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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Kan. Board To Reconsider Revoked Medical License of Former Tiller Colleague

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 19:17

Kansas' medical board has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 11 to consider whether to reinstate the medical license of physician Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who has been accused by abortion-rights opponents of violating a state law, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Kan. Board To Reconsider Revoked Medical License of Former Tiller Colleague

December 4, 2014 — Kansas' medical board has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 11 to consider whether to reinstate the medical license of physician Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who has been accused by abortion-rights opponents of violating a state law, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Earlier this year, a county judge overturned the Kansas Board of Healing Arts' decision to revoke Neuhaus' license and sent the case back to the board. However, the judge upheld the board's finding that she had kept inadequate records. Neuhaus currently has a license to provide charity care but is seeking to have her full medical license reinstated (Hanna, AP/Washington Times, 12/2).

Background

Neuhaus' medical license was revoked in 2012 based on allegations that she conducted inadequate exams of abortion patients when providing second opinions for the late George Tiller. Neuhaus conducted the exams to comply with a Kansas law that requires abortion providers to obtain an independent second opinion, concurring that patients seeking abortion care later in pregnancy would face significant and permanent harm if the pregnancy continued. Tiller -- one of a few physicians in the country who provided later abortions -- was shot and killed by an antiabortion-rights activist in 2009.

In his order for the board to reconsider its decision, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis wrote that although Neuhaus' record keeping did not meet "any reasonably required standard of care," a conclusion by a former state hearing officer that she provided inadequate care relied "solely on an inference" from problems with the records. Theis added that "such an inference is too slim, too frail and too conjectural to support any of [the hearing officer's] conclusions reached beyond a breach of adequate record keeping" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).

Latest Arguments

A disciplinary panel's staff attorneys last month filed a brief arguing that Neuhaus' full medical license should not be reinstated. Attorneys Reese Hays and Jessica Bryson argued in the brief that Neuhaus "has shown neither remorse nor any consciousness of the wrongfulness of her misconduct" and that she has "a pattern of misconduct."

Meanwhile, Neuhaus' attorney Bob Eye said Tuesday that the sway of an "anti-choice clique" within the Kansas government is "the elephant in the living room" in the case and has "probably strengthened [Neuhaus'] view about protecting a woman's right to choose, because it's under attack" (AP/Washington Times, 12/2).


Federal Judge Rules Ind. Requirements for Medication Abortion Clinics Unconstitutional

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 19:16

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional two Indiana provisions that would have required clinics offering only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as those that perform the surgical procedure, Bloomberg reports.

Federal Judge Rules Ind. Requirements for Medication Abortion Clinics Unconstitutional

December 4, 2014 — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional two Indiana provisions that would have required clinics offering only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as those that perform the surgical procedure, Bloomberg reports (Pettersson, Bloomberg, 12/4).

Background

The new requirements, which altered the state's definition of "abortion clinic" to encompass those that do not offer surgical procedures, would have affected just one clinic, a Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky facility in Lafayette, Ind.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued a temporary injunction to block the law (SB 371), which had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014 (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/31). The measure also would have stipulated that abortion clinics could not be exempt from complying with physical plant requirements, such as separate recovery rooms, according to Bloomberg (Bloomberg, 12/4).

According to the Indianapolis Star, Magnus-Stinson scheduled a trial date for June 1, 2015.

Latest Ruling

On Wednesday, Magnus-Stinson in a summary judgment ruling wrote that the law violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by "allow[ing] the State to arbitrarily divide medication abortion providers into two groups -- 'abortion clinics' and undefined 'physician's offices' -- and treat those groups differently, without a rational basis for doing so, by requiring 'abortion clinics' but not 'physician's offices' to meet the physical plant requirements at issue."

Further, she said the law would force just one abortion clinic in the state to "either comply with certain physical plant requirements that previously only applied to surgical abortion providers, or stop providing medication abortions. No 'physician's office' faces the same choice."

The court rejected additional claims by the plaintiffs and requested a status conference to decide whether the June trial is still needed and determine the scope of a permanent injunction against the law if the case does not go to trial (Evans, Indianapolis Star, 12/4).

According to Bloomberg, a spokesperson for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) did not immediately respond to after-hours requests for comment on the decision (Bloomberg, 12/4).


Parental Notification Bill Planned in Nev.

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:26

Antiabortion-rights activists in Nevada will pursue a parental involvement bill during the 2015 state legislative session, although it is unclear if such a measure would pass or be signed into law by the governor, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Parental Notification Bill Planned in Nev.

December 2, 2014 — Antiabortion-rights activists in Nevada will pursue a parental involvement bill during the 2015 state legislative session, although it is unclear if such a measure would pass or be signed into law by the governor, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Background

As a result of last month's election, Republicans will control the state Assembly with 25 seats, compared with Democrats' 17 seats, and the state Senate by 11 seats to 10 seats.

A 1985 Nevada law required girls under age 18 to notify at least one parent before an abortion. However, the law is not enforced as the result of a successful legal challenge. The law also allowed girls who could not tell their parents about an abortion to seek judicial approval instead, although the process was inadequate and difficult, according to people familiar with the legal challenge.

Prospects of Parental Involvement Legislation

Nevada Right to Life President Melissa Clement said a parental notification measure is one of the group's "highest priorities." She added, "We've always played defense because there ha[ve]n't been enough (anti-abortion) lawmakers in the [state] Legislature to get anything done. Now, we can play offense again."

State Assembly member Maggie Carlton (D), a supporter of abortion rights, predicted that the state Assembly likely would pass such a bill if it came to a vote but that its fate in the state Senate would be less certain. According to the Review-Journal, at least one Republican state senator, Becky Harris, has expressed support for legal abortion.

Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood President and CEO Elisa Cafferata expressed skepticism that the state Legislature would pass any measures that restrict abortion rights, noting that she "didn't see anybody running" on abortion restrictions and that many Republicans during the election emphasized their support for health care access for women. However, she noted that other state legislatures have passed abortion restrictions.

Meanwhile, Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) supported a parental notification law during his first gubernatorial campaign in 2010. Mari St. Martin, a spokesperson for the governor, said the governor's decision on any potential bill would depend on its provisions. She added that Sandoval "typically does not comment on proposed or pending legislation" and would "carefully review" any measure prior to making a decision.

Contraception Access Bill Planned

In related news, Carlton said she intends to introduce legislation called the Employee Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act to protect women's access to contraception.

The planned legislation is a response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which allowed some for-profit companies to exclude contraceptive coverage from their employer-sponsored health plans based on their owners' religious objections (Myers, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 11/30).


U.S. Abortion Rate at Lowest Level Since 2002

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:25

Fewer abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2011 than any time since CDC began tracking national data in 2002, according to a new study, the Washington Times reports.

U.S. Abortion Rate at Lowest Level Since 2002

December 1, 2014 — Fewer abortions were performed in the U.S. in 2011 than any time since CDC began tracking national data in 2002, according to a new study, the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 11/27).

The CDC report included data from 49 of 52 areas: Washington, D.C., New York City, and all states except California, Maryland and New Hampshire, because those states did not voluntarily report the statistics. The data were gathered from the areas' central health agencies. In most of the areas, abortion providers are legally required to report statistics on the procedure (Rubenfire, Modern Healthcare, 11/26).

