine" in that the state serves as a testing ground for antiabortion-rights activists before they decide whether to pursue legislation at the federal level.

The state bans abortion at 20 weeks' gestation, requires minors to have consent from both parents in order to have an abortion and prohibits public funds from going toward abortion services except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment to a woman's life.

In addition, a law (HB 1456) that would ban abortions as early as six weeks' gestation is pending before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Kassie, Huffington Post, 4/30). The law would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).

Access Issues

North Dakota only has one remaining abortion clinic, Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo. Clinic staff only see patients on Wednesdays, when they treat an average of 25 women. According to the Huffington Post, women who live in the northwest portion of the state need to drive up to eight hours to get to the clinic. Clinic volunteer Warren Christensen said, "It's a tremendous financial burden to drive a car, to take a day off work. There are some stories of women who are basically prepared to sleep in their car overnight because they can't afford to get a hotel."

In addition, a surgical abortion at the clinic costs between $575 and $975, varying based on stage of pregnancy. While RRWC has a not-for-profit program, called the Women In Need fund, to provide financial assistance to women seeking abortions, it does not guarantee funding for all women, the Huffington Post reports.

According to clinic director Tammi Kromenaker, the access issues have spurred some women to consider unsafe abortion methods.

Meanwhile, Northup said the state could improve access to abortions by allowing local providers to administer medication abortions and by expanding access to telemedicine services.

Lack of Comprehensive Sexuality Education

In addition to limited abortion access, the state also lacks a comprehensive sexuality education program that could help reduce unintended pregnancy rates, according to the Huffington Post.

The state's health education standards, written in 2008, mention abstinence as a potential way to improve health, but do not mention condoms or other contraceptives. However, research has shown that abstinence programs do not cause teenagers to delay sexual activity.

Northup said, "What we need to have for the health and well-being of girls and women is comprehensive sexual and reproductive programs, so that women and girls understand how their reproductive systems work, understand how to get the health care they need and how to make good decisions around their reproductive health" (Huffington Post, 4/30).


D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Law Takes Effect

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 14:02

A Washington, D.C., reproductive health non-discrimination law (Act 20-593) took effect on Saturday despite attempts by House conservatives to block the measure, the Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Law Takes Effect

May 4, 2015 — A Washington, D.C., reproductive health non-discrimination law (Act 20-593) took effect on Saturday despite attempts by House conservatives to block the measure, the Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (Davis, Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/2).

Background

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 was passed by the D.C. Council in December 2014. It amends the District's Human Rights Act of 1977 to include language prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions.

Congress faced a Saturday deadline to block the law before it took effect. On Thursday, the House voted 228-192 on a measure (HJR 43) to block the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/1). However, the Senate did not take up a companion measure, according to the Post/Post-Gazette (Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/2).

In addition, the White House had issued a veto threat of the measure if it were to pass both chambers of Congress. The White House wrote that the House bill, by blocking the District law, would have "give[n] employers cover to fire employees for the personal decisions they make about birth control and their reproductive health" (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/1).

Conservatives Considering Further Action

Conservative lawmakers and antiabortion-rights group are considering potential steps to undermine the law now that it has taken effect, according to the Post/Post-Gazette.

For example, some conservative lawmakers have proposed freezing funds that would go to Washington, D.C., to enforce the measure.

However, the National Right to Life Committee has argued that such an approach could still subject groups to potential lawsuits for discriminating against individuals based on their reproductive rights views. NRLC said it would look into alternative ways to counter the law (Washington Post/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5/2).


Featured Blogs

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 19:22

"Millennials Lead a Texas-Sized Movement for Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice" (Perez, National Partnership for Women & Families' blog, 4/29); "Colorado's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Works, and That's Why Conservatives Want to Kill It" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 4/28); "Michigan Continues Trend of Investigating Miscarriages as Murder" (Marty, Care2, 4/28); "Montana Governor Vetoes Telemedicine Abortion Ban" (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 4/29).

May 1, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Millennials Lead a Texas-Sized Movement for Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice," Adriano Perez, National Partnership for Women & Families' blog: Perez, a campus organizer at the University of Texas at El Paso for the Texas Freedom Network, writes that "[o]ne of the issues millennials are organizing around is the continuing legislative assault on reproductive health care, including access to abortion care" in Texas. According to Perez, "Texas legislators have proposed more anti-abortion legislation -- at least two dozen bills -- than legislators in any other state," spurring "a coalition of progressive organizations across the state ... to launch" the "Trust. Respect. Access." campaign. According to Perez, the effort intends "to restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, respect for health care professionals' judgment and access for all people to the full range of reproductive health care in Texas." Perez writes, "The journey to a better Texas, in which access to reproductive health care is a reality for all Texans, is an uphill battle. But we love our state more than we're angered by our legislature -- and we're in it for the long haul" (Perez, National Partnership for Women & Families' blog, 4/29).

FEATURED BLOG

"Colorado's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Works, and That's Why Conservatives Want to Kill It," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: Marcotte writes that an "interesting political battl[e] over reproductive health-care access is currently going down in Colorado," where conservatives "are trying to kill ... an experimental program launched in the state in 2009 [that] has resulted in a shocking 40 percent drop in the teen birth rate and a 35 percent drop in the teen abortion rate." According to Marcotte, conservative lawmakers' efforts to kill the program are less about the state's budget and more "about the escalating battle over contraception access, both in Colorado and in this country as a whole." Specifically, conservatives in the state "are using this battle to beta-test various arguments against any future attempts, on any level, to make it easier for women to get affordable long-term contraception," she writes. The situation shows how "conservatives are willing -- eager, even -- to keep the teen pregnancy rate sky high on the slim hope that doing so might scare someone, sometime out of having sex," she writes, adding that the "fate of this little initiative in Colorado could determine the shape of reproductive health care for generations to come" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 4/28).

