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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
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Tenn. AG: Antiabortion-Rights Measures Could Still Be Unconstitutional, Despite State Amendment

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 16:38

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery (R) in a legal analysis said that proposed state abortion restrictions could still be found unconstitutional, despite the passage of a ballot initiative (Amendment 1) specifying that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution, the Tennessean reports.

Tenn. AG: Antiabortion-Rights Measures Could Still Be Unconstitutional, Despite State Amendment

February 18, 2015 — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery (R) in a legal analysis said that proposed state abortion restrictions could still be found unconstitutional, despite the passage of a ballot initiative (Amendment 1) specifying that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution, the Tennessean reports (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 2/17).

Background

The ballot effort was seen as a response from abortion-rights opponents to a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling that found that "a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy" under Tennessee's constitution and that any abortion restrictions should be subject to a "strict scrutiny" legal standard.

An increased focus on antiabortion-rights measures is expected in the Tennessee Legislature this session after voters approved the ballot initiative (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14). Tennessee legislators have already proposed multiple bills that would restrict abortion, including a mandatory counseling bill (SB 13) and a measure (SB 50) that would require medication and surgical abortions to be performed at "licensed ambulatory surgical treatment center[s]."

Details of Legal Analysis

In a five-page legal analysis, Slatery wrote that even with the passage of Amendment 1, any new laws could not impose an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions, based on the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Slatery said that state laws that were in effect prior to the 2000 state Supreme Court ruling might not be upheld as constitutional if state lawmakers pass them again.

He noted that several antiabortion-rights measures in other states have been struck down under the undue burden standard, including laws instituting mandatory counseling, 48-hour mandatory delays and other restrictions. He wrote, "It is not clear whether (those laws) would survive an undue burden analysis under federal law." He added that courts have issued differing opinions in some cases.

Reaction

American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said, "The attorney general is saying 'don't rush to pass laws' that duplicate what was on the books prior to the 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court decision."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Rick Womick (R) said that he plans to alter his antiabortion-rights bill (HB 2) in response to the attorney general's analysis (Tennessean, 2/17). Womick's bill would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound one to three days before an abortion. In addition, the bill would mandate that doctors show the ultrasound image to the woman and describe it to her if she chooses not to look. It also would require technicians to make the fetal heartbeat audible (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/16/14).

Womick said he plans to release a new version of the bill that would maintain the ultrasound requirement, while mandating that providers ask women whether they would like to see the ultrasound images or have the fetal heartbeat made audible (Tennessean, 2/17).


Abortion-Rights Advocates Mull Legal Issues With Proposed Kan. Abortion Ban

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 15:44

Abortion-rights advocates are examining legal issues surrounding Kansas antiabortion-rights legislation that gained approval from the state Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee last week, the AP/Idaho Statesman reports.

Abortion-Rights Advocates Mull Legal Issues With Proposed Kan. Abortion Ban

February 18, 2015 — Abortion-rights advocates are examining legal issues surrounding Kansas antiabortion-rights legislation that gained approval from the state Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee last week, the AP/Idaho Statesman reports (Hanna, AP/Idaho Statesman, 2/12).

Bill Details

Abortion-rights opponents say the bill (SB 95), which was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee, would ban a method of abortion called dilation and extraction (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/26).

Abortion-rights advocates have said the procedure is the safest abortion method for women in certain circumstances, according to the AP/Statesman. Elise Higgins, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the measure would "substitut[e] the will of politicians for the expertise of doctors" (AP/Idaho Statesman, 2/12).

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has said he would sign the measure (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/26).

Potential Legal Issues

The bill comes as part of Kansans for Life's strategy to restrict abortion through gradual changes that the group hopes will be upheld in court, according to the AP/Statesman.

Since January 2011, the state has spent about $1.2 million on outside legal assistance to defend antiabortion-rights measures, the AP/Statesman reports.

Attorneys from Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and the Trust Women Foundation are assessing the bill, according to Higgins and Trust Women co-founder Julie Burkhart. According to Burkhart, one potential legal issue with the measure is that it does not have a mental health exemption. Meanwhile, Kansans for Life Legislative Director Kathy Ostrowski said the group is confident that the law could withstand a legal challenge (AP/Idaho Statesman, 2/12).


Idaho Senate Comm. Introduces Admitting Privileges Bill

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 15:41

Idaho's Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday voted to introduce legislation (SB 1094) that would require physicians who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 20 miles of the facility where they perform the procedure, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Idaho Senate Comm. Introduces Admitting Privileges Bill

February 18, 2015 — Idaho's Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday voted to introduce legislation (SB 1094) that would require physicians who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 20 miles of the facility where they perform the procedure, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The measure states that physicians without the privileges would be banned from "caus[ing] or perform[ing] an abortion."

Comments

State Sen. Lee Heider (R), who is sponsoring the bill, said the measure would help to protect women's health in case of complications. She said, "We're not trying to legislate against abortion with this bill, what we're trying to do is legislate care to those who get abortions." She noted that similar requirements have been approved in 16 states.

However, others argued that the measure could present challenges for abortion providers and potentially close clinics, the AP/Bee reports. Similar laws in other states have been challenged in court, with some courts blocking the laws.

