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 43 min ago

Appeals Court Reinstates Temporary Injunction Against Fla. Clinic

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:11

An appeals court on Friday ruled 2-1 to uphold a temporary injunction that prevents Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando from performing certain abortions at a medical park in Osceola, Fla., the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Appeals Court Reinstates Temporary Injunction Against Fla. Clinic

May 27, 2015 — An appeals court on Friday ruled 2-1 to uphold a temporary injunction that prevents Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando from performing certain abortions at a medical park in Osceola, Fla., the Orlando Sentinel reports (Orlando Sentinel, 5/22).

Case Background

In June 2014, MMB Properties sought an injunction against the clinic, claiming that the facility was violating property restrictions in the Oak Commons Medical Park. Specifically, MMB alleged that the clinic was performing three practices -- operating as an outpatient surgical center, an emergency medical center and a diagnostic imaging center -- that are prohibited within the medical park under the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. In addition, the complaint said protests targeting the clinic have disrupted the medical businesses inside MMB's building and spurred patient complaints.

In July 2014, the Osceola County Court issued a temporary injunction that barred the clinic from offering abortion services or any other outpatient surgical services or emergency medical services (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/28/14). However, the 5th District Court of Appeals in September 2014 lifted the injunction, stating in its decision that Osceola County Court erred in its ruling.

Ruling Details

In the latest ruling, the 5th District Court of Appeals reversed its decision, ruling that "while the restriction is rather poorly drafted, it is not unclear. It prohibits the property from being used as an outpatient surgical center" (Reed, Osceola News-Gazette, 5/22).

Specifically, the court wrote, "The trial court's findings were that abortions are outpatient surgical procedures; that Planned Parenthood's facility is not a physician's practice of medicine; and, that even if the facility is operated as a physician's practice of medicine, its performance of abortions was not ancillary or incidental to that practice." They added, "Accepting these findings, we affirm the trial court's ultimate finding that MMB had a substantial likelihood of success in proving that Planned Parenthood's performance of abortions at the facility would violate the restrictive covenant" (Orlando Sentinel, 5/22).

Comments

Barbara Zdravecky, interim CEO at PPGO, said, "We are disappointed in today's ruling and will do everything we can to lift the temporary injunction." She added, "We will continue to provide a wide range of essential reproductive health services at our Kissimmee Health Center, including medication abortion, as we do everything we can to protect women's access to care in our community -- no matter what."

Meanwhile, Maureen Arago, an attorney who is representing MMB, said the company was pleased with the ruling (Osceola News-Gazette, 5/22).


Nev. Senate Panel Hears Parental Notification Bill

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:10

The Nevada Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday held a hearing on a bill (AB 405) that would mandate that physicians inform a minor's parent before performing an abortion, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports .

Nev. Senate Panel Hears Parental Notification Bill

May 27, 2015 — The Nevada Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday held a hearing on a bill (AB 405) that would mandate that physicians inform a minor's parent before performing an abortion, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Snyder, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

Bill Details

The bill, sponsored by state Assembly Speaker John Hambrick (R), would require a physician to notify parents of a minor's desire to have an abortion via a written notice delivered personally or by certified mail. Notification would have to be provided 48 hours prior to the procedure.

It would not apply to parents whose parental rights have been terminated or when the minor is experiencing a medical emergency, although the measure does not consider an emotional crisis as a medical emergency. In addition, minors could petition a court for an exemption to the notification requirement (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/21).

Bill Prospects

State Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Joe Hardy (R) said he favors the measure but that he will not present it for a floor vote until he has support for it to pass (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

The Nevada Assembly passed the measure in April. The bill was then referred to the state Senate Finance Committee, but committee Chair Ben Kieckhefer (R) at the time said the bill likely would not receive a hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/21). However, according to the AP/Chronicle, the bill last week was revived and scheduled for a hearing.

If the bill becomes law, Nevada would be the 39th state to implement either a parental consent or notification requirement for abortion, according to a Guttmacher Institute report.

Latest Debate

During debate, state Assembly member Ira Hansen (R) said the bill would help make state parental involvement laws consistent.

Separately, state Sen. Pat Spearman (D) said the bill could harm minors in abusive family relationships. She added, "What is it about the law that we have that stops them from telling a parent?"

Meanwhile, according to the AP/Chronicle, other opponents have said the notification requirement could result in minors taking drastic measures to conceal an abortion (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).


Texas Bill To Ban ACA Marketplace Abortion Coverage Dies in State House

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:09

The Texas House on Tuesday did not approve a bill (SB 575) that would have prohibited most abortion coverage in plans sold through the state's federally operated health insurance marketplace by a legislative deadline, effectively killing the measure for the legislative session, the Texas Tribune reports.

Texas Bill To Ban ACA Marketplace Abortion Coverage Dies in State House

May 27, 2015 — The Texas House on Tuesday did not approve a bill (SB 575) that would have prohibited most abortion coverage in plans sold through the state's federally operated health insurance marketplace by a legislative deadline, effectively killing the measure for the legislative session, the Texas Tribune reports.

According to the Tribune, the state House had until midnight Tuesday to approve any measures that began in the state Senate (Ura et al., Texas Tribune, 5/27).

Background

The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) allows states to determine whether plans sold through the marketplace will include abortion coverage. In states that permit abortion coverage, the law requires insurers to segregate funds collected for abortion coverage from other premiums.

Currently, Texas permits marketplace plans to include abortion coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/26). Overall, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 25 states restrict insurers from covering abortion in plans sold through the marketplace, with 10 of those states banning abortion coverage in all private plans (Guttmacher Institute factsheet, 5/1)

Bill Details

The original bill would have restricted abortion coverage in private insurance plans. However, the Texas House State Affairs Committee on Saturday amended the measure so that it would have applied only to marketplace plans.

Specifically, the bill would have allowed plans to cover abortion only when the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life or to prevent "substantial impairment of a major bodily function." The bill did not include exemptions for mental health risks. Further, the bill did not make exemptions for cases of rape or severe fetal anomalies.

To obtain coverage for an abortion that does not qualify as a medical emergency under the bill, women would have had to purchase supplemental insurance plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/26).

