Daily Women's Health Policy Report

Syndicate content
Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 59 min 40 sec ago

More Women Sharing Abortion Stories To Destigmatize Procedure

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 16:09

More U.S. women are publicly sharing their abortion experiences, which has begun to help reduce stigma tied to the procedure and spur "a much needed conversation among Americans," Good magazine reports.

More Women Sharing Abortion Stories To Destigmatize Procedure

October 22, 2014 — More U.S. women are publicly sharing their abortion experiences, which has begun to help reduce stigma tied to the procedure and spur "a much needed conversation among Americans," Good magazine reports.

Good profiles the Not Alone project, a website for men and women to share videos and written versions of their abortion stories. The founders of the website were inspired to create the online platform after watching Texas gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis filibuster a Texas antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2) that later became law.

Power of Abortion Stories

Not Alone project co-founder Sherry Merfish said, "By telling your story to anyone, you are combating the stigma. You are eradicating stigma as a woman who is open about her life and instructs others to do the same." She added, "So that the next time someone says the word 'abortion,' the hope is that that person you told won't think about the proverbial bloody fetus, they instead will think about you: a person who they love and respect and made this decision."

Merfish noted that although about 30% of U.S. women have an abortion by age 45, many women who shared stories "thought that they were the only one they knew who had had an abortion," which is "clearly not the case." She urged "women from all sectors -- from the public sector, yes, politicians, private sector, [to tell] their stories in a way that makes this a conversation people can have without regret, fear, or shame."

Emily Letts, a New Jersey abortion counselor and co-founder of the Not Alone project, said, "I think there seriously is a shift that we're seeing through politicians coming out and telling their story, [and] through the movie Obvious Child." Letts drew attention earlier this year after creating a video documenting her abortion and posting it online.

Good also notes that some antiabortion-rights politicians, such as Texas state House candidate Molly White (R), have also shared personal abortion stories and put forward scientifically unproven claims.

Letts said, "Any kind of politician that tells their personal story is using it as a tool ... to get things done. And luckily the majority ... are using their story as a tool to help support other women" (Madrid, Good, 10/17).


La. Proposal Would End Billing of Rape Survivors for Forensic Exams

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 14:48

Louisiana's health department on Monday said sexual assault survivors should not have to pay for their emergency room treatment and announced a legislative proposal to create a state victims' assistance board to pay for care, the AP/UT-San Diego reports.

La. Proposal Would End Billing of Rape Survivors for Forensic Exams

October 22, 2014 — Louisiana's health department on Monday said sexual assault survivors should not have to pay for their emergency room treatment and announced a legislative proposal to create a state victims' assistance board to pay for care, the AP/UT-San Diego reports.

Under the current system, providers cannot directly send bills to the state Crime Victim's Reparation Board, and women have been denied reimbursement if they have not filed a police report. As a result, providers bill sexual assault survivors or their insurers for care.

Legislation Details

The issue came to light in Louisiana after the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that rape survivors were being billed thousands of dollars for forensic examinations.

The proposed legislation would prevent health care providers from billing survivors for services and would allow hospitals to seek reimbursement directly from the reparation board.

In addition, the state Department of Health and Hospitals wants to eliminate rules that require a victim to file a police report to have injuries, sexually transmitted infection tests, gynecology care and other exams covered by the board.

The changes will be proposed at the legislative session that begins in April. If enacted, Louisiana would join 32 other states that pay for the forensic examinations through a compensation program and 38 states that prohibit providers from charging sexual assault survivors for the exams, according to AEquitas: The Prosecutors' Resource on Violence Against Women.

Senate Hearing

On Monday, sexual assault survivors and their families described their experiences seeking treatment to the state Senate Select Committee on Women.

"It's as if the victims have no rights through our hospitals. If our homes are broken into, we're not charged for evidence collection," said a woman who testified anonymously that her family had to pay $4,200 in medical bills after her daughter was sexually assaulted. "We felt like we were let down by our state government, our local government and just all humanity," she added (Deslatte, AP/UT-San Diego, 10/20).


NYC Woman Offered Job Back After Being Denied Pregnancy Accommodations

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 14:45

A New York City woman profiled by the New York Times after being forced out of her job when her employer refused accommodations recommended by her doctor during pregnancy has been offered her job back, Times columnist Rachel Swarns reports.

NYC Woman Offered Job Back After Being Denied Pregnancy Accommodations

October 22, 2014 — A New York City woman profiled by the New York Times after being forced out of her job when her employer refused accommodations recommended by her doctor during pregnancy has been offered her job back, Times columnist Rachel Swarns reports (Swarns, New York Times, 10/20).

