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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
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Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Davis Discusses Personal Abortion Experience in Memoir

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 16:22

In a forthcoming memoir, Texas gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) discloses obtaining an abortion 17 years ago during a wanted pregnancy after learning that the fetus had an acute brain abnormality, the San Antonio Express-News reports. She also discusses details surrounding the termination of another pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy that she disclosed previously.

Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Davis Discusses Personal Abortion Experience in Memoir

September 8, 2014 — In a forthcoming memoir, Texas gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) discloses obtaining an abortion 17 years ago during a wanted pregnancy after learning that the fetus had an acute brain abnormality, the San Antonio Express-News reports. She also discusses details surrounding the termination of another pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy that she disclosed previously.

The book, titled "Forgetting to Be Afraid," will be released Tuesday, according to the Express-News (Fikac, San Antonio Express News, 9/6).

Background

Davis drew national attention last year for her 11-hour filibuster that helped stall a restrictive abortion bill from becoming law, although the measure (HB 2) later passed in another special session. Last October, she announced her bid for the governor's office against state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/4/13).

Some provisions of HB 2 are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/2).

Ectopic Pregnancy

Davis learned in the first trimester of a pregnancy in 1994 that the embryo was implanted outside the uterus. She had two young daughters at the time (AP/New York Times, 9/5). Ectopic pregnancies are not sustainable and can be dangerous to the woman's health if the fallopian tube ruptures. Davis' doctor advised her to end the pregnancy (San Antonio Express News, 9/6).

Davis notes in the memoir that the procedure to end an ectopic pregnancy is "technically considered an abortion" in the state and that "doctors have to report it as such."

Second Abortion Procedure

Davis in the memoir discusses a second abortion for the first time, describing it as an emotionally trying experience that left her permanently changed, according to the AP/New York Times.

She writes that she underwent the procedure in 1996 after a medical examination revealed that the fetus' brain had developed in such a way that the right and left sides of the brain were separated. She consulted several physicians, who told her that if the fetus survived delivery, the child would be deaf, blind and in a permanent vegetative state.

She writes of carrying the pregnancy, "I could feel her little body tremble violently, as if someone were applying an electric shock to her, and I knew then what I needed to do. She was suffering" (AP/New York Times, 9/5).

"An indescribable blackness followed. It was a deep, dark despair and grief, a heavy wave that crushed me, that made me wonder if I would ever surface," Davis writes, adding, "And when I finally did come through it, I emerged a different person. Changed. Forever changed."

Davis says that she nearly disclosed the abortion during her filibuster of HB 2 before deciding against it out of concerns that it would overshadow the filibuster's message, according to the Express-News (San Antonio Express-News, 9/6).

Reaction

Groups supporting and opposing abortion rights responded to the memoir over the weekend (Langford/Ura, Texas Tribune, 9/6). Planned Parenthood Votes President Cecile Richards said in a statement, "While no woman should have to justify her decision, abortion later in pregnancy is rare, and is often due to the same sort of tragic and heartbreaking circumstance that [Davis] experienced -- the kind of situation where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available" (Glueck, Politico, 9/6).

Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights groups said that women should continue their pregnancies when there are severe fetal anomalies (Texas Tribune, 9/8). Melissa Conway, a spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, said, "That's an incredibly difficult position for anyone to find themselves in. While our heart goes out for the decision she had to make, again, ... the value of life is precious" (AP/New York Times, 9/5).

Commenting on the political ramifications of Davis' memoir, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said, "The group that will be most bothered by her having an abortion of a baby with a severe fetal abnormality is a group that wasn't going to vote for her anyway." He continued, "The positive side of it for her is it humanizes her, and also makes it a little tricky for opponents to attack her on the abortion issue because now, it not only is a political issue for her, but it's a personal issue" (San Antonio Express-News, 9/6).


Contraception Among Hot Election Issues in Some Races, NYT's Collins Writes

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 15:57

"We're entering another election season in which women's issues loom large," New York Times columnist Gail Collins writes.

Contraception Among Hot Election Issues in Some Races, NYT's Collins Writes

September 8, 2014 — "We're entering another election season in which women's issues loom large," New York Times columnist Gail Collins writes.

In some "close elections" this year, conservative "candidates are falling madly in love with contraception" and have "turn[ed] into cheerleaders for over-the-counter birth control pills," she notes.

GOP candidates typically oppose abortion rights and public funding for Planned Parenthood, Collins writes, adding that many also support the "personhood" movement, which seeks to grant legal rights beginning at the moment of fertilization.

Voters considering candidates' positions on contraception also should consider those candidates' past positions on reproductive health and rights issues, she argues (Collins, New York Times, 9/5).


CDC Surveys Sheds Light on Prevalence of Sexual Violence in U.S.

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 15:12

About 19% of women and 2% of men in the U.S. have been raped at some point in their lives, while many more have experienced other forms of sexual violence, according to a recent CDC report, the Washington Times reports.

