Daily Women's Health Policy Report

Syndicate content
Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 31 min 49 sec ago

Wis. Will No Longer Enforce State Contraceptive Coverage Requirements for Companies With Religious Objections

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 14:03

In light of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, Wisconsin officials will no longer enforce a state law that requires insurers to cover prescribed contraceptives for companies that have religious objections to such medications, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Wis. Will No Longer Enforce State Contraceptive Coverage Requirements for Companies With Religious Objections

July 23, 2014 — In light of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, Wisconsin officials will no longer enforce a state law that requires insurers to cover prescribed contraceptives for companies that have religious objections to such medications, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/21).

In the Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

J.P. Wieske, a spokesperson for the state's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, said that considering the Supreme Court decision, state officials had no choice but to stop enforcing the law. He added, "It's as you would expect. We are federally pre-empted. We don't have any decision-making."

However, Wieske said the state will continue to enforce the law in instances that do not involve companies with religious objections to contraceptives (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/21).


NYT: Hobby Lobby Ruling May Exacerbate Economic Inequality by Treating Corporations as People

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 13:59

"[B]eneath the political implications," there are "significant economic undertones" of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, writes New York Times columnist Binyamin Appelbaum. He argues, "It expands the right of corporations to be treated like people, part of a trend that may be contributing to the rise of economic inequality."

NYT: Hobby Lobby Ruling May Exacerbate Economic Inequality by Treating Corporations as People

July 23, 2014 — "[B]eneath the political implications," there are "significant economic undertones" of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, writes New York Times columnist Binyamin Appelbaum. He argues, "It expands the right of corporations to be treated like people, part of a trend that may be contributing to the rise of economic inequality."

He notes that U.S. Code defines corporations as people and that several Supreme Court decisions have granted corporations constitutional protections for business reasons. However, "[s]ince the 1950s ... the treatment of corporations as people has expanded beyond its original economic logic," he adds.

Appelbaum notes, "The basic justification is that corporations, owned by people, should have the same freedoms as people." However, he argues that corporations, unlike people, also have "special legal powers" that "give them the financial power to tilt the rules of the game by lobbying for particular legislation, among other things."

"The danger is not only that corporations can act at the expense of society, but also that the people who control them can act at the expense of their own shareholders, employees and customers," Appelbaum writes. He adds that while the Hobby Lobby ruling "ostensibly addresses only a narrow set of circumstances -- a corporation with relatively few owners, a religious objection to particular kinds of birth control -- these sorts of limited rulings have a history of becoming more broadly cited as precedent over time."

Appelbaum concludes, "If the court follows the logic of its Hobby Lobby decision in the decades to come, it's not so hard to imagine a job market where people must interview employers about their religious and political views. Or where people who need to make a living may just feel compelled to accept a work environment increasingly shaped by their employers' beliefs" (Appelbaum, New York Times, 7/22).


Johns Hopkins To Pay $190M To Settle Charges That Women Were Secretly Filmed by Doctor During Pelvic Exams

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 13:53

Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday agreed to pay $190 million to more than 7,000 women to settle charges that a doctor working at a community clinic that the hospital owned secretly recorded their pelvic exams, the New York Times reports. The settlement is one of the largest of its kind in a medical malpractice case, according to the Times.

Johns Hopkins To Pay $190M To Settle Charges That Women Were Secretly Filmed by Doctor During Pelvic Exams

July 23, 2014 — Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday agreed to pay $190 million to more than 7,000 women to settle charges that a doctor working at a community clinic that the hospital owned secretly recorded their pelvic exams, the New York Times reports. The settlement is one of the largest of its kind in a medical malpractice case, according to the Times.

Last year, a female colleague reported Nikita Levy -- an ob-gyn at Johns Hopkins Community Medicine in Baltimore -- to hospital management after she grew suspicious of a pen-like device he wore around his neck. Security officers then approached Levy at his office, and he handed over several cameras, including one in the pen. He was fired on Feb. 8, 2013, and committed suicide 10 days later.

A federal investigation uncovered more than 1,000 videos and images of patients stored on Levy's home computer, dating back to about 2005. Law enforcement officials concluded that none of the images was shared. No criminal charges were filed.

A subsequent civil lawsuit charged Johns Hopkins with invasion of privacy, negligence and causing emotional distress. The suit said Levy had engaged in "harmful and offensive sexual" contact with his patients.

Lawyer Jonathan Schochor -- whose firm Schochor, Federico & Staton interviewed about 2,000 of Levy's patients -- said the women who had been filmed "feel an extreme breach of faith, breach of trust and betrayal." He added that some of the women "have dropped out of the medical system," declining to seek care themselves or take their children to pediatricians because of mistrust.

Schochor said, "There's been a huge, devastating result to this whole thing," adding, "Many have had changes in their ability to focus, problems with sleeplessness. Some have had changes in their relationships with spouses and significant others" (Gabriel, New York Times, 7/21). After a "fairness hearing," during which the plaintiffs can speak, Judge Sylvester Cox will decide whether to give final approval to the settlement. Each plaintiff was interviewed by a forensic psychologist and a post-traumatic stress specialist to assess her level of trauma and how much money she should receive (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/21).


Blogs Comment on Abortion Restrictions, Pregnancy and Fertility and More

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:35

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from "ThinkProgress," "The XX Factor" and more.

