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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Editorials Urge N.Y. Legislature To Take Action on Women's Equality Act

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 18:13

Editorials in three New York newspapers called for the state's lawmakers to act on the Women's Equality Act before the legislative session ends.

Editorials Urge N.Y. Legislature To Take Action on Women's Equality Act

June 18, 2014 — Editorials in three New York newspapers called for the state's lawmakers to act on the Women's Equality Act before the legislative session ends. The package includes 10 measures covering topics ranging from human trafficking to abortions rights. Lawmakers are divided over whether to individually advance some bills that likely have bicameral support or keep the package intact, despite resistance to the abortion measure in the state Senate.

~ Lower Hudson Journal News: "It is a failure that the Senate has refused a full vote on the Women's Equality Act," but "it would be even worse if the Assembly let the [Trafficking Victims Protections and Justice Act] die, again," a Journal News editorial argues. The editorial explains that the trafficking bill -- one of the 10 measures in the Women's Equality Act -- would increase "protection of people, especially children, who are exploited; [require] stronger penalties for traffickers, including a clear classification of the act as a violent felony"; and "provide trafficking victims with an 'affirmative defense,' meaning that their victimization could be used as a defense against the crime of prostitution." The editorial adds that the other bills in the package "all deserve passage," but "[s]ex trafficking victims ... can't wait for justice and protection" (Lower Hudson Journal News, 6/16).

~ Long Island Newsday: The Women's Equality Act failed last year because "supporters in the Assembly took an all-or-nothing approach, refusing to allow votes on individual proposals," according to a Newsday editorial. With five of the 10 bills approved in the state Senate this year and too few votes in the chamber to pass the abortion-rights measure, "it's time to move forward" and pass the other bills individually, it adds (Long Island Newsday, 6/16).

~ Syracuse Post-Standard: Given the Republican control of the state Senate, "[c]odifying abortion rights ... is not going to happen, especially in an election year," a Post-Standard editorial states. Therefore, it argues, "[t]he pressure is on the Assembly to break off the abortion provision in [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo's [D] 10-point agenda for improving the lives of women," adding that the chamber "should pass the nine other points of the agenda and move on" (Syracuse Post-Standard, 6/17).


ACA Subsidies Cover Bulk of Premium Costs for Enrollees, HHS Finds

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 14:54

U.S. residents who enrolled in coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace pay an average of $82 per month, or 24% of the total premium, while the remaining 76% is offset by federal subsidies, according to an HHS report released Wednesday, the AP/ABC News reports.

ACA Subsidies Cover Bulk of Premium Costs for Enrollees, HHS Finds

June 18, 2014 — U.S. residents who enrolled in coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace pay an average of $82 per month, or 24% of the total premium, while the remaining 76% is offset by federal subsidies, according to an HHS report released Wednesday, the AP/ABC News reports.

The new data cover the 5.4 million U.S. residents in the 36 states that used the federal marketplace in the first open enrollment period (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/ABC News, 6/18). Nearly 90% of U.S. residents who purchased coverage through the federal marketplace were eligible for a subsidy (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 6/17).

HHS said it does not have complete data on the states that ran their own marketplaces (AP/ABC News, 6/18).

Subsidies and Premiums

According to HHS, the average monthly insurance premium is $346, with the federal government covering $264 of that cost, on average, through tax credits. The report also found that about four out of five enrollees pay premiums of less than $100 per month after subsidies (Goldstein, Washington Post, 6/18). Nearly half pay less than $50, according to the report (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 6/18).

The average after-subsidy premiums and savings varied by state. Mississippi residents averaged the lowest after-subsidy cost at $23 per month, while New Jersey averaged the highest at $148 per month. Meanwhile, Wyoming had the highest average premiums at $536, while Utah had the lowest average premiums at $243.

More Choice, More Savings

According to the report, there is an average of 47 plans from five different insurers available in states using the federal marketplace. Meanwhile, for each additional insurer that participated in the federal marketplace in a state, premiums for the state's silver-level plans decreased by about 4% on average (AP/ABC News, 6/18).

HHS found that the amount of insurers in the federal marketplace varied from state to state, ranging from one insurer available in New Hampshire and West Virginia to 16 in New York. Overall, 82% of U.S. residents who purchased coverage through the federal marketplace had a choice of at least three health insurers, while 4% only had a choice of one insurer (Modern Healthcare, 6/18).


Denying Contraceptive Coverage Could Increase Abortions, Op-Ed States

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 14:52

"It's a difficult reality, but it needs to be stated: a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could lead to more abortions," write Julia Stronks, a professor at Whitworth University, and Jeffrey Peipert, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine, in a Roll Call opinion piece.

