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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Antiabortion-Rights Protests Increase After Portland, Maine, Ends 'Buffer Zone'

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 15:30

Antiabortion-rights protests have increased "in number and activity" outside a Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic since the City Council repealed a "buffer zone" ordinance, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Antiabortion-Rights Protests Increase After Portland, Maine, Ends 'Buffer Zone'

August 18, 2014 — Antiabortion-rights protests have increased "in number and activity" outside a Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic since the City Council repealed a "buffer zone" ordinance, the Bangor Daily News reports (Koenig, Bangor Daily News, 8/15).

The Portland City Council in November unanimously approved an ordinance that created a 39-foot, protest-free zone around entrances to the clinic, which was facing regular demonstrations from abortion-rights opponents. However, the council voted 7-1 to repeal the ordinance less than two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a similar Massachusetts law (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/8).

Increased Protests

Nicole Clegg, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's vice president of public policy, said PPNNE had to request help from police on a recent weekend, when protesters blocked sidewalks near the clinic's entrance and screamed loud enough to result in a warning from a police officer on duty. She added that demonstrations have been "escalating" since the Supreme Court decision.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck confirmed that the number of protesters had increased and that some had received warnings, which they followed. He said, "Case law has shown that it is a civil rights violation if you can hear the protests from inside the examination room," which is "what Planned Parenthood reported was happening."

City of Portland spokesperson Jessica Grondin said city staff members are investigating alternatives to the buffer zone and expect to deliver recommendations at a City Council committee meeting on Sept. 9 (Bangor Daily News, 8/15).

Antiabortion-Rights Protesters Sue

Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights protesters continue to pursue a lawsuit they filed after the City Council initially approved the buffer zone last year, the Portland Press Herald reports.

A day after the City Council repealed the ordinance, the city filed a motion requesting that U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen dismiss the case because "there is no longer a controversy here." The city on Tuesday filed a final legal brief in support of its dismissal request (Dolan, Portland Press Herald, 8/14).

However, the protesters have requested that the case go forward and want the judge to award them $1 in damages as a symbolic measure to demonstrate the "constitutional violations" and "harm" suffered by the plaintiffs. Erin Kuenzig, an attorney for the protesters, said a ruling in their favor would "set a precedent and would be persuasive authority for a judge to consider if Portland decides to enact a similar buffer zone ordinance" (Bangor Daily News, 8/15).


Poll: Most Voters Say Government Should Not Restrict Abortion Access

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 14:37

Almost 70% of registered voters say the government should not limit access to abortion, according to a new poll from NARAL Pro-Choice America, Politico Pro reports.

Poll: Most Voters Say Government Should Not Restrict Abortion Access

August 18, 2014 — Almost 70% of registered voters say the government should not limit access to abortion, according to a new poll from NARAL Pro-Choice America, Politico Pro reports.

The poll marks the first time NARAL asked respondents to distinguish between the morality and legality of abortion, an approach that allows respondents to voice personal objections to abortion but still support access to it. The poll did not include questions about restricting abortion based on the stage of pregnancy or other factors.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner pollster Drew Lieberman said polls that do not make the distinction between morality and legality force people "into artificial categories." He added, "Almost half the population is in the gray area" of having moral objections to abortion while supporting legal access, which is a "pro-choice position."

Key Findings

For the poll, GQR researchers surveyed 800 registered voters.

The poll found that 23% of respondents believe abortion is "morally acceptable and should be legal," while 45% said they are personally against it but believe the government should not restrict access to it. About 25% of respondents said abortion should be illegal.

In addition, the poll found that the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents do not support government restrictions on abortion. Specifically, 84% of Democrats said the government should not limit access, while 53% of Republicans and 66% of independents said the same.

NARAL: Poll Shows Disconnect Among Lawmakers

NARAL Political Director Erika West said the poll's findings show that elected officials are not representing voters' views. Only four in 10 representatives in the House fit NARAL's definition of abortion-rights supporters, she noted.

"People ask why are we losing ground on reproductive freedom, and it's because our elected representatives don't represent our values," she said (Haberkorn, Politico Pro, 8/18).


Antiabortion-Rights Protests Increase After Portland, Maine, Ends 'Buffer Zone'

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 14:26

Antiabortion-rights protests have increased "in number and activity" outside a Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic since the City Council repealed a "buffer zone" ordinance, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Antiabortion-Rights Protests Increase After Portland, Maine, Ends 'Buffer Zone'

August 18, 2014 — Antiabortion-rights protests have increased "in number and activity" outside a Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic since the City Council repealed a "buffer zone" ordinance, the Bangor Daily News reports (Koenig, Bangor Daily News, 8/15).