CDC Surveys Sheds Light on Prevalence of Sexual Violence in U.S.

September 8, 2014 — About 19% of women and 2% of men in the U.S. have been raped at some point in their lives, while many more have experienced other forms of sexual violence, according to a recent CDC report, the Washington Times reports.

For the report, researchers analyzed data from the 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which consisted of telephone surveys of more than 12,000 U.S. adults.

The researchers found that 44% of women -- the equivalent of 53 million nationwide -- and 23% of men -- or 27 million -- reported experiencing a form of sexual violence other than rape. In addition, 23 million women and almost two million men in the U.S. have been raped, according to the results.

Most respondents said they first experienced sexual violence or rape by age 25. The report also found that most perpetrators were current or former partners, acquaintances, or family members, while rapes by strangers or "persons of authority," such as coaches or clergy members, were less prevalent.

The reported also noted that 99% of the female respondents were raped by men, while 79% of male respondents also were raped by men (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 9/4).


Calif. 'Yes Means Yes' Bill 'A Welcome Game-Changer,' NYT Op-Ed States

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 14:19

"[T]he recent passage of Senate Bill 967 in California is ... a welcome game-changer in understanding and preventing sexual assault," write Gloria Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine and the Women's Media Center, and Michael Kimmel, a sociology and gender studies professor at Stony Brook University, in a New York Times opinion piece.

Calif. 'Yes Means Yes' Bill 'A Welcome Game-Changer,' NYT Op-Ed States

September 8, 2014 — "[T]he recent passage of Senate Bill 967 in California is ... a welcome game-changer in understanding and preventing sexual assault," write Gloria Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine and the Women's Media Center, and Michael Kimmel, a sociology and gender studies professor at Stony Brook University, in a New York Times opinion piece.

Steinem and Kimmel write that the bill, which Gov. Jerry Grown (D) is expected to sign, "would make California the first state to embrace what has become known as the 'yes means yes' law, because it alters the standard regarding consent to sexual activity on college campuses."

Specifically, they write that the bill would redefine the "enormous gray area between 'yes' and 'no'" by affirming in statute that "[s]ilence is not consent," but rather the "absence of consent." This is a "completely logical" standard "and fully consistent with adjudicating other crimes," they write.

Steinem and Kimmel acknowledge that the new standard "is bound to raise howls of protest from opponents of women's equality and their right to make decisions about their own bodies." However, they note that the standard has been successfully implemented in Canada and at Antioch College, even though the initial reaction at the college "was overwhelmingly negative" (Kimmel/Steinem, New York Times, 9/4).


Featured Blogs

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 17:20

"Abortion Rights Aren't Safe in the South," (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/2); "Montana Charges Woman With 'Criminal Endangerment' at Just 12 Weeks Pregnant," (Marty, Care2, 9/2).

September 5, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Abortion Rights Aren't Safe in the South," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": While "abortion rights supporters have won several key victories in federal court ... the wins aren't likely to be permanent," Culp-Ressler writes. She notes that while federal judges recently have blocked restrictive abortion legislation in Alabama, Texas and Louisiana, their decisions "aren't the final word on the matter." Texas has already appealed and Louisiana is waiting to see "whether its law will be permanently enjoined," meaning that "there's 'a real risk' looming in subsequent court decisions," Culp-Ressler writes. Further, if the issue goes before the Supreme Court, "the nation's highest court can't necessarily be counted on to protect reproductive rights," given the "current make up of the bench," Culp-Ressler concludes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/2).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "A Huge Abortion Win in Texas," Emily Bazelon, Slate's "Jurisprudence."

~ "National Right to Life President: Texas Abortion Bill Intended To Shutter Clinics," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

"Montana Charges Woman With 'Criminal Endangerment' at Just 12 Weeks Pregnant," Robin Marty, Care2: The arrest of Montana woman Casey Gloria Allen for child endangerment for testing positive for drugs while just 12 weeks pregnant "has left a lot of questions unanswered," including whether Allen's physician alerted the police, Marty writes. "If we want pregnant women to obtain prenatal care and drug-treatment therapies, they have to trust that a trip to the doctor won't end with the police at her doorstep," she argues. Marty wonders if Allen knew she was pregnant, asking, "How can someone be charged for committing a crime against a 'person' that she either might not have known existed or had no intention of giving birth to?" Marty continues, "By promoting a series of laws that punish a pregnant person by granting legal rights to the embryo or fetus," abortion-rights opponents "are pitting pregnant people against their own pregnancies, and leaving them no option but to terminate that pregnancy in order to avoid stiffer penalties from law enforcement" (Marty, Care2, 9/2).

