Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 1 hour 13 min ago

NARAL Calif. Leader: Undercover Investigation Shows Prevalence of 'Misleading' CPC Tactics

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 15:08

An undercover investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice California found that antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers provide pregnant women with "false and manipulative rhetoric and much more," Amy Everitt, state director of the group and the NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation, writes in an opinion piece for the Sacramento Bee's "Soapbox."

NARAL Calif. Leader: Undercover Investigation Shows Prevalence of 'Misleading' CPC Tactics

March 17, 2015 — An undercover investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice California found that antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers provide pregnant women with "false and manipulative rhetoric and much more," Amy Everitt, state director of the group and the NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation, writes in an opinion piece for the Sacramento Bee's "Soapbox."

Everitt notes that while California has "some of the strongest protections for reproductive rights in the country," opponents of reproductive rights have found "underhanded ways to interfere with women's health." The investigation found that 53 of 58 California counties have at least one CPC. The centers often use misleading Internet advertisements and locations "that look like health clinics" and purport to offer "'abortion consultation'" or "'abortion counseling'" to "lure women," according to Everitt.

NARAL Pro-Choice California sent undercover investigators to 43 CPCs in 19 California counties. Everitt writes, "Once women enter a [CPC], they face a barrage of medical misinformation from staff or volunteers who present themselves as authorities on reproductive health." For example, 91% of the clinics visited for the investigation had volunteers who "falsely linked abortion to health problems such as breast cancer, the debunked 'post-abortion stress syndrome,' infertility and even death."

The volunteers also advised women to delay their abortions and rarely referred women to physicians if they indicated signs of pregnancy complications. Further, many of the centers used "shame, fear and humiliation to discourage women from exercising choice," according to Everitt.

Everitt writes, "Regardless of one's position on abortion, we can all agree that women should not be given medical misinformation." She concludes, "Women facing unintended pregnancies need prompt access to comprehensive information about their full range of options, including abortion," and should not be lied to, "especially when those lies can have serious health consequences and create barriers to receiving safe, accurate medical care in a timely fashion" (Everitt, "Soapbox," Sacramento Bee, 3/12).


N.M. 20-Week Ban, Parental Involvement Bills Tabled

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 14:58

A New Mexico Senate panel on Sunday voted 5-3 to table a bill (HB 390) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks pregnancy and a measure (HB 391) that would require parental notification 48 hours before a minor's abortion, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

N.M. 20-Week Ban, Parental Involvement Bills Tabled

March 17, 2015 — A New Mexico Senate panel on Sunday voted 5-3 to table a bill (HB 390) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks pregnancy and a measure (HB 391) that would require parental notification 48 hours before a minor's abortion, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The vote by the state Senate Public Affairs Committee blocks the bills from moving forward (Jolly, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/15).

Background on Bills

Both bills passed the state House earlier this month. The New Mexico Senate last week rejected several procedural efforts aimed at moving the two antiabortion-rights measures out of their respective committees to other committees or the full chamber.

Neither bill would apply in cases of rape, incest or other sexual abuse, or in cases of endangerment to a woman's life. In addition, under HB 391, minors could petition a court for an exemption to the notification requirement. Physicians found to violate either measure could face a civil penalty of $5,000 or more and lose their medical licenses for at least one year (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/13).


Time To Move 'Forward -- not Backward -- on Women's Health,' Op-Ed States

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 14:51

"[I]n honor of National Women's History Month, Planned Parenthood and [its] supporters are asking lawmakers across the country to stand on the right side of women's history by moving forward -- not backward -- on women's health," Karen Nelson, president and CEO at Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, writes in a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle opinion piece.

Time To Move 'Forward -- not Backward -- on Women's Health,' Op-Ed States

March 17, 2015 — "[I]n honor of National Women's History Month, Planned Parenthood and [its] supporters are asking lawmakers across the country to stand on the right side of women's history by moving forward -- not backward -- on women's health," Karen Nelson, president and CEO at Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, writes in a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle opinion piece.

"Thanks to expanded access to reproductive health care," the U.S. has "made great progress in public health outcomes," Nelson writes. She notes that teen pregnancy and abortion rates are at "a 40-year low" as a result of "[i]mproved access to a full range of birth control services." Further, she notes that "access to reproductive care is directly related to women's ability to finish school and succeed professionally."

However, Nelson writes that despite these outcomes, "what we're still seeing from the new Congress and in too many state legislatures are politically-motivated attacks on women and their right to make their own personal medical decisions."

Nelson lists several "solid ways" by which federal and New York state lawmakers "can protect and expand women's health." Specifically, she notes that lawmakers can "[e]xpand access to publicly funded family planning services"; "[m]ake birth control truly available and accessible" without copayments, both over the counter and in physicians' offices; and "[s]upport efforts to strengthen and protect Medicaid."

She concludes that "[a]t Planned Parenthood, we've seen what happens to women when access to health care is severely restricted," but "we've also seen the progress that's possible when doors are open to women -- when the people in office embrace science and medicine" (Nelson, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3/13).


Ariz. Bill To Ban Abortion Coverage in ACA Marketplace Now Includes Biased Counseling Mandate

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 18:13

An Arizona House committee last week voted 5-3 to advance an antiabortion-rights measure (SB 1318) after adding an amendment to require physicians to tell women medically unproven statements about reversing a medication abortion, the AP/Casa Grande Dispatch reports.