The Portland City Council in November unanimously approved an ordinance that created a 39-foot, protest-free zone around entrances to the clinic, which was facing regular demonstrations from abortion-rights opponents. However, the council voted 7-1 to repeal the ordinance less than two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a similar Massachusetts law (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/8).

Increased Protests

Nicole Clegg, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's vice president of public policy, said PPNNE had to request help from police on a recent weekend, when protesters blocked sidewalks near the clinic's entrance and screamed loud enough to result in a warning from a police officer on duty. She added that demonstrations have been "escalating" since the Supreme Court decision.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck confirmed that the number of protesters had increased and that some had received warnings, which they followed. He said, "Case law has shown that it is a civil rights violation if you can hear the protests from inside the examination room," which is "what Planned Parenthood reported was happening."

City of Portland spokesperson Jessica Grondin said city staff members are investigating alternatives to the buffer zone and expect to deliver recommendations at a City Council committee meeting on Sept. 9 (Bangor Daily News, 8/15).

Antiabortion-Rights Protesters Sue

Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights protesters continue to pursue a lawsuit they filed after the City Council initially approved the buffer zone last year, the Portland Press Herald reports.

A day after the City Council repealed the ordinance, the city filed a motion requesting that U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen dismiss the case because "there is no longer a controversy here." The city on Tuesday filed a final legal brief in support of its dismissal request (Dolan, Portland Press Herald, 8/14).

However, the protesters have requested that the case go forward and want the judge to award them $1 in damages as a symbolic measure to demonstrate the "constitutional violations" and "harm" suffered by the plaintiffs. Erin Kuenzig, an attorney for the protesters, said a ruling in their favor would "set a precedent and would be persuasive authority for a judge to consider if Portland decides to enact a similar buffer zone ordinance" (Bangor Daily News, 8/15).


Judge: Ohio Officials Have Authority To Close Abortion Clinic

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 14:25

An Ohio judge on Friday said that he does not have jurisdiction to stop the state Department of Health from closing an abortion clinic that did not secure a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Judge: Ohio Officials Have Authority To Close Abortion Clinic

August 18, 2014 — An Ohio judge on Friday said that he does not have jurisdiction to stop the state Department of Health from closing an abortion clinic that did not secure a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

The clinic, Women's Med Center's Lebanon Road Surgery Center, had approval to operate without a transfer agreement for a decade and has been fighting the state's closure order for nearly a year.

The Lebanon Road Surgery Center is one of three abortion facilities in Southwest Ohio that are seeking permission to stay open after DOH ordered them to close because they could not secure transfer agreements. If all three clinics close, the Cincinnati area would become the largest metropolitan region in the U.S. without an abortion clinic, according to the Enquirer.

The clinic would need to take court action this week to remain open, the Enquirer reports.

Judge's Ruling

Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz on Friday said Ohio law gives the state DOH director "sole discretion" on granting permission to clinics to operate without a transfer agreement. Such permission is known as a "variance."

Dorothea Langsam, an attorney for Women's Med Center, said the clinic could appeal the judge's ruling directly or use court filings from last week to ask the judge to overturn DOH's decision to deny a variance.

Val Haskell, owner of the clinic, said Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is "methodically targeting each Ohio abortion provider for closure, one by one, hoping no one will notice," adding, "It is our medical center today, one in Cleveland or Columbus tomorrow" (Perry/Thompson, Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/15).

Legal Basis for Closure Orders

Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies. In September, provisions in the state budget took effect that require abortion clinics to secure the transfer agreements with private hospitals and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals, among other restrictions. In January, the Ohio Department of Health ordered the Women's Med Center clinic to close after denying its request for a reprieve from the law, but the clinic appealed. Although Metz ruled in January that the clinic could remain open while the appeal continued, county Common Pleas Magistrate Michael Bachman last month affirmed the health department's order and lifted a temporary stay on the closure order.

The clinic last week filed a second lawsuit asking Metz to order DOH to approve its license and said it would consolidate the case with the original case, which began with oral arguments on Friday (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/15).