Abortion Statistics

CDC said 2011 marked "historic lows for all three measures of abortion": the absolute number of procedures, abortions as a share of pregnancies and the abortion rate (Washington Times, 11/27). According to the report, 730,322 abortion procedures were reported in 2011, a decline of 4.6% from 2010. Among 46 areas that have reported statistics continuously since 2002, there were 13.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2011, a 5% decline from 2010. Meanwhile, 219 abortions were performed per every 1,000 live births that occurred, down 4% from 2010.

According to Modern Healthcare, the number of abortions in the U.S. has declined each year since CDC began tracking the data in 2002, except for 2006 because of a reporting anomaly and more agencies beginning to report such statistics that year.

Abortion Methods

According to the report, about 71% of the abortions performed in 2011 were surgical and before 13 weeks of gestation. Another 8.6% of the abortions were performed surgically after 13 weeks of gestation.

A little more than 19% of abortions were early medication abortions performed before eight weeks of gestation. The report noted that 28.5% of pregnancies that qualified for early medication abortion were terminated that way and that the total number of such procedures increased by 3% from 2010.

The report noted that 64.5% of all abortions performed in 2011 occurred before eight weeks of gestation and that the number of abortions performed by eight weeks increased by 6% from 2002 (Modern Healthcare, 11/26). According to the report, 91% of all abortion procedures occurred before 13 weeks' gestation. Meanwhile, 7.3% of abortions were performed between 14 and 20 weeks of gestation, while 1.4% were performed after 20 weeks.

Overall, CDC said it seems that "women are obtaining abortions earlier in gestation, when the risks for complications are the lowest" (Washington Times, 11/27).

Demographic Findings

The report noted that women ages 20 to 29 accounted for the majority of the abortions performed in 2011. Specifically, women ages 20 to 24 accounted for 32.9% of the abortions performed, while women ages 25 to 29 accounted for 24.9% of the procedures. According to the report, abortion rates for women ages 20 to 24 decreased by 21% from 2002 to 2011, while abortion rates for women ages 25 to 29 decreased by 16% over the same period.

Meanwhile, the abortion rate among teenagers dropped more than for any other age group, although the abortion rate for that age group was among the highest of all age groups in 2011 and from 2002 to 2011. Specifically, the number of abortions performed from 2002 to 2011 for girls ages 19 or younger decreased by 21%, while the abortion rate for that age group dropped 34% during that time. Girls ages 15 to 19 accounted for 13.5% of all abortions performed in 2011, with a rate of 10.5 abortions per 1,000 girls in that age group. Girls under age 15 accounted for 0.4% of all abortions, with a rate of 0.9 abortions per 1,000 girls in that age group.

The report also noted that among the 27 areas of the U.S. that provided ethnicity and racial data, non-Hispanic black women had the highest abortion rate, at 29.7 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. The abortion ratio was also the highest among that group, at 459 abortions performed for every 1,000 live births that occurred. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic Caucasian women had the lowest abortion rate and ratio, with eight abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age and 132 abortions per 1,000 live births (Modern Healthcare, 11/26).

Reasons for Decline

Analysts said the abortion rate decline could be linked to economic concerns stemming from the recent recession. Women since 2008 have cited the recession as motivation to avoid unwanted pregnancies because of the cost of raising children. Further, more women are using effective contraceptives (Craft, "Healthy Choices," Sacramento Bee, 11/30).


N.C. Releases Proposed Abortion Clinic Regulations Under 2013 State Law

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:24

North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services on Monday released a draft rule that proposes regulations for abortion clinics under a state law enacted last year (SB 353), WRAL's "@NCCapitol" reports.

N.C. Releases Proposed Abortion Clinic Regulations Under 2013 State Law

December 2, 2014 — North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services on Monday released a draft rule that proposes regulations for abortion clinics under a state law enacted last year (SB 353), WRAL's "@NCCapitol" reports (Leslie, "@NCCapitol," WRAL, 12/2).

The law, which contains several antiabortion-rights provisions, allows the state DHHS to "apply any requirement" for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, as long as the regulations do not impede access to abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/11). Some of the law's provisions are being challenged in court.

Draft Rule Details

According to "@NCCapitol," the proposal does not appear to include changes that could potentially cause some clinics to close, such as requirements that abortion clinics meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. However, the proposed regulations do increase oversight of the state's abortion clinics.

For example, the draft rule would require each clinic to develop a governing authority board to meet once annually. The board would choose a CEO who has final say in the clinic's daily operations. In addition, clinics would be required to have a quality assurance board that includes at least one physician and meets quarterly to review clinic procedures, protocols and records.

Further, the proposal would require each clinic to choose a nursing supervisor, keep complete personnel records, and have procedure handbooks and equipment manuals available on site. Clinics also would be required to have a defibrillator on site and would have to give patients contact numbers that are staffed at all times in case of complications after an abortion.

The proposal also would require clinics to try to reach a "transfer agreement" with a local hospital, but the clinics would not be considered out of compliance if the attempt does not result in an agreement and the clinic owner has documentation of the attempt. According to state DHHS spokesperson Kevin Howell, ambulatory surgical centers are subject to the same requirement ("@NCCapitol," WRAL, 12/2).

Proposal Costs

According to estimates from nonpartisan legislative staff, the proposals would cost each abortion clinic around $7,500 during the first fiscal year and around $5,800 annually thereafter. The initial costs would be incurred while purchasing defibrillators and privacy curtains, the Charlotte Observer reports.

Meanwhile, North Carolina would spend about $20,000 annually to inspect the clinics (Jarvis, Charlotte Observer, 12/1).

Next Steps

The state DHHS will hold a public hearing on the proposal on Dec. 19 and is accepting public comments on the draft until Jan. 30, 2015.

If the agency approves the proposal after the public comment period, the draft would then go to the state Rules Review Commission for consideration. If the commission also approves the rule, it would take effect April 1, 2015. However, under state law, state legislators can rewrite the rule if at least 10 people submit written objections.

State Officials Comment

Howell noted that the drafting process included feedback from various medical experts. He said the proposed changes are "common sense measures" that aim to bolster patient privacy and care.

North Carolina Health Service Regulation Director Drexdal Pratt said in a statement, "The proposed rules meet constitutional requirements and comply with Senate Bill 353 by improving patient safety and privacy while preserving access to services" ("@NCCapitol," WRAL, 12/2).

State officials added that the proposed requirements should not cause any of the state's abortion clinics to close (Charlotte Observer, 12/1).

Groups React

North Carolina Planned Parenthood spokesperson Alison Kiser said the group's legal team is reviewing the draft rule. She added in a statement, "Planned Parenthood is committed to providing high-quality, nonjudgmental abortion services to the women of North Carolina and will comply with all regulations in order to keep our doors open to the patients that depend on us." She continued, "We were pleased to have our input sought in the DHHS regulatory process as a trusted health care provider and women's health care expert" ("@NCCapitol," WRAL, 12/2).

Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, in a statement noted that it is "critical" that the "rule-making process not be politicized by the same political interests and lawmakers that sought to eliminate access to abortion care in the first place."

Meanwhile, N.C. Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald criticized the proposal for not going "far enough in protecting women's health and safety." She also condemned officials for consulting with "abortion doctors and the abortion industry about these rules which will regulate their own clinics" and "plac[ing] the profits generated by the abortion industry above the health and safety of women" (Charlotte Observer, 12/1).


CDC: 70% of U.S. Residents With HIV Do Not Have Virus Under Control

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:24

Less than one-third of U.S. residents with HIV are effectively managing the virus, putting others at increased risk of contracting it, according to a CDC report released last week, Reuters reports.