Bills Dies in State House, Possible Return Next Session

According to the Tribune, the bill died after state lawmakers who support abortion rights used procedural tactics to delay a vote on SB 575 and other measures until after the legislative deadline.

Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who wrote the bill, said it likely would be proposed again in the next legislative session (Ura et al., Texas Tribune, 5/27).


Calif. Assembly Approves Measure To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 18:08

The California Assembly on Tuesday voted 49-26 to approve a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, Reuters reports.

Calif. Assembly Approves Measure To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

May 27, 2015 — The California Assembly on Tuesday voted 49-26 to approve a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, Reuters reports.

The bill, which is supported by state Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), now heads to the state Senate for consideration, according to Allison Ruff, aide to Assembly member and bill co-author Autumn Burke (D) (Dobuzinskis, Reuters, 5/26).

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, 5/4).

There are about 200 CPCs in California (Reuters, 5/26). However, many of them are not licensed to provide medical care. The centers often operate through private funding, while some receive federal funding that has been set aside for abstinence programs.

Bill Details

The measure, which was introduced by Assembly members David Chiu (D) and Burke, 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, 5/4).

Comments

Burke said, "Women in California deserve to know about all of their options about family planning and reproductive health care so that they can make truly informed decisions."

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D), a former director of women's health clinics, said, "This is about protecting the health and safety of women, it's not about trampling on religious beliefs" (Nirappil, AP/U-T San Diego, 5/26).

Meanwhile, Sandra Palacios -- associate director of the California Catholic Conference, which opposes the legislation -- said CCC would support an effort to pursue litigation against the measure if it becomes law (Reuters, 5/26).


Texas Bill To Ban ACA Marketplace Abortion Coverage Dies in State House

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 14:37

The Texas House on Tuesday did not approve a bill (SB 575) that would have prohibited most abortion coverage in plans sold through the state's federally operated health insurance marketplace by a legislative deadline, effectively killing the measure for the legislative session, the Texas Tribune reports.

Texas Bill To Ban ACA Marketplace Abortion Coverage Dies in State House

May 27, 2015 — The Texas House on Tuesday did not approve a bill (SB 575) that would have prohibited most abortion coverage in plans sold through the state's federally operated health insurance marketplace by a legislative deadline, effectively killing the measure for the legislative session, the Texas Tribune reports.

According to the Tribune, the state House had until midnight Tuesday to approve any measures that began in the state Senate (Ura et al., Texas Tribune, 5/27).

Background

The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) allows states to determine whether plans sold through the marketplace will include abortion coverage. In states that permit abortion coverage, the law requires insurers to segregate funds collected for abortion coverage from other premiums.

Currently, Texas permits marketplace plans to include abortion coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/26). Overall, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 25 states restrict insurers from covering abortion in plans sold through the marketplace, with 10 of those states banning abortion coverage in all private plans (Guttmacher Institute factsheet, 5/1)

Bill Details

The original bill would have restricted abortion coverage in private insurance plans. However, the Texas House State Affairs Committee on Saturday amended the measure so that it would have applied only to marketplace plans.

Specifically, the bill would have allowed plans to cover abortion only when the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life or to prevent "substantial impairment of a major bodily function." The bill did not include exemptions for mental health risks. Further, the bill did not make exemptions for cases of rape or severe fetal anomalies.

To obtain coverage for an abortion that does not qualify as a medical emergency under the bill, women would have had to purchase supplemental insurance plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/26).

Bills Dies in State House, Possible Return Next Session

According to the Tribune, the bill died after state lawmakers who support abortion rights used procedural tactics to delay a vote on SB 575 and other measures until after the legislative deadline.

Sen. Larry Taylor (R), who wrote the bill, said it likely would be proposed again in the next legislative session (Ura et al., Texas Tribune, 5/27).


Appeals Court Reinstates Temporary Injunction Against Fla. Clinic

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 13:51

An appeals court on Friday ruled 2-1 to uphold a temporary injunction that prevents Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando from performing certain abortions at a medical park in Osceola, Fla., the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Appeals Court Reinstates Temporary Injunction Against Fla. Clinic

May 27, 2015 — An appeals court on Friday ruled 2-1 to uphold a temporary injunction that prevents Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando from performing certain abortions at a medical park in Osceola, Fla., the Orlando Sentinel reports (Orlando Sentinel, 5/22).

Case Background

In June 2014, MMB Properties sought an injunction against the clinic, claiming that the facility was violating property restrictions in the Oak Commons Medical Park. Specifically, MMB alleged that the clinic was performing three practices -- operating as an outpatient surgical center, an emergency medical center and a diagnostic imaging center -- that are prohibited within the medical park under the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. In addition, the complaint said protests targeting the clinic have disrupted the medical businesses inside MMB's building and spurred patient complaints.

In July 2014, the Osceola County Court issued a temporary injunction that barred the clinic from offering abortion services or any other outpatient surgical services or emergency medical services (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/28/14). However, the 5th District Court of Appeals in September 2014 lifted the injunction, stating in its decision that Osceola County Court erred in its ruling.

Ruling Details

In the latest ruling, the 5th District Court of Appeals reversed its decision, ruling that "while the restriction is rather poorly drafted, it is not unclear. It prohibits the property from being used as an outpatient surgical center" (Reed, Osceola News-Gazette, 5/22).

Specifically, the court wrote, "The trial court's findings were that abortions are outpatient surgical procedures; that Planned Parenthood's facility is not a physician's practice of medicine; and, that even if the facility is operated as a physician's practice of medicine, its performance of abortions was not ancillary or incidental to that practice." They added, "Accepting these findings, we affirm the trial court's ultimate finding that MMB had a substantial likelihood of success in proving that Planned Parenthood's performance of abortions at the facility would violate the restrictive covenant" (Orlando Sentinel, 5/22).

Comments

Barbara Zdravecky, interim CEO at PPGO, said, "We are disappointed in today's ruling and will do everything we can to lift the temporary injunction." She added, "We will continue to provide a wide range of essential reproductive health services at our Kissimmee Health Center, including medication abortion, as we do everything we can to protect women's access to care in our community -- no matter what."

Meanwhile, Maureen Arago, an attorney who is representing MMB, said the company was pleased with the ruling (Osceola News-Gazette, 5/22).


