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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Blogs Discuss Obstacles for Minors Seeking Abortion Care, Enhanced Sentencing for Pregnant Offenders, More

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 17:01

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Salon and more.

Blogs Discuss Obstacles for Minors Seeking Abortion Care, Enhanced Sentencing for Pregnant Offenders, More

October 10, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Salon and more.

JUDICIAL BYPASS: "This is How Judges Humiliate Pregnant Teens Who Want Abortions," Molly Redden, Mother Jones: Redden discusses her review of more than 40 cases of minors in states with parental involvement laws who petitioned judges to allow them to have abortions. She notes that the Supreme Court in 1979 ruled that states with parental notification or consent laws had to "provide an escape hatch" for minors seeking abortion care, but that the high court did not specify "what form this escape hatch should take." As a result, abortion opponents in several states "put the decision in the hands of judges," who according to Redden's review often "denied minors' petitions for arbitrary, absurd, or personal reasons -- such as a minor's failure to discuss her decision with a priest." Further, Redden notes that many other minors do not receive a court case as all, with "the biggest obstacles" being "the court employees who act as the gatekeepers of the bypass system." She also notes that "since 2010, many states with new Republican governors -- or new GOP majorities in their legislatures -- have made the bypass process stricter" (Redden, Mother Jones, September/October 2014).

What others are saying about judicial bypass:

~ "The War on Women is a War on Teenage Girls: How Judicial Bypass Laws Shame Pregnant Minors and Threaten Personal Safety," Jenny Kutner, Salon.

REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: "Moving Forward: A Joint Statement From Cecile Richards and Monica Simpson," Monica Simpson/Cecile Richards, RH Reality Check: "This summer, we found ourselves in a much needed, public conversation about the limitations of the pro-choice label, the important work of reproductive justice organizations, and the ways Planned Parenthood has fallen short in recognizing the contributions and framework of the reproductive justice movement," write Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, and Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. They note that the conversation "led us to step back and think about how we could better work together," eventually resulting in a meeting this summer among "leaders from several reproductive justice organizations." The organizations "left [the] meeting hopeful and committed to building a stronger partnership, working together as [the groups] explore how an intentional and mutually beneficial relationship translates into action," Simpson and Richards write, adding that the "people we serve need us to change our approach in order to secure reproductive health, rights, and most importantly justice" (Simpson/Richards, RH Reality Check, 10/9).

TEXAS: "More Bad News About Abortion in Texas," Stephanie Hallett, Ms. Magazine blog: Issues surrounding abortion and Texas' "omnibus anti-abortion bill" (HB 2) have "heated up in the last few weeks -- and not in a good way," Hallett writes. Hallett provides a "rundown of what's happening right now," noting that the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals "declined to re-hear a case first brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights in September 2013" that challenged the law's provisions on admitting privileges and medication abortion. She adds that a "request with the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the 5th Circuit's ruling" is "currently before" the high court. Meanwhile, many clinics have been forced to close because of the law, and the "limitations on abortion have left nearly a million Texas women -- primarily middle- and lower-income -- without access to care," she writes (Hallett, Ms. Magazine blog, 10/9).

What others are saying about Texas:

~ "Texas Abortion Providers Head to Supreme Court To Fight Restrictive Anti-Choice Law," Kutner, Salon.

~ "Map Shows Abortion Access in Texas Now Only for Wealthy," Laura Bassett, Huffington Post blogs.

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "Ivy League Rape Nightmare: My Personal Reflection of Progress -- and Pain," Jesselyn Radack, Salon: Radack, director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, recounts a time in college when she "reported a case of sexual misconduct to the police department," and how she felt "outrage at the lax disciplinary measures," which included sending the students involved a "Letter of Warning." She writes that when she tried to work with other students and school administrators "to make the system work better for women," their "input was continuously ignored." She notes that "sexual assault is again front and center news," and "[t]his time around, women are now getting hearings, but they are often little more than kangaroo courts run by inept and insensitive administrators and faculty." She concludes, "Sexual harassment and assault on campus are a nationwide epidemic, which now has the attention of not only university presidents, but the President of the United States," adding, "I never thought that would be possible. Or that it would be necessary" (Radack, Salon, 10/9).

What others are saying about sexual and gender-based violence:

~ "Why is 'Yes Means Yes' So Misunderstood?" Katha Pollitt, The Nation's "Subject to Debate."

~ "The American Restaurant Industry is Number One for Sexual Harassment Claims," Chloe Angyal, Feministing.

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Advocates Urge Justice Department To Renounce the Criminalization of Pregnancy," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: After a Tennessee woman's prison sentence was enhanced by six years for committing drug-related crimes while pregnant, a group of "48 reproductive justice, drug policy reform, women's rights, and civil liberties organizations sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (D) calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to renounce enhanced criminal penalties" for pregnant offenders, Mason Pieklo writes. She writes that the groups in the letter argued that enhancing penalties because of pregnancy conflicts with "science and evidence-based research" that found such policies "harm public health interests." Specifically, the groups condemned a Tennessee law (SB 1391) enacted in April that changed the state's "'fetal homicide'" statute to allow for such sentencing practices (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 10/9).


Last Texas Clinic West of San Antonio Stops Abortions After HB 2 Confusion; More Private Physician Offices Might Offer Abortions

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 15:53

The only abortion clinic in Texas currently open to the west of San Antonio has stopped performing abortions amid confusion following a federal appeals court ruling that allows the state to enforce a provision of an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Last Texas Clinic West of San Antonio Stops Abortions After HB 2 Confusion; More Private Physician Offices Might Offer Abortions

October 9, 2014 — The only abortion clinic in Texas currently open to the west of San Antonio has stopped performing abortions amid confusion following a federal appeals court ruling that allows the state to enforce a provision of an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Carlos Llorca, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/7).

Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a hold on a provision of HB 2, originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

Thirteen clinics were forced to close immediately to comply with the ruling, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency appeal on the clinics' behalf (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).

Confusion Over Ruling

Immediately following the ruling, Hilltop Women's Reproductive Center in El Paso stopped performing abortions and referred women to another Hilltop-operated clinic about 10 miles from the city in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

However, the Texas Department of State Health Services incorrectly told the clinic on Friday that it was exempt from the ruling and could continue providing abortions. According to the AP/Bee, the 5th Circuit panel's ruling had exempted a now-closed El Paso clinic, Reproductive Services, but not the El Paso Hilltop clinic.

