Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 1 hour 49 min ago

NYT: Women's Health Protection Act 'Vital' To Safeguarding Rights

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:38

While abortion-rights supporters "have been forced to play a defensive game" against state abortion restrictions, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on "could begin to move the dynamics of the fight in a positive direction," a New York Times editorial states.

NYT: Women's Health Protection Act 'Vital' To Safeguarding Rights

July 15, 2014 — While abortion-rights supporters "have been forced to play a defensive game" against state abortion restrictions, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on "could begin to move the dynamics of the fight in a positive direction," a New York Times editorial states.

The hearing will focus on the Women's Health Protection Act (S 1696, HR 3471), "a vital measure that would safeguard the reproductive rights of women all across the nation, regardless of where they live," the editorial explains. For example, the bill would "bar states from imposing uniquely oppressive 'safety' rules on reproductive health care providers in a thinly veiled effort to drive them out of business," the Times states.

"The bill stands little chance of enactment in this Congress," the editorial notes. However, "the hearing can serve a valuable purpose if it alerts legislators and the public to a pernicious charade by removing the 'patina of respectability' from what are essentially phony restrictions of no medical value," the Times concludes, citing the words of bill sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) (New York Times, 7/14).


Bill Proposed To Protect Mass. Abortion Clinics After Supreme Court Ruling

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:35

A Massachusetts bill filed Monday aims to bolster security and anti-harassment protections at the state's reproductive health centers after the Supreme Court struck down its 35-foot "buffer zone" law, the New York Times reports.

Bill Proposed To Protect Mass. Abortion Clinics After Supreme Court Ruling

July 15, 2014 — A Massachusetts bill filed Monday aims to bolster security and anti-harassment protections at the state's reproductive health centers after the Supreme Court struck down its 35-foot "buffer zone" law, the New York Times reports (Bidgood, New York Times, 7/14).

The buffer zone law, enacted in 2007, only permitted people to enter a 35-foot zone around abortion clinics to access the facility itself or reach another destination. In striking down the law, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that "buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve [Massachusetts'] asserted interests" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

New Legislation Details

The new bill, filed by state Sen. Harriette Chandler (D), would give law enforcement personnel the authority to give dispersal orders if two or more protesters deliberately prevent patients or staff members from entering a clinic. Individuals who receive such orders would be required to stay at least 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance for up to eight hours.

The bill also would prohibit protesters from interfering with vehicles approaching or leaving the area, as well as intimidating or harming people accessing the clinic.

Bill Aims To Address Free-Speech Issues

The bill's supporters said it would not create a new buffer zone but instead would bolster existing public safety laws and create new ones (LeBlanc, AP/MassLive, 7/14).

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said the measure "is a much more narrowly focused bill" than the previous law. He noted that it "prohibits obstruction of access" not "expression of free speech," which the Supreme Court focused on in its ruling.

However, Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said the "25-foot dispersal area seems to be another name for a buffer zone," which could prompt "a further constitutional challenge" (New York Times 7/14).


More Health Plans Covering Gender Reassignment Surgery

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:32

Although transgender-rights advocates are encouraged by a series of recent decisions expanding health insurance coverage for gender affirmation surgery, they expect progress toward widespread coverage to remain incremental, Politico reports

More Health Plans Covering Gender Reassignment Surgery

July 15, 2014 — Although transgender-rights advocates are encouraged by a series of recent decisions expanding health insurance coverage for gender affirmation surgery, they expect progress toward widespread coverage to remain incremental, Politico reports.

In what was seen as "both a practical and symbolic shift," Medicare in May ended a longstanding ban on covering the surgery, according to Politico. Since then, Massachusetts and Washington have begun requiring health plans to cover gender affirmation surgery, citing provisions in the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) that prohibit sex discrimination in health coverage. However, HHS has said that the ACA does not specifically require health plans to cover the surgery.

In 2012, Oregon became the first state to require private insurers to cover medically necessary transition surgeries. Since then, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Vermont and Washington, D.C., have followed suit.

Uneven Benefits

Despite the progress, coverage of gender affirmation surgery remains uneven overall and is "rarely comprehensive," according to Politico. For example, at least 167 of the Fortune 1,000 companies provide surgical benefits for transgender employees under their employer-sponsored plans, according to the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.