Background

Swarns recently reported on Angelica Valencia's case as an example of how "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," despite the recently enacted New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012). The law, which took effect in January, "requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers -- such as providing rest and water breaks, modified schedules and light duty -- so long as the accommodations don't cause undue hardship for the employer," Swarns explained.

According to Swarns, Valencia provided her employer with a note from her physician explaining that she should not work more than eight hours daily because of a risk to her pregnancy. Further, her co-workers agreed to help with tasks she could not safely perform, such as lifting. However, her supervisors informed her that "she could not work without a full-duty medical clearance," and she left the job (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/20).

Valencia's lawyers have said her employer, Fierman Produce Exchange, violated the city's PWFA when it did not make the accommodations. Swarns notes that Valencia is being represented by A Better Balance, a legal advocacy group, to help her receive back pay for the three months she was out of work.

Fierman Offers Job, Considering Wage Compensation

Jeffrey Pollack, a lawyer for Fierman, said that Valencia could return to work "immediately without loss of seniority and without fear of retaliation," Swarns reports.

Pollack added that the job offer was not an admission of any wrongdoing by the company or that the company had fired Valencia. He added, "We believe that this situation resulted from an unfortunate misunderstanding and Fierman intends to comply with all applicable legal requirements."

Fierman spokesperson Don Hoffman said, "We are now doing everything we can to right this wrong," adding, "The issue of back pay is part of our ongoing discussions" (New York Times, 10/20).


Survey: Many Uninsured Not Aware of ACA's Upcoming Open Enrollment Period

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 14:12

About nine of 10 uninsured individuals who responded to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey said they did not know that the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) next open enrollment period begins in November, the New York Times' "The Upshot" reports.

Survey: Many Uninsured Not Aware of ACA's Upcoming Open Enrollment Period

October 22, 2014 — About nine of 10 uninsured individuals who responded to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey said they did not know that the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) next open enrollment period begins in November, the New York Times' "The Upshot" reports (Sanger-Katz, "The Upshot," New York Times, 10/21).

The finding comes from the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, for which researchers surveyed 1,503 U.S. adults between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14 ("Methodology," KFF poll, 10/21). The next enrollment period begins Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15, 2015.

According to Mollyann Brodie, KFF's executive director for public opinion and survey research, the results are similar to what other surveys showed before the first open enrollment period. However, she said it was surprising so few people were aware this time around, given recent news coverage of the ACA. She said, "You'd think there's just been so much attention and effort put out there" that more people would know about it.

Additional Findings

The survey also found that two-thirds of uninsured respondents said they know "only a little" or "nothing at all" about the ACA's insurance marketplaces. In addition, more than half said they did know that they might qualify for financial assistance to purchase exchange coverage ("The Upshot," New York Times, 10/21). Although they are unaware about certain details, a majority of uninsured residents plan to obtain coverage in the next few months, the study found ("Findings," KFF poll, 10/21).

According to "The Upshot," improving awareness among uninsured U.S. residents could be difficult compared with last fall, as the first uninsured residents to enroll in coverage likely were more motivated to obtain coverage.

Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, said, "Those who remain uninsured are likely fundamentally harder to reach than those who enrolled in the first enrollment period." According to Filipic, Enroll America's data indicate that upon learning how the ACA works, many uninsured residents want coverage. She added, "Though they may be harder to reach, they are not necessarily harder to convince" ("The Upshot," New York Times, 10/21).


Study: Genetic Variant in Latinas Could Lower Breast Cancer Risk for Some

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 13:39

A genetic variant that is common among some Latinas with indigenous American ancestry could significantly lower their risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study published Monday in Nature Communications, the New York Times' "Well" reports.

Study: Genetic Variant in Latinas Could Lower Breast Cancer Risk for Some

October 22, 2014 — A genetic variant that is common among some Latinas with indigenous American ancestry could significantly lower their risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study published Monday in Nature Communications, the New York Times' "Well" reports.

According to "Well," the research is the first genome-wide study to include a significant number of Latinas, whereas previous research focused on women of European dissent. Laura Fejerman, the study's lead author and an assistant professor at the University of California-San Francisco's Institute for Human Genetics, said the Latinas in the study mostly lived in California, Colombia and Mexico.

The National Cancer Institute funded the study, which was led by researchers from UCSF. The researchers conducted a genome-wide association study, scanning and comparing DNA from more than 3,000 women with breast cancer and about 8,200 women without breast cancer from various populations.

Study Findings

The researchers found that a genetic variant associated with breast tissue that appears less dense in mammograms was located on chromosome 6. According to "Well," breast density is a risk factor for breast cancer. The researchers theorize that the variant might affect women's production of estrogen receptors.