Calif. Assembly Approves Measure To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 13:49

The California Assembly on Tuesday voted 49-26 to approve a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, Reuters reports.

Calif. Assembly Approves Measure To Protect Against Crisis Pregnancy Centers' Misinformation

May 27, 2015 — The California Assembly on Tuesday voted 49-26 to approve a bill (AB 775) that aims to protect women from receiving certain misleading information from crisis pregnancy centers, Reuters reports.

The bill, which is supported by state Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), now heads to the state Senate for consideration, according to Allison Ruff, aide to Assembly member and bill co-author Autumn Burke (D) (Dobuzinskis, Reuters, 5/26).

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, 5/4).

There are about 200 CPCs in California (Reuters, 5/26). However, many of them are not licensed to provide medical care. The centers often operate through private funding, while some receive federal funding that has been set aside for abstinence programs.

Bill Details

The measure, which was introduced by Assembly members David Chiu (D) and Burke, 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, 5/4).

Comments

Burke said, "Women in California deserve to know about all of their options about family planning and reproductive health care so that they can make truly informed decisions."

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D), a former director of women's health clinics, said, "This is about protecting the health and safety of women, it's not about trampling on religious beliefs" (Nirappil, AP/U-T San Diego, 5/26).

Meanwhile, Sandra Palacios -- associate director of the California Catholic Conference, which opposes the legislation -- said CCC would support an effort to pursue litigation against the measure if it becomes law (Reuters, 5/26).


Nev. Senate Panel Hears Parental Notification Bill

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 13:47

The Nevada Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday held a hearing on a bill (AB 405) that would mandate that physicians inform a minor's parent before performing an abortion, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports .

Nev. Senate Panel Hears Parental Notification Bill

May 27, 2015 — The Nevada Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday held a hearing on a bill (AB 405) that would mandate that physicians inform a minor's parent before performing an abortion, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Snyder, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

Bill Details

The bill, sponsored by state Assembly Speaker John Hambrick (R), would require a physician to notify parents of a minor's desire to have an abortion via a written notice delivered personally or by certified mail. Notification would have to be provided 48 hours prior to the procedure.

It would not apply to parents whose parental rights have been terminated or when the minor is experiencing a medical emergency, although the measure does not consider an emotional crisis as a medical emergency. In addition, minors could petition a court for an exemption to the notification requirement (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/21).

Bill Prospects

State Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Joe Hardy (R) said he favors the measure but that he will not present it for a floor vote until he has support for it to pass (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

The Nevada Assembly passed the measure in April. The bill was then referred to the state Senate Finance Committee, but committee Chair Ben Kieckhefer (R) at the time said the bill likely would not receive a hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/21). However, according to the AP/Chronicle, the bill last week was revived and scheduled for a hearing.

If the bill becomes law, Nevada would be the 39th state to implement either a parental consent or notification requirement for abortion, according to a Guttmacher Institute report.

Latest Debate

During debate, state Assembly member Ira Hansen (R) said the bill would help make state parental involvement laws consistent.

Separately, state Sen. Pat Spearman (D) said the bill could harm minors in abusive family relationships. She added, "What is it about the law that we have that stops them from telling a parent?"

Meanwhile, according to the AP/Chronicle, other opponents have said the notification requirement could result in minors taking drastic measures to conceal an abortion (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).


Advocates Say Bill Aiming To Expand OTC Contraceptive Access Would Increase Costs for Women

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 13:43

Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Thursday introduced legislation that would incentivize pharmaceutical companies that make "routine-use contraceptives" to apply for an FDA waiver to allow the products to be sold over-the-counter, the Denver Post's "The Spot" reports.

Advocates Say Bill Aiming To Expand OTC Contraceptive Access Would Increase Costs for Women

May 27, 2015 — Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Thursday introduced legislation that would incentivize pharmaceutical companies that make "routine-use contraceptives" to apply for an FDA waiver to allow the products to be sold over-the-counter, the Denver Post's "The Spot" reports (Bartels, "The Spot," Denver Post, 5/21).

Bill Details

Under the measure, FDA filing fees for such applications would be waived, and FDA would prioritize them for review (Bassett, Huffington Post, 5/22). In addition, the bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) prohibitions on the use of health, medical and flexible savings accounts to purchase OTC contraceptives ("The Spot," Denver Post, 5/21).

According to the Huffington Post, the measure effectively would eliminate the ACA's requirements that health plans offer contraceptives at no cost, since the law's contraceptive coverage rules apply only to contraceptives that require prescriptions. As a result, insurers under the bill would not have to cover OTC contraception.

Women's Health Advocates, Medical Group Voice Concerns

Several health groups spoke out against the bill, voicing concerns that it could increases costs for women, the Huffington Post reports.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards in a statement said her group "supports expanding access to birth control, which means making it available [OTC] and also requiring it to be covered by insurance, so that it is affordable for all women." She called the bill a "sham" that "would actually restrict women's choices and cost women more money."

Similarly, Mark DeFrancesco, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the bill would "make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive." He added that while ACOG supports increasing access to contraception, it "cannot support a plan that creates one route to access at the expense of another, more helpful route" (Huffington Post, 5/22).

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue in a statement called the bill deceptive, noting that the measure intends to make voters think "these anti-choice legislators are on the side of women, when their track records tell a starkly different story." She said, "This legislation hurts women by making affordable birth control less accessible while forcing women to pay twice for the same services" (Bartels, "The Spot," Denver Post, 5/22).


Former U.S. Surgeons General Call for Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Sex Ed

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 13:41

In a Washington Post opinion piece, Richard Carmona, Joycelyn Elders and David Satcher -- the 17th, 15th and 16th U.S. surgeons general, respectively -- tout "significant strides" in sexual health and sexuality education that have been made in the U.S. over the past 20 years, but they note there is room for further improvement.

Former U.S. Surgeons General Call for Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Sex Ed

May 27, 2015 — In a Washington Post opinion piece, Richard Carmona, Joycelyn Elders and David Satcher -- the 17th, 15th and 16th U.S. surgeons general, respectively -- tout "significant strides" in sexual health and sexuality education that have been made in the U.S. over the past 20 years, but they note there is room for further improvement.