The Hilltop clinic stopped offering abortions after learning it was not exempt. It will remain open to take phone calls and walk-ins, and will recommend that women seeking an abortion go to their New Mexico facility (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/7).

Texas Women Might Seek More Abortions From Private Physicians' Offices

In related news, the HB 2 ruling might cause more women in Texas to seek abortions from physicians' offices, the Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports.

According to the Texas Tribune/KHN, state law does not require a physicians' office to obtain an abortion license unless the provider performs more than 50 abortions per year. As a result, physicians' offices that do not have an abortion license are exempt from many of HB 2's provisions.

Dan Grossman -- principal investigator for the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Policy Evaluation Project -- said that abortions performed in physicians' offices might increase only slightly because few physicians currently perform the procedure.

However, Tony Dunn, a Waco ob-gyn and former steering committee chair for the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, said that the recent clinic closures could prompt more physicians to begin offering abortions. He said, "We'll have to wait and see whether physicians in underserved areas are going to step up and include that as part of the services that they offer" (Ura, Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 10/7).


NPR Interview Discusses Development of Birth Control Pill

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 14:35

NPR's "Shots" discusses an interview "Fresh Air's" Terry Gross conducted with Jonathan Eig, author of "The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution."

NPR Interview Discusses Development of Birth Control Pill

October 10, 2014 — NPR's "Shots" discusses an interview "Fresh Air's" Terry Gross conducted with Jonathan Eig, author of "The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution."

Eig explains that the effort was primarily led by activist Margaret Sanger, scientist Gregory Pincus, Catholic ob-gyn John Rock and research funder Katharine McCormick. Together, they helped develop oral contraceptives during the 1950s, when contraceptives were still illegal in several states, Eig notes.

According to Eig, the pill gained widespread popularity and approval through "one of the great bluffs in scientific history." Pincus and Rock had only tested the pill on about 60 women for between six months and one year when Pincus announced at a conference that they had successfully developed the pill. While he knew "that he [had] the science," he was "not sure that [it was] really ready," Eig explains.

The announcement generated an "enormous demand" for the pill, which led to drugmaker G.D. Searle agreeing to manufacture the oral contraceptives and apply for FDA approval, Eig says.

Pincus and Searle then devised "yet another sneaky but brilliant idea," to ask FDA to approve the pill for menstrual disorders instead of "as birth control because that [would] raise a whole bunch of other issues." FDA approved the drug with a warning label that said, "'This pill will likely prevent pregnancy,'" which Eig argues was "the greatest advertisement they could ever have [created] -- because this is what women want" ("Shots," NPR, 10/7).


N.J. Medical Board Revokes Doctor's License Over Unlawful Abortion Procedures

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 14:35

The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners has revoked the medical license of Steven Brigham, who was accused of avoiding state rules by starting abortions later in pregnancy for some women in New Jersey and then finishing the procedure in Maryland, NJ.com reports.

N.J. Medical Board Revokes Doctor's License Over Unlawful Abortion Procedures

October 10, 2014 — The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners has revoked the medical license of Steven Brigham, who was accused of avoiding state rules by starting abortions later in pregnancy for some women in New Jersey and then finishing the procedure in Maryland, NJ.com reports (Livio, NJ.com, 10/9).

Background

Brigham is the owner of American Women's Services, a chain of women's health clinics in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. He is not licensed to practice medicine in Maryland. Over the past 18 years, his medical license has been revoked, relinquished or temporarily suspended in five states.

In 2010, New Jersey officials suspended Brigham's license (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/3/10).

For months, Brigham had been circumventing state authorities in New Jersey by taking patients across state lines to perform abortions at various stages. In one case, Brigham initiated an abortion at about 21 weeks of pregnancy at his clinic in New Jersey, then helped transport the patient 60 miles to Maryland, where a physician with limited experience in second-trimester abortions attempted to complete the procedure. There were serious complications and the woman was taken to an emergency room and required transport by medevac helicopter to another hospital (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/11).

Brigham used the process to circumvent a New Jersey rule that requires abortions to take place in a hospital or licensed health care facility after 14 weeks of pregnancy, according to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.

Penalty Details

The New Jersey medical board found Brigham responsible for several counts of gross negligence, deception and official misconduct. As a result, Brigham has been ordered to pay $140,000 in penalties.

The board will hold another hearing, during which it will decide how much of the state's court costs Brigham must pay, which could be more than $500,000 (NJ.com, 10/9).


Research Review Suggests Epidurals Should Be Administered When Women Choose

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 14:35

Pregnant women who choose to receive pain relief via an epidural during labor and delivery should be able to decide when the epidural is administered, according to a formal research review recently published by the Cochrane Library, Reuters reports.

Research Review Suggests Epidurals Should Be Administered When Women Choose

October 10, 2014 — Pregnant women who choose to receive pain relief via an epidural during labor and delivery should be able to decide when the epidural is administered, according to a formal research review recently published by the Cochrane Library, Reuters reports.

For the review, a research team led by Singapore-based KK Women's and Children's Hospital's Ban Leong Sng reviewed clinical trials that randomly assigned around 16,000 women to have epidurals administered during early or late stages of labor. According to Reuters, the researchers considered epidurals early if administered when the patient's cervix was dilated no more than four to five centimeters, while late epidurals were those administered when the cervix was dilated more than five centimeters.

According to Reuters, earlier studies have warned that administering an epidural early in labor could prolong labor or increase the risk of a cesarean section. However, the new review found that duration of labor and the risk of surgical intervention did not vary between women who had received early or late epidurals.

The researchers concluded "that it would appear to be advantageous to initiate epidural analgesia for labor early, when requested by the woman." They added that the findings are in tandem with recommendations made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Seaman, Reuters, 10/8).


Full Federal Appeals Court Declines To Review Ruling on Texas' HB 2

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 14:34

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday in a 12-3 decision declined to review a three-judge panel's decision to uphold two provisions of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/New York Times reports.

Full Federal Appeals Court Declines To Review Ruling on Texas' HB 2

October 10, 2014 — The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday in a 12-3 decision declined to review a three-judge panel's decision to uphold two provisions of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 10/9).