Ill. To Work With Catholic Providers Over Concerns About Medicaid Birth Control Referrals

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 17:15

Illinois Medicaid officials are working out the details of a plan to raise provider reimbursement rates for certain contraceptives while ensuring that patients at Catholic hospitals can obtain referrals for contraceptive services, the AP/CBS News reports.

Ill. To Work With Catholic Providers Over Concerns About Medicaid Birth Control Referrals

September 5, 2014 — Illinois Medicaid officials are working out the details of a plan to raise provider reimbursement rates for certain contraceptives while ensuring that patients at Catholic hospitals can obtain referrals for contraceptive services, the AP/CBS News reports.

The state Department of Healthcare and Family Services is accepting comments on the 11-point plan through Sept. 15 (AP/CBS News, 9/3).

Background

The Illinois proposal aims to improve access to long-acting contraceptive methods by doubling Medicaid provider reimbursement rates for vasectomies and intrauterine devices. The plan also would boost reimbursements for non-surgical sterilization kits and bar "step therapy" rules that require women to try certain forms of contraception before others (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/22).

According to Melissa Gilliam, chief of family planning and contraceptive research at the University of Chicago Medicine, the existing Illinois Medicaid payment system discourages some physicians from offering long-acting methods. She noted, "For some providers, [the state's plan] will make a very big difference and it will be a very welcome change."

Process for Catholic Providers

Under the plan, Catholic health care providers that object to contraception would be required to annually provide DHFS with information on how they refer Medicaid patients to other providers who offer the services.

Patrick Cacchione, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals in the state, expressed concern that the referral provision could force Catholic hospitals out of the state's Medicaid program.

Cacchione said, "Will they say you can't contract with Medicaid [without an adequate referral plan]?"

DHFS spokesperson Joanne von Alroth said the department will work with "all providers to make sure they have some sort of referral plan so patients can get the contraceptive services they seek" (AP/CBS News, 9/3).


La. Medicaid Plans, Some Private Plans Stop Covering Early Elective Deliveries

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 17:13

Louisiana's Medicaid program and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana no longer cover the cost of deliveries that occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical reason, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.

La. Medicaid Plans, Some Private Plans Stop Covering Early Elective Deliveries

September 5, 2014 — Louisiana's Medicaid program and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana no longer cover the cost of deliveries that occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical reason, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports. The state Medicaid changes took effect on July 1, while the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana policy change took effect on Sept. 1.

State medical leaders formally announced the changes on Wednesday at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge. They cited the health benefits of avoiding medically unnecessary early deliveries, as well as the potential cost savings from avoiding complications related to such deliveries.

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said the new policy "will help reduce complications for our children and their mothers" and allow the fetus "to fully develop before birth."

Impact of Early Elective Births

Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has long discouraged elective deliveries before 39 weeks, about 10% to 15% of U.S. births are performed early without a medical reason, according to a 2009 study cited recently by HHS.

In 2007, Woman's Hospital became one of the first in Louisiana to announce it would no longer perform elective deliveries before 39 weeks, leading to a 20% decrease in neonatal intensive care unit admissions for critically ill newborns and a 3% reduction in C-sections (Crisp, Baton Rouge Advocate, 9/3).


True Intention of Many State Laws is To Block Abortion Rights, L.A. Times Editorial Says

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 17:12

While "[m]any of the regulations on abortion now cropping up in states across the country are being passed off as attempts to protect women's health ... what they are really intended to do is to continue the long-running war on women's reproductive rights that unfortunately did not end with Roe vs. Wade 40 years ago," a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

True Intention of Many State Laws is To Block Abortion Rights, L.A. Times Editorial Says

September 5, 2014 — While "[m]any of the regulations on abortion now cropping up in states across the country are being passed off as attempts to protect women's health ... what they are really intended to do is to continue the long-running war on women's reproductive rights that unfortunately did not end with Roe vs. Wade 40 years ago," a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

Such laws -- including requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics must meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers -- "could actually harm women's health by delaying their access to a legal, safe procedure," the Times argues.

Further, the laws "unfairly single out abortion for more regulation than other medical procedures of similar or greater risk," the editorial continues. The Times points out that "[m]ore than 90% of abortions performed in the United States are done in outpatient settings, with a less than 0.3% risk of major complications requiring hospitalization, according to an amicus brief filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a lawsuit challenging" a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2).

The Times contrasts those statistics with risks for other procedures, such as colonoscopies, which "can be done in doctors' offices, yet the mortality rate of that procedure is 34.5 per 100,000," which is 40 times greater than the mortality rate for abortion in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009.

The Times urges courts to "realize that [these laws] are not grounded in legitimate concerns about a woman's risk during abortion" but "are designed to thwart her attempt to get one" (Los Angeles Times, 9/4).


Veto of 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill Should Stand, Mo. Gov. Urges

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 17:11

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Thursday urged state lawmakers not to override his vetoes of several bills -- including one that would increase the state's mandatory delay before an abortion to 72 hours -- when they return for a special session next week, the Missourian reports.