Denying Contraceptive Coverage Could Increase Abortions, Op-Ed States

June 18, 2014 — "It's a difficult reality, but it needs to be stated: a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby could lead to more abortions," write Julia Stronks, a professor at Whitworth University, and Jeffrey Peipert, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine, in a Roll Call opinion piece.

Stronks and Peipert write that as an "evangelical Christian, political science professor and a Jewish, family-planning physician," respectively, they believe that "whatever the Court decision, faith-based businesses that value life should provide the full range of birth control options for their employees."

"Bottom line: Contraception doesn't cause abortions, it helps prevent them," they argue, adding that a ruling "allowing for-profit corporations to deny their employees contraceptive coverage would actually undermine increased access to the most effective ways to prevent unintended pregnancy and abortions."

They note that "[n]one of the contraceptive methods employers are required to cover under the Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148] cause abortion, including the specific types of contraception to which Hobby Lobby objects." They explain that those methods -- intrauterine devices and emergency contraception -- "work by preventing pregnancy (fertilization) from occurring in the first place."

"In fact, long-acting contraceptive methods, such as IUDs and implants, are the most effective forms of contraception for preventing unintended pregnancies," which is "key for those who identify as pro-life, because almost half of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion," Stronks and Peipert write (Stronks/Peipert, Roll Call, 6/18).


Editorials Urge N.Y. Legislature To Take Action on Women's Equality Act

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 13:47

Editorials in three New York newspapers called for the state's lawmakers to act on the Women's Equality Act before the legislative session ends.

Editorials Urge N.Y. Legislature To Take Action on Women's Equality Act

June 18, 2014 — Editorials in three New York newspapers called for the state's lawmakers to act on the Women's Equality Act before the legislative session ends. The package includes 10 measures covering topics ranging from human trafficking to abortions rights. Lawmakers are divided over whether to individually advance some bills that likely have bicameral support or keep the package intact, despite resistance to the abortion measure in the state Senate.

~ Lower Hudson Journal News: "It is a failure that the Senate has refused a full vote on the Women's Equality Act," but "it would be even worse if the Assembly let the [Trafficking Victims Protections and Justice Act] die, again," a Journal News editorial argues. The editorial explains that the trafficking bill -- one of the 10 measures in the Women's Equality Act -- would increase "protection of people, especially children, who are exploited; [require] stronger penalties for traffickers, including a clear classification of the act as a violent felony"; and "provide trafficking victims with an 'affirmative defense,' meaning that their victimization could be used as a defense against the crime of prostitution." The editorial adds that the other bills in the package "all deserve passage," but "[s]ex trafficking victims ... can't wait for justice and protection" (Lower Hudson Journal News, 6/16).

~ Long Island Newsday: The Women's Equality Act failed last year because "supporters in the Assembly took an all-or-nothing approach, refusing to allow votes on individual proposals," according to a Newsday editorial. With five of the 10 bills approved in the state Senate this year and too few votes in the chamber to pass the abortion-rights measure, "it's time to move forward" and pass the other bills individually, it adds (Long Island Newsday, 6/16).

~ Syracuse Post-Standard: Given the Republican control of the state Senate, "[c]odifying abortion rights ... is not going to happen, especially in an election year," a Post-Standard editorial states. Therefore, it argues, "[t]he pressure is on the Assembly to break off the abortion provision in [Gov. Andrew] Cuomo's [D] 10-point agenda for improving the lives of women," adding that the chamber "should pass the nine other points of the agenda and move on" (Syracuse Post-Standard, 6/17).


Judge Weighs Iowa Ban on Telemedicine Abortion Program

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 13:29

An Iowa judge heard arguments this week over whether the state should ban the administration of medication abortion drugs via a telemedicine system, the Des Moines Register reports.

Judge Weighs Iowa Ban on Telemedicine Abortion Program

June 18, 2014 — An Iowa judge heard arguments this week over whether the state should ban the administration of medication abortion drugs via a telemedicine system, the Des Moines Register reports.

Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell is expected to rule in the next several months, according to the Register (Rodgers/Leys, Des Moines Register, 6/17).

Background

Although the Iowa Board of Medicine in 2010 ruled that doctors at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland could continue to dispense medication abortion drugs via its telemedicine system, Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) later replaced all of the board members, who then approved rules barring PPH from administering medication abortions through the system.

PPH sued, and a judge last November issued a temporary stay against the ban (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/6/13).

