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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Sole N.D. Abortion Clinic Asks for Permanent Block of Fetal Heartbeat Law

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 14:36

Attorneys representing North Dakota's only abortion clinic on Friday asked a federal judge to issue a permanent injunction against a state law (HB 1456) that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Bismarck Tribune reports.

Sole N.D. Abortion Clinic Asks for Permanent Block of Fetal Heartbeat Law

April 8, 2014 — Attorneys representing North Dakota's only abortion clinic on Friday asked a federal judge to issue a permanent injunction against a state law (HB 1456) that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Bismarck Tribune reports (AP/Bismarck Tribune, 4/4).

Last year, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the law, which would ban abortions as early as six weeks.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in June 2013 by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/23/13).

Friday's Hearing

Attorneys for the state argued that life begins at conception, adding that a heartbeat historically signifies something is alive.

State attorney Dan Gaustad said the law "protects the lives of unborn children" and "the health of women." He said the law is a legitimate challenge to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that barred states from outlawing abortion prior to fetal viability.

Attorneys representing the clinic said the law would ban most abortions in North Dakota. David Brown, an attorney for the clinic, said after the hearing, "We're quite confident the judge will find this ban unconstitutional and that it is so blatantly in violation of Roe v. Wade and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent that he will rule in our favor."

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said he would rule in the next few weeks on whether to issue a permanent injunction. If he does not make the injunction permanent, the case will go to trial, according to the AP/Tribune (AP/Bismarck Tribune, 4/4).


Calif. Hospital Allowed To Continue Abortion Ban With Stipulations

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 14:33

The California attorney general's office and a Catholic-affiliated hospital have reached an agreement that allows the facility to continue a ban on most abortions as long it refers women elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Calif. Hospital Allowed To Continue Abortion Ban With Stipulations

April 8, 2014 — The California attorney general's office and a Catholic-affiliated hospital have reached an agreement that allows the facility to continue a ban on most abortions as long it refers women elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times reports (Cowan, Los Angeles Times, 4/4).

The agreement, finalized late last month and announced Friday, also ensures that doctors affiliated with the hospital can continue to perform abortions in their own offices, including those located in buildings that are owned by the hospital, the Orange County Register reports (Wolfson, Orange County Register, 4/4).

Investigation

Last July, California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) began investigating Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian's decision to stop offering abortions after merging with a Catholic health system, St. Joseph Health System.

Harris had previously approved the partnership, saying that Hoag could stop offering abortions if it adopted St. Joseph's "statement of common values," but she required the hospital to "take steps to ensure that alternative providers are available and accessible to all women, especially low-income women." Harris also stipulated that the hospital provide all other reproductive health services for at least 10 years after the merger.

Last May, Hoag CEO Robert Braithwaite said that the decision to stop offering abortions "was not a religious decision" and emphasized that St. Joseph Health System "did not try at any time to impose a Catholic belief or principal on the Hoag board's decision process." He said Hoag decided to end elective abortions because the hospital performs a low volume of them -- fewer than 100 annually -- adding that there is a correlation between low volume and low quality of care.

However, records and interviews obtained by the Los Angeles Times later revealed the decision to stop offering abortions might have been based on the merger, rather than on low demand for the procedure (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1/13).

Agreement Details

The new agreement closes Harris' 10-month investigation of the hospital. It noted that Hoag must establish a referral service -- including a website and call-in phone line -- that provides information to women seeking abortions about where the service is offered elsewhere in Orange County.

In addition, it clarifies the definition of "direct abortions" in writing and requires that Hoag continues to perform abortion procedures in cases of miscarriages, fetal death and to preserve the woman's health. The agreement also states that the hospital must continue to offer women's health services -- including tubal ligation and emergency contraception -- for 20 more years, rather than the 10 years noted in the original merger agreement.

According to the Register, the agreement also requires Hoag over the next five years to donate $4 million to women's health services in the region.

Reaction

Teray Stephens, National Women's Political Caucus vice president of diversity and outreach, said the agreement means that "doctors and OBGYNs have the right in their own private offices to work with their patients and make the choices that need to be made" (Orange County Register, 4/4).

Braithwaite said the hospital fully supports the agreement, adding, "We're excited to continue these efforts in a way that solves some of today's healthcare challenges and mitigates those we see in the future" (Los Angeles Times, 4/4).


Kan. Legislature Avoids Debate on Abortion Ban Bill, Advances Smaller Measure

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 21:55

The Kansas Legislature has approved a bill (SB 448) that would make technical changes to existing antiabortion-rights laws, avoiding a more contentious debate this year over a bill (HB 2324) that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Kansas City Star reports.

Kan. Legislature Avoids Debate on Abortion Ban Bill, Advances Smaller Measure

April 7, 2014 — The Kansas Legislature has approved a bill (SB 448) that would make technical changes to existing antiabortion-rights laws, avoiding a more contentious debate this year over a bill (HB 2324) that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. The approved bill now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a staunch abortion-rights opponent.

The passage of the bill essentially "ends this year's debate on abortion" amid a split among the Legislature's Republican majority over the issue, according to the AP/Star (Hanna, AP/Kansas City Star, 4/5).

Some GOP lawmakers blocked debate on the fetal heartbeat bill in order to aid the passage of SB 448. According to the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, although the fetal heartbeat measure has support in the Legislature, Kansans for Life -- an influential antiabortion-rights group -- worried that enacting such a law could backfire on abortion-rights opponents by leading to court rulings that uphold abortion rights (Hanna, AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/3).