Ariz. Bill To Ban Abortion Coverage in ACA Marketplace Now Includes Biased Counseling Mandate

March 16, 2015 — An Arizona House committee last week voted 5-3 to advance an antiabortion-rights measure (SB 1318) after adding an amendment to require physicians to tell women medically unproven statements about reversing a medication abortion, the AP/Casa Grande Dispatch reports (Van Velzer, AP/Casa Grande Dispatch, 3/12).

The bill now heads to the full state House for consideration. The original measure has already passed the Senate (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Capitol Times, 3/11).

Details on Bill, Amendment

The underlying bill would bar women in the state from purchasing health plans that include abortion coverage on the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplace. The bill includes exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and the abortion coverage restrictions in the bill would not apply when a pregnancy threatens a woman's life.

In addition, the measure would require abortion providers to submit proof to the state Department of Health Services that they have admitting privileges at hospitals close to their clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/20).

Under the amended version, physicians would also be required to tell women seeking medication abortions at least 24 hours prior to the procedure that "it may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind but that time is of the essence."

Debate Over Amendment

The state House committee approved the amendment based on the testimony of Allan Sawyer, former president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Sawyer said he had previously reversed a medication abortion for a woman by providing her with progesterone. When questioned, Sawyer acknowledged that FDA had not approved using progesterone for such a purpose. In addition, Sawyer said there were no studies indicating whether administering progesterone for such a purpose could result in birth defects if a woman carries the pregnancy to term.

Separately, Ilana Addis, chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Arizona section, said physicians have an obligation to "practice medicine that is evidence-based" and that "the protocol that has been suggested for reversing a medication abortion has no evidence to support it."

Addis added that progesterone could result in complications and have "side effects" that "are not necessarily minor."

Questions Raised Over Rape Exemption

Meanwhile, Cathi Herrod, president of the antiabortion-rights group Center for Arizona Policy, was asked how a woman would qualify for an exemption to the abortion coverage restrictions based on rape. Herrod said such determinations would be made by insurers.

However, state Rep. Rebecca Rios (D) said the bill as written could result in situations which rape survivors would "be revictimized, having to plead their case" to receive coverage that includes abortion care (Capitol Media Services/Arizona Capitol Times, 3/11).


Fla. House Panel Approves 24-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 18:13

A Florida House panel on Thursday voted 9-4 to approve a measure (HB 633) that would implement a 24-hour mandatory delay period before a woman can have an abortion, News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax reports.

Fla. House Panel Approves 24-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

March 16, 2015 — A Florida House panel on Thursday voted 9-4 to approve a measure (HB 633) that would implement a 24-hour mandatory delay period before a woman can have an abortion, News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax reports.

The bill must be approved in two more state House committees before it can go to the full chamber. Meanwhile, the state Senate has yet to take up an identical bill (SB 724).

Bill Details, Debate

The bill, filed by state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), would require women to meet with a physician and receive information about abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure is performed.

Sullivan said the bill would help "women to make an informed decision versus an unexpected, rushed and pressured one." She added, "It gives them the opportunity to have that face-to-face with their doctor 24 hours in advance, to be able to think through that just like any other procedure as common practice."

However, state Rep. Kristin Jacobs (D) said the state does not require such delays for any other medical procedures.

Further, Michelle Richardson, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said, "The delay ... is not medically necessary and could in fact interfere with a woman's health," adding, "Requiring two trips to a facility, regardless of a woman's circumstances, and an override of a medical professional's judgment places politicians between a woman and her health-care provider" (Saunders, News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax, 3/12).


Iowa House Passes Mandatory Ultrasound Measure

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 18:13

The Iowa House on Thursday voted 57-39 to pass a bill (HF 58) that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, Reuters reports.

Iowa House Passes Mandatory Ultrasound Measure

March 16, 2015 — The Iowa House on Thursday voted 57-39 to pass a bill (HF 58) that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, Reuters reports.

The measure now advances to the state Senate, where passage is unlikely, according to Reuters (Henderson, Reuters, 3/13).

Bill Details

In addition to requiring an ultrasound, the bill would mandate that physicians ask women if they want to view the ultrasound images or have the fetal heartbeat made audible.

Physicians who violate the measure would be subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/6).

Debate

Supporters said the bill would ensure women have important information before an abortion.

Meanwhile, opponents said the requirement would be government intrusion into women's health care. In addition, opponents argued it would make more sense to widen access to family planning services.

State Rep. Mary Mascher (D) said, "This proposed bill is just another effort by some lawmakers to shame a woman who has made a difficult decision to end her pregnancy" (Reuters, 3/13).


Texas Reps. File Opposing Bills on End-of-Life Care for Pregnant Women

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 18:13

Competing bills filed in the Texas Legislature aim to address who has authority to make decisions for pregnant women during end-of-life medical care, the Texas Tribune reports.

Texas Reps. File Opposing Bills on End-of-Life Care for Pregnant Women

March 16, 2015 — Competing bills filed in the Texas Legislature aim to address who has authority to make decisions for pregnant women during end-of-life medical care, the Texas Tribune reports (Walters/Ura, Texas Tribune, 3/12).

Muñoz Case Draws Attention to Issue

The issue gained national attention last year after a clinically dead pregnant woman, Marlise Muñoz, was kept on mechanical support at a Texas hospital against her family's wishes (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/10).

In refusing to end mechanical support, hospital officials had cited a state law that bars withdrawing "life-sustaining treatment" from a pregnant patient. Muñoz's husband filed a lawsuit against the hospital, and a state district judge in January 2014 ruled the state statute did not apply to Muñoz because she was brain dead and, therefore, legally dead. In compliance with the judge's order, the hospital ended mechanical support for Muñoz.