Veto of 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill Should Stand, Mo. Gov. Urges

September 5, 2014 — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Thursday urged state lawmakers not to override his vetoes of several bills -- including one that would increase the state's mandatory delay before an abortion to 72 hours -- when they return for a special session next week, the Missourian reports (Sitter, Missourian, 9/4).

Bill Background

Under the bill (HR 1307), survivors of rape and incest would not have been exempt from the mandatory delay. Women with medical emergencies are exempt under the state's current 24-hour mandatory delay and would have continued to be exempt under the new legislation.

The bill, passed by the House in May, also includes a provision that would have required the state to revert to the 24-hour delay if a court struck down the 72-hour delay.

When Nixon vetoed the bill in July, he criticized the state Legislature for failing to include an exception for cases of rape or incest, adding that the "extreme and disrespectful measure would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women." However, he said he would have vetoed the bill even if it included an exception for rape and incest (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

Veto Session Details

According to the Missourian, the veto session is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

Nixon reiterated Thursday that not "allow[ing] exceptions for rape and incest is extreme" (Missourian, 9/4).


Ill. To Work With Catholic Providers Over Concerns About Medicaid Birth Control Referrals

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 16:38

Illinois Medicaid officials are working out the details of a plan to raise provider reimbursement rates for certain contraceptives while ensuring that patients at Catholic hospitals can obtain referrals for contraceptive services, the AP/CBS News reports.

Ill. To Work With Catholic Providers Over Concerns About Medicaid Birth Control Referrals

September 5, 2014 — Illinois Medicaid officials are working out the details of a plan to raise provider reimbursement rates for certain contraceptives while ensuring that patients at Catholic hospitals can obtain referrals for contraceptive services, the AP/CBS News reports.

The state Department of Healthcare and Family Services is accepting comments on the 11-point plan through Sept. 15 (AP/CBS News, 9/3).

Background

The Illinois proposal aims to improve access to long-acting contraceptive methods by doubling Medicaid provider reimbursement rates for vasectomies and intrauterine devices. The plan also would boost reimbursements for non-surgical sterilization kits and bar "step therapy" rules that require women to try certain forms of contraception before others (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/22).

According to Melissa Gilliam, chief of family planning and contraceptive research at the University of Chicago Medicine, the existing Illinois Medicaid payment system discourages some physicians from offering long-acting methods. She noted, "For some providers, [the state's plan] will make a very big difference and it will be a very welcome change."

Process for Catholic Providers

Under the plan, Catholic health care providers that object to contraception would be required to annually provide DHFS with information on how they refer Medicaid patients to other providers who offer the services.

Patrick Cacchione, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals in the state, expressed concern that the referral provision could force Catholic hospitals out of the state's Medicaid program.

Cacchione said, "Will they say you can't contract with Medicaid [without an adequate referral plan]?"

DHFS spokesperson Joanne von Alroth said the department will work with "all providers to make sure they have some sort of referral plan so patients can get the contraceptive services they seek" (AP/CBS News, 9/3).


True Intention of Many State Laws is To Block Abortion Rights, L.A. Times Editorial Says

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 16:30

While "[m]any of the regulations on abortion now cropping up in states across the country are being passed off as attempts to protect women's health ... what they are really intended to do is to continue the long-running war on women's reproductive rights that unfortunately did not end with Roe vs. Wade 40 years ago," a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

True Intention of Many State Laws is To Block Abortion Rights, L.A. Times Editorial Says

September 5, 2014 — While "[m]any of the regulations on abortion now cropping up in states across the country are being passed off as attempts to protect women's health ... what they are really intended to do is to continue the long-running war on women's reproductive rights that unfortunately did not end with Roe vs. Wade 40 years ago," a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

Such laws -- including requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics must meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers -- "could actually harm women's health by delaying their access to a legal, safe procedure," the Times argues.

Further, the laws "unfairly single out abortion for more regulation than other medical procedures of similar or greater risk," the editorial continues. The Times points out that "[m]ore than 90% of abortions performed in the United States are done in outpatient settings, with a less than 0.3% risk of major complications requiring hospitalization, according to an amicus brief filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a lawsuit challenging" a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2).

The Times contrasts those statistics with risks for other procedures, such as colonoscopies, which "can be done in doctors' offices, yet the mortality rate of that procedure is 34.5 per 100,000," which is 40 times greater than the mortality rate for abortion in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009.

The Times urges courts to "realize that [these laws] are not grounded in legitimate concerns about a woman's risk during abortion" but "are designed to thwart her attempt to get one" (Los Angeles Times, 9/4).


Veto of 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill Should Stand, Mo. Gov. Urges

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 16:27

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Thursday urged state lawmakers not to override his vetoes of several bills -- including one that would increase the state's mandatory delay before an abortion to 72 hours -- when they return for a special session next week, the Missourian reports.

