Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
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Colo. Reproductive Health Freedom Act Advances

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:32

A Colorado Senate committee has advanced a bill (SB 175) that would prohibit government entities from enacting policies that deny or interfere with reproductive health care, Fox31 Denver reports.

Colo. Reproductive Health Freedom Act Advances

April 14, 2014 — A Colorado Senate committee has advanced a bill (SB 175) that would prohibit government entities from enacting policies that deny or interfere with reproductive health care, Fox31 Denver reports.

The measure, known as the Reproductive Health Freedom Act, passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday in a 4-3 vote. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

According to Fox31 Denver, the bill would bar state and local governments from restricting individuals' reproductive health decisions or their access to evidence-based information on reproductive health. Although Democrats currently control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governorship, the bill aims to prevent future attacks on reproductive rights that have taken place in other, Republican-led states, Fox31 Denver reports.

Comments

State Sen. Andy Kerr (D), the bill's sponsor, said it is "an effort to keep politics and politicians away from Coloradans' health care and reproductive decisions."

NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton said the organization "appreciate[s] the fact that legislators are implementing mainstream Colorado values, sound health care policy, and reflecting the will of Colorado voters." She added, "[W]omen have the right to make their own health care decisions. We need to protect that right and ensure government doesn’t get in between women and their doctors" (Stokols, Fox31 Denver, 4/10).


Ark. Appeals Ruling That Struck Down 12-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:31

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) announced Friday that he will appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a ruling that overturned a state law (Act 301) banning abortion as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters/Chicago Tribune reports.

Ark. Appeals Ruling That Struck Down 12-Week Abortion Ban

April 14, 2014 — Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) announced Friday that he will appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a ruling that overturned a state law (Act 301) banning abortion as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters/Chicago Tribune reports (Bose McDermott, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 4/11).

The law prohibits abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal disorder.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber overturned the law, saying that the attempt to restrict abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than on fetal viability is unconstitutional. However, Webber let stand a part of the law mandating that a woman seeking an abortion receive an ultrasound and be notified by her doctor if the fetus has a heartbeat (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/17).

Concerns Over Cost

McDaniel said he warned state Sen. Jason Rapert (R), the sponsor of the 12-week measure, about the "risks and costs associated with an appeal." In a statement, McDaniel said he agreed to pursue the appeal "as long as there would be no impact on the budget of the Arkansas State Medical Board, the defendant in this matter, should the state be required to pay attorneys' fees to the plaintiffs."

Rita Sklar, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the lawsuit against the measure, said the appeal is "a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money" (DeMillo, AP/Baxter Bulletin, 4/13).


Featured Blogs

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 17:47

"Rick Perry Dodges Measures To Address the Prison Sexual Assault Crisis," (Knefel, RH Reality Check, 4/8); "The 5 Most Surprising Things About My Abortion," (Stewart, Huffington Post blogs, 4/9); "Colorado Lawmakers Introduce an Ambitious Bill To Protect Reproductive Rights," (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 4/10); "Missouri Lawmaker Compares Getting an Abortion To Buying a New Car or Re-Carpeting," (Dusenbery, Feministing, 4/10); "It's Time To Repeal State Advance Directive Laws That Discriminate Against Women," (Taylor/Paltrow, RH Reality Check, 4/10).

April 11, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Rick Perry Dodges Measures To Address the Prison Sexual Assault Crisis," Molly Jane Knefel, RH Reality Check: Even though the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PL 108-79) "has been bipartisan and non-controversial since its creation in 2003," Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) "[i]n a letter written late last month ... informed the [U.S.] Department of Justice that he will not be complying with the new regulations, calling the intent of PREA 'commendable' but arguing that it will be 'impossible' for Texas to implement the expected changes," Knefel writes. She continues, "Given the state's record for detention facilities with high rates of sexual abuse, Perry's rejection of PREA is especially troubling to those advocating for the safety of inmates." Knefel adds, "Texas has a clear commitment to reducing sexual violence in prisons, having already implemented a number of safety policies, [but] that doesn't explain or justify Perry's actions regarding PREA" (Knefel, RH Reality Check, 4/8).


What others are saying about violence against women:

~ "This Sexual Assault Victim Didn't Report Her Rape Because She Wanted To Protect Me," Gordon Braxton, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "The House of Representatives Doesn't Require any Sexual Harassment Training," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Report Tackles Supreme Court Ruling on Workplace Harassment," Erin Matson, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

 "The 5 Most Surprising Things About My Abortion," Nicole Stewart, Huffington Post  blogs: Stewart -- a director, editor and producer for Oral Fixation, a live storytelling show -- recounts the five things that surprised her most about her abortion experience two weeks after a 20-week ultrasound revealed her "fetus was abnormal" and "incompatible with life." For example, Stewart writes that she obtained an abortion in Dallas, Texas, on the same day state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) filibustered an antiabortion-rights bill, "describ[ing] my exact situation," adding, "Seeing her stand there, so professional and composed as she spoke about what I was facing, was the single most consoling act I could have experienced in that moment." Stewart also notes that her experience prompted her to publicly share her story to help educate people about the need for abortion later in pregnancy, inspired her to feature more difficult stories in Oral Fixation, helped connect her with new friends and strengthened her marriage (Stewart, Huffington Post blogs, 4/9).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The Story of HB 2: How Multiple Failed Bills Became One Bad Law," Imani Gandy, RH Reality Check.