CDC: 70% of U.S. Residents With HIV Do Not Have Virus Under Control

December 1, 2014 — Less than one-third of U.S. residents with HIV are effectively managing the virus, putting others at increased risk of contracting it, according to a CDC report released last week, Reuters reports.

According to the report, about 1.2 million U.S. residents were HIV-positive in 2011. Of those, about 840,000 did not consistently take medication to suppress the virus that year.

Further, the report found that 66% of HIV-positive U.S. residents were diagnosed but not receiving regular care, 20% were unaware they were infected, 10% had prescriptions for antiretroviral drugs but still were unable to control the infection, and 4% were receiving physician care but were not prescribed antiretroviral medications.

The report noted that the share of U.S. residents with HIV who achieved viral suppression of the virus through antiretroviral treatments remained about the same, with 26% achieving the target in 2009 and 30% achieving suppression in 2011, the latest year for which data are available. Overall, the report found that younger individuals were the least likely to achieve viral suppression. According to researchers, the disparity can be attributed in large part to the fact that 49% of individuals ages 18 to 24 who have HIV have not been diagnosed.

According to Reuters, research has shown that viral suppression can lengthen the lifespans of those infected with the virus and decrease the risk of transmitting HIV to others by as much as 96% (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 11/25). For example, the report noted that regularly taking such treatments can help a 20-year-old diagnosed with HIV to "expect to live an additional 51 years" (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 11/25).

Comments

Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention, in a statement said, "There is untapped potential to drive down the epidemic through improved testing and treatment, but we're missing too many opportunities" (Reuters, 11/25). However, he noted that a smaller proportion of HIV-positive individuals are undiagnosed than in the past, which is "one of the signs of success" in the fight against HIV/AIDS (Ferris, The Hill, 11/25).

Meanwhile, CDC Director Tom Frieden said helping people to get tested for HIV and connecting individuals to care is the "key to controlling the nation's HIV epidemic" (Washington Times, 11/25).


Successful Colo. Family Planning Program Faces Uncertain Future

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:23

Colorado Democrats are fighting to continue funding for a program credited with lowering the state's teen birth rate amid some Republicans' resistance to continuing the program, the AP/Denver Post reports.

Successful Colo. Family Planning Program Faces Uncertain Future

December 2, 2014 — Colorado Democrats are fighting to continue funding for a program credited with lowering the state's teen birth rate amid some Republicans' resistance to continuing the program, the AP/Denver Post reports.

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative offers no- or low-cost long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants, to low-income women at 68 clinics throughout the state. The initiative was established as a five-year pilot program through a $25 million private donation. To continue, the program needs $5 million in state funding.

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and the state's chief medical officer, Larry Wolk, have credited the pilot program with helping to lower the state's teen birth rate by 40% between 2009 and 2013. They also noted that the number of abortions has dropped in the counties participating in the program.

Prospects for Funding

Hickenlooper's budget proposal includes a funding request to continue the program. However, the request will need to come from a standalone bill because Colorado law prohibits state money from back-filling initiatives launched with private funding, according to state Joint Budget Committee Chair Sen. Kent Lambert (R).

According to the governor's budget letter, the state can save about $40 million in Medicaid costs for prenatal, labor and delivery care if about 5,500 low-income Colorado women can access LARC.

The funding measure stands a good chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled state House, according to the AP/Post. However, its fate in the state Senate, which will be controlled by Republicans for the first time in 10 years, is less certain.

State Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R) said the matter is about "the most critical issue of protecting life" and claimed that IUDs induce abortion.

Wolk said that Lundberg's notion is "not medically correct" and that IUDs prevent fertilization. Wolk also said that the program is "an issue of health" and "not a political issue" (Moreno, AP/Denver Post, 11/28).


Blogs Comment on Supreme Court Pregnancy Bias Case, Helms Amendment, More

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:23

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Ms. Magazine, NPR and more.

Blogs Comment on Supreme Court Pregnancy Bias Case, Helms Amendment, More

December 2, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Ms. Magazine, NPR and more.

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION: "The Woman Who's Making a Difference for Pregnant Workers," Corinne Gaston, Ms. Magazine blog: The ruling in an upcoming Supreme Court case over workplace accommodations for pregnant employees "has the power to make the [Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PL 95-555)] virtually airtight and erase exploitable loopholes," writes Gaston. Gaston explains that the case, Young v. UPS, involves a UPS employee who was "forced out of work" after being denied workplace accommodations during her pregnancy. She notes that while UPS recently changed its policies to permit some pregnancy accommodations, "pregnant workers in all sorts of employment, from healthcare institutions to the aisles of Walmart, still face the reality of discrimination." Gaston adds, "Let's hope that the Supreme Court rules in favor of equitable treatment of pregnant workers with thanks to Young's perseverance for paving the way" (Gatson, Ms. Magazine blog, 11/25).

What others are saying about pregnancy discrimination:

~ "The Supreme Court May Limit Pregnant Women's Rights: Here's What You Should Know," Tom Spiggle, Huffington Post blogs.

HIV/AIDS: "On World AIDS Day, Fighting HIV and Stigma," Bridget Armstrong, NPR's "Code Switch": Armstrong commemorates World AIDS Day by writing about the "health professionals, activists and HIV-positive people from around the world" who at the annual International Conference on Stigma "shared their personal stories of surviving the virus and the bias that they have suffered after being diagnosed." Armstrong cites figures from CDC that "just 40 percent" of people with HIV received medical care for the virus, noting that "[o]ne barrier to treatment could be the persistent stigma that many HIV-positive people face." Specifically, she writes about two presenters, "activist and AIDS survivor Mary Bowman" and HIV-positive speaker Maria Mejia, who at the conference detailed their respective stories about discovering their HIV status and battling stigma, among other presenters (Armstrong, "Code Switch," NPR, 12/1).

What others are saying about HIV/AIDS:

~ "The Fight Against the Global HIV Epidemic has Finally Reached a ‘Tipping Point,'" Sam Collins, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Activists Are Already Trying To End Legal Abortion City by City," Robin Marty, Care2: "It's no wonder, with abortion clinics so concentrated in such small areas of the nation, that anti-abortion activists are doubling down on their quest to take restrictions not just to the state house, but to city councils and county seats as well," Marty writes, noting that roughly 89% of U.S. counties do not have a clinic. For example, Marty notes that the Rossville, Ga., City Council considered a resolution "banning abortion clinics in the city, despite the fact that there were no clinics there" and "forbid[ding] any organization that performs abortions from placing an advertisement in the city," while the St. Joseph County, Ind., City Council debated a failed "resolution to demand that any abortion provider in their county must have local hospital admitting privileges." This localized strategy "looks like it may be the new reality," Marty writes, noting that "[w]ith under 800 abortion clinics left in the country, picking them off city by city or county by county is looking more appealing to anti-abortion activists by the minute" (Marty, Care2, 11/28).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

~ "'False Witnesses' Tells the Truth," Carole Joffe, ANSIRH Blog.