Blogs Comment on Abortion Restrictions, Pregnancy and Fertility and More

July 22, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from "ThinkProgress," "The XX Factor" and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Half of Texas' Abortion Clinics Are Gone," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The number of abortion clinics in Texas "has been cut in half over the past year, dropping from 41 to just 20" under a "stringent package [HB 2] of abortion restrictions" that was approved in 2013, according to a report from Houston Public Media, Culp-Ressler writes. She writes that many of those clinics "were forced out of business because they can't comply with the new law, which requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals" and that just six clinics are expected to be able to comply with a provision of the law that takes effect in September, requiring clinics "to bring their facilities in line with the building codes for ambulatory surgical centers." The "crisis won't be contained within Texas' borders," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that "[o]ther anti-choice lawmakers have followed in Texas' footsteps and proposed the exact same type of laws in their own states" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The People of Color Activists Whose Voices Are Too Often Missing From Stories Abortion Texas' 'Orange Army,'" Shailey Gupta-Brietzke, RH Reality Check.

~ "A New Abortion Rights Bill Could Help Decide the Midterms," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "The Women's Health Protection Act: Protecting Women's Right to Choose," Ashley Bender, NWLC blog.

~ "What The Abortion Fight Unfolding in Tennessee Means for the Rest of the Country," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

PREGNANCY AND FERTILITY: "Hey Republicans, Here's How To Help Babies Who Haven't Been Born Yet," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Pro-life politicians talk a lot about unborn children," typically focusing on abortion policy and "efforts to dissuade women from ending their pregnancies," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that a new study shows there is a "different policy area that GOP lawmakers could be considering": Medicaid expansion. The study, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, tracked states' varying levels of Medicaid expansion during the 1980s, finding that infants born after their mothers gained Medicaid coverage became healthier adults, having lower rates of obesity and BMI and fewer preventable hospital visits. Culp-Ressler notes that "more than 20 GOP-controlled states continue to resist implementing" the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) Medicaid expansion, "leaving millions of low-income Americans without any access to affordable insurance whatsoever" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgess," Center for American Progress, 7/18).

What others are saying about pregnancy and fertility:

~ "My Fertility Envy," Susie Meserve, Salon.

~ "Why Are Poor Women Having Healthier Babies?" Jessica Grose, Slate's "The XX Factor."

'BUFFER ZONE' LEGISLATION: "Repro Wrap: Massachusetts Gets Harsh With Abortion Protesters and Other News," Marty, Care2: "Massachusetts may have lost its buffer zone law thanks to a 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court, but the state, its governor, and its attorney general aren't willing to let that loss go quietly," writes Marty. She adds that the governor has proposed a new bill "to combat harassment at clinics" by "allowing police to have more power to disperse groups impeding an entrance way and forcing protesters to stay away longer once they have been accused of blocking a patient or a vehicle." Marty writes that while abortion-rights opponents might try to bring the proposed law to court if enacted, doing so will "make it clear that their intention was never about 'counseling'" but instead "to block the entry way and harass patients and staff." Marty also touches on similar legislative efforts in New York and New Hampshire, among other measures related to abortion rights (Marty, Care2, 7/18).

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "Finally, Better Protections for Pregnant Workers," Ms. Magazine blog: "Many women nationwide ... are forced to take unpaid leave or leave their jobs altogether during pregnancy," Ms. Magazine writes, adding that "[p]regnancy discrimination complaints in the U.S. increased by 71 percent between 1992 and 2011." In response, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week released new pregnancy discrimination guidelines. "[S]ome company managers claim that they're unsure how federal laws apply to their workers," the blog post notes, adding that the guidelines "make it clear that an employer cannot discriminate against a worker because she is pregnant or has recently given birth, and cannot force a pregnant woman to take early leave if she is still able to work." Overall, "[i]n updating its policies, the EEOC hopes to provide clarity" (Ms. Magazine blog, 7/18).

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "Saying That a Killer 'Snapped' is not an Explanation for Domestic Violence," Libby Copeland, Washington Post's "She The People": Copeland writes that most "of the language the media uses to explain domestic homicides falls short -- or worse, makes the murders seem less shocking by rationalizing them," and she highlights various recent cases in which "reporters frame such murders in the language of romance." For example, it took only two days for an "Alaska TV station" to "gathe[r] the observations of childhood friends" of Ronald Lee Haskell, who was "accused of killing six members of his ex-wife's family in Texas this month," describing him "as funny, compassionate and religiously devout" and saying he "'must have snapped.'" Copeland notes that the manner in which the media "frame[s] such crimes affects how" the public comprehends them. She concludes, "Reporters don't do readers a service by painting a portrait of a normal, even-tempered guy who was like any one of us, until he wasn't." Instead, they should highlight that domestic violence is "not a crime of passion, but in many ways the opposite" (Copeland, "She The People," Washington Post, 7/21).

What others are saying about gender-based violence:

~ "Most Female Scientists Are Sexually Harassed on the Job," Kevin Mathews, Care2.


Featured Blogs

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:34

"Half of Texas' Abortion Clinics Are Gone" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/18) and "Repro Wrap: Massachusetts Gets Harsh With Abortion Protesters and Other News" (Marty, Care2, 7/18).

