Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
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Planned Parenthood Arizona Incorporated et al v. Humble

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 19:43

Federal court challenge to Arizona statute and implementing regulations that impose restrictions on medication abortion and force abortion clinics to administer medication in an outdated manner.

Planned Parenthood Arizona Incorporated et al v. Humble

Federal court challenge to Arizona statute and implementing regulations that impose restrictions on medication abortion and force abortion clinics to administer medication in an outdated manner. The restrictions mandate a higher dose than is typically used and has been shown to be safe and effective; prohibit clinics from providing medication abortion to patients who are beyond seven weeks of pregnancy; and require patients to make an additional trip to the clinic to obtain the final medication dose. In their complaint, Planned Parenthood, Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Tucson Women’s Center ask the Arizona U.S. District Court to temporarily enjoin enforcement of the law pending outcome of the lawsuit. They further ask the court to declare the law unconstitutional and to permanently enjoin enforcement. Plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction was denied, and Plaintiffs appealed the denial to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit granted a temporary injunction while it considered the appeal. Current Status: On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit unanimously found that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that the law is unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case back to the lower court with instructions to grant the temporary injunction. The state attorney general has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the case and review the 9th Circuit’s ruling. (See the complaint here. See the 9th Circuit opinion here.)

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky v. Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, et al.

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 19:32

Federal court challenge to an Indiana law, Act 371, that changed the definition of "abortion clinic" to include facilities that provide only the abortion pill Mifepristone to terminate a pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky v. Commissioner, Indiana State Department of Health, et al.

Federal court challenge to an Indiana law, Act 371, that changed the definition of "abortion clinic" to include facilities that provide only the abortion pill Mifepristone to terminate a pregnancy. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Indiana, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) Lafayette clinic is the only site in Indiana that provides the abortion pill but not surgical abortions. These new regulations will require the center in Lafayette to renovate its facility to meet surgical standards even though no surgical procedures are performed there. The suit argues the law is discriminatory in violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it affects only the Lafayette center and does not apply to private physicians' offices providing the same procedures. The requirements were scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. Arguments are scheduled to begin June 1, 2015. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued a preliminary injunction allowing the Lafayette clinic to temporarily continue offering medication abortions without renovating the facility. Current Status: Both sides have filed for summary judgment, asking the court to decide the case without a trial on the merits. (See the law here. See the complaint here. See the preliminary injunction here. See more about the case here.)

Featured Blog

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:54

"Texas Planned Parenthood Clinics Rebrand in Hopes of Public Funds," (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 9/15).

September 16, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Texas Planned Parenthood Clinics Rebrand in Hopes of Public Funds," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: "[T]his month, the entity formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County," Texas, "is making a major branding switch: from now on, the provider will be known as Access Esperanza Clinics," to better reflect that the center is, in many cases, patients' primary health care provider, Grimes writes. She notes that the changes are in response to a state law that barred Planned Parenthood affiliates from "receiving public funding to provide reproductive health care" and dramatically cut the state's family planning budget, "effectively cutting off tens of thousands of low-income Texans' access to affordable Pap smears and contraception." According to Access Esperanza Clinics Community Services Director Kathryn Hearn, the rebranding will enable the clinic to once again apply for state funding to provide family planning and primary care services to Hidalgo County residents (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 9/15).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Tennessee is the Next Major Abortion Battleground," Callie Beusman, Jezebel.

Advocates Link State Abortion Restrictions, Case Involving Pa. Mother Sentenced to Prison

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:48

Women's rights advocates and some Pennsylvania lawmakers say a case involving a woman who was sentenced to prison after purchasing medication abortion drugs online should be considered within the context of state laws that restrict women's reproductive rights, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Advocates Link State Abortion Restrictions, Case Involving Pa. Mother Sentenced to Prison

September 16, 2014 — Women's rights advocates and some Pennsylvania lawmakers say a case involving a woman who was sentenced to prison after purchasing medication abortion drugs online should be considered within the context of state laws that restrict women's reproductive rights, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Pennsylvania resident Jennifer Whalen was sentenced after pleading guilty to buying the drugs from an online pharmacy based outside the U.S. and giving them to her teenage daughter, who wanted an abortion and used the pills to terminate her pregnancy. Whalen was prosecuted under a state statute that makes it illegal for anyone other than a physician to perform an abortion and for dispensing drugs without a license.

The case has drawn national attention, the Post-Gazette reports. Reproductive-rights supporters say it exemplifies the potential negative consequences of laws championed by conservative politicians who oppose abortion rights.

Susan Frietsche, a staff attorney at the Pittsburgh office of the Women's Law Project, said of Whalen's case, "This is a direct consequence of the state Legislature's obsession with restricting access to abortion, and they are the ones who should bear the responsibility." She and other advocates have said the responsibility also extends to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), who signed a law that imposed additional restrictions on abortion clinics in the state.

Meanwhile, state. Sen. Daylin Leach (D) said in a recent statement, "Abortion is a legal, constitutionally[-]protected right that should be available to all women." Leach added, "Pennsylvania's misguided policies have made it nearly impossible for women ... to obtain a safe and affordable abortion" (Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13).