GLOBAL: "#HelmsHurts: How the U.S. Continues To Deny Critical Health Care to Women in War Zones," Nina Besser, International Women's Health Coalition's "Akimbo": The U.S.' "misinterpretat[ion]" of the Helms Amendment "currently stands between women raped in war zones and the health care they need," Besser, an IWHC program officer, writes. She explains that the amendment has "long been" incorrectly interpreted "as a complete ban on global abortion funding, when in fact it should allow for abortion funding in cases where abortion is not being utilized 'as a method of family planning' -- namely, in cases of rape, life endangerment of the woman, and incest." As IWHC and other members of the "international community continu[e] to mark the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence, access to health care must be part of the conversation," Besser writes, adding, "Correctly interpreting the Helms Amendment is an immediate step that President Obama could take to ensure that women who survive rape and sexual violence -- as well as victims of incest and women whose lives are endangered by their pregnancies -- have access to safe abortion services" (Besser, "Akimbo," IWHC, 11/26).

What others are saying about global issues:

~ "First Responders in Fiji Learn To Address Sexual Violence During Disasters," UN Women/Care2.

~ "A Move Forward for Abortion Rights in the Dominican Republic," Alexander Sanger, Huffington Post blogs.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Alabama Anti-Choicers Want To Regulate Abortion Clinics Like Sex Predators," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: Abortion-rights opponents in Alabama are pushing legislation that would require a 2,000-foot buffer between schools and abortion clinics, the same minimum distance required between schools and sex offenders, after a judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to close a reopened clinic in Huntsville, Marcotte writes. She notes that while the Christian Coalition of Alabama's James Henderson, who is spearheading the effort, might "just [be] looking for any angle he can to shut down the clinic," his strategy implies that "getting an abortion is an even bigger, scarier sexual perversion than child molestation is." Marcotte writes that "under no circumstances is there a legitimate argument for how having an out-of-sight abortion take place within 2,000 feet of a child could have any impact on that kid," adding that while antiabortion-rights protests featuring graphic images of fetuses "could negatively affect children," it is unlikely that "Henderson and company would ... agree with banning picketing within 2,000 feet of a school" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 12/1).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Lessons on Allyship From the Fight Against Colorado's 'Personhood' Amendment," Cristina Aguilar, RH Reality Check.

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "Statistics Reveal Importance of #YesAllDaughters Anti-Rape Campaign," Nikki Gloudeman, Huffington Post blogs: Gloudeman writes about efforts backed by social media and the #YesAllDaughters campaign to "rally support" for three alleged rape survivors at a Norman, Okla., high school that helped reveal the "bigger picture" of rape culture. Specifically, Gloudeman writes about how #YesAllDaughters, in "achiev[ing] a bird's eye view" of the Ohio case, helped contextualize "manifest truths that are endemic to the rape culture," such as "the perpetrator's blase attitude toward sexual assault" and how the survivors' allegations of rape "were met with institutional indifference, victim shaming and bullying." Gloudeman outlines other aspects of rape culture at large, adding, "All of this is to say: This incident did not happen over there. It is happening here, and will continue to do so as long as the issues within the culture that fostered it are not addressed" (Gloudeman, Huffington Post blogs, 11/26).


LAT Op-Ed: 'Personhood' Measures Get Attention, But TRAP Laws Are Greater Threat

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:22

While the rejection of "personhood" measures in Colorado (Amendment 67) and North Dakota (Measure 1) last month was "hailed as a victory for defenders of the right to legal abortion ... such measures serve as a distraction from a far bigger threat to abortion rights from onerous rules known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or 'TRAP laws,'" writes Caitlin Borgmann, professor at CUNY School of Law and editor of the Reproductive Rights Prof Blog, in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

LAT Op-Ed: 'Personhood' Measures Get Attention, But TRAP Laws Are Greater Threat

December 2, 2014 — While the rejection of "personhood" measures in Colorado (Amendment 67) and North Dakota (Measure 1) last month was "hailed as a victory for defenders of the right to legal abortion ... such measures serve as a distraction from a far bigger threat to abortion rights from onerous rules known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or 'TRAP laws,'" writes Caitlin Borgmann, professor at CUNY School of Law and editor of the Reproductive Rights Prof Blog, in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

Borgman writes, "Personhood measures are alarming (and almost certainly unconstitutional), but so far their main threat has been to drain money from pro-choice groups, which have had to spend inordinate sums to defeat them." By contrast, TRAP laws have been "stunningly effective" at restricting abortion because they "are designed to fly under the radar, by mimicking ordinary health regulations," even as they "target abortion facilities and providers with special, onerous regulations that are exceedingly costly or impossible to meet," Borgmann explains.

According to Borgmann, admitting privilege requirements, mandates that abortion clinics meet the same construction and building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and other forms of TRAP laws have threatened or closed clinics in Mississippi and Texas. She notes that these clinic closures disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized women who do not have the means to "travel 150 miles or more" to "obtain a safe and legal abortion." As a result, such TRAP laws "quietly den[y] access to some women every day," even as personhood measures spur "great public outcry in part because they would affect all women," Borgmann writes.

Borgmann notes that although the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked some of the onerous regulations, "there is seemingly no end to the types of restrictions [TRAP law proponents] will invent." She writes, "It is up to the public to recognize these laws for what they are and to send a message to state legislators that they will not tolerate TRAP laws any more than they will accept personhood restrictions" (Borgmann, Los Angeles Times, 11/30).


Abortion Funds Help Women With Travel Costs as Distance To Clinics Increases

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:22

Amid state abortion restrictions that have closed clinics and imposed mandatory delays before a woman can obtain the procedure, groups known as abortion funds are increasingly providing funding to women to cover travel costs, the New York Times reports.

Abortion Funds Help Women With Travel Costs as Distance To Clinics Increases

December 1, 2014 — Amid state abortion restrictions that have closed clinics and imposed mandatory delays before a woman can obtain the procedure, groups known as abortion funds are increasingly providing funding to women to cover travel costs, the New York Times reports.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, states over the past three years have passed 231 laws that restrict abortion, representing the highest number of such laws passed since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling. As a result, women seeking abortions are facing an increasing number of obstacles to obtaining the procedure, including costs for transportation and lodging as they travel greater distances to reach clinics.

Kimberly McGuire, director of public affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said the rise of groups to help women with abortion-related costs is "a reaction to a sense of desperation across the country as more clinics close, as more communities," particularly those in low-income and rural areas, "are left without providers."

The Times profiles Lenzi Sheible, who founded Fund Texas Choice 15 months ago after the passage of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2). Fund Texas Choice has received about $60,000 and spent about $25,000 to provide funding to 106 Texas women. Sheible said that the first paid staffer for the organization will start in January (Calmes, New York Times, 11/27).


State-Level GOP Victories Mean More Antiabortion-Rights Legislation To Come

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:21

Expanded Republican control of state legislatures and governorships after the midterm election is expected to lead to more antiabortion-rights measures, with some GOP state lawmakers already preparing legislation, Politico reports.

State-Level GOP Victories Mean More Antiabortion-Rights Legislation To Come

December 1, 2014 — Expanded Republican control of state legislatures and governorships after the midterm election is expected to lead to more antiabortion-rights measures, with some GOP state lawmakers already preparing legislation, Politico reports.

With the GOP gaining control of 11 more state legislative chambers this November, Republicans now hold the majority in two-thirds of legislatives bodies nationwide, according to Politico. In addition, the GOP took two additional governorships in the election, meaning that 31 states will have Republican governors in 2015.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said she expects "state legislative attacks on women's health [in 2015], even though the vast majority of the public wants elected officials to protect and expand access to safe and legal abortion, birth control and preventive health care."