In addition, some insurance companies will cover changes to certain body parts but exclude other procedures, such as voice modification surgery, as cosmetic. Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management allows coverage for the surgery but does not require providers to include it in plans offered through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, "Sometimes inevitability takes a while" (Politico, 7/13).


Multi-Million Fundraising Goals Set for Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Referendum

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:29

Abortion-rights supporters and opponents in Tennessee have both set fundraising goals of millions of dollars in a battle over a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution, the Tennessean reports.

Multi-Million Fundraising Goals Set for Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Referendum

July 15, 2014 — Abortion-rights supporters and opponents in Tennessee have both set fundraising goals of millions of dollars in a battle over a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution, the Tennessean reports (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 7/13). State residents will vote on the ballot measure in November.

Background

In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the state constitution guarantees women in the state a fundamental right to abortion. The judges in their opinion wrote, "A woman's right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution."

If it passes in November, Amendment 1 would amend the state constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/11).

Fundraising Details

Abortion-rights advocates behind the Vote No on One campaign have set a fundraising goal of about $4 million and have raised more than $360,000 in the past six months, according to the Tennessean.

Most of the money has come from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion-rights groups both inside and outside the state, including $175,000 from Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, $50,000 from Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest in Seattle and $35,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union, along with a dozen individual contributions that ranged from $200 to $1,000.

Vote No on One Campaign Director and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee CEO Jeff Teague said, "We know from conversations we've had with national donors and other Planned Parenthood affiliates that people are very concerned about what's happening in the South, where we have seen really draconian laws passed in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama."

Meanwhile, abortion-rights opponents with the Yes on 1 campaign have set a fundraising goal of $2.1 million and have raised more than $518,000, according to disclosure forms filed last week with the state. Much of the money came from a $250,000 fundraiser headlined by Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R) last fall (Tennessean, 7/13).


Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:41

Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

July 14, 2014 — Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Perry, Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).

Background

In January, the Ohio Department of Health ordered the Women's Med Center in Sharonville, Ohio, to close after denying its request for reprieve from a state law that requires ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- to have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23).

The clinic appealed the order and asked the court to order the state to renew the clinic's operating license and provide a temporary stay of the closure order while the case proceeds. Later that month, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz said that the clinic could remain open while the appeal continued.

However, Hamilton County Common Pleas Magistrate Michael Bachman earlier this month affirmed the health department's order and said he would lift the stay.

Under Hamilton County court rules, a common pleas judge must approve a magistrate's rulings, which means that Bachman's decision has to be approved by Metz (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/2). According to the Enquirer, Bachman's order can be appealed within 14 days or remain ineffective should Metz decide not to approve it.

Metz' Ruling Stands

Attorneys representing the clinic on Thursday said that they would appeal the order, which means that the Metz ruling permitting the clinic to remain open will stand.

According to the Enquirer, the case over the clinic is scheduled to resume on Aug. 15 (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).


Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:40

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports.

Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

July 14, 2014 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports (Lyon, Fort Smith Times-Record, 7/10).

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.

A federal judge overturned the law earlier this year, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than on fetal viability is unconstitutional. In May, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling and uphold the law, arguing that it protects women, fetuses and medical professionals (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/29).

Plaintiffs Urge Court To Reject Appeal

In a brief filed Thursday, ACLU of Arkansas and CRR -- who are challenging the law on behalf of two abortion providers in Little Rock -- asked the court to reject McDaniel's appeal, arguing that the state is trying to overturn court precedent by defending the law.

The brief states, "For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that, before viability, states lack the power to ban abortion and wrest from a woman the ultimate decision of whether to continue a pregnancy -- regardless of the particular interests asserted by the state, and regardless of whether the state includes exceptions to the ban."

It adds, "This court does not have the authority to overturn this precedent, and the state's arguments to the contrary should be roundly rejected" (AP/Arkansas Business, 7/10).


N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:39

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports.

N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

July 14, 2014 — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports (Branch, Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a Massachusetts buffer zone law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics violates the First Amendment's right to free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26). The decision has prompted officials in some areas to stop enforcing their buffer zone laws, the Albany Times Union reports.

Twenty-two counties in New York have buffer zones laws, while New York City enforces a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, according to the Times Union.