According to the study, around one in five U.S. Latinas have one copy of the variant, while about 1% carry two copies. "Well" notes that the findings could shed light on why Latina women have lower breast cancer rates than other U.S. women.

The researchers also found that the frequency of the variant was linked to indigenous ancestry. Specifically, the study found that the variant occurred in Mexican women about 15% of the time, in Colombian women about 10% of the time and in Puerto Rican women about 5% of the time. Meanwhile, the variant occurs in white and African American women at a frequency of less than 1% and in Chinese women at a frequency of about 2%.

According to the study, women who have one copy of the variant are about 40% less likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not have it, while women who have two copies of the variant are about 80% less likely to develop the disease. Women with the variant were particularly less likely to develop an aggressive form of cancer called estrogen-receptor negative.

Study Could Impact Future Treatments, Prevention

Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade Executive Director Marc Hurlbert, who was not involved with the research, said the study is "really important" because "it might help us to develop better treatments for those who do get breast cancer."

Meanwhile, American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley said that while the study is based on "very good science," people must "keep in mind that some women with this variant still get breast cancer" (O'Connor, "Well," New York Times, 10/20).

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, research is not yet advanced enough to develop a test for the variant (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/21). Elad Ziv, a researcher on the study and a specialist at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, said researchers "really need to do more experiments to" pinpoint the variant and "understand what it is doing" (Lee Hotz, Wall Street Journal, 10/20).


Featured Blog

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 16:35

"New Report Shows How the 'Pregnancy Penalty' Drives Economic Inequality," (Dusenbery, Feministing, 10/20).

October 21, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"New Report Shows How the 'Pregnancy Penalty' Drives Economic Inequality," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "[T]he 'bias and inflexibility towards women in the workplace that starts when they become pregnant and snowballs into lasting economic disadvantages' is driving gender inequality and overall economic inequality" in New York City, according to a report from A Better Balance, Dusenbery writes. Specifically, the report critiques the "pregnancy penalty," which results from "both 'blatant discrimination' against pregnant workers ... and lack of workplace policies -- like paid family leave and flexible schedules -- to make it easier to juggle both a job and children at the same time -- particularly for poor families," Dusenbery writes. She notes that the penalty drives "overall economic inequality" by keeping "families on the treadmill of poverty" and adds that A Better Balance has called on New York lawmakers to address the issue through legislation (Dusenbery, Feministing, 10/20).

Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 16:32

Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

October 21, 2014 — Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The race between Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley is the tightest in the country that does not involve an incumbent, according to the AP/Huffington Post. Polls show Braley has more support from women, while Ernst has greater support from men.

Final Debate

In their final debate last week, Ernst defended her belief that life begins at conception and her opposition to abortion rights, but she said for the first time that she would consider supporting a right to abortion to save a woman's life. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has criticized Ernst for her opposition to abortion rights in cases of rape and incest.

Ernst also backs a constitutional "personhood" amendment, which Braley and abortion-rights supporters say could ban abortions, some contraceptives and in vitro fertilization.

At the debate, Braley also criticized Ernst for agreeing with the Supreme Court's decision to allow some private employers to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) requirement that their health plans include contraceptive coverage. Ernst has said she supports access to birth control.

Braley said her stances are inconsistent. "You can't say you support that right and then say it's OK for employers to interfere with it," he said.

Braley supports abortion rights but said he does not support abortion later in pregnancy, except to protect the woman's life or health. He did not specify the point in pregnancy to which he was referring (Beaumont, AP/Huffington Post, 10/17).


Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 14:58

The Department of Education on Monday published a final rule regarding changes to the Clery Act, emphasizing colleges' responses to sexual assault, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

October 21, 2014 — The Department of Education on Monday published a final rule regarding changes to the Clery Act, emphasizing colleges' responses to sexual assault, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, Inside Higher Ed reports (New, Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).

The Clery Act, first passed in 1992, requires colleges and universities that receive federal student financial aid to track and publish crime statistics (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

Details of Final Rule

Effective July 1, 2015, the act will require higher education institutions to disclose the number of reported crimes that were determined to be unfounded from the past three calendar years and moving forward. Until then, DOE officials encourage schools to follow the changes with "a good faith effort." Institutions that do not follow the changes by July may lose federal financial aid access.

According to the final rule, schools must now describe disciplinary proceedings used for each case, explain why that type of proceeding was used, and include a statement on policy and procedures for the relevant crimes in their annual security reports. In addition, schools must record stalking incidents based on where the perpetrator began the stalking or where the victim became aware of it.