State Sen. Dan Schmidt (D) also noted that the bill does not distinguish between surgical and medication abortions, which could mean that physicians who administer abortion drugs would have to obtain admitting privileges under the bill (Kruesi, AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/12).

Separately, Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, said the law was unnecessary because hospital emergency departments are required to accept all patients. She added, "It doesn't protect women's health when you adopt a law so impossible for providers to meet. What you're left with is a backdoor way to claim women's health to close abortion clinics, and we're seeing it across the country."

Hannah Brass Greer, legislative director for Planned Parenthood in Idaho, said she was still determining how many abortion providers at the three clinics in the state had admitting privileges. She noted that "[a]bortions are an extremely safe procedure," with "less than a 0.05 percent chance of something going wrong" during a first-trimester abortion (Kruesi, AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/13).


Advocates Want Pregnant Women To Qualify for Special ACA Enrollment

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 15:39

Some advocacy groups are urging the Obama administration to allow pregnant women to sign up for health coverage through the insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) outside of the normal open enrollment period, Kaiser Health News reports.

Advocates Want Pregnant Women To Qualify for Special ACA Enrollment

February 18, 2015 — Some advocacy groups are urging the Obama administration to allow pregnant women to sign up for health coverage through the insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) outside of the normal open enrollment period, Kaiser Health News reports.

Background

Under the ACA, women can enroll in health coverage after giving birth, even if it is not during an open enrollment period. However, advocacy groups have raised concern that requiring women to wait until after giving birth to sign up for coverage could lead them to forgo care or face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for prenatal care and delivery.

Call for Change

The March of Dimes, Planned Parenthood and Young Invincibles are among the groups calling for pregnant women to be allowed to enroll at any time. According to a report released Wednesday by Young Invincibles, women who lack access to health coverage might be more likely to forgo prenatal care because of costs, which could put them and their fetuses at risk.

Cynthia Pellegrini, March of Dimes' senior vice president, said that about 50% of pregnancies are unintended and that women cannot predict if they will experience pregnancy complications that require additional services. Allowing pregnant women to enroll in coverage would help protect their health and give women with high-risk pregnancies access to certain physicians and hospitals they might need, according to advocates.

Insurance Industry Resists

The health insurance industry argues that allowing women to enroll after they become pregnant could incent them to wait to purchase health coverage.

Clare Krusing, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, said, "If you only create incentives for people to enroll when they have a health need, it poses a tremendous risk to the risk pool and affordability for everyone else." According to Krusing, the change would make it harder for insurers to set premium prices because it would be more difficult to predict who will enroll.

HHS declined to comment, KHN reports (Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, 2/18).


Featured Blogs

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 19:31

"Hobby Lobby 2: Inside Republicans' Plan To Kill America's Most Effective Anti-Teen-Pregnancy Program" (Baumann, Mother Jones, 2/11); "Report Finds 'Shockingly Substandard' Reproductive Health Care in New York Prisons" (Greenberg, RH Reality Check, 2/13); "Repro Wrap: D&E Bans are Just Grandstanding and Other News" (Marty, Care2, 2/13).

February 17, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Hobby Lobby 2: Inside Republicans' Plan To Kill America's Most Effective Anti-Teen-Pregnancy Program," Nick Baumann, Mother Jones: A Colorado bill (HB 15-1194) that would continue a program that helps improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives for "low- and moderate-income women" could be "scuttle[d]" by "abortion politics" and the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, Baumann writes. "[T]he program has been, by most measures, a huge success," Baumann explains, noting that rates of teen pregnancy and abortion have dropped since the program was implemented, and that between 2010 and 2012 the program has saved "Medicaid between $49 million and $111 million." However, he writes that the funding measure is facing opposition from some conservative state lawmakers who believe that intrauterine devices "can cause abortions" by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, "the same belief that led to" the Hobby Lobby lawsuit. Baumann notes that IUDs work by preventing fertilization and that doctors "define abortion as the termination of an already implanted pregnancy" (Baumann, Mother Jones, 2/11).

FEATURED BLOG

"Report Finds 'Shockingly Substandard' Reproductive Health Care in New York Prisons," Zoe Greenberg, RH Reality Check: Greenberg discusses the findings of a "damning report released [last] week by the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York" that "finds that the quality of reproductive health care in the state's prisons is 'shockingly substandard.'" Greenberg writes that the report "details consistent violations of the state's anti-shackling law, severely limited access to birth control, lack of trauma-informed clinical care, and a routine denial of basic hygiene items like sanitary napkins and toilet paper." Further, she writes that the report "reveals dozens of ... reproductive health-care violations," including how "[w]omen often face long delays in accessing gynecological care behind bars, and dismissive doctors when they are finally seen." Greenberg writes that the report includes several recommendations, including "developing trauma-informed care," "enforcing the 2009 anti-shackling law" and "invest[ing] in alternatives to incarceration" (Greenberg, RH Reality Check, 2/13).