For example, they write that while the birth rate among U.S. "teenagers has declined more than 50 percent since 1991, and the rate of new HIV infections has finally leveled off," the U.S. "continues to have one of the highest teen birth rates and some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted [infection] in the industrialized world." Specifically, about "70 teenagers become pregnant, 1,100 youth acquire an ST[I] and one young person contracts HIV" hourly in the U.S., according to the former surgeons general.

They write, "Perhaps most distressing is that our national response continues to misunderstand the challenge." They note that Congress last month voted to "increas[e] to $75 million a year funding for programs that promote sexual abstinence until marriage," despite a federally funded analysis that found such programs "have no impact on delaying sexual initiation or reducing the risk for unintended pregnancy, HIV or other ST[I]s."

The former surgeons general note that 30 "years of public health research demonstrates that comprehensive sex education is effective" and "can provide young people with the information and skills they need to reduce their risk for unplanned pregnancy and ST[I]s." Further, "quality sex education can go beyond the promotion of abstinence or even the prevention of unplanned pregnancy and disease to provide a lifelong foundation for sexual health," they write, noting that such programs can "help young people traverse puberty, understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, develop positive body image, communicate effectively, make informed decisions and navigate the health-care system."

Although their previous calls for comprehensive sex education funding were "largely ignored," the former surgeons general write that they "once again" are calling "for a renewed commitment to the sexual education of our youth," including "age-appropriate, medically accurate, evidence-informed and comprehensive school-based sexual health education for young people" (Carmona et al., Washington Post, 5/22).


Featured Blog

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 19:37

"Will a 48-Hour Wait for Abortion in Tennessee Hold up in Court?" (Mary, Care2, 5/20).

May 26, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Will a 48-Hour Wait for Abortion in Tennessee Hold up in Court?" Robin Marty, Care2: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has signed into law a new mandatory delay measure (SB 1222) that "forc[es] a patient seeking out an abortion to make two separate clinic visits at least 48 hours apart," Marty writes. Marty notes that the law is the "first attempt to test" a new amendment to the state constitution, which "states that Tennessee does not recognize a right to an abortion, a change that abortion opponents hope will now allow legislative restrictions on the procedure to stand up in court." Further, antiabortion-rights lawmakers in the state have planned for the possibility that the 48-hour delay could be blocked by a court challenge, Marty notes, explaining that lawmakers added "a trigger into the legislation that would immediately scale the 48 hour wait into a 24 hour one, a requirement that has already been upheld by the courts and so would be unlikely to be enjoined." Marty writes that, "In all likelihood, as of July 1, Tennessee as a state will mandate two trips to an abortion clinic, with appointments at least 24 hours apart if not more." She notes that the law would be a "massive encumbrance not just to the people of Tennessee seeking terminations, but [also to] those in Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and other surrounding states who ... go to Tennessee" for abortion care (Mary, Care2, 5/20).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Abortion Providers Are Not Sex Offenders -- No Matter What the Alabama Legislature Implies," Stephanie Gilmore, RH Reality Check.

Kansas Senate Approves Bill Modifying Telemedicine Abortion Ban

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 19:36

The Kansas Senate last week voted 39-0 to pass a bill (SB 304) that changes the language of a 2011 telemedicine abortion ban (SB 36) in an effort to resolve litigation against the law, AP/KSN reports.

Kansas Senate Approves Bill Modifying Telemedicine Abortion Ban

May 26, 2015 — The Kansas Senate last week voted 39-0 to pass a bill (SB 304) that changes the language of a 2011 telemedicine abortion ban (SB 36) in an effort to resolve litigation against the law, AP/KSN reports.

The measure now proceeds to the state House (Bassham, AP/KSN, 5/21).

Background

SB 36, which was signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2011, requires that medication abortion be administered in the presence of a physician and encourages patients to return to the physician between 12 and 18 days after completing a medication abortion regimen.

The bill also authorizes the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to write standards for buildings and equipment, issue annual licenses for abortion clinics, fine clinics for non-compliance and go to court to close clinics. Further, it requires the state's abortion clinics to be inspected twice annually, with at least one of the inspections being unannounced; mandates that at least two people -- one of whom must be a woman -- other than the patient be in the room during a pelvic exam or abortion; and requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at an accredited hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law on behalf of two physicians, Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, who argue that the legislation is unnecessary, burdensome and intended to discourage physicians from performing abortions. Judges have blocked the law from taking effect.

New Legislation

The new bill would amend the 2011 law to clarify that the requirement that a physician be in the room with the patient when administering medication abortion would not apply in cases of medical emergencies.

State Chief Deputy Attorney General Jeff Chanay said enacting the legislation would allow the state to "resolve some contested issues and narrow the scope of the existing litigation."

However, CRR senior counsel Stephanie Toti said the proposed change to the 2011 law would "multiply the issues in the lawsuit." She said it would not solve the constitutional issues with the legislation, including that the requirements for physicians often are not "medically appropriate" and that they hinder the ability of women to receive care (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/15).


Texas Legislature Advances Bills Adding Restrictions to Parental Involvement Law, Banning Abortion Coverage

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 19:36

The Texas Senate on Monday voted 21-10 to give preliminary approval to a bill (HB 3994) that would tighten a state law permitting pregnant minors to obtain a court's permission to have an abortion instead of obtaining parental consent for the procedure, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Texas Legislature Advances Bills Adding Restrictions to Parental Involvement Law, Banning Abortion Coverage

May 26, 2015 — The Texas Senate on Monday voted 21-10 to give preliminary approval to a bill (HB 3994) that would tighten a state law permitting pregnant minors to obtain a court's permission to have an abortion instead of obtaining parental consent for the procedure, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Moravec, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

The measure is expected to pass the chamber after a final vote later this week (McSwane, Austin American-Statesman, 5/25). According to the AP/Chronicle, the measure has already cleared the state House, but state lawmakers will have to agree on changes made to the legislation before submitting it to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

Background

Currently, minors can apply for a judicial bypass in any Texas county. Minors seeking judicial bypass must prove at least one of three grounds: that they are well-informed and mature enough to obtain an abortion without parental notification; that it is not in their best interests to notify their parents of the procedure; or that notifying their parents would cause emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

HB 3994 would require minors to apply for bypass in their county of residence, an adjacent county if their home county has fewer than 10,000 residents or in the county in which they plan to have the procedure. In addition, the bill would increase the burden of proof that minors face when claiming that obtaining parental consent for abortion would lead to emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

The bill was amended so that a judge is required to rule on a minor's request within five days, and a request is considered denied if the judge does not issue a ruling in that time frame. By contrast, judges currently are required to rule on such petitions within two days, at which time the request is considered approved absent a judge's ruling.