Abortion-Rights Opponents Target Multiple Fronts

Abortion-rights opponents intend to promote legislation in states with newly elected GOP lawmakers, as well as in states that have already passed restrictions in recent years.

"In some states where we've had success in the past we've gotten stronger," Mary Spaulding Balch, state legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said, adding that "in some states where we weren't able to pass anything we were able to improve our vote count."

For example, Arkansas, which already has strict antiabortion-rights laws in place, is expected to see additional restrictions because a Republican is succeeding the Democratic governor, who vetoed two antiabortion-rights measures. Arkansas lawmakers might pursue a ban on doctors administering abortion drugs via telemedicine, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, Tennessee will likely see antiabortion legislation after voters in November approved a ballot initiative (Amendment 1) to amend the state constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights. Tennessee Rep. Rick Womick (R) has already filed measures that would require a mandatory delay and ultrasound before an abortion.

Other states considered targets for antiabortion-rights legislation include Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

However, some activists have noted that GOP gains do not necessarily translate to an antiabortion-rights majority, especially when a governor is likely to veto such legislation. For example, in Nevada, while Republicans now control both the state House and Senate, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval supports abortion rights (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 11/28).


Supreme Court Hears Pregnancy Discrimination Case, Gives Few Signs of How It Will Rule

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:20

During oral arguments in Young v. UPS on Wednesday, the Supreme Court justices focused heavily on the wording of the 1978 law at the center of the pregnancy discrimination case, but they gave little indication of how they would rule, the Washington Post reports.

Supreme Court Hears Pregnancy Discrimination Case, Gives Few Signs of How It Will Rule

December 4, 2014 — During oral arguments in Young v. UPS on Wednesday, the Supreme Court justices focused heavily on the wording of the 1978 law at the center of the pregnancy discrimination case, but they gave little indication of how they would rule, the Washington Post reports (Barnes, Washington Post, 12/3).

Case Background

The case involves former UPS driver Peggy Young. While pregnant with her daughter more than seven years ago, Young presented UPS with notes from her doctor and midwife stating that she should not lift heavy objects during her pregnancy. However, UPS denied Young a light-duty assignment that would have allowed her to continue working.

Young then took an unpaid leave of absence, during which she lost her employer-sponsored health insurance and pension benefits, and returned to her job after giving birth (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1). She later sued UPS under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PL 95-555) and left the company in 2009.

Young's Claims

Young said that UPS violated a provision that declared sex discrimination to include discrimination based on "pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions" (Washington Post, 12/3). Furthermore, she argued that UPS violated the part of the PDA that requires employers to treat "women affected by pregnancy" in the same way they treat "other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work" (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1).

A federal district court ruled against Young, granting summary judgment for UPS rather than conducting a trial. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision (Washington Post, 12/3). Young then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which in July agreed to review the lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1).

Justices' Positions Unclear

The justices' comments and questions to attorneys on Wednesday "sent no clear signals of how they would rule," according to the Wall Street Journal (Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 12/3). The Post reports that justices focused on the wording of the PDA and punctuation in the law more than other issues in the case (Washington Post, 12/3).

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan were the most vocally skeptical of UPS' arguments (Wall Street Journal, 12/3). Ginsburg and Kagan "dominated" the questioning of UPS' lawyer, asking about 20 questions each, or approximately the amount of the other justices combined, according to the New York Times (Liptak, New York Times, 12/3).

However, Kagan also appeared open to a ruling that would lead to Young continuing her suit against UPS in the lower courts (Washington Post, 12/3). Justice Stephen Breyer also mentioned the possibility of having the lower courts further consider the issue (Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 12/3).

Meanwhile, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito posed questions that suggested they are skeptical of the extent of Young's claims under the PDA, according to the Post (Washington Post, 12/3).

The court likely will release its opinion by the end of June (Wall Street Journal, 12/3).

Plaintiff's Arguments

Samuel Bagenstos, an attorney for Young, said that UPS violated the PDA by denying Young's request for an accommodation while offering light-duty assignments to workers who were injured on the job, had a disability that was recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act or lost their driver's certification for particular reasons.

Bagenstos argued that the PDA required UPS to provide Young with an accommodation during pregnancy if it would have given her one "if she had sought it for a different medical condition with the same effect on the ability to work."

Scalia questioned whether such a ruling in Young's favor would be akin to giving pregnant workers "most favored nation" status, thereby requiring companies to give such workers the same benefits as those received by any other employee, even if such benefits were based on company rank or seniority (Washington Post, 12/3). Breyer also raised a similar question.

Bagenstos said that was not the case and that the PDA instead confers protections when accommodations are offered to "very broad classes" of employees other than pregnant women (New York Times, 12/3). Rather, UPS' position "would give least-favored-nation status to pregnant workers and we know that that can't be something that Congress intended," he said (Wall Street Journal, 12/3).

Federal Government's Arguments

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing in support of Young on behalf of the federal government, also stated that the PDA only should apply when "an employer offers an accommodation to a significant class of employees" (New York Times, 12/3).

He said that the federal government "think[s] the one thing an employer can't do as a result [of the PDA] is draw distinctions that treat pregnancy-related medical conditions worse than other conditions with comparable effects on ability to work" (Washington Post, 12/3).

Verrilli said, "The point of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is to reduce the number of women who are driven from the work force or forced to go months without an income as a result of becoming pregnant" (New York Times, 12/3).

Upon questioning, Verrilli also defended the federal government's changing of its position on the pregnancy-related accommodations required under the PDA (Wall Street Journal, 12/3). Verrilli said that the Obama administration's view changed as a result of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updating its guidelines on pregnancy accommodations to advise companies to interpret the PDA to require the type of accommodations Young sought (Washington Post, 12/3).

UPS' Arguments

UPS attorney Caitlin Halligan argued that the company's policy was not discriminatory, as it provided accommodations to workers with job-related injuries, but not to workers that had medical conditions that were not job-related.

Halligan said, "That's a far cry from a policy that singles out pregnant women" (Wall Street Journal, 12/3).

Halligan argued that the PDA "sets a floor. That floor is that you can't single out pregnancy for adverse treatment" (Washington Post, 12/3).

Kagan and Ginsburg both questioned UPS' stance on the PDA. Kagan commented that the law instead "was supposed to be about removing stereotypes of pregnant women as marginal workers" and "ensuring that they wouldn't be unfairly excluded from the workplace." She added that Halligan's argument is "that there's a policy that accommodates some workers, but puts all pregnant women on one side of the line."

Ginsburg echoed Young's attorney in saying that UPS' position confers a "least favored nation" status upon pregnant employees (New York Times, 12/3). Ginsburg noted that, according to reports, men at the company received lighter duty for work-related injuries (Savage, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).

Ginsburg asked Halligan to provide "a single instance of anyone who needed a lifting dispensation who didn't get it, except for pregnant people."

Halligan did not provide a specific example, but said that such persons were denied such requests (New York Times, 12/3).

L.A. Times: Supreme Court Should Side With Young

Commenting on the case, a Los Angeles Times editorial argues, "At the very least, the Supreme Court should rule that pregnant women deserve to be treated as well as workers who are injured on the job."

The editorial notes that UPS "in fact, has come around to [the] position" that "[w]omen should not be penalized or forced out of the workplace simply because they become pregnant" by updating its own policy to begin offering light-duty accommodations to pregnant women.