The first provision requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, while the other provision mandates providers follow FDA protocol, rather than the commonly used evidence-based regimen, when administering medication abortion.

Previous Rulings

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit in March ruled that the two provisions do not unduly burden women's abortion rights. In April, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a petition on behalf of a coalition of Texas abortion providers, asking the full court to review and overturn the decision. The group noted that courts in other states -- such as Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin -- have blocked similar measures (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/11).

Earlier this month, a panel of the same federal court upheld a separate provision of HB 2 that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. That ruling resulted in the closure of more than a dozen of the state's remaining abortion clinics and left many women in the state hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion provider (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

While Texas had about 40 abortion facilities prior to the implementation of HB 2, only eight clinics remain open, according to the Texas Tribune.

Latest Ruling

The 12 circuit court judges who voted against rehearing the case did not provide an explanation for their ruling. However, Judge James Dennis in a dissent wrote that the federal court's decision to uphold the abortion restrictions "flouts" Supreme Court precedent.

In response, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said, "Tragically, Texas has become a cautionary tale for the whole country. That's why Planned Parenthood will stop at nothing to fight these dangerous restrictions on behalf of the women that rely on us."

Meanwhile, the state attorney general's office, which is defending the law, did not comment on the ruling (Ura, Texas Tribune, 10/9).


Blogs Discuss Texas Clinic Closures Under HB 2, Men's Role in Feminism, More

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 19:46

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Slate's "The XX Factor," RH Reality Check and more.

Blogs Discuss Texas Clinic Closures Under HB 2, Men's Role in Feminism, More

October 7, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Slate's "The XX Factor," RH Reality Check and more.

SUPREME COURT: "Six Supreme Court Cases Equality Advocates Should Watch This Term," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Among RH Reality Check's list of upcoming Supreme Court cases to watch, Mason Pieklo lists Young v. United Parcel Service, in which the high court will be "considering just how far employers must go in accommodating pregnant workers." In addition, Mason Pieklo says abortion-rights supporters should keep an eye on Elonis v. United States, in which a man is challenging a conviction for posting Facebook "messages about killing his ex-wife and shooting up an elementary school" on free speech grounds. While there is a possibility for a narrow ruling, Mason Pieklo points out that "a broad ruling from the Court could have far-reaching consequences that could affect the strategies of anti-choice activists who have used violence and intimidation as tools in the abortion rights battle." Other cases to watch include Holt v. Hobbs, which will test religious liberties; Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, which involves redistricting and the Voting Rights Act; Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, a campaign-finance case; and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, a test of the Fair Housing Act (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 10/6).

SEX EDUCATION: "'Students for Life' Tries To Shut Down Sex Week at the University of New Mexico," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: Marcotte recaps the controversy around "what should be an utter non-controversy at the University of New Mexico: The fact that sex was being talked about during Sex Week," She writes that while the week's events had "racy titles and content," the reason for them "is simple enough: It's a way to draw attention to material that actually offers serious lessons about safety and consent." However, she notes, "Anti-choice activists have been at the forefront" of the backlash and "ire -- even though abortions didn't get a single mention in the program schedule," with Students for Life Vice President Sade Patterson instead urging "a workshop on 'how to say no' or how to handle a date-rape situation." Marcotte concludes that comments by such groups are representative of "the anti-choice movement in a nutshell: The belief that sex is 'gross,' and that should be reason enough for you to screw up other people's lives in a futile effort to make them stop doing it" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 10/6).

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "When Domestic Violence Victims Are Imprisoned for Their Abusers' Crimes," Amanda Hess, Slate 's "The XX Factor:" Hess comments on a case in which a domestic abuse victim, Arlena Lindley, "was sentenced to 45 years in prison for child abuse by 'omission,' or failing to protect her son from" abuse by her then-boyfriend, Alonzo Turner, that eventually led to the boy's death. A recent BuzzFeed investigation profiled Lindley's case and explored "how some state laws are attempting to protect children from domestic abuse by penalizing other victims in the household -- largely, women," Hess writes. The BuzzFeed investigation "uncovered at least 28 similar cases in 11 states, where mothers have been 'sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children,'" all of which included "'evidence the mother herself had been battered by the man.'" Hess notes that the investigation "demonstrates how the criminal justice system is scapegoating domestic violence victims in order to cover for its failures to properly investigate and prosecute instances of child and intimate partner abuse" (Hess, "The XX Factor," Slate, 10/3).

What others are saying about sexual and gender-based violence:

~ "When Rape Victims Don’t Know Whether or Not They’ve Been Raped," Ximena Ramirez, Care2.

~ "5 Myths About Domestic Violence," Ellen Hendriksen, Huffington Post blogs.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "The Worst Phone Call of My Career: I’m Sorry Clinics, You Have to Close," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights:" Amiri, of the American Civil Liberties Union's Freedom Project, writes that she "had to make a phone call ... that [she has] been dreading [her] entire career," in which she was forced to tell "amazing abortion clinics" that they had to "close their doors after serving Texas women for more than 30 years." The clinics had to close after an appeals court allowed Texas' sweeping antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) to take effect. A provision of the law "requires abortion clinics to make medically unnecessary and prohibitively costly renovations" that left just "eight abortion clinics" operating in a state that is "home to more than 5.5 million women of childbearing age." Amiri explains that "[a]ll other clinics have been forced to immediately shut down, including two of" the Freedom Project's clients. Amiri concludes that she "can only hope that justice will prevail eventually and that [the clinics] will be able to go back to providing high quality care that women need and deserve" (Amiri, "Blog of Rights," American Civil Liberties Union, 10/3).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Fifth Circuit Allows More Limits on Abortion in Texas," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog.

~ "Closing Down Abortion Clinics, Giving Fetuses Lawyers," Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times' "Taking Note."

FEMINISM: "What Emma Watson's U.N. Speech on Feminism Means for Men," Barbara McNally, Huffington Post  blogs: McNally, founder of the Mother Lover Fighter Sage Foundation, comments on actress Emma Watson's recent speech in front of the United Nations, which "focused on societal misconceptions of the feminist movement and instead of focusing on the word 'feminist,' [spotlighted] the mission and ambition behind the word." McNally writes that Watson's speech concentrated on "encouraging society to think of the many ways gender inequality is also a problem for the males of the world," a topic that "shook the gender scales and ... sparked discussions from both women and men on how gender discrimination is an issue affecting men just as much as it is a concern for women." McNally urges everyone to view gender inequality not as "an isolated female issue," but as "a human race issue" (McNally, Huffington Post blogs, 10/6).