FEATURED BLOG

"Repro Wrap: D&E Bans are Just Grandstanding and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2: Marty discusses legislation in Kansas (SB 95), Oklahoma (HB 1721) and Missouri that abortion-rights opponents say would ban a certain abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation, effectively "stop[ping] abortion at a minimum of two months prior to viability." Marty notes that the National Right to Life Committee is working with lawmakers in multiple states to introduce the model legislation simultaneously and amend the bills, which suggests they are not trying to pass legislation so much as "chang[e] public perception on abortion." Marty touches on several other antiabortion-rights efforts, including a "personhood" amendment in Montana, 20-week abortion bans in South Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio and New Mexico, and a 72-hour mandatory delay bill (HB 1409) in Oklahoma, among others (Marty, Care2, 2/13).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "It's Only February and There are Already 100 New Anti-Abortion Bills," Natasha Vargas-Cooper, Jezebel.


Opinion: N.D. Women's Health Package Would Support Families, Public Health

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 19:26

The time has come for North Dakota "to turn away from attacks on reproductive health" and instead "support the women and families of our state and protect our public health," Amy Jacobson -- North Dakota public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota -- writes in a Grand Forks Herald opinion piece.

Opinion: N.D. Women's Health Package Would Support Families, Public Health

February 17, 2015 — The time has come for North Dakota "to turn away from attacks on reproductive health" and instead "support the women and families of our state and protect our public health," Amy Jacobson -- North Dakota public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota -- writes in a Grand Forks Herald opinion piece.

"The voters have spoken," she adds, noting that North Dakotans "soundly" rejected "an anti-women's health care ballot measure" last November.

Jacobson explains how two pieces of state legislation in the Women's Health Package "would protect women's health and reduce unintended pregnancies, thereby reducing the need for abortion."

One bill (HB 1295) would increase low-income women's access to preventive health services, including sexually transmitted infection screenings and contraception. Noting that about half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, Jacobson writes that "we can all support reducing the [state's] unintended pregnancy rate." HB 1295 "would do exactly that," she states.

Jacobson continues that the second bill in the package (HB 1291) would "provide pregnancy care through the Medicaid program for more low-income women," which is "critical in order to have healthy outcomes for women and their babies."

In summary, Jacobson writes that the package would bring North Dakota women "the family planning services and pregnancy care they need," which would result in "healthier women and healthier pregnancies, fewer low birth weight births, reduced rates of unintended pregnancy and fewer abortions" (Jacobson, Grand Forks Herald, 2/11).


S.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban Clears House

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 19:25

The South Carolina House last week voted 80-27 to approve a measure (H 3114) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Rock Hill Herald reports (Self, Rock Hill Herald, 2/11).

S.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban Clears House

February 17, 2015 — The South Carolina House last week voted 80-27 to approve a measure (H 3114) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Rock Hill Herald reports (Self, Rock Hill Herald, 2/11).

According to the AP/Columbia State, a similar measure (H 4223) passed the state House last year but stalled in the state Senate (AP/Columbia State, 2/11).

Background

The 20-week legislation is based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development (Rock Hill Herald, 2/11). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/12).

Current state law bans abortion at 24 weeks, with an exception for endangerment to a woman's life.

Bill Details

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Wendy Nanney (R), would permit abortion after 20 weeks to save a woman's life, but not in cases of rape, incest or fetal anomalies.

If an abortion is needed to save a woman's life, a physician would be required to remove the fetus using a method that would give the fetus the best chance of survival. In addition, physicians would be required in such cases to report certain data to the state, including the method of abortion used and the age of the woman.

Further, the bill would require physicians to determine the length of gestation prior to performing abortions, except in cases of endangerment to a woman's life.

Physicians convicted of violating the law could face fines of up to $10,000 and potential jail time of up to three years.

Comments

State Rep. Beth Bernstein (D) said to other lawmakers, "This legislation is putting all of us in the exam room."

In addition, opponents of the legislation have noted that many abortions at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy are sought because of complications such as severe fetal anomalies, which often cannot be detected until about 20 weeks (Rock Hill Herald, 2/11).


W.Va. House Approves 20-Week Abortion Ban

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 19:24

The West Virginia House last week voted 87-12 to approve a bill (HB 2568) that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the AP/Washington Times reports (Mattise, AP/Washington Times, 2/11).

W.Va. House Approves 20-Week Abortion Ban

February 17, 2015 — The West Virginia House last week voted 87-12 to approve a bill (HB 2568) that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the AP/Washington Times reports (Mattise, AP/Washington Times, 2/11). The measure now heads to the state Senate for consideration (McCormick, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 2/11).

According to the AP/Times, the bill is based on the premise that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation (AP/Washington Times, 2/11). However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/9).

The bill would allow exceptions to the ban for medical emergencies but not for cases of rape or incest, or if the woman faces severe psychological distress (AP/Washington Times, 2/11).

Background

The bill is similar to a measure (HB 4588) the state Legislature passed last session that would have made it a misdemeanor for a physician to provide an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) vetoed the measure last year, saying that it was likely unconstitutional and would restrict pregnant women's health care. He also said he vetoed the bill because the medical community believes that the measure's legal penalties would have intruded on the patient-doctor relationship.