Tenn. Ballot Measure Could Reshape Legislature's Ability To Restrict Abortion

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:47

Tennessee voters in November will decide on a ballot measure (Amendment 1) that could make it easier for state lawmakers to enact harsh abortion restrictions that are in place in neighboring states, Mother Jones reports.

Tenn. Ballot Measure Could Reshape Legislature's Ability To Restrict Abortion

September 16, 2014 — Tennessee voters in November will decide on a ballot measure (Amendment 1) that could make it easier for state lawmakers to enact harsh abortion restrictions that are in place in neighboring states, Mother Jones reports.

If passed, the ballot measure would amend Tennessee's constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The amendment specifically states that such rights include circumstances involving pregnancies "resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and other opponents of the amendment have launched the Vote No on One campaign, while supporters are campaigning under the Yes on 1 initiative.

Effort Dates to 2000 Court Decision

Mother Jones reports that abortion-rights opponents in the state Legislature have been trying to amend the state constitution's abortion language since a 2000 state Supreme Court decision blocked three antiabortion-rights laws passed in 1998: a mandatory delay before a woman may obtain an abortion, a requirement that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals and a requirement that abortion providers read women a state-written script.

In 2011, the state Legislature approved a measure (SJR 127) that authorized putting the amendment before voters. Although Tennessee lawmakers have passed other antiabortion-rights laws over the years, passage of the amendment would give them more leeway to implement other restrictions that might otherwise run astray of the 2000 ruling.

Likewise, Elizabeth Nash, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, explained that passage of the amendment would not mean that the 1998 laws would automatically take effect, but it would clear the way for antiabortion-rights lawmakers to pass them again (Redden, Mother Jones, 9/12).


Blogs Discuss 'Imperative' Need for Abortion Coverage, Cost of Birth Control, More

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:15

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

Blogs Discuss 'Imperative' Need for Abortion Coverage, Cost of Birth Control, More

September 16, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, The Nation and more.

ABORTION RIGHTS & REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: "Abortion Insurance Coverage is Imperative for Women's Safety," Pratima Gupta, RH Reality Check: "When a woman needs to end her pregnancy, it is imperative that she have the means to see a licensed, trained, and quality provider for her procedure," writes Gupta, an ob-gyn who provides abortion counseling and services. However, she notes that "when elected officials push policies to deny insurance coverage for abortion care, they make it unaffordable for many women to receive such quality treatment" and "effectively forc[e]" them "to seek alternate, potentially unsafe options." Gupta writes that the U.S. "need[s] a federal bill that will lift the restrictions on publicly funded health coverage" -- including the Hyde Amendment and other abortion coverage restrictions at the state and federal levels -- "and ensure that contraception, prenatal, maternity, postpartum, and abortion care are all included in federal programs" (Gupta, RH Reality Check, 9/12).

What others are saying about abortion-rights and reproductive justice:

~ "Mindy Kaling's Sitcom Could Help Disrupt Abortion Provider Stigma (Updated)," Renee Bracey Sherman, RH Reality Check.

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "To Leave Their Abusers, Domestic Violence Survivors Need Economic Security," Bryce Covert, The Nation: While the Violence Against Women Act (PL 113-4) has helped make "real progress" on reducing domestic violence since it was first enacted 20 years, "violence is still all too common," and "much of the unfinished work of VAWA is increasing the economic security of women in abusive situations," Covert writes. For example, in 43 states, "there is no legal protection to keep women from being fired because they are victims of domestic abuse," she notes. Firing women for issues related to domestic violence "doesn't just re-victimize [them], it also cuts off a lifeline [they will] need to be able to escape the situation," she writes, adding that "until we address the economic barriers victims face, many will continue to be trapped in dangerous, and often deadly, situations" (Covert, The Nation, 9/12).

What others are saying about sexual and gender-based violence:

~ "State of Consent in California," Marrie Lobel, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "How the Country Has Changed Under the Violence Against Women Act," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

PREGNANCY & BREASTFEEDING: "Breastfeeding is not Shameful," Clint Edwards, Huffington Post blogs: Edwards writes about how "using breasts for their intended purpose, feeding a baby, has become so socially unacceptable," yet advertisements featuring "half-exposed breasts" are a normal occurrence. He writes that some people's perceptions of breastfeeding in public as "gross" and "wrong" perpetuate the idea that it is "something to be shunned." Edwards notes that the When Nurture Calls campaign is working to "drive home the idea that nursing women, and their babies, deserve better" than having to breastfeed in secluded and unsanitary places like public bathrooms (Edwards, Huffington Post blogs, 9/12).

What others are saying about pregnancy and breastfeeding:

~ "How To Deal With the Pain of Miscarriage," Alexis Meads, Huffington Post blogs.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Texas Planned Parenthood Clinics Rebrand in Hopes of Public Funds," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: "[T]his month, the entity formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County," Texas, "is making a major branding switch: from now on, the provider will be known as Access Esperanza Clinics," to better reflect that the center is, in many cases, patients' primary health care provider, Grimes writes. She notes that the changes are in response to a state law that barred Planned Parenthood affiliates from "receiving public funding to provide reproductive health care" and dramatically cut the state's family planning budget, "effectively cutting off tens of thousands of low-income Texans' access to affordable Pap smears and contraception." According to Access Esperanza Clinics Community Services Director Kathryn Hearn, the rebranding will enable the clinic to once again apply for state funding to provide family planning and primary care services to Hidalgo County residents (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 9/15).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Tennessee is the Next Major Abortion Battleground," Callie Beusman, Jezebel.