NCAA Says Athletic Depts. Should Stop Oversight of Campus Sexual Assault Cases

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:54

College athletic departments should cooperate with investigations into sexual assault allegations against student athletes, but they should not oversee such cases, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Executive Committee said in a resolution last week, the McClatchy/Miami Herald reports.

NCAA Says Athletic Depts. Should Stop Oversight of Campus Sexual Assault Cases

August 18, 2014 — College athletic departments should cooperate with investigations into sexual assault allegations against student athletes, but they should not oversee such cases, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Executive Committee said in a resolution last week, the McClatchy/Miami Herald reports.

The Executive Committee -- NCAA's highest decision-making body -- unanimously approved the resolution in light of a recent survey that found that 22% of colleges let their athletic departments handle such investigations. Among Division I, II and III schools, 30% permit athletic departments to have oversight of the investigations (Schoof, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 8/14). Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) office conducted the survey to gauge how campuses and local law enforcement deal with sexual assault investigations (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/10).

McCaskill after a Senate hearing last month expressed surprise that NCAA President Mark Emmert, who testified at the hearing, was not aware that many schools allowed athletic department to oversee the investigations. "The fact [that] he didn't know [the statistics] until our survey is probably an indictment as to how serious [colleges] have been about this problem," McCaskill said.

Resolution Details

The resolution calls on collegiate athletic departments to "cooperate with but not manage, direct, control or interfere with college or university investigations into allegations of sexual violence ensuring that investigations involving student-athletes and athletics department staff are managed in the same manner as all other students and staff on campus."

The Executive Committee said the resolution "recognizes the importance of addressing the abhorrent societal issue of sexual violence," adding that it is the "collective responsibility" of NCAA members "to maintain campuses as safe places to learn, live, work and play" (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 8/14).


Reddy v. Foster

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 21:54

Federal court challenge to a New Hampshire law prohibiting protests within 25 feet of abortion clinics.

Reddy v. Foster

Federal court challenge to a New Hampshire law prohibiting protests within 25 feet of abortion clinics. The state and most counties agreed not to enforce the law until the court rules on the suit. Current Status: On July 9, the judge entered a temporary order enjoining the law from enforcement. (See the law here. See the complaint here.)

Mahoney v. Kliebert

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 21:50

State court case against the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals demanding access to mandatory reports detailing each pregnancy termination performed in the state.

Mahoney v. Kliebert

State court case against the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals demanding access to mandatory reports detailing each pregnancy termination performed in the state. Providers are required to submit “The Report of Induced Termination of Pregnancy” for each abortion performed in Louisiana. The plaintiff, an anti-abortion rights activist, seeks access to the information collected in these forms. (See the complaint here.)

ACLU of North Carolina v. Conti

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 21:46

Federal court challenge to North Carolina decision to issue a pro-life license plate, while refusing to approve a pro-choice license plate

ACLU of North Carolina v. Conti

Federal court challenge to North Carolina decision to issue a pro-life license plate, while refusing to approve a pro-choice license plate. In November 2011, the U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the plates from being distributed. In December 2012, the U.S. District Court found the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment and issued a permanent injunction. Current Status: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the U.S. District Court’s ruling. The state petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision. (See the law here. See the 2011 court opinion here. See the 2012 court opinion here. See the 4th Circuit opinion here.)

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest v. Streur

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 21:44

State court challenge to Alaska Department of Health and Social Services regulations and statute that severely restrict the circumstances under which the state will provide Medicaid coverage for medically necessary abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest v. Streur

State court challenge to Alaska Department of Health and Social Services regulations and statute that severely restrict the circumstances under which the state will provide Medicaid coverage for medically necessary abortions. Planned Parenthood asserts that the new regulations violate the Administrative Procedures Act and that the regulations and statute violate the state constitution. Plaintiffs filed suit in January to block the regulations which were set to take effect on February 2, 2014. In addition to requesting a permanent injunction against enforcing the regulations, Planned Parenthood asked the court to issue a temporary injunction enjoining enforcement of the regulations during the pendency of the case. The court granted the temporary injunction. In April 2014, the governor signed into law restrictions similar to the enjoined regulations. In May 2014, Planned Parenthood amended its complaint to challenge the new law, in addition to the regulations. Current Status: In February, the court issued a preliminary injunction of the regulations and, in July, the court issued a preliminary injunction of the statute, thus, the regulations and statute are temporarily enjoined pending the outcome of the hearing on a permanent injunction. (See the initial complaint here. See the Motion for Preliminary Injunction here. See the order granting the preliminary injunction against the regulations here. See the Memorandum in support of the motion here. See the order granting the preliminary injunction against the statute here. Learn more about the case here.)