Tomblin said he likely would veto the new bill if it is identical to the one he vetoed last session. However, the state Legislature could override the governor's veto with a simple majority (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/22).

Debate on the Measure

During debate over the measure, state Delegate Lynne Arvon (R) said the bill is not about "whether we should have abortion or not," but about protecting a fetus at that stage of development from pain.

Separately, state Delegate Dave Pethtel (D) said he opposed the bill because he "believe[s] that when a woman has to make one of the most difficult decisions in her life on whether or not to have an abortion, especially in high risk, complicated pregnancies, that decision should [be] between her, her doctor, her family, and her God, not the Government" (West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 2/11).


Texas Bills, Campaign Aim To Improve Reproductive Health Care

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 19:23

Texas lawmakers who support abortion rights have introduced four bills as part of a multiyear campaign to improve women's access to reproductive health care in the state, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Texas Bills, Campaign Aim To Improve Reproductive Health Care

February 17, 2015 — Texas lawmakers who support abortion rights have introduced four bills as part of a multiyear campaign to improve women's access to reproductive health care in the state, the Houston Chronicle reports (Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, 2/12).

Campaign Details

The initiative, unveiled Thursday, is called "Trust. Respect. Access." Whole Woman's Health spokesperson Fatimah Gifford described it as a "public policy campaign to restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, respect for health care professionals' judgment [and to] regain access to the full range of reproductive healthcare from sex education to abortion care to birth control."

The campaign also involves the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Research Institute (Martin, "Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12).

New Legislation

State Reps. Jessica Farrar (D), Mary González (D) and Donna Howard (D) on Thursday discussed four pieces of legislation they have filed as part of the campaign (Houston Chronicle, 2/12).

One bill (HB 78) would allow comprehensive sexuality education to be taught in Texas schools ("Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12). Under the bill, sex education in public schools would have to be "medically accurate" and "age-appropriate" (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).

Another measure (HB 468) would allow minors ages 15 and older who have children to access birth control without the requirement of parental consent.

A third bill (HB 1210) would protect health care providers in the state from being required to give women state-mandated information about abortions that is not evidence-based (Houston Chronicle, 2/12). Specifically, the bill would allow for a "professional judgment exception" permitting providers who offer services related to abortion not to comply with legal requirements if those requirements are inconsistent with accepted, evidence-based medical practices and ethical standards.

Another bill (HB 709) would repeal the state's 24-hour mandatory delay under its 2011 ultrasound law (Ura, Texas Tribune, 2/12). A provision of the 2011 law requires women to receive ultrasounds at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure, unless the woman lives at least 100 miles from the nearest provider. In that case, the delay would be two hours (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/11/12). The law also requires health care provides to describe the fetus' development and to make the fetal heartbeat audible. HB 709 would repeal the mandatory delay under the ultrasound law, but it would not end the requirement that women undergo an ultrasound.

Comments

Farrar, who chairs the Texas House Women's Health Caucus, said, "This 24-hour waiting period has proven to be ineffective, unnecessary and cruel. It does not change a pregnant Texas woman's decision."

Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said his group opposes repealing the mandatory delay provision (Texas Tribune, 2/12).

Meanwhile, Farrar said that while the bills likely would not have enough support to pass in the current legislative session, "that doesn't stop us from continuing to talk about this." She said, "I think history has shown that because people are vocal over time eventually you have success" (Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12).

Dinorah Martinez, a field coordinator for NLIRH, added, "We're not going to stop until we have trust, respect and access for all" (Houston Chronicle, 2/12).


Opinion: N.D. Women's Health Package Would Support Families, Public Health

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 18:56

The time has come for North Dakota "to turn away from attacks on reproductive health" and instead "support the women and families of our state and protect our public health," Amy Jacobson -- North Dakota public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota -- writes in a Grand Forks Herald opinion piece.

Opinion: N.D. Women's Health Package Would Support Families, Public Health

February 17, 2015 — The time has come for North Dakota "to turn away from attacks on reproductive health" and instead "support the women and families of our state and protect our public health," Amy Jacobson -- North Dakota public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota -- writes in a Grand Forks Herald opinion piece.

"The voters have spoken," she adds, noting that North Dakotans "soundly" rejected "an anti-women's health care ballot measure" last November.

Jacobson explains how two pieces of state legislation in the Women's Health Package "would protect women's health and reduce unintended pregnancies, thereby reducing the need for abortion."

One bill (HB 1295) would increase low-income women's access to preventive health services, including sexually transmitted infection screenings and contraception. Noting that about half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, Jacobson writes that "we can all support reducing the [state's] unintended pregnancy rate." HB 1295 "would do exactly that," she states.

Jacobson continues that the second bill in the package (HB 1291) would "provide pregnancy care through the Medicaid program for more low-income women," which is "critical in order to have healthy outcomes for women and their babies."

In summary, Jacobson writes that the package would bring North Dakota women "the family planning services and pregnancy care they need," which would result in "healthier women and healthier pregnancies, fewer low birth weight births, reduced rates of unintended pregnancy and fewer abortions" (Jacobson, Grand Forks Herald, 2/11).