Bill Details

The approved bill would make technical changes such as revising a requirement that abortion providers' websites link to a state site about pregnancy and fetal development. Under the revision, providers' websites would no longer have to say that the state's information is accurate and objective. In addition, the measure would revise certain regulations on medical emergencies under which abortion restrictions are waived (AP/Kansas City Star, 4/5).

According to the AP/Capital-Journal, Planned Parenthood is neutral on SB 448. Planned Parenthood lobbyist Elise Higgins noted that antiabortion-rights legislators chose between making technical fixes to address "an overreach" in existing regulations and "radical" measures such as the fetal heartbeat bill, adding, "It's an indication of how far the anti-women's health movement in Kansas has progressed" (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/3).


Featured Blog: 'AL HB31: Where Saving a Woman's Life Becomes a Question of Conscience'

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 21:55

An Alabama bill "would allow the entire hospital staff, including but not limited to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, counselors, and social workers, to refuse to provide medical care in situations that would 'violate their conscience,'" Feministe reports.

February 4, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

 "AL HB31: Where Saving a Woman's Life Becomes a Question of Conscience," Caperton, Feministe: The Alabama Senate is expected to take up a state House-approved bill (HB 31), "which would allow the entire hospital staff, including but not limited to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, counselors, and social workers, to refuse to provide medical care in situations that would 'violate their conscience,'" Caperton writes. Under the bill, which will apply to "abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization" services, "every provider in the ER can refuse to treat [a woman experiencing a miscarriage] if treatment would result in the termination of the pregnancy" and her life is not in "immediate danger," Caperton adds (Caperton, Feministe, 1/31).

Reopened Wichita Clinic Serves 1,500 Patients in First Year

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 16:58

The South Wind Women's Center, which opened last year at a facility formerly run by murdered abortion provider George Tiller, has served about 1,500 patients and performed 1,200 abortions during its first year of operation, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports.

Reopened Wichita Clinic Serves 1,500 Patients in First Year

April 7, 2014 — The South Wind Women's Center, which opened last year at a facility formerly run by murdered abortion provider George Tiller, has served about 1,500 patients and performed 1,200 abortions during its first year of operation, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports.

According to the AP/Eagle, the clinic -- which is the sole abortion facility in Wichita, Kan. -- opened in April 2013 in the same building where Tiller had offered abortion care up until 2009, when he was murdered by an antiabortion-rights activist. The clinic was closed for about four years after Tiller's death, until his widow sold the building to the abortion-rights group Trust Women.

Trust Women reopened the clinic last year and offers reproductive health care services and abortion care to patients from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women, said that the patient numbers are "right in line with our projections" and that the facility, while still in debt, is financially "on track." However, she also said that "in this line of work, with the legislation that's become law and the political climate, our work at times feels tenuous as best," adding, "It's disconcerting feeling like another shoe could drop."

Meanwhile, a new report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment found that 7,479 abortions were performed in the state last year. According to the department, that figure is the second-lowest number of abortions since 1987 (AP/Wichita Eagle, 4/3).


ACA Boosts Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment by 3M So Far

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:49

Since last October, more than three million U.S. residents have enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program through the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), according to preliminary data released Friday by the Obama administration, the New York Times reports.

ACA Boosts Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment by 3M So Far

April 7, 2014 — Since last October, more than three million U.S. residents have enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program through the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), according to preliminary data released Friday by the Obama administration, the New York Times reports.

For the report, the administration compared Medicaid and CHIP enrollment figures for February 2014 against the average monthly enrollment data from July 2013 through September 2013, just before the ACA's insurance marketplaces launched (Pear, New York Times, 4/4).

According to the Washington Post, the administration previously only reported data on how many people it deemed eligible for the programs, instead of the number of people who actually were enrolled (Sun/Millman, Washington Post, 4/4).

More Details From Latest Data

According to CMS, 11.7 million people were determined to be eligible for Medicaid and CHIP from Oct. 1, 2013, through the end of February (O'Donnell, USA Today, 4/4). As of Feb. 28, total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment stood at 61 million across the 46 states that reported such data (Washington Post, 4/4).

So far, about half all of states and the District of Columbia have expanded, or are in the process of expanding, Medicaid under the ACA (New York Times, 4/4).

In an HHS blog post on Friday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a "much more dramatic increase" in enrollment compared with states that have not (Washington Post, 4/4).

Among states that had expanded their programs by February, CMS reported that Medicaid enrollment increased by an average of 8.3% to a total of 35 million beneficiaries. Meanwhile, Medicaid enrollment increased by an average of 1.6% among states that did not expand Medicaid.

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that at least eight million people likely will obtain Medicaid or CHIP coverage under the ACA this year, the Times reports.

Underreported Data

According to the Times, CMS noted the Medicaid and CHIP enrollment data are underestimates because several states did not report such data for February. In addition, the figures were characterized as preliminary because the federal government could determine that more people are eligible for Medicaid and grant them coverage retroactive to February.

The new data also do not reflect enrollment figures for March, when the administration launched a campaign to get residents to sign up for coverage through the marketplaces (New York Times, 4/4). In addition, the data do not take into account enrollees who signed up for Medicaid through HealthCare.gov, which faced technological problems that prevented the transfer of enrollment information to state Medicaid agencies (Washington Post, 4/4).