Latest Arguments

Alice Clapman, an attorney for PPH, told the judge on Monday that the Board of Medicine's rules would force women to make multiple trips to a clinic, which would create "a general hardship for women" and particularly affect low-income women and domestic violence survivors. She said the ban would "actually increase the medical risk [women] face by delaying their abortions, pushing them into the second trimester when medication abortion is not an option and when the risks of surgical abortion are higher."

Clapman also noted that the board previously reviewed the telemedicine system and ruled that it was safe, meaning that its latest decision was a reversal.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Julie Bussanmas countered that the board has no legal obligation to stand by its prior decisions.

She also dismissed a suggestion from PPH that the board consider mandating employee training requirements for clinics to address its concerns, noting that the board has no authority over employees like physician assistants and nurse practitioners (Des Moines Register, 6/17).


Featured Blog

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 17:24

"Louisiana Proposes Using Brain-Dead Women as Incubators" (Smith, Care2, 6/16).

June 17, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

 "Louisiana Proposes Using Brain-Dead Women as Incubators," S.E. Smith, Care2: A Louisiana bill (HB 1274) "would mandate that if a fetus is over 20 weeks [of] gestation and a woman's bodily processes can be 'reasonably' maintained," even if she is legally dead, "she must be kept on [medical support] until delivery of the fetus," Smith writes. Smith writes that the bill and others like it deprive women of their bodily autonomy, reducing "women to the status of incubators, instead of treating them as whole human beings." In addition, Smith writes that maintaining medical support after a pregnant woman has died "increases the risk of complications, as it requires a constant balancing act to prevent organ failure, monitor blood chemistry, and provide medications, some of which can cause birth defects of varying degrees of severity," and would not "result in a live delivery in very many cases" (Smith, Care2, 6/16).



Ohio Rejects Clinic's Attempt To Comply With State Law

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 17:21

Toledo's only abortion clinic appears to have few options to stay open after an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner rejected its proposed hospital-transfer agreement, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Ohio Rejects Clinic's Attempt To Comply With State Law

June 17, 2014 — Toledo's only abortion clinic appears to have few options to stay open after an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner rejected its proposed hospital-transfer agreement, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The decision on whether to revoke Capital Care Network's license for failing to have such an agreement now goes to Ohio Department of Health Acting Director Lance Himes. The only other clinic in Toledo closed last year after it could not obtain a transfer agreement (Rowland, Columbus Dispatch, 6/17).

State Requirement

Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in the 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.

After the University of Toledo Medical Center opted not to renew its agreement with Capital Care Network, the Ohio Department of Health revoked the clinic's license and ordered it to close unless it could secure another agreement. The clinic in January secured a hospital-transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, which is about 53 miles from the clinic, after no other private hospital in the region was willing to form an agreement (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/1).

Ruling

On Monday, hearing examiner William Kepko ruled that the pact did not meet the legal requirement for a "local" hospital and did "not specify an appropriate procedure for the safe and immediate transfer of patients from the facility to a local hospital when medical care, beyond the care that can be provided at the ambulatory-care facility, is necessary, including when emergency situations occur or medical complications arise."

Kepko's decision upheld two previous rulings by the state health department's former director.

Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio called the ruling part of a "regulatory witch hunt." She added, "Transfer agreements have nothing to do with patient safety. The real threat to women's health will come if [Gov. John] Kasich [R] succeeds in closing the last abortion clinic in Toledo" (Columbus Dispatch, 6/17).


Lawmakers Attempt Repeal of Mich. Abortion Coverage Ban

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 17:20

A new Michigan bill aims to repeal a state law that bars health plans from including abortion coverage, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Lawmakers Attempt Repeal of Mich. Abortion Coverage Ban

June 17, 2014 — A new Michigan bill aims to repeal a state law that bars health plans from including abortion coverage, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The law, enacted last year, requires women who want abortion coverage to purchase a separate rider (Gray, Detroit Free Press, 6/16). However, women who are already pregnant are prohibited from purchasing the riders, including if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The law does not apply when a woman's life is in danger or to Medicaid, which must cover abortion in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/11).

Only seven of Michigan's 42 health insurers offer the abortion coverage riders, according to state Rep. Sarah Roberts (D), who introduced the repeal bill with state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

"To say that women simply need to buy the rider in case they're raped or there's a medical situation is simply wrong," Roberts said.

Bill's Prospect

According to the Free Press, the bill has been referred to the House Insurance Committee but is not likely to receive a hearing in the Republican-led Legislature.

Roberts acknowledged the bill's prospects are not good but said the proposal will help draw public attention to the law. "It's very clear we don't have the votes to put this up and repeal it," she said.