McCullen et al. v. Martha Coakley

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 21:34

Federal court challenge to a Massachusetts law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics.

McCullen et al. v. Martha Coakley

Challenge to a Massachusetts law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics. In February 2012 the U.S. District Court upheld the law. In January 2013 a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision. On June 24, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and oral arguments took place on January 15, 2014. Final Outcome: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law on the ground that it violates protestors’ First Amendment rights. (See the district court opinion here. See the 1st Circuit opinion here. See the U.S. Supreme Court opinion here. Learn more about the case here.)

Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Bentley

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 21:27

Federal court challenge to an Alabama law, which would take effect on July 1, 2013, that requires all physicians who perform abortions to have staff privileges at a local hospital.

Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Bentley

Federal court challenge to an Alabama law, which would have taken effect on July 1, 2013, that requires all physicians who perform abortions to have staff privileges at a local hospital. The plaintiffs are the only licensed facilities in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Mobile. In June 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. On June 28, 2013, the district court judge entered a temporary restraining order blocking the admitting privileges provision. On July 23, 2013, the judge extended the temporary order until March 24, 2014. Both parties filed summary judgment motions asking the court to rule on the case based on legal arguments rather than at trial. The judge determined that a genuine dispute of material facts exists and ordered the case to go to trial on May 19, 2014. The temporary restraining order was extended until a final judgment is rendered. Current Status: The district court ruled that the admitting privileges requirement is unconstitutional. The temporary restraining order remains in place until the district court judge issues a final order reflecting his ruling. (See the law here. See the complaint here. See the motion here. See the first temporary restraining order here. See the second temporary restraining order here. See the opinion denying summary judgment here. See the district court opinion here. Learn more about the case here.)

Jackson Women's Health Organization and Willie Parker v. Mary Currier and Robert Shuler Smith

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 21:12

Federal court challenge to a Mississippi state law designed to close the state's only abortion clinic, which requires abortion providers at the clinic to be board certified OB/GYNs and have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Jackson Women's Health Organization and Willie Parker v. Mary Currier and Robert Shuler Smith

Federal court challenge to a Mississippi state law designed to close the state’s only abortion clinic, which requires abortion providers at the clinic to be board certified OB/GYNs and have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The state’s only remaining clinic has been unable to comply. In April 2013, the U.S. District Court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the law from taking effect while the suit is pending. The state of Mississippi appealed the temporary injunction to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Current Status: A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit upheld the injunction on July 29, 2014, finding that the law impermissibly shifted a constitutional burden onto other states. The state had argued that, though there would be no clinics in Mississippi, women could drive to clinics in other states to obtain the procedure, thus the law does not create not an undue burden on their right to an abortion. The majority rejected that argument, stating that Mississippi cannot rely on neighboring states to protect Mississippians’ constitutional rights. The state has requested review by the full 5th Circuit. (See the law here. See the district court order here. See the 5th Circuit opinion here. Read more about the case here.)

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Van Hollen

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 20:54

Federal court challenge to a Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Van Hollen

Federal court challenge to a Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. The bill was signed into law on July 5, 2013, and was set to take effect on July 8, 2013. On July 5, 2013, the ACLU, the ACLU of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. A federal judge issued a temporary injunction on July 8, 2013, to block the admitting privileges portion of the law. The state of Wisconsin appealed that injunction. Current Status: The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s temporary injunction, and the law is enjoined from enforcement pending the outcome of the May 2014 trial on the merits. Wisconsin petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review asking that the state be allowed to enforce the law pending the outcome of the trial, but the Supreme Court rejected the petition because the district court would be issuing its ruling soon. (See the law here. See the complaint here. See the district court order here. See the 7th Circuit opinion here. Learn more about the case here.)

Ohio Abortion Clinic Challenges State in Transfer Agreements Dispute

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 18:04

An Ohio abortion clinic on Tuesday filed a second lawsuit asking a county judge to order the state Department of Health to approve its license, the AP/Dayton Daily News reports.

Ohio Abortion Clinic Challenges State in Transfer Agreements Dispute

August 15, 2014 — An Ohio abortion clinic on Tuesday filed a second lawsuit asking a county judge to order the state Department of Health to approve its license, the AP/Dayton Daily News reports.