Schneiderman Comments

In a memorandum to law enforcement agencies, Schneiderman said his office has received reports of antiabortion-rights groups "suggesting to [abortion] service providers that the Supreme Court invalidated all buffer zones and other protections. That is not true." He added that the court "also affirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to reproductive health services" (Seiler, Albany Times Union, 7/10).

Schneiderman also said he is "committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure [the state's laws] are fully enforced" (Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Tracey Brooks of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York State said Schneiderman's statement "should send a clear message to those extremists willing to intimidate patients and staff at health centers" (Albany Times Union, 7/10).


Contraceptive Coverage Form Designed To Accommodate Religious Employers Draws Objections

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:14

The form that religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations must complete to opt out of directly providing contraceptive coverage to their employees has "provoked a titanic clash between the government and many religious organizations" and become a "a tangible symbol of President Obama's struggle to balance religious freedom and women's rights," the New York Times reports.

Contraceptive Coverage Form Designed To Accommodate Religious Employers Draws Objections

July 14, 2014 — The form that religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations must complete to opt out of directly providing contraceptive coverage to their employees has "provoked a titanic clash between the government and many religious organizations" and become a "a tangible symbol of President Obama's struggle to balance religious freedom and women's rights," the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 7/12).

Under the federal contraceptive rules, religiously affiliated not-for-profits that object to contraception are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide contraceptive coverage to their employees (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

Employers wishing to receive the accommodation must complete a two-page form that asks for the name of the "objecting organization," as well as the name, title, address and phone number of a person who certifies that the organization objects to providing contraceptive coverage.

Several religiously affiliated organizations -- such as the Eternal Word Television Network and the Little Sisters of the Poor have launched legal challenges against the accommodation, arguing that signing the form essentially authorizes "their insurers or plan administrators to pay for contraceptives, including some that they believe may cause abortion."

For example, EWTN argued in its court filings that the "coerced execution of the form is the trigger for contraceptive coverage." The government in that case argued that EWTN's refusal to complete the form "would deprive hundreds of employees and their families of medical coverage."

According to the Times, the organizations have had differing success in their legal challenges. The Supreme Court recently granted a temporary injunction to Wheaton College while the litigation continues. However, a judge from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the government in a case involving the University of Notre Dame, which the court said was not substantially burdened by completing and submitting the form.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration maintains that insurers have an independent obligation to provide birth control coverage, separate from the disputed form, the Times reports (New York Times, 7/12).

New York Times Column: Hobby Lobby Decision Reflects Supreme Court's Religious Divide

Most analyses about the Supreme Court's decision allowing Hobby Lobby to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage have focused on how the justices aligned ideologically or by gender, but "it is at least as compelling to consider the Catholic-Jewish divide," New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman writes.

Freedman notes that five of the high court's six Catholic justices -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- "formed the majority that espoused a larger place for religious practice in public life," while "[a]ll three Jewish justices -- Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan -- joined by one Catholic, Sonia Sotomayor, dissented on behalf of a wider, firmer separation."

He asks, "Did nine individuals just coincidentally disagree based on their legal reasoning, or have American Catholics and American Jews arrived at different communal positions about where to properly draw the line between church and state?" Freedman argues that the "Jewish organizational sphere developed largely along secular lines," while "American Catholics advocated largely through overtly religious bodies" -- a difference that "helps one make historical sense" of the Hobby Lobby ruling (Freedman, New York Times, 7/11).

Washington Post Editorial: ENDA Should Be Revised in Wake of Hobby Lobby Ruling

Concerns that employers could use the Hobby Lobby ruling to seek exemptions from anti-discrimination rules "came into focus [last] week when several gay rights groups withdrew their support from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) [S 815], a bill that is supposed to offer workplace protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans," a Washington Post editorial states.

Given that "more than half the states lack workplace protections for gay, lesbian and transgender Americans," the editorial urges the bill's supporters to "push to strengthen [ENDA's] language, removing any possibility that it would condone the sort of workplace discrimination it seeks to eliminate, and [to] continue to work for its passage" (Washington Post, 7/11).


N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:22

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports.

N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

July 14, 2014 — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports (Branch, Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a Massachusetts buffer zone law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics violates the First Amendment's right to free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26). The decision has prompted officials in some areas to stop enforcing their buffer zone laws, the Albany Times Union reports.

