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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Bill Aims To Extend Some Abortion Coverage to Peace Corps Volunteers

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 16:32

Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would provide Peace Corps volunteers with the same access to abortion coverage as federal employees and Medicaid beneficiaries, MSNBC reports.

Bill Aims To Extend Some Abortion Coverage to Peace Corps Volunteers

May 7, 2014 — Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would provide Peace Corps volunteers with the same access to abortion coverage as federal employees and Medicaid beneficiaries, MSNBC reports (Carmon, MSNBC, 5/6).

Peace Corps volunteers receive no abortion coverage and must pay for the procedure out of pocket, whereas the federal government's employee health plans and Medicaid cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life (Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 5/6).

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J) previously introduced the Peace Corps Equity Act last year (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 5/6). Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is sponsoring the new bill in the Senate, and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is sponsoring the House version.

"Peace Corps volunteers face inherent risks living and working abroad," Shaheen said in a statement, adding, "There's no reason they should be denied standard health care services offered to most women with federal health care coverage" (MSNBC, 5/6).

Peace Corps Volunteers Want Abortion Coverage, Survey Finds

Former Peace Corps volunteers are lobbying lawmakers to pass the legislation. Advocates also are highlighting a new report that found that women in the Peace Corps support abortion coverage (Politico Pro, 5/6).

The report, from researchers at the University of Ottawa and Princeton University, is based on interviews with more than 430 Peace Corps volunteers (MSNBC, 5/6).

Of the 362 female Peace Corps volunteers surveyed for the report, 5% said they had a "personal abortion experience." About 8.8% of respondents said they had at least one experience with rape or sexual assault. According to Politico Pro, about 63% of Peace Corps volunteers are women, roughly 90% are not married and their average age is 28.

In the survey, the majority of women who reported having an abortion said that they learned of the lack of abortion coverage only after they became pregnant and that it was difficult to pay out of pocket for the procedure with their small Peace Corps stipends.

Nearly all female respondents said Peace Corps volunteers should have some abortion coverage available to them. About 98% said that they support the Peace Corps Equity Act (Politico Pro, 5/6).


HHS Sec. Nominee Burwell Expected To Face Questions on ACA

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 14:29

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama's nominee for HHS secretary, is expected to face more questions about the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) than about her credentials during her confirmation hearings, CQ Roll Call reports.

HHS Sec. Nominee Burwell Expected To Face Questions on ACA

May 7, 2014 — Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama's nominee for HHS secretary, is expected to face more questions about the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) than about her credentials during her confirmation hearings, CQ Roll Call reports.

Burwell, who currently heads the White House Office of Management and Budget, will go before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Thursday. The Senate Finance Committee also is expected to hold a hearing on her confirmation. Last year, the Senate voted 96-0 to confirm her for her current role.

According to CQ Roll Call, Senate Republicans so far have been "noncommittal" about Burwell's nomination, and her unanimous confirmation to her current position suggests there is little doubt that she is well qualified. Moreover, a change in Senate filibuster rules made last year means that although united GOP opposition could potentially delay her confirmation, it could not prevent it.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a member of both the Senate HELP and Finance committees, said that while Burwell will "have to answer some hard questions," she "appears ... to be a pretty solid person," and he expects that the hearings will "go well." He added that he has not gotten the sense from fellow GOP senators that anyone intends to hold up the process.

However, Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action for America, said that the confirmation hearings provide "a perfectly acceptable role to sort of dig in on how [Burwell] would run the law going forward," which is "particularly important given the lack of information and communication over the law" (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 5/5).


Mo. Senate Rejects Rape, Incest Exceptions to Mandatory Delay Bill

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 14:26

The Missouri Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposal that would have exempted rape and incest survivors from a bill (HB 1307/1313) that would increase the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Mo. Senate Rejects Rape, Incest Exceptions to Mandatory Delay Bill

May 7, 2014 — The Missouri Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposal that would have exempted rape and incest survivors from a bill (HB 1307/1313) that would increase the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (French, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/6).

In addition to extending the delay, the bill would require women seeking an abortion to watch a video with information about the procedure. Women in Missouri already are required to receive written and verbal information before abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/7). Women with medical emergencies are exempt from the state's 24-hour mandatory delay (Shapiro, AP/Washington Times, 5/6).

The state Senate did not vote on the underlying bill on Tuesday. According to the Post-Dispatch, the bill was put on hold after lawmakers raised questions over the relevancy of another proposed amendment that would address sex education.

Debate Details

The state Senate rejected the exemptions in a 22-9 party line vote, with Republicans voting against the proposal and Democrats supporting it.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the exceptions were proposed by Democratic lawmakers who argued that victims of the crimes should not be forced to wait to obtain abortion care (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/6).