Attorneys for the Women's Med Center's Lebanon Road Surgical Center in Sharonville, Ohio, said that the filing is a procedural matter and that they plan to consolidate this lawsuit with the one filed earlier. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin on Friday in the previously filed case.

The clinic has argued that the health department abused its authority by ordering the clinic to close and was really targeting it for political reasons. The state has said that the clinic has not followed state rules for having back-up care in place, but the clinic says that adequate procedures have always been in place (AP/Dayton Daily News, 8/13).

Background

Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/14). In September, provisions in the state budget took effect that require abortion clinics to secure the transfer agreements with private hospitals and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals, among other restrictions (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23).

In January, the Ohio Department of Health ordered the clinic to close after denying its request for reprieve from the law. However, Women's Med Center appealed the order and asked the court to order the state to renew the clinic's operating license and provide a temporary stay of the closure order while the case proceeds. Later that month, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz said that the clinic could remain open while the appeal continued.

However, Hamilton County Common Pleas Magistrate Michael Bachman last month affirmed the health department's order and said he would lift the stay (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/14).


Telemedicine Becomes Partisan Issue When Abortion is Involved

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 18:04

Although many Republican lawmakers generally support telemedicine, they have backed state and federal efforts to restrict its use in abortion care, Politico Pro reports.

Telemedicine Becomes Partisan Issue When Abortion is Involved

August 15, 2014 — Although many Republican lawmakers generally support telemedicine, they have backed state and federal efforts to restrict its use in abortion care, Politico Pro reports.

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., require private insurance to cover services provided via telemedicine, according to the American Telemedicine Association. However, 15 states -- 14 of which lean Republican -- bar physicians from using telemedicine in the delivery of medication abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The states with overlapping laws -- requiring telemedicine coverage but banning its use for abortion -- are Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma, according to Politico Pro. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood in Iowa is awaiting a judge's decision in a lawsuit challenging state regulations that banned its telemedicine program.

While much of the legislation banning telemedicine abortion is at the state level, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in 2012 backed a federal bill that would have banned the service across state lines and prohibited the use of federal funding for it.

How Telemedicine is Used in Abortion Care

In a telemedicine abortion, a patient consults with a physician at another location via video messaging software, similar to Skype. Trained staff members at the patient's location conduct ultrasounds, blood tests and other screenings.

If the physician concludes that a medication abortion is appropriate for the patient, he or she remotely opens a container that holds the drugs and watches the patient take the first pill in the regimen during a video conference.

Safety Affirmed

ATA has not offered guidelines for the use of telemedicine for medication abortion. However, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that the service is safe.

An ACOG group that developed practice guidelines on first-trimester abortion found that rates of adverse events were about the same for telemedicine and conventional abortion care. In addition, telemedicine abortion patients report high satisfaction rates, ACOG found.

Meanwhile, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and other abortion-rights opponents claim that telemedicine abortion should be restricted because of safety concerns. "There's a lot of risk in someone having an abortion without having medical people around them," Black said.

Ob-gyn Dan Grossman, vice president of research at Ibis Reproductive Health and a member of the group that drafted the guidelines, said, "Like many of the laws that restrict abortion services, [safety claims are] not based on actual evidence or science." Instead, the telemedicine bans are "just an effort to restrict access to abortion," he said (Pittman, Politico Pro, 8/14).


Featured Blog

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 18:04

"California Parents Complain That Sex Ed Textbook is 'Equivalent To Pornography'"(Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).

August 15, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"California Parents Complain That Sex Ed Textbook is 'Equivalent To Pornography,'" Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Comprehensive sex ed materials often spark controversy for being too sexually explicit," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that a California school district recently "agreed to temporarily shelve a ninth grade sex education textbook" after some parents "compared the book to porn." The district's superintendent said the textbook was picked "because it 'provides current, accurate, factual and relevant information our students need to make responsible decisions about their health,'" she adds. Culp-Ressler writes that "from a public health perspective, experts suggest that kids should actually learn accurate information about sexuality from a very early age," but "most teens don't receive" such information "until after they've already started having sex" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).


Blogs Comment on Need for Better Family Leave Policies, Decriminalizing Sex Work, More

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 17:44

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Washington Post, "ThinkProgress" and more.

Blogs Comment on Need for Better Family Leave Policies, Decriminalizing Sex Work, More

August 15, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Washington Post, "ThinkProgress" and more.