The Los Angeles Times continues, "[I]f the court sides with UPS on this one, Congress should craft fresh legislation that -- again -- makes its intent clear," although the editorial notes that lawmakers already attempted to do so with the PDA (Los Angeles Times, 12/3).

Columnist: Denying Young's Accommodation Was Gender Discrimination

While "UPS claims that Young is seeking 'special treatment' for pregnant employees," the Supreme Court should require companies to "acknowledg[e] and accommodat[e]" that "pregnancy is a unique, temporary, and you might even say, special, condition," Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian writes.

Abcarian continues, "After all, only women can become pregnant, and only women can be treated differently when they do. Young claims that the way she was treated amounts to illegal gender discrimination, and I have a hard time disagreeing with that."

She quotes Judith Lichtman, a senior adviser to the National Partnership for Women & Families, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of 12 groups committed to maternal and fetal health. Lichtman said that denying a pregnant woman reasonable accommodations that would enable her to keep working -- such as carrying a water bottle or taking extra bathroom breaks -- forces her to make an "impossible choice: following her doctor's advice or jeopardizing her family's economic security."

Meanwhile, Abcarian notes that the case has brought together "several diverse groups" in support of Young's position, with "avidly pro-abortion rights groups" supporting the case alongside such antiabortion-rights supporters as "the National Association of Evangelicals" and "Democrats for Life."

Abcarian adds, "Let's hope the conservative members of the Supreme Court, which have not had such a great record on women's rights this year ... will ratify the progress that UPS, the federal government and an increasing number of states have already made" (Abcarian, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).


FDA Revises Prescription Drug Labeling Rules for Pregnancy, Breastfeeding Risks

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 18:08

FDA on Wednesday announced revised drug-labeling rules that will require drugmakers to provide additional information about the risks of taking medications during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, the New York Times reports.

FDA Revises Prescription Drug Labeling Rules for Pregnancy, Breastfeeding Risks

December 4, 2014 FDA on Wednesday announced revised drug-labeling rules that will require drugmakers to provide additional information about the risks of taking medications during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, the New York Times reports (Tavernise, New York Times, 12/3).

The rules, which have been under consideration since 2008, will take effect in June 2015. According to the Washington Post's "To Your Health," they will apply to all biologics and new prescription medications, as well as drugs approved since 2001 that have not yet been updated to reflect risks for pregnant or breastfeeding women. The rules will not apply to over-the-counter drugs.

Current System Considered Confusing, Outdated

The current system has been in place since the 1970s and categorizes risk for pregnant and breastfeeding women as "A," "B," "C," "D" or "X" (Dennis, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 11/3). X-labeled drugs are considered the riskiest, the Times reports.

According to the Times, many physicians consider the current system confusing, outdated and vague. Specifically, physicians said that many drugs were categorized as "C," which meant that studies have demonstrated potential risk to the fetus in animal trials, but that no adequate studies have been conducted with human subjects.

Revised Labeling System

The new rule will require drugmakers to replace the letter system currently included in the information packet that comes with drugs with detailed summaries of risk information (New York Times, 12/3). The information will not be included on the pill bottle, but it will be included on drug labeling that physicians are supposed to review when making prescribing decisions (AP/Modern Healthcare, 11/3).

Drugmakers will be required to detail the risk assessment in three sections: pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility (New York Times, 12/3). Each section will summarize patient risk and include data supporting those conclusions ("To Your Health," Washington Post, 12/3).

The summaries will specify whether the risks have been assessed through human or animal trials (AP/Modern Healthcare, 11/3). However, the rule will not require drugmakers to conduct studies on potential risks if no research is currently available (New York Times, 12/3).

According to AP/Modern Healthcare, older medications will be required to phase in the new labelling rules over the next few years (AP/Modern Healthcare, 11/3).

Comments

Sandra Kweder, deputy director of FDA's Office of New Drugs, said the current system "can be 'very difficult for physicians to make sense of'" (Devaney, The Hill, 12/3). By contrast, she said the new system "requires that more information about drugs will be provided than ever before, and in a manner that speaks directly to the concerns" of physicians and patients.

Kweder also said requiring drugmakers to include the information was a good first step, noting that such a requirement could help drive research (New York Times, 11/3). Drugmakers often "know about the information in the medical literature and they have chosen for whatever reason not to use it," she said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists voiced support for the new requirements (The Hill, 12/3).


Federal Judge Rules Ind. Requirements for Medication Abortion Clinics Unconstitutional

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 17:50

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional two Indiana provisions that would have required clinics offering only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as those that perform the surgical procedure, Bloomberg reports.

Federal Judge Rules Ind. Requirements for Medication Abortion Clinics Unconstitutional

December 4, 2014 — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional two Indiana provisions that would have required clinics offering only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as those that perform the surgical procedure, Bloomberg reports (Pettersson, Bloomberg, 12/4).

Background

The new requirements, which altered the state's definition of "abortion clinic" to encompass those that do not offer surgical procedures, would have affected just one clinic, a Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky facility in Lafayette, Ind.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued a temporary injunction to block the law (SB 371), which had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014 (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/31). The measure also would have stipulated that abortion clinics could not be exempt from complying with physical plant requirements, such as separate recovery rooms, according to Bloomberg (Bloomberg, 12/4).

According to the Indianapolis Star, Magnus-Stinson scheduled a trial date for June 1, 2015.

Latest Ruling

On Wednesday, Magnus-Stinson in a summary judgment ruling wrote that the law violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause by "allow[ing] the State to arbitrarily divide medication abortion providers into two groups -- 'abortion clinics' and undefined 'physician's offices' -- and treat those groups differently, without a rational basis for doing so, by requiring 'abortion clinics' but not 'physician's offices' to meet the physical plant requirements at issue."

Further, she said the law would force just one abortion clinic in the state to "either comply with certain physical plant requirements that previously only applied to surgical abortion providers, or stop providing medication abortions. No 'physician's office' faces the same choice."

The court rejected additional claims by the plaintiffs and requested a status conference to decide whether the June trial is still needed and determine the scope of a permanent injunction against the law if the case does not go to trial (Evans, Indianapolis Star, 12/4).

According to Bloomberg, a spokesperson for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller (R) did not immediately respond to after-hours requests for comment on the decision (Bloomberg, 12/4).


Supreme Court Hears Pregnancy Discrimination Case, Gives Few Signs of How It Will Rule

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 17:12

During oral arguments in Young v. UPS on Wednesday, the Supreme Court justices focused heavily on the wording of the 1978 law at the center of the pregnancy discrimination case, but they gave little indication of how they would rule, the Washington Post reports.

Supreme Court Hears Pregnancy Discrimination Case, Gives Few Signs of How It Will Rule

December 4, 2014 — During oral arguments in Young v. UPS on Wednesday, the Supreme Court justices focused heavily on the wording of the 1978 law at the center of the pregnancy discrimination case, but they gave little indication of how they would rule, the Washington Post reports (Barnes, Washington Post, 12/3).

Case Background

The case involves former UPS driver Peggy Young. While pregnant with her daughter more than seven years ago, Young presented UPS with notes from her doctor and midwife stating that she should not lift heavy objects during her pregnancy. However, UPS denied Young a light-duty assignment that would have allowed her to continue working.

Young then took an unpaid leave of absence, during which she lost her employer-sponsored health insurance and pension benefits, and returned to her job after giving birth (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1). She later sued UPS under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PL 95-555) and left the company in 2009.