State Sen. Paul LeVota (D) said, "This [bill] just victimizes them further," adding, "It's just three days to further reflect and be reminded of a crime they were a victim of."

Meanwhile, bill sponsor state Sen. David Sater (R) argued that pregnancy resulting from rape should be treated as any other pregnancy. "Should the unborn child of rape have different rights and are they less important than another unborn child?" he stated (AP/Washington Times, 5/6).


N.Y. Abortion-Rights Bill Fails in Committee

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 14:23

The New York Senate Health Committee on Tuesday rejected a bill (S 438) that would have affirmed abortion rights in the state, the Lower Hudson Journal News reports.

N.Y. Abortion-Rights Bill Fails in Committee

May 7, 2014 — The New York Senate Health Committee on Tuesday rejected a bill (S 438) that would have affirmed abortion rights in the state, the Lower Hudson Journal News reports (Spector, Lower Hudson Journal News, 5/6).

The committee voted along party lines, with nine Republicans opposing the measure.

The vote means the bill is effectively stalled for the current legislative session, which ends in June, according to state Sen. Greg Ball (R) (Gormley, Long Island Newsday, 5/6).

Bill Details

The bill, called the Reproductive Health Act, would update New York laws to formally recognize rights granted under the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision (Lower Hudson Journal News, 5/6). The measure would clarify that women in the state have the right to an abortion if their lives or health are in danger or if a fetus is not viable (AP/Wall Street Journal, 5/6).

The bill is separate from the 10-point Women's Equality Agenda that was considered last year. Nine of the 10 points passed the state Legislature, but a provision regarding abortion failed to gain approval.

Debate

During debate on the measure, Republicans claimed that the bill would expand abortion access and make the procedure available throughout pregnancy. In addition, they said the bill would not necessarily require that a physician perform the procedure.

State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins argued that women's health is not a partisan issue. She said the bill should be advanced to the full chamber for a vote because "women ... deserve to know where their elected officials stand on these important issues" (Lower Hudson Journal News, 5/6).

According to Long Island Newsday, Democrats could attempt some additional legislative maneuvers to advance the bill, but Republicans could argue that the moves are out of order. Democrats also could petition to move the measure to the chamber's Rules Committee, but Republicans on the committee could try to block its passage (Long Island Newsday, 5/6).


Ind. Medicaid Ends Coverage for Early Elective Deliveries

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 14:18

Indiana's Medicaid program on July 1 will stop paying hospitals and physicians for delivering infants before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless there is a medical reason or labor starts naturally, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Ind. Medicaid Ends Coverage for Early Elective Deliveries

May 7, 2014 — Indiana's Medicaid program on July 1 will stop paying hospitals and physicians for delivering infants before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless there is a medical reason or labor starts naturally, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

In a joint statement, the state Department of Health and the state Family and Social Services Administration said the move is part of Indiana's efforts to lower its infant mortality rate. In 2011, Indiana's infant mortality rate was 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, the sixth highest in the nation (AP/San Francisco Gate, 5/5).

While an infant born at 37 or 38 weeks is not considered premature, data have shown that deliveries around that time have a higher risk of infant mortality. Doctors believe that the last few weeks of pregnancy are important for fetal brain development, and infants born early face an increased risk of complications such as brain damage, respiratory issues and digestive problems. Early delivery also raises the chances that the woman will have a cesarean section or delivery complications (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/3/12).

Impact

FSSA spokesperson Jim Gavin said the new policy would affect about 15 births per month. Citing data from the Indiana Hospital Association, FSSA said that less than 3% of all births in the state are early elective deliveries, compared with 11% in 2012.

Medicaid pays for about 50% of all births in Indiana. Once the new policy takes effect, Indiana will become the fourth state to eliminate Medicaid coverage for early elective deliveries, according to the AP/Chronicle (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/5).


Featured Blog

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 17:18

"Meet the Republican Man Who is Trying To Get Real Sex Education Into South Carolina Schools" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 5/2).

May 6, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Meet the Republican Man Who is Trying To Get Real Sex Education Into South Carolina Schools," Amanda Marcotte, Slate 's "XX Factor": Marcotte comments on a recent vote by the "Republican-led South Carolina statehouse ... to update the law regarding sex education to include instruction on the use of contraception." She writes that she is amazed that the bill's (H 3435) sponsor "is a Republican man, [state] Rep. B.R. Skelton," who "told the Associated Press that he wants to reduce teen pregnancy, [sexually transmitted infection] transmission, abortion rates, and high school dropout rates in his state." Marcotte concludes that while the bill could have gone further, "[c]onsidering that South Carolina has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, every little move forward should be applauded" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 5/2).

What others are saying about adolescent health:

~ "Another Study Shows That 'Hookup Culture' is a Myth," Eliana Dockterman, Time.

~ "Teen Pregnancies Are Plunging Because Young People Are Making Responsible Sexual Decisions," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."