Changes to the Clery Act resulted from the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (PL 113-4), which included the creation of a 15-member panel of sexual assault survivors and representatives of colleges, law enforcement and advocacy groups to develop the new regulations. The panel agreed on the new regulations in April and has changed them little since then.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the final rule does not vary much from what DOE officials proposed in June. As announced at that time, DOE added gender identity and national origin bias to the hate crime definition, increased victim confidentiality protections, and mandated that both accuser and accused be allowed to have an attorney or other adviser present during disciplinary proceedings. Previously, schools dictated what type of adviser students could have, although the new rule still allows the institutions to limit advisers' participation in the process.

Reaction

The inclusion of dating violence and stalking in the reporting requirements "is a wonderful step forward," Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women, said. She added, "When we talk about sexual and gender-based violence on campus, we're not often talking about the bogeyman jumping out of the bushes on the college green so this is a much more realistic way to look at these crimes."

SurvJustice Executive Director Laura Dunn, a sexual assault survivor and member of the 15-member panel, said of the changes that permit advisers, "Schools would limit who could be brought in, but in reality there would often be an attorney in the wings helping the accused," which could make the process "distinctly unfair" for the accuser (Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).


Blogs Comment on 'Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding,' 'Pregnancy Penalty,' More

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 14:52

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Salon, the Center for American Progress and more.

Blogs Comment on 'Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding,' 'Pregnancy Penalty,' More

October 21, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Salon, the Center for American Progress and more.

BREASTFEEDING: "'You Sat in the Splash Zone': The Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding," Kathleen Founds, Salon: Founds, who considers herself a "breast-feeding advocat[e]," shares "the messy truth" about breastfeeding that she tells her "pregnant friends, in the hope that realistic expectations will empower them to persist through breast-feeding's challenges in order to secure its very real rewards." Breastfeeding, Founds explains, "involves a learning curve," is "messy," potentially "irritating" and "may make you envy your baby." Further, Founds writes that "[d]iscretion is overrated" when it comes to breastfeeding and that "bodily shame regarding breasts seems silly once their actual purpose sinks in" (Founds, Salon, 10/19).

ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Cecile Richards Shares an Important Abortion Story: 'It Wasn't a Difficult Decision,'" Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards shared "her personal abortion story in an essay published in Elle on [Thursday], writing that women who feel comfortable enough to share their experiences with the medical procedure can help decrease some of the stigma surrounding it," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler notes that Richards said her abortion "'wasn't a difficult decision,'" which differs from the typical discussion about abortion being "'the most difficult decision a woman has to make' -- a dynamic that implicitly forces women to prove why exactly they deserved to have an abortion." Culp-Ressler writes, "The way [Richards] speaks about her own experiences may help get us closer to creating a society for all women that's free of those demands" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/17).

WORKPLACE POLICIES: "New Report Shows How the 'Pregnancy Penalty' Drives Economic Inequality," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "[T]he 'bias and inflexibility towards women in the workplace that starts when they become pregnant and snowballs into lasting economic disadvantages' is driving gender inequality and overall economic inequality" in New York City, according to a report from A Better Balance, Dusenbery writes. Specifically, the report critiques the "pregnancy penalty," which results from "both 'blatant discrimination' against pregnant workers ... and lack of workplace policies -- like paid family leave and flexible schedules -- to make it easier to juggle both a job and children at the same time -- particularly for poor families," Dusenbery writes. She notes that the penalty drives "overall economic inequality" by keeping "families on the treadmill of poverty" and adds that A Better Balance has called on New York lawmakers to address the issue through legislation (Dusenbery, Feministing, 10/20).

BREAST CANCER: "Breast Cancer: Survivors' Wisdom for the Newly Diagnosed," Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana, Huffington Post blogs: In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Zeppieri-Caruana spoke with women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to share "their stories and pearls of wisdom for anyone who has recently received a breast cancer diagnosis." She notes that "[a]ll of the women shared one common goal for the future -- to be a solid foundation and source of support and knowledge for those newly diagnosed." Zeppieri-Caruana includes advice from the women on topics such as "work[ing] and taking care of themselves and family while undergoing treatment," support systems, "thoughts regarding cancer and hair loss," and their "top three pieces of advice for someone newly diagnosed" (Zeppieri-Caruana, Huffington Post blogs, 10/17).

What others are saying about breast cancer:

~ "Why are Black Women Dying of Breast Cancer, Even Though More White Women are Diagnosed?" Tiffany Denee Jones, Huffington Post blogs.

