Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 32 min 12 sec ago

Featured Blogs

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:27

"'Students for Life' Tries To Shut Down Sex Week at the University of New Mexico," (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 10/6); "The Worst Phone Call of My Career: I'm Sorry Clinics, You Have to Close," (Amiri, "Blog of Rights," American Civil Liberties Union, 10/3); "More Than 3,000 People Have Signed Up for the First Online Abortion Class," (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/6).

October 7, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"'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).

FEATURED BLOG

"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."

 

FEATURED BLOG

"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).


UCSF To Offer Online Class Addressing Abortion Access and Care

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:21

The University of California-San Francisco, for the first time ever among U.S. universities, is offering an online class focused on abortion care and access, the Daily Beast reports.

UCSF To Offer Online Class Addressing Abortion Access and Care

October 7, 2014 — The University of California-San Francisco, for the first time ever among U.S. universities, is offering an online class focused on abortion care and access, the Daily Beast reports.

Background

According to a 2005 review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, less than one-third of U.S. medical schools offered at least one lecture focused on abortion during students' clinical years. In addition, a 2009 survey published in Contraception found that one-third of medical schools in North America excluded abortion education in preclinical courses.

Jody Steinauer, director of the new course, which will be offered at no cost, said abortion is often not taught because of a misconception that the procedure is uncommon. Further some professors "fee[l] safer" not discussing abortion because it "sometimes makes people feel emotional," Steinauer said.

Class Details

The class, titled "Abortion: Quality Care and Public Health Implications," runs over six weeks starting Oct. 13, and it will be offered via the online platform Coursera. The course will focus on abortion care during and after the first trimester before addressing obstacles that hinder access to safe abortion and abortion access worldwide.

Steinauer said, "I think that if 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."

According to Steinauer, more than 3,000 people have enrolled in the class so far. She added that offering it online will allow for a "global audience of learners" rather than restricting it to students in the U.S. She noted that it is important that the class has a global reach because about 13% of maternal deaths worldwide are associated with unsafe abortions (Allen, Daily Beast, 10/6).


Mo. 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Likely To Take Effect Without Legal Challenges

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:21

Missouri's lone abortion clinic is not expected to challenge a new state law (HR 1307) that requires a 72-hour mandatory delay before women seeking abortions can obtain the procedure, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Mo. 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Likely To Take Effect Without Legal Challenges

October 7, 2014 — Missouri's lone abortion clinic is not expected to challenge a new state law (HR 1307) that requires a 72-hour mandatory delay before women seeking abortions can obtain the procedure, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The law is scheduled to take effect on Friday (Lieb, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/5).

The law triples the state's current mandatory delay of 24 hours and does not allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Women with medical emergencies are exempt under the 24-hour mandatory delay and will continue to be exempt under the new legislation. The law also includes a provision that will require the state to revert to the 24-hour delay if a court strikes down the 72-hour delay (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/29).

Planned Parenthood, ACLU Unlikely To File Suit

According to the AP/Bee, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have both indicated that they will not file suit because they think they are unlikely to win a legal challenge against the law before it goes into effect.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri President Paula Gianino said, "We've had our national attorneys from all of the leading women's health organizations in the country work with us, and we have a consensus that we do not have a route at this time to go to court and to stop this law from going into effect -- as disappointing and as frustrating as that is."

Similarly, an ACLU attorney said the group, which has before challenged abortion restrictions, does not plan to try to block the law before it takes effect.

However, the groups' officials said they are still open to challenging the law after it takes effect. ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said to do so, the organizations would have to locate a woman who is willing to serve as a plaintiff in the case, such as a woman who became pregnant as the result of rape or incest and was particularly burdened by the mandatory delay.

Meanwhile, Denise Burke, vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life, said such delays "have been consistently upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal and state courts" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/5).


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

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:20

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).


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

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 16:18

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).


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

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:48

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Slate's "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 "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).