Blogs Comment on HPV Vaccine, Paid Sick Leave, Problems at N.Y. Prisons, More

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 18:29

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Mother Jones, Salon and more.

Blogs Comment on HPV Vaccine, Paid Sick Leave, Problems at N.Y. Prisons, More

February 17, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Mother Jones, Salon and more.

CONTRACEPTION: "Hobby Lobby 2: Inside Republicans' Plan To Kill America's Most Effective Anti-Teen-Pregnancy Program," Nick Baumann, Mother Jones: A Colorado bill (HB 15-1194) that would continue a program that helps improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives for "low- and moderate-income women" could be "scuttle[d]" by "abortion politics" and the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, Baumann writes. "[T]he program has been, by most measures, a huge success," Baumann explains, noting that rates of teen pregnancy and abortion have dropped since the program was implemented, and that between 2010 and 2012 the program has saved "Medicaid between $49 million and $111 million." However, he writes that the funding measure is facing opposition from some conservative state lawmakers who believe that intrauterine devices "can cause abortions" by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, "the same belief that led to" the Hobby Lobby lawsuit. Baumann notes that IUDs work by preventing fertilization and that doctors "define abortion as the termination of an already implanted pregnancy" (Baumann, Mother Jones, 2/11).

STIs: "Sorry Again, Anti-Vaxxers: HPV Vaccine Works, Doesn't Lead Young Women To Have Crazy Unsafe Sex," Jenny Kutner, Salon: A new study that found that "women with the HPV vaccine are not more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections as a result of unprotected sex ... is in keeping with earlier studies that show the HPV vaccine does not turn teens into sex-crazed loons," Kutner writes. She adds that Anupam Jena, the lead author of the study, said concerns about risky sexual activity are "'not something to automatically dismiss.'" However, she notes that Jena said such behavior "has more to do with" whether physicians tell young women "about the health risks associated with unprotected sex" than with women receiving the HPV vaccine (Kutner, Salon, 2/10).

ACCESSING REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE: "Access to Paid Sick Leave is Vital for Those Seeking Reproductive Health Care," Christen McCurdy, RH Reality Check: "[T]he lack of paid sick time available across the country means that if a worker needs time to address reproductive health needs -- including prenatal or abortion care -- she may have to risk her livelihood or her paycheck to do so," McCurdy writes. For example, McCurdy notes that as state abortion restrictions increase, there is a greater "likelihood that patients seeking an abortion need time off work." Similarly, she writes that a survey from the National Partnership for Women & Families found that pregnant women who are planning to carry their pregnancies to term can face difficulty requesting changes in their work schedules or time off for prenatal appointments or other reasons related to their pregnancies. However, McCurdy notes that "[t]hings are changing ... albeit slowly," with several cities and states proposing or implementing paid sick leave laws and the Obama administration calling on Congress to reintroduce and pass the Healthy Families Act, which "would guarantee seven days of paid sick leave per year for regular employees at U.S. companies with more than 15 employees" (McCurdy, RH Reality Check, 2/11).

INCARCERATED WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "Report Finds 'Shockingly Substandard' Reproductive Health Care in New York Prisons," Zoe Greenberg, RH Reality Check: Greenberg discusses the findings of a "damning report released [last] week by the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York" that "finds that the quality of reproductive health care in the state's prisons is 'shockingly substandard.'" Greenberg writes that the report "details consistent violations of the state's anti-shackling law, severely limited access to birth control, lack of trauma-informed clinical care, and a routine denial of basic hygiene items like sanitary napkins and toilet paper." Further, she writes that the report "reveals dozens of ... reproductive health-care violations," including how "[w]omen often face long delays in accessing gynecological care behind bars, and dismissive doctors when they are finally seen." Greenberg writes that the report includes several recommendations, including "developing trauma-informed care," "enforcing the 2009 anti-shackling law" and "invest[ing] in alternatives to incarceration" (Greenberg, RH Reality Check, 2/13).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Repro Wrap: D&E Bans are Just Grandstanding and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2: Marty discusses legislation in Kansas (SB 95), Oklahoma (HB 1721) and Missouri that abortion-rights opponents say would ban a certain abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation, effectively "stop[ping] abortion at a minimum of two months prior to viability." Marty notes that the National Right to Life Committee is working with lawmakers in multiple states to introduce the model legislation simultaneously and amend the bills, which suggests they are not trying to pass legislation so much as "chang[e] public perception on abortion." Marty touches on several other antiabortion-rights efforts, including a "personhood" amendment in Montana, 20-week abortion bans in South Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio and New Mexico, and a 72-hour mandatory delay bill (HB 1409) in Oklahoma, among others (Marty, Care2, 2/13).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "It's Only February and There are Already 100 New Anti-Abortion Bills," Natasha Vargas-Cooper, Jezebel.


W.Va. House Approves 20-Week Abortion Ban

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 18:27

The West Virginia House last week voted 87-12 to approve a bill (HB 2568) that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the AP/Washington Times reports (Mattise, AP/Washington Times, 2/11).

W.Va. House Approves 20-Week Abortion Ban

February 17, 2015 — The West Virginia House last week voted 87-12 to approve a bill (HB 2568) that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the AP/Washington Times reports (Mattise, AP/Washington Times, 2/11). The measure now heads to the state Senate for consideration (McCormick, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 2/11).