Ob-gyn Tim Johnson, a University of Michigan professor who joined Roberts and Whitmer at a press conference, said the law "is creating a lot of uncertainty in the doctor-patient relationship," adding, "The last thing we want is to have to worry about who has to pay for a necessary procedure" (Detroit Free Press, 6/16).


Ohio Rejects Clinic's Attempt To Comply With State Law

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 16:17

Toledo's only abortion clinic appears to have few options to stay open after an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner rejected its proposed hospital-transfer agreement, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Ohio Rejects Clinic's Attempt To Comply With State Law

June 17, 2014 — Toledo's only abortion clinic appears to have few options to stay open after an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner rejected its proposed hospital-transfer agreement, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The decision on whether to revoke Capital Care Network's license for failing to have such an agreement now goes to Ohio Department of Health Acting Director Lance Himes. The only other clinic in Toledo closed last year after it could not obtain a transfer agreement (Rowland, Columbus Dispatch, 6/17).

State Requirement

Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in the 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.

After the University of Toledo Medical Center opted not to renew its agreement with Capital Care Network, the Ohio Department of Health revoked the clinic's license and ordered it to close unless it could secure another agreement. The clinic in January secured a hospital-transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, which is about 53 miles from the clinic, after no other private hospital in the region was willing to form an agreement (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/1).

Ruling

On Monday, hearing examiner William Kepko ruled that the pact did not meet the legal requirement for a "local" hospital and did "not specify an appropriate procedure for the safe and immediate transfer of patients from the facility to a local hospital when medical care, beyond the care that can be provided at the ambulatory-care facility, is necessary, including when emergency situations occur or medical complications arise."

Kepko's decision upheld two previous rulings by the state health department's former director.

Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio called the ruling part of a "regulatory witch hunt." She added, "Transfer agreements have nothing to do with patient safety. The real threat to women's health will come if [Gov. John] Kasich [R] succeeds in closing the last abortion clinic in Toledo" (Columbus Dispatch, 6/17).


Maternal Mental Health Issues Broader Than Previously Thought

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 15:29

Women experience a broader range of mental health issues during pregnancy and the first year giving after birth than previously thought, according to several studies, the New York Times reports.

Maternal Mental Health Issues Broader Than Previously Thought

June 17, 2014 — Women experience a broader range of mental health issues during pregnancy and the first year giving after birth than previously thought, according to several studies, the New York Times reports.

Scientists previously believed symptoms of postpartum depression only began shortly after childbirth, according to the Times. However, a 2013 study -- the largest screening for postpartum depression on record -- found that 14% of the 10,000 women screened experienced depression within four weeks to six weeks after childbirth, with one-third of them experiencing symptoms during pregnancy. Another analysis of 30 different studies found that about 20% of women had at least one episode of depression within a year of giving birth, half of whom had serious symptoms.

Women are also at risk for a broader range of pregnancy-related mental health issues than depression. Studies have found that between one in eight and one in five women develop symptoms of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or a combination of those conditions. The 2013 study found that nearly one-fourth of the women who experienced depression also had bipolar disorder, while two-thirds with depression also had symptoms of anxiety.

According to scientists, such mental health issues are caused by a combination of genetics, hormones and stress. Margaret Spinelli, director of the Women's Program in Columbia University's psychiatry department, said hormones increase "more than a hundredfold" during pregnancy but significantly decrease after childbirth, which can "disrupt brain chemistry."

States Take Action

According to the Times, 12 states have passed laws to increase education, screening and treatment for maternal mental health issues, and other states are considering legislation.

New Jersey is the only state that mandates screening, under a 2006 law. However, a study of women in the state with Medicaid coverage found that requiring screenings has not led to more women receiving treatment (Belluck, New York Times, 6/15).


Blogs Comment on Obstacles to Abortion, Supreme Court Cases, More

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 15:22

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the Center for American Progress, RH Reality Check and more.

Blogs Comment on Obstacles to Abortion, Supreme Court Cases, More

June 17, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the Center for American Progress, RH Reality Check and more.

ABORTION IN THE MEDIA: "Most Women Have a Much Harder Time Getting an Abortion Than Jenny Slate Does on Film," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The new movie "Obvious Child" has "garnered widespread praise" from abortion-rights supporters for its portrayal of "a woman who goes through with an abortion without facing dire consequences," Culp-Ressler writes. However, she notes that other than "the initial sticker shock about the cost of the abortion," the main character in the movie, Donna, "doesn't face many barriers to making her choice," which makes her a "disproportionately fortunate patient." Many women in the U.S. "may want to end a pregnancy for many of the same reasons as [Donna] does, but may face a much greater struggle getting there," including obstacles such as state-mandated ultrasounds, financial difficulties, trouble taking time off work or traveling long distances to the nearest clinic, Culp-Ressler writes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 6/16).