Mo. 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Likely To Take Effect Without Legal Challenges

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:28

Missouri's lone abortion clinic is not expected to challenge a new state law (HR 1307) that requires a 72-hour mandatory delay before women seeking abortions can obtain the procedure, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Mo. 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Likely To Take Effect Without Legal Challenges

October 7, 2014 — Missouri's lone abortion clinic is not expected to challenge a new state law (HR 1307) that requires a 72-hour mandatory delay before women seeking abortions can obtain the procedure, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The law is scheduled to take effect on Friday (Lieb, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/5).

The law triples the state's current mandatory delay of 24 hours and does not allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Women with medical emergencies are exempt under the 24-hour mandatory delay and will continue to be exempt under the new legislation. The law also includes a provision that will require the state to revert to the 24-hour delay if a court strikes down the 72-hour delay (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/29).

Planned Parenthood, ACLU Unlikely To File Suit

According to the AP/Bee, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have both indicated that they will not file suit because they think they are unlikely to win a legal challenge against the law before it goes into effect.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri President Paula Gianino said, "We've had our national attorneys from all of the leading women's health organizations in the country work with us, and we have a consensus that we do not have a route at this time to go to court and to stop this law from going into effect -- as disappointing and as frustrating as that is."

Similarly, an ACLU attorney said the group, which has before challenged abortion restrictions, does not plan to try to block the law before it takes effect.

However, the groups' officials said they are still open to challenging the law after it takes effect. ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said to do so, the organizations would have to locate a woman who is willing to serve as a plaintiff in the case, such as a woman who became pregnant as the result of rape or incest and was particularly burdened by the mandatory delay.

Meanwhile, Denise Burke, vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life, said such delays "have been consistently upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal and state courts" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/5).


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

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:26

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).


UCSF To Offer Online Class Addressing Abortion Access and Care

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:23

The University of California-San Francisco, for the first time ever among U.S. universities, is offering an online class focused on abortion care and access, the Daily Beast reports.

UCSF To Offer Online Class Addressing Abortion Access and Care

October 7, 2014 — The University of California-San Francisco, for the first time ever among U.S. universities, is offering an online class focused on abortion care and access, the Daily Beast reports.

Background

According to a 2005 review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, less than one-third of U.S. medical schools offered at least one lecture focused on abortion during students' clinical years. In addition, a 2009 survey published in Contraception found that one-third of medical schools in North America excluded abortion education in preclinical courses.

Jody Steinauer, director of the new course, which will be offered at no cost, said abortion is often not taught because of a misconception that the procedure is uncommon. Further some professors "fee[l] safer" not discussing abortion because it "sometimes makes people feel emotional," Steinauer said.

Class Details

The class, titled "Abortion: Quality Care and Public Health Implications," runs over six weeks starting Oct. 13, and it will be offered via the online platform Coursera. The course will focus on abortion care during and after the first trimester before addressing obstacles that hinder access to safe abortion and abortion access worldwide.

Steinauer said, "I think that if 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."

According to Steinauer, more than 3,000 people have enrolled in the class so far. She added that offering it online will allow for a "global audience of learners" rather than restricting it to students in the U.S. She noted that it is important that the class has a global reach because about 13% of maternal deaths worldwide are associated with unsafe abortions (Allen, Daily Beast, 10/6).


Texas Clinics Juggle Appointments After HB 2 Ruling; Supreme Court Review Expected

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 17:11

Texas abortion clinics that were forced to close down or suspend services after a federal appeals court panel lifted a hold against a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) have been trying to contact women with previously scheduled appointments to cancel or reschedule, the Washington Post reports.

Texas Clinics Juggle Appointments After HB 2 Ruling; Supreme Court Review Expected

October 6, 2014 — Texas abortion clinics that were forced to close down or suspend services after a federal appeals court panel lifted a hold against a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) have been trying to contact women with previously scheduled appointments to cancel or reschedule, the Washington Post reports (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 10/3).