NYT Editorial: HPV Test 'Welcome News' for Cervical Cancer Screening

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 17:06

"Women who want to be screened for cervical cancer have just received a new option -- and a new quandary," a New York Times editorial states, noting that FDA recently approved a "rival" to the "venerable Pap smear."

NYT Editorial: HPV Test 'Welcome News' for Cervical Cancer Screening

May 6, 2014 — "Women who want to be screened for cervical cancer have just received a new option -- and a new quandary," a New York Times editorial states, noting that FDA recently approved a "rival" to the "venerable Pap smear."

The new test screens for DNA of the 14 types of the human papillomavirus "that pose the highest risk of causing cervical cancer," whereas the traditional Pap test "involves examining a cervical sample under a microscope to look for abnormalities that might be cancer or precursors of cancer," the editorial explains. According to the editorial, FDA "made no comparative judgment" between the two tests but said the new test is "safe and effective when used as a primary screening tool."

The editorial notes that the HPV test "has some advantages over Pap tests," including that it is "better able to detect precancerous lesions" and predict "whether a woman who tested negative would remain free of lesions for the next three years." In addition, the HPV test is "more objective than Pap tests, which rely on the judgment of health professionals viewing slides under a microscope," the editorial states.

"However, a coalition of 17 consumer, women's and health groups opposed the approval on grounds that the new test had not been adequately tested, will create confusion and might lead to expensive, invasive, potentially harmful follow-up procedures," all while costing up to "twice as much as a $40 Pap smear," the editorial continues.

The new test is not expected to replace Pap tests in the U.S. "any time soon," but it is still "welcome news" that there is a new cervical cancer screening test "should women prefer that option," the Times concludes (New York Times, 5/4).


Record Web Traffic After Education Dept. Posts Colleges Facing Sexual Assault Investigations

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 16:20

The Department of Education had its highest-ever number of visits to its website and Twitter and Facebook pages after it released a list of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual violence claims, a spokesperson said, Politico reports.

Record Web Traffic After Education Dept. Posts Colleges Facing Sexual Assault Investigations

May 6, 2014 — The Department of Education had its highest-ever number of visits to its website and Twitter and Facebook pages after it released a list of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual violence claims, a spokesperson said, Politico reports.

The list, released on Thursday, received more pageviews than all of the department's other web pages combined, according to the spokesperson. ED.gov crashed for several hours after the list was published, but the department did not say whether the high volume of traffic was responsible for the issue (Grasgreen, Politico, 5/2).

The release of the list coincides with other efforts by the federal government to increase pressure on colleges to stop sexual assaults on their campuses. By making the information public for the first time, the agency aimed to boost dialogue about sexual assault and push schools to bolster efforts to stop the crimes (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/2).


Teen Pregnancy, Birth, Abortion Rates at Historic Lows

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 16:11

Rates of pregnancy, births and abortions among 15- to 19-year-olds have declined substantially in recent decades, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, the National Journal reports.

Teen Pregnancy, Birth, Abortion Rates at Historic Lows

May 6, 2014 — Rates of pregnancy, births and abortions among 15- to 19-year-olds have declined substantially in recent decades, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, the National Journal reports (Novack, National Journal, 5/5).

The findings suggest that teen births are down because fewer teens are becoming pregnant, researchers said. Guttmacher's Kathryn Kost attributed the decreased in teen pregnancies to "efforts to ensure teens can access the information and contraceptive services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies" (Khan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/5).

Pregnancy Rates

The report found that roughly 6% of female adolescents became pregnant in 2010, representing a 15% decline from 2008 and a 51% decline from a peak in 1990.

In addition, the report found that the majority of teen pregnancies (69%) occurred among 18- and 19-year-olds. Compared with younger teens, a higher proportion of teens in this age group had ever had sex. However, the older teens had substantially lower pregnancy rates, suggesting that many are effectively using contraception (National Journal, 5/5).

The report found that teen pregnancies declined across racial and ethnic groups ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/5).

In addition, the report found that while teen pregnancy rates declined in every state, the rates varied substantially from state to state. Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma had the highest rates, between 7% and 8%, while Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Vermont had the lowest rates, all below 4% (National Journal, 5/5).

Abortion, Birth Rates

Meanwhile, the report found that the proportion of teen pregnancies ending in abortion declined from 46% in 1986 to 30% in 2010 (Viebeck, The Hill, 5/5).

The abortion rate declined from roughly 43.5 abortions per 1,000 female teens in 1988 to about 14.7 abortions per 1,000 in 2010 ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/5). According to the report, the 2010 teen abortion rate is the lowest since the procedure was legalized 40 years ago, and 66% lower than a peak in 1988.