Meanwhile, the bill also was amended to remove a provision that would have made public the names of judges who decide judicial bypass cases (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/21).

ID Provision Amended, Other Amendments Voted Down

State Sen. Charles Perry (R), who sponsored the legislation, amended a provision that would have required physicians to presume women were minors until they provided government-issued identification showing otherwise.

Under the new language, physicians still would be required to assume pregnant women are minors and request that they show proof of identification. However, physicians would be allowed to perform abortions without a woman providing an ID. In such cases, physicians would be required to provide a report to the state on the abortion (Mekelburg, Houston Chronicle, 5/25).

Further, according to the AP/Chronicle, Canadian and U.S. driver's licenses would be acceptable forms of identification to verify a woman's identity and age under the provision, although a driver's license from Mexico would not be acceptable (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

Meanwhile, state lawmakers who support abortion rights proposed 14 amendments during debate over the measure on Monday. All the amendments were voted down 21-10 (Houston Chronicle, 5/25).

Opponents Cite Constitutional Concerns, Consider Legal Action

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) said the provision in the measure that extends the timeframe for a judge's ruling "infringes upon constitutional rights." According to the AP/Chronicle, the Supreme Court has ruled that parents may not exercise absolute veto power over a minor's abortion decision and that courts must rule on such cases promptly.

Similarly, Jane's Due Process Legal Director Susan Hays said, "The bill is rife with constitutional problems." The group said that it could pursue legal action against the measure if it becomes law (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

State House Committee Advances Abortion Coverage Ban

In related news, the Texas House Calendars Committee on Sunday voted 8-0 to advance a bill (SB 575) that would prohibit most abortion coverage in plans sold through the state's federally operated health insurance marketplace, the Texas Tribune reports.

The measure now heads to the full state House for consideration (Ura/Aguilar, Texas Tribune, 5/24).

Background

The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) allows states to determine whether plans sold through the marketplace will include abortion coverage. In states that permit abortion coverage, the law requires insurers to segregate funds collected for abortion coverage from other premiums.

Currently, Texas permits marketplace plans to include abortion coverage. Overall, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, insurers in 10 states are banned from covering abortion, and 15 states prohibit insurers from covering abortion in plans sold through the marketplace (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/6).

Bill Details

On Saturday in a 7-1 vote, the Texas House State Affairs Committee amended the measure so that it would apply only to marketplace plans. The original bill also would have restricted abortion coverage in private insurance plans (Ura, Texas Tribune, 5/23).

Specifically, the bill would allow plans to cover abortion only when the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life or to prevent "substantial impairment of a major bodily function." The bill does not include exemptions for mental health risks. Further, the bill does not make exemptions for cases of rape or severe fetal anomalies.

To obtain coverage for an abortion that does not qualify as a medical emergency under the bill, women would have to purchase supplemental insurance plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/6).

Vote Details

According to the Tribune, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) said he and state Rep. Byron Cook (R) reached an agreement ensuring that state House lawmakers would advance SB 575 to the full chamber. Specifically, Stickland said he would not file an amendment banning abortions sought because of fetal anomalies into an unrelated bill (SB 200) provided SB 575 moved forward.

The Texas House State Affairs Committee advanced the measure, but the state House Calendars Committee originally voted down the bill, with Cook, a supporter of the legislation, saying that "women sent a clear message that they weren't comfortable with this legislation." However, the Calendars Committee later reconvened and passed the bill. According to the Tribune, the second vote was held without six of the seven members who originally voted against the bill (Texas Tribune, 5/24).


Abortion-Rights Advocates Rally Against Ala. Restrictions

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 19:36

About 100 abortion-rights advocates rallied in Montgomery, Ala., last week to speak out against three antiabortion-rights bills pending in the state Legislature, AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Abortion-Rights Advocates Rally Against Ala. Restrictions

May 26, 2015 — About 100 abortion-rights advocates rallied in Montgomery, Ala., last week to speak out against three antiabortion-rights bills pending in the state Legislature, AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The rally was organized by Planned Parenthood Southeast (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/20).

Bill Details

One of the bills (HB 527) filed by state Rep. Ed Henry (R), would prohibit the state Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing health center licenses to abortion or reproductive health clinics located within 2,000 feet of a public school's campus or property.

Another bill (HB 405) would require physicians to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion and make it illegal to perform an abortion if a heartbeat can be detected. Currently, the state permits abortion until 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the bill could prohibit abortion as early as six weeks' gestation. The state House passed a similar ban last year, but it did not advance in the state Senate.

The third bill (HB 491) would allow most health care providers to refuse to perform medical services to which they have personal objections.

All three measures currently are being considered by the full state House (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/8).

Comments

PPS Medical Director Didi Saint-Louis said, "We want [lawmakers] to step out of the exam room." She added, "Let the women of the great state of Alabama make the decisions for themselves as to how they are going to take care of themselves" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/20).

Meanwhile, Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy at PPS, said the heartbeat ban could prohibit abortion at a point when "most women don't" know they are pregnant.

Williams also condemned the abortion clinic licensing restrictions (Walsh, ABC 33/40, 5/20). She noted that it could close all but one of the five clinics in the state, as the definition of schools could apply to universities (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/20).


Blogs Comment on 'Massive Encumbrance' of Tenn.'s Mandatory Delay, Threat of Religious Refusal Laws, More

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 17:03

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Care2, National Women's Law Center Blog "Womenstake" and more.