ABORTION PROVIDERS: "More Than 3,000 People Have Signed Up for the First Online Abortion Class," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": More than 3,000 people have registered for the "first online course on abortion care that's ever been offered by a U.S. school," Culp-Ressler writes, adding that the course's creator -- Jody Steinauer from the University of California-San Francisco -- wants to "dedicate more time to a topic that often gets overlooked in medical school." The online class will include lectures from more than 20 faculty members from different institutions to "'place abortion within the context of public health and fill in the gaps left by its exclusion from mainstream curricula in health professions,'" according to the course description. While it is "possible that Steinauer's course will spark some pushback," it also "could make a big difference for female patients who want to be able to talk to their health providers about the procedure," Culp-Ressler writes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/6).


Poll: Majority of Voters Support Paid Family Leave

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 19:16

A majority of voters support paid family leave and other federal efforts to help working families, and such issues could motivate women to vote, according to a poll released last Thursday by Lake Research Partners, the Huffington Post reports.

Poll: Majority of Voters Support Paid Family Leave

October 6, 2014 — A majority of voters support paid family leave and other federal efforts to help working families, and such issues could motivate women to vote, according to a poll released last Thursday by Lake Research Partners, the Huffington Post reports.

The poll surveyed 800 registered voters and was commissioned by the Make It Work campaign. It looked at respondents' opinions on efforts being promoted by the White House, congressional Democrats and Make It Work to enact policies such as paid family leave, equal pay for women, access to affordable child care and a higher minimum wage.

Key Findings

The poll found that 76% of respondents supported efforts to establish flexible workplace policies, equal pay for women and raise the minimum wage. The majority of respondents also supported efforts to ensure affordable child care, according to the Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of respondents said they were motivated to act on these issues. Women, young people and minorities were more likely to support candidates that would pass legislation to ensure such policies.

In addition, the poll found that 64% of respondents said they disagreed that men and women are "generally paid equally" for completing the same work. Further, 80% said the government should ensure workers are treated fairly by their employers.

Tracy Sturdivant, co-executive director of Make It Work, said, "We believe these pocketbook issues will motivate women to get out to the polls" (Bassett, Huffington Post, 10/2).


Quote Round Up: HB 2's 'Devastating' Effect on Abortion Access in Texas, Providing Sex Assault Victims EC Access & M

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 17:41

We've compiled top comments from key stakeholders in women's health, including remarks on the abortion clinic closures under HB 2, the use of long-acting reversible contraception among adolescents and more.

Quote Round Up: HB 2's 'Devastating' Effect on Abortion Access in Texas, Providing Sexual Assault Victims EC Access & More

October 9, 2014 — We've compiled top comments from key stakeholders in women's health, including remarks on the abortion clinic closures under HB 2, the use of long-acting reversible contraception by adolescents and more.

"Given the efficacy, safety, and ease of use, LARC methods should be considered first-line contraceptive choices for adolescents." -- American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement, recommending for the first time that LARC be considered as first choice contraceptive options for sexually active adolescents (AAP policy statement, 9/29).

"The irony and tragedy is any woman of means can have a safe abortion somewhere in the United States. But women lacking the wherewithal to travel can't." -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, discussing the role of legislatures and courts in protecting low-income women's access to abortion (New Republic, 9/28). Ginsburg added that any effort to protect such access "must start with the people" because legislatures "are not going to move without that kind of propulsion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/30).

"Unfortunately, in spite of its increased availability, emergency contraception remains an underused prevention method in the United States, especially for survivors of sexual assault." -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), introducing a bill (S 2876) that would require hospitals that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding to offer sexual assault survivors accurate information about EC as well as access to the drugs, regardless of ability to pay ("Floor Action," The Hill, 9/23).

"Women's constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care have been dealt a devastating blow." -- Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup, on the closure of Texas abortion clinics under a provision of a state antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) (Politico, 10/6). CRR on Monday filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court on behalf of the closed clinics to reinstate an injunction against the provision (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).

"[I]f we can inspire even a small portion of the people who take the course to take steps in their communities to increase access to safe abortion and decrease stigma about abortion, then we have been totally successful." -- Jody Steinauer, on a new online course she is offering at the University of California-San Francisco that will be the first among U.S. universities to focus on abortion care and access (Daily Beast, 10/6). Steinauer said the class would be offered at no cost and that more than 3,000 individuals had enrolled so far (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).


Washington Post, USA Today: TRAP Laws' 'Real Goal' Is To Limit Abortion Access

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 17:40

Editorials from the Washington Post and USA Today argue that while abortion restrictions are often pushed by abortion-rights opponents as ways to protect women's health, the laws actually make women less safe.

Washington Post, USA Today: TRAP Laws' 'Real Goal' Is To Limit Abortion Access

October 9, 2014 — Editorials from the Washington Post and USA Today argue that while abortion restrictions are often pushed by abortion-rights opponents as ways to protect women's health, the laws actually make women less safe. Summaries of the pieces appear below.

~ Washington Post: "[T]here is little doubt" that the "rationale driving states' restrictive laws on abortion clinics -- the health of patients -- is a sham," a Post editorial states, arguing that the recent federal appeals court panel ruling on a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) "is a cautionary tale for other states where abortion rights are under assault." According to the editorial, "The effect of the ruling is that nearly a million women of reproductive age in the Lone Star State now live more than 150 miles from an abortion provider." Further, a "disproportionate number" of those women "live in poor, rural and heavily minority parts of the state, especially the Rio Grande Valley," and many now will "seek abortions, or abortion-inducing drugs, across the border in Mexico," which is likely to pose a "severe threat" to women's health, the Post adds. The editorial states, "The transparent agenda behind [such abortion restrictions] is to gut abortion rights that the Supreme Court extended in Roe v. Wade. That shouldn't be allowed to happen" (Washington Post, 10/8).