CONTRACEPTION: "Why Does the Most Effective Birth Control Cost an Entire Month's Wages?" Michelle Chen, The Nation: The expansion of long-acting reversible contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) "could dramatically improve contraceptive care -- if only politicians could stop panicking at the mere notion of women controlling their reproductive futures," Chen writes. She notes that while women seeking contraception face "barriers of cost and lack of awareness," the "most pernicious barriers to reproductive choice aren't merely about coverage but about profound racial and economic inequality." The "polarization of the wealth gap between genders, institutionalized racism in the healthcare system, and a culture that systematically marginalizes women for seeking to claim full control over their bodies and sexuality" are all "reproductive injustices," but the "real debate on economic justice" is thwarted "because politicians are too busy dictating women's lives to hear their voices," she writes (Chen, The Nation, 9/15).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "4 Other Policies That the Republicans Calling for Over-the-Counter Birth Control Could Endorse," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "The Aftermath of 'Hobby Lobby': Multiple Attacks on Contraception Access," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check.


Few Pediatricians Offer Routine Sexual Health Services for Teens

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:14

Research suggests that many pediatricians avoid talking to teenagers about sex and fail to routinely offer sexual health-related services, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Few Pediatricians Offer Routine Sexual Health Services for Teens

September 16, 2014 — Research suggests that many pediatricians avoid talking to teenagers about sex and fail to routinely offer sexual health-related services, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For example, a study in the Journal of Pediatrics this year found that only 20% of 1,000 teens in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were asked about their sexual history during a routine checkup with their pediatrician. A separate CDC study published this summer found that only one in five sexually experienced teens had ever been tested for HIV.

Meanwhile, CDC has found that vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus are falling far short of its recommendation that all teens receive the shots. According to a CDC report, only 38% of girls and 14% of boys ages 13 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against HPV, which can cause cancer.

Reasons for Lack of Discussion

Time constraints and a lack of training on how to handle issues related to adolescent sexuality are among the reasons that physicians sometimes fail to discuss the topic, according to the Wall Street Journal. Further, many pediatricians simply are not comfortable talking about sex.

Veenod Chulani, director of adolescent medicine at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, noted that many pediatricians are only trained on adolescent-specific services for about one month during their residencies. In addition, they have many other topics -- such as smoking, bullying and depression -- that they are supposed discuss with their patients during visits that are as short as 15 minutes and must also include a physical exam.

Steps To Improve Care

Organizations like Physicians for Reproductive Health are taking steps to improve physician training, such as lectures and workshops for pediatricians on sexual health.

Meanwhile, CDC is funding programs that bolster services for teens, like the Get Yourself Tested Campaign, which uses social media to promote the need for screenings (Whalen, Wall Street Journal, 9/14).


Tenn. Ballot Measure Could Reshape Legislature's Ability To Restrict Abortion

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:13

Tennessee voters in November will decide on a ballot measure (Amendment 1) that could make it easier for state lawmakers to enact harsh abortion restrictions that are in place in neighboring states, Mother Jones reports.

Tenn. Ballot Measure Could Reshape Legislature's Ability To Restrict Abortion

September 16, 2014 — Tennessee voters in November will decide on a ballot measure (Amendment 1) that could make it easier for state lawmakers to enact harsh abortion restrictions that are in place in neighboring states, Mother Jones reports.

If passed, the ballot measure would amend Tennessee's constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The amendment specifically states that such rights include circumstances involving pregnancies "resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and other opponents of the amendment have launched the Vote No on One campaign, while supporters are campaigning under the Yes on 1 initiative.

Effort Dates to 2000 Court Decision

Mother Jones reports that abortion-rights opponents in the state Legislature have been trying to amend the state constitution's abortion language since a 2000 state Supreme Court decision blocked three antiabortion-rights laws passed in 1998: a mandatory delay before a woman may obtain an abortion, a requirement that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals and a requirement that abortion providers read women a state-written script.

In 2011, the state Legislature approved a measure (SJR 127) that authorized putting the amendment before voters. Although Tennessee lawmakers have passed other antiabortion-rights laws over the years, passage of the amendment would give them more leeway to implement other restrictions that might otherwise run astray of the 2000 ruling.

Likewise, Elizabeth Nash, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, explained that passage of the amendment would not mean that the 1998 laws would automatically take effect, but it would clear the way for antiabortion-rights lawmakers to pass them again (Redden, Mother Jones, 9/12).


GAO Report Looks at ACA Abortion Coverage Rules

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 16:39

A GAO report released on Monday examines how insurers are dealing with the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) complex rules on abortion coverage in health plans offered through the law's insurance marketplaces, Politico reports.

GAO Report Looks at ACA Abortion Coverage Rules

September 16, 2014 — A GAO report released on Monday examines how insurers are dealing with the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) complex rules on abortion coverage in health plans offered through the law's insurance marketplaces, Politico reports (Haberkorn/Everett, Politico, 9/15).