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "A Tale of Two Maternity Leaves," Darlena Cunha, Washington Post's "On Parenting": Cunha compares the family leave options available to herself and other U.S. parents with leave that is available to families in Finland. She notes that only 11% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave, while other families struggle financially to take unpaid leave or do not qualify for any leave at all under the Family Medical Leave Act (PL 103-3),which only applies to certain employers and workers. By contrast, Finnish families have access to "about four months maternity leave," 54 days of paternity leave, "parental leave" that can be taken by any parent at separate times from when a child is four months old to nine months old, and a small stipend for "home child care leave until the child is 3 years old" (Cunha, "On Parenting," Washington Post, 8/13).

CONTRACEPTION: "Our Safety Net is Failing the Impoverished Women Who Need Birth Control," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "As the number of low-income women who need government assistance to access family planning services has been on the rise, the number of patients served by publicly funded clinics has been falling, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute," Culp-Ressler writes, adding that the findings "illustrate the widening gulf between poor women and wealthier women when it comes to their ability to use reproductive health services, a disparity driven partly by partisan attacks on abortion." She explains that in contrast to the "broad bipartisan support" of the past "for government funding to help impoverished women manage their reproductive health," conservatives today have "turned their attention to attacking Planned Parenthood," federal family planning programs have become "caught in the crossfires" of the abortion-rights debate and "GOP lawmakers have repeatedly cut family planning budgets" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "How Colorado's Teen Birthrate Dropped 40% in Four Years," Gail Sullivan, Washington Post's "Morning Mix."

~ "Obama Administration To Issue New Rules for Religious Accommodation to Birth Control Benefit," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

HEALTH DISPARITIES: "Report: Racial Discrimination Severely Undermines Black Women’s Health," Elizabeth Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check: The Reproductive Health Technologies Project's Dawes Gay comments on a "new shadow report ... by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective" that "shares some alarming data on maternal health outcomes as well as disturbing firsthand accounts of the racial discrimination experienced by Black women." She notes, "The stories ... included in the report convey the gross under-education and discriminatory treatment of Black women living in the South, in particular, where sexual and reproductive health education is nonexistent and stigma is rampant." Dawes Gay adds, "Black women are victims of something much worse than stigma, judgment, and discrimination: We are victims of a system and society that abrogates our basic human rights, including the rights to health, life, and non-discrimination" (Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check, 8/13).

SEX WORK: "The Evidence is in: Decriminalizing Sex Work is Critical to Public Health," Anna Forbes/Sarah Elspeth Patterson, RH Reality Check: Forbes and Elspeth Patterson analyze why "the trend toward criminalizing populations involved in the sex trades [is] increasing in the United States," even as medical research and a growing number of public health organizations affirm "the decriminalization of sex work as vital to preventing the spread of [HIV] and [AIDS]" and improving overall public health. They explain the trend in relation to three factors: the conflation of sex work with trafficking, the lack of health care access among sex workers and how criminalization exacerbates violence toward sex workers. "We can't stop HIV in the United States without sustainable and long-term solutions to end the arrest, detention, and incarceration of sex workers in the [U.S.], as well as end the violations against sex workers within the correctional system," they write (Forbes/Elspeth Patterson, RH Reality Check, 8/13).

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "California Parents Complain That Sex Ed Textbook is 'Equivalent To Pornography,'" Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Comprehensive sex ed materials often spark controversy for being too sexually explicit," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that a California school district recently "agreed to temporarily shelve a ninth grade sex education textbook" after some parents "compared the book to porn." The district's superintendent said the textbook was picked "because it 'provides current, accurate, factual and relevant information our students need to make responsible decisions about their health,'" she adds. Culp-Ressler writes that "from a public health perspective, experts suggest that kids should actually learn accurate information about sexuality from a very early age," but "most teens don't receive" such information "until after they've already started having sex" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).


Quote Round Up: Courts Block Admitting Privileges Law, Justice Ginsburg Comments on Hobby Lobby, More

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 16:48

We've compiled top comments from key stakeholders in women's health, including remarks on recent court decisions, a bill to improve contraceptive coverage for military women and more.

Quote Round Up: Courts Block Admitting Privileges Law, Justice Ginsburg Comments on Hobby Lobby, More

August 14, 2014 — We've compiled top comments from key stakeholders in women's health, including remarks on recent court decisions, a bill to improve contraceptive coverage for military women and more.