According to the AP/Times, the bill is based on the premise that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation (AP/Washington Times, 2/11). However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/9).

The bill would allow exceptions to the ban for medical emergencies but not for cases of rape or incest, or if the woman faces severe psychological distress (AP/Washington Times, 2/11).

Background

The bill is similar to a measure (HB 4588) the state Legislature passed last session that would have made it a misdemeanor for a physician to provide an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) vetoed the measure last year, saying that it was likely unconstitutional and would restrict pregnant women's health care. He also said he vetoed the bill because the medical community believes that the measure's legal penalties would have intruded on the patient-doctor relationship.

Tomblin said he likely would veto the new bill if it is identical to the one he vetoed last session. However, the state Legislature could override the governor's veto with a simple majority (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/22).

Debate on the Measure

During debate over the measure, state Delegate Lynne Arvon (R) said the bill is not about "whether we should have abortion or not," but about protecting a fetus at that stage of development from pain.

Separately, state Delegate Dave Pethtel (D) said he opposed the bill because he "believe[s] that when a woman has to make one of the most difficult decisions in her life on whether or not to have an abortion, especially in high risk, complicated pregnancies, that decision should [be] between her, her doctor, her family, and her God, not the Government" (West Virginia Public Broadcasting, 2/11).


Texas Bills, Campaign Aim To Improve Reproductive Health Care

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 16:18

Texas lawmakers who support abortion rights have introduced four bills as part of a multiyear campaign to improve women's access to reproductive health care in the state, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Texas Bills, Campaign Aim To Improve Reproductive Health Care

February 17, 2015 — Texas lawmakers who support abortion rights have introduced four bills as part of a multiyear campaign to improve women's access to reproductive health care in the state, the Houston Chronicle reports (Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, 2/12).

Campaign Details

The initiative, unveiled Thursday, is called "Trust. Respect. Access." Whole Woman's Health spokesperson Fatimah Gifford described it as a "public policy campaign to restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, respect for health care professionals' judgment [and to] regain access to the full range of reproductive healthcare from sex education to abortion care to birth control."

The campaign also involves the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, the Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Research Institute (Martin, "Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12).

New Legislation

State Reps. Jessica Farrar (D), Mary González (D) and Donna Howard (D) on Thursday discussed four pieces of legislation they have filed as part of the campaign (Houston Chronicle, 2/12).

One bill (HB 78) would allow comprehensive sexuality education to be taught in Texas schools ("Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12). Under the bill, sex education in public schools would have to be "medically accurate" and "age-appropriate" (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/14).

Another measure (HB 468) would allow minors ages 15 and older who have children to access birth control without the requirement of parental consent.

A third bill (HB 1210) would protect health care providers in the state from being required to give women state-mandated information about abortions that is not evidence-based (Houston Chronicle, 2/12). Specifically, the bill would allow for a "professional judgment exception" permitting providers who offer services related to abortion not to comply with legal requirements if those requirements are inconsistent with accepted, evidence-based medical practices and ethical standards.

Another bill (HB 709) would repeal the state's 24-hour mandatory delay under its 2011 ultrasound law (Ura, Texas Tribune, 2/12). A provision of the 2011 law requires women to receive ultrasounds at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure, unless the woman lives at least 100 miles from the nearest provider. In that case, the delay would be two hours (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/11/12). The law also requires health care provides to describe the fetus' development and to make the fetal heartbeat audible. HB 709 would repeal the mandatory delay under the ultrasound law, but it would not end the requirement that women undergo an ultrasound.

Comments

Farrar, who chairs the Texas House Women's Health Caucus, said, "This 24-hour waiting period has proven to be ineffective, unnecessary and cruel. It does not change a pregnant Texas woman's decision."

Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman said his group opposes repealing the mandatory delay provision (Texas Tribune, 2/12).

Meanwhile, Farrar said that while the bills likely would not have enough support to pass in the current legislative session, "that doesn't stop us from continuing to talk about this." She said, "I think history has shown that because people are vocal over time eventually you have success" (Trail Blazers Blog," Dallas Morning News, 2/12).

Dinorah Martinez, a field coordinator for NLIRH, added, "We're not going to stop until we have trust, respect and access for all" (Houston Chronicle, 2/12).


S.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban Clears House

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 15:55

The South Carolina House last week voted 80-27 to approve a measure (H 3114) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Rock Hill Herald reports (Self, Rock Hill Herald, 2/11).

S.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban Clears House

February 17, 2015 — The South Carolina House last week voted 80-27 to approve a measure (H 3114) that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Rock Hill Herald reports (Self, Rock Hill Herald, 2/11).

According to the AP/Columbia State, a similar measure (H 4223) passed the state House last year but stalled in the state Senate (AP/Columbia State, 2/11).

Background

The 20-week legislation is based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development (Rock Hill Herald, 2/11). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/12).

Current state law bans abortion at 24 weeks, with an exception for endangerment to a woman's life.

Bill Details

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Wendy Nanney (R), would permit abortion after 20 weeks to save a woman's life, but not in cases of rape, incest or fetal anomalies.