An HB 2 provision that was originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards at ambulatory surgical centers.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in August barred enforcement of the provision, but a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the hold on Thursday. The 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).

Several Women Showing Up to Clinics

According to the Post, a Whole Woman's Health clinic in McAllen had between 35 and 40 abortion procedures scheduled for this past weekend, while a Whole Woman's Health clinic in Fort Worth had 70 to 100 procedures scheduled.

Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said staff at both clinics began reaching out to patients and physicians following the court's ruling to notify them the facilities would no longer provide abortions for the time being. However, the facilities have not been able to get in contact with everyone, and some women have been arriving at the clinics without knowledge of the court's ruling.

Women who showed up to the McAllen clinic were notified that the nearest facility offering abortions was about 250 miles away in San Antonio (Washington Post, 10/3). Some women had to wait several hours in an attempt to schedule their appointments elsewhere, some of which had to be rescheduled for weeks later, according to the New York Times (Tillman/Eckholm, New York Times, 10/3).

According to the AP/Sacramento Bee, some women in the state have been referred to clinics in New Mexico (Crary/Carlos Llorca, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3). Meanwhile, others have inquired about receiving abortion services in Mexico (New York Times, 10/3).

Whole Woman's Health officials said the McAllen clinic would stay open as a "safe house" for women continuing to seek abortion services (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3). Miller said, "The need for care in the valley remains. Women are coming to our doors asking for assistance, and we'll do our best to help women get the help they deserve" (New York Times, 10/3).

Abortion-Rights Groups Expect Supreme Court Review

In related news, abortion-rights supporters expect the Supreme Court to eventually review HB 2, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3).

The current ruling is temporary and could potentially be reversed as the underlying case moves forward, but the appeals court wrote that the state would likely prevail in a full appeal. The state's abortion providers said they are considering their legal options, including asking the full 5th Circuit to hear the case or appealing the decision to the Supreme Court (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "This case is ultimately going to end up with the Supreme Court," adding, "It is going to be a showdown ... on whether the promise of Roe [v. Wade] will have meaning in the United States."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards added, "Texas is an incredible cautionary tale of what these kind of restrictions lead to when you start putting politics ahead of women's health. I hope the Supreme Court is watching carefully what the impact is on real women's lives" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3).

Op-Ed: HB 2 Imposes a Clear 'Undue Burden'

The idea that HB 2 protects women's health is "[h]ogwash," Ruth Marcus writes in a Washington Post opinion piece, adding, "If anything, the law endangers women by making access to abortion more difficult, leading to later-term -- and consequently riskier -- procedures."

Marcus notes that the recent rulings allowing the law's requirements to take effect "mean that about one in six Texas women seeking an abortion will live more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic" and that there will be no abortion clinics in a "huge swath of the state west and south of San Antonio." Meanwhile, the remaining clinics attempting to handle the "resulting demand ... would have to quadruple the number of abortions performed in order to keep up," she writes, adding, "Tell me again: This is about women's health?"

Marcus concludes, "In the Texas case, the appeals court got it dangerously wrong. Scarier still is imagining what the [Supreme Court] might do if called on, once again, to rule on abortion and undue burdens" (Marcus, Washington Post, 10/3).


Wash. Lawmakers Plan Bill To Protect Contraceptive Access

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 17:08

Washington state Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next year aimed at protecting women's access to contraception in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Seattle Times' "Healthcare Checkup" reports.

Wash. Lawmakers Plan Bill To Protect Contraceptive Access

October 6, 2014 — Washington state Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next year aimed at protecting women's access to contraception in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Seattle Times' "Healthcare Checkup" reports (Stiffler, "Healthcare Checkup," Seattle Times, 10/2).

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that 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).

Details of Legislation

The upcoming legislation, announced last week by five Democratic state senators, will argue that employers limiting access to no-cost contraceptives violates Washington state's anti-discrimination laws and declare that "barrier-free access to birth control remains a fundamental right" (Santos, Tacoma News Tribune, 10/2).