July 22, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

 "Half of Texas' Abortion Clinics Are Gone," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The number of abortion clinics in Texas "has been cut in half over the past year, dropping from 41 to just 20" under a "stringent package [HB 2] of abortion restrictions" that was approved in 2013, according to a report from Houston Public Media, Culp-Ressler writes. She writes that many of those clinics "were forced out of business because they can't comply with the new law, which requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals" and that just six clinics are expected to be able to comply with a provision of the law that takes effect in September, requiring clinics "to bring their facilities in line with the building codes for ambulatory surgical centers." The "crisis won't be contained within Texas' borders," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that "[o]ther anti-choice lawmakers have followed in Texas' footsteps and proposed the exact same type of laws in their own states" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The People of Color Activists Whose Voices Are Too Often Missing From Stories Abortion Texas' 'Orange Army,'" Shailey Gupta-Brietzke, RH Reality Check.

~ "A New Abortion Rights Bill Could Help Decide the Midterms," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "The Women's Health Protection Act: Protecting Women's Right to Choose," Ashley Bender, NWLC blog.

~ "What The Abortion Fight Unfolding in Tennessee Means for the Rest of the Country," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

FEATURED BLOG

 "Repro Wrap: Massachusetts Gets Harsh With Abortion Protesters and Other News," Marty, Care2: "Massachusetts may have lost its buffer zone law thanks to a 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court, but the state, its governor, and its attorney general aren't willing to let that loss go quietly," writes Marty. She adds that the governor has proposed a new bill "to combat harassment at clinics" by "allowing police to have more power to disperse groups impeding an entrance way and forcing protesters to stay away longer once they have been accused of blocking a patient or a vehicle." Marty writes that while abortion-rights opponents might try to bring the proposed law to court if enacted, doing so will "make it clear that their intention was never about 'counseling'" but instead "to block the entry way and harass patients and staff." Marty also touches on similar legislative efforts in New York and New Hampshire, among other measures related to abortion rights (Marty, Care2, 7/18).




Four Organizations, Including Two on Women's Health, Should Be Exempt From N.Y. Donor Disclosure Rules, Judicial Hearing

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:29

New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics must reverse its earlier ruling that forced New York abortion-rights advocacy groups to disclose information about their financial contributors, the North Country Gazette reports.

Four Organizations, Including Two on Women’s Health, Should Be Exempt From N.Y. Donor Disclosure Rules, Judicial Hearing Officer Says

July 22, 2014 — New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics must reverse its earlier ruling that forced New York abortion-rights advocacy groups to disclose information about their financial contributors, the North Country Gazette reports.

According to the Gazette, four groups had asked JCOPE for exemptions from a state requirement that they disclose the information. The groups included abortion-rights supporters Family Planning Advocates and the New York Women's Equality Coalition, as well as New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The organizations argued that identifying their donors could put the individuals' safety at risk.

JCOPE initially ruled that the groups could not be exempt from the requirements, and the organizations appealed the decision (North Country Gazette, 7/18).

On Friday, a judicial hearing officer reversed JCOPE's decision, ruling that the groups' evidence warranted the exemptions (Lucas, Northeast Public Radio, 7/19). The officer wrote in the ruling, "The groups provided 'specific evidence' of many and severe incidents extending over a period of years that show a 'pattern of threats' and 'manifestations of public hostility' ... because of their advocacy" (Lovett, New York Daily News, 7/19).

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said the group is "gratified and relieved at the decision ... in favor of what the hearing officer deemed 'proper deference to the constitutional requirement to protect the First Amendment rights of citizens to express their views on controversial issues by providing financial support to organizations'" (North Country Gazette, 7/18).


Senate Democrats Propose Bill To Ensure Women Cannot Be Refused Access to Contraceptives at Pharmacies

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 15:10

The Access to Birth Control Act (S 2625) -- a new measure from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) backed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) -- aims to ensure women's access to birth control by requiring pharmacies to help women fill prescriptions for contraception, The Hill reports.

Senate Democrats Propose Bill To Ensure Women Cannot Be Refused Access to Contraceptives at Pharmacies

July 22, 2014 — The Access to Birth Control Act (S 2625) -- a new measure from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) backed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) -- aims to ensure women's access to birth control by requiring pharmacies to help women fill prescriptions for contraception, The Hill reports (Viebeck, The Hill, 7/21).

Specifically, the measure would ensure that women with valid prescriptions for birth control are not intimidated or denied when requesting emergency contraception or other forms of birth control at a pharmacy.

Nineteen other Democratic senators are co-sponsors of the legislation. According to Murray's office, the measure has been introduced on five previous occasions by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) (Longview Daily News, 7/21).

According to The Hill, the measure has support from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Planned Parenthood Action Fund (The Hill, 7/21).

Murray said in a statement, "It's disappointing that in 2014 this legislation is even necessary, but as the tide of politically-driven, extreme efforts to block a woman's access to reproductive health services continues to rise, we are going to stand with women and help protect this access" (Longview Daily News, 7/21).

Bill Prospects

According to The Hill, the new measure is unlikely to pass Congress, but it comes amid Democratic efforts to use women's health issues against Republican opponents during the midterm elections. The measure follows a failed attempt by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Murray to pass legislation that would have blocked the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case from taking effect, The Hill reports.

It is also unclear when the Democratic leadership plans to move on the measure, according to The Hill (The Hill, 7/21).


Fewer Low-Income Women Having Infants With Unhealthy Birthweights

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 14:19

Even though economic and health disparities persist, more low-income women are giving birth to infants with healthier birthweights than 25 years ago, the Washington Post reports.

Fewer Low-Income Women Having Infants With Unhealthy Birthweights

July 22, 2014 — Even though economic and health disparities persist, more low-income women are giving birth to infants with healthier birthweights than 25 years ago, the Washington Post reports.