Blogs Comment on 'Massive Encumbrance' of Tenn.'s Mandatory Delay, Threat of Religious Refusal Laws, More

May 26, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Care2, National Women's Law Center Blog "Womenstake" and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Will a 48-Hour Wait for Abortion in Tennessee Hold up in Court?" Robin Marty, Care2: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has signed into law a new mandatory delay measure (SB 1222) that "forc[es] a patient seeking out an abortion to make two separate clinic visits at least 48 hours apart," Marty writes. Marty notes that the law is the "first attempt to test" a new amendment to the state constitution, which "states that Tennessee does not recognize a right to an abortion, a change that abortion opponents hope will now allow legislative restrictions on the procedure to stand up in court." Further, antiabortion-rights lawmakers in the state have planned for the possibility that the 48-hour delay could be blocked by a court challenge, Marty notes, explaining that lawmakers added "a trigger into the legislation that would immediately scale the 48 hour wait into a 24 hour one, a requirement that has already been upheld by the courts and so would be unlikely to be enjoined." Marty writes that, "In all likelihood, as of July 1, Tennessee as a state will mandate two trips to an abortion clinic, with appointments at least 24 hours apart if not more." She notes that the law would be a "massive encumbrance not just to the people of Tennessee seeking terminations, but [also to] those in Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and other surrounding states who ... go to Tennessee" for abortion care (Mary, Care2, 5/20).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Abortion Providers Are Not Sex Offenders -- No Matter What the Alabama Legislature Implies," Stephanie Gilmore, RH Reality Check.

RELIGIOUS REFUSAL LAWS: "Religious Refusal Laws Threaten Access to Health Care," Kelli Garcia, National Women's Law Center Blog "Womenstake": "Rather than doing all we can to ensure that everyone gets the care they need, without judgment or stigma, there is instead a movement to allow people to refuse to provide health care," Garcia, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, writes. Garcia highlights the effect that such care refusal laws have on people with HIV/AIDS, noting that while "[m]any of these laws target reproductive health care," measures also "are being introduced that would allow people to refuse to provide any service to which they object." Further, she notes that "efforts to enshrine new refusal rights in state law are taking place alongside other efforts to allow the use of religion to discriminate," pointing out that "the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [PL 103-141] ... was used to allow certain for-profit companies to refuse to follow the federal law requiring insurance coverage of birth control" and that 21 states "have their own version of [RFRA]." Garcia urges public health officials to advocate against such legislation, writing, "Laws that allow people to claim exemptions based on their religious beliefs contribute to an atmosphere of fear and mistrust that discourages people from seeking health care services and exacerbate existing health disparities" (Garcia, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center, 5/22).

CONTRACEPTION: "GOP Introduces 'Sham' Birth Control Access Bill," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "Women's health advocates are harshly criticizing a new bill [SB 1438] sponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner [R-Col.] and Kelly Ayotte [R-N.H.] intended to help make birth control available over the counter (OTC), calling it a cynical move that would make birth control less affordable," Crockett writes. She notes that, according to Gardner's website, the proposed legislation "would waive [FDA's] filing fee and expedite the application review process to encourage manufacturers of 'routine-use contraceptives' to apply to" FDA for OTC status. However, Planned Parenthood Federation of American President Cecile Richards called the measure "'a sham and an insult to women,'" which would "'give women fewer birth control options and force women to pay twice for their birth control.'" In addition, although the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists "supports [OTC] birth control access," the group's president, Mark DeFrancesco, "came out strongly against the new bill, saying that it would undermine the gains of the Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148] that have expanded access to contraception by making it available to women at no extra cost" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 5/22).

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Strikethrough (Fatality)," David Cohen/Krysten Connon, Slate's "Jurisprudence": Cohen and Connon, authors of the book, "Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism," discuss how tactics developed by the late abortion-rights opponent Neal Horsley are being used "to harass and terrorize abortion providers to this day." According to Cohen and Connon, Horsley created a website that listed information about abortion providers that "celebrated providers' deaths and ...encouraged others to harm the remaining providers," making providers "fear for their lives." They write that while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shut down the website, ruling that it was "part of a threat not protected by the First Amendment," abortion providers continue to face the same sort of threats today because abortion-rights opponents still frequently distribute providers' "personal information online." Cohen and Connon note that the fear provoked by such tactics "is justified," given that at least "eight abortion providers have been murdered because of their jobs" since 1993. However, they note that the "issue of what constitutes a 'threat' and is thus not constitutionally protected free speech is currently before the Supreme Court" in Elonis v. United States, which "could have big implications for abortion providers who live with the ongoing legacy of Horsley's online threats." Meanwhile, the authors note that the majority of providers have "continu[ed] despite the threats" and "remain committed to their patients, to women's rights, and to public health" (Cohen/Connon, "Jurisprudence," Slate, 5/21).

GLOBAL: "Ireland Legalizes Gay Marriage, But Abortion Rights Remain Non-Existent," Lauren Barbato, Bustle: "Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a national vote," making it "a vanguard of progressive politics on the gay rights front," but "the nation is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to reproductive rights," Barbato writes. She notes that reproductive rights in the country "remai[n] marred in Ireland's austere Catholic tradition," with abortion being illegal in all instances except when a woman's life is in danger and banned in an amendment to the country's Constitution. According to Barbato, while "gay rights accelerated throughout Ireland" over the past 20 years, "abortion remains illegal ... [a]nd the burdens placed on abortion-seeking women, whether underage rape victims, patients suffering serious pregnancy complications, or everyday women who want to terminate a pregnancy, haven’t eased all that much." She writes, "Ireland's fledgling progressive movement mirrors the United States: As LGBT rights gain new, unprecedented ground, reproductive rights has fallen by the wayside." Additionally, in both the U.S. and Ireland "wads of red tape and legal bans remain." However, she notes that "there is hope that when Irish voters go to the polls in the near future, they will be voting to repeal" the constitutional abortion ban, as the Irish Labour party has said its "2016 platform will include the right to a legal abortion" (Barbato, Bustle, 5/24).


Kansas Senate Approves Bill Modifying Telemedicine Abortion Ban

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 16:09

The Kansas Senate last week voted 39-0 to pass a bill (SB 304) that changes the language of a 2011 telemedicine abortion ban (SB 36) in an effort to resolve litigation against the law, AP/KSN reports.