Connecticut, New Jersey and New York reported the highest proportions of teen pregnancies ending in abortions, all above 50%. States with more-restrictive abortion laws tended to report the lowest proportions of teen pregnancies ending in abortions. Fewer than 15% of teen pregnancies ended in abortion in Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Utah, the report found (National Journal, 5/5).

However, abortion figures varied substantially across racial and demographic groups. For example, the report found that pregnant black teens obtained abortions at about four times the rate of white teenagers, while the figure for Hispanic teens was roughly double that of whites (The Hill, 5/5).

The report found that the proportion of teen pregnancies that ended in births declined from a peak of 6% in 1991 to under 4% in 2010, a drop of 44%. Birth rates also varied substantially across racial and ethnic groups (National Journal, 5/5).


Blogs Comment on Sex Education, 'Hobby Lobby's Real Agenda,' More

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 15:57

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from Slate, Time and more.

Blogs Comment on Sex Education, 'Hobby Lobby's Real Agenda,' More

May 6, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from Slate, Time and more.

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Meet the Republican Man Who is Trying To Get Real Sex Education Into South Carolina Schools," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor": Marcotte comments on a recent vote by the "Republican-led South Carolina statehouse ... to update the law regarding sex education to include instruction on the use of contraception." She writes that she is amazed that the bill's (H 3435) sponsor "is a Republican man, [state] Rep. B.R. Skelton," who "told the Associated Press that he wants to reduce teen pregnancy, [sexually transmitted infection] transmission, abortion rates, and high school dropout rates in his state." Marcotte concludes that while the bill could have gone further, "[c]onsidering that South Carolina has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, every little move forward should be applauded" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 5/2).

What others are saying about adolescent health:

~ "Another Study Shows That 'Hookup Culture' is a Myth," Eliana Dockterman, Time.

~ "Teen Pregnancies Are Plunging Because Young People Are Making Responsible Sexual Decisions," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

SEXUAL VIOLENCE: "Campus Rape Reports Are Up, and That's Not Entirely a Bad Thing," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler notes that the "number of 'forcible rapes' reported at colleges and universities increased by nearly 50 percent between 2008 and 2012," which "can certainly seem discouraging" amid "increased national attention on the college sexual assault crisis." However, she explains that "even though it's somewhat counterintuitive, a spike in rape reports can actually signal some good news" because "[c]ampus rapes are notoriously under-reported." She concludes, "If colleges' numbers [of sexual assault reports] have risen ... that means an increasing number of students are feeling comfortable enough to come forward and tell someone about the crime" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 5/2).

What others are saying about sexual violence:

~ "Judge in Texas Sentenced a Rapist To Volunteer at a Rape Crisis Center," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Having a Severely Premature Baby Strengthened My Support for Every Woman's Right To Choose," Dallas Schubert, RH Reality Check: When pregnancy complications led to an emergency cesarean section when she was 23.5 weeks pregnant, Schubert, chair of the Abortion Care Network, was told that her now 16-year-old daughter "had no chance of survival without extraordinary medical intervention," a roughly 25% chance of survival with resuscitation, "and that if she survived she had an over 75 percent chance of significant disability and chronic medical need." Schubert writes that she told doctors to "'[d]o everything you can,'" adding, "The complex decisions about her life were mine to make, and I made them as best I could." She writes that the experience strengthened her support for women considering abortions later in pregnancy. "I can't imagine what it would have been like to have my choice taken from me," she writes, adding, "I deserved no more and no less support, understanding, and compassion than any other woman facing the complex and difficult decisions that come with being pregnant" (Schubert, RH Reality Check, 5/5).

What others are saying about the abortion-rights movement:

~ "This Woman Filmed Her Abortion To Show Other People it Doesn't Have To Be Scary," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Creepy Politicians Make Even Creepier Doctors in New Pro Choice Ads," Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel.

CONTRACEPTION: "Hobby Lobby's Real Agenda: Taking Your Religious Freedom," Marcotte, RH Reality Check: "The Green family of Oklahoma, who own and operate the Hobby Lobby chain of craft supply stores, has been in the news in recent months because of their lawsuit ... demanding the right to offer health insurance that doesn't meet federal minimum standards but to get the tax benefits for doing so anyway," Marcotte writes. However, the case is "hardly the only legally thorny issue the Greens have been involved in recently," as Steve Green has also been "meddling with local public school curriculum" by "spearhead[ing] an effort to get Bible study as an extracurricular class in Oklahoma public schools," she explains. Marcotte argues that the Greens say they are suing HHS over contraceptive coverage "because they believe in 'religious freedom,' but this Bible curriculum shows how farcical a claim that is. Far from wanting the state to leave people be on the subject of religion, they instead want to use the school system -- and taxpayer money -- to foist their own, very narrow view of Christianity on students" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 5/5).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Catholic Health System Releases New Rules for Contraception," Frances Kissling, Religion Dispatches' "Dispatches."