Young's Claims

Young said that UPS violated a provision that declared sex discrimination to include discrimination based on "pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions" (Washington Post, 12/3). Furthermore, she argued that UPS violated the part of the PDA that requires employers to treat "women affected by pregnancy" in the same way they treat "other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work" (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1).

A federal district court ruled against Young, granting summary judgment for UPS rather than conducting a trial. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision (Washington Post, 12/3). Young then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which in July agreed to review the lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1).

Justices' Positions Unclear

The justices' comments and questions to attorneys on Wednesday "sent no clear signals of how they would rule," according to the Wall Street Journal (Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 12/3). The Post reports that justices focused on the wording of the PDA and punctuation in the law more than other issues in the case (Washington Post, 12/3).

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan were the most vocally skeptical of UPS' arguments (Wall Street Journal, 12/3). Ginsburg and Kagan "dominated" the questioning of UPS' lawyer, asking about 20 questions each, or approximately the amount of the other justices combined, according to the New York Times (Liptak, New York Times, 12/3).

However, Kagan also appeared open to a ruling that would lead to Young continuing her suit against UPS in the lower courts (Washington Post, 12/3). Justice Stephen Breyer also mentioned the possibility of having the lower courts further consider the issue (Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 12/3).

Meanwhile, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito posed questions that suggested they are skeptical of the extent of Young's claims under the PDA, according to the Post (Washington Post, 12/3).

The court likely will release its opinion by the end of June (Wall Street Journal, 12/3).

Plaintiff's Arguments

Samuel Bagenstos, an attorney for Young, said that UPS violated the PDA by denying Young's request for an accommodation while offering light-duty assignments to workers who were injured on the job, had a disability that was recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act or lost their driver's certification for particular reasons.

Bagenstos argued that the PDA required UPS to provide Young with an accommodation during pregnancy if it would have given her one "if she had sought it for a different medical condition with the same effect on the ability to work."

Scalia questioned whether such a ruling in Young's favor would be akin to giving pregnant workers "most favored nation" status, thereby requiring companies to give such workers the same benefits as those received by any other employee, even if such benefits were based on company rank or seniority (Washington Post, 12/3). Breyer also raised a similar question.

Bagenstos said that was not the case and that the PDA instead confers protections when accommodations are offered to "very broad classes" of employees other than pregnant women (New York Times, 12/3). Rather, UPS' position "would give least-favored-nation status to pregnant workers and we know that that can't be something that Congress intended," he said (Wall Street Journal, 12/3).

Federal Government's Arguments

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing in support of Young on behalf of the federal government, also stated that the PDA only should apply when "an employer offers an accommodation to a significant class of employees" (New York Times, 12/3).

He said that the federal government "think[s] the one thing an employer can't do as a result [of the PDA] is draw distinctions that treat pregnancy-related medical conditions worse than other conditions with comparable effects on ability to work" (Washington Post, 12/3).

Verrilli said, "The point of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is to reduce the number of women who are driven from the work force or forced to go months without an income as a result of becoming pregnant" (New York Times, 12/3).

Upon questioning, Verrilli also defended the federal government's changing of its position on the pregnancy-related accommodations required under the PDA (Wall Street Journal, 12/3). Verrilli said that the Obama administration's view changed as a result of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updating its guidelines on pregnancy accommodations to advise companies to interpret the PDA to require the type of accommodations Young sought (Washington Post, 12/3).

UPS' Arguments

UPS attorney Caitlin Halligan argued that the company's policy was not discriminatory, as it provided accommodations to workers with job-related injuries, but not to workers that had medical conditions that were not job-related.

Halligan said, "That's a far cry from a policy that singles out pregnant women" (Wall Street Journal, 12/3).

Halligan argued that the PDA "sets a floor. That floor is that you can't single out pregnancy for adverse treatment" (Washington Post, 12/3).

Kagan and Ginsburg both questioned UPS' stance on the PDA. Kagan commented that the law instead "was supposed to be about removing stereotypes of pregnant women as marginal workers" and "ensuring that they wouldn't be unfairly excluded from the workplace." She added that Halligan's argument is "that there's a policy that accommodates some workers, but puts all pregnant women on one side of the line."

Ginsburg echoed Young's attorney in saying that UPS' position confers a "least favored nation" status upon pregnant employees (New York Times, 12/3). Ginsburg noted that, according to reports, men at the company received lighter duty for work-related injuries (Savage, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).

Ginsburg asked Halligan to provide "a single instance of anyone who needed a lifting dispensation who didn't get it, except for pregnant people."

Halligan did not provide a specific example, but said that such persons were denied such requests (New York Times, 12/3).

L.A. Times: Supreme Court Should Side With Young

Commenting on the case, a Los Angeles Times editorial argues, "At the very least, the Supreme Court should rule that pregnant women deserve to be treated as well as workers who are injured on the job."

The editorial notes that UPS "in fact, has come around to [the] position" that "[w]omen should not be penalized or forced out of the workplace simply because they become pregnant" by updating its own policy to begin offering light-duty accommodations to pregnant women.

The Los Angeles Times continues, "[I]f the court sides with UPS on this one, Congress should craft fresh legislation that -- again -- makes its intent clear," although the editorial notes that lawmakers already attempted to do so with the PDA (Los Angeles Times, 12/3).

Columnist: Denying Young's Accommodation Was Gender Discrimination

While "UPS claims that Young is seeking 'special treatment' for pregnant employees," the Supreme Court should require companies to "acknowledg[e] and accommodat[e]" that "pregnancy is a unique, temporary, and you might even say, special, condition," Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian writes.

Abcarian continues, "After all, only women can become pregnant, and only women can be treated differently when they do. Young claims that the way she was treated amounts to illegal gender discrimination, and I have a hard time disagreeing with that."

She quotes Judith Lichtman, a senior adviser to the National Partnership for Women & Families, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of 12 groups committed to maternal and fetal health. Lichtman said that denying a pregnant woman reasonable accommodations that would enable her to keep working -- such as carrying a water bottle or taking extra bathroom breaks -- forces her to make an "impossible choice: following her doctor's advice or jeopardizing her family's economic security."

Meanwhile, Abcarian notes that the case has brought together "several diverse groups" in support of Young's position, with "avidly pro-abortion rights groups" supporting the case alongside such antiabortion-rights supporters as "the National Association of Evangelicals" and "Democrats for Life."

Abcarian adds, "Let's hope the conservative members of the Supreme Court, which have not had such a great record on women's rights this year ... will ratify the progress that UPS, the federal government and an increasing number of states have already made" (Abcarian, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).


Kan. Board To Reconsider Revoked Medical License of Former Tiller Colleague

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 16:25

Kansas' medical board has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 11 to consider whether to reinstate the medical license of physician Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who has been accused by abortion-rights opponents of violating a state law, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Kan. Board To Reconsider Revoked Medical License of Former Tiller Colleague

December 4, 2014 — Kansas' medical board has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 11 to consider whether to reinstate the medical license of physician Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who has been accused by abortion-rights opponents of violating a state law, the AP/Washington Times reports.

Earlier this year, a county judge overturned the Kansas Board of Healing Arts' decision to revoke Neuhaus' license and sent the case back to the board. However, the judge upheld the board's finding that she had kept inadequate records. Neuhaus currently has a license to provide charity care but is seeking to have her full medical license reinstated (Hanna, AP/Washington Times, 12/2).