Kansas Senate Approves Bill Modifying Telemedicine Abortion Ban

May 26, 2015 — The Kansas Senate last week voted 39-0 to pass a bill (SB 304) that changes the language of a 2011 telemedicine abortion ban (SB 36) in an effort to resolve litigation against the law, AP/KSN reports.

The measure now proceeds to the state House (Bassham, AP/KSN, 5/21).

Background

SB 36, which was signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2011, requires that medication abortion be administered in the presence of a physician and encourages patients to return to the physician between 12 and 18 days after completing a medication abortion regimen.

The bill also authorizes the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to write standards for buildings and equipment, issue annual licenses for abortion clinics, fine clinics for non-compliance and go to court to close clinics. Further, it requires the state's abortion clinics to be inspected twice annually, with at least one of the inspections being unannounced; mandates that at least two people -- one of whom must be a woman -- other than the patient be in the room during a pelvic exam or abortion; and requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at an accredited hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law on behalf of two physicians, Herbert Hodes and Traci Nauser, who argue that the legislation is unnecessary, burdensome and intended to discourage physicians from performing abortions. Judges have blocked the law from taking effect.

New Legislation

The new bill would amend the 2011 law to clarify that the requirement that a physician be in the room with the patient when administering medication abortion would not apply in cases of medical emergencies.

State Chief Deputy Attorney General Jeff Chanay said enacting the legislation would allow the state to "resolve some contested issues and narrow the scope of the existing litigation."

However, CRR senior counsel Stephanie Toti said the proposed change to the 2011 law would "multiply the issues in the lawsuit." She said it would not solve the constitutional issues with the legislation, including that the requirements for physicians often are not "medically appropriate" and that they hinder the ability of women to receive care (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/15).


Texas Legislature Advances Bills Adding Restrictions to Parental Involvement Law, Banning Abortion Coverage

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 16:05

The Texas Senate on Monday voted 21-10 to give preliminary approval to a bill (HB 3994) that would tighten a state law permitting pregnant minors to obtain a court's permission to have an abortion instead of obtaining parental consent for the procedure, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Texas Legislature Advances Bills Adding Restrictions to Parental Involvement Law, Banning Abortion Coverage

May 26, 2015 — The Texas Senate on Monday voted 21-10 to give preliminary approval to a bill (HB 3994) that would tighten a state law permitting pregnant minors to obtain a court's permission to have an abortion instead of obtaining parental consent for the procedure, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Moravec, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

The measure is expected to pass the chamber after a final vote later this week (McSwane, Austin American-Statesman, 5/25). According to the AP/Chronicle, the measure has already cleared the state House, but state lawmakers will have to agree on changes made to the legislation before submitting it to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

Background

Currently, minors can apply for a judicial bypass in any Texas county. Minors seeking judicial bypass must prove at least one of three grounds: that they are well-informed and mature enough to obtain an abortion without parental notification; that it is not in their best interests to notify their parents of the procedure; or that notifying their parents would cause emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

HB 3994 would require minors to apply for bypass in their county of residence, an adjacent county if their home county has fewer than 10,000 residents or in the county in which they plan to have the procedure. In addition, the bill would increase the burden of proof that minors face when claiming that obtaining parental consent for abortion would lead to emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

The bill was amended so that a judge is required to rule on a minor's request within five days, and a request is considered denied if the judge does not issue a ruling in that time frame. By contrast, judges currently are required to rule on such petitions within two days, at which time the request is considered approved absent a judge's ruling.

Meanwhile, the bill also was amended to remove a provision that would have made public the names of judges who decide judicial bypass cases (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/21).

ID Provision Amended, Other Amendments Voted Down

State Sen. Charles Perry (R), who sponsored the legislation, amended a provision that would have required physicians to presume women were minors until they provided government-issued identification showing otherwise.

Under the new language, physicians still would be required to assume pregnant women are minors and request that they show proof of identification. However, physicians would be allowed to perform abortions without a woman providing an ID. In such cases, physicians would be required to provide a report to the state on the abortion (Mekelburg, Houston Chronicle, 5/25).

Further, according to the AP/Chronicle, Canadian and U.S. driver's licenses would be acceptable forms of identification to verify a woman's identity and age under the provision, although a driver's license from Mexico would not be acceptable (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

Meanwhile, state lawmakers who support abortion rights proposed 14 amendments during debate over the measure on Monday. All the amendments were voted down 21-10 (Houston Chronicle, 5/25).

Opponents Cite Constitutional Concerns, Consider Legal Action

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D) said the provision in the measure that extends the timeframe for a judge's ruling "infringes upon constitutional rights." According to the AP/Chronicle, the Supreme Court has ruled that parents may not exercise absolute veto power over a minor's abortion decision and that courts must rule on such cases promptly.

Similarly, Jane's Due Process Legal Director Susan Hays said, "The bill is rife with constitutional problems." The group said that it could pursue legal action against the measure if it becomes law (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/25).

State House Committee Advances Abortion Coverage Ban

In related news, the Texas House Calendars Committee on Sunday voted 8-0 to advance a bill (SB 575) that would prohibit most abortion coverage in plans sold through the state's federally operated health insurance marketplace, the Texas Tribune reports.

The measure now heads to the full state House for consideration (Ura/Aguilar, Texas Tribune, 5/24).

Background

The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) allows states to determine whether plans sold through the marketplace will include abortion coverage. In states that permit abortion coverage, the law requires insurers to segregate funds collected for abortion coverage from other premiums.

Currently, Texas permits marketplace plans to include abortion coverage. Overall, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, insurers in 10 states are banned from covering abortion, and 15 states prohibit insurers from covering abortion in plans sold through the marketplace (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/6).

Bill Details

On Saturday in a 7-1 vote, the Texas House State Affairs Committee amended the measure so that it would apply only to marketplace plans. The original bill also would have restricted abortion coverage in private insurance plans (Ura, Texas Tribune, 5/23).

Specifically, the bill would allow plans to cover abortion only when the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life or to prevent "substantial impairment of a major bodily function." The bill does not include exemptions for mental health risks. Further, the bill does not make exemptions for cases of rape or severe fetal anomalies.

To obtain coverage for an abortion that does not qualify as a medical emergency under the bill, women would have to purchase supplemental insurance plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/6).