SUPREME COURT: "Unanimous Supreme Court: Anti-Choice Susan B. Anthony List Can Challenge Elections Law," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: In ruling Monday "that the conservative anti-choice advocacy group the Susan B. Anthony List can proceed with a challenge to an Ohio law prohibiting 'false' political speech," the Supreme Court did not address the issue of whether the group made "intentionally and recklessly false" statements by claiming that the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) permits "taxpayer funding for abortion," Mason Pieklo writes. Nonetheless, the ruling shows that the high court is "more than willing to defer" to abortion-rights' opponents' "'reasonable' beliefs" about the facts of a particular issue, rather than the "actual facts," a pattern that could influence its rulings on two other cases -- McCullen v. Coakley and the contraceptive coverage challenge involving Hobby Lobby. She adds that "now more than ever it is incumbent on all reproductive rights advocates to correct every misstatement promoted by the right," because "if we don't, there's no guarantee the courts will either" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 6/16).

What others are saying about the Supreme Court:

~ "Stop Calling Hobby Lobby a Christian Business," Jonathan Merritt, The Week.

GLOBAL ISSUES: "Ireland's Abortion Laws Continue To Harm Women," Mara Clarke, RH Reality Check: "On June 12, the UK Department of Health published its report on abortion statistics for 2013," finding a "reduction in the number of women from Ireland and Northern Ireland," where abortion is severely restricted, who travel "to England to access a safe and legal abortion -- 4,481, down from 4,887 -- the lowest reported number since 1969," writes Clarke, who works with the Abortion Support Network. Clarke adds that the figures "only tell part of the story," noting that her organization during the same time frame "experienced a steep increase in calls from women in Ireland and Northern Ireland" -- 446 calls from women and couples in 2013, compared with 363 in 2012 and 253 in 2011. Clarke writes, "The continued increase in women contacting ASN is further proof that criminalizing abortion does not end abortion -- it simply makes it more difficult for poor women and families to access" (Clarke, RH Reality Check, 6/13).

What others are saying about global issues:

~ "We Heart: Australian Chief of Army David Morrison, Feminist Ally," Simone Lieban Levine, Ms. Magazine blog.

PREGNANT WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "Louisiana Proposes Using Brain-Dead Women as Incubators," S.E. Smith, Care2: A Louisiana bill (HB 1274) "would mandate that if a fetus is over 20 weeks [of] gestation and a woman's bodily processes can be 'reasonably' maintained," even if she is legally dead, "she must be kept on [medical support] until delivery of the fetus," Smith writes. Smith writes that the bill and others like it deprive women of their bodily autonomy, reducing "women to the status of incubators, instead of treating them as whole human beings." In addition, Smith writes that maintaining medical support after a pregnant woman has died "increases the risk of complications, as it requires a constant balancing act to prevent organ failure, monitor blood chemistry, and provide medications, some of which can cause birth defects of varying degrees of severity," and would not "result in a live delivery in very many cases" (Smith, Care2, 6/16).

BREAST CANCER: "Dense Breasts May Obscure Mammogram Results," Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times' "Well": Rabin writes about receiving a letter after a recent mammogram that informed her she has dense breast tissue, which "makes it hard to read mammograms and may increase the risk of breast cancer." The information was included in the letter under a New York state law -- championed by a breast cancer survivor whose cancer went undetected for years because of dense tissue -- that requires patients to be notified if a mammogram shows dense breast tissue. Other states have passed similar laws. Rabin decided to undergo an ultrasound that affirmed she did not have cancer, although she notes that there is "still no clear medical guidance on how women should proceed once they've been told they have dense breasts." Some doctors and medical groups recommend against the additional scans because they can "pick up other suspicious spots that may require intervention, such as biopsy to rule out cancer, even though most of them will turn out to be harmless," she adds (Rabin, "Well," New York Times, 6/16).


Lawmakers Attempt Repeal of Mich. Abortion Coverage Ban

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 15:17

A new Michigan bill aims to repeal a state law that bars health plans from including abortion coverage, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Lawmakers Attempt Repeal of Mich. Abortion Coverage Ban

June 17, 2014 — A new Michigan bill aims to repeal a state law that bars health plans from including abortion coverage, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The law, enacted last year, requires women who want abortion coverage to purchase a separate rider (Gray, Detroit Free Press, 6/16). However, women who are already pregnant are prohibited from purchasing the riders, including if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The law does not apply when a woman's life is in danger or to Medicaid, which must cover abortion in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/11).