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Where's the '16, Parenting, and OK' Reality Show?," Gloria Malone, Echoing Ida/RH Reality Check: Malone writes that she "firmly believe[s] the negative ways in which the media ... portrays teenage pregnancy and parenting influenced how the adults in [her] life treated" her after she "became pregnant at 15" and also "affected [her] self-image and already low self-esteem." Specifically, she notes that the adults she told about her pregnancy "believed [her] life was over," treated her "differently and even stopped helping [her] look into colleges because they believed" she would drop out of high school. She writes, "The way the media represents teenage pregnancy and parenting has real-life consequences and effects on teen families, including depression and poverty because of lack of support from society." However, she writes that if the media "mov[es] away from these stereotypes, and featur[es] more positive story lines and outcomes," it could be easier for "teens to create thriving families" (Malone, Echoing Ida/RH Reality Check, 10/20).

SUPREME COURT: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Wants To See 9 Women on the Supreme Court," Katie McDonough, Salon: McDonough discusses a recent interview conducted by NPR's Nina Totenberg with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during which Ginsburg reflected her experience as a female justice and called for more women on the bench. Ginsburg said the high court would have enough female justices "[w]hen there are nine," adding, "For most of the country's history, there were nine and they were all men. Nobody thought that was strange." Ginsburg also reflected on how she felt "lonely" after Sandra Day O'Connor retired. Ginsburg said, "No one wants to be a one-at-a-time curiosity, and that's what I was. I was the only one. It wasn't the way the court should be at this time in our history" (McDonough, Salon, 10/20).


Planned Parenthood's Richards Discusses Abortion Stigma, Shares Her Abortion Story in Elle

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:11

Abortion carries a "stigma and judgment" unlike any other medical procedure, but women's increasing openness in sharing their experiences can help reduce those perceptions, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in Elle magazine.

Planned Parenthood's Richards Discusses Abortion Stigma, Shares Her Abortion Story in Elle

October 21, 2014 — Abortion carries a "stigma and judgment" unlike any other medical procedure, but women's increasing openness in sharing their experiences can help reduce those perceptions, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in Elle magazine.

Women's abortion experiences "are often seen through the lens of cultural and political battles," leaving "hardly any real firsthand experiences at the center of the discussion," she notes. "If a woman says that she's relieved after having an abortion, she may be judged for being heartless or unfeeling," but "[i]f she says that she feels regret, anti-abortion activists use this to push for laws that restrict access to abortion or laws that assume women are incapable of making their own decisions without the interference of others," according to Richards.

"[T]he point is that women shouldn't have to answer" questions about their need for an abortion "at all," she writes. Voluntarily sharing abortion stories can help women "connect with each other and begin to end myths and misconceptions about both the procedure and the women who have it," but "[t]here's a big difference between sharing your story and being forced to justify your decision," she adds.

Richards "know[s] this firsthand" because she had an abortion, which "wasn't a difficult decision" for her and her husband. However, "[w]hatever a woman's reason for having an abortion, for some people it will never be good enough," she writes. While there is "a long way to go to end abortion stigma in this country," women who are sharing their stories and advocates who are creating platforms for them to do so "show what's possible, and why it matters so much," Richards concludes (Richards, Elle, 10/16).


Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:11

Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

Abortion, Contraception Key Issues in Close Iowa Race for U.S. Senate

October 21, 2014 — Abortion rights have become a central issue in the final weeks of Iowa's close race to fill retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The race between Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley is the tightest in the country that does not involve an incumbent, according to the AP/Huffington Post. Polls show Braley has more support from women, while Ernst has greater support from men.

Final Debate

In their final debate last week, Ernst defended her belief that life begins at conception and her opposition to abortion rights, but she said for the first time that she would consider supporting a right to abortion to save a woman's life. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has criticized Ernst for her opposition to abortion rights in cases of rape and incest.

Ernst also backs a constitutional "personhood" amendment, which Braley and abortion-rights supporters say could ban abortions, some contraceptives and in vitro fertilization.

At the debate, Braley also criticized Ernst for agreeing with the Supreme Court's decision to allow some private employers to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) requirement that their health plans include contraceptive coverage. Ernst has said she supports access to birth control.

Braley said her stances are inconsistent. "You can't say you support that right and then say it's OK for employers to interfere with it," he said.

Braley supports abortion rights but said he does not support abortion later in pregnancy, except to protect the woman's life or health. He did not specify the point in pregnancy to which he was referring (Beaumont, AP/Huffington Post, 10/17).


More Colleges Adopt Affirmative Consent Standard Amid Ongoing Debate

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:05

Colleges and universities are increasingly implementing affirmative consent standards for sexual assault cases, although debate continues over the definition of active consent and the legal implications of such a standard, Inside Higher Ed reports.