~ "Washington Policy Disclosures Provide Little Clarity on Reproductive Health-Care Access at Hospitals," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

~ "No, Abortion is not Like Buying a Car: Here Are 5 Reasons Why," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "Tennessee Legislature Passes Far-Reaching Bill That Could Make Pregnant Women Criminals," Emily Crockett/Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

"Colorado Lawmakers Introduce an Ambitious Bill To Protect Reproductive Rights," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Colorado lawmakers are considering a "proactive piece of legislation [SB 175] that would safeguard women's reproductive health decisions, and ensure that anti-choice politicians aren't allowed to chip away at them," Culp-Ressler writes. The law would "guarante[e] every Colorado resident the opportunity to make their own decisions regarding abortion and contraception"; enshrine "women's fundamental right to privacy and freedom about their health care choices"; and "perhaps most importantly, it [would] explicitly preven[t] state lawmakers from enacting restrictions in this area that aren't based on scientific evidence," she explains. Culp-Ressler adds that if the bill is approved, the antiabortion-rights strategy of introducing abortion restrictions "cloaked in the language of 'women's health and safety' ... won't be able to advance in Colorado" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 4/10).

What others are saying about abortion-rights protections:

~ "State Policy Trends: More Supportive Legislation, Even as Attacks on Abortion Rights Continue," Elizabeth Nash/Rachel Benson Gold, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

"Missouri Lawmaker Compares Getting an Abortion To Buying a New Car or Re-Carpeting," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: Dusenbery writes about how, during debate over a Missouri measure (HB 1307/1313) that "would triple the waiting period before having an abortion in the state to a whopping 72 hours," the bill sponsor, state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R), compared the mandatory delay to waiting to make other decisions, "'whether that's a car, whether that's a house, whether that's any major decision that I make in my life. Even carpeting.'" Dusenbery writes that the statement came amid a debate between Gatschenberger and a female colleague, who tried to get Gatschenberger "to empathize outside his own sphere of experience or merely to acknowledge the limits of his own perspective." Dusenbery adds that "neither strategy work[ed]," as "Gatschenberger pivot[ed], again and again, back to himself," before finally launching "into his car speech" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 4/10).

What others are saying about politics and elections:

~ "Republican Lawmaker: 'I Have No More Confidence in Planned Parenthood Than I Do in Adolf Hitler,'" Katie McDonough, Salon.
 

FEATURED BLOG

"It's Time To Repeal State Advance Directive Laws That Discriminate Against Women," Katherine Taylor/Lynn Paltrow, RH Reality Check: "Today, more than 30 states have laws that require a pregnant woman to be kept on mechanical support no matter what her living will says, or what her health-care proxy decides if her wishes are unknown," Taylor and Paltrow write, noting the recent case of Marlise Muñoz, a Texas woman who was kept on mechanical support against her and her families' wishes because she was pregnant when she died. Taylor and Paltrow urge advocates to "take action" and suggest several steps to do so, including informing others in their state about the laws and contacting their state lawmakers to "demand repeal of these discriminatory laws and support for ones that respect women's right to make end-of-life decisions." They write, "It is time to end all laws that dehumanize pregnant women and disrespect families," adding, "Repealing discriminatory advance directive laws is one very good place to start" (Taylor/Paltrow, RH Reality Check, 4/10).


La. House Panel Advance Sex Education, Abortion Bills

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 17:38

A Louisiana House panel on Wednesday advanced two measures, including a bill (HB 305) that would bar certain groups from distributing sex education materials in schools and another (HB 1262) that would require women to review written information before an abortion, the New Orleans Advocate reports.

La. House Panel Advance Sex Education, Abortion Bills

April 11, 2014 — A Louisiana House panel on Wednesday advanced two measures, including a bill (HB 305) that would bar certain groups from distributing sex education materials in schools and another (HB 1262) that would require women to review written information before an abortion, the New Orleans Advocate reports (Shuler, New Orleans Advocate, 4/10).

Sex Education Bill

HB 305, approved by the state House Health and Welfare Committee, would bar employees or representatives of abortion providers and their affiliates from instructing, speaking or distributing information pertaining to reproductive health or family planning at public or charter schools.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the measure originally prohibited such individuals from addressing students on any subject. However, state Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R), the bill's sponsor, later offered an amendment that limited the prohibited topics to sex education.

During debate over the measure, state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D) discussed a pamphlet from a national Planned Parenthood website that details young people's rights not to disclose their HIV status to potential sex partners.

In response, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokesperson Reagan Carter said that she did not support the pamphlet and that it had not been distributed in the state (Lane, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/9). PPGC opposed the bill.

Mandatory Information Bill

The House committee also advanced HB 1262, which would require that women seeking abortions be given written materials on the potential psychological impact of the procedure, as well as information on human trafficking, abuse and coercion. The information also would list resources for women facing any of those situations.

The women would be required to receive the information at least 24 hours before an abortion.

Under current state law, women seeking abortion must be told there about physical risks of abortion, as well as alternatives to the procedure. Originally, the bill only included the information about supposed "increased risk of psychiatric and psychological harm" from an abortion, but state Rep. Barry Ivey (R) revised the measure in committee to add the information about trafficking.

Ivey said the bill "is not trying to tell them what to do but to provide tools so they can truly make informed decisions."

Sylvia Cochran, an administrator of abortion clinics located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, said that the bill is "unnecessary" because clinics "are already doing these things." She said, "We do not talk anybody into an abortion. ... We deal with patients on a physical as well as a psychological basis."

Cochran added that abortion patients are also already provided referral lists (New Orleans Advocate, 4/10).


Texas Abortion Providers Ask Full Appeals Court To Review Ruling

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 17:37

A coalition of Texas abortion providers on Thursday asked the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a three-judge panel's decision to uphold two antiabortion-rights provisions in a state law (HB 2), the Texas Tribune reports.