Kan. Legislature Avoids Debate on Abortion Ban Bill, Advances Smaller Measure

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:27

The Kansas Legislature has approved a bill (SB 448) that would make technical changes to existing antiabortion-rights laws, avoiding a more contentious debate this year over a bill (HB 2324) that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Kansas City Star reports.

Kan. Legislature Avoids Debate on Abortion Ban Bill, Advances Smaller Measure

April 7, 2014 — The Kansas Legislature has approved a bill (SB 448) that would make technical changes to existing antiabortion-rights laws, avoiding a more contentious debate this year over a bill (HB 2324) that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. The approved bill now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a staunch abortion-rights opponent.

The passage of the bill essentially "ends this year's debate on abortion" amid a split among the Legislature's Republican majority over the issue, according to the AP/Star (Hanna, AP/Kansas City Star, 4/5).

Some GOP lawmakers blocked debate on the fetal heartbeat bill in order to aid the passage of SB 448. According to the AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, although the fetal heartbeat measure has support in the Legislature, Kansans for Life -- an influential antiabortion-rights group -- worried that enacting such a law could backfire on abortion-rights opponents by leading to court rulings that uphold abortion rights (Hanna, AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/3).

Bill Details

The approved bill would make technical changes such as revising a requirement that abortion providers' websites link to a state site about pregnancy and fetal development. Under the revision, providers' websites would no longer have to say that the state's information is accurate and objective. In addition, the measure would revise certain regulations on medical emergencies under which abortion restrictions are waived (AP/Kansas City Star, 4/5).

According to the AP/Capital-Journal, Planned Parenthood is neutral on SB 448. Planned Parenthood lobbyist Elise Higgins noted that antiabortion-rights legislators chose between making technical fixes to address "an overreach" in existing regulations and "radical" measures such as the fetal heartbeat bill, adding, "It's an indication of how far the anti-women's health movement in Kansas has progressed" (AP/Topeka Capital-Journal, 4/3).


Proposed House Appropriations Riders Target Planned Parenthood, Contraceptive Coverage

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:09

House lawmakers in three letters last week asked appropriators to include riders that would restrict funding for Planned Parenthood and undermine the federal contraceptive coverage rules, CQ Roll Call reports.

Proposed House Appropriations Riders Target Planned Parenthood, Contraceptive Coverage

April 7, 2014 — House lawmakers in three letters last week asked appropriators to include riders that would restrict funding for Planned Parenthood and undermine the federal contraceptive coverage rules, CQ Roll Call reports.

According to CQ Roll Call, the requests -- which target Planned Parenthood, the federal contraceptive coverage rules and the United Nation's Population Fund -- are "setting the stage" for a conflict with the Senate, which is controlled by the Democratic Party, in negotiations over fiscal year 2015 spending bills.

Letter on Refusal Language

In a letter sent Wednesday, more than 100 House lawmakers asked House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chair Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, to include language from a bill (HR 940) by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) in an appropriations measure.

Black's bill would allow individuals or employers to refuse to obtain or provide health insurance coverage for any service they oppose on moral or religious grounds. The bill also would boost protections for physicians, hospitals and other health care providers who refuse to provide abortion services.

The lawmakers wrote, "Nothing short of a full religious and moral exemption for both non-profit and for-profit entities will satisfy the demands of the Constitution and common sense."

Letter Targeting Planned Parenthood Funding

In a separate letter sent Friday, about 80 lawmakers also asked Kingston to include a provision in any spending measure that would "end taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., as well as their affiliates." According to the letter, Planned Parenthood receives about 45% of its annual revenue from public funds.

According to CQ Roll Call, current appropriations law prevents federal funding from being used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger.

The lawmakers wrote, "As Congress considers health care reforms under the pressure of rising costs, we firmly believe that organizations that both provide comprehensive health care and respect all life -- both the born and unborn -- are best equipped to offer the most effective health care services to those in need."

Letter on 'Global Gag' Rule, UNFPA

About 80 lawmakers in a third letter Friday asked Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) -- chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs -- to include a provision that blocks U.S. funding to UNFPA and reinstates a provision known as the Mexico City policy (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 4/4). The policy, also known as the "global gag rule," blocks U.S. foreign aid to organizations that use their own money to offer abortion services or provide information about or referrals for abortion services. President Obama repealed the policy shortly after taking office in 2009 (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).

The lawmakers claimed that UNFPA "is known for its complicity in China's brutal one-child policy."

They also wrote, "Reinstating the Mexico City Policy would once again protect our international population control funds from use by foreign nongovernment organizations that promote and perform abortions."

They also asked Granger to set a funding cap rather than a funding floor for family planning and reproductive health services if the committee decides to appropriate money for those services (CQ Roll Call, 4/4).


Senators Request Funding To Address Sexual Assaults at Colleges

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:03

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Friday sent a letter to leaders of a Senate subcommittee asking for federal funding to improve and enforce sexual assault policies on college campuses, the Washington Times reports.

Senators Request Funding To Address Sexual Assaults at Colleges

April 7, 2014 — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Friday sent a letter to leaders of a Senate subcommittee asking for federal funding to improve and enforce sexual assault policies on college campuses, the Washington Times reports (Klimas, Washington Times, 4/4).