More Colleges Adopt Affirmative Consent Standard Amid Ongoing Debate

October 21, 2014 — Colleges and universities are increasingly implementing affirmative consent standards for sexual assault cases, although debate continues over the definition of active consent and the legal implications of such a standard, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Spread of Affirmative Consent Standard

More than 800 colleges and universities currently use a definition of affirmative consent in their sexual assault policies, according to the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. For example, the State University of New York system adopted a uniform affirmative consent definition across its 64 campuses, and the California State University System and most Ivy League schools have adopted similar standards (New, Inside Higher Ed, 10/17).

Last month, California became the first state to enact a law (SB 967) that requires colleges and universities that receive state funds to determine whether active consent occurred when investigating or adjudicating alleged sexual assaults (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/30). According to Inside Higher Ed, lawmakers in New Hampshire and New Jersey (S 2478) have introduced similar legislation, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is planning to propose a similar bill.

Advocacy groups have also propelled the spread of affirmative consent standards by increasingly adopting "yes means yes" messaging in sexual assault prevention efforts, rather than "no means no," Inside Higher Ed reports.

Debate Over Scope, Definition of 'Yes Means Yes'

SurvJustice Executive Director Laura Dunn said that affirmative consent standards are particularly helpful for colleges because they normally have a lower burden of proof -- preponderance of evidence -- than criminal courts, which require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction. Dunn added that she hopes states eventually adopt affirmative consent standards in their criminal codes, which often define consent based on whether an individual physically or verbally resisted sexual conduct.

Meanwhile, American Council on Education general counsel Ada Meloy said the push for affirmative consent standards "is likely to be a generally positive thing," but she argued that "it's not easy to develop a good definition of affirmative consent" and that her organization "wouldn't want a one-size-fits-all approach for a variety of institutions."

George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf said affirmative consent standards that depend on nonverbal cues are too ambiguous. Instead, states and colleges should remove the ambiguity around the "no means no" standard, he said (Inside Higher Ed, 10/17).


Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:33

The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

October 20, 2014 — The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Over the last 25 years, the teen pregnancy rate has been "cut in half nationwide and by more than half in some 20 states, including North Carolina." The editorial notes that "[t]he same percentage of kids are having sex, but dramatically fewer are getting pregnant," in part because more of them are "using contraceptives and using them correctly."

The Observer argues that it is "important to understand what's working, so we can continue it and not undercut it." For example, the North Carolina Legislature in 2009 "changed public schools' curriculum from abstinence-only to a more comprehensive education, including teaching about contraceptives."

The state Legislature "should get behind teen pregnancy prevention efforts," the editorial argues, adding, "Policymakers should help keep driving that number down to nearly zero by further empowering the teens themselves" (Charlotte Observer, 10/16).


NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:32

New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

October 20, 2014 — New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

The law, which took effect in January, "requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers -- such as providing rest and water breaks, modified schedules and light duty -- so long as the accommodations don't cause undue hardship for the employer," Swarns explains. Such accommodations are "critical, particularly for low-income women who sometimes get pushed out of their jobs -- and into poverty -- when they become pregnant," she writes.

During the law's first year, city officials and women's advocates have been working with business groups, health care providers and other relevant parties "to ensure that women know their rights and employers know their obligations under the statute," Swarn continues.

Continued Challenges

However, not all women have been made aware of their rights, and others continue to face barriers to working during pregnancy. Swarns details the story of Angelica Valencia, who had previously experienced a miscarriage and was told by her physician when she became pregnant again to work a maximum of eight hours per day. Valencia, whose employer wanted her to work overtime, "had no idea that the law existed" and "said her company never informed her of her rights, even though that is required," according to Swarns.

Valencia provided a doctor's note and co-workers agreed to help with tasks like lifting that she could not safely perform. However, her supervisors informed her that "she could not work without a full-duty medical clearance," and she left the job, Swarns writes.

Swarns notes that Valencia is now being represented by A Better Balance, a legal advocacy group, to help her "recoup the wages she lost." Further, like other women who have successfully received pregnancy-related accommodations or regained their jobs as a result of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Valencia "knows now that the law is on her side," Swarns adds (Swarns, New York Times, 10/19).


Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 17:31

An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports.

Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

October 20, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports (Clay, Oklahoman, 10/18).

The law is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1. It also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions.

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of physician Larry Burns, who performs about half the abortions in the state and is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma.

According to the latest suit, Burns will be forced to close his clinic when the law takes effect because he has not been able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the 16 hospitals in qualifying distance of his clinic.

CRR argued that the law violates constitutional rights of equal protection and due process and that it violates a requirement that all bills in the state address only one topic (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/6).

Oral Argument Details

CRR attorney Ilene Jaroslaw urged Judge Bill Graves to issue an injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

Jaroslaw said that Burns had applied and been rejected for admitting privileges at 16 hospitals and had made "diligent efforts" to comply with the requirement.