Vote Details

According to the Tribune, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) said he and state Rep. Byron Cook (R) reached an agreement ensuring that state House lawmakers would advance SB 575 to the full chamber. Specifically, Stickland said he would not file an amendment banning abortions sought because of fetal anomalies into an unrelated bill (SB 200) provided SB 575 moved forward.

The Texas House State Affairs Committee advanced the measure, but the state House Calendars Committee originally voted down the bill, with Cook, a supporter of the legislation, saying that "women sent a clear message that they weren't comfortable with this legislation." However, the Calendars Committee later reconvened and passed the bill. According to the Tribune, the second vote was held without six of the seven members who originally voted against the bill (Texas Tribune, 5/24).


Full D.C. Circuit Rejects Request To Rehear Challenge to ACA's Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:27

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday denied a request from Priests for Life to rehear a challenge to the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Washington Times reports.

Full D.C. Circuit Rejects Request To Rehear Challenge to ACA's Contraceptive Coverage Rules

May 26, 2015 — The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday denied a request from Priests for Life to rehear a challenge to the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Washington Times reports (Howell, Washington Times, 5/20).

Case Background

Priests for Life objects to an accommodation under the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules that applies to not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious and oppose contraception.

The accommodation enables such not-for-profits to notify their insurers or third-party administrators of their objection so the insurers or third-party administrators can facilitate contraceptive coverage for members of their health plans. To claim the accommodation, the not-for-profits can either complete a form to send to the insurers or third-party administrators or send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans.

In November 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously ruled that the accommodation does not substantially burden the religious beliefs of PFL in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141).

PFL appealed the decision to the full court, arguing that the three-judge panel's decision violated the Supreme Court's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Meanwhile, attorneys for the Obama administration in response told the appeals court that PFL should not be granted any further accommodations under the contraceptive coverage rules because not-for-profits already are extended several accommodations for which Hobby Lobby, as a for-profit company, was not eligible (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/20).

Details of Latest Ruling

A majority of the D.C. circuit's judges rejected PFL's request to rehear the case.

Judge Nina Pillard wrote for the court that the accommodation "allows Plaintiffs to continue to do just what they did before the [ACA]: notify their insurers of their sincere religious objection to contraception, and arrange for contraception to be excluded from the health insurance coverage they provide." She added, "The dispute we resolved is legal, not religious."

Two D.C. circuit's judges dissented, saying they thought the full circuit court should hear PFL's case (Washington Times, 5/20).


Abortion-Rights Advocates Rally Against Ala. Restrictions

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:24

About 100 abortion-rights advocates rallied in Montgomery, Ala., last week to speak out against three antiabortion-rights bills pending in the state Legislature, AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Abortion-Rights Advocates Rally Against Ala. Restrictions

May 26, 2015 — About 100 abortion-rights advocates rallied in Montgomery, Ala., last week to speak out against three antiabortion-rights bills pending in the state Legislature, AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The rally was organized by Planned Parenthood Southeast (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/20).

Bill Details

One of the bills (HB 527) filed by state Rep. Ed Henry (R), would prohibit the state Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing health center licenses to abortion or reproductive health clinics located within 2,000 feet of a public school's campus or property.

Another bill (HB 405) would require physicians to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion and make it illegal to perform an abortion if a heartbeat can be detected. Currently, the state permits abortion until 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the bill could prohibit abortion as early as six weeks' gestation. The state House passed a similar ban last year, but it did not advance in the state Senate.

The third bill (HB 491) would allow most health care providers to refuse to perform medical services to which they have personal objections.

All three measures currently are being considered by the full state House (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/8).

Comments

PPS Medical Director Didi Saint-Louis said, "We want [lawmakers] to step out of the exam room." She added, "Let the women of the great state of Alabama make the decisions for themselves as to how they are going to take care of themselves" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/20).

Meanwhile, Nikema Williams, vice president of public policy at PPS, said the heartbeat ban could prohibit abortion at a point when "most women don't" know they are pregnant.

Williams also condemned the abortion clinic licensing restrictions (Walsh, ABC 33/40, 5/20). She noted that it could close all but one of the five clinics in the state, as the definition of schools could apply to universities (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/20).


Video Round Up: Anti-Choice Agenda Advancing on State, Federal Level; Abortion Providers Face Ongoing Harassment

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 18:02

In today's clips, Democracy Now's Amy Goodman discusses the 20-week abortion ban that passed in the House last week. Elsewhere, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry examines the continued harassment affecting abortion providers as they try to do their jobs.

Video Round Up: Anti-Choice Agenda Advancing on State, Federal Level; Abortion Providers Face Ongoing Harassment

May 21, 2015 — In today's clips, Democracy Now's Amy Goodman discusses the 20-week abortion ban that passed in the House last week. Elsewhere, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry examines the continued harassment affecting abortion providers as they try to do their jobs.



Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, discuss the 20-week abortion ban (HR 36) that recently passed the House, as well as the onslaught of state restrictions demonstrating abortion rights opponents "remain determined to advance an anti-choice agenda on the national level, as they do so in the states."

According to Richards, state restrictions, which are being introduced in "record numbers ... all across the country," are even "worse" than what is happening on the federal level, including "not only 20-week bans ... but [also] restrictions on abortion providers [and] waiting periods for women as if they can't make their own decisions without the intervention of politicians." She adds, "[I]t's very, very difficult. I think we're really seeing the results of the midterm elections" (Goodman, Democracy Now, 5/19).




MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry in "Lean Forward" interviews authors David Cohen and Krysten Connon about their book, "Living in the Crosshairs," which details the harassment experienced by abortion providers.

In the interview, Cohen notes that the harassment is "an ongoing problem for abortion providers across the country," adding that some providers "are living ... in fear of having people come to their home; ... their children being stalked at schools; death threats through the mail, on the phone; being followed to and from work." Further, Cohen and Connon compare the acts of antiabortion-rights protesters to terrorism, with Cohen noting that extremists, who seek the "complete abolition of abortion," turn to "extra-legal means and these intimidation means to try and accomplish what they can't in the political arena, and that is one of the definitions of terrorism" (Harris-Perry, MSNBC, 5/9).