Bill Details

In the wake of the case, both Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature said they wanted to clarify the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/29/14).

On Thursday, state Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D) introduced a bill (HB 3183) that would remove the state provision that bars withdrawal of treatment from a pregnant woman. Naishtat said, "A pregnant woman and her family should be allowed to decide what course of treatment is right for them."

Meanwhile, a bill (HB 1901) introduced by state Rep. Matt Krause (R) would strengthen the existing law by requiring that doctors keep pregnant patients on mechanical support, even if the patient is brain dead, and requiring health care providers to notify the state's attorney general of end-of-life situations involving pregnant women. If a woman's family were to take legal action, the state would appoint an attorney to argue on the fetus' behalf in court proceedings. Further, the attorney general would be required to create a list of attorneys for such situations (Texas Tribune, 3/12).


McConnell: No Vote on Attorney General Nomination Until Senate Passes Human Trafficking Bill

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 14:25

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in an interview Sunday said that the Senate will not hold a confirmation vote for U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch until the chamber passes a human trafficking bill (S 178) that contains a contentious antiabortion-rights provision, the New York Times reports.

McConnell: No Vote on Attorney General Nomination Until Senate Passes Human Trafficking Bill

March 16, 2015 — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in an interview Sunday said that the Senate will not hold a confirmation vote for U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch until the chamber passes a human trafficking bill (S 178) that contains a contentious antiabortion-rights provision, the New York Times reports (Huetteman, New York Times, 3/15).

Background on Trafficking Bill Dispute

The legislation includes various provisions aimed at curtailing human trafficking and targeting perpetrators. The legislation also would create a compensation fund for survivors of human trafficking, using money from fines assessed on those convicted of sexual abuse or crimes related to human trafficking.

However, a dispute erupted over language from anti-choice legislators that would bar money in the fund from being used for abortion services.

Supporters of abortion rights who object to the language said it would expand existing restrictions on abortion funding by permanently applying the Hyde Amendment to the survivors' compensation fund, which is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders.

Meanwhile, lawmakers who oppose abortion rights have so far refused to remove the language from the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/13).

McConnell's Comments

McConnell had previously said the Senate would hold a vote on Lynch's nomination this week.

However, he said in the interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that while he had hoped for a vote this week, "if we can't finish the trafficking bill, [a vote on Lynch's nomination] will be put off again" (New York Times, 3/15).

McConnell said, "If they want to have time to turn to the attorney general" then "we have to finish the human trafficking bill," adding that his comments were "not a threat" (Wright, Politico, 3/15). He said that action on the human trafficking bill is needed "because the next week we'll be doing the budget and the next two weeks after that Congress is not in session."

Reaction

Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards in a statement said that McConnell's comments represented "politics at its worst." She added, "Opponents of safe and legal abortion are using a bill that was supposed to help women to hurt women and hold up the important Senate business of confirming a well-qualified nominee to serve as Attorney General."

Adam Jentleson, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said in a statement, "There is nothing stopping the Senate from confirming Lynch and continuing to debate the trafficking bill this week, except Senator McConnell's unwillingness to bring her nomination up for a vote" (Ye Hee Lee, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 3/15).


Ariz. Bill To Ban Abortion Coverage in ACA Marketplace Now Includes Biased Counseling Mandate

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 14:23

An Arizona House committee last week voted 5-3 to advance an antiabortion-rights measure (SB 1318) after adding an amendment to require physicians to tell women medically unproven statements about reversing a medication abortion, the AP/Casa Grande Dispatch reports.

Ariz. Bill To Ban Abortion Coverage in ACA Marketplace Now Includes Biased Counseling Mandate

March 16, 2015 — An Arizona House committee last week voted 5-3 to advance an antiabortion-rights measure (SB 1318) after adding an amendment to require physicians to tell women medically unproven statements about reversing a medication abortion, the AP/Casa Grande Dispatch reports (Van Velzer, AP/Casa Grande Dispatch, 3/12).

The bill now heads to the full state House for consideration. The original measure has already passed the Senate (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Capitol Times, 3/11).

Details on Bill, Amendment

The underlying bill would bar women in the state from purchasing health plans that include abortion coverage on the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplace. The bill includes exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and the abortion coverage restrictions in the bill would not apply when a pregnancy threatens a woman's life.

In addition, the measure would require abortion providers to submit proof to the state Department of Health Services that they have admitting privileges at hospitals close to their clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/20).

Under the amended version, physicians would also be required to tell women seeking medication abortions at least 24 hours prior to the procedure that "it may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind but that time is of the essence."

Debate Over Amendment

The state House committee approved the amendment based on the testimony of Allan Sawyer, former president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Sawyer said he had previously reversed a medication abortion for a woman by providing her with progesterone. When questioned, Sawyer acknowledged that FDA had not approved using progesterone for such a purpose. In addition, Sawyer said there were no studies indicating whether administering progesterone for such a purpose could result in birth defects if a woman carries the pregnancy to term.

Separately, Ilana Addis, chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Arizona section, said physicians have an obligation to "practice medicine that is evidence-based" and that "the protocol that has been suggested for reversing a medication abortion has no evidence to support it."

Addis added that progesterone could result in complications and have "side effects" that "are not necessarily minor."

Questions Raised Over Rape Exemption

Meanwhile, Cathi Herrod, president of the antiabortion-rights group Center for Arizona Policy, was asked how a woman would qualify for an exemption to the abortion coverage restrictions based on rape. Herrod said such determinations would be made by insurers.