"A state cannot lean on its sovereign neighbors to provide protection of its citizens' federal constitutional rights." -- 5th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Grady Jolly, blocking a Mississippi law (HB 1390) that would have resulted in the closure of the state's sole abortion clinic. The judge said the law would illegally shift the state's burden of ensuring abortion rights for its residents to other states (New York Times, 7/29).

"I certainly respect the belief of the Hobby Lobby owners," but "they have no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women" who work for them. -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, criticizing the high court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive coverage case (Yahoo! News, 8/1). However, Ginsburg added, "I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow" (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/1).

"Female service members deserve access to the same basic health care as the women they protect, and it's unacceptable that they don't." -- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), on a bill (S 2687) she authored that would require the military's health plan, TRICARE, to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives without copayments or other cost-sharing by beneficiaries. Currently, women who are not on active duty and other women covered through TRICARE have varying levels of copays, depending on the type of contraceptive (Politico, 7/30).

"Patients trust that their doctor is telling them the truth, the whole truth and that their health is the doctor's primary concern. We should protect that trust." -- Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel (D), co-sponsor of a state bill (HB 2303) that would bar the government from forcing providers to care for patients in ways that are not considered medically appropriate or tell patients information that is not medically accurate. The bill is in response to requirements seen in numerous other states, such as laws that force doctors to tell women seeking abortions the inaccurate claim that there is a link between the procedure and breast cancer (Pittsburgh Business Times, 7/29).

"Even in the face of cynical and unrelenting political attack, the right to abortion can become stronger the more tightly it is stitched into the constitutional fabric, the more that smart and gutsy judges are willing to treat it as what it is, a right like any other." -- New York Times op-ed contributor Linda Greenhouse, praising recent rulings blocking antiabortion-rights laws in Alabama and Mississippi (New York Times, 8/6).


Federal Judge Rules Baptist College May Exclude Coverage for Some Contraceptives

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 15:45

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the employee health plan for a private Baptist college does not have to cover contraceptive methods that the school finds "religiously offensive," the Alexandria Town Talk reports.

Federal Judge Rules Baptist College May Exclude Coverage for Some Contraceptives

August 15, 2014 — A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the employee health plan for a private Baptist college does not have to cover contraceptive methods that the school finds "religiously offensive," the Alexandria Town Talk reports.

According to the Town Talk, Louisiana College provides health insurance for its employees through the GuideStone Plan, which offers health coverage in accord with the religious beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention. The insurer does not cover emergency contraception.

In February 2012, the college filed a lawsuit against the federal contraceptive coverage rules, which require most employers to offer such coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. The college alleged that the rules violated its religious freedom because it believes that life begins at fertilization and that certain contraceptives can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall.

Wednesday's Ruling

Federal Judge Dee Drell cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141) as the basis for Wednesday's ruling.

Drell wrote that the college "sincerely believes that any involvement in the use or provision of [EC] is a sin and is forbidden by its religion" (Guidry, Alexandria Town Talk, 8/14).


Study Links Dust From World Trade Center Collapse to Negative Pregnancy Outcomes

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 15:20

Pregnant women who were living near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, had elevated rates of premature delivery and infants with low birth weights, according to a recent study by Princeton University researchers, Time reports.

Study Links Dust From World Trade Center Collapse to Negative Pregnancy Outcomes

August 15, 2014 — Pregnant women who were living near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, had elevated rates of premature delivery and infants with low birth weights, according to a recent study by Princeton University researchers, Time reports.

The large dust cloud that settled over Lower Manhattan after the twin towers collapsed was highly alkaline and contained toxic levels of asbestos, cement, glass fibers, gypsum, lead and other metals, according to Time.

Study authors Janet Currie and Hannes Schwandt said their "findings provide the first consistent evidence that the 9/11 dust cloud had detrimental impacts on pregnancy outcomes."

Although other studies have not found a link between the dust cloud and negative pregnancy outcomes, those studies did not take into account that women living in Lower Manhattan at the time generally had a decreased likelihood of poor pregnancy outcomes.

Currie and Schwandt acknowledged that changes in maternal behaviors after the terrorist attacks also could have partially affected birth outcomes. The study has not been peer reviewed.

"Residence in the affected area increased prematurity, low birth weight, and admission to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) after birth, especially for boys," the authors said. For example, women living in the area who were in their first trimester when the towers collapsed had twice the probability of a premature delivery, the study found (Frizell, Time, 8/13).