A recent study by Princeton University economist Janet Currie and colleagues compared birthweights of infants born to women who were black, unmarried high school dropouts -- typically demographic indicators of being low-income -- with those of women who were white, married college graduates -- a group that tends to include individuals with higher incomes. According to the Post, many researchers use demographic information, such as race, marital status and education, as proxies for income information, which is not included on birth certificates.

The researchers found that one-sixth of infants born in 1989 to the lower-income group weighed under five-and-a-half pounds -- which doctors consider to be the lower bound of a healthy birthweight -- compared with one out of 32 infants born to the higher-income group.

About 20 years later, one-eighth of the infants born to the lower-income group had unhealthy birthweights, while the rate was largely unchanged for the higher-income group. The authors also found the same trends when they looked at the data after removing the factor of race.

Factors Influencing Birthweight

Other researchers have found that government policies such as food stamps, nutritional counseling and efforts to expand access to care have had a significant positive effect on birthweight. Further, other policy efforts and social trends -- such as regulations limiting pollution and auto emissions, and a decline in smoking rates -- also have played a role.

Meanwhile, studies have found several factors that continue to contribute to lower-income women giving birth to underweight infants at a higher rate, including pollution, stress and violence.

For example, researchers have found that women with annual incomes below $25,000 are two-and-a-half times more likely to be survivors of domestic violence. Further, women who have been sent to a hospital as the result of domestic violence tend to have infants who weigh five ounces less on average than women who have not (Goldfarb, Washington Post, 7/20).


HPV Test More Accurate Than Pap Test For Measuring Cervical Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 14:16

Testing negative for the human papillomavirus more accurately indicated that women would not develop cervical cancer or other abnormal cervical cells over the next three years than did traditional Pap tests, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Reuters reports.

HPV Test More Accurate Than Pap Test For Measuring Cervical Cancer Risk, Study Finds

July 22, 2014 — Testing negative for the human papillomavirus more accurately indicated that women would not develop cervical cancer or other abnormal cervical cells over the next three years than did traditional Pap tests, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Reuters reports.

According to Reuters, Pap tests -- in which physicians collect cervical cells to look for abnormalities -- have traditionally been used to evaluate a woman's risk for cervical cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2012 recommended that women between ages 21 and 65 undergo a Pap test every three years for cervical cancer screening, while women ages 30 to 65 could instead opt for cotesting -- or undergoing both a Pap and an HPV test -- every five years.

For the study, researchers at the NIH's National Cancer Institute examined data on more than one million women between ages 30 and 64 who had been screened for cervical cancer at Kaiser Permanente Northern California since 2003. They then followed women who received a negative HPV test or Pap test to see if they developed cervical cancer over the next three years, while following women who received both tests for five years.

Key Findings

In the three years following testing, the researchers found that roughly 20 out of 100,000 women developed cervical cancer after a negative Pap test, compared with just 11 out of 100,000 women who received a negative HPV test. Meanwhile, about 14 of every 100,000 women developed cervical cancer in the five years following negative results from cotesting.

Julia Gage, lead author and a researcher at NCI, said, "Primary HPV screening might be a viable alternative to Pap screening alone." However, she said that Pap tests still could be valuable in helping ascertain whether women who have HPV develop abnormal cervical cells (Seaman, Reuters, 7/18).


Rate of New HIV Diagnoses in the U.S. Down by One-Third, Report Says

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 13:52

The annual rate of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by about 33% between 2002 and 2011, according to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Reuters reports.

Rate of New HIV Diagnoses in the U.S. Down by One-Third, Report Says

July 22, 2014 — The annual rate of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by about 33% between 2002 and 2011, according to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Reuters reports. The report found declines in new diagnoses in all demographic groups except among men who have sex with men (Simpson, Reuters, 7/19).

For the report, researchers examined data from CDC's National HIV Surveillance System. They looked at all HIV diagnoses among U.S. residents ages 13 and older between 2002 and 2011. In total, 493,372 U.S. residents were diagnosed with HIV during that time period.

The researchers found that there were 24.1 diagnoses per 100,000 people in 2002, compared with 16.1 in 2011, amounting to a drop of about 4% per year. In addition, the researchers found that rates dropped for both men and women. Specifically, new diagnoses dropped by 49.2% among women and by 27.1% among men (Smith, MedPage Today, 7/20).

In addition, the study found that new diagnoses dropped as testing increased. According to CDC data, the percentage of U.S. adults tested for HIV rose from 37% in 2000 to 45% in 2010 (Stobbe, Sacramento Bee, 7/19). The decline also followed increased focus on HIV care and treatment, including antiretroviral therapy, according to the report (Reuters, 7/19).


Four Organizations, Including Two on Women's Health, Should Be Exempt From N.Y. Donor Disclosure Rules, Judicial Hearing Officer

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 13:44

New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics must reverse its earlier ruling that forced New York abortion-rights advocacy groups to disclose information about their financial contributors, the North Country Gazette reports.

Four Organizations, Including Two on Women’s Health, Should Be Exempt From N.Y. Donor Disclosure Rules, Judicial Hearing Officer Says

July 22, 2014 — New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics must reverse its earlier ruling that forced New York abortion-rights advocacy groups to disclose information about their financial contributors, the North Country Gazette reports.

According to the Gazette, four groups had asked JCOPE for exemptions from a state requirement that they disclose the information. The groups included abortion-rights supporters Family Planning Advocates and the New York Women's Equality Coalition, as well as New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The organizations argued that identifying their donors could put the individuals' safety at risk.