However, state Rep. Rebecca Rios (D) said the bill as written could result in situations which rape survivors would "be revictimized, having to plead their case" to receive coverage that includes abortion care (Capitol Media Services/Arizona Capitol Times, 3/11).


Iowa House Passes Mandatory Ultrasound Measure

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 14:21

The Iowa House on Thursday voted 57-39 to pass a bill (HF 58) that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, Reuters reports.

Iowa House Passes Mandatory Ultrasound Measure

March 16, 2015 — The Iowa House on Thursday voted 57-39 to pass a bill (HF 58) that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, Reuters reports.

The measure now advances to the state Senate, where passage is unlikely, according to Reuters (Henderson, Reuters, 3/13).

Bill Details

In addition to requiring an ultrasound, the bill would mandate that physicians ask women if they want to view the ultrasound images or have the fetal heartbeat made audible.

Physicians who violate the measure would be subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/6).

Debate

Supporters said the bill would ensure women have important information before an abortion.

Meanwhile, opponents said the requirement would be government intrusion into women's health care. In addition, opponents argued it would make more sense to widen access to family planning services.

State Rep. Mary Mascher (D) said, "This proposed bill is just another effort by some lawmakers to shame a woman who has made a difficult decision to end her pregnancy" (Reuters, 3/13).


Texas Reps. File Opposing Bills on End-of-Life Care for Pregnant Women

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 14:17

Competing bills filed in the Texas Legislature aim to address who has authority to make decisions for pregnant women during end-of-life medical care, the Texas Tribune reports.

Texas Reps. File Opposing Bills on End-of-Life Care for Pregnant Women

March 16, 2015 — Competing bills filed in the Texas Legislature aim to address who has authority to make decisions for pregnant women during end-of-life medical care, the Texas Tribune reports (Walters/Ura, Texas Tribune, 3/12).

Muñoz Case Draws Attention to Issue

The issue gained national attention last year after a clinically dead pregnant woman, Marlise Muñoz, was kept on mechanical support at a Texas hospital against her family's wishes (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/10).

In refusing to end mechanical support, hospital officials had cited a state law that bars withdrawing "life-sustaining treatment" from a pregnant patient. Muñoz's husband filed a lawsuit against the hospital, and a state district judge in January 2014 ruled the state statute did not apply to Muñoz because she was brain dead and, therefore, legally dead. In compliance with the judge's order, the hospital ended mechanical support for Muñoz.

Bill Details

In the wake of the case, both Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature said they wanted to clarify the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/29/14).

On Thursday, state Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D) introduced a bill (HB 3183) that would remove the state provision that bars withdrawal of treatment from a pregnant woman. Naishtat said, "A pregnant woman and her family should be allowed to decide what course of treatment is right for them."

Meanwhile, a bill (HB 1901) introduced by state Rep. Matt Krause (R) would strengthen the existing law by requiring that doctors keep pregnant patients on mechanical support, even if the patient is brain dead, and requiring health care providers to notify the state's attorney general of end-of-life situations involving pregnant women. If a woman's family were to take legal action, the state would appoint an attorney to argue on the fetus' behalf in court proceedings. Further, the attorney general would be required to create a list of attorneys for such situations (Texas Tribune, 3/12).


Fla. House Panel Approves 24-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 14:16

A Florida House panel on Thursday voted 9-4 to approve a measure (HB 633) that would implement a 24-hour mandatory delay period before a woman can have an abortion, News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax reports.

Fla. House Panel Approves 24-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

March 16, 2015 — A Florida House panel on Thursday voted 9-4 to approve a measure (HB 633) that would implement a 24-hour mandatory delay period before a woman can have an abortion, News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax reports.

The bill must be approved in two more state House committees before it can go to the full chamber. Meanwhile, the state Senate has yet to take up an identical bill (SB 724).

Bill Details, Debate

The bill, filed by state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), would require women to meet with a physician and receive information about abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure is performed.

Sullivan said the bill would help "women to make an informed decision versus an unexpected, rushed and pressured one." She added, "It gives them the opportunity to have that face-to-face with their doctor 24 hours in advance, to be able to think through that just like any other procedure as common practice."

However, state Rep. Kristin Jacobs (D) said the state does not require such delays for any other medical procedures.

Further, Michelle Richardson, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said, "The delay ... is not medically necessary and could in fact interfere with a woman's health," adding, "Requiring two trips to a facility, regardless of a woman's circumstances, and an override of a medical professional's judgment places politicians between a woman and her health-care provider" (Saunders, News Service of Florida/News 4 Jax, 3/12).


Blogs Comment on National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, Human Trafficking Bill, More

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 12:08

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Huffington Post, Feministing and more.

Blogs Comment on National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, Human Trafficking Bill, More

March 13, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Huffington Post, Feministing and more.

ABORTION PROVIDERS: "Thank God for Abortion Providers," The Rev. Harry Knox, Huffington Post blogs: Harry Knox, president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, writes about his appreciation for people working in abortion care who, despite ongoing harassment from abortion-rights opponents, continue to "risk their lives to make sure that those of us seeking an abortion are met with compassion and love." For example, Knox writes about how George Tiller, an abortion provider and RCRC board member, was "threatened, harassed, attacked, and finally murdered because he offered compassionate abortion care," while Willie Parker, who "similarly provides compassionate abortion care as a matter of faith," has also "been the target of harassment." Knox writes that while "shame" sometimes "kills new health care workers' ambitions to provide compassionate abortion care" and "whispers in the ears of doctors telling them they are not needed ... the spirit of compassion calls healthcare workers to selflessly serve patients," "[t]he spirit of justice sustains them as they endure harassment," and "[t]he spirit of abundance provides us with such caring and dedicated professionals, whose work helps heal lives and the world" (Knox, Huffington Post blogs, 3/10).