Background

Neuhaus' medical license was revoked in 2012 based on allegations that she conducted inadequate exams of abortion patients when providing second opinions for the late George Tiller. Neuhaus conducted the exams to comply with a Kansas law that requires abortion providers to obtain an independent second opinion, concurring that patients seeking abortion care later in pregnancy would face significant and permanent harm if the pregnancy continued. Tiller -- one of a few physicians in the country who provided later abortions -- was shot and killed by an antiabortion-rights activist in 2009.

In his order for the board to reconsider its decision, Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis wrote that although Neuhaus' record keeping did not meet "any reasonably required standard of care," a conclusion by a former state hearing officer that she provided inadequate care relied "solely on an inference" from problems with the records. Theis added that "such an inference is too slim, too frail and too conjectural to support any of [the hearing officer's] conclusions reached beyond a breach of adequate record keeping" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).

Latest Arguments

A disciplinary panel's staff attorneys last month filed a brief arguing that Neuhaus' full medical license should not be reinstated. Attorneys Reese Hays and Jessica Bryson argued in the brief that Neuhaus "has shown neither remorse nor any consciousness of the wrongfulness of her misconduct" and that she has "a pattern of misconduct."

Meanwhile, Neuhaus' attorney Bob Eye said Tuesday that the sway of an "anti-choice clique" within the Kansas government is "the elephant in the living room" in the case and has "probably strengthened [Neuhaus'] view about protecting a woman's right to choose, because it's under attack" (AP/Washington Times, 12/2).


Study: Online Information About VBACs Difficult for Lay Audience To Understand

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 16:22

Many of the top Internet search results for information about vaginal birth after cesarean are written for an audience with a reading level higher than that of the general population, according to a study published in Women and Birth, Reuters reports.

Study: Online Information About VBACs Difficult for Lay Audience To Understand

December 4, 2014 — Many of the top Internet search results for information about vaginal birth after cesarean are written for an audience with a reading level higher than that of the general population, according to a study published in Women and Birth, Reuters reports.

The NIH Consensus Development Conference in 2010 concluded that VBACs are a reasonable option for most women. However, some women who are medically eligible for VBACs still have C-sections.

For the new study, researchers aimed to determine the kind of information women find online about VBAC, according to study author Haim Arie Abenhaim of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.

To gather information, the researchers assessed 20 common Internet search results for "VBAC" or "vaginal birth after cesarean" and evaluated the sites for readability, aesthetic presentation and accountability, such as citing sources.

Key Findings

The researchers found that information on every site was written for college-level readers and that a non-medical audience would find it challenging to understand much of the material.

Medical organizations -- such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Mayo Clinic and NIH -- operated half of the sites, while the remaining sites included information from Wikipedia, blogs and communication boards.

More than half of the sites met the researchers' standards for accountability, and 11 sites were considered "aesthetically agreeable." Overall, none of the sites met all of the researchers' criteria Given that the appropriateness of VBAC varies from woman to woman, Abenhaim said the researchers' "overall recommendation is thus that women should have a discussion with their health care providers and obtain the best information that is applicable to their specific situation" (Doyle, Reuters, 12/2).


Ore. Initiative Seeks Improved Data on Contraceptive Use

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 17:33

Oregon next month is launching an initiative to gather better data on contraceptive use and to encourage health care providers to talk with women who wish to avoid pregnancy about the most effective methods to do so, OPBNews reports.

Ore. Initiative Seeks Improved Data on Contraceptive Use

December 3, 2014 — Oregon next month is launching an initiative to gather better data on contraceptive use and to encourage health care providers to talk with women who wish to avoid pregnancy about the most effective methods to do so, OPBNews reports.

Currently, the state's only way of tracking which methods women are using is through insurance claims data. However, that approach does not accurately measure whether women who wish to avoid pregnancy are using effective contraceptive methods because it does not account for whether women wish to become pregnant or not, according to the Oregon Health Authority's Lori Coyner.

To help better advise women on their contraceptive options, health care providers are being encouraged to ask their female patients about their pregnancy intentions and to discuss the full range of contraceptive methods -- including the most reliable methods -- with women who wish to avoid pregnancy.

The state will consider methods such as birth control pills, intrauterine devices and hormonal injections to be among the most reliable methods, but it will not count methods such as condoms and withdrawal in the metric, according to OPBNews.

Helen Bellanca, chair of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, noted that "a huge number of women that are at risk of unintended pregnancy are using ineffective methods." Unintended pregnancies can "derail women's education plans, ... employment or job opportunities," she added (Foden-Vencil, OPBNews, 12/1).


Lawsuit From Miss. Antiabortion-Rights Group Alleges Police Harassment of Protesters

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 17:32

The antiabortion-rights group Pro-Life Mississippi has filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge denied the group's request for protection from alleged police harassment, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

Lawsuit From Miss. Antiabortion-Rights Group Alleges Police Harassment of Protesters

December 3, 2014 — The antiabortion-rights group Pro-Life Mississippi has filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge denied the group's request for protection from alleged police harassment, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

Case Details

Pro-Life Mississippi claims that Jackson, Miss., police officers regularly order antiabortion-rights protesters affiliated with the group to leave public property and arrest them when they fail to comply. The group claims that the police actions violate the protesters' constitutional rights to assembly and free speech.

The Life Legal Defense Foundation in July filed a federal lawsuit against the Jackson Police Department on behalf of Pro-Life Mississippi. The suit requested injunctive relief pending a trial, which is tentatively scheduled for summer of 2015.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves denied the request on Oct. 27, and LLDF filed an appeal last week.

Comments

LLDF attorney Allison Aranda said in a statement that Reeves "ignored the main issue of this case, which is whether or not free speech activity can constitute a legal obstruction on the public sidewalk."

Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance did not comment on the case. However, attorneys for the city have denied all of the allegations against the department (Le Coz, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 12/2).


Catholic Couple Drops Lawsuit Over Concerns About Marketplace Abortion Coverage

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 17:32

A Connecticut couple last month agreed to drop a lawsuit against the state's health insurance marketplace after the exchange began including plans that do not include abortion coverage during the 2015 open enrollment period, the Connecticut Mirror reports.

Catholic Couple Drops Lawsuit Over Concerns About Marketplace Abortion Coverage

December 3, 2014 — A Connecticut couple last month agreed to drop a lawsuit against the state's health insurance marketplace after the exchange began including plans that do not include abortion coverage during the 2015 open enrollment period, the Connecticut Mirror reports (Radelat, Connecticut Mirror, 12/1).

Background

While the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) requires marketplaces in all states to include at least one multistate plan that does not cover abortion services by 2017, Connecticut did not have any such plans during the initial open enrollment period.

Barth and Abbie Bracy had filed a federal lawsuit in May alleging that the couple was forced to pay an "abortion surcharge" that is included in the premiums of every plan offered through the state's marketplace. Specifically, the Bracys, who are Catholic, claimed that the ACA violates both the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141) and the Connecticut Religious Freedom Restoration Act, among other allegations (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/6).

Agreement Details

The state's marketplace, called Access Health, reached an agreement with the Bracys on Nov. 19, according to the Mirror.

In the agreement, Access Health said that representatives for the marketplace "will be informed which plans do not include coverage of abortions ... so that they may inform customers seeking such a plan of the availability of these plans." However, an insurance broker with Access Health said consumers would have to review each marketplace plan to determine whether it covers abortion services (Connecticut Mirror, 12/1).