According to Jaroslaw, two of the hospitals rejected Burns' application because he could not guarantee that his facility would admit at least six patients annually. Jaroslaw said that was indicative of Burns' high quality of care and that he "has an impeccable health record."

Jaroslaw argued that the law's requirements are "very onerous" and unconstitutionally require abortion providers to adhere to the admitting privileges requirement despite the fact that many other doctors perform more risky procedures but are not required to obtain admitting privileges (Talley, AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19). She added that the measure could result in the state's other two clinics -- in Tulsa and Oklahoma City -- having appointment backlogs, if the clinics would be able to remain open at all (Oklahoman, 10/18).

Meanwhile, state Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman argued that the law was constitutional. He said Burns had waited more than 50 days after the measure was signed into law prior to beginning to seek the required admitting privileges.

Next Steps

Graves said he would issue a ruling on whether to temporarily block the law by next week (AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19).

According to the Oklahoman, Graves is a former state representative who supported several antiabortion-rights measures while in the state Legislature (Oklahoman, 10/18).


Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 16:03

An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports.

Judge Hears Oral Arguments Over Okla. Admitting Privileges Law

October 20, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District Judge on Friday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports (Clay, Oklahoman, 10/18).

The law is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1. It also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions.

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of physician Larry Burns, who performs about half the abortions in the state and is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma.

According to the latest suit, Burns will be forced to close his clinic when the law takes effect because he has not been able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the 16 hospitals in qualifying distance of his clinic.

CRR argued that the law violates constitutional rights of equal protection and due process and that it violates a requirement that all bills in the state address only one topic (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/6).

Oral Argument Details

CRR attorney Ilene Jaroslaw urged Judge Bill Graves to issue an injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

Jaroslaw said that Burns had applied and been rejected for admitting privileges at 16 hospitals and had made "diligent efforts" to comply with the requirement.

According to Jaroslaw, two of the hospitals rejected Burns' application because he could not guarantee that his facility would admit at least six patients annually. Jaroslaw said that was indicative of Burns' high quality of care and that he "has an impeccable health record."

Jaroslaw argued that the law's requirements are "very onerous" and unconstitutionally require abortion providers to adhere to the admitting privileges requirement despite the fact that many other doctors perform more risky procedures but are not required to obtain admitting privileges (Talley, AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19). She added that the measure could result in the state's other two clinics -- in Tulsa and Oklahoma City -- having appointment backlogs, if the clinics would be able to remain open at all (Oklahoman, 10/18).

Meanwhile, state Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman argued that the law was constitutional. He said Burns had waited more than 50 days after the measure was signed into law prior to beginning to seek the required admitting privileges.

Next Steps

Graves said he would issue a ruling on whether to temporarily block the law by next week (AP/Durant Democrat, 10/19).

According to the Oklahoman, Graves is a former state representative who supported several antiabortion-rights measures while in the state Legislature (Oklahoman, 10/18).


LA Times Op-Ed: Over-the-Counter Birth Control Should Not Come at the Expense of Insurance Coverage

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:40

Ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage for contraceptives and making birth control pills available over the counter "shouldn't be an either/or debate," Daniel Grossman, vice president of research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a clinical professor at the University of California-San Francisco, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

LA Times Op-Ed: Over-the-Counter Birth Control Should Not Come at the Expense of Insurance Coverage

October 20, 2014 — Ensuring comprehensive insurance coverage for contraceptives and making birth control pills available over the counter "shouldn't be an either/or debate," Daniel Grossman, vice president of research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a clinical professor at the University of California-San Francisco, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

Grossman notes that the issue has drawn increased attention amid conservative candidates' proposals to allow OTC sales of "birth control pills as an alternative to the contraceptive coverage guarantee built into" the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Meanwhile, Democrats "emphasize the importance of maintaining the contraceptive coverage guarantee in Obamacare," he writes.

Grossman explains that even though birth control pills have "not yet been approved for over-the-counter sale, most of the medical establishment is in favor of that outcome" and agrees it is a safe option. In addition, reliable studies "show that women can use simple checklists to determine on their own whether the pill is right for them, and that when they can obtain the pill without a prescription, they stay on it longer than if they have to keep getting a prescription renewed." Further, public opinion polling has found that U.S. women support nonprescription access to birth control pills. However, women have concerns that birth control would be costly without insurance coverage, according to Grossman.

Grossman argues, "The best policy, the one that would help women effectively meet their family planning needs and reduce the high rate of unintended pregnancy in this country, is over-the-counter availability and insurance coverage for birth control pills," as well as "coverage for all other contraceptives approved by" FDA.