GLOBAL ISSUES: "Canada's Vicious HIV Laws," Sarah Schulman, Slate's "Medical Examiner": Canada is "one of the top 10 countries in the world for arrests and prosecutions of HIV-positive people per capita, and its 48,000 HIV-positive residents are in a state of threat and confusion" because the country bans HIV-positive people from having sex without "disclosing their status, in some cases even if they use a condom and even if no one gets infected," Schulman writes. "Activists have lost all legal appeals and have been trying to work with the courts to establish prosecutorial guidelines, but they have been unable to achieve significant progress," Schulman explains. Canada's "path to criminalization has involved a combination of sensationalist tabloid media, high-profile court cases, and paranoia about immigrants," she adds. Schulman highlights several notable cases and court decisions that helped shape the status quo (Schulman, "Medical Examiner," Slate, 5/5).

What others are saying about global issues:

~ "Rape-Marriage of Nigerian Girls is 'Biblical Marriage,'" Wil Gafney, Religion Dispatches' "Dispatches."


Catholic Couple Files Federal Lawsuit Over Concerns About Abortion Coverage

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 14:24

A Connecticut couple has filed a federal lawsuit against the state's health insurance marketplace, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other federal officials for allegedly failing to include plans on the marketplace that do not cover abortion, the Connecticut Mirror reports.

Catholic Couple Files Federal Lawsuit Over Concerns About Abortion Coverage

May 6, 2014 — A Connecticut couple has filed a federal lawsuit against the state's health insurance marketplace, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other federal officials for allegedly failing to include plans on the marketplace that do not cover abortion, the Connecticut Mirror reports.

The plaintiffs, Barth and Abbie Bracy, oppose abortion based on their Catholic beliefs. Barth Bracy is the executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life.

Allegations

The Alliance Defending Freedom on Friday filed the lawsuit on the couple's behalf, alleging that the Bracys are being forced to pay an "abortion surcharge" that is included in the premiums of every plan offered through the state's marketplace. According to the lawsuit, the Bracys previously were insured through an Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield HSA plan, which cost $494.31 per month. However, they received a letter from the insurer stating that their plan was not compliant with the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) and would be discontinued. The letter directed them to select a new plan through the state insurance marketplace.

The Bracys selected the Anthem Bronze Direct Access Plan, with a monthly premium of $2.63 after federal subsidies are taken into account. However, the Bracys were later told by a third party that all of the plans offered through the Connecticut marketplace include abortion coverage. Purchasing a plan outside of the marketplace that does not include abortion coverage would cost at least $900 monthly because the Bracys would not be eligible for federal subsidies if they do not use the marketplace.

ADF attorney Casey Mattox said the Bracys are also challenging an ACA provision that they allege prevents insurers from disclosing the proportion of premium costs that go toward abortion coverage. Mattox also alleged that insurers are barred from disclosing whether a specific policy includes abortion coverage. The lawsuit claims the ACA violates both the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141) and the Connecticut Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

While the ACA requires marketplaces in all states to include at least one multistate plan that does not cover abortion services by 2017, Mattox said the requirement "does very little in the interim" (Radelat, Connecticut Mirror, 5/5).

Conn. Marketplace Official Responds

In response, Kevin Counihan -- CEO of Connecticut's health insurance marketplace, called Access Health CT -- said that while marketplace officials "understand the concerns expressed regarding elective abortion coverage and the [ACA]," the allegations over insurers' non-disclosure are "untrue."

Counihan said, "Every plan offered on the [marketplace] is posted with Plan Design Documents," which "identified that both therapeutic and elective abortions were covered" (Haberkorn, Politico Pro, 5/5). He added that the information about abortion coverage was "available during the anonymous shopping experience to all consumers who visited our website and compared coverage plans."

Meanwhile, Counihan said that the multi-state plans are not yet available because the Obama administration "did not submit the necessary paperwork in time to get a multistate plan on the [marketplace] for the 2014 open enrollment period" (Connecticut Mirror, 5/5).


European Antiabortion-Rights Groups Look to U.S. Movement for Inspiration

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 14:21

U.S. abortion-rights opponents are taking their messages abroad to stoke a resurgence of antiabortion-rights activism in Europe, Politico reports.

European Antiabortion-Rights Groups Look to U.S. Movement for Inspiration

May 6, 2014 — U.S. abortion-rights opponents are taking their messages abroad to stoke a resurgence of antiabortion-rights activism in Europe, Politico reports.

Abortion laws and rates of the procedure vary broadly throughout Europe, according to Politico. The political landscape is also different from the U.S., with European activists fighting at the national level as well as through European Union courts and commissions, which can influence policies across the continent.