What others are saying about abortion providers:

~ "#PROUDTOPROVIDE: Reflections on National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers," Physicians for Reproductive Health, Feministing.

~ "5 Women Explain Why They Became Abortion Providers," Robin Marty, Cosmopolitan.

~ "Working at Pink House, Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic," Samantha Allen, Daily Beast.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING BILL: "Senate GOP Tries to Restrict Abortion Services for Human Trafficking Victims," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: Conservative senators "slipped anti-choice language into a bipartisan, broadly supported human trafficking bill [S 178], outraging Democrats who are blocking further amendments to the bill until that language is taken out," Crockett writes. She notes that while the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), said the provision is "nothing more than the status quo," it "would actually expand the Hyde Amendment" by "making its restrictions [on public funding of abortion] permanent and applied to" funds that aren't taxpayer dollars. Further, she writes that while Congress typically "adds the restrictive Hyde Amendment every year to appropriations bills," the new conservative proposal "would set the policy in stone for at least five years" by restricting a fund used "for victims' services and anti-trafficking law enforcement" that does not involve any taxpayer money. Meanwhile, Crockett writes that the Senate is considering another human trafficking measure, from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), that "would help ensure that victims of human trafficking aren't subject to criminal prosecution" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 3/11).

What others are saying about the human trafficking bill:

~ "Anti-Choice Senators Playing an Underhanded Game," Kierra Johnson, The Hill's "Congress Blog."

SEXUAL HEALTH: "Twitter Changes Sexual Health Ad Policy, Reinstates Condom Retailer's Account," Crockett, RH Reality Check: "Twitter has tweaked" its "confusing, inconsistent rules about 'sexual content' in ads" and "finally" lifted its advertising ban on condom retailer Lucky Bloke, Crockett writes. According to Crockett, Lucky Bloke and several other "condom companies and sexual health campaigns last year said Twitter had blocked them from advertising about condoms and safer sex" under its advertising rules. A Twitter spokesperson said the website has clarified its ad policies and specified that ads "'for non-prescription contraceptive products such as condoms and spermicides, and ads for personal lubricants, now fall under our health and pharmaceutical products and services policy.'" Crockett writes that the change was welcomed by "advocates who were frustrated by the stigma that the old policy seemed to show -- marginalizing condoms as 'adult' material instead of an important public health issue" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 3/10).

'BUFFER ZONE' LAWS: "Pro-Choice Win: Federal Court Upholds Pittsburgh Buffer Zone," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "A federal judge in Pennsylvania last week upheld the enforcement of a Pittsburgh ordinance that establishes a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, the ruling is "the first federal court decision to examine the constitutionality of abortion clinic buffer zones after last summer's Supreme Court decision in McCullen v. Coakley ... struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law." She writes that in the latest ruling, the judge "noted the history of anti-choice violence that had plagued the area and concluded that the ordinance did not violate protesters' First Amendment rights." However, Mason Pieklo notes that attorneys for the plaintiffs said they are considering an appeal and that the "ruling did not dismiss all of the protesters' claims," meaning that elements of the case will continue to trial (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 3/10).

PREGNANT WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "'Marlise's Law' Would Give Pregnant Texans Advance Directive Rights," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: A Texas bill (HB 3183) "would give pregnant Texans and their families the same end-of-life decision-making rights as non-pregnant people" by "striking a line from a [state] ... statute that requires pregnant people [to] be kept on mechanical support against their advance directives," Grimes writes. She explains that the bill responds to a case in which a pregnant Texas woman, Marlise Muñoz, "was kept on mechanical support at the state's insistence for two months after she was declared brain dead in 2013," despite having "been clear that she never wanted to be kept alive by machine," because "Texas law does not allow medical professionals to 'withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment ... from a pregnant patient,' even if it goes against [the patient's] previously stated instructions." Meanwhile, Grimes notes that a conservative lawmaker "has filed a bill [HB 1901] that would strengthen the existing law by appointing attorneys for the fetuses." According to Grimes, HB 1901 "has been referred to Texas' House State Affairs committee," while "'Marlise's law' has yet to be assigned to [a] committee" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 3/12).


State Lawmakers Introduce More Bills Backing Abortion Rights

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 12:08

State lawmakers last year introduced the most measures to expand abortion rights since 1990, Vox reports.

State Lawmakers Introduce More Bills Backing Abortion Rights

March 13, 2015 — State lawmakers last year introduced the most measures to expand abortion rights since 1990, Vox reports.

According to Vox, the shift was driven by increased voter engagement in abortion-rights issues and state legislators' concerns that the Supreme Court might hear a case that would restrict abortion rights.

Specifically, state lawmakers introduced 95 bills or other provisions to expand abortion rights in 2014. According to the Guttmacher Institute, four such measures were signed into law last year, also the most since 1990 (Thielking, Vox, 3/12).

Bills Signed Into Law

In March 2014, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed into law a bill (S 317) repealing a state statute criminalizing abortion that courts invalidated many years ago. Although the old law was invalidated by a Vermont Supreme Court decision in 1972 and the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, it remained a state statute (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26/14).

Meanwhile, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed into law a measure waiving the state's mandatory pre-abortion counseling and ultrasound requirements when a woman's health or life is in danger or the fetus has severe anomalies (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/10/14).