Background

The ACA does not prohibit abortion coverage and lets insurers determine whether they will offer it. However, the law requires health plans to segregate money collected for abortion coverage from other premiums (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/10). Insurers are not required to segregate the money for abortion coverage in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the woman (Politico, 9/15).

The inclusion of the provisions in the ACA helped gain support of antiabortion-rights Democrats to secure the law's passage.

Critics of the complex payment scheme have long said that it is onerous for insurers (Politico, 9/15). Meanwhile, abortion-rights supporters and opponents have both called for clearer information to help consumers determine whether a particular plan covers abortion and in what capacity, according to the AP/U-T San Diego (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).

GAO Report Findings

House Republicans requested the GAO report (Politico, 9/15). It was released by GOP members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).

GAO gathered information from the 27 states, in addition to Washington, D.C., that do not restrict abortion coverage in marketplace plans beyond what is required under the ACA.

The report found that 1,036 plans offered in the 27 states and Washington, D.C., included abortion coverage other than for cases of rape, incest or life endangerment, compared with 1,062 that did not include any additional coverage (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).

Plan Sample

The report included information from a sample of 18 unidentified insurers that offer multiple plans (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16). The sampled insurers provided information about plans they offer in 10 states that do not restrict marketplace abortion coverage beyond what the ACA requires. The sampled plans account for 24% of all marketplace plans offering abortion coverage in cases other than rape, incest and life endangerment in the 27 states and Washington, D.C., that do not impose additional restrictions on such coverage.

The report noted that the ACA does not include "requirements on whether or how" insurers should inform consumers of abortion coverage options prior to enrollment. However, six of the insurers in the sample indicated that they made the information available to consumers shopping for coverage. In addition, the report found that two insurers were not aware of a requirement under the ACA to notify consumers at the time of enrollment about abortion coverage beyond cases of rape, incest and life endangerment.

All of the insurers sampled reported that "their abortion services benefit is subject to the same requirements as other benefits, such as enrollee out-of-pocket costs -- including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance -- and prior authorization, all of which can vary depending on the location where the service is provided" (GAO report, 9/15).

Further, researchers found that 17 of the 18 insurers said that the average cost of providing abortion coverage was less than $1 a month among all policyholders, and in some instances was 10 cents a month (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/16).

HHS Response

In response to the report, HHS said that it has published regulations on these requirements and fielded questions from insurers. HHS noted that "additional clarification may be needed" (GAO report, 9/15).


Advocates Link State Abortion Restrictions, Case Involving Pa. Mother Sentenced to Prison

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 14:32

Women's rights advocates and some Pennsylvania lawmakers say a case involving a woman who was sentenced to prison after purchasing medication abortion drugs online should be considered within the context of state laws that restrict women's reproductive rights, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Advocates Link State Abortion Restrictions, Case Involving Pa. Mother Sentenced to Prison

September 16, 2014 — Women's rights advocates and some Pennsylvania lawmakers say a case involving a woman who was sentenced to prison after purchasing medication abortion drugs online should be considered within the context of state laws that restrict women's reproductive rights, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Pennsylvania resident Jennifer Whalen was sentenced after pleading guilty to buying the drugs from an online pharmacy based outside the U.S. and giving them to her teenage daughter, who wanted an abortion and used the pills to terminate her pregnancy. Whalen was prosecuted under a state statute that makes it illegal for anyone other than a physician to perform an abortion and for dispensing drugs without a license.

The case has drawn national attention, the Post-Gazette reports. Reproductive-rights supporters say it exemplifies the potential negative consequences of laws championed by conservative politicians who oppose abortion rights.

Susan Frietsche, a staff attorney at the Pittsburgh office of the Women's Law Project, said of Whalen's case, "This is a direct consequence of the state Legislature's obsession with restricting access to abortion, and they are the ones who should bear the responsibility." She and other advocates have said the responsibility also extends to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), who signed a law that imposed additional restrictions on abortion clinics in the state.

Meanwhile, state. Sen. Daylin Leach (D) said in a recent statement, "Abortion is a legal, constitutionally[-]protected right that should be available to all women." Leach added, "Pennsylvania's misguided policies have made it nearly impossible for women ... to obtain a safe and affordable abortion" (Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13).


Planned Parenthood Launches Video Service for Contraceptive Consultations

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 17:25

Planned Parenthood recently launched an online service that allows Minnesota and Washington residents to receive contraceptives after a video appointment with a health care provider, the Huffington Post reports.

Planned Parenthood Launches Video Service for Contraceptive Consultations

September 15, 2014 — Planned Parenthood recently launched an online service that allows Minnesota and Washington residents to receive contraceptives after a video appointment with a health care provider, the Huffington Post reports.

The new service, called Planned Parenthood Care, is intended to cater to a younger generation of patients who are comfortable with technology, according to a Planned Parenthood spokesperson.

The 15-minute video consultations cost $45 and are not covered by insurance, although Planned Parenthood is working with insurers to possibly offer that option. The organization recommends that patients send their receipts to their insurers for potential reimbursement.

The video chats are conducted through an Internet browser or a new Planned Parenthood app for Apple and Android devices. After logging in, a patient speaks with a clinician to discuss various methods. Patients can then have a prescribed method sent to them in the mail.

Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said, "Every generation of women is different from their mothers, and what's different about the current generation of young women is that they live a whole lot of their lives online."

Planned Parenthood plans to add consultations for sexually transmitted infections to the service and hopes to expand the program to more states, according to the Huffington Post (Thomas, Huffington Post, 9/11).


Attorneys Spar in Court Over Texas Clinic Closures; Op-Ed Cites Impact on 'Real People'

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 17:24

A federal appeals court panel on Friday heard arguments over whether Texas should be allowed to enforce a provision that likely would leave the state with no abortion facilities outside of four major metropolitan regions, the New York Times reports.

Attorneys Spar in Court Over Texas Clinic Closures; Op-Ed Cites Impact on 'Real People'

September 15, 2014 — A federal appeals court panel on Friday heard arguments over whether Texas should be allowed to enforce a provision that likely would leave the state with no abortion facilities outside of four major metropolitan regions, the New York Times reports (Fernandez, New York Times, 9/12).

The provision, which is part of a larger antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 and would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards at ambulatory surgical centers. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in August barred enforcement of the provision, ruling it unconstitutional, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) quickly appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/2).

Impact

According to the Times, if enforced, the provision could close about a dozen clinics in the state, leaving Texas with seven or eight abortion facilities in four metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The Times notes that there were 41 abortion facilities in Texas -- a state with about 5.4 million women of reproductive age -- before HB 2 was enacted in 2013 (New York Times, 9/12).

The three judges on the 5th Circuit panel did not indicate on Friday when they would rule, NPR's "Shots" reports. If the state is allowed to fully enforce the provision, the affected clinics likely would have to close immediately. The judges could also permit clinics in certain areas to remain open while allowing the state to enforce the law for other clinics, according to "Shots."

State's Arguments

Jonathan Mitchell, Texas' solicitor general, argued that Yeakel's stay on the law should be overturned while the case of the provision's constitutionality continues (Feibel, "Shots," NPR, 9/12). He said the clinics have not demonstrated that the provision places an undue burden on women's access to abortion (Lawton/Brubaker Calkins, Bloomberg, 9/12).

According to "Shots," both sides agree that enforcement of the law means that women in the Rio Grande Valley would have to travel more than 200 miles to reach the nearest abortion facility in the state, in San Antonio. However, Mitchell argued that the clinics had not provided evidence that women in the region are unable to navigate the situation or that the abortion rate had fallen as a result of the law ("Shots," NPR, 9/12).

"There have been no abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley for 10 1/2 months and they have found no evidence of an undue burden," he said, adding that the clinics had also failed to show that a "large fraction of the state's abortion patients will have to travel long distances" (Bloomberg, 9/12).

Mitchell said the state would suffer "irreparable injury" if it cannot enforce the law while the case over its constitutionality continues (New York Times, 9/12). Specifically, he said the state sought an emergency motion to stay Yeakel's decision because it has a compelling interest in shutting down any clinics that it considers unsafe ("Shots," NPR, 9/12).

Clinics' Arguments

Stephanie Toti, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights who is representing abortion clinics, countered that there is "ample evidence in the court record [that shows] a decline in the abortion rate occurred after 20 of the state's 41 abortion clinics closed" (Bloomberg, 9/12).

Toti also disputed Mitchell's claims regarding the "large fraction" test, arguing that the lower court did not have to use that standard to weigh the law's constitutionality. In addition, she said that even if the test were applied, nearly one-fifth of reproductive-age women in the state would face a substantial obstacle to obtaining the procedure (New York Times, 9/12).

She added, "These seven or eight [remaining] facilities couldn't meet the statewide demand previously met by 41 clinics" (Bloomberg, 9/12).

Column: Antiabortion-Rights Laws Affect 'Real People'

In The Guardian, columnist Jessica Valenti writes that "in the midst of court decisions, a national debate over choice and lawmakers' efforts to limit abortion rights, we cannot afford to forget that there are real people affected by" laws like HB 2.

Valenti notes that HB 2 has closed "clinics that didn't just provide abortions, but low-cost reproductive health care across the board," and "women [have] suffered." For example, she cites a joint report from the National Latina Institute on Reproductive Health and CRR that found that after closures in the Rio Grande Valley, women "weren't sure where they could get birth control, Pap smears or mammograms," and some even thought that abortion had been made illegal in the state (Valenti, The Guardian, 9/12).


Study: Some Pharmacies Create Barriers to Men's Purchase of Emergency Contraception

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 17:13

About 20% percent of men visiting New York City pharmacies were not allowed to purchase emergency contraception for their female partners, according to a "mystery shopper" study published in Contraception, the New York Daily News reports.

Study: Some Pharmacies Create Barriers to Men's Purchase of Emergency Contraception

September 15, 2014 — About 20% percent of men visiting New York City pharmacies were not allowed to purchase emergency contraception for their female partners, according to a "mystery shopper" study published in Contraception, the New York Daily News reports (Engel, New York Daily News, 9/11).

According to Vox, the findings align with reports that pharmacies in other parts of the U.S. have denied men access to EC. The American Civil Liberties Union has noted such incidents in recent years in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas (Belluz, Vox, 9/11).

Study Details

For the study, researchers from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health and Columbia University Medical Center sent men ages 19, 25 and 28 into 158 pharmacies in three different New York City neighborhoods. Eighty-one percent of the pharmacies sold EC.