According to Politico, a younger generation of antiabortion-rights activists has consulted U.S. groups for legal advice, training and inspiration. They credit the U.S. groups with pushing abortion issues into the public eye in Europe, where the topic was long considered "deeply private," Politico reports.

For example, Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, last week attended conferences and events in Rome ahead of the city's March for Life, one of several similar demonstrations modeled after the annual U.S. march.

Similarly, Live Action President Lila Rose last month trained young activists in London on how to publicize what she calls the "hidden abuse" of abortion. European antiabortion-rights organizations "are looking to see what has worked in the United States," Rose said (Wheaton, Politico, 5/2).


Editorials, Opinion Pieces Urge More Action on Campus Sexual Assaults

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 15:59

Editorials and an opinion piece in the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN respond to the Obama administration's recent actions to address sexual assaults on college campuses. Summaries appear below.

Editorials, Opinion Pieces Urge More Action on Campus Sexual Assaults

May 5, 2014 — Editorials and an opinion piece in the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN respond to the Obama administration's recent actions to address sexual assaults on college campuses. Summaries appear below.

~ New York Times: "Washington has finally realized that it needs to pay attention" to the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, a Times editorial states. The editorial notes that the Obama administration has publicly released a list of "55 colleges and universities that are under federal investigation over their handling of sexual assault complaints" and made recommendations "on how to combat campus sexual assault." Several lawmakers also have called for changes, including publishing results of anonymous surveys on campus sexual assaults online or including campus safety as a factor in U.S. News & World Report's college rankings. Although it would be more difficult "to compare universities on these grounds than on the basis of SAT scores or alumni giving rates," it is "wholly appropriate to advance the idea that students should judge universities in part on how well they foster campus safety," the editorial argues (New York Times, 5/2).

~ Washington Post: The complexity of investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases underscores the "critical" nature of the "role of college administrations in providing a safe education environment," including by "collaborating with local law enforcement, promulgating and enforcing student codes of conduct, and offering support and services to students who say they have been assaulted while not trampling on the rights of the accused," a Post editorial states. The editorial continues, "Hopefully, the [White House] task force report, with its suggestions of best practices, along with the administration's decision to publicize schools under investigation for civil rights violations in their handling of sexual abuse cases, will prompt colleges to take a hard look at the job they are doing and make needed changes." If not, the colleges "run the risk of Congress mandating action, as some survivors and their advocates are urging," the editorial adds (Washington Post, 5/3).

~ Chloe Angyal, CNN: "As a young alumnus [of Princeton], I feel a grim satisfaction at seeing my alma mater on the list" of colleges and universities under review for their handling of sexual assault cases, Angyal, a senior editor at Feministing, writes, noting that three of her friends were sexually assaulted while she attended the school. Angyal praises the Obama administration's response to the epidemic of sexual assaults on campus but adds that "other stakeholders -- namely alumni and parents -- need to join this fight as well" by "speak[ing] the language that these institutions understand: Money, and press." For example, she calls for alumni to withhold financial contributions until the issue is addressed. However, she hopes that universities will ultimately "be motivated [to address sexual assault] by the sincere belief that all students have a right to an education not marred by fear of violence or memory of violence, and by a deep and genuine investment in the safety of all students" (Angyal, CNN, 5/4).


U.S. Maternal Deaths Near Highest Rate in 25 Years, Study Finds

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 15:39

Pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths have risen to nearly the highest rate in 25 years in the U.S., according to a new study in The Lancet, the Washington Post reports.

U.S. Maternal Deaths Near Highest Rate in 25 Years, Study Finds

May 5, 2014 — Pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths have risen to nearly the highest rate in 25 years in the U.S., according to a new study in The Lancet, the Washington Post reports.

An estimated 18.5 maternal deaths occurred for every 100,000 births in the U.S. in 2013, totaling nearly 800 deaths, according to the study from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (Morello, Washington Post, 5/2). The findings represent an increase from 12.4 deaths per 100,000 women in 1990 and 17.6 per 100,000 in 2003 (Painter, USA Today, 5/2).

Comparisons With Other Countries

The U.S. rate is more than two times higher than in Canada and Saudi Arabia and more than three times higher than in the United Kingdom. The U.S. also fell behind China, which rose to 57th out of 180 countries, while the U.S. fell to 60th. The U.S. ranked 22nd in 1990.

In addition, the study found that the U.S. is just one of eight countries in which maternal mortality rates increased during the past 10 years, along with Afghanistan, Greece, and various African and Central American countries.

Meanwhile, other countries have seen significant decreases in maternal mortality rates, including several nations in Latin America and east Asia, according to the study.

Global Rates

Globally, 293,000 women died of pregnancy-related deaths in 2013, compared with 376,000 in 1990.