Specifically, the state senators cited Initiative 120, a referendum approved by voters that protects abortion rights; the Washington Law Against Discrimination; and state Human Rights Commission enforcement provisions as the legal basis for their upcoming legislation ("Healthcare Checkup," Seattle Times, 10/2).

State Sen. Karen Keiser (D) said, "We're not really addressing the insurance issue in this, but we are addressing the issue of discrimination against women." She added, "The Hobby Lobby decision affects one class of people, one group, and all of them have female as their gender."

Timetable, Election Impact

The lawmakers said they plan to introduce the measure when the legislative session begins in 2015.

However, they noted that they do not expect the legislation to advance if Democrats do not pick up two seats and regain control of the state Senate in this fall's elections. They noted that Republican lawmakers earlier this year blocked the passage of a bill (HB 2148) that would have required most health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services (Tacoma News Tribune, 10/2).


Okla. Abortion Provider Files Suit Over Admitting Privileges Law

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 17:06

An Oklahoma physician on Thursday filed suit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports.

Okla. Abortion Provider Files Suit Over Admitting Privileges Law

October 6, 2014 — An Oklahoma physician on Thursday filed suit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports (Green, Oklahoman, 10/2).

The law also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions. It is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/28).

Lawsuit Details

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of Larry Burns, who performs about half the abortions in the state and is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma. The lawsuit was filed days after CRR filed suit against another state law (HB 2684) that restricts medication abortion (Oklahoman, 10/2).

According to the latest suit, Burns will be forced to close his clinic when the law takes effect because he has not been able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the 16 hospitals in qualifying distance of his clinic (Juozapavicius, AP/ABC News, 10/2). CRR argued that the law violates constitutional rights of equal protection and due process and that it violates a requirement that all bills in the state address only one topic.

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "This latest restriction on abortion, like all the others that have been passed by this Legislature and subsequently blocked by the courts, reflects nothing more than a single-minded obsession with shutting down the clinics that offer safe, legal care to women who have" an abortion (Oklahoman, 10/2).


Texas Clinics Juggle Appointments After HB 2 Ruling; Supreme Court Review Expected

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 16:08

Texas abortion clinics that were forced to close down or suspend services after a federal appeals court panel lifted a hold against a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) have been trying to contact women with previously scheduled appointments to cancel or reschedule, the Washington Post reports.

Texas Clinics Juggle Appointments After HB 2 Ruling; Supreme Court Review Expected

October 6, 2014 — Texas abortion clinics that were forced to close down or suspend services after a federal appeals court panel lifted a hold against a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) have been trying to contact women with previously scheduled appointments to cancel or reschedule, the Washington Post reports (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 10/3).

An HB 2 provision that was originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards at ambulatory surgical centers.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in August barred enforcement of the provision, but a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the hold on Thursday. The 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).

Several Women Showing Up to Clinics

According to the Post, a Whole Woman's Health clinic in McAllen had between 35 and 40 abortion procedures scheduled for this past weekend, while a Whole Woman's Health clinic in Fort Worth had 70 to 100 procedures scheduled.

Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said staff at both clinics began reaching out to patients and physicians following the court's ruling to notify them the facilities would no longer provide abortions for the time being. However, the facilities have not been able to get in contact with everyone, and some women have been arriving at the clinics without knowledge of the court's ruling.

Women who showed up to the McAllen clinic were notified that the nearest facility offering abortions was about 250 miles away in San Antonio (Washington Post, 10/3). Some women had to wait several hours in an attempt to schedule their appointments elsewhere, some of which had to be rescheduled for weeks later, according to the New York Times (Tillman/Eckholm, New York Times, 10/3).

According to the AP/Sacramento Bee, some women in the state have been referred to clinics in New Mexico (Crary/Carlos Llorca, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3). Meanwhile, others have inquired about receiving abortion services in Mexico (New York Times, 10/3).