Only seven of Michigan's 42 health insurers offer the abortion coverage riders, according to state Rep. Sarah Roberts (D), who introduced the repeal bill with state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

"To say that women simply need to buy the rider in case they're raped or there's a medical situation is simply wrong," Roberts said.

Bill's Prospect

According to the Free Press, the bill has been referred to the House Insurance Committee but is not likely to receive a hearing in the Republican-led Legislature.

Roberts acknowledged the bill's prospects are not good but said the proposal will help draw public attention to the law. "It's very clear we don't have the votes to put this up and repeal it," she said.

Ob-gyn Tim Johnson, a University of Michigan professor who joined Roberts and Whitmer at a press conference, said the law "is creating a lot of uncertainty in the doctor-patient relationship," adding, "The last thing we want is to have to worry about who has to pay for a necessary procedure" (Detroit Free Press, 6/16).


House Appropriators Seek 'Global Gag Rule' in Spending Bill

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 14:54

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday unveiled a fiscal year 2015 State-Foreign Operations spending bill with language that would reinstate an antiabortion-rights provision known as the Mexico City policy, CQ Roll Call reports.

House Appropriators Seek 'Global Gag Rule' in Spending Bill

June 17, 2014 — The House Appropriations Committee on Monday unveiled a fiscal year 2015 State-Foreign Operations spending bill with language that would reinstate an antiabortion-rights provision known as the Mexico City policy, CQ Roll Call reports (Broder, CQ Roll Call, 6/16).

The policy, also known as the "global gag rule," blocks U.S. foreign aid to organizations that use their own money to offer abortion services or provide information about or referrals for abortion services. President Obama repealed the policy shortly after taking office in 2009 (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/7).

The House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the bill on Tuesday. According to CQ Roll Call, the global gag rule language is usually stripped in conference under Democratic administrations (CQ Roll Call, 6/16).


Combination Birth, Abortion Centers Focus on 'Continuum' of Reproductive Health Care

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 14:46

Reproductive health centers that offer both birth and abortion services "might lessen the stigma of abortion," Alissa Quart, an author, writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

Combination Birth, Abortion Centers Focus on 'Continuum' of Reproductive Health Care

June 17, 2014 — Reproductive health centers that offer both birth and abortion services "might lessen the stigma of abortion," Alissa Quart, an author, writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

Centers like Buffalo Womenservices in New York are "part of an effort to reframe reproductive care as a continuum -- the phrase for it is 'full-spectrum reproductive health' -- than spans both birth and abortion," Quart explains, noting that facilities for birth and abortion are typically distinct.

The combination "underlines how many women experience both birth and abortion," she writes. "Three in 10 women will have an abortion in their lives; eight out of 10 will give birth," and "[a]bout 61 percent of women who have an abortion already have at least one child," according to Quart. However, specializing in both types of care is uncommon, with "only 14 percent of doctors who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology perform[ing] abortions," Quart writes.

Supporters of combining both services hope to connect "birth activists" and abortion-rights advocates, she continues. Groups that support full-spectrum reproductive health care are often started by doulas, she adds.

"We now hew to religious rhetoric on one hand or rights-oriented rhetoric on the other," Quart writes, concluding, "Seeing reproductive care as a continuum might rejigger our thinking and remind us that many of us experience both childbirth and abortion" (Quart, New York Times, 6/14).


Mich. Lawmakers Propose 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 18:13

A three-bill package (HB 5643, HB 5644, HB 5645) in the Michigan House would require abortion providers to perform an abdominal ultrasound before the procedure and ban performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, MLive reports.

Mich. Lawmakers Propose 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban

June 16, 2014 — A three-bill package (HB 5643, HB 5644, HB 5645) in the Michigan House would require abortion providers to perform an abdominal ultrasound before the procedure and ban performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, MLive reports.

According to MLive, an ultrasound can detect a fetal heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Bill Details

State Rep. Tom Hooker (R) introduced the bills, alongside one independent and 15 Republican co-sponsors. The bills now proceed to the chamber's committee on health policy.

If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the bills would require abortion providers to offer patients a chance to listen to it. If a heartbeat is not detectable, the doctor would have to advise the patient on whether she should undergo an internal ultrasound and state that a procedure to remove fetal remains is not an abortion.

The bills would impose penalties of up to four years in prison and fines of up to $50,000 for performing an abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detectable.