Grossman notes that while OTC birth control pills are likely "still several years down the road ... the apparent agreement among liberals and conservatives about the merits of moving the birth control pill over the counter is cause for excitement." Still, Grossman cautions that "constructive policy change" should only be made "as long as the gains made in one kind of access aren't undercut by losses in another" (Grossman, Los Angeles Times, 10/18).


NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:47

New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

NYT Column: City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 'A Big Step Forward,' But Issues Remain

October 20, 2014 — New York City's Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (Int 0974-2012), signed into law one year ago, "represents a big step forward for working women," but "pregnant women are still being pushed out of jobs they desperately need," New York Times columnist Rachel Swarns writes.

The law, which took effect in January, "requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers -- such as providing rest and water breaks, modified schedules and light duty -- so long as the accommodations don't cause undue hardship for the employer," Swarns explains. Such accommodations are "critical, particularly for low-income women who sometimes get pushed out of their jobs -- and into poverty -- when they become pregnant," she writes.

During the law's first year, city officials and women's advocates have been working with business groups, health care providers and other relevant parties "to ensure that women know their rights and employers know their obligations under the statute," Swarn continues.

Continued Challenges

However, not all women have been made aware of their rights, and others continue to face barriers to working during pregnancy. Swarns details the story of Angelica Valencia, who had previously experienced a miscarriage and was told by her physician when she became pregnant again to work a maximum of eight hours per day. Valencia, whose employer wanted her to work overtime, "had no idea that the law existed" and "said her company never informed her of her rights, even though that is required," according to Swarns.

Valencia provided a doctor's note and co-workers agreed to help with tasks like lifting that she could not safely perform. However, her supervisors informed her that "she could not work without a full-duty medical clearance," and she left the job, Swarns writes.

Swarns notes that Valencia is now being represented by A Better Balance, a legal advocacy group, to help her "recoup the wages she lost." Further, like other women who have successfully received pregnancy-related accommodations or regained their jobs as a result of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Valencia "knows now that the law is on her side," Swarns adds (Swarns, New York Times, 10/19).


Policymakers Must 'Stand Up' to Gun Lobby To Stop Domestic Violence, Advocate Argues

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:19

To help protect women from gun violence, the U.S. needs "legislators who are willing to stand up to the gun lobby," Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts writes in a Daily Beast opinion piece.

Policymakers Must 'Stand Up' to Gun Lobby To Stop Domestic Violence, Advocate Argues

October 20, 2014 — To help protect women from gun violence, the U.S. needs "legislators who are willing to stand up to the gun lobby," Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts writes in a Daily Beast opinion piece.

Watts notes that "an average of 48 American women are shot to death by a current or former intimate partner" monthly, but 38% "fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners" in states that require background checks to be performed on every person seeking to purchase a handgun. She adds, "[M]illions of guns are sold every year without a background check, so the ease with which a prohibited purchaser can buy a gun in this country is hard to overstate."

Watts also calls on policymakers to take stronger action to "prevent abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers from purchasing a firearm." She explains that more U.S. women die annually "at the hands of dating partners rather than spouses," but federal laws restricting gun purchases by abusers do not apply to non-spouses in most circumstances.

While lawmakers in some states have "achieved significant victories" in addressing gun violence this year, Watts argues that "[t]he best thing we can do for survivors of domestic violence is to provide them with avenues of support and ensure that the laws don't make their lives harder or more dangerous."

To do so, the U.S. "need[s] leaders at every level -- state, local and federal -- to understand the lives of women matter more than their NRA rating," Watts writes. She concludes, "We must enact the reforms necessary to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and that work begins with our vote on November 4" (Watts, Daily Beast, 10/16).


Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:16

The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Lawmakers Should 'Get Behind Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts,' Editorial Argues

October 20, 2014 — The teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low because teenagers have access to "more complete sex education and better access to and use of contraceptives" than in the past, according to a Charlotte Observer editorial.

Over the last 25 years, the teen pregnancy rate has been "cut in half nationwide and by more than half in some 20 states, including North Carolina." The editorial notes that "[t]he same percentage of kids are having sex, but dramatically fewer are getting pregnant," in part because more of them are "using contraceptives and using them correctly."

The Observer argues that it is "important to understand what's working, so we can continue it and not undercut it." For example, the North Carolina Legislature in 2009 "changed public schools' curriculum from abstinence-only to a more comprehensive education, including teaching about contraceptives."

The state Legislature "should get behind teen pregnancy prevention efforts," the editorial argues, adding, "Policymakers should help keep driving that number down to nearly zero by further empowering the teens themselves" (Charlotte Observer, 10/16).