~ USA Today: While HB 2 and other laws requiring "that all providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and maintain the same hospital-like standards as ambulatory surgery centers," might "sound reasonable on the surface ... a deeper look reveals the real goal: to make clinics so expensive to run, or standards so hard to attain, that clinics shut down," a USA Today editorial states. The editorial notes that having to travel long distances to the nearest abortion clinic as a result of such restrictions can be "an insurmountable obstacle ... for [women] with low-wage jobs, no paid sick days, child care issues or transportation problems." Further, the editorial states that with "clinics overloaded, more abortions will occur later, when earlier is safer" and that "[w]omen unable to travel might turn to dangerous alternatives." If the Supreme Court justices are asked to rule on the constitutionality of such restrictions, they "ought to recognize that a right burdened by so many unnecessary obstacles ceases at some point to be a right at all," the editorial says (USA Today, 10/8).


Blogs Discuss Long-Acting Birth Control Recommendations for Teens, Ending Hyde Amendment, More

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:59

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, the New Republic and more.

Blogs Discuss Long-Acting Birth Control Recommendations for Teens, Ending Hyde Amendment, More

October 3, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, the New Republic and more.

CONTRACEPTION: "Pediatric Academy Encourages IUDs and Implants for Sexually Active Teens," Martha Kempner, RH Reality Check: The American Academy of Pediatrics for the first time "has recommended that pediatricians consider long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs), including [intrauterine devices] and implants ... over other pregnancy prevention methods for sexually active teenage girls," Kemper writes. "IUDs were once thought to be safe only for older women or women who had already had children," but "research in the past decade has found they are safe for women of all ages, including adolescents," Kemper writes, noting that implants are similarly considered "safe for women of all ages." Kemper notes that recommendations also urge pediatricians to "encourage correct use of condoms for every sexual act, even for those adolescents using a LARC method," which "is particularly important because neither the IUD nor the implant prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV" (Kempner, RH Reality Check, 9/30).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "New Study Shows Free Birth Control Reduces Abortions," Jonathan Cohn, New Republic's "QEDAILY."

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Abortion Restrictions Can Make it Harder To Leave Violent Relationships: What the New Study Means for Our Current Policy Fights," Sharon Levin, National Women's Law Center: Levin, director of federal reproductive health policy for NWLC, urges readers to use a "first-of-its-kind study that documents the connection between denials of abortion and intimate partner violence" as a tool "in the fight to stop bad abortion laws at the state and federal level." She writes, "The crazy thing is that the anti-reproductive rights lawmakers passing these laws often claim that they are doing it to protect women’s health" while at the same time "taking away [women's] access to health care." The study provides "a unique opportunity to bring attention to the danger abortion restrictions pose to women's lives" because it shows that abortion restrictions not only "harm women's health, but that they are detrimental to all aspects of women's lives and equality," she writes (Levin, National Women's Law Center, 10/2).

HYDE AMENDMENT ANNIVERSARY: "The Growing Push To End a Decades-Old Policy That Denies Women Their Abortion Rights," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Many people are "surprised to learn" of the existence of laws restricting abortion access for low-income women, Culp-Ressler writes, referring to the Hyde Amendment, which had a 38th anniversary this week. Culp-Ressler explains that Hyde "prevents low-income women from using their Medicaid plans to pay for the procedure, and has spawned similar restrictions banning abortion coverage for government employees, Peace Corps volunteers, federal inmates, military personnel, and Native American women." Abortion coverage bans like Hyde "ultimately prevent some women ... from being able to legally end their pregnancies," she writes, adding that URGE Executive Director Kierra Johnson, Pro-Choice Resources Executive Director Karen Law and the All* Above All campaign are "pressuring elected officials to finally take a stand." They have made inroads with many local elected officials and also gained the support of at least five members of Congress for "rolling back the Hyde Amendment," Culp-Ressler writes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/30).

What others are saying about the Hyde Amendment anniversary:

~ "Another Year With the Hyde Amendment is Another Year Without Justice," Heidi Williamson, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Hyde Amendment: 38 Year Legacy of Interference With Religious Liberty and Values," Kelli Clement, Huffington Post blogs.

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "We Heart: California's Adoption of Affirmative Consent," Kitty Lindsay, Ms. Magazine blog: "In California, yes means yes!" Lindsay writes, noting that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) recently signed "a landmark piece of legislation [SB 967]" that "requires individuals to receive 'an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement' from their partners before engaging in sexual activity." The law "reimagines consent by throwing out the ambiguous and ineffective 'no means no' and replacing it with an active and sex-positive 'yes means yes,'" Lindsay explains. Consequently, "silence or lack of resistance during a sexual encounter ... no longer is a legitimate excuse for unwanted sexual contact," Lindsay writes (Lindsay, Ms. Magazine blog, 9/30).

What others are saying about sexual and gender-based violence:

~ "NFL Meeting With Black Women's Groups on Domestic Violence a 'Productive' Beginning," Mary Curtis, Washington Post's "She The People."

~ "In Annual Statistics, Most Colleges Claim Zero Reported Sex Offenses," Adam Goldstein, Huffington Post blogs.


Young Pregnant Woman Are Not Receiving Proper Oral Health Care, Study Finds

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:59

Young pregnant women on average have worse oral health and had gone to the dentist less recently than several other groups, according to a study published in CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease, Reuters reports.

Young Pregnant Woman Are Not Receiving Proper Oral Health Care, Study Finds

October 8, 2014 — Young pregnant women on average have worse oral health and had gone to the dentist less recently than several other groups, according to a study published in CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease, Reuters reports.

Background

According to Peter Milgrom -- a professor of Dental Public Health Sciences and Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Washington's School of Dentistry -- gum disease during pregnancy has been found to be associated with certain pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight and premature birth. In addition, Milgrom, who was not involved in the study, said that hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of gingivitis and other oral health problems.

Study Details

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the 1999 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The results included 897 pregnant women and 3,971 nonpregant women ages 15 to 44. The researchers evaluated survey responses to three questions, in which women evaluated the health of their teeth and mouth, when they had last gone to the dentist and why they last went to the dentist (Doyle, Reuters, 10/3).

Key Findings

The study found that 57% of pregnant women ages 15 to 24 said their teeth were in good condition, compared with 86% of pregnant women ages 35 to 44. However, the trend reversed among nonpregnant women, with 75% of nonpregnant women ages 15 to 24 saying their teeth were in good condition, compared with 67% of nonpregnant women ages 35 to 44 (Azofeifa, Preventing Chronic Disease, 9/18).