The letter was signed by 10 other senators and sent to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, The Hill's "Defcon Hill" reports (Herb, "Defcon Hill," The Hill, 4/4).

According to the Times, the senators asked for $109 million in federal funding to better ensure that the Department of Education properly investigates sexual assault cases that take place on college campuses. The funding would also enable the department to hire more employees who are specially trained to handle such cases.

McCaskill said she thinks further investigations into how college campuses handle sexual assault cases will find systemic issues, such as low reporting, a lack of resources and minimal protection for accusers.

In a statement, Gillibrand said, "When our young people go on to higher education, it should be an opportunity to learn, grow, pursue their dreams and prepare for their future careers," adding, "But for one in five young women on campuses across America, the college experience becomes their worst nightmare, as victims of sexual assault" (Washington Times, 4/4).


Reopened Wichita Clinic Serves 1,500 Patients in First Year

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:00

The South Wind Women's Center, which opened last year at a facility formerly run by murdered abortion provider George Tiller, has served about 1,500 patients and performed 1,200 abortions during its first year of operation, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports.

Reopened Wichita Clinic Serves 1,500 Patients in First Year

April 7, 2014 — The South Wind Women's Center, which opened last year at a facility formerly run by murdered abortion provider George Tiller, has served about 1,500 patients and performed 1,200 abortions during its first year of operation, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports.

According to the AP/Eagle, the clinic -- which is the sole abortion facility in Wichita, Kan. -- opened in April 2013 in the same building where Tiller had offered abortion care up until 2009, when he was murdered by an antiabortion-rights activist. The clinic was closed for about four years after Tiller's death, until his widow sold the building to the abortion-rights group Trust Women.

Trust Women reopened the clinic last year and offers reproductive health care services and abortion care to patients from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women, said that the patient numbers are "right in line with our projections" and that the facility, while still in debt, is financially "on track." However, she also said that "in this line of work, with the legislation that's become law and the political climate, our work at times feels tenuous as best," adding, "It's disconcerting feeling like another shoe could drop."

Meanwhile, a new report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment found that 7,479 abortions were performed in the state last year. According to the department, that figure is the second-lowest number of abortions since 1987 (AP/Wichita Eagle, 4/3).


Ala. Antiabortion-Rights Bills Head to Gov.

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 16:58

The Alabama Senate this week approved two antiabortion-rights bills (HB 489, HB 494), but the chamber did not vote on two other House-approved abortion-related measures before the legislative session ended on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Ala. Antiabortion-Rights Bills Head to Gov.

April 4, 2014 — The Alabama Senate this week approved two antiabortion-rights bills (HB 489, HB 494), but the chamber did not vote on two other House-approved abortion-related measures before the legislative session ended on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Both of the approved bills now go to Gov. Roger Bentley (R), who expects to sign them after a legal review, a spokesperson said (Gates, Reuters, 4/3).

Mandatory Delay Bill

On Wednesday, the state Senate voted 24-10 to approve HB 489, which would extend the state-mandated delay from when a woman receives an initial consultation about an abortion to undergoing the procedure from 24 hours to 48 hours (Sell, Florence Times Daily, 4/2).

Parental Involvement Bill

On Thursday, the chamber approved HB 494, which would increase the state's parental involvement requirements for minors seeking abortions (Reuters, 4/3).

The bill would require parents to provide a minor's certified birth certificate and prohibit "hearsay" in a minor's testimony if she seeks judicial bypass from the parental consent requirement, meaning that a minor could not tell the judge that her parents threatened abuse. In addition, parents accused of abuse would be permitted to attend the hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Other Bills

Earlier in the week, state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) said that the chamber would not take up two other antiabortion-rights measures passed by the state House (AP/Washington Times, 4/2).

One bill (HB 493) would have required physicians to tell a woman whose fetus has a disorder that is incompatible with survival outside the womb that perinatal hospice services are available. If a woman declined the services and chose to end her pregnancy, she would have had to sign a form acknowledging her decision and endure a 48-hour delay period before an abortion.

The other measure (HB 490) would have required a physician to check for a fetal heartbeat before an abortion and made it a felony to perform an abortion if a heartbeat is detectable (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Marsh said he would not consider the fetal heartbeat bill because similar measures have prompted lawsuits in North Dakota and Arkansas, adding, "I would like to see what happens in those states before we spend valuable state dollars" (AP/Washington Times, 4/2).


Ala. Antiabortion-Rights Bills Head to Gov.

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 16:51

The Alabama Senate this week approved two antiabortion-rights bills (HB 489, HB 494), but the chamber did not vote on two other House-approved abortion-related measures before the legislative session ended on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Ala. Antiabortion-Rights Bills Head to Gov.

April 4, 2014 — The Alabama Senate this week approved two antiabortion-rights bills (HB 489, HB 494), but the chamber did not vote on two other House-approved abortion-related measures before the legislative session ended on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Both of the approved bills now go to Gov. Roger Bentley (R), who expects to sign them after a legal review, a spokesperson said (Gates, Reuters, 4/3).

Mandatory Delay Bill

On Wednesday, the state Senate voted 24-10 to approve HB 489, which would extend the state-mandated delay from when a woman receives an initial consultation about an abortion to undergoing the procedure from 24 hours to 48 hours (Sell, Florence Times Daily, 4/2).