Potential Constitutional Conflicts

Ed Rivet -- legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, which generally supports antiabortion-rights legislation -- said that at least two of the bills could conflict with Roe v. Wade. Rivet said that while the organization "support[s] the concept that unborn children with a heartbeat should be protected," this "may not be an ideal time to push it in the courts."

A similar ban (HB 1456) in North Dakota recently was struck down as unconstitutional, as was a 12-week ban (Act 301) in Arkansas.

Hooker acknowledged the legal concerns about the ban and proposed criminal penalties, but he said that the bill requiring women to be given an opportunity to listen for a fetal heartbeat would help reduce abortions.

However, state Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D) said it is "insulting to all the women of Michigan to insinuate that women aren't intelligent and competent enough to make their own medical decisions without the state's interference" (Oosting, MLive, 6/12).


Fla. Gov. Signs Bill Redefining Fetal Viability

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 18:13

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday signed into law a bill (HB 1047) that increases abortion restrictions by redefining fetal viability and limiting when the procedure is permitted to protect a woman's health, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

Fla. Gov. Signs Bill Redefining Fetal Viability

June 16, 2014 — Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday signed into law a bill (HB 1047) that increases abortion restrictions by redefining fetal viability and limiting when the procedure is permitted to protect a woman's health, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The measure is scheduled to take effect on July 1 (AP/Huffington Post, 6/14).

Law Details

Florida law prohibits abortions if a fetus is deemed "viable," defined as when a fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving outside of the womb, which is typically about 24 weeks.

The new law will change the definition of viable to mean that a fetus could survive outside of the womb with medical assistance. It also requires physicians to determine if a fetus is viable before an abortion.

The law also adds new restrictions on abortions in the third trimester, which the state previously only permitted to save a woman's life or preserve her health. Under the new law, an abortion in the third trimester would only be permitted to save a woman's life "or avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition." This restriction also applies to post-viability abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/9).

Comments

Scott spokesperson John Tupps said the governor "is pro-life and was glad to sign this bill that protects the lives of children."

Former state Sen. Nan Rich (D) -- who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the state's gubernatorial election this fall -- said, "Over the objections of nearly every group representing Florida women, this morning Rick Scott signed HB 1047, which places even more restrictions on women's access to reproductive choice" (AP/Huffington Post, 6/14).

Meanwhile, Sujatha Prabhakaran, a doctor working with Planned Parenthood, said that Scott took Florida "two steps backwards" with the new law, which "limits health exceptions and could risk women's health and lives" (Van Sickler, Miami Herald, 6/13).


NYT Op-Ed: State Restrictions Mark 'Next Front' in Struggle for Transgender Equality

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 16:11

HHS' decision to overturn "a decades-old ban on Medicare coverage for gender-confirming surgeries" was a "major victory" for transgender people, but many will "continue to be denied [transition-specific care] because of state-level restrictions on coverage," Parker Marie Molloy, a transgender journalist and activist, writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

NYT Op-Ed: State Restrictions Mark 'Next Front' in Struggle for Transgender Equality

June 16, 2014 — HHS' decision to overturn "a decades-old ban on Medicare coverage for gender-confirming surgeries" was a "major victory" for transgender people, but many will "continue to be denied [transition-specific care] because of state-level restrictions on coverage," Parker Marie Molloy, a transgender journalist and activist, writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

Just five states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon and Vermont -- as well as Washington, D.C., require private insurance companies to cover transition-specific care, according to Molloy. "Pushing the other 45 states to extend coverage is the next front in the struggle for insurance equality for transgender individuals," she writes. Although a "growing number of medical organizations have concluded that treatment of gender dysphoria ... is a medically necessary step toward helping transgender individuals lead healthy and happy lives," the states that do not mandate coverage largely claim that such procedures "are cosmetic in nature and therefore not eligible for coverage," Molloy writes. In fact, gender dysphoria "has been linked with depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety and other forms of psychological distress," she writes.

"In order to properly care for transgender individuals, surgical options must be made affordable and available," Molloy continues, adding, "We need to ... push to end the anti-transgender stigma that empowers politicians and insurance companies to deny relatively inexpensive, lifesaving medical treatment" (Molloy, New York Times, 6/12).


Fla. Gov. Signs Bill Redefining Fetal Viability

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 16:05

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday signed into law a bill (HB 1047) that increases abortion restrictions by redefining fetal viability and limiting when the procedure is permitted to protect a woman's health, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

Fla. Gov. Signs Bill Redefining Fetal Viability

June 16, 2014 — Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday signed into law a bill (HB 1047) that increases abortion restrictions by redefining fetal viability and limiting when the procedure is permitted to protect a woman's health, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The measure is scheduled to take effect on July 1 (AP/Huffington Post, 6/14).