The study also found that 50% of all maternal deaths worldwide occurred in the time period from at least 24 hours to one year after childbirth, slightly less than the 55% rate in the U.S., where techniques for treating conditions like hemorrhaging and obstructed labor have lessened the risk of deaths during childbirth itself.

Several Possible Reasons for Increase

While the reasons behind the increase in the U.S. are not entirely known, study author Nicholas Kassebaum suggested that an improvement in how maternal deaths are reported could have contributed to the rise. However, he noted that maternal deaths likely are still underestimated and mischaracterized on death certificates.

Further, Kassebaum said that a rise in the number of pregnant women with medical conditions -- like diabetes, hypertension and neurological diseases -- that contribute to higher-risk pregnancies could also be a factor (Washington Post, 5/2).

In addition, the increase could reflect "the performance of the [U.S.] health system as a whole" and "poorer access to essential health care" in comparison with other developed nations, Kassebaum said (USA Today, 5/2).


Columnist: Life-Threatening Pregnancy Affirmed Pro-Choice Views

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 14:46

"[W]hat anti-choicers don't understand -- and almost never reflect in their policy or prose -- is that pregnancy, abortion and birth are too complicated for assigning strict moral designations, let alone to legislate," writes Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, a member of the board of directors for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Columnist: Life-Threatening Pregnancy Affirmed Pro-Choice Views

May 5, 2014 — "[W]hat anti-choicers don't understand -- and almost never reflect in their policy or prose -- is that pregnancy, abortion and birth are too complicated for assigning strict moral designations, let alone to legislate," writes Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, a member of the board of directors for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Valenti describes her own pregnancy, during which she developed a "life-threatening illness, the only cure for which was to not be pregnant." Her daughter, now a healthy four year old, was born via emergency cesarean section at 28 weeks and spent two months in the hospital.

The experience has given Valenti "complicated feelings about later-term abortions" but also made her "more pro-choice than before." She writes, "The exceptions for abortion laws are so often rattled off -- life, health, rape, incest -- that we forget what they really mean," while "[t]he cut-off dates are so arbitrary -- six weeks (North Dakota), 12 weeks (Arkansas), 20 weeks (more and more states) -- that it's easy to forget the lives and experiences behind those words and numbers."

Spread of 20-Week Bans

Valenti continues, "[F]rom Mississippi to North Carolina, to soon maybe South Carolina and Florida and West Virginia and more, the 20-week ban is a rallying cry for anti-choicers who believe later abortions make Americans uncomfortable."

However, while "[o]nly 1.5% of women who have abortions even have them after 20 weeks, ... their choices are far too nuanced and personal for us to ever believe we could create a policy around them," she argues. Women with fetuses with severe medical conditions "should not have to jump through legal hoops," nor should "[w]omen who are sick ... have to prove that they are 'ill enough,'" she adds.

"[N]othing is truly consistent about being pregnant or having a baby," Valenti argues, concluding, "Nothing is simple, nothing is clear-cut. And it doesn't have to be" (Valenti, Guardian, 5/1).


Antiabortion-Rights Bills Miss S.C. Legislative Deadline

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 14:42

A series of antiabortion-rights bills proposed in South Carolina did not meet the Legislature's May 1 "crossover deadline," diminishing the chances that they will become law this year, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Antiabortion-Rights Bills Miss S.C. Legislative Deadline

May 5, 2014 — A series of antiabortion-rights bills proposed in South Carolina did not meet the Legislature's May 1 "crossover deadline," diminishing the chances that they will become law this year, the AP/Washington Times reports.

According to the AP/Times, bills that did not advance from one chamber to the other by May 1 need a two-thirds majority vote to be cleared for consideration by the remaining chamber before the two-year legislative session ends on June 5.

Stalled Bills

The antiabortion-rights bills that have not crossed over include two "personhood" measures introduced by state Sen. Lee Bright (R). The bills would have banned abortion by granting legal rights beginning at fertilization.

Another bill (S 204) sponsored by Bright would have required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The bill advanced to the Senate floor but was blocked during debate.

Finally, a bill (S 527) called the Pregnant Women's Protection Act would have granted pregnant women the right to defend threats against a fetus with deadly force. The bill stalled amid concerns from abortion-rights supporters that it could have undercut abortion rights because it defined a fetus as an "unborn child" beginning at conception (Adcox, AP/Washington Times, 5/1).


Divided Rulings on State Abortion Restrictions Could Prompt Supreme Court Cases

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 14:40

Federal courts are divided in rulings over various state abortion-rights laws, making it increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will consider one or more of the issues, Politico Pro reports.

Divided Rulings on State Abortion Restrictions Could Prompt Supreme Court Cases

May 5, 2014 — Federal courts are divided in rulings over various state abortion-rights laws, making it increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will consider one or more of the issues, Politico Pro reports.