If an abortion is needed to save a woman's life, a physician would be required to remove the fetus using a method that would give the fetus the best chance of survival. In addition, physicians would be required in such cases to report certain data to the state, including the method of abortion used and the age of the woman.

Further, the bill would require physicians to determine the length of gestation prior to performing abortions, except in cases of endangerment to a woman's life.

Physicians convicted of violating the law could face fines of up to $10,000 and potential jail time of up to three years.

Comments

State Rep. Beth Bernstein (D) said to other lawmakers, "This legislation is putting all of us in the exam room."

In addition, opponents of the legislation have noted that many abortions at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy are sought because of complications such as severe fetal anomalies, which often cannot be detected until about 20 weeks (Rock Hill Herald, 2/11).


Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Janek

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 08:20

Federal court challenge to a Texas rule prohibiting Planned Parenthood affiliates and other entities affiliated with abortion providers from participating in Texas' Medicaid Women's Health Program as violating Plaintiffs' constitutional rights.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Janek

Federal court challenge to a Texas rule prohibiting Planned Parenthood affiliates and other entities affiliated with abortion providers from participating in Texas’ Medicaid Women’s Health Program as violating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. In December 2012, case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Final Outcome: The case was dismissed in January 2013 without prejudice at Plaintiff’s request while the state court case proceeds.

Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County Texas, Inc. v. Suehs

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 07:43

Federal court challenge to a Texas rule prohibiting Planned Parenthood affiliates and other entities affiliated with abortion providers from participating in Texas' Medicaid Women's Health Program

Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County Texas, Inc. v. Suehs

Federal court challenge to a Texas rule prohibiting Planned Parenthood affiliates and other entities affiliated with abortion providers from participating in Texas’ Medicaid Women’s Health Program. The case was filed in April 2012. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas held a hearing on the matter and granted a preliminary injunction preventing the law from going into effect. The state immediately appealed. In May 2012, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s motion for a stay pending appeal. In August 2012, the 5th Circuit lifted the temporary injunction and allowed the law to go into effect pending the outcome of the case. In October 2012, the full 5th Circuit refused to rehear the case. Final Outcome: The case was dismissed in November 2012 without prejudice at Plaintiff’s request while the state court case proceeds. (See the complaint here. See the district court opinion here. See the 5th Circuit May order here. See the 5th Circuit August order here.)

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. v. Texas Health & Human Services

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 07:20

State court challenge to a Texas rule prohibiting Planned Parenthood affiliates and other entities affiliated with abortion providers from participating in Texas' Medicaid Women's Health Program.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission

State court challenge to a Texas rule prohibiting Planned Parenthood affiliates and other entities affiliated with abortion providers from participating in Texas' Medicaid Women's Health Program. The case was filed in October 2012. The state court immediately issued a temporary restraining order and set a hearing date for the following month. Following the November 2012 hearing, a state court judge granted Planned Parenthood's request for a preliminary injunction. In December 2012, the Court of Appeals of Texas reversed that order. Final Outcome: In April 2014, the Texas Court of Appeals dismissed the case as moot because the program in which Planned Parenthood is seeking to participate no longer exists. (See the petition for injunction here. See the October temporary restraining order here. See the November temporary injunction here. See the Court of Appeals dismissal here.)

N.H. House Committee Considers Bill To Repeal 'Buffer Zone' Law

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 20:23

Supporters of a New Hampshire "buffer zone" law (SB 319) this week urged state lawmakers to enact other protections for women entering abortion clinics if the law is repealed, the AP/Concord Monitor reports.

N.H. House Committee Considers Bill To Repeal 'Buffer Zone' Law

February 12, 2015 — Supporters of a New Hampshire "buffer zone" law (SB 319) this week urged state lawmakers to enact other protections for women entering abortion clinics if the law is repealed, the AP/Concord Monitor reports (Ronayne, AP/Concord Monitor, 2/11).

Background

The law, which took effect in July 2014, created a 25-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in the state. However, the state attorney general's office said it would not enforce the measure amid a federal lawsuit challenging whether the law is constitutional.

The suit was filed by a Christian legal group alleging that the measure violates antiabortion-rights protesters' right to free speech. The group, called the Alliance Defending Freedom, is the same organization that led a challenge resulting in last year's Supreme Court decision that struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/17/14).

According to the AP/Monitor, a U.S. District Court judge in New Hampshire blocked enforcement of the law, and no clinics in the state have implemented a buffer zone.

Supporters Press for Additional Protections

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday heard testimony on proposed legislation (HB 403) that would repeal the buffer zone law.

During the hearing, state Rep. Kathleen Souza (R), who is co-sponsoring the repeal measure, said the bill is needed to avoid a costly legal challenge and because harassment does not occur outside of the state's clinics.

Separately, state Sen. Donna Soucy (D), who sponsored the buffer zone legislation, maintained that the law is constitutional because it is more narrowly tailored than the Massachusetts law. Further, she noted that clinic harassment would not "simply go away by removing this law from the books."