Veto of 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill Should Stand, Mo. Gov. Urges

September 5, 2014 — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Thursday urged state lawmakers not to override his vetoes of several bills -- including one that would increase the state's mandatory delay before an abortion to 72 hours -- when they return for a special session next week, the Missourian reports (Sitter, Missourian, 9/4).

Bill Background

Under the bill (HR 1307), survivors of rape and incest would not have been exempt from the mandatory delay. Women with medical emergencies are exempt under the state's current 24-hour mandatory delay and would have continued to be exempt under the new legislation.

The bill, passed by the House in May, also includes a provision that would have required the state to revert to the 24-hour delay if a court struck down the 72-hour delay.

When Nixon vetoed the bill in July, he criticized the state Legislature for failing to include an exception for cases of rape or incest, adding that the "extreme and disrespectful measure would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women." However, he said he would have vetoed the bill even if it included an exception for rape and incest (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

Veto Session Details

According to the Missourian, the veto session is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

Nixon reiterated Thursday that not "allow[ing] exceptions for rape and incest is extreme" (Missourian, 9/4).


Video Round Up: A Look Inside Texas Abortion Clinics, Excerpts From New 'Abortion Ship' Documentary

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 15:39

In today's video clips, follow a tour of two Texas abortion facilities to see how restrictive state rules are "harming the way that a safe procedure has been done for many years," in the words of one provider. We also feature excerpts from a documentary that follows an activist's attempts to bring abortion care to women in countries where it is illegal.

Video Round Up: A Look Inside Texas Abortion Clinics, Excerpts From New 'Abortion Ship' Documentary

September 5, 2014 — In today's video clips, follow a tour of two Texas abortion facilities to see how restrictive state rules are "harming the way that a safe procedure has been done for many years," in the words of one provider. We also feature excerpts from a documentary that follows an activist's attempts to bring abortion care to women in countries where it is illegal.



RH Reality Check's Andrea Grimes guides viewers on a tour of two Texas abortion facilities to highlight the changes clinics would have to make under a state law (HB 2) being challenged in court that requires them to meet the same hospital-like standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The new state requirements are "harming the way that a safe procedure has been done for many years," Whole Woman's Health Corporate Vice President Andrea Ferrigno tells Grimes.

Grimes and Ferrigno first walk through one of the group's clinics -- which is set up like a doctor's office and designed to put women at ease -- and then its surgical center in San Antonio, Texas. Although patients receive the same abortion procedures at both facilities, Ferrigno notes several differences between the settings, including that the clinic provides a more comfortable and familiar environment to women seeking abortion care (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 8/29).




In a feature titled "The Abortion Ship," the New York Times Magazine excerpts clips from Diana Whitten's documentary "Vessel," which chronicles the efforts of Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts to provide abortions to women in Ireland, where abortion is illegal, by performing the procedures in international waters using a ship container that had been converted into a mobile abortion clinic.

While Gomperts thought her group would be able to perform abortions, they were unable to do so because they lacked a license. She says, "I cannot tell you how much my heart bleeds for this. The only way to change the situation is if [the] Irish government [legalizes] abortion." She explains, "We can never, ever, ever provide enough services to all these women [who] are in such desperate nee[d]." Gomperts also is the subject of an accompanying Times Magazine article, which focuses on her work to provide online support to women in need of medication abortion in countries where abortion is illegal (Whitten, New York Times Magazine, 8/28).

Video Round Up: A Look Inside Texas Abortion Clinics, Excerpts From New 'Abortion Ship' Documentary

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 15:39

In today's video clips, follow a tour of two Texas abortion facilities to see how restrictive state rules are "harming the way that a safe procedure has been done for many years," in the words of one provider. We also feature excerpts from a documentary that follows an activist's attempts to bring abortion care to women in countries where it is illegal.

Video Round Up: A Look Inside Texas Abortion Clinics, Excerpts From New 'Abortion Ship' Documentary

September 4, 2014 — In today's video clips, follow a tour of two Texas abortion facilities to see how restrictive state rules are "harming the way that a safe procedure has been done for many years," in the words of one provider. We also feature excerpts from a documentary that follows an activist's attempts to bring abortion care to women in countries where it is illegal.



RH Reality Check's Andrea Grimes guides viewers on a tour of two Texas abortion facilities to highlight the changes clinics would have to make under a state law (HB 2) being challenged in court that requires them to meet the same hospital-like standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The new state requirements are "harming the way that a safe procedure has been done for many years," Whole Woman's Health Corporate Vice President Andrea Ferrigno tells Grimes.

Grimes and Ferrigno first walk through one of the group's clinics -- which is set up like a doctor's office and designed to put women at ease -- and then its surgical center in San Antonio, Texas. Although patients receive the same abortion procedures at both facilities, Ferrigno notes several differences between the settings, including that the clinic provides a more comfortable and familiar environment to women seeking abortion care (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 8/29).