The men attempted to purchase EC after explaining to pharmacists that a condom had broken (New York Daily News, 9/11).

Study Findings

In total, nearly 75% of the pharmacies in the study created barriers to access for the participants (Vox, 9/11).

Thirty of the 158 pharmacies refused to sell EC to men (New York Daily News, 9/11). Of those 30 pharmacies, nearly three-quarters said they required a woman to be present or the man to have her identification card for the purchase, while the remaining 27% said they did not have EC in stock (Vox, 9/11).

The study also found that most pharmacists provided the correct dosage instructions for EC, but some did not. In addition, one pharmacist incorrectly stated that EC could cause a miscarriage or abortion, while another gave the incorrect information that it could cause birth defects (New York Daily News, 9/11).

Author's Comments

Study co-author David Bell said in a release that one explanation for the findings could be that pharmacists thought that the female partner needed to be present to comply with age restrictions on EC, which were in effect at the time of the study but have since been removed (Vox, 9/11).

He added that another explanation could be that pharmacists were personally opposed to EC or to men purchasing it (New York Daily News, 9/11).


NYT Op-Ed: Less 'Compelling' Abortion Stories Must Also Be Told

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 16:06

"We have to stop categorizing abortions as justified or unjustified," Merritt Tierce, an author, writes in a New York Times opinion piece that contrasts the circumstances of her own two abortions with those of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D).

NYT Op-Ed: Less 'Compelling' Abortion Stories Must Also Be Told

September 15, 2014 — "We have to stop categorizing abortions as justified or unjustified," Merritt Tierce, an author, writes in a New York Times opinion piece that contrasts the circumstances of her own two abortions with those of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D).

Davis, who is running for governor, discussed her abortion experiences in a recently released memoir. Tierce writes that while she admires Davis for talking openly about abortion, "we need a much larger conversation about abortion -- one that also includes, without prejudice, the stories unlikely to generate much sympathy."

Tierce explains that Davis terminated two wanted pregnancies, including a "life-threatening ectopic pregnancy" and one that "ended in the second trimester because the fetus had an acute brain abnormality." Tierce had her first abortion because she was "poor," "depressed," "didn't know who the father was" and was struggling to care for her two young children, among other reasons. She had a second abortion "because the man [she] was seeing was emotionally abusive," she adds.

According to Tierce, focusing on the most "gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, terrifying abortion stories" perpetuates the myth "that abortion isn't normal" and "the damaging idea that a person who wants an abortion must grovel before the consciences of other."

She concludes that the emotions and "personal contexts" of women's abortion stories should be discussed, "but only after we grant to each woman the right to make and do with her body what she will. Regardless of whether or not a compelling story is on offer" (Tierce, New York Times, 9/12).


Attorneys Spar in Court Over Texas Clinic Closures; Op-Ed Cites Impact on 'Real People'

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 16:00

A federal appeals court panel on Friday heard arguments over whether Texas should be allowed to enforce a provision that likely would leave the state with no abortion facilities outside of four major metropolitan regions, the New York Times reports.

Attorneys Spar in Court Over Texas Clinic Closures; Op-Ed Cites Impact on 'Real People'

September 15, 2014 — A federal appeals court panel on Friday heard arguments over whether Texas should be allowed to enforce a provision that likely would leave the state with no abortion facilities outside of four major metropolitan regions, the New York Times reports (Fernandez, New York Times, 9/12).

The provision, which is part of a larger antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 and would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards at ambulatory surgical centers. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in August barred enforcement of the provision, ruling it unconstitutional, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) quickly appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/2).

Impact

According to the Times, if enforced, the provision could close about a dozen clinics in the state, leaving Texas with seven or eight abortion facilities in four metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The Times notes that there were 41 abortion facilities in Texas -- a state with about 5.4 million women of reproductive age -- before HB 2 was enacted in 2013 (New York Times, 9/12).

The three judges on the 5th Circuit panel did not indicate on Friday when they would rule, NPR's "Shots" reports. If the state is allowed to fully enforce the provision, the affected clinics likely would have to close immediately. The judges could also permit clinics in certain areas to remain open while allowing the state to enforce the law for other clinics, according to "Shots."

State's Arguments

Jonathan Mitchell, Texas' solicitor general, argued that Yeakel's stay on the law should be overturned while the case of the provision's constitutionality continues (Feibel, "Shots," NPR, 9/12). He said the clinics have not demonstrated that the provision places an undue burden on women's access to abortion (Lawton/Brubaker Calkins, Bloomberg, 9/12).

According to "Shots," both sides agree that enforcement of the law means that women in the Rio Grande Valley would have to travel more than 200 miles to reach the nearest abortion facility in the state, in San Antonio. However, Mitchell argued that the clinics had not provided evidence that women in the region are unable to navigate the situation or that the abortion rate had fallen as a result of the law ("Shots," NPR, 9/12).

"There have been no abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley for 10 1/2 months and they have found no evidence of an undue burden," he said, adding that the clinics had also failed to show that a "large fraction of the state's abortion patients will have to travel long distances" (Bloomberg, 9/12).