In addition, the study also found that young pregnant women are less likely than young nonpregnant women to report having gone to a dentist during the past year. Further, among both pregnant and nonpregnant women, those with higher family incomes or higher education levels were more likely to report having gone to the dentist to receive preventive care.

Comments, Recommendations

Senior study author Eugenio Beltrán-Aguilar of CDC said, "There are still some OB/GYNs and dentists who hesitate to give pregnant women dental treatment for fear of putting the child or mother at risk." However, he said that there is "no evidence that dental treatment harms the woman in any way."

He added that the findings on dental health disparities among certain groups, including minorities and low-income women, match "what we see with other aspects of health disparities as well."

Beltrán-Aguilar recommended that women schedule an appointment with a dentist shortly after confirming the pregnancy.

In addition, the study authors recommended that providers use prenatal visits to meet with pregnant women, evaluate their oral health and discuss the importance of dental health to health care overall (Reuters, 10/3).


Study: Robotic Surgery for Ovary, Cyst Removal Has Higher Costs, More Complications

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:58

Robotic surgery for removing ovaries and ovarian cysts results in a higher rate of complications and costs significantly more than regular minimally invasive surgery alternatives, according to a study published Tuesday in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Study: Robotic Surgery for Ovary, Cyst Removal Has Higher Costs, More Complications

October 9, 2014 — Robotic surgery for removing ovaries and ovarian cysts results in a higher rate of complications and costs significantly more than regular minimally invasive surgery alternatives, according to a study published Tuesday in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to some experts, robotic surgery, which involves tiny incisions, offers such benefits as less blood loss, pain and postoperative pain medication compared with traditional open surgery. Other experts have argued that regular laparoscopic surgery has those same benefits and does not involve any additional investment like robotic surgery.

Study Details

For the study, researchers from Columbia University examined "records of more than 87,000 women who had their ovaries or ovarian cysts removed at 502 hospitals between 2009 and 2012." The researchers reviewed use of the da Vinci Surgical System, which consists of robotic arms equipped with surgical equipment that surgeons operate via computer.

Key Findings

The study found that 7.1% of patients who had their ovaries removed with robotic surgery experienced complications, compared with 6% of those who underwent regular laparoscopic surgery. Meanwhile, 3.7% of the women who had ovarian cysts removed using robotic surgery had complications, compared with 2.7% of those who had regular laparoscopy.

In addition, robotic surgery was more costly than laparoscopy for both procedures, according to the study. Specifically, compared with the laparoscopic method, ovary removal using robotic surgery was $2,504 more and cyst removal with robotic surgery cost $3,311 more (Beck, Wall Street Journal, 10/7).

The percentage of surgeries to remove ovaries that used robotic surgical equipment increased from 3.5% to 15% and jumped to 12.9% from 2.4% for ovarian cyst removal during the study period.

Lead study author Jason Wright said, "The big take-home point is that from a hospital's perspective, it's much, much, much more expensive" (Hernandez, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 10/7). He added, "People need to stop and critically analyze whether using this expensive technology will really add any benefit for patients" (Wall Street Journal, 10/7).


Pope Francis Urges Vigorous Debate Over Contraception, Other Issues at Meeting of Catholics

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:58

Pope Francis on Monday encouraged bishops, cardinals and priests gathered for a two-week meeting on the relationship between the church and the family to engage in a vigorous debate about contraception and other issues, AP/Fox News reports.

Pope Francis Urges Vigorous Debate Over Contraception, Other Issues at Meeting of Catholics

October 8, 2014 — Pope Francis on Monday encouraged bishops, cardinals and priests gathered for a two-week meeting on the relationship between the church and the family to engage in a vigorous debate about contraception and other issues, AP/Fox News reports.

Background

To help inform the debate on such issues, Francis last year sent a 39-point questionnaire to Catholic bishops' conferences around the globe, looking for input from lay Catholics and clergy (AP/Fox News, 10/6).

Its intention was to gain a better sense of how people understand and adhere to the church's teachings on contraception, divorce, sexuality and marriage.

The "vast majority" of respondents said the Vatican's moral evaluations on birth control methods are an "intrusion in the intimate life of the couple." In addition, many Catholics said they believe that the "concept of 'responsible parenthood'" means people should be given "the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control."

Many respondents also felt the church lacked the credibility to dictate their decisions. A report from the questionnaires read, "[T]he clergy sometimes feel so unsuited and ill-prepared to treat issues regarding sexuality, fertility and procreation that they often choose to remain silent" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

Details of Synod

The meeting, called a synod, will include 191 church dignitaries, in addition to about 60 experts and lay Catholics, according to the Los Angeles Times (Kington, Los Angeles Times, 10/5).

Addressing those gathered on Monday, Francis said, "You have to say what you feel the Lord tells you to say, without concerns of human respect and without fear." He also urged them to listen to their fellow participants "and welcome with an open heart what our brothers say."

Church reform groups have expressed optimism that the synod could lead to significant changes, particularly considering the pope's recent comments that the church needs to be more merciful and a "'field hospital' for wounded souls." However, conservative members of the Catholic Church have urged for the synod to not change doctrinal issues, but rather help to message the Church's stances to be better understood by lay Catholics (AP/Fox News, 10/6).

The synod will begin with a week of speeches, after which participants will hold private meetings on the issues involved before presenting the pope with a final document (Los Angeles Times, 10/5).

According to NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday," the synod is the first stage of the process and a forum for discussions, but no formal decisions will be made until a second assembly convenes in a year (Poggioli, "Weekend Edition Sunday," NPR, 10/5).


Four Major U.S. Cities Have Thousands of Untested Rape Kits, Report Finds

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:57

Four major U.S. cities have thousands of untested rape kits in police storage facilities, according to data released Friday by the Joyful Heart Foundation, Reuters reports.

Four Major U.S. Cities Have Thousands of Untested Rape Kits, Report Finds

October 7, 2014 — Four major U.S. cities have thousands of untested rape kits in police storage facilities, according to data released Friday by the Joyful Heart Foundation, Reuters reports.

Background

According to Reuters, only a limited number of states -- but no federal agencies -- mandate that law enforcement track rape kit backlogs. Last month, President Obama signed into law the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2014 (HR 4323), which allocates $151 million annually through fiscal year 2019 to the Department of Justice to assist police departments with lowering their rape kit backlogs via a grant program.