Whole Woman's Health officials said the McAllen clinic would stay open as a "safe house" for women continuing to seek abortion services (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3). Miller said, "The need for care in the valley remains. Women are coming to our doors asking for assistance, and we'll do our best to help women get the help they deserve" (New York Times, 10/3).

Abortion-Rights Groups Expect Supreme Court Review

In related news, abortion-rights supporters expect the Supreme Court to eventually review HB 2, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3).

The current ruling is temporary and could potentially be reversed as the underlying case moves forward, but the appeals court wrote that the state would likely prevail in a full appeal. The state's abortion providers said they are considering their legal options, including asking the full 5th Circuit to hear the case or appealing the decision to the Supreme Court (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "This case is ultimately going to end up with the Supreme Court," adding, "It is going to be a showdown ... on whether the promise of Roe [v. Wade] will have meaning in the United States."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards added, "Texas is an incredible cautionary tale of what these kind of restrictions lead to when you start putting politics ahead of women's health. I hope the Supreme Court is watching carefully what the impact is on real women's lives" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3).

Op-Ed: HB 2 Imposes a Clear 'Undue Burden'

The idea that HB 2 protects women's health is "[h]ogwash," Ruth Marcus writes in a Washington Post opinion piece, adding, "If anything, the law endangers women by making access to abortion more difficult, leading to later-term -- and consequently riskier -- procedures."

Marcus notes that the recent rulings allowing the law's requirements to take effect "mean that about one in six Texas women seeking an abortion will live more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic" and that there will be no abortion clinics in a "huge swath of the state west and south of San Antonio." Meanwhile, the remaining clinics attempting to handle the "resulting demand ... would have to quadruple the number of abortions performed in order to keep up," she writes, adding, "Tell me again: This is about women's health?"

Marcus concludes, "In the Texas case, the appeals court got it dangerously wrong. Scarier still is imagining what the [Supreme Court] might do if called on, once again, to rule on abortion and undue burdens" (Marcus, Washington Post, 10/3).


Okla. Abortion Provider Files Suit Over Admitting Privileges Law

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 16:05

An Oklahoma physician on Thursday filed suit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports.

Okla. Abortion Provider Files Suit Over Admitting Privileges Law

October 6, 2014 — An Oklahoma physician on Thursday filed suit against a state law (SB 1848) requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, the Oklahoman reports (Green, Oklahoman, 10/2).

The law also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions. It is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/28).

Lawsuit Details

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of Larry Burns, who performs about half the abortions in the state and is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma. The lawsuit was filed days after CRR filed suit against another state law (HB 2684) that restricts medication abortion (Oklahoman, 10/2).

According to the latest suit, Burns will be forced to close his clinic when the law takes effect because he has not been able to obtain admitting privileges at any of the 16 hospitals in qualifying distance of his clinic (Juozapavicius, AP/ABC News, 10/2). CRR argued that the law violates constitutional rights of equal protection and due process and that it violates a requirement that all bills in the state address only one topic.

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "This latest restriction on abortion, like all the others that have been passed by this Legislature and subsequently blocked by the courts, reflects nothing more than a single-minded obsession with shutting down the clinics that offer safe, legal care to women who have" an abortion (Oklahoman, 10/2).


Wash. Lawmakers Plan Bill To Protect Contraceptive Access

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 14:24

Washington state Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next year aimed at protecting women's access to contraception in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Seattle Times' "Healthcare Checkup" reports.

Wash. Lawmakers Plan Bill To Protect Contraceptive Access

October 6, 2014 — Washington state Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next year aimed at protecting women's access to contraception in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Seattle Times' "Healthcare Checkup" reports (Stiffler, "Healthcare Checkup," Seattle Times, 10/2).

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that 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).