Parental Involvement Bill

On Thursday, the chamber approved HB 494, which would increase the state's parental involvement requirements for minors seeking abortions (Reuters, 4/3).

The bill would require parents to provide a minor's certified birth certificate and prohibit "hearsay" in a minor's testimony if she seeks judicial bypass from the parental consent requirement, meaning that a minor could not tell the judge that her parents threatened abuse. In addition, parents accused of abuse would be permitted to attend the hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Other Bills

Earlier in the week, state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) said that the chamber would not take up two other antiabortion-rights measures passed by the state House (AP/Washington Times, 4/2).

One bill (HB 493) would have required physicians to tell a woman whose fetus has a disorder that is incompatible with survival outside the womb that perinatal hospice services are available. If a woman declined the services and chose to end her pregnancy, she would have had to sign a form acknowledging her decision and endure a 48-hour delay period before an abortion.

The other measure (HB 490) would have required a physician to check for a fetal heartbeat before an abortion and made it a felony to perform an abortion if a heartbeat is detectable (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Marsh said he would not consider the fetal heartbeat bill because similar measures have prompted lawsuits in North Dakota and Arkansas, adding, "I would like to see what happens in those states before we spend valuable state dollars" (AP/Washington Times, 4/2).


Featured Blog

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 16:33

"Texas Abortion Providers Head Back to Court in New HB 2 Lawsuit"(Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/2).

April 4, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Texas Abortion Providers Head Back to Court in New HB 2 Lawsuit," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: "A group of doctors announced Wednesday that they will file suit against ... two provisions of [Texas'] HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion law passed last summer," Grimes writes, adding that if one of the contested provisions -- which requires abortion providers to renovate or build clinics "to mirror hospital-style ambulatory surgical centers" -- takes effect, it would "shutter 18 of Texas' 25 existing legal abortion facilities" and leave no options "west or south of San Antonio, or east of Houston." In addition, the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed suit on behalf of "two abortion providers in far south and far west Texas" against the law's hospital admitting privileges requirement, which previously was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She writes that researchers "at the University of Texas' Texas Policy Evaluation Project have estimated that more than 22,000 Texans would be unable to access legal abortion as a result of those two provisions," but "the impact is expected to be much greater if the state is left with only a handful of legal abortion providers, located only in major metropolitan areas" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/2).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Temporarily Blocks Arizona Medication Abortion Rules," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

~ "Mississippi Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban, Governor Promises To Sign," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.

~ "The Return of the Back-Alley Abortion," Laura Bassett, Huffington Post.


Miss. Struggles With Sex Education Despite Policy Changes

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 16:30

A Mississippi law (HB 999) that requires schools to teach sex education to students has not been as effective as intended because of a lack of enforcement and a continued focus on abstinence-only education, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Miss. Struggles With Sex Education Despite Policy Changes

April 4, 2014 — A Mississippi law (HB 999) that requires schools to teach sex education to students has not been as effective as intended because of a lack of enforcement and a continued focus on abstinence-only education, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, the business community lobbied the state Legislature to pass the measure, which required districts to implement sex education by the 2012-2013 school year, because of concerns about the state's high poverty and low education rates related to teenage pregnancy. One-third of all births in Mississippi are to teens, and the state has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S.

Law's Requirements

The sex education law requires that schools offer either an abstinence-only program, which only encourages students to avoid sex outside of marriage, or an "abstinence-plus" program, which teaches about contraception as well as abstinence. Critics of the law -- which expires in 2016 -- have noted that it lacks any type of enforcement mechanism.

In addition, students must get a signed permission form from their parents to participate in sex education classes, resulting in few students actually attending the classes that are offered. Sex education advocates also criticize the law's requirement that male and female students be taught in separate classes and its ban on condom demonstrations.

Sex Ed Still Lacking Despite Changes

According to a study published in February by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, 12% of the state's school districts still do not teach sex education to students. Of the state's 151 school districts and four special schools, 81 chose to teach abstinence-only programs, 71 chose to teach abstinence-plus and some are teaching a mix of the two.

A separate study, also by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, found that the majority of parents and teens in the state think that some form of sex education should be taught in schools.

A key reason why the state is struggling to enact a meaningful sex education policy is because it is one of the most religious in the U.S., the Times reports.

Mississippi First Executive Director Rachel Canter said that implementing sex education programs is "a heavy lift in some communities." She added, "There are strong personalities on some school boards who adamantly believe that the Bible says abstinence only" (Semuels, Los Angeles Times, 4/2).


Number of Uninsured Drops by 5.4M in First Months of ACA Enrollment

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 14:56

About 5.4 million previously uninsured U.S. residents have gained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) federal and state insurance marketplaces were launched in October 2013, according to a study released Thursday by the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center, Modern Healthcare reports.

Number of Uninsured Drops by 5.4M in First Months of ACA Enrollment

April 4, 2014 — About 5.4 million previously uninsured U.S. residents have gained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) federal and state insurance marketplaces were launched in October 2013, according to a study released Thursday by the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center, Modern Healthcare reports (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 4/3).

For the study, researchers used data from the most recent quarterly Health Reform Monitoring Survey, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ford Foundation. The survey polled about 7,500 adults under age 65 (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation release, 4/3).