What others are saying about adolescent health:

~ "New Study: HPV Vaccine Prevents Host of Teen Health Issues," Martha Kempner, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

Michigan Continues Trend of Investigating Miscarriages as Murder," Robin Marty, Care2: "Despite claims that abortion opponents [have] no interest in investigating miscarriages, once again it appears that is exactly what is happening ... in Michigan as authorities appear to be looking for grounds to set ... another precedent for criminalizing bad pregnancy outcomes," Marty writes. She explains that the state is holding a woman named Kimberly Pappas "for murder because she went into premature labor at work" and allegedly "cut the umbilical cord, put the fetus in a plastic bag, and then placed it inside her desk." Specifically, according to Marty, Pappas is being charged "with felony murder, premeditated murder and first-degree child abuse" because prosecutors are "saying [the fetus] had been born alive." Marty writes, "What is most disturbing however is that Michigan shows ... [it is] eager to prosecute a delivery as a murder if the child fails to survive," noting that the state "waited nearly a month for an autopsy report to 'prove' the baby took a breath in order to press charges, and the mental health of Pappas since then held no weight to [the state]" (Marty, Care2, 4/28).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnancy:

~ "Purvi Patel To Appeal Conviction: 'Feticide Is an Extreme, Extreme Proposition," Jenny Kutner, Salon.

FEATURED BLOG

"Montana Governor Vetoes Telemedicine Abortion Ban," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has vetoed a telemedicine abortion ban bill (HB 587) that "would have prohibited a medical practitioner from providing or attempting to provide an abortion on a pregnant woman or prescribing abortion-inducing drugs, except while in the physical presence of the woman," Wilson writes. Wilson notes that in vetoing the bill, Bullock said "'elected officials ... should all be working together to expand access to health-care services in Montana'" and added the proposed telemedicine ban was among several bills that "'seek to do just the opposite, particularly for women and families living in the more rural part of our state.'" Wilson adds that Bullock also signed a bill (HB 606) that "will protect access to reproductive health care in the state" by "creat[ing] a special revenue account for funding Title X, a federal program devoted to helping low-income people access family planning services." According to Wilson, Bullock said of the bill, "'A woman's reproductive health shouldn't be subject to political whims of the Montana Legislature'" (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 4/29).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Which State Was the Worst for Women This Week?" Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."

~ "Colorado GOP's Fetal Homicide Bill Based on Legislation Promoted by Anti-Choice Group," Jason Salzman, RH Reality Check.


Op-Ed: Texas Bills Would Help 'Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship'

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 19:05

Two measures introduced in Texas "would protect the patient-provider relationship from inappropriate political interference in personal decisions that should be [made] by women and their trained health care providers," family physician Bich-May Nguyen writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece.

Op-Ed: Texas Bills Would Help 'Protect the Patient-Provider Relationship'

May 1, 2015 — Two measures introduced in Texas "would protect the patient-provider relationship from inappropriate political interference in personal decisions that should be [made] by women and their trained health care providers," family physician Bich-May Nguyen writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece.

Nguyen explains that lawmakers increasingly are "trying to dictate how my fellow physicians and I care for our patients, using ideology to trump evidence, medical ethics, and the best interests of women." However, she writes that two proposed bills -- the "'You Can't Force a Doctor to Lie'" Act (HB 1210) and Marlise's Law (HB 3183) -- would help fix such interference and ensure that patients can "trust that their care is high-quality and based on their circumstances and preferences, not politics."

HB 1210 Would Protect Providers, Patients

Nguyen writes that HB 1210 could help protect providers and patients by addressing certain state restrictions on abortion.

Specifically, she notes that although abortion "has a 99 percent safety record," it "is singled out for medically unnecessary restrictions." For example, a woman seeking medication abortion is required to make four trips to her physician. According to Nguyen, the patient goes first to receive "state-mandated 'counseling' that includes information that is patently false, and a state-mandated ultrasound," then "return[s] for second and third visits to receive the medication she needs, even though research shows, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends, that it be taken at home." The fourth visit is for follow-up, Nguyen adds.

Nguyen expresses concern that "poor women in rural Texas ... have to travel hundreds of miles -- sometimes without a car or money for gas or bus fares -- and take time off work to make these unnecessary trips."

She contends that by adopting HB 1210, Texas would set patients by "a standard that says Texas will not force health care providers to choose between their medical training and ethical obligations versus politically motivated laws."

Marlise's Law Would Protect Pregnant Women

Meanwhile, Nguyen also discusses the "tragic" case of Marlise Muñoz, who was kept on mechanical support at a Texas hospital against her family's wishes "simply because she was 14 weeks pregnant." She adds, "No family should have to endure the trauma of losing a loved one so cruelly compounded by state interference in a personal health care decision."

She explains that Marlise's Law would "remov[e] the pregnancy exception to end-of-life directives and allow pregnant women and their family the right to make end-of-life decisions."

According to Nguyen, HB 1210 and HB 3183 both would help rebut the trend of "the Texas Legislature insert[ing] politics into the exam room" and allow "providers ... to be able to use their professional judgment and give the best possible care without running afoul of the law" (Nguyen, Houston Chronicle, 4/29).