JCOPE initially ruled that the groups could not be exempt from the requirements, and the organizations appealed the decision (North Country Gazette, 7/18).

On Friday, a judicial hearing officer reversed JCOPE's decision, ruling that the groups' evidence warranted the exemptions (Lucas, Northeast Public Radio, 7/19). The officer wrote in the ruling, "The groups provided 'specific evidence' of many and severe incidents extending over a period of years that show a 'pattern of threats' and 'manifestations of public hostility' ... because of their advocacy" (Lovett, New York Daily News, 7/19).

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said the group is "gratified and relieved at the decision ... in favor of what the hearing officer deemed 'proper deference to the constitutional requirement to protect the First Amendment rights of citizens to express their views on controversial issues by providing financial support to organizations'" (North Country Gazette, 7/18).


N.Y. Officials Propose Contraceptive Coverage Notification Bill

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:11

New York's attorney general and a top Democratic lawmaker have proposed legislation that would require employers to notify employees 90 days before changing their contraceptive coverage policies, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

N.Y. Officials Propose Contraceptive Coverage Notification Bill

July 21, 2014 — New York's attorney general and a top Democratic lawmaker have proposed legislation that would require employers to notify employees 90 days before changing their contraceptive coverage policies, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) and state Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) proposed the measure in light of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which permits some employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their workers if the businesses' owners have religious objections (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/17).

The bill, called the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act, also would require employers to inform prospective workers about their contraceptive coverage options prior to hiring them. The legislation would apply to all companies conducting business within the state that offer employer-sponsored health plans.

According to USA Today, the legislation would impose a $5,000 fine for each violation.

N.Y. Gov. Proposes Women's Party Line on Ballot

In related news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) gubernatorial campaign launched an initiative to create a new ballot line dedicated to women's issues, called the Women's Equality Party.

According to USA Today, supporters will have to collect 15,000 signatures to place the line on the ballot, with petitions due in late August. If successful, Cuomo could garner up to four ballot lines, including the Woman's Equality, Democratic, Working Families and Independence parties.

Kathy Hochul -- a former Congress member and Cuomo's running mate -- said that the new party "will bring together the strength and power of our state's women leaders to promote the Women's Equality Agenda and influence policy and government."

Meanwhile, Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo's opponent in the Democratic primary, said, "Last time I checked, the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for women's equality," adding that the state does not need "a new 'party' for women's equality," but rather "a new governor with traditional Democratic values" (Campbell, USA Today, 7/17).

N.Y. Medicaid Officials Urge Private Insurers To Cover Long-Term Contraceptives

New York Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on Thursday called on health care providers to offer immediate post-birth insertion of intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants to low-income women covered in the state's Medicaid program, the AP/Miami Herald reports.

According to AP/Miami Herald, the state's Medicaid program began covering the devices in the spring. State officials on Thursday said that offering the devices to women immediately after birth as opposed to a follow-up appointment would help prevent pregnancies during the interim or a reluctance to return for an insertion procedure.

Officials also called on private insurers to cover the devices, which range from $350 to $700.

Zucker said, "When a woman is able to plan her subsequent pregnancies, she is better able to safeguard her health and well-being, as well as that of any future children." He said that the federal government covers 80% to 90% of the cost of the devices for women in the Medicaid program, and that the state covers the remaining cost.

Separately, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in an email Thursday criticized the move, saying the "idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children 'immediately after childbirth' is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing" (Sisak, AP/Miami Herald, 7/17).


Number of Abortions in Ind. Declines for Fifth Year Amid New Laws

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:10

For the fifth consecutive year, the number of abortions performed in Indiana has declined alongside state requirements "that have made it steadily more difficult for a woman to end her pregnancy," according to a report by the state Department of Health, the AP/Indianapolis Star reports.

Number of Abortions in Ind. Declines for Fifth Year Amid New Laws

July 21, 2014 — For the fifth consecutive year, the number of abortions performed in Indiana has declined alongside state requirements "that have made it steadily more difficult for a woman to end her pregnancy," according to a report by the state Department of Health, the AP/Indianapolis Star reports.

Indiana in recent years has passed laws mandating that women undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, banning most abortion coverage in private health plans and requiring abortion clinics to undergo at least one unannounced inspection annually.

According to the state Department of Health, 1,000 fewer abortions occurred in 2013 than in 2011, a decrease of 12%. Since 2008, the number of abortions in Indiana has decreased by about 25%.

Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, said, "Indiana is really one of the most restrictive states in the country" in terms of abortion laws.

A state law that would require clinics that offer only medication abortions to adhere to the same standards as facilities that perform the surgical procedure was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, but it is on hold after the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued and a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction (Wilson, AP/Indianapolis Star, 7/17).


Judge Clarifies Wis. Medication Abortion Law

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:09

A Wisconsin judge on Thursday ruled that a state law restricting medication abortion does not require a physician to be present when a woman ingests the drugs, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Judge Clarifies Wis. Medication Abortion Law

July 21, 2014 — A Wisconsin judge on Thursday ruled that a state law restricting medication abortion does not require a physician to be present when a woman ingests the drugs, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess also lifted a hold he put on the law (SB 306) last year while the case was pending. Although the state and Planned Parenthood, which challenged the law, agreed how it should be interpreted, jurisdictional issues had prolonged a resolution in the case (Bauer, AP/Washington Times, 7/17).