According to Modern Healthcare, the study provides the "first credible assessment" of the number of uninsured people who have benefited from the array of coverage options in the marketplaces during the first open enrollment period.

Researchers cautioned that 80% of the Health Reform Monitoring Survey was conducted before the first week in March, meaning that the final results might not completely reflect the enrollment surge in the marketplaces since that time.

Additional Study Findings

Researchers also reported a large gap in uninsured rates between states that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA and states that have declined to do so.

They found that 12.4% of adult residents were uninsured in the 26 states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility, compared with 18.1% in the states that have not expanded eligibility (Modern Healthcare, 4/3).

Researchers also found that the states' decisions on Medicaid expansion had an effect on their uninsured rates. The rates dropped by an average of four percentage points since September 2013 in states that expanded Medicaid, compared with a drop of 1.5 percentage points for the nonexpanding states (Urban Institute release, 4/3).

Nationwide, the percentage of uninsured residents declined from 17.9% in September 2013 to 15.2% last month (Ritger, National Journal, 4/3).

Comments

Sharon Long -- a health economist at the Urban Institute and coordinator of the Health Reform Monitoring Survey -- said the decline in uninsurance since September 2013 "reveals a very promising start for the ACA's key coverage expansion provisions," adding, "One can expect even more significant changes as the end-of-March surge in enrollments is accounted for" (RWJF release, 4/3).

However, Jonathan Gruber -- an economist and health care expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- argued that making assessments at this time is shortsighted because there are too little data to assess how the ACA is affecting the insurance landscape as a whole. He added, "This is really a three-year evaluation process," referring to how long it will take for "the law really to phase in" (Modern Healthcare, 4/3).


Ala. Antiabortion-Rights Bills Head to Gov.; Judge Sets Trial Date Over Admitting Privileges Law

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 14:50

The Alabama Senate this week approved two antiabortion-rights bills (HB 489, HB 494), but the chamber did not vote on two other House-approved abortion-related measures before the legislative session ended on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Ala. Antiabortion-Rights Bills Head to Gov.; Judge Sets Trial Date Over Admitting Privileges Law

April 4, 2014 — The Alabama Senate this week approved two antiabortion-rights bills (HB 489, HB 494), but the chamber did not vote on two other House-approved abortion-related measures before the legislative session ended on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Both of the approved bills now go to Gov. Roger Bentley (R), who expects to sign them after a legal review, a spokesperson said (Gates, Reuters, 4/3).

Mandatory Delay Bill

On Wednesday, the state Senate voted 24-10 to approve HB 489, which would extend the state-mandated delay from when a woman receives an initial consultation about an abortion to undergoing the procedure from 24 hours to 48 hours (Sell, Florence Times Daily, 4/2).

Parental Involvement Bill

On Thursday, the chamber approved HB 494, which would increase the state's parental involvement requirements for minors seeking abortions (Reuters, 4/3).

The bill would require parents to provide a minor's certified birth certificate and prohibit "hearsay" in a minor's testimony if she seeks judicial bypass from the parental consent requirement, meaning that a minor could not tell the judge that her parents threatened abuse. In addition, parents accused of abuse would be permitted to attend the hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Other Bills

Earlier in the week, state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) said that the chamber would not take up two other antiabortion-rights measures passed by the state House (AP/Washington Times, 4/2).

One bill (HB 493) would have required physicians to tell a woman whose fetus has a disorder that is incompatible with survival outside the womb that perinatal hospice services are available. If a woman declined the services and chose to end her pregnancy, she would have had to sign a form acknowledging her decision and endure a 48-hour delay period before an abortion.

The other measure (HB 490) would have required a physician to check for a fetal heartbeat before an abortion and made it a felony to perform an abortion if a heartbeat is detectable (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Marsh said he would not consider the fetal heartbeat bill because similar measures have prompted lawsuits in North Dakota and Arkansas, adding, "I would like to see what happens in those states before we spend valuable state dollars" (AP/Washington Times, 4/2).

Judge Sets Trial Date for Admitting Privileges Law

In related news, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on Wednesday set a May 19 trial date for a case over the constitutionality of an Alabama law (HB 57) that requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Reuters reports (Gates, Reuters, 4/2).

Earlier this week, Thompson rejected summary judgment requests from the state and the plaintiffs. Instead, he said that a trial should be held to determine whether the law violates women's constitutional rights by imposing a "substantial obstacle" to their access to abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/1).

On Wednesday, Thompson also extended a temporary restraining order against the law to keep it from taking effect until after he issues a final judgment (Reuters, 4/2).


Miss. Struggles With Sex Education Despite Policy Changes

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 14:50

A Mississippi law (HB 999) that requires schools to teach sex education to students has not been as effective as intended because of a lack of enforcement and a continued focus on abstinence-only education, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Miss. Struggles With Sex Education Despite Policy Changes

April 4, 2014 — A Mississippi law (HB 999) that requires schools to teach sex education to students has not been as effective as intended because of a lack of enforcement and a continued focus on abstinence-only education, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, the business community lobbied the state Legislature to pass the measure, which required districts to implement sex education by the 2012-2013 school year, because of concerns about the state's high poverty and low education rates related to teenage pregnancy. One-third of all births in Mississippi are to teens, and the state has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S.