Mitchell said the state would suffer "irreparable injury" if it cannot enforce the law while the case over its constitutionality continues (New York Times, 9/12). Specifically, he said the state sought an emergency motion to stay Yeakel's decision because it has a compelling interest in shutting down any clinics that it considers unsafe ("Shots," NPR, 9/12).

Clinics' Arguments

Stephanie Toti, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights who is representing abortion clinics, countered that there is "ample evidence in the court record [that shows] a decline in the abortion rate occurred after 20 of the state's 41 abortion clinics closed" (Bloomberg, 9/12).

Toti also disputed Mitchell's claims regarding the "large fraction" test, arguing that the lower court did not have to use that standard to weigh the law's constitutionality. In addition, she said that even if the test were applied, nearly one-fifth of reproductive-age women in the state would face a substantial obstacle to obtaining the procedure (New York Times, 9/12).

She added, "These seven or eight [remaining] facilities couldn't meet the statewide demand previously met by 41 clinics" (Bloomberg, 9/12).

Column: Antiabortion-Rights Laws Affect 'Real People'

In The Guardian, columnist Jessica Valenti writes that "in the midst of court decisions, a national debate over choice and lawmakers' efforts to limit abortion rights, we cannot afford to forget that there are real people affected by" laws like HB 2.

Valenti notes that HB 2 has closed "clinics that didn't just provide abortions, but low-cost reproductive health care across the board," and "women [have] suffered." For example, she cites a joint report from the National Latina Institute on Reproductive Health and CRR that found that after closures in the Rio Grande Valley, women "weren't sure where they could get birth control, Pap smears or mammograms," and some even thought that abortion had been made illegal in the state (Valenti, The Guardian, 9/12).


Planned Parenthood Launches Video Service for Contraceptive Consultations

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 13:44

Planned Parenthood recently launched an online service that allows Minnesota and Washington residents to receive contraceptives after a video appointment with a health care provider, the Huffington Post reports.

Planned Parenthood Launches Video Service for Contraceptive Consultations

September 15, 2014 — Planned Parenthood recently launched an online service that allows Minnesota and Washington residents to receive contraceptives after a video appointment with a health care provider, the Huffington Post reports.

The new service, called Planned Parenthood Care, is intended to cater to a younger generation of patients who are comfortable with technology, according to a Planned Parenthood spokesperson.

The 15-minute video consultations cost $45 and are not covered by insurance, although Planned Parenthood is working with insurers to possibly offer that option. The organization recommends that patients send their receipts to their insurers for potential reimbursement.

The video chats are conducted through an Internet browser or a new Planned Parenthood app for Apple and Android devices. After logging in, a patient speaks with a clinician to discuss various methods. Patients can then have a prescribed method sent to them in the mail.

Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said, "Every generation of women is different from their mothers, and what's different about the current generation of young women is that they live a whole lot of their lives online."

Planned Parenthood plans to add consultations for sexually transmitted infections to the service and hopes to expand the program to more states, according to the Huffington Post (Thomas, Huffington Post, 9/11).


Featured Blog

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 17:48

"Doctors Aren't Dummies: Support the Patient Trust Act," (Michelman, Huffington Post blogs, 9/10).

September 12, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Doctors Aren't Dummies: Support the Patient Trust Act," Kate Michelman, Huffington Post blogs: The Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee this week discussed a bill (HB 2303), introduced in July, that "says that politicians have no business putting words that are 'not medically accurate and appropriate for the patient' into the mouths of doctors," writes Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and co-chair of WomenVotePA. She writes that the legislation is important because "politicians have made it difficult -- and in some cases even illegal -- for doctors to keep that sacred obligation," such as through measures "proposed by lawmakers trying to disguise their opposition to contraception and abortion by disingenuously claiming that these laws promote women's health and safety." Michelman cites a report that found a majority of states have passed such laws and concludes, "It's time for politicians to stop masquerading as ideological ventriloquists" because "[w]omen need to be able to trust that the voice they're hearing is from their physician" (Michelman, Huffington Post blogs, 9/10).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions and access:

~ "Texas' Radical Anti-Abortion Law Faces Hearing Friday," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

San Francisco Resolution Opposes Sex-Selective Abortion Bans Over Potential for Racial Profiling

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 17:43

San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu (D) on Tuesday introduced a resolution that opposes sex-selective abortion bans, which he said are based on racial stereotypes and promote stigmatization of Asian-American women, the Huffington Post reports.

San Francisco Resolution Opposes Sex-Selective Abortion Bans Over Potential for Racial Profiling

September 12, 2014 — San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu (D) on Tuesday introduced a resolution that opposes sex-selective abortion bans, which he said are based on racial stereotypes and promote stigmatization of Asian-American women, the Huffington Post reports.

If passed, the resolution would make San Francisco the first U.S. city to formally oppose such bans. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the measure Sept. 16 (O'Connor, Huffington Post, 9/10).

Background

Eight U.S. states have statutes making it illegal to seek an abortion based on the sex of the fetus, according to the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose Mercury News, 9/10).

In California this year, state Assembly member Shannon Grove (R) introduced a bill (AB 2336) that would have banned the practice and imposed a fine of up to $10,000 on physicians who completed such procedures. The bill failed in committee.