Law Details

Florida law prohibits abortions if a fetus is deemed "viable," defined as when a fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving outside of the womb, which is typically about 24 weeks.

The new law will change the definition of viable to mean that a fetus could survive outside of the womb with medical assistance. It also requires physicians to determine if a fetus is viable before an abortion.

The law also adds new restrictions on abortions in the third trimester, which the state previously only permitted to save a woman's life or preserve her health. Under the new law, an abortion in the third trimester would only be permitted to save a woman's life "or avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition." This restriction also applies to post-viability abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/9).

Comments

Scott spokesperson John Tupps said the governor "is pro-life and was glad to sign this bill that protects the lives of children."

Former state Sen. Nan Rich (D) -- who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the state's gubernatorial election this fall -- said, "Over the objections of nearly every group representing Florida women, this morning Rick Scott signed HB 1047, which places even more restrictions on women's access to reproductive choice" (AP/Huffington Post, 6/14).

Meanwhile, Sujatha Prabhakaran, a doctor working with Planned Parenthood, said that Scott took Florida "two steps backwards" with the new law, which "limits health exceptions and could risk women's health and lives" (Van Sickler, Miami Herald, 6/13).


Supreme Court Sides With Antiabortion-Rights Group in Challenge to Ohio Campaign Law

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 16:00

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled that an antiabortion-rights group has the legal standing to sue Ohio over a state law that prohibits false statements in political advertisements, USA Today reports.

Supreme Court Sides With Antiabortion-Rights Group in Challenge to Ohio Campaign Law

June 16, 2014 — The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled that an antiabortion-rights group has the legal standing to sue Ohio over a state law that prohibits false statements in political advertisements, USA Today reports (Wolf, USA Today, 6/16).

Key Issues

In August, the Susan B. Anthony List asked the Supreme Court to review the law, which was invoked by former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) to block SBA List from erecting billboards that accused him of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions because he voted for the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). Driehaus said the group's claim was false because federal law prohibits the use of public funding for most abortions.

SBA List argued that the Ohio law violates its First Amendment right to free speech, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the group's attempt to challenge the statute because the group was never prosecuted.

During Supreme Court oral arguments in April, SBA List said that requiring individuals or groups accused of violating the law to go through an adjudication process during the limited time frame of an election cycle restricts its free speech. Meanwhile, the state argued that SBA List did not have the standing to sue because it was never prosecuted under the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/23).

Ruling

Justice Clarence Thomas in the unanimous opinion said that SBA List has the legal standing to challenge the law because it and others like it can chill free speech, even if the statutes were never enforced against the groups or individuals involved (USA Today, 6/16).

Thomas wrote, "Denying prompt judicial review would impose a substantial hardship on petitioners, forcing them to choose between refraining from core political speech on the one hand, or engaging in that speech and risking costly [Ohio Elections] Commission proceedings and criminal prosecution on the other" (Tau/Gerstein, Politico, 6/16).

According to USA Today, the justices did not comment on whether SBA List should win its case against the law, but most of them "made clear" that they sided with SBA List in the ruling and during oral arguments, USA Today reports (USA Today, 6/16). The case now returns to the lower courts (Politico, 6/16).


Time To End 'Unfair Prohibition' on Peace Corps Abortion Coverage, NYT Editorial Argues

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 15:07

Women account for more than 60% of Peace Corps volunteers, "yet federal law does not allow abortion coverage in the volunteers' health care program, even in cases of rape or incest, or when a pregnancy endangers a woman's life," a New York Times editorial states.

Time To End 'Unfair Prohibition' on Peace Corps Abortion Coverage, NYT Editorial Argues

June 16, 2014 — Women account for more than 60% of Peace Corps volunteers, "yet federal law does not allow abortion coverage in the volunteers' health care program, even in cases of rape or incest, or when a pregnancy endangers a woman's life," a New York Times editorial states.

"[L]awmakers should repeal this unfair prohibition" in the upcoming Peace Corps budget, the editorial argues, noting that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) recently reintroduced legislation "to accomplish that."

"Although it touches on the politically charged issue of abortion, the proposed change should not be controversial" because it would simply "extend to women in the Peace Corps the same coverage in cases of rape, incest and endangerment to life now afforded to other people who work for the federal government and to Medicaid recipients," the editorial explains.

"Women taking risks to advance the country's interests by serving in the Peace Corps should not be treated worse than other federal employees when it comes to insurance coverage," the editorial adds (New York Times, 6/13).