In addition, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) in June 2014 signed into law a bill (SB 319) that imposed a 25-foot "buffer zone" around abortion clinics in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/11/14). However, the state attorney general's office said it would not enforce the measure for now amid a federal lawsuit challenging whether the law is constitutional (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/12).

Further, then-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) in July 2014 signed a bill (S 2281) into law to improve security surrounding the state's abortion clinics. Lawmakers developed the legislation in response to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state's buffer zone law, which had barred protests within 35 feet of clinic entrances (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/31/14).

Increasing Voter Engagement

According to Vox, the expanded efforts by state lawmakers to put forward legislation to protect abortion rights comes as more U.S. residents are becoming politically engaged in those issues.

National Women's Law Center Media Director Melanie Boyer said voters are increasingly contacting their elected officials and urging them to support abortion rights.

"We have seen social media really reach audiences that have been so far unengaged in these types of issues," with young people and health care providers, in particular, becoming more outspoken about abortion rights and the importance of politicians not interfering with medical decisions, she said.

PerryUndem pollster Tresa Undem said that part of voters' increasing interest stems from backlash against the many antiabortion-rights bills passed by states in recent years (Vox, 3/12). States passed 231 antiabortion-rights laws from 2011 to 2014, during which time the number of states deemed "extremely hostile" to abortion rights increased more than threefold, according to a Guttmacher report (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/6).

Undem said, "When [voters] see the actual facts of the laws that have been passed, they don't just disagree with it -- they are enraged. Incensed. I've never seen anything like it when people learn what's going on."

SCOTUS Concerns

Further, state legislators are also putting forth more abortion-rights bills amid concerns that there could be a Supreme Court case that could test precedents protecting abortion rights, Vox reports.

For example, Vermont Sen. Tim Ashe (D), who introduced the bill that took the state's statute criminalizing abortion off the books, said that state lawmakers "were increasingly sensing that really at any time the Supreme Court could dramatically alter the landscape of Roe [v. Wade]" (Vox, 3/12).

Conflicting federal court rulings on state abortion restrictions suggest that the Supreme Court might take up a case to settle whether the laws impose an "undue burden" on women seeking the procedure. The court has not yet indicated whether it plans to hear such a case (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/8).


Ind. County Council Rejects Admitting Privileges Measure

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 12:06

A county council in Indiana on Tuesday rejected an ordinance (69-14) that would have required abortion providers to publicly disclose the names of other doctors they work with under a state admitting privileges law, WNDU reports.

Ind. County Council Rejects Admitting Privileges Measure

March 13, 2015 — A county council in Indiana on Tuesday rejected an ordinance (69-14) that would have required abortion providers to publicly disclose the names of other doctors they work with under a state admitting privileges law, WNDU reports (Hickey, WNDU, 3/11).

Background

A state law (SB 292) requires abortion providers to have either admitting privileges at a hospital or an agreement with a local medical provider who does. Providers who have agreements with another medical provider must report the provider's name to the state health department, which keeps the information confidential (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/26/14).

The ordinance was proposed in St. Joseph County, in northern Indiana (AP/WISH TV, 3/11). The county only has one abortion provider, who does not have admitting privileges (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/26/14).

Debate Over Ordinance

The County Council rejected the ordinance in a 6-3 vote after almost six hours of public debate that involved about 100 speakers, according to WNDU (WNDU, 3/11).

Several Council members said that the ordinance would have been redundant under current state law. In addition, Council member Corey Noland said that passing the ordinance would "creat[e] a dangerous precedent to micromanage medical professions."

In addition, the St. Joseph County Board of Health earlier this week sent a letter to the County Council stating its opposition to the ordinance (AP/WISH TV, 3/11). The board of health wrote, "There is generally no support from the medical community for this ordinance" (Hickey, WNDU, 3/10).

Meanwhile, supporters of the measure said it was intended to promote women's safety and health.

Council President Rafael Morton said that the failure of the ordinance meant "that there will not be any type of county-imposed rules or regulations regulating abortion providers now or in the future in St. Joseph County" (WNDU, 3/11).


Mont. Bill Would Require Use of Fetal Anesthesia in Abortion Procedures

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 12:05

Montana lawmakers are weighing a bill (HB 479) that would require anesthesia to be administered to fetuses before abortions if the woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant, the AP/Missoulian reports.

Mont. Bill Would Require Use of Fetal Anesthesia in Abortion Procedures

March 13, 2015 — Montana lawmakers are weighing a bill (HB 479) that would require anesthesia to be administered to fetuses before abortions if the woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant, the AP/Missoulian reports.

The bill also would mandate that providers use tests to determine a fetus' gestational age before performing an abortion and report their use of fetal anesthesia. Physicians convicted of violating the measure could face jail time and fines.

The bill is based on the disputed notion that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of development. State Rep. Albert Olszewski (R) claimed while introducing the bill that "scientific research accomplished and published over the last three decades" shows that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at this stage (Baumann, AP/Missoulian, 3/11). However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing this is true (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/4).

Comments

Brittany Salley-Rains, outreach and education coordinator for Blue Mountain Family Clinic, said the bill would decrease access to abortion by making the procedure more costly. She added the measure could also force women to travel farther in order to access abortion care where neonatal anesthesia services are also available.

She said, "This bill is masquerading as a compassionate effort to prevent pain and suffering, when in fact it would create it for women in Montana."

NARAL Pro-Choice Montana Executive Director Maggie Moran noted that about 1.5% of abortions in the U.S. occur after 20 weeks, often under traumatic circumstances. She said the measure would make such situations even more difficult (AP/Missoulian, 3/11).