Details of Legislation

The upcoming legislation, announced last week by five Democratic state senators, will argue that employers limiting access to no-cost contraceptives violates Washington state's anti-discrimination laws and declare that "barrier-free access to birth control remains a fundamental right" (Santos, Tacoma News Tribune, 10/2).

Specifically, the state senators cited Initiative 120, a referendum approved by voters that protects abortion rights; the Washington Law Against Discrimination; and state Human Rights Commission enforcement provisions as the legal basis for their upcoming legislation ("Healthcare Checkup," Seattle Times, 10/2).

State Sen. Karen Keiser (D) said, "We're not really addressing the insurance issue in this, but we are addressing the issue of discrimination against women." She added, "The Hobby Lobby decision affects one class of people, one group, and all of them have female as their gender."

Timetable, Election Impact

The lawmakers said they plan to introduce the measure when the legislative session begins in 2015.

However, they noted that they do not expect the legislation to advance if Democrats do not pick up two seats and regain control of the state Senate in this fall's elections. They noted that Republican lawmakers earlier this year blocked the passage of a bill (HB 2148) that would have required most health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services (Tacoma News Tribune, 10/2).


Poll: Majority of Voters Support Paid Family Leave

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 14:21

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 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 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).


Featured Blog

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 18:50

"We Heart: California's Adoption of Affirmative Consent" (Lindsay, Ms. Magazine blog, 9/30).

October 3, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"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.


Catholic Group Files Complaint Over Calif. Abortion Coverage Rules

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 18:41

The California Catholic Conference on Tuesday filed a federal civil rights complaint over a requirement that the state's insurers must provide abortion coverage, the AP/Wall Street Journal reports.

Catholic Group Files Complaint Over Calif. Abortion Coverage Rules

October 3, 2014 — The California Catholic Conference on Tuesday filed a federal civil rights complaint over a requirement that the state's insurers must provide abortion coverage, the AP/Wall Street Journal reports (AP/Wall Street Journal, 10/1).

Background

In August, the California Department of Managed Health Care sent a letter to seven insurers notifying them that all group plans in the state "must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally" in their coverage.

The letter came after two Catholic universities in California -- Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University -- changed their employer health insurance policies to no longer cover abortions unless they are necessary to protect a woman's health (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/2).

Details of Complaint

In the complaint, CCC alleges that the state DMHC violated the federal Weldon Amendment, which permits the federal government to withhold funding from agencies, state or local governments and other programs for discriminating against hospitals, insurers or physicians over their refusal to participate in care or coverage related to abortion (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/1).

CCC also alleges that the administrative order directly targeted Catholic institutions (Payers & Providers, 10/2).

Rachel Seeger, a spokesperson for HHS' Office for Civil Rights, said the complaint is under review (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/1).


Lawsuit Challenges Changes to Ala. Parental Involvement Requirements

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 18:38

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law (HB 494) that modifies parental involvement requirements for minors seeking abortions, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Lawsuit Challenges Changes to Ala. Parental Involvement Requirements

October 3, 2014 — The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging an Alabama law (HB 494) that modifies parental involvement requirements for minors seeking abortions, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Rawls, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).

Details of Law

The challenged law requires parents to provide a minor's certified birth certificate and prohibits "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 are permitted to attend the hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/4). The law also allows a district attorney to be involved in the hearing, allows a judge to appoint an attorney to represent the "interests" of the fetus, and allows the attorney and the DA to subpoena witnesses for the hearing.

Lawsuit Details

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on behalf of Reproductive Health Services of Montgomery, Ala., argues that the law creates significant barriers for minors who cannot safely obtain parental consent for an abortion because of parental abuse or neglect. In addition, the suit contends that the law goes beyond any other state's abortion restrictions for minors.

Reaction

ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson said that the law "aims to shame a young woman into not having an abortion."

Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement, "Forcing a teen to go on trial to get an abortion doesn't make her any safer and doesn't bring families together. It just puts her at risk and could lead her to seek an illegal, unsafe abortion. None of us want that."