In a feature titled "The Abortion Ship," the New York Times Magazine excerpts clips from Diana Whitten's documentary "Vessel," which chronicles the efforts of Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts to provide abortions to women in Ireland, where abortion is illegal, by performing the procedures in international waters using a ship container that had been converted into a mobile abortion clinic.

While Gomperts thought her group would be able to perform abortions, they were unable to do so because they lacked a license. She says, "I cannot tell you how much my heart bleeds for this. The only way to change the situation is if [the] Irish government [legalizes] abortion." She explains, "We can never, ever, ever provide enough services to all these women [who] are in such desperate nee[d]." Gomperts also is the subject of an accompanying Times Magazine article, which focuses on her work to provide online support to women in need of medication abortion in countries where abortion is illegal (Whitten, New York Times Magazine, 8/28).

Blogs Discuss Why 'Abortion Rights Aren't Safe in the South,' Laws That Criminalize Pregnancy, More

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 15:32

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at "ThinkProgress," Slate and more.

Blogs Discuss Why 'Abortion Rights Aren't Safe in the South,' Laws That Criminalize Pregnancy, More

September 5, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at "ThinkProgress," Slate and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Abortion Rights Aren't Safe in the South," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": While "abortion rights supporters have won several key victories in federal court ... the wins aren't likely to be permanent," Culp-Ressler writes. She notes that while federal judges recently have blocked restrictive abortion legislation in Alabama, Texas and Louisiana, their decisions "aren't the final word on the matter." Texas has already appealed and Louisiana is waiting to see "whether its law will be permanently enjoined," meaning that "there's 'a real risk' looming in subsequent court decisions," Culp-Ressler writes. Further, if the issue goes before the Supreme Court, "the nation's highest court can't necessarily be counted on to protect reproductive rights," given the "current make up of the bench," Culp-Ressler concludes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/2).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "A Huge Abortion Win in Texas," Emily Bazelon, Slate's "Jurisprudence."

~ "National Right to Life President: Texas Abortion Bill Intended To Shutter Clinics," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Montana Charges Woman With 'Criminal Endangerment' at Just 12 Weeks Pregnant," Robin Marty, Care2: The arrest of Montana woman Casey Gloria Allen for child endangerment for testing positive for drugs while just 12 weeks pregnant "has left a lot of questions unanswered," including whether Allen's physician alerted the police, Marty writes. "If we want pregnant women to obtain prenatal care and drug-treatment therapies, they have to trust that a trip to the doctor won't end with the police at her doorstep," she argues. Marty wonders if Allen knew she was pregnant, asking, "How can someone be charged for committing a crime against a 'person' that she either might not have known existed or had no intention of giving birth to?" Marty continues, "By promoting a series of laws that punish a pregnant person by granting legal rights to the embryo or fetus," abortion-rights opponents "are pitting pregnant people against their own pregnancies, and leaving them no option but to terminate that pregnancy in order to avoid stiffer penalties from law enforcement" (Marty, Care2, 9/2).

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "College Rape Survivor Will Carry Her Mattress Around Campus Until Her Rapist is Expelled," Jenny Kutner, Salon: Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz was raped on the "first day of her sophomore year of college," allegedly by a student who was accused in two other assaults, but "all three cases against [him] were dismissed," Kutner explains. After joining a federal complaint over Columbia's alleged mishandling of such cases, Sulkowicz has begun "carry[ing] around a standard twin-size dorm room mattress with her everywhere she goes, until her rapist is removed from school," Kutner writes. In a video about her efforts for the Columbia Spectator, Sulkowicz said, "A mattress is the perfect size for me to just be able to carry it -- enough that I can continue with my day, but also heavy enough that I have to continually struggle with it," adding that it symbolizes her mission of "telling people what happened in that most intimate, private space and bringing it out into the light" (Kutner, Salon, 9/3).

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

~ "The Sexual Violence of Non-Consensual Nudity," Jenny Trout, Huffington Post blogs.

CONTRACEPTION: "Hobby Lobby Fallout: The Government Wants Your Comments on Employer Coverage of Contraception," Rachel Walden, Our Bodies Ourselves' "Our Bodies, Our Blog": "In the wake of this summer's Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed for closely held corporations to refuse, based on religious objections, to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their employee's health insurance, there is now the question of what exactly it means to be a "'closely held corporation,'" Walden writes. The federal government last month published a notice in the Federal Register suggesting "a couple of approaches to defining 'closely held corporation'" and requested public comments "on whether these definitions are appropriate." She adds, "Comments are also being solicited on whether to require companies to document their decision-making process and disclose that they're refusing coverage based on religious objections," as well as "on any additional steps the government should take to help ensure coverage of the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing for people whose health plans are provided by these corporations" (Walden, "Our Bodies, Our Blog," Our Bodies Ourselves, 9/4).