Meanwhile, Jennifer Frizzell, senior policy adviser at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, recommended that state lawmakers institute civil and criminal penalties for individuals who block clinic entrances or threaten or intimidate patients and staff members while entering or leaving the clinics. According to the AP/Monitor, the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (PL 103-259) bars individuals from blocking women's access to reproductive health clinics (AP/Concord Monitor, 2/11).


Quote Round Up: Obama Commemorates Roe v. Wade, Advocates Condemn State Abortion Restrictions, More

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 19:54

Key stakeholders in women's health comment on a proposed 20-week abortion ban in Congress, Peace Corps abortion coverage, laws criminalizing pregnancy and more.

Quote Round Up: Obama Commemorates Roe v. Wade, Advocates Condemn State Abortion Restrictions, More

February 15, 2015 — Key stakeholders in women's health comment on the Roe v. Wade anniversary, state antiabortion-rights legislation and more.

"[Roe v. Wade] protects a woman's freedom to make her own choices about her body and her health, and reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters." -- President Obama, commemorating the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The president added that he is "deeply committed to protecting this core constitutional right" of abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23).

"[A]nti-abortion extremists strategically target a vulnerable minority of clinics, aiming to force them to close their doors before moving on to the next set of targets." -- A report from the Feminist Majority Foundation, on results of a survey examining threats and intimidation against abortion providers. The survey found a significant increase since 2010 in targeted harassment against clinics, including distribution of "wanted-style" posters and pamphlets with staff members' personal information and photos (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/30).

"Medical decisions should not be made in the Statehouse, they should be made in doctors' offices based on sound medical science." --
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, on legislative proposals backed by an Ohio antiabortion-rights group, including multiple bans on abortion care. Conservative state lawmakers plan to introduce the bills this session (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/11).

"[T]he Women's Health Protection Act would allow women to make their own personal health care decisions regardless of where they live, and protect the relationship between a woman and her health care provider." --
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, praising a bill that would prohibit state and federal lawmakers from enacting certain restrictions on abortion rights (National Partnership statement, 1/21).

"Lawmakers ... need to know abortion is safe largely because it is legal." --
Jamila Perritt, medical director for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., urging lawmakers "to listen to women's health care providers" and stop proposing antiabortion-rights laws. She explained that the legality of the procedure makes it "subject to rigorous research, constantly evolving best practices and ... part of regular medical practice for many women's health care providers" (CQ Roll Call, 1/28).

"The long-term decline in teen pregnancy rates in many countries is great news. Yet it is clear that far more needs to be done." --
Gilda Sedgh, commenting on a study she authored that found the U.S. continues to have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy among countries that track such data, despite overall declines. According to the study, there were 57.4 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15 through 19 in the U.S. in 2010, compared with 14 per 1,000 in the countries with the lowest rates (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/27).


Quote Round Up: Obama Commemorates Roe v. Wade, Advocates Condemn State Abortion Restrictions, More

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 19:54

Key stakeholders in women's health comment on a proposed 20-week abortion ban in Congress, Peace Corps abortion coverage, laws criminalizing pregnancy and more.

Quote Round Up: Obama Commemorates Roe v. Wade, Advocates Condemn State Abortion Restrictions, More

February 15, 2015 — Key stakeholders in women's health comment on the Roe v. Wade anniversary, state antiabortion-rights legislation and more.

"[Roe v. Wade] protects a woman's freedom to make her own choices about her body and her health, and reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters." -- President Obama, commemorating the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The president added that he is "deeply committed to protecting this core constitutional right" of abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23).

"[A]nti-abortion extremists strategically target a vulnerable minority of clinics, aiming to force them to close their doors before moving on to the next set of targets." -- A report from the Feminist Majority Foundation, on results of a survey examining threats and intimidation against abortion providers. The survey found a significant increase since 2010 in targeted harassment against clinics, including distribution of "wanted-style" posters and pamphlets with staff members' personal information and photos (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/30).

"Medical decisions should not be made in the Statehouse, they should be made in doctors' offices based on sound medical science." --
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, on legislative proposals backed by an Ohio antiabortion-rights group, including multiple bans on abortion care. Conservative state lawmakers plan to introduce the bills this session (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/11).

"[T]he Women's Health Protection Act would allow women to make their own personal health care decisions regardless of where they live, and protect the relationship between a woman and her health care provider." --
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, praising a bill that would prohibit state and federal lawmakers from enacting certain restrictions on abortion rights (National Partnership statement, 1/21).

"Lawmakers ... need to know abortion is safe largely because it is legal." --
Jamila Perritt, medical director for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., urging lawmakers "to listen to women's health care providers" and stop proposing antiabortion-rights laws. She explained that the legality of the procedure makes it "subject to rigorous research, constantly evolving best practices and ... part of regular medical practice for many women's health care providers" (CQ Roll Call, 1/28).

"The long-term decline in teen pregnancy rates in many countries is great news. Yet it is clear that far more needs to be done." --
Gilda Sedgh, commenting on a study she authored that found the U.S. continues to have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy among countries that track such data, despite overall declines. According to the study, there were 57.4 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15 through 19 in the U.S. in 2010, compared with 14 per 1,000 in the countries with the lowest rates (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/27).