Law Details

The 2012 law requires a physician to consult in person, not via webcam, with a woman seeking an abortion. The law also states that a physician must be physically present when administering medication abortion drugs, among other requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/23/12).

The same doctor also must meet with the woman three times and complete steps to verify that she is seeking the procedure voluntarily. If a doctor failed to do so, he or she could face felony charges.

Niess also said in his ruling that as long as a doctor makes a good-faith effort to ensure that a woman was not forced into seeking an abortion, then the doctor should not face penalties under the law if it is later revealed that the woman was coerced (AP/Washington Times, 7/17).

Law Prompted Confusion

According to the Madison Cap Times, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin clinics in Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton temporarily stopped offering medication abortions because of confusion over the law but later resumed the service when the law was put on hold.

Planned Parenthood attorney Lester Pines noted the lawsuit aimed to ensure that doctors who were not present while a patient ingested the drug would not be prosecuted (VanEgeren, Madison Cap Times, 7/17). "Planned Parenthood doctors are following the law" and will continue to provide medication abortions, he said.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) said his office always interpreted the law in the way Niess decided, adding, "No one ever tried to enforce the law differently" (AP/Washington Times, 7/17).


Planned Parenthood Votes Will Spend $3M on Election in Texas

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:07

The political arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America plans to spend $3 million on an aggressive campaign in Texas during the upcoming 2014 midterm elections, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Planned Parenthood Votes Will Spend $3M on Election in Texas

July 21, 2014 — The political arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America plans to spend $3 million on an aggressive campaign in Texas during the upcoming 2014 midterm elections, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Planned Parenthood Votes President Cecile Richards said the campaign aims to point out differences between state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and current Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), who are running for governor. "When women have a chance to know the difference between candidates, they won't vote for someone who is against them," she said.

The effort, supported by the newly created Planned Parenthood Texas Votes political action committee, is similar to those PPV has staged in other states. For example, the group last year spent $2.4 million in the Virginia gubernatorial race.

The Texas campaign was bolstered by a $1 million donation from Planned Parenthood Chair Cecilia Boone, the Express-News reports. It currently has more than $1 million in cash-on-hand.

'Wake-Up Call' for State Groups That Oppose Abortion

The campaign has spurred concern among antiabortion-rights activists, who are worried about raising funds to be competitive. Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said, "This is a wake-up call for us, and I'm sure for other pro-life organizations." However, he dismissed the Planned Parenthood effort, saying, "Planned Parenthood doesn't have the grass roots to energize [voters] in the same way the pro-life movement can."

According to state data, TAL and Texas Right to Life, the state's two largest antiabortion-rights groups, have spent about $450,000 since January to support various candidates (Fikac/Saleh Rauf, San Antonio Express-News, 7/19).


Texas Considers How To Streamline Reproductive Health Services for Low-Income Women

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 17:06

Texas lawmakers are weighing how to restore gaps in health care access for low-income women in the state, three years after they cut the state's family planning budget and rejected a federally funded women's health program in favor of a state-operated program, the Texas Tribune/New York Times reports.

Texas Considers How To Bolster Reproductive Health Services for Low-Income Women

July 21, 2014 — Texas lawmakers are weighing how to restore gaps in health care access for low-income women in the state, three years after they cut the state's family planning budget and rejected a federally funded women's health program in favor of a state-operated program, the Texas Tribune/New York Times reports (Ura, Texas Tribune/New York Times, 7/19).

Background on Family Planning Cuts

In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women's health clinics affiliated with abortion providers. As a result of the cuts, 76 of Texas' family planning clinics closed or stopped providing family planning services, according to a survey by University of Texas-Austin researchers.

To mitigate the effect of the 2011 cuts, Texas legislators during the 2013 session increased women's health funds to $214 million for the 2014-2015 state budget, up from $109 million in the previous budget. The funding was dedicated to expanding primary care, operating the Texas Women's Health Program and replacing the family planning grants that the federal government awarded to another organization to distribute (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/24).

Consolidation Efforts

State Sen. Jan Nelson (R) said at a February hearing of the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee that she was mulling whether to consolidate or streamline the six different state programs designed to offer health care services to low-income women. "We've got several different programs with different names, different benefits, different eligibility guidelines that I know have to be confusing to women out there because they're confusing to me," she said.

Nelson has suggested that she might consolidate the programs through use of the Sunset Advisory Commission, which allows lawmakers to make significant changes to agencies and programs to boost efficiency. According to the Tribune/Times, Nelson chairs the Sunset commission, which includes lawmakers and staff.

Meanwhile, Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokesperson Stephanie Goodman said that the commission has not yet received any specific directives from the state, but it has considered creating "one front door" for all services, which means that women would go to one provider for all their health care needs. In a report to the Sunset commission, HHSC suggested that if the Texas Women's Health Program joined the Texas Department of State Health Services, which oversees the majority of women's health services in the state, efficiency could be boosted.

According to the Tribune/Times, staff members on the Sunset commission are scheduled to publish their recommendations in October, while lawmakers on the panel will voice their proposals later in the year before submitting them to the full Legislature in January.

Reproductive Health Groups Voice Concerns

Meanwhile, several lawmakers and reproductive health groups have expressed concerns about implementing additional changes so quickly after having cut funds for the program, the Tribune/Times reports.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D) said, "I'm concerned about looking at streamlining before we've had an opportunity to get the new programs up and running in a way that mimics the kinds of successes we were seeing with the previous programs."