Data Details, Findings

In a pro bono collaboration with law firms Goodwin Procter and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, the foundation acquired the data using public records requests. The data release is part of JHF's The Accountability Project, which aims to reveal the number of backlogged untested rape kits across the U.S. (Caspani, Reuters, 10/3).

The foundation found that Las Vegas reported 4,385 untested rape kits in police storage facilities, after only 16% of the rape kits collected from 2004 to 2014 were sent to be analyzed at a lab.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee data showed that the city had a rape kit backlog of 2,655 (Joyful Heart Foundation release, 10/3). The Wisconsin Attorney General also reported that the state had an additional 3,351 untested rape kits.

In addition, Tulsa, Okla., records showed that the city had 3,783 untested rape kits that dated from 1989 to 2011.

Further, Seattle records indicated that the city had 1,276 untested rape kits, after only 22% of rape kits collected from 2004 to 2014 were sent to a crime lab for analysis.

Reaction

Sarah Tofte, director of policy and advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation, said, "This new data reminds us that we still have so much more to learn about the extent of the rape kit backlog in the United States."

Foundation founder Mariska Hargitay, an actress and advocate, added, "To me, the rape kit backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard sexual assault in our society. A rape kit can bring justice, so often an integral part of a survivor's healing. Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter" (Reuters, 10/3).


Notre Dame Petitions Supreme Court To Review Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:56

The University of Notre Dame has asked the Supreme Court to review its case challenging the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules, MSNBC reports.

Notre Dame Petitions Supreme Court To Review Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Rules

October 8, 2014 — The University of Notre Dame has asked the Supreme Court to review its case challenging the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules, MSNBC reports.

According to MSNBC, if the university or a similar plaintiff eventually wins their case, the scope of businesses that are allowed to claim religious exemptions from the law would grow significantly (Carmon, MSNBC, 10/7).

Background

HHS originally crafted an accommodation to the federal contraceptive coverage rules that allows not-for-profits with religious objections to contraception to avoid providing the coverage directly, while also ensuring that members of their health plans have access to the contraceptive coverage benefits under the ACA. The not-for-profits are required to inform HHS of their objections, but some objected to the process for doing so.

In August, HHS in an effort to address court challenges against the requirement announced a new rule that maintains the accommodation but creates a second way for those entities to provide notice of their objections. Under the new option, religiously affiliated not-for-profits can use the original accommodation or send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans. The rule took effect immediately upon publication, but HHS said it would take comments.

Notre Dame appealed case to the high court by Oct. 4 after a lower court denied its request for an injunction against the accommodation (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/18).

Appeal Details

Attorneys for Notre Dame asked the Supreme Court to require the lower courts to reconsider its case against the accommodation in light of the high court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case (MSNBC, 10/7). In Hobby Lobby, the high court said closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

Notre Dame in its petition wrote that "[u]nder the accommodation, religious organizations must take actions that they believe make them complicit in the delivery of the very coverage they find objectionable." They added, "What may seem like an 'administrative' burden to a court may mean much more to a believer."

The university also argued that its continued decision to offer health insurance is an "exercise of religion," and that the contraceptive coverage rules do not serve a compelling public interest (MSNBC, 10/7).


Washington Post, USA Today: TRAP Laws' 'Real Goal' Is To Limit Abortion Access

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:54

Editorials from the Washington Post and USA Today argue that while abortion restrictions are often pushed by abortion-rights opponents as ways to protect women's health, the laws actually make women less safe.

Washington Post, USA Today: TRAP Laws' 'Real Goal' Is To Limit Abortion Access

October 9, 2014 — Editorials from the Washington Post and USA Today argue that while abortion restrictions are often pushed by abortion-rights opponents as ways to protect women's health, the laws actually make women less safe. Summaries of the pieces appear below.

~ Washington Post: "[T]here is little doubt" that the "rationale driving states' restrictive laws on abortion clinics -- the health of patients -- is a sham," a Post editorial states, arguing that the recent federal appeals court panel ruling on a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) "is a cautionary tale for other states where abortion rights are under assault." According to the editorial, "The effect of the ruling is that nearly a million women of reproductive age in the Lone Star State now live more than 150 miles from an abortion provider." Further, a "disproportionate number" of those women "live in poor, rural and heavily minority parts of the state, especially the Rio Grande Valley," and many now will "seek abortions, or abortion-inducing drugs, across the border in Mexico," which is likely to pose a "severe threat" to women's health, the Post adds. The editorial states, "The transparent agenda behind [such abortion restrictions] is to gut abortion rights that the Supreme Court extended in Roe v. Wade. That shouldn't be allowed to happen" (Washington Post, 10/8).

~ USA Today: While HB 2 and other laws requiring "that all providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and maintain the same hospital-like standards as ambulatory surgery centers," might "sound reasonable on the surface ... a deeper look reveals the real goal: to make clinics so expensive to run, or standards so hard to attain, that clinics shut down," a USA Today editorial states. The editorial notes that having to travel long distances to the nearest abortion clinic as a result of such restrictions can be "an insurmountable obstacle ... for [women] with low-wage jobs, no paid sick days, child care issues or transportation problems." Further, the editorial states that with "clinics overloaded, more abortions will occur later, when earlier is safer" and that "[w]omen unable to travel might turn to dangerous alternatives." If the Supreme Court justices are asked to rule on the constitutionality of such restrictions, they "ought to recognize that a right burdened by so many unnecessary obstacles ceases at some point to be a right at all," the editorial says (USA Today, 10/8).


Texas Clinics Petition Supreme Court To Reinstate Injunction After HB 2 Ruling

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:54

Texas abortion clinics on Monday filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction against a provision of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that has left many women in the state hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion provider, Politico reports.

Texas Clinics Petition Supreme Court To Reinstate Injunction After HB 2 Ruling

October 7, 2014 — Texas abortion clinics on Monday filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction against a provision of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that has left many women in the state hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion provider, Politico reports.

If the request is approved, Texas abortion facilities that had been forced to close under the measure would be allowed to remain open as the court case proceeds (Haberkorn, Politico, 10/6).