Texas Abortion Providers Ask Full Appeals Court To Review Ruling

April 11, 2014 — A coalition of Texas abortion providers on Thursday asked the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a three-judge panel's decision to uphold two antiabortion-rights provisions in a state law (HB 2), the Texas Tribune reports (Ura, Texas Tribune, 4/10).

The three-judge panel in March ruled that the two provisions do not unduly burden women's abortion rights. The first provision requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/28). The other provision mandates providers follow FDA protocol, rather than the commonly used evidence-based regimen, when administering medication abortion (Texas Tribune, 4/10).

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the 14 judges on the 5th Circuit rarely grant an en banc review of panel decisions (Austin American-Statesman, 4/10).

Latest Petition

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the petition on behalf of the coalition of abortion providers, asking the full bench to review and overturn the decision. The group noted that courts in other states -- such as Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin -- have blocked similar measures.

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement, "We look to the full court to enforce the Constitution, follow Supreme Court precedent, recognize the real life harms to the women of Texas and block this law from being enforced" (Texas Tribune, 4/10).


HHS Sec. Sebelius Resigns; Obama Taps OMB Chief Burwell as Replacement

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 16:10

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, after a five-year tenure leading the department that oversaw the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) health insurance marketplaces and other aspects of the law, Bloomberg reports.

HHS Sec. Sebelius Resigns; Obama Taps OMB Chief Burwell as Replacement

April 11, 2014 — HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, after a five-year tenure leading the department that oversaw the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) health insurance marketplaces and other aspects of the law, Bloomberg reports.

President Obama on Friday morning nominated White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius (Wayne et al., Bloomberg, 4/11).

Sebelius' Decision

White House officials said Sebelius was not forced out and made the decision to resign on her own. According to the officials, Sebelius approached President Obama in March to initiate discussions about her future as head of HHS.

According to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Sebelius told Obama that improving enrollment numbers at the end of the ACA's initial open enrollment period provided an opportunity for change.

McDonough said, "What was clear is that [Sebelius] thought that it was time to transition the leadership to somebody else." He added, "She's made clear in other comments publicly that she recognizes that she takes a lot of the incoming [ACA criticisms]" and that "[s]he does hope -- all of us hope -- that we can get beyond the partisan sniping" (Shear [1], New York Times, 4/10). Throughout the political rancor over the ACA, the relationship between Sebelius and Obama remained "warm," according to the Washington Post.

Sebelius' resignation came as a surprise in the health policy arena. According to the Post, even the Obama administration's closest health care allies had "no clue" it was coming, while senior Democratic lawmakers also were "caught off guard" (Eilperin/Goldstein, Washington Post, 4/10).

About Burwell

Burwell -- a Harvard-educated Rhodes Scholar -- served in multiple roles during the Clinton administration and spent much of the 2000s working at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the New York Times. Before she became head of OMB, Burwell served as president of the Walmart Foundation.

McDonough said Obama selected Burwell because he wanted "a proven manager and relentless implementer" to lead HHS. McDonough and other federal officials who have worked with Burwell said she has strong crisis management and organizational skills and expertly navigates the "lumbering bureaucracy of government," according to the Times (Shear [2], New York Times, 4/10).

Path to Confirmation

Burwell will be required to go through the traditional Senate confirmation process, but some observers say it could be more contentious than her confirmation last year for the OMB role, according to Politico (Haberkorn, Politico, 4/11). Nearly one year ago, the Senate voted 96-0 to confirm her as OMB chief.

However this time, some Republicans likely will use the confirmation hearings as a platform to "bash" the ACA ahead of the November midterm election, the Times reports. In the past year, Burwell was a key figure in the standoff that culminated in last fall's federal government shutdown and has dealt with the formation of health policies as budget chief (Shear [2], New York Times, 4/10).


Quote Round Up: The Buzz on Abortion Access, Contraceptive Coverage Before the Supreme Court and More

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 16:05

This month's Quote Round Up features comments on the contraceptive coverage lawsuits before the Supreme Court, dwindling abortion access in Texas and other key women's health issues.

Quote Round Up: The Buzz on Abortion Access, Contraceptive Coverage Before the Supreme Court and More

April 11, 2014 — Our monthly quote round up compiles notable comments from key stakeholders in women's health. In this edition, we feature quotes on the contraceptive coverage lawsuits before the Supreme Court, dwindling abortion access in Texas and more.

"[O]ne religious group could opt out of this and another religious group could opt out of that and everything would be piecemeal and nothing would be uniform." -- Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, during oral arguments in two businesses' challenges to the federal contraceptive coverage rules (Washington Post, 3/25). Kagan and some other justices questioned whether allowing the businesses to deny contraceptive coverage for religious reasons would open the door to other organizations refusing various types of health coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26).

"Women may have the right to legal abortion in theory, but in practice, the right is vanishing for many women in Texas." -- Planned Parenthood South Texas spokesperson Mara Posada, noting that only about a half-dozen abortion clinics are expected to be able to comply with Texas' ambulatory surgical center requirements under HB 2 (Reuters, 3/27). However, Planned Parenthood is planning to open a $5 million facility in San Antonio that will comply with the ambulatory surgical center requirements when they take effect on Sept. 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31).

"Hobby Lobby's CEO wants to deny the company's 13,000 employees access to affordable birth control, while investing in pharmaceutical companies that make it." -- Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards, commenting on recent reports that the arts-and-crafts retail chain offers employees a 401(k) retirement plan that invests in companies that manufacture birth control pills and devices, as well as medication abortion drugs (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/2).