La. Medicaid Plans, Some Private Plans Stop Covering Early Elective Deliveries

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 14:42

Louisiana's Medicaid program and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana no longer cover the cost of deliveries that occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical reason, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.

La. Medicaid Plans, Some Private Plans Stop Covering Early Elective Deliveries

September 5, 2014 — Louisiana's Medicaid program and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana no longer cover the cost of deliveries that occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy without a medical reason, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports. The state Medicaid changes took effect on July 1, while the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana policy change took effect on Sept. 1.

State medical leaders formally announced the changes on Wednesday at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge. They cited the health benefits of avoiding medically unnecessary early deliveries, as well as the potential cost savings from avoiding complications related to such deliveries.

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said the new policy "will help reduce complications for our children and their mothers" and allow the fetus "to fully develop before birth."

Impact of Early Elective Births

Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has long discouraged elective deliveries before 39 weeks, about 10% to 15% of U.S. births are performed early without a medical reason, according to a 2009 study cited recently by HHS.

In 2007, Woman's Hospital became one of the first in Louisiana to announce it would no longer perform elective deliveries before 39 weeks, leading to a 20% decrease in neonatal intensive care unit admissions for critically ill newborns and a 3% reduction in C-sections (Crisp, Baton Rouge Advocate, 9/3).


Abortion Services To Resume in Texas Region; Access Remains In Flux After Court Ruling

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 17:22

A McAllen, Texas, women's health clinic that was the only abortion provider in the Rio Grande Valley before state restrictions forced it to stop providing abortions last year plans to resume abortion procedures by this weekend, after a favorable ruling last week in an ongoing court fight over a state antiabortion-rights law (HB2), the New York Times reports.

Abortion Services To Resume in Texas Region; Access Remains In Flux After Court Ruling

September 4, 2014 — A McAllen, Texas, women's health clinic that was the only abortion provider in the Rio Grande Valley before state restrictions forced it to stop providing abortions last year plans to resume abortion procedures by this weekend, after a favorable ruling last week in an ongoing court fight over a state antiabortion-rights law (HB2), the New York Times reports (Eckholm, New York Times, 9/3).

In the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel reissued a stay to block the state from enforcing one of the law's provisions against the McAllen clinic and an additional clinic in El Paso. The judge said the provision, which requires abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, would significantly reduce access to abortion in the West and South regions of the state because clinics could not meet the requirement.

Yeakel's ruling also barred enforcement of a provision -- which was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 -- that would have required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/2).

The state argues that the requirement, along with the admitting privileges provision, makes clinics safer. Medical experts and the groups and clinics challenging the law say the requirements do not serve a medical purpose.

Impact of HB 2

About a dozen of the remaining 19 clinics that provide abortions in Texas would have had to close if the ambulatory surgical center standards were enforced, according to the Times (New York Times, 9/3).

The McAllen clinic -- a branch of Whole Woman's Health -- stopped performing abortion procedures in November, after the admitting privileges requirement took effect, and closed in March (Herskovitz, Reuters, 9/3). According to clinic CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller, the clinic had been performing more than 40 to 45 abortions a week. She said that when the clinic stopped providing abortions, some women had to travel nearly 500 miles roundtrip to be able to obtain an abortion in Texas (Weber, AP/U-T San Diego, 9/3).

Next Steps

Attorneys for both sides will be back in court on Sept. 12, when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the state's request to enforce the ambulatory surgical centers provision while it appeals Yeakel's ruling that found it unconstitutional.

According to the Texas Tribune, both sides in the lawsuit also are questioning how to interpret Yeakel's ruling on the admitting privileges provision beyond the two clinics in McAllen and El Paso. In court filings, the state argues that it should be allowed to enforce the provision during the appeals process and that Yeakel's decision "appears to be intended" to invalidate the provision statewide (Ura, Texas Tribune, 9/3).


Study: Double Mastectomies Do Not Improve Survival Rates for Breast Cancer

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 17:13

An increasing number of women are opting for bilateral mastectomies, but those who choose the procedure have no additional survival benefit compared with those who undergo breast-conserving surgery with radiation, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, NPR's "Shots" reports.

Study: Double Mastectomies Do Not Improve Survival Rates for Breast Cancer

September 4, 2014 — An increasing number of women are opting for bilateral mastectomies, but those who choose the procedure have no additional survival benefit compared with those who undergo breast-conserving surgery with radiation, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, NPR's "Shots" reports.

For the study, researchers examined the medical records of California women who had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer between 1998 and 2011, totaling 189,734 women.

Key Findings

The study found that women who were treated with breast-conserving surgery had an 83.2% survival rate at 10 years, while women who opted for a double mastectomy had an 81.2% survival rate. By contrast, women who underwent a single mastectomy had a 79.9% survival rate, although researchers said that rate "may be due to other factors" not accounted for in the study, such as being a minority and insurance status (Shute, "Shots," NPR, 9/2).