Twenty-two counties in New York have buffer zones laws, while New York City enforces a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, according to the Times Union.

Schneiderman Comments

In a memorandum to law enforcement agencies, Schneiderman said his office has received reports of antiabortion-rights groups "suggesting to [abortion] service providers that the Supreme Court invalidated all buffer zones and other protections. That is not true." He added that the court "also affirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to reproductive health services" (Seiler, Albany Times Union, 7/10).

Schneiderman also said he is "committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure [the state's laws] are fully enforced" (Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Tracey Brooks of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York State said Schneiderman's statement "should send a clear message to those extremists willing to intimidate patients and staff at health centers" (Albany Times Union, 7/10).


FDA Advisory Panel Says Cancer Risk From Surgery Device Cannot Be Minimized

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:19

An FDA advisory panel on Friday said that there are no proven ways to use a common technique for hysterectomies and fibroid removal without risking the spread of malignant cancers to other parts of the body, the AP/Modern Healthcare reports.

FDA Advisory Panel Says Cancer Risk From Surgery Device Cannot Be Minimized

July 14, 2014 — An FDA advisory panel on Friday said that there are no proven ways to use a common technique for hysterectomies and fibroid removal without risking the spread of malignant cancers to other parts of the body, the AP/Modern Healthcare reports.

FDA asked its advisory panel of obstetrics and gynecology experts to review the technique, called laparoscopic power morcellation, after concluding that it might present a higher risk of spreading undetected cancer than previously thought. The agency takes its panelists' recommendations into account when making regulatory decisions, but it has not announced a timeline for making a determination about the use of morcellation (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/12).

Background

Laparoscopic power morcellation was developed as an alternative to invasive surgery for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, which are responsible for about 40% of the 500,000 hysterectomies performed each year in the U.S. It uses a power device to grind uterine tissue so it can be removed through a tiny incision.

The technique has come under fire for its potential to spread a type of cancer -- known as a uterine sarcoma -- within the body.

In April, FDA issued a safety communication notice discouraging the use of the procedure. FDA in the notice said that uterine sarcoma affects about one in 350 women undergoing fibroid removal procedures and that laparoscopic power morcellation could significantly worsen the chances of long-term survival (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/12). The technique is used in about 50,000 procedures annually in the U.S. (Kamp, Wall Street Journal, 7/11).

Panel's Findings

FDA asked the advisory panel to evaluate whether there are ways to minimize the risk of spreading cancer during morcellation, such as using plastic specimen bags to collect tissue.

Although some surgeons are already using the bag technique, the panelists said it is unproven. "There's no evidence that the bags or any containment devices prevent the outcome we are trying to prevent," Craig Shriver, a surgical oncologist at Walter Reed Medical Center, said (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/12).

The panel also said there is no reliable method for determining whether a woman has the cancer before the morcellation procedure (Wall Street Journal, 7/11).

The panel recommended that women who undergo laparoscopic power morcellation should have to sign a written consent form acknowledging that they understand the procedure's risks (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/12).

According to the Wall Street Journal, some panelists seemed to support also requiring FDA's strongest warning -- known as a black box warning -- for morcellators, while others called for a complete ban (Wall Street Journal, 7/11). Cancer patients and their family members who spoke at the meeting also urged FDA to ban the device (Weintraub, USA Today, 7/11).

However, others said the procedure could still be useful. According to panelist and gynecologist Keith Isaacson, the tool may help young women who want to remain fertile. Meanwhile, a doctor providing testimony on behalf of the main trade group for minimally invasive gynecologists told the panel that prohibiting morcellators likely would lead more women to have more-invasive open surgery (Wall Street Journal, 7/11).


Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:36

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports.

Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

July 14, 2014 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports (Lyon, Fort Smith Times-Record, 7/10).

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.

A federal judge overturned the law earlier this year, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than on fetal viability is unconstitutional. In May, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling and uphold the law, arguing that it protects women, fetuses and medical professionals (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/29).

Plaintiffs Urge Court To Reject Appeal

In a brief filed Thursday, ACLU of Arkansas and CRR -- who are challenging the law on behalf of two abortion providers in Little Rock -- asked the court to reject McDaniel's appeal, arguing that the state is trying to overturn court precedent by defending the law.