N.M. Senate Rejects Procedural Efforts To Move Antiabortion-Rights Bills

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 12:05

The New Mexico Senate has rejected several procedural efforts aimed at moving two antiabortion-rights measures out of their respective committees to other committees or the full chamber, the New Mexican/Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

N.M. Senate Rejects Procedural Efforts To Move Antiabortion-Rights Bills

March 13, 2015 — The New Mexico Senate has rejected several procedural efforts aimed at moving two antiabortion-rights measures out of their respective committees to other committees or the full chamber, the New Mexican/Las Cruces Sun-News reports (Terrell, New Mexican/Las Cruces Sun-News, 3/11).

Details of Bills

The bills, which the state House passed last week, include a measure (HB 390) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks pregnancy and another (HB 391) that would require parental involvement in minors' abortion decisions. The parental involvement bill would require a parent's notification at least 48 hours prior to a minor receiving an abortion. Under the bill, minors could petition a court for an exemption to the notification requirement.

Neither bill would apply in cases of rape, incest or other sexual abuse, or in cases of endangerment to a woman's life. Physicians found to violate either measure could face a civil penalty of $5,000 or more and lose their medical licenses for at least one year (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/10).

Senators' Letter Expresses Support for Bills

State Sen. Bill Sharer (R) on Tuesday submitted a letter to state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D) showing that seven state Senate Democrats support the measures and asking that Sanchez assign the bills to the full state Senate.

According to the New Mexican/Sun-News, support of the seven Democrats, if combined with the Senate's 17 Republican members, would be enough to pass the bills in the full chamber.

Party-Line Votes Keep Bills in Committees

Despite the letter, the state Senate voted along party lines to reject several efforts by Sharer on Tuesday to move the bills from their respective committees, with Republicans voting in favor of the moves and most Democrats voting against them.

Specifically, the state Senate rejected Sharer's motion to move HB 391 from the state Senate Public Affairs Committee to the full chamber. Democrats argued that the move would conflict with the committee process and prevent public testimony on the measure.

In addition, senators voted against a subsequent motion to move the bill to the chamber's Corporations and Transportation Committee.

Sharer also tried an unsuccessful motion to withdraw HB 390 from the committee and move it to the state Senate Finance Committee (New Mexican/Las Cruces Sun-News, 3/11).


Vote Set on Senate Human Trafficking Bill as Dispute Over Abortion Restrictions Continues

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 12:04

Senate staffers over the weekend will continue discussing potential resolutions to a dispute over an antiabortion-rights provision in a human trafficking bill (S 178) that is scheduled for a vote next week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Vote Set on Senate Human Trafficking Bill as Dispute Over Abortion Restrictions Continues

March 13, 2015 — Senate staffers over the weekend will continue discussing potential resolutions to a dispute over an antiabortion-rights provision in a human trafficking bill (S 178) that is scheduled for a vote next week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Sherry, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 3/12).

Background

The underlying legislation includes various provisions aimed at curtailing human trafficking and targeting perpetrators. The legislation also would create a compensation fund for survivors of human trafficking, using money from fines assessed on those convicted of sexual abuse or crimes related to human trafficking.

The dispute erupted over language in the compensation fund provision that would bar money in the fund from being used for abortion services.

Supporters of abortion rights who object to the language said it would expand existing restrictions on abortion funding by permanently applying the Hyde Amendment to the victims' compensation fund. The amendment bars the use of federal taxpayer funds to pay for abortion, except in instances of rape and incest, and endangerment to the woman's life (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/11).

Lawmakers Still at Impasse

Lawmakers remained at an impasse after further debating the language on Thursday, the New York Times reports.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "Where we are is we're still on the bill. And we're going to pass this bill." However, lawmakers who oppose abortion rights have so far refused to remove the language from the bill, according to the Times.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said, "We can finish this bill in 20 minutes. The only thing that needs to be done is the language relating to abortion should come out of this bill."

Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday proposed an amendment to remove the antiabortion-rights language from the bill (Huetteman, New York Times, 3/12).

McConnell said he would allow Democrats to vote on such an amendment, but Reid said voting on an amendment alone was "not a viable path forward." According to Politico, lawmakers who support abortion rights likely do not have enough votes to pass such an amendment.

In addition, McConnell on Thursday scheduled a vote for Tuesday to end debate and advance the underlying bill. However, the vote is likely to fail, according to Politico (Everett/Min Kim, Politico, 3/13).

Lawmakers, Stakeholders Urge Resolution

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said, "Rather than go back and forth on all this ... I think we need to put the focus back on trafficking and find some way to fix it."

The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking said in a statement, "We urge all members of the Senate to turn away from this divisive debate and find a bipartisan approach to this new initiative to protect and serve the needs of the survivors" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 3/12).


Quote Round Up: Women's Health Supporters Condemn Abortion Restrictions in Trafficking Bill, Discuss Supreme Court Case, More

Fri, 03/13/2015 - 15:34

Key stakeholders in women's health comment on a divisive antiabortion-rights provision included in an otherwise bipartisan bill on human trafficking, the latest Affordable Care Act challenge before the Supreme Court and more.

Quote Round Up: Women's Health Supporters Condemn Abortion Restrictions in Trafficking Bill, Discuss Supreme Court Case, More

March 13, 2015 — Key stakeholders in women's health comment on a divisive antiabortion-rights provision included in an otherwise bipartisan bill on human trafficking, the latest Affordable Care Act challenge before the Supreme Court and more.