"[I]gnoring the culture in which rapists commit and get away with crimes won't stop rape." -- Feminist author Jessica Valenti in a Washington Post opinion piece, critiquing RAINN's recommendation that the White House avoid using the term "rape culture" (Washington Post, 3/28). Valenti argues, "Talking about rape culture isn't meant to shift focus away from rapists but to paint a fuller picture of how rapists operate and the best ways to stop them" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31).

"Now the effort is to simply adopt enough abortion restrictions so that clinics can't keep their doors open and women can't navigate all the legal barriers put in their way" -- Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, on legislation in Louisiana and other states that require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Reuters, 3/31). Last week, the Louisiana House passed the measure -- which contains several other abortion restrictions -- and the legislation now heads to the state Senate (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/2).

"Survivors of domestic violence should not have to depend on their abuser to gain access to affordable health care, and I'm glad the Treasury Department will ensure that no longer happens." -- Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), commenting on new guidance from the Treasury Department that allows domestic abuse survivors who live separately from their spouses to file their own tax returns to obtain government subsidies to offset health insurance costs. Slaughter and other lawmakers had raised concerns that a previous requirement for married people to file jointly would endanger spouses who were abused or force them to go without the subsidies (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/27).

Blogs Comment on 'Prison Sexual Assault Crisis,' 'Surprising' Things About Abortion Experiences, More

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 15:47

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from RH Reality Check, the Huffington Post and more.

Blogs Comment on 'Prison Sexual Assault Crisis,' 'Surprising' Things About Abortion Experiences, More

April 11, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from RH Reality Check, the Huffington Post and more.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "Rick Perry Dodges Measures To Address the Prison Sexual Assault Crisis," Molly Jane Knefel, RH Reality Check: Even though the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PL 108-79) "has been bipartisan and non-controversial since its creation in 2003," Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) "[i]n a letter written late last month ... informed the [U.S.] Department of Justice that he will not be complying with the new regulations, calling the intent of PREA 'commendable' but arguing that it will be 'impossible' for Texas to implement the expected changes," Knefel writes. She continues, "Given the state's record for detention facilities with high rates of sexual abuse, Perry's rejection of PREA is especially troubling to those advocating for the safety of inmates." Knefel adds, "Texas has a clear commitment to reducing sexual violence in prisons, having already implemented a number of safety policies, [but] that doesn't explain or justify Perry's actions regarding PREA" (Knefel, RH Reality Check, 4/8).

What others are saying about violence against women:

~ "This Sexual Assault Victim Didn't Report Her Rape Because She Wanted To Protect Me," Gordon Braxton, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "The House of Representatives Doesn't Require any Sexual Harassment Training," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Report Tackles Supreme Court Ruling on Workplace Harassment," Erin Matson, RH Reality Check.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "The 5 Most Surprising Things About My Abortion," Nicole Stewart, Huffington Post blogs: Stewart -- a director, editor and producer for Oral Fixation, a live storytelling show -- recounts the five things that surprised her most about her abortion experience two weeks after a 20-week ultrasound revealed her "fetus was abnormal" and "incompatible with life." For example, Stewart writes that she obtained an abortion in Dallas, Texas, on the same day state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) filibustered an antiabortion-rights bill, "describ[ing] my exact situation," adding, "Seeing her stand there, so professional and composed as she spoke about what I was facing, was the single most consoling act I could have experienced in that moment." Stewart also notes that her experience prompted her to publicly share her story to help educate people about the need for abortion later in pregnancy, inspired her to feature more difficult stories in Oral Fixation, helped connect her with new friends and strengthened her marriage (Stewart, Huffington Post blogs, 4/9).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The Story of HB 2: How Multiple Failed Bills Became One Bad Law," Imani Gandy, RH Reality Check.

~ "Washington Policy Disclosures Provide Little Clarity on Reproductive Health-Care Access at Hospitals," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

~ "No, Abortion is not Like Buying a Car: Here Are 5 Reasons Why," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "Tennessee Legislature Passes Far-Reaching Bill That Could Make Pregnant Women Criminals," Emily Crockett/Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

ABORTION-RIGHTS PROTECTIONS: "Colorado Lawmakers Introduce an Ambitious Bill To Protect Reproductive Rights," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Colorado lawmakers are considering a "proactive piece of legislation [SB 175] that would safeguard women's reproductive health decisions, and ensure that anti-choice politicians aren't allowed to chip away at them," Culp-Ressler writes. The law would "guarante[e] every Colorado resident the opportunity to make their own decisions regarding abortion and contraception"; enshrine "women's fundamental right to privacy and freedom about their health care choices"; and "perhaps most importantly, it [would] explicitly preven[t] state lawmakers from enacting restrictions in this area that aren't based on scientific evidence," she explains. Culp-Ressler adds that if the bill is approved, the antiabortion-rights strategy of introducing abortion restrictions "cloaked in the language of 'women's health and safety' ... won't be able to advance in Colorado" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 4/10).

What others are saying about abortion-rights protections:

~ "State Policy Trends: More Supportive Legislation, Even as Attacks on Abortion Rights Continue," Elizabeth Nash/Rachel Benson Gold, RH Reality Check.