Reason for Opposition to Bans

Chiu said the bans stem from stereotypes that Asian-Americans and other minorities are likely to seek an abortion when a fetus is female because of a preference for sons (Huffington Post, 9/10).

He added that the bans can "lead to the denial of reproductive health care services to women by some medical providers and lead to the further stigmatization of women, particularly Asian American women" (San Jose Mercury News, 9/10).

Sophia Yen of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum supports Chiu's resolution, noting that "sex-selective abortion bans will result in racial discrimination and racial profiling when it comes to provision of reproductive health care services, and that they hurt the doctor/patient relationship" (Huffington Post, 9/10).


Proposed Abortion Clinic Restrictions at Issue in Pa. Governor's Race

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 17:42

Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said that if elected, he would not support a bill (HB 1762) that would increase restrictions on abortion clinics and could force some of them to close, Mother Jones reports.

Proposed Abortion Clinic Restrictions at Issue in Pa. Governor's Race

September 12, 2014 — Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said that if elected, he would not support a bill (HB 1762) that would increase restrictions on abortion clinics and could force some of them to close, Mother Jones reports.

The bill was introduced in February but has not received a vote. It would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital that offers obstetrical or gynecological services and is within 30 miles of the facility where they offer abortions.

Wolf campaign spokesperson Beth Melena called the bill "an attempt to make it more difficult for women to access reproductive health care."

A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Corbett (R), who is running for re-election, did not respond to requests for comment. However, bill sponsor state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R) said he expects that Corbett would support the measure. Corbett has supported other abortion restrictions in the past.

According to Cutler, the state Senate is not likely to consider the bill before its session ends on Nov. 12. He said he will consider reintroducing the bill next year (Liebelson, Mother Jones, 9/11).


Lawmakers, Groups File Briefs in Support of Woman in Supreme Court Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 16:16

Dozens of Democratic members of Congress, advocacy groups, business leaders and a bipartisan coalition of state legislators have filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Supreme Court to side with a former UPS driver in her pregnancy discrimination case, the Washington Post reports.

Lawmakers, Groups File Briefs in Support of Woman in Supreme Court Pregnancy Discrimination Case

September 12, 2014 — Dozens of Democratic members of Congress, advocacy groups, business leaders and a bipartisan coalition of state legislators have filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Supreme Court to side with a former UPS driver in her pregnancy discrimination case, the Washington Post reports.

The briefs argue that the court should ensure that pregnant women can receive reasonable accommodations that enable them to continue working during pregnancy (Schulte, Washington Post, 9/11).

Background of Lawsuit

The Supreme Court announced this summer that it would hear the case in its upcoming term. The lawsuit involves UPS employee Peggy Young, who was denied a light-duty assignment that would have allowed her to continue working during her pregnancy. Young took an unpaid leave of absence and returned to her job after giving birth but lost her employer-sponsored health benefits during the leave of absence.

She sued UPS under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PL 95-555). A federal judge and a Virginia-based appeals court both ruled against Young, finding that UPS' policy treated pregnant and non-pregnant employees alike.

Young in her appeal to the Supreme Court argued that the PDA requires employers to accommodate pregnant workers' needs in the same way that they would accommodate workers with comparable "ability or inability to work," regardless of the origin of a worker's condition.

Meanwhile, UPS in court filings has said that the company acted lawfully because it used criteria other than pregnancy to determine which employees were eligible for light duty (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/2).

Brief From Members of Congress

In their brief, 99 Democratic House lawmakers, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), and 24 Democratic senators urged the Supreme Court to rule that pregnant workers have the right to reasonable accommodations so they are not forced to leave their jobs. They argued that current provisions of federal law are designed with the intention to "ensure that pregnant women were no longer treated as second-class citizens on the job" (Yen, AP/Huffington Post, 9/11).

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said of the case, "We shouldn't have to debate this issue in the 21st century. But the facts of this case make clear that far too many pregnant women suffer workplace discrimination."

Other Briefs

In a separate brief, the American Civil Liberties Union and A Better Balance said that pregnant workers are regularly denied accommodations available to other categories of workers.

Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney for the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, said, "The only people being pushed out of their jobs and forced onto unpaid leave are going to be pregnant women. It's really sex discrimination that's at stake." She added that this results in women being forced out of jobs that could continue with accommodations, resulting in hardships such as losing their health insurance and housing (Washington Post, 9/11).

Meanwhile, another brief from a group of 12 organizations that work to improve maternal and infant health argued, "Denying pregnant workers the same modest modifications afforded to other employees with similar work restrictions not only violates the [PDA], it contravenes sound health, economic, and social policy," adding, "When an employer forces a pregnant woman to choose between her health care provider's advice and her job, that choice can risk compromising her health and the health of her pregnancy."

The National Partnership for Women & Families, which worked to help enact the PDA, led the organizations in filing the brief, which was joined by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the American Public Health Association and National Advocates for Pregnant Women, among several other groups (National Partnership release, 9/12).

In addition, the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce filed a brief arguing that providing pregnant women with reasonable accommodations is important to the U.S. economy.

Next Steps in Supreme Court Case

The deadline to submit amicus briefs in support of Young was Thursday. Briefs in support of UPS are due in October, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to begin oral arguments on Dec. 3 (Washington Post, 9/11).