Similarly, Janet Realini, former chair and current steering committee member of the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, said that the current structure should be evaluated for efficiency before lawmakers make any further changes.

"We have mentioned in discussions that it would make more sense to look at studying things rather than changing them," she said. She added that the coalition estimates that more than one million Texas women are seeking state-subsidized health care services and that the current health care system and budget is able to meet the needs of just one-third of them.

Separately, Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said that lawmakers' efforts to improve the system are futile without the structure and support of Planned Parenthood. "It's going to take a tremendous amount of time, a tremendous amount of infrastructure building and resources that I don't think the state had thought about when they dismantled these programs," she said (Texas Tribune/New York Times, 7/19).

Omnibus Antiabortion Law Shutters 50% of State Abortion Clinics

In related news, abortion-rights supporters report that just 20 of the state's 41 abortion clinics remain open one year after the enactment of HB 2, and that just six might be left after the law's final provision takes effect in September, Houston Public Media/NPR/Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports.

Most of the state's clinics shuttered under a provision in the law that requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. On Sept. 1, another provision of the law takes effect that requires all abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to ambulatory surgical centers.

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said most clinics cannot afford to comply with the provision. "This would basically force all the clinics to become mini-hospitals" by adopting "a bunch of ... regulations that are not really appropriate or do anything to increase the safety of one of the safest procedures in the country," she said.

Busby estimated that just six or eight clinics in the state will remain open after the provision takes effect, unless a lawsuit blocks the rule. She noted that that there are currently no abortion clinics in all of East Texas or in the Rio Grande Valley and that the sole clinic in El Paso could close soon (Feibel, "Capsules," Houston Public Media/NPR/Kaiser Health News, 7/18).


White House Adviser Jarrett Uses Opinion Piece To Address Measures To Protect Pregnant Women Against Discrimination

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:31

Accommodating pregnant women with "slight job modifications could help them stay in the workforce at no risk to their health," Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, writes in a CNN opinion piece.

White House Adviser Jarrett Uses Opinion Piece To Address Measures To Protect Pregnant Women Against Discrimination

July 21, 2014 — Accommodating pregnant women with "slight job modifications could help them stay in the workforce at no risk to their health," Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, writes in a CNN opinion piece. However, "[i]n so many cases, modest accommodations ... are denied pregnant women, forcing expectant moms to choose between their health and that of their pregnancies, and their jobs," she adds.

Jarrett notes that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week issued new guidelines to remind employers that they are prohibited from discriminating against workers based on pregnancy. The guidance "will translate into real relief for countless women, especially low-income women who are working hard to support their families," Jarrett argues.

Jarrett recounts her own experience working while pregnant, "worrying that" it was "causing [her] colleagues to question whether [she] could keep up." Her experience reinforced for her that "[p]regnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are otherwise qualified to perform, and certainly should not be a basis for treating women less favorably than other similarly situated workers," she writes.

"The EEOC is helping employees and job seekers learn more about their rights," Jarrett writes, adding, "And, as importantly, it is helping employers -- the vast majority of which want to do the right thing and only need the technical assistance to do so -- understand their obligations" (Jarrett, CNN, 7/20).


Planned Parenthood Votes Will Spend $3M on Election in Texas

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:30

The political arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America plans to spend $3 million on an aggressive campaign in Texas during the upcoming 2014 midterm elections, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Planned Parenthood Votes Will Spend $3M on Election in Texas

July 21, 2014 — The political arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America plans to spend $3 million on an aggressive campaign in Texas during the upcoming 2014 midterm elections, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Planned Parenthood Votes President Cecile Richards said the campaign aims to point out differences between state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and current Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), who are running for governor. "When women have a chance to know the difference between candidates, they won't vote for someone who is against them," she said.

The effort, supported by the newly created Planned Parenthood Texas Votes political action committee, is similar to those PPV has staged in other states. For example, the group last year spent $2.4 million in the Virginia gubernatorial race.

The Texas campaign was bolstered by a $1 million donation from Planned Parenthood Chair Cecilia Boone, the Express-News reports. It currently has more than $1 million in cash-on-hand.

'Wake-Up Call' for State Groups That Oppose Abortion

The campaign has spurred concern among antiabortion-rights activists, who are worried about raising funds to be competitive. Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said, "This is a wake-up call for us, and I'm sure for other pro-life organizations." However, he dismissed the Planned Parenthood effort, saying, "Planned Parenthood doesn't have the grass roots to energize [voters] in the same way the pro-life movement can."

According to state data, TAL and Texas Right to Life, the state's two largest antiabortion-rights groups, have spent about $450,000 since January to support various candidates (Fikac/Saleh Rauf, San Antonio Express-News, 7/19).


Texas Considers How To Streamline Reproductive Health Services for Low-Income Women

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:29

Texas lawmakers are weighing how to restore gaps in health care access for low-income women in the state, three years after they cut the state's family planning budget and rejected a federally funded women's health program in favor of a state-operated program, the Texas Tribune/New York Times reports.

Texas Considers How To Bolster Reproductive Health Services for Low-Income Women

July 21, 2014 — Texas lawmakers are weighing how to restore gaps in health care access for low-income women in the state, three years after they cut the state's family planning budget and rejected a federally funded women's health program in favor of a state-operated program, the Texas Tribune/New York Times reports (Ura, Texas Tribune/New York Times, 7/19).