"[T]his kind of infringement on women's health care and fundamental individual rights should not be tolerated in a bill that is designed to preserve and expand those rights." -- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), on an antiabortion-rights provision that was added to a bill (S 178) designed to fight human trafficking. The provision, which would have expanded restrictions on abortion funding by permanently applying the Hyde Amendment to a compensation fund for human trafficking survivors, scuttled progress on the otherwise bipartisan legislation (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/11).

"It's difficult to understand why people who are opposed to abortion want to undermine funding for programs that work to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion." -- Angie Remington, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, on a bill (SB 569) in Arkansas that would bar the state from distributing grants to individuals or entities that offer abortion services, counseling or referrals, or that have affiliations with such individuals or entities. A state Senate committee earlier this month advanced the bill to the full chamber (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/6).

"I can tell you that there was never a design that suggested to governors or state leaders that somehow, if they did not have a state-based marketplace, they would lose tax subsidies for their constituents." -- Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, on a Supreme Court case that will determine whether tax credits to help U.S. residents purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) can be used in the federal insurance marketplace or only in state-run marketplaces (NPR's "Morning Edition," 3/3). The Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments in the case, King v. Burwell, earlier this month (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

"We're not going to stop until we have trust, respect and access for all." -- Dinorah Martinez, a field coordinator for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, on an initiative in Texas aimed at improving women's access to reproductive health care in the state. As part of the campaign -- called "Trust. Respect. Access." -- state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow comprehensive sexuality education to be taught in Texas schools and another measure that would let minors ages 15 and older access birth control without requiring parental consent, among other measures (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/17).

"Politicians across the country should take notice of what happened in New Hampshire today." -- Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards, on a bipartisan vote by the New Hampshire House to reject a measure (HB 677) that would have defunded family planning and health centers in the state. The vote killed the bill for the Legislature's two-year session (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/19).

"With this action today, the politicians behind this law have revealed how far they are willing to go to advance their ideological agenda at the expense of women's rights, lives and safety." -- Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, on the West Virginia Legislature's vote to override the governor's veto of a 20-week abortion ban (HB 2568) (Huffington Post, 3/6). The new law is scheduled to take effect on May 26 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/9).

Senators Introduce 21st Century Women's Health Act

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 13:20

Three senators on Thursday introduced legislation called the 21st Century Women's Health Act, which aims to ensure access to women's health services and improve care, Yahoo! Health reports.

Senators Introduce 21st Century Women's Health Act

March 6, 2015 — Three senators on Thursday introduced legislation called the 21st Century Women's Health Act, which aims to ensure access to women's health services and improve care, Yahoo! Health reports.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced the measure on a press call (Gerson Uffalussy, Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

Bill Details: Contraceptive Coverage, Access to Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault Survivors

The bill would require Medicaid to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without cost-sharing by beneficiaries (Ferris, The Hill, 3/5). Federal guidance on the contraceptive coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) states that most private insurers must cover the full range of FDA-approved methods without cost sharing (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/19/14). However, the ACA does not have the same requirement for Medicaid (Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

In addition, the bill would ensure that all survivors of sexual assault can receive no-cost emergency contraception when they seek treatment at a hospital or clinic (Song, Seattle Times, 3/5). The legislation also would help ensure that survivors receive factual information about EC when they seek treatment in a hospital emergency department. Further, the legislation would ensure women at higher education institutions have access to EC, as well as support higher education educational programs designed to help prevent sexual assault.

According to Yahoo! Health, only 13 states and Washington, D.C., require emergency departments to provide sexual assault survivors with EC upon request (Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

Ensuring Right to Reproductive Health Services

The bill also would create a "women's health ombudsperson" whose job would be to help protect access to women's health services. For example, the individual would be tasked with helping to enforce the federal requirement that insurers cover preventive care, such as breastfeeding counseling, mammograms and screenings for domestic violence, with no cost-sharing (Seattle Times, 3/5).

The legislation would also task HHS with conducting a women's health study every five years and reporting the findings to Congress. Specifically, the study would look at the effect of state antiabortion-rights laws and geographic regions that have limited access to family planning services, including economic effects and the impact on maternal deaths.

In addition, the bill would require every state to create a "Maternal Mortality Review Committee" tasked with addressing and assessing disparities and other factors that contribute to maternal deaths. According to Yahoo! Health, stakeholders could then use the information to craft solutions to make sure women have pregnancy experiences that are as safe as possible (Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

Further, the legislation would establish training programs designed for women's health nurse practitioners (Seattle Times, 3/5).

Comments

Murray said the legislation would help more women "to be in the driver's seat about their own health care" (The Hill, 3/5).

She added that the bill would help "fight back against those who miss that Mad Men era" (Yahoo! Health, 3/5). She specifically called out lawmakers whom she said "are dead set on interfering with personal decisions that should be made between a woman, her doctor and her partner."

Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement that the bill "would promote prevention and make it possible for more women to control their reproductive health and make their own health care decisions." She said the group is "especially pleased that it would study the ways restrictions on access to reproductive health services, including abortion, harm women. Understanding and reversing that trend [of restrictions] is critically important if we are serious about improving women's health in this country" (National Partnership release, 3/5).

Laurel Kuehl, Washington state medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, said in reference to the bill's provisions on contraceptive access that "[a]ccess to reliable contraception is a health issue, as well as an economic issue for women and their families" (Seattle Times, 3/5).

Boxer described the bill as "a bold agenda to strengthen women's health in this century." Murray added, "I do know there are those who are going to say no [to voting for the bill] right off the bat. That will not stop me" (The Hill, 3/5).