Law's Requirements

The sex education law requires that schools offer either an abstinence-only program, which only encourages students to avoid sex outside of marriage, or an "abstinence-plus" program, which teaches about contraception as well as abstinence. Critics of the law -- which expires in 2016 -- have noted that it lacks any type of enforcement mechanism.

In addition, students must get a signed permission form from their parents to participate in sex education classes, resulting in few students actually attending the classes that are offered. Sex education advocates also criticize the law's requirement that male and female students be taught in separate classes and its ban on condom demonstrations.

Sex Ed Still Lacking Despite Changes

According to a study published in February by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, 12% of the state's school districts still do not teach sex education to students. Of the state's 151 school districts and four special schools, 81 chose to teach abstinence-only programs, 71 chose to teach abstinence-plus and some are teaching a mix of the two.

A separate study, also by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, found that the majority of parents and teens in the state think that some form of sex education should be taught in schools.

A key reason why the state is struggling to enact a meaningful sex education policy is because it is one of the most religious in the U.S., the Times reports.

Mississippi First Executive Director Rachel Canter said that implementing sex education programs is "a heavy lift in some communities." She added, "There are strong personalities on some school boards who adamantly believe that the Bible says abstinence only" (Semuels, Los Angeles Times, 4/2).


Blogs Comment on Hobby Lobby's Birth Control Investments, Latest Texas Lawsuit, More

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 14:48

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from Slate, Care2 and more.

Blogs Comment on Hobby Lobby's Birth Control Investments, Latest Texas Lawsuit, More

April 4, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from Slate, Care2 and more.

CONTRACEPTION: "Hobby Lobby Invests in Companies That Manufacture Contraceptives. What Hypocrites," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor": "Hobby Lobby's argument in Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby is that its religious opposition to some forms of contraception goes so deep that it represents a substantial burden for the company to allow its employees to use their own health care plans to purchase those forms of contraception," so "it's no wonder" that the company has been accused of hypocrisy after a Mother Jones article revealed that its retirement plan "invests 'in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products,'" Marcotte writes. "If Hobby Lobby's lawsuit is about sincere religious conviction, investing in companies that manufacture contraceptives ... must be a moral transgression," Marcotte continues, adding, "But, of course, this has never been about sincere religious convictions," given that Hobby Lobby "only developed this strong religious conviction ... after [HHS] mandated that contraception be covered in the plan," leading it to "channel anti-Obamacare anger toward the goal of expanding the power of conservative Christian business owners over the private lives of employees" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 4/2).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Hobby Lobby Opposes Birth Control, Except When They Can Benefit From It," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "Access to Birth Control is Disappearing, And It's Worse Than You Think," Marty, Care2.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Texas Abortion Providers Head Back to Court in New HB 2 Lawsuit," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: "A group of doctors announced Wednesday that they will file suit against ... two provisions of [Texas'] HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion law passed last summer," Grimes writes, adding that if one of the contested provisions -- which requires abortion providers to renovate or build clinics "to mirror hospital-style ambulatory surgical centers" -- takes effect, it would "shutter 18 of Texas' 25 existing legal abortion facilities" and leave no options "west or south of San Antonio, or east of Houston." In addition, the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed suit on behalf of "two abortion providers in far south and far west Texas" against the law's hospital admitting privileges requirement, which previously was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She writes that researchers "at the University of Texas' Texas Policy Evaluation Project have estimated that more than 22,000 Texans would be unable to access legal abortion as a result of those two provisions," but "the impact is expected to be much greater if the state is left with only a handful of legal abortion providers, located only in major metropolitan areas" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/2).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Temporarily Blocks Arizona Medication Abortion Rules," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

~ "Mississippi Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban, Governor Promises To Sign," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.

~ "The Return of the Back-Alley Abortion," Laura Bassett, Huffington Post.

MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH: "Successful Home Visit Program for Mothers and Infants Lacks Long-Term Funding," Adele Stan, RH Reality Check: House Republicans and Democrats agree on few things, "but questions and testimony delivered Wednesday [before] the vast and well-appointed hearing room of the Ways and Means Committee suggested that the value of [the] little-heralded Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program may be one," Stan writes. Stan explains that the $69 million, 13-state program funds "home-visit programs whose models have proven to have positive outcomes in reducing child neglect and abuse, and in showing low-income families to thrive as a result of the program's intervention." However, despite the program's success, it "is not fully funded, and only on Monday" did the program obtain "a six-month extension of its funding, which was scheduled to expire last month," Stan writes (Stan, RH Reality Check, 4/3).

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "When It Comes to Teen Pregnancy, Support Is Prevention," Gloria Malone, RH Reality Check: Although the U.S. teen pregnancy rate "is currently at one of the lowest points in the last three decades, it is still one of the highest among industrialized nations," Malone writes, adding that "it's time to consider what investing in the present and future of pregnant and parenting teens might do to disrupt the cycle of poverty and ensure stronger families." Because of "the systemic removal of teenage parents from schools through shame and stigma to a lack of support for pregnant and parenting teens, teenage parents, their families, and their children are on a path to continue living in long-term poverty," she continues, arguing, "What many fail to realize is support is prevention." Malone concludes, "It is long past time that larger teenage pregnancy prevention organizations, policy makers, funders and society realize and incorporate teenage pregnancy support in their teenage pregnancy prevention frameworks" (Malone, RH Reality Check, 4/1).