Background on Family Planning Cuts

In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women's health clinics affiliated with abortion providers. As a result of the cuts, 76 of Texas' family planning clinics closed or stopped providing family planning services, according to a survey by University of Texas-Austin researchers.

To mitigate the effect of the 2011 cuts, Texas legislators during the 2013 session increased women's health funds to $214 million for the 2014-2015 state budget, up from $109 million in the previous budget. The funding was dedicated to expanding primary care, operating the Texas Women's Health Program and replacing the family planning grants that the federal government awarded to another organization to distribute (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/24).

Consolidation Efforts

State Sen. Jan Nelson (R) said at a February hearing of the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee that she was mulling whether to consolidate or streamline the six different state programs designed to offer health care services to low-income women. "We've got several different programs with different names, different benefits, different eligibility guidelines that I know have to be confusing to women out there because they're confusing to me," she said.

Nelson has suggested that she might consolidate the programs through use of the Sunset Advisory Commission, which allows lawmakers to make significant changes to agencies and programs to boost efficiency. According to the Tribune/Times, Nelson chairs the Sunset commission, which includes lawmakers and staff.

Meanwhile, Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokesperson Stephanie Goodman said that the commission has not yet received any specific directives from the state, but it has considered creating "one front door" for all services, which means that women would go to one provider for all their health care needs. In a report to the Sunset commission, HHSC suggested that if the Texas Women's Health Program joined the Texas Department of State Health Services, which oversees the majority of women's health services in the state, efficiency could be boosted.

According to the Tribune/Times, staff members on the Sunset commission are scheduled to publish their recommendations in October, while lawmakers on the panel will voice their proposals later in the year before submitting them to the full Legislature in January.

Reproductive Health Groups Voice Concerns

Meanwhile, several lawmakers and reproductive health groups have expressed concerns about implementing additional changes so quickly after having cut funds for the program, the Tribune/Times reports.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D) said, "I'm concerned about looking at streamlining before we've had an opportunity to get the new programs up and running in a way that mimics the kinds of successes we were seeing with the previous programs."

Similarly, Janet Realini, former chair and current steering committee member of the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, said that the current structure should be evaluated for efficiency before lawmakers make any further changes.

"We have mentioned in discussions that it would make more sense to look at studying things rather than changing them," she said. She added that the coalition estimates that more than one million Texas women are seeking state-subsidized health care services and that the current health care system and budget is able to meet the needs of just one-third of them.

Separately, Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said that lawmakers' efforts to improve the system are futile without the structure and support of Planned Parenthood. "It's going to take a tremendous amount of time, a tremendous amount of infrastructure building and resources that I don't think the state had thought about when they dismantled these programs," she said (Texas Tribune/New York Times, 7/19).

Omnibus Antiabortion Law Shutters 50% of State Abortion Clinics

In related news, abortion-rights supporters report that just 20 of the state's 41 abortion clinics remain open one year after the enactment of HB 2, and that just six might be left after the law's final provision takes effect in September, Houston Public Media/NPR/Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports.

Most of the state's clinics shuttered under a provision in the law that requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. On Sept. 1, another provision of the law takes effect that requires all abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to ambulatory surgical centers.

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said most clinics cannot afford to comply with the provision. "This would basically force all the clinics to become mini-hospitals" by adopting "a bunch of ... regulations that are not really appropriate or do anything to increase the safety of one of the safest procedures in the country," she said.

Busby estimated that just six or eight clinics in the state will remain open after the provision takes effect, unless a lawsuit blocks the rule. She noted that that there are currently no abortion clinics in all of East Texas or in the Rio Grande Valley and that the sole clinic in El Paso could close soon (Feibel, "Capsules," Houston Public Media/NPR/Kaiser Health News, 7/18).


Judge Clarifies Wis. Medication Abortion Law

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:19

A Wisconsin judge on Thursday ruled that a state law restricting medication abortion does not require a physician to be present when a woman ingests the drugs, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Judge Clarifies Wis. Medication Abortion Law

July 21, 2014 — A Wisconsin judge on Thursday ruled that a state law restricting medication abortion does not require a physician to be present when a woman ingests the drugs, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess also lifted a hold he put on the law (SB 306) last year while the case was pending. Although the state and Planned Parenthood, which challenged the law, agreed how it should be interpreted, jurisdictional issues had prolonged a resolution in the case (Bauer, AP/Washington Times, 7/17).

Law Details

The 2012 law requires a physician to consult in person, not via webcam, with a woman seeking an abortion. The law also states that a physician must be physically present when administering medication abortion drugs, among other requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/23/12).

The same doctor also must meet with the woman three times and complete steps to verify that she is seeking the procedure voluntarily. If a doctor failed to do so, he or she could face felony charges.

Niess also said in his ruling that as long as a doctor makes a good-faith effort to ensure that a woman was not forced into seeking an abortion, then the doctor should not face penalties under the law if it is later revealed that the woman was coerced (AP/Washington Times, 7/17).

Law Prompted Confusion

According to the Madison Cap Times, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin clinics in Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton temporarily stopped offering medication abortions because of confusion over the law but later resumed the service when the law was put on hold.

Planned Parenthood attorney Lester Pines noted the lawsuit aimed to ensure that doctors who were not present while a patient ingested the drug would not be prosecuted (VanEgeren, Madison Cap Times, 7/17). "Planned Parenthood doctors are following the law" and will continue to provide medication abortions, he said.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) said his office always interpreted the law in the way Niess decided, adding, "No one ever tried to enforce the law differently" (AP/Washington Times, 7/17).