Legal experts on both sides of the abortion-rights debate think the high court is likely to take up two types of laws: those that require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and laws that restrict medication abortion.

There have been setbacks and victories for both sides in the lower courts. Supporters of the laws maintain that they improve protections for women's health, while opponents of the measures say they are really designed to block women's access to abortion and force clinics to close. At issue in many of the rulings is whether restrictions that limit women's abortion options constitute an "undue burden" on their rights.

For example, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March upheld a Texas law (HB 2) that included both admitting privileges and medication abortion restrictions, ruling that the law was not unconstitutional because women would still be able to obtain abortions despite having to travel long distances. The 6th Circuit also upheld an Ohio law (Section 2919.123 (A)) that restricts medication abortion.

However, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked admitting privileges requirements (SB 206) in Wisconsin -- ruling that they would pose an undue burden on women and are not medically necessary -- until the case goes to trial later this month. Likewise, the 9th Circuit has temporarily blocked a medication abortion law (HB 2036) in Arizona.

According to Politico Pro, these mixed rulings at both the district and appellate levels exemplify "the kind of division" that the Supreme Court looks for when selecting cases to hear.

Caitlin Borgmann, a professor of law at the City University of New York, said the opposing 7th and 5th Circuit Court rulings "are two very different possible interpretations of what the undue burden standard means." She added, "The Supreme Court is very likely to say we have to answer these questions" (Winfield Cunningham/Villacorta, Politico Pro, 5/4).


Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Van Hollen

Fri, 05/02/2014 - 20:27

Challenge to a Wisconsin law which requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Van Hollen

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

Featured Blogs

Fri, 05/02/2014 - 17:31

"Gov. Brownback Doubles Down on Attacking Reproductive Rights" (Tweedt,"Blog for Choice," NARAL Pro-Choice America, 4/30) and "Tennessee Governor Signs Bill Criminalizing Pregnant Women" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 4/29).

May 2, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

 "Gov. Brownback Doubles Down on Attacking Reproductive Rights," Ali Tweedt, NARAL Pro-Choice America's "Blog for Choice": Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) "already signed a bill that manipulates Kansas' tax code to limit abortion care, and now he's poised to sign two more bills that would severely restrict women's access to affordable health care," Tweedt writes. Tweedt notes that one measure, the state's budget bill, includes "a provision that would effectively defund reproductive-health clinics," while the second "would extend unnecessary tax penalties on reproductive-health clinics for making renovations or even holding fundraising events." Tweedt notes that Brownback has a "long anti-choice resume" and that he has already "spent roughly $1 million in taxpayer dollars to defend these unconstitutional laws in the courts" (Tweedt, "Blog for Choice," NARAL Pro-Choice America, 4/30).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Planned Parenthood Files Appeal Against Ruling in Case Challenging Iowa Telemedicine Abortion Ban," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

"Tennessee Governor Signs Bill Criminalizing Pregnant Women," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam [R] signed a bill [SB 1391] Tuesday that will allow criminal charges against women who struggle with drug dependency during their pregnancy," Crockett writes. She writes that reproductive-rights advocates have "called on Haslam to veto the bill because it will discourage addicted pregnant women from seeking treatment, and is written in such a broad way that it could allow criminal charges for any poor pregnancy outcome, even if a woman is not addicted to drugs." Crockett adds that the bill runs counter to White House drug policy czar Michael Botticelli's comments that addiction be treated as a disease rather than a crime. It also goes against previous measures passed in Tennessee that "incentivized women to get into treatment programs by guaranteeing that they would not lose custody of their children by doing so" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 4/29).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnant women:

~ "For Tennessee Lawmakers, Punishing Pregnant Women is More Important Than Protecting Fetal Life," Dusenbery, Feministing.




Planned Parenthood Ordered To Pay Kansas' Legal Costs for Appeals Case

Fri, 05/02/2014 - 17:27

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered a Planned Parenthood affiliate to pay Kansas $1,350 to cover legal costs from the organization's appeal of a state law that blocks federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood clinics, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

Planned Parenthood Ordered To Pay Kansas' Legal Costs for Appeals Case

May 2, 2014 — A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered a Planned Parenthood affiliate to pay Kansas $1,350 to cover legal costs from the organization's appeal of a state law that blocks federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood clinics, the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal reports (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/30).

Case Background

In 2011, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against a provision in the 2012 state budget that prevents the organization from receiving Title X federal family planning funding. The budget provision requires that the state's portion of federal family planning funds go to public health departments and hospitals.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Marten in 2011 granted Planned Parenthood's request to block enforcement of the law while the case proceeds. However, this March, a three-judge panel from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Marten's ruling and permitted the state to cease the funding to Planned Parenthood while the lawsuit continues (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26).

The next step in the case is a telephone status conference on May 12 (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/30).