POLITICS AND ELECTIONS: "Missouri Lawmaker Compares Getting an Abortion To Buying a New Car or Re-Carpeting," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: Dusenbery writes about how, during debate over a Missouri measure (HB 1307/1313) that "would triple the waiting period before having an abortion in the state to a whopping 72 hours," the bill sponsor, state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R), compared the mandatory delay to waiting to make other decisions, "'whether that's a car, whether that's a house, whether that's any major decision that I make in my life. Even carpeting.'" Dusenbery writes that the statement came amid a debate between Gatschenberger and a female colleague, who tried to get Gatschenberger "to empathize outside his own sphere of experience or merely to acknowledge the limits of his own perspective." Dusenbery adds that "neither strategy work[ed]," as "Gatschenberger pivot[ed], again and again, back to himself," before finally launching "into his car speech" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 4/10).

What others are saying about politics and elections:

~ "Republican Lawmaker: 'I Have No More Confidence in Planned Parenthood Than I Do in Adolf Hitler,'" Katie McDonough, Salon.

GLOBAL: "New Documentary: Mexican Women Incarcerated for 'Homicide' After Aborting Gain Their Freedom," Katie Halper, Feministing: A new documentary called "Las Libres" tells "the story of how Mexican organizers and lawyers were able to free six women incarcerated for homicide for terminating their pregnancies," Halper writes, explaining that the film was inspired by the organization Las Libres, "which educates and advocates for women's human rights in Guanajuato and greater Mexico." She adds that "[t]hanks to [Las Libres'] hard work, as well as the resolve of the imprisoned women, the government released the six from jail." According to Halper, the documentary will be shown in New York City this summer (Halper, Feministing, 4/8).

What others are saying about global issues:

~ "The Fight for Reproductive Rights in Spain: Our Struggle is Yours," Carme Chacon, RH Reality Check.

~ "For Many Girls, the Key to Education is Sanitary Napkins," Maureen Shaw, Huffington Post blogs.

PREGNANT WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "It's Time To Repeal State Advance Directive Laws That Discriminate Against Women," Katherine Taylor/Lynn Paltrow, RH Reality Check: "Today, more than 30 states have laws that require a pregnant woman to be kept on mechanical support no matter what her living will says, or what her health-care proxy decides if her wishes are unknown," Taylor and Paltrow write, noting the recent case of Marlise Muñoz, a Texas woman who was kept on mechanical support against her and her families' wishes because she was pregnant when she died. Taylor and Paltrow urge advocates to "take action" and suggest several steps to do so, including informing others in their state about the laws and contacting their state lawmakers to "demand repeal of these discriminatory laws and support for ones that respect women's right to make end-of-life decisions." They write, "It is time to end all laws that dehumanize pregnant women and disrespect families," adding, "Repealing discriminatory advance directive laws is one very good place to start" (Taylor/Paltrow, RH Reality Check, 4/10).


Texas Abortion Providers Ask Full Appeals Court To Review Ruling

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 15:06

A coalition of Texas abortion providers on Thursday asked the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a three-judge panel's decision to uphold two antiabortion-rights provisions in a state law (HB 2), the Texas Tribune reports.

Texas Abortion Providers Ask Full Appeals Court To Review Ruling

April 11, 2014 — A coalition of Texas abortion providers on Thursday asked the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review a three-judge panel's decision to uphold two antiabortion-rights provisions in a state law (HB 2), the Texas Tribune reports (Ura, Texas Tribune, 4/10).

The three-judge panel in March ruled that the two provisions do not unduly burden women's abortion rights. The first provision requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/28). The other provision mandates providers follow FDA protocol, rather than the commonly used evidence-based regimen, when administering medication abortion (Texas Tribune, 4/10).

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the 14 judges on the 5th Circuit rarely grant an en banc review of panel decisions (Austin American-Statesman, 4/10).

Latest Petition

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the petition on behalf of the coalition of abortion providers, asking the full bench to review and overturn the decision. The group noted that courts in other states -- such as Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin -- have blocked similar measures.

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement, "We look to the full court to enforce the Constitution, follow Supreme Court precedent, recognize the real life harms to the women of Texas and block this law from being enforced" (Texas Tribune, 4/10).


La. House Panel Advance Sex Education, Abortion Bills

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 15:03

A Louisiana House panel on Wednesday advanced two measures, including a bill (HB 305) that would bar certain groups from distributing sex education materials in schools and another (HB 1262) that would require women to review written information before an abortion, the New Orleans Advocate reports.

La. House Panel Advance Sex Education, Abortion Bills

April 11, 2014 — A Louisiana House panel on Wednesday advanced two measures, including a bill (HB 305) that would bar certain groups from distributing sex education materials in schools and another (HB 1262) that would require women to review written information before an abortion, the New Orleans Advocate reports (Shuler, New Orleans Advocate, 4/10).

Sex Education Bill

HB 305, approved by the state House Health and Welfare Committee, would bar employees or representatives of abortion providers and their affiliates from instructing, speaking or distributing information pertaining to reproductive health or family planning at public or charter schools.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the measure originally prohibited such individuals from addressing students on any subject. However, state Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R), the bill's sponsor, later offered an amendment that limited the prohibited topics to sex education.

During debate over the measure, state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D) discussed a pamphlet from a national Planned Parenthood website that details young people's rights not to disclose their HIV status to potential sex partners.

In response, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokesperson Reagan Carter said that she did not support the pamphlet and that it had not been distributed in the state (Lane, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/9). PPGC opposed the bill.

Mandatory Information Bill

The House committee also advanced HB 1262, which would require that women seeking abortions be given written materials on the potential psychological impact of the procedure, as well as information on human trafficking, abuse and coercion. The information also would list resources for women facing any of those situations.

The women would be required to receive the information at least 24 hours before an abortion.