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "Harvard Student Writes About Being Sexually Assaulted, Then Ignored by Administrators," Katy Waldman, Slate's "XX Factor": The Harvard Crimson student newspaper recently published a letter detailing "an anonymous, first-person account of sexual assault and its aftermath" which opens with, "'Dear Harvard: You Win.'" Waldman asks, "What has Harvard won?" She continues, "After nine months of resisting this student's pleas for action, validation, and empathy in the wake of what she says was sexual assault, one of the best schools in the world has won her surrender." Waldman argues, "Harvard's staff needs better training. More importantly, though, the school needs to reexamine its narrow and outdated assault definition -- and thanks to student advocacy, that language is currently under review." She concludes, "To address sexual violations directly is to both correctly deal with each individual case and to fight back against destructive norms," adding, "[I]t's not Harvard but rape culture that 'won' this week," which means "everyone lost" (Waldman, "XX Factor," Slate, 4/1).

What others are saying about violence against women:

~ "McCaskill Wants Info From Education, Justice on Campus Sexual Assaults," Diana Reese, Washington Post's "She The People."

~ "Mariska Hargitay and Amy Poehler Say NO MORE To Rape Culture's Damaging Myths," Amanda Duberman, Huffington Post blogs.


Video Round Up: O'Donnell, 'Daily Show,' Maddow Recap Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 14:39

In this week's video highlights, Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards and former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger stop by MSNBC to discuss the Hobby Lobby contraceptive coverage case, while the "Daily Show" satirizes the corporation's claim that a crafts store has religious rights.

Video Round Up: O'Donnell, 'Daily Show,' Maddow Recap Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case

April 4, 2014 — In this week's video highlights, Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards and former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger stop by MSNBC to discuss the Hobby Lobby contraceptive coverage case, while the "Daily Show" satirizes the corporation's claim that a crafts store has religious rights.



In an interview with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards notes that the "women on the court actually represent[ed] the interests of women" during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, whereas Justice Antonin Scalia showed "ignorance of and apparent lack of compassion or interest in what it would mean for women to not have access to birth control." She adds that while Hobby Lobby's lawyer opened by calling birth control a "very controversial issue, ... it isn't [controversial] for women," 99% of whom use birth control at some point (O'Donnell, "The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell," MSNBC, 3/25).




In a fake news report mocking the Hobby Lobby case, "Daily Show" senior legal analyst Jordan Klepper explains to host Jon Stewart why the craft store chain can be treated as a person rather than a corporation. Klepper says that like other "decent God-fearing corporations," Hobby Lobby "believes that life begins at incorporation" and therefore supports a "biblically based insurance plan," which covers things like leprosy and flood damage. Klepper also jokes that Hobby Lobby employees should "handcraft [their] own contraception," taking advantage of their employee discounts on craft supplies (Stewart, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central, 3/26).




MSNBC's Rachel Maddow recaps the oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case and speaks with former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger about the legal issues in the case. Dellinger says that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would be "denying the essential moral agency" of female Hobby Lobby employees and "also be setting the stage for endless other claims ... to come out of the woodwork." Dellinger also notes that contraceptive coverage through employer-sponsored health plans is not "some sort of gift" but rather is "part of an employment compensation package that these women have earned" and contributed to themselves (Maddow, "The Rachel Maddow Show," MSNBC, 3/25).

Video Round Up: O'Donnell, 'Daily Show,' Maddow Recap Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 18:02

In this week's video highlights, Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards and former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger stop by MSNBC to discuss the Hobby Lobby contraceptive coverage case, while the "Daily Show" satirizes the corporation's claim that a crafts store has religious rights.

Video Round Up: O'Donnell, 'Daily Show,' Maddow Recap Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case

April 3, 2014 — In this week's video highlights, Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards and former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger stop by MSNBC to discuss the Hobby Lobby contraceptive coverage case, while the "Daily Show" satirizes the corporation's claim that a crafts store has religious rights.



In an interview with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards notes that the "women on the court actually represent[ed] the interests of women" during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, whereas Justice Antonin Scalia showed "ignorance of and apparent lack of compassion or interest in what it would mean for women to not have access to birth control." She adds that while Hobby Lobby's lawyer opened by calling birth control a "very controversial issue, ... it isn't [controversial] for women," 99% of whom use birth control at some point (O'Donnell, "The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell," MSNBC, 3/25).




In a fake news report mocking the Hobby Lobby case, "Daily Show" senior legal analyst Jordan Klepper explains to host Jon Stewart why the craft store chain can be treated as a person rather than a corporation. Klepper says that like other "decent God-fearing corporations," Hobby Lobby "believes that life begins at incorporation" and therefore supports a "biblically based insurance plan," which covers things like leprosy and flood damage. Klepper also jokes that Hobby Lobby employees should "handcraft [their] own contraception," taking advantage of their employee discounts on craft supplies (Stewart, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central, 3/26).




MSNBC's Rachel Maddow recaps the oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case and speaks with former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger about the legal issues in the case. Dellinger says that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would be "denying the essential moral agency" of female Hobby Lobby employees and "also be setting the stage for endless other claims ... to come out of the woodwork." Dellinger also notes that contraceptive coverage through employer-sponsored health plans is not "some sort of gift" but rather is "part of an employment compensation package that these women have earned" and contributed to themselves (Maddow, "The Rachel Maddow Show," MSNBC, 3/25).