The study also found that while more than half of the women had breast-conserving treatment, the proportion of women who underwent a double mastectomy increased to 12% between 1998 and 2011. According to the researchers, the trend increased most significantly among women under age 40, from 4% to 33%, over the same time period (AP/Modern Healthcare, 9/2).

The researchers said that most of these younger women had an early or treatable form of the disease, and that many were more likely to be treated at academic medical centers. According to the study, these factors should have bolstered their survival rates.

Scarlett Gomez, lead author and research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, said researchers are unsure about why the disparity exists. However, she said any "advantage that comes from lowering your risk of cancer in the [healthy] breast" through a double mastectomy "could be offset by the fact that you're having major surgery" ("Shots," NPR, 9/2).

The study suggested that younger women are opting for a double mastectomy in "an emotional rather than evidence-based decision," such as concerns about whether they have genetic mutations that cause the disease or because they have younger children and want to extend their lifespan (Sifferlin, Time, 9/2).

Editorial Questions Providers' Role

Lisa Newman, a surgery professor and director of the University of Michigan's Breast Care Center, in an accompanying editorial wrote that while the study's results may leave some to wonder if providers are driving the uptick in double mastectomies for financial reasons, a "greater concern ... may be a surgeon's preference based on his/her own experience, regardless of the data."

Newman recommended that patients be given time to process their diagnoses and be educated about various treatment options, risks and benefits before having to make a treatment decision (AP/Modern Healthcare, 9/2).


State 'Feticide' Laws Come 'Dangerously Close to Criminalizing Pregnancy,' Columnist Writes

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 17:13

"Anyone who doubts that laws restricting abortion rights actually restrict the freedom of women to fundamentally control their bodies and health should look at Indiana," Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn writes.

State 'Feticide' Laws Come 'Dangerously Close to Criminalizing Pregnancy,' Columnist Writes

September 2, 2014 — "Anyone who doubts that laws restricting abortion rights actually restrict the freedom of women to fundamentally control their bodies and health should look at Indiana," Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn writes.

Kohn highlights the case of Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman who faced charges in the state "after suffering premature delivery," allegedly at home, "and seeking hospital treatment." She explains that "Patel said when she saw the fetus wasn't breathing or moving, she placed it in a bag and put the bag in a dumpster."

Kohn notes that the state charged Patel with both felony neglect -- under which the state would have to "prove she gave birth to a live baby" -- and with "'feticide'" -- under which the fetus would have to have died -- even though "the facts necessary for filing the one charge ... entirely contradict the facts necessary for filing the other."

Kohn writes that "the utter illogic of the legal prosecution simply echoes the illogic of Indiana's [feticide] law and others like [it] -- which not only unconscionably (and arguably unconstitutionally) restrict a woman's right to abortion but tread dangerously close to criminalizing pregnancy as a whole."

"What these laws do deter is pregnant women seeking the health care they need or help from police or other authorities," she argues, adding that it is becoming "increasingly obvious to anyone paying attention that the supposed quest to protect fetuses is quite plainly and simply a war on the women who carry them" (Kohn, Daily Beast, 8/27).


FDA Approves Second 3-D Mammogram Device

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 16:49

FDA last week approved General Electric's 3-D mammography device, Reuters reports.

FDA Approves Second 3-D Mammogram Device

September 4, 2014 — FDA last week approved General Electric's 3-D mammography device, Reuters reports (Penumudi, Reuters, 8/2).

GE's device -- called SenoClaire -- is the second 3-D mammogram system approved by FDA, after Hologic had its device approved in 2001. A third company, Siemens AG, filed for FDA approval in June but has not received final word on its application, according to the Wall Street Journal.

About 3-D Mammograms

3-D imaging -- or tomosynthesis -- devices take X-rays from multiple angles to provide a more comprehensive picture than typical 2-D mammograms. According to the Journal, studies suggest that 3-D mammograms detect more incidences of breast cancer, with fewer false positives, than 2-D devices. According to GE, women receive the same amount of radiation using its 3-D mammograms as they would from 2-D mammograms.

Insurance companies and Medicare do not currently reimburse providers more for using the more costly 3-D devices. Some hospitals charge patients an additional $50 to $75 per exam, while others have been covering the extra cost themselves. However, Medicare could announce a decision later this year about whether it will increase its reimbursement for such screenings, the Journal reports.

The increased competition from GE's entrance into the market could give hospitals more leverage to negotiate purchases of 3-D mammography systems, according to Rachael Bennett, a clinical analyst at health-research firm MDBuyline. Hologic estimates that about six million U.S. women will receive a mammogram from one of its 3-D imaging devices in 2014 (Beck, Wall Street Journal, 9/2).