Under current state law, women seeking abortion must be told there about physical risks of abortion, as well as alternatives to the procedure. Originally, the bill only included the information about supposed "increased risk of psychiatric and psychological harm" from an abortion, but state Rep. Barry Ivey (R) revised the measure in committee to add the information about trafficking.

Ivey said the bill "is not trying to tell them what to do but to provide tools so they can truly make informed decisions."

Sylvia Cochran, an administrator of abortion clinics located in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, said that the bill is "unnecessary" because clinics "are already doing these things." She said, "We do not talk anybody into an abortion. ... We deal with patients on a physical as well as a psychological basis."

Cochran added that abortion patients are also already provided referral lists (New Orleans Advocate, 4/10).


Quote Round Up: The Buzz on Abortion Access, Contraceptive Coverage Before the Supreme Court and More

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:27

This month's Quote Round Up features comments on the contraceptive coverage lawsuits before the Supreme Court, dwindling abortion access in Texas and other key women's health issues.

Quote Round Up: The Buzz on Abortion Access, Contraceptive Coverage Before the Supreme Court and More

April 10, 2014 — Our monthly quote round up compiles notable comments from key stakeholders in women's health. In this edition, we feature quotes on the contraceptive coverage lawsuits before the Supreme Court, dwindling abortion access in Texas and more.

"[O]ne religious group could opt out of this and another religious group could opt out of that and everything would be piecemeal and nothing would be uniform." -- Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, during oral arguments in two businesses' challenges to the federal contraceptive coverage rules (Washington Post, 3/25). Kagan and some other justices questioned whether allowing the businesses to deny contraceptive coverage for religious reasons would open the door to other organizations refusing various types of health coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26).

"Women may have the right to legal abortion in theory, but in practice, the right is vanishing for many women in Texas." -- Planned Parenthood South Texas spokesperson Mara Posada, noting that only about a half-dozen abortion clinics are expected to be able to comply with Texas' ambulatory surgical center requirements under HB 2 (Reuters, 3/27). However, Planned Parenthood is planning to open a $5 million facility in San Antonio that will comply with the ambulatory surgical center requirements when they take effect on Sept. 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31).

"Hobby Lobby's CEO wants to deny the company's 13,000 employees access to affordable birth control, while investing in pharmaceutical companies that make it." -- Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards, commenting on recent reports that the arts-and-crafts retail chain offers employees a 401(k) retirement plan that invests in companies that manufacture birth control pills and devices, as well as medication abortion drugs (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/2).

"[I]gnoring the culture in which rapists commit and get away with crimes won't stop rape." -- Feminist author Jessica Valenti in a Washington Post opinion piece, critiquing RAINN's recommendation that the White House avoid using the term "rape culture" (Washington Post, 3/28). Valenti argues, "Talking about rape culture isn't meant to shift focus away from rapists but to paint a fuller picture of how rapists operate and the best ways to stop them" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31).

"Now the effort is to simply adopt enough abortion restrictions so that clinics can't keep their doors open and women can't navigate all the legal barriers put in their way" -- Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, on legislation in Louisiana and other states that require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Reuters, 3/31). Last week, the Louisiana House passed the measure -- which contains several other abortion restrictions -- and the legislation now heads to the state Senate (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/2).

"Survivors of domestic violence should not have to depend on their abuser to gain access to affordable health care, and I'm glad the Treasury Department will ensure that no longer happens." -- Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), commenting on new guidance from the Treasury Department that allows domestic abuse survivors who live separately from their spouses to file their own tax returns to obtain government subsidies to offset health insurance costs. Slaughter and other lawmakers had raised concerns that a previous requirement for married people to file jointly would endanger spouses who were abused or force them to go without the subsidies (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/27).

Ariz. Sends Surprise Abortion Clinic Inspections Bill to Gov.

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 17:11

The Arizona Senate on Wednesday approved a bill (HB 2284) that would allow the state to conduct unannounced abortion clinic inspections without a warrant, Reuters reports.

Ariz. Sends Surprise Abortion Clinic Inspections Bill to Gov.

April 10, 2014 — The Arizona Senate on Wednesday approved a bill (HB 2284) that would allow the state to conduct unannounced abortion clinic inspections without a warrant, Reuters reports (Schwartz, Reuters, 4/9).

The bill -- proposed by state Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) and championed by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy -- would eliminate a requirement that the state Department of Health Services obtain an administrative warrant before unannounced inspections at any of the state's nine abortion clinics. It also would require clinics to report to the state if "an infant is born alive after a botched abortion."

In February, the state House approved the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/28).

Bill Heads to Gov. Brewer

The measure now proceeds to Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who has five days to decide whether to sign it into law (Reuters, 4/9).

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Brewer said Wednesday that she does not comment on legislation before reading it, but she acknowledged that she has approved every antiabortion-rights bill that has come to her desk. "I am pro-life, and I believe that we have done a good job in Arizona," she said (Fischer, Arizona Daily Star, 4/9).

If enacted, the law would make Arizona the 11th state to authorize unannounced searches without a warrant, according to the Guttmacher Institute (Reuters, 4/9).

Opponents Expect To Challenge Law

Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard said the legislation will likely end up in court if signed into law, noting an earlier case in which an identical provision was overturned as unconstitutional.

According to the Daily Star, a federal appeals court in 2004 struck down the identical law, ruling that the "boundless, warrantless search of physicians' offices" by state officials would violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In response, the state agreed to a plan under which it would first obtain a warrant.

However, state Sen. Nancy Barto (R) said that the 2004 ruling is no longer binding because it was issued when Arizona did not regulate abortion clinics. The state enacted comprehensive clinic regulations in 2010, according to the Daily Star (Arizona Daily Star, 4/9).