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) said his office is reviewing the lawsuit (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).


Federal Appeals Court Lifts Hold on Texas Antiabortion-Rights Law, Forcing Clinics To End Services

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 18:37

A federal appeals court panel on Thursday lifted a hold against a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), resulting in the closure of more than a dozen of the state's remaining abortion clinics and leaving many women in the state hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion provider, the New York Times reports.

Federal Appeals Court Lifts Hold on Texas Antiabortion-Rights Law, Forcing Clinics To End Services

October 3, 2014 — A federal appeals court panel on Thursday lifted a hold against a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), resulting in the closure of more than a dozen of the state's remaining abortion clinics and leaving many women in the state hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion provider, the New York Times reports (Fernandez, New York Times, 10/2).

The ruling is temporary and could potentially be reversed as the underlying case moves forward, but the appeals court wrote that the state would likely prevail in a full appeal (Weber, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/3). The state's abortion providers said they are considering their legal options, including asking the full 5th Circuit to hear the case or appealing the decision to the Supreme Court (New York Times, 10/2).

Background

An HB 2 provision that was originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards at ambulatory surgical centers. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in August barred enforcement of the provision, ruling it unconstitutional, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) quickly appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/15). Yeakel also blocked enforcement of a provision that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the facility where they practice.

Impact

According to the Times, 13 clinics were forced to close immediately to comply with the latest 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. The Times notes that there were 41 abortion facilities in Texas -- a state with about 5.4 million women of reproductive age -- before HB 2 was enacted in 2013 (New York Times, 10/2).

The ruling also means that about 750,000 women of reproductive age, most of whom live in West Texas and near the Texas-Mexico border, are now more than 200 miles away from the nearest abortion facility, according to state abortion clinic lawyers (Eaton/McSwane, Austin American-Statesman, 10/2).

Ruling Details

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state's attorneys in ruling that the ambulatory surgical centers provision and resulting clinic closures would not cause a "large fraction" of women in the state to face an unconstitutional burden on their abortion rights (New York Times, 10/2).

The judges based their ruling on the "large fraction" test they said was created by the 1992 Supreme Court ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey (Sullivan, "Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/3).

The abortion clinics had cited evidence that the enforcement of the provision would result in one in six Texas women living more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion facility. However, the panel wrote that such a number "is nowhere near a 'large fraction'" (New York Times, 10/2). The judges said that the Supreme Court justices in the Casey case had upheld an abortion restriction that left some women about six hours away from the nearest clinic ("Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/3).

The judges also wrote that Yeakel's previous decision invalidating the admitting privileges rule throughout the state, even though the request was from one clinic in El Paso and another in McAllen, was "inappropriate because plaintiffs did not request that relief" and was "directly contrary to this circuit's precedent" (New York Times, 10/2).

Fifth Circuit Among Most Conservative

According to "Morning Mix," the ruling in the state's favor is not a surprise, as the 5th Circuit is considered to be among the most conservative of the federal appeals courts. The 5th Circuit previously sided with the state on the admitting privileges provision ("Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/3).

In Thursday's ruling, one of the three judges, Judge Stephen Higginson, concurred with the majority ruling in part and dissented in part (New York Times, 10/2). Specifically, Higginson said he believed the El Paso and McAllen clinics should have been allowed to stay open ("Morning Mix," Washington Post, 10/3).

Reaction

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement that the "ruling has gutted Texas women's constitutional rights and access to critical reproductive health care, and stands to make safe, legal abortion essentially disappear overnight" (New York Times, 10/2).

Jennifer Dalven, director of American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, said, "This is a devastating day for Texas women."

In a statement from the state attorney general's office, spokesperson Lauren Bean said, "This decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women."

Abbott, the attorney general, is also the Republican candidate for governor, facing state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who drew national attention last year for her filibuster that helped stall HB2 from becoming law (Austin American-Statesman, 10/2).