Background

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday lifted a hold on a provision of HB 2, originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

Thirteen clinics were forced to close immediately to comply with the ruling, and there are no abortion clinics currently open to the west or south of San Antonio. All of the remaining providers are in Austin, Houston and two additional metropolitan areas (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

Emergency Application Details

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the emergency appeal on behalf of clinics forced to close under the provision.

According to the New York Times, the injunction argues that the ambulatory surgical center provision imposed an unconstitutional "undue burden" on women's abortion rights. Further, the injunction contends that the provision does not serve a medical purpose and has resulted in nearly one million Texas women of reproductive age being more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion facility (Eckholm, New York Times, 10/6).

Specifically, the request states, "Many women's constitutional rights will be extinguished before the appellate process runs its course, and their lives will be permanently and profoundly altered by the denial of abortion services" (Herskovitz, Reuters, 10/6).

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "Women's constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care have been dealt a devastating blow. We look now to the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately reinstate the injunction, allow the clinics to reopen and put an end to the irreparable and unjustifiable harm to Texas women that is happening right now."

Potential for Injunction Approval, SCOTUS Hearing of Abortion Cases

According to Politico, it is not clear whether the Supreme Court will grant the request, or whether it would hear the full case if it were to be appealed to the high court.

However, if the high court were to consider the Texas law or one of several similar restrictions in other states, it would "mark the most significant Supreme Court" ruling on abortion since 2007, when it ruled on certain abortions performed later in pregnancy, Politico reports. According to Politico, such a ruling could "draw the line" between states' authority to regulate abortion and their responsibility to maintain access to the procedure.

Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom project, said the issue of state abortion restrictions "is crying out for Supreme Court resolution." She added that such restrictions have "mean[t] that for many, many women, the constitutional right to an abortion is just not a right anymore" (Politico, 10/6).


Last Texas Clinic West of San Antonio Stops Abortions After HB 2 Confusion; More Private Physician Offices Might Offer Abortions

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 16:46

The only abortion clinic in Texas currently open to the west of San Antonio has stopped performing abortions amid confusion following a federal appeals court ruling that allows the state to enforce a provision of an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Last Texas Clinic West of San Antonio Stops Abortions After HB 2 Confusion; More Private Physician Offices Might Offer Abortions

October 9, 2014 — The only abortion clinic in Texas currently open to the west of San Antonio has stopped performing abortions amid confusion following a federal appeals court ruling that allows the state to enforce a provision of an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Carlos Llorca, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/7).

Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a hold on a provision of HB 2, originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

Thirteen clinics were forced to close immediately to comply with the ruling, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency appeal on the clinics' behalf (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).

Confusion Over Ruling

Immediately following the ruling, Hilltop Women's Reproductive Center in El Paso stopped performing abortions and referred women to another Hilltop-operated clinic about 10 miles from the city in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

However, the Texas Department of State Health Services incorrectly told the clinic on Friday that it was exempt from the ruling and could continue providing abortions. According to the AP/Bee, the 5th Circuit panel's ruling had exempted a now-closed El Paso clinic, Reproductive Services, but not the El Paso Hilltop clinic.

The Hilltop clinic stopped offering abortions after learning it was not exempt. It will remain open to take phone calls and walk-ins, and will recommend that women seeking an abortion go to their New Mexico facility (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/7).

Texas Women Might Seek More Abortions From Private Physicians' Offices

In related news, the HB 2 ruling might cause more women in Texas to seek abortions from physicians' offices, the Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports.

According to the Texas Tribune/KHN, state law does not require a physicians' office to obtain an abortion license unless the provider performs more than 50 abortions per year. As a result, physicians' offices that do not have an abortion license are exempt from many of HB 2's provisions.

Dan Grossman -- principal investigator for the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Policy Evaluation Project -- said that abortions performed in physicians' offices might increase only slightly because few physicians currently perform the procedure.

However, Tony Dunn, a Waco ob-gyn and former steering committee chair for the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, said that the recent clinic closures could prompt more physicians to begin offering abortions. He said, "We'll have to wait and see whether physicians in underserved areas are going to step up and include that as part of the services that they offer" (Ura, Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 10/7).


Washington Post, USA Today: TRAP Laws' 'Real Goal' Is To Limit Abortion Access

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 15:32

Editorials from the Washington Post and USA Today argue that while abortion restrictions are often pushed by abortion-rights opponents as ways to protect women's health, the laws actually make women less safe.

Washington Post, USA Today: TRAP Laws' 'Real Goal' Is To Limit Abortion Access

October 9, 2014 — Editorials from the Washington Post and USA Today argue that while abortion restrictions are often pushed by abortion-rights opponents as ways to protect women's health, the laws actually make women less safe. Summaries of the pieces appear below.

~ Washington Post: "[T]here is little doubt" that the "rationale driving states' restrictive laws on abortion clinics -- the health of patients -- is a sham," a Post editorial states, arguing that the recent federal appeals court panel ruling on a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) "is a cautionary tale for other states where abortion rights are under assault." According to the editorial, "The effect of the ruling is that nearly a million women of reproductive age in the Lone Star State now live more than 150 miles from an abortion provider." Further, a "disproportionate number" of those women "live in poor, rural and heavily minority parts of the state, especially the Rio Grande Valley," and many now will "seek abortions, or abortion-inducing drugs, across the border in Mexico," which is likely to pose a "severe threat" to women's health, the Post adds. The editorial states, "The transparent agenda behind [such abortion restrictions] is to gut abortion rights that the Supreme Court extended in Roe v. Wade. That shouldn't be allowed to happen" (Washington Post, 10/8).

~ USA Today: While HB 2 and other laws requiring "that all providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and maintain the same hospital-like standards as ambulatory surgery centers," might "sound reasonable on the surface ... a deeper look reveals the real goal: to make clinics so expensive to run, or standards so hard to attain, that clinics shut down," a USA Today editorial states. The editorial notes that having to travel long distances to the nearest abortion clinic as a result of such restrictions can be "an insurmountable obstacle ... for [women] with low-wage jobs, no paid sick days, child care issues or transportation problems." Further, the editorial states that with "clinics overloaded, more abortions will occur later, when earlier is safer" and that "[w]omen unable to travel might turn to dangerous alternatives." If the Supreme Court justices are asked to rule on the constitutionality of such restrictions, they "ought to recognize that a right burdened by so many unnecessary obstacles ceases at some point to be a right at all," the editorial says (USA Today, 10/8).