Comments

Barto said the bill is "not about pro-life or pro-choice," but rather about "protecting the lives of women and children" (Reuters, 4/9). She argued that the bill merely closes a legal loophole, saying, "Abortion clinics are the only health-care institutions in the state that are not subject to unannounced inspection" (Arizona Daily Star, 4/9).

Meanwhile, state Sen. Olivia Bedford (D) said that the bill would restrict abortion access by legalizing excessive interference with abortion clinics. "This bill simply opens the door for abuse and does nothing to keep women safe," she said, adding, "In fact, it's just another harassment tool the supporters are pushing to force a lawsuit" (Reuters, 4/9).


Record Number of State Bills Favor Abortion Rights

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 17:10

Although state lawmakers have continued with an onslaught of antiabortion-rights bills this year, a record number of states are considering measures aimed at protecting abortion rights and access, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, the Christian Science Monitor's "DC Decoder" reports.

Record Number of State Bills Favor Abortion Rights

April 10, 2014 — Although state lawmakers have continued with an onslaught of antiabortion-rights bills this year, a record number of states are considering measures aimed at protecting abortion rights and access, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, the Christian Science Monitor's "DC Decoder" reports.

According to the report, 38 states in the first quarter of 2014 introduced 303 provisions designed to restrict abortion access. During the same time period, more than a dozen states introduced 64 measures that would expand or protect abortion access, a higher number than in any one year over the last 25 years, the report said.

Legislation Protecting, Expanding Abortion Access

So far this year, two states have enacted legislation protecting or expanding abortion access. Vermont repealed a law that banned abortion, which predated the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, while Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed into law a measure that waives the state's mandatory pre-abortion counseling and ultrasound when a women's health or life is in danger or the fetus has severe anomalies.

Meanwhile, in three states, at least one chamber of the legislature has passed legislation supporting abortion rights. New Hampshire is considering a measure (SB 319) that would impose a 25-foot, no-protest "buffer zone" around reproductive health clinics, while New York is considering a bill that would legalize abortion through 24 weeks of pregnancy or if a woman's life or health is in danger. A bill (HB 2148) in Washington would require state insurance plans to cover abortion if they offer maternity coverage.

According to "DC Decoder," the wave of such legislation was kicked off last year, when two states -- California and Colorado -- became the first to pass pro-abortion-rights measures since 2006. California enacted a measure (AB 154) that allows nurse practitioners to perform first-trimester abortions, while Colorado repealed an abortion ban that predated Roe.

Majority of States Focused on Antiabortion-Rights Legislation

Despite pushback from abortion-rights supporters, the report found that the majority of states are still passing more antiabortion-rights legislation overall. So far this year, two states have passed laws that restrict abortion: Indiana, which banned most abortion coverage in private health plans, and South Dakota, which banned abortions based on the sex of the fetus.

Comments

Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at Guttmacher and co-author on the report, said that the increase in legislation aimed at protecting or expanding abortion access is "the result of several years of being pummeled by abortion opponents." According to "DC Decoder," in 2013, 22 states enacted 70 antiabortion-rights measures, following 43 such measures in 2012 and 92 in 2011.

Nash noted that most of the introduced legislation that supports abortion access "won't see the light of day, but they certainly signal that people have had enough of these abortion restrictions" (Feldmann, "DC Decoder," Christian Science Monitor, 4/9).


Panel Endorses Low-Dose Aspirin for Women With High Risk of Pre-Eclampsia

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:41

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in a draft recommendation issued Monday said that pregnant women at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia should take a daily low-dose aspirin to reduce their risk of developing the condition, the New York Times' "Well" reports

Panel Endorses Low-Dose Aspirin for Women With High Risk of Pre-Eclampsia

April 8, 2014 — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in a draft recommendation issued Monday said that pregnant women at high risk of developing pre-eclampsia should take a daily low-dose aspirin to reduce their risk of developing the condition, the New York Times' "Well" reports (Saint Louis, "Well," New York Times, 4/7).

Pre-eclampsia -- characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and fluid retention -- affects about 4% of pregnant women in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. It can be managed through drugs and other medical therapies (Burton, Wall Street Journal, 4/7). However, the only way to end the condition is for the woman to give birth ("Well," New York Times, 4/7). The condition can lead to preterm birth and progress into eclampsia, which can result in seizures or coma.

The draft guidance from USPSTF comes after the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released similar recommendations last fall. USPSTF previously said that there was not evidence to decide whether aspirin therapy should be recommended. Normally, pregnant women are advised to avoid aspirin because of the risk of maternal and fetal bleeding (Wall Street Journal, 4/7).

Draft Guidance

USPSTF reviewed 23 studies in which women at a high risk for developing pre-eclampsia took low-dose aspirin. The panel found that such treatment reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia by 24%, reduced the risk of intrauterine growth restriction by 20% and reduced the risk of preterm birth by 14%.

According to the review, "No harms were identified, but long-term evidence was limited" (Wickline, MedPage Today, 4/7).

The panel recommended that women at a high risk for pre-eclampsia take an 81 milligram dose of aspirin daily after 12 weeks gestation. According to the guidance, women at a high risk for the condition include those who have had pre-eclampsia during a prior pregnancy, particularly if the pregnancy was preterm; women carrying more than one fetus; and women who had diabetes or high blood pressure at conception.

In addition, the guidance recommended that pregnant women with multiple moderate-risk factors consider taking low-dose aspirin as well. Moderate risks include obesity, a family history of pre-eclampsia, being African-American and being older than age 35.

Michael LeFevre, chair of the panel and a professor of family medicine at the University of Missouri, said that while any single high-risk factor is grounds to take the aspirin regimen, "it's a judgment call between physicians and patients as to whether a combination of moderate-risk factors is enough to justify taking low-dose aspirin" ("Well," New York Times, 4/7).

USPSTF is seeking public comment before finalizing the guidance (Wall Street Journal, 4/7).

Comments

James Martin of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a former president of ACOG, praised the recommendations, saying that they "are exactly consistent" with those issued by ACOG.

Vincenzo Berghella, president of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, said that while the guidance is good, "the clinical issue goes farther." Berghella added, "Here, they say that daily low-dose aspirin prevents clinically important outcomes. [But] the issue is who to give it to" (MedPage Today, 4/7).


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

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:40

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

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

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

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

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

Friday's Hearing

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

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

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

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


CDC Report: Need for Better Sex Ed, Contraceptive Use Despite Record-Low Teen Births

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:39

Teen birth rates have declined by nearly 63% since 1991, according to CDC data published Tuesday in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, NBC News reports.

CDC Report: Need for Better Sex Ed, Contraceptive Use Despite Record-Low Teen Births

April 9, 2014 — Teen birth rates have declined by nearly 63% since 1991, according to CDC data published Tuesday in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, NBC News reports.

For the report, CDC compiled data from the National Survey of Family Growth, an ongoing, in-person poll of thousands of U.S. residents (Fox, NBC News, 4/8).

Among teens ages 15 to 19, the birth rate fell from 84.1 births per 1,000 female teens in 1991 to 29.4 per 1,000 in 2012. About one in four teen births in 2012 were among teens ages 15 to 17, representing about 1,700 births each week (Bernstein, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 4/8).

The report did not include information on births to teens younger than age 15. The report also did not include data on abortions, miscarriages or stillbirths because recent figures were not available (Kaplan, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/8).

Findings on Sexual Activity

The data found that 73% of teens ages 15 to 17 have never had sex (NBC News, 4/8).

Specifically, 14.6% of 15-year-olds reported having had sex, with 8% saying they were sexually active within the past three months. The percentage of sexually active teens grew to 28.5% at age 16, with 16.5% reporting sexual activity within the past three months, and to 38.6% at age 17, with 29.7% reporting sexual activity within the previous three months ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/8).

Findings on Contraception

According to the report, more than 90% of teens who said they were sexually active reported using some type of contraception the last time they had sex (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 4/8).

However, just 15% of sexually active teens reported using a contraceptive method characterized as at least "moderately" effective -- such as birth control pills, hormonal implants, vaginal rings or intrauterine devices -- the first time they had sex. By comparison, 62% of sexually active teens used a "less effective" method, like sponges, condoms, withdrawal or the rhythm method. Another 23% said they did not use contraception the first time they had sex ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/8).

Teen Birth Rates Vary by State, Ethnic Groups

The report found significant variations in teen birth rates from state to state.

The highest teen birth rates were in Arkansas; Mississippi; New Mexico; Texas; Oklahoma; Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. States with the lowest rates included Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont (NBC News, 4/8).

Among younger teens, Washington, D.C., had the highest teen birth rate overall in the younger age group, with 29 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17, while New Hampshire had the lowest, at 6.2 births per 1,000 ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/8).

According to CDC, the differences in rates among states show that adequate education and parenting can help prevent teen pregnancy. Experts added that abstinence-only sex education programs in states like Mississippi and Texas likely contributed to their higher teen birth rates.

Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said, "When you look at the bottom 10 or so" states with the lowest teen birth rates, "you generally are seeing states that have taken an approach mostly to increase access to family planning services, to look at sex education, to have a culture that is understanding of teen sexuality and trying to provide information or resources and the education that teens need" (NBC News, 4/8).

Variations in poverty levels, racial groups, attitudes toward teen births, and access to abortion and contraceptives, among other factors, also likely affected rates in different states, according to Guttmacher demographer Kathryn Kost ("To Your Health," Washington Post, 4/8).

Further, the report noted that teen birth rates were two to three times higher among Hispanic and African-American teens than they were among white teens (NBC News, 4/8).

Findings on Sex Education

The report found that about 91% of girls ages 15 to 17 reported having taken a formal sex education class that discussed contraceptive methods or ways to say no to having sex, while 61% said they had learned about both birth control and abstinence. Further, 76% of girls ages 15 to 17 said they had discussed contraception, abstinence or both with their parents.

Still, the report found that 83% of female teens who reported having had sex said they did not receive any sex education before the first time they had sex ("Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 4/8).

CDC Director Tom Frieden said, "Although we have made significant progress reducing teen pregnancy, far too many teens are still having babies." He added, "Efforts to prevent teen childbearing need to focus on evidence-based approaches to delaying sexual activity and increasing use of the most effective methods of contraception for those teens who are sexually active" (NBC News, 4/8).


Reopened Wichita Clinic Serves 1,500 Patients in First Year

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:37

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

Reopened Wichita Clinic Serves 1,500 Patients in First Year

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

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

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

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

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


Senators Request Funding To Address Sexual Assaults at Colleges

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:36

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

Senators Request Funding To Address Sexual Assaults at Colleges

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

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

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

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

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


ACA Boosts Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment by 3M So Far

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:35

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

ACA Boosts Medicaid, CHIP Enrollment by 3M So Far

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

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

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

More Details From Latest Data

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

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

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

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

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

Underreported Data

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

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


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

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 16:34

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

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

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

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

What others are saying about contraception:

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

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

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

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What others are saying about violence against women:

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

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