The brief states, "For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that, before viability, states lack the power to ban abortion and wrest from a woman the ultimate decision of whether to continue a pregnancy -- regardless of the particular interests asserted by the state, and regardless of whether the state includes exceptions to the ban."

It adds, "This court does not have the authority to overturn this precedent, and the state's arguments to the contrary should be roundly rejected" (AP/Arkansas Business, 7/10).


Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:28

Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

July 14, 2014 — Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Perry, Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).

Background

In January, the Ohio Department of Health ordered the Women's Med Center in Sharonville, Ohio, to close after denying its request for reprieve from a state law that requires ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- to have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23).

The clinic appealed the order and asked the court to order the state to renew the clinic's operating license and provide a temporary stay of the closure order while the case proceeds. Later that month, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz said that the clinic could remain open while the appeal continued.

However, Hamilton County Common Pleas Magistrate Michael Bachman earlier this month affirmed the health department's order and said he would lift the stay.

Under Hamilton County court rules, a common pleas judge must approve a magistrate's rulings, which means that Bachman's decision has to be approved by Metz (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/2). According to the Enquirer, Bachman's order can be appealed within 14 days or remain ineffective should Metz decide not to approve it.

Metz' Ruling Stands

Attorneys representing the clinic on Thursday said that they would appeal the order, which means that the Metz ruling permitting the clinic to remain open will stand.

According to the Enquirer, the case over the clinic is scheduled to resume on Aug. 15 (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).


Featured Blog

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 17:14

"Minnesota Law Protects Incarcerated Pregnant Women From Shackling, Provides Doulas," (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 7/8).

July 11, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"Minnesota Law Protects Incarcerated Pregnant Women From Shackling, Provides Doulas," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: Liss-Schultz comments on a Minnesota law (SF 2423) that took effect last week and "will protect incarcerated pregnant women in the state" by "set[ting] new requirements for the state's prisons relating to the treatment of prisoners during pregnancy and childbirth." Among the law's provisions are the requirements "that inmates have access to mental health assessments and treatment during pregnancy and postpartum" and "that correctional facilities offer pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease tests to inmates, along with prenatal, childbirth, and parenting materials," she explains. Further, the law "bans the use of restraints and shackles on pregnant women in most circumstances, and allows women access to doulas as long as there is no extra cost to the state," she adds (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 7/8).

What others are saying about pregnant women's rights:

~ "Texas Jailers Deny Pregnant Navy Vet Medication Needed To Continue Her Pregnancy," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

~ "Texas Loves Babies, So Long as Their Mothers Aren't Former Drug Users," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "First Woman Arrested Under Tennessee Pregnancy Criminalization Law, For a Drug not Covered Under the Law," Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.

Blogs Look at Women's Rights 'After Hobby Lobby,' State Abortion Restrictions, More

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 16:59

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

Blogs Look at Women's Rights 'After Hobby Lobby,' State Abortion Restrictions, More

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

CONTRACEPTION: "After Hobby Lobby," Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's "Double X": Women "are still reeling" from the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case and "generally trying to understand how a term that was characterized as minimalist and undramatic by many male commenters, even liberal male commenters, represented a tectonic shift not just for America's women, but for the three women who actually sit up there and do their jobs at the high court," Lithwick writes. She adds that there "wasn't so much a clash of rigorous constitutional values that determined the outcomes" in Hobby Lobby and another two cases that affected women -- McCullen v. Coakley, which struck down Massachusetts' 'buffer zone' law, and Harris v. Quinn, which focused on home health workers -- but rather "a strong identification by the majority justices with the values that were arrayed in opposition to women's freedoms and economic equality" (Lithwick, "Double X," Slate, 7/9).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Putting 'Hobby Lobby' in Context: The Erratic Career of Birth Control in the United States," Carole Joffe, RH Reality Check.

~ "Rewriting Hobby Lobby: If Women Were People, Birth Control was Health Care, and Sex Discrimination was Discrimination," Hillary Schneller, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake."

~ "New Fallout From Hobby Lobby," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog.

~ "This is the Most Audacious Case Seeking To Expand Hobby Lobby," Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Finally, Science Explains Why Rush Limbaugh Gets So Mad About Women Having Sex," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."

~ "Whiplash: Post-Hobby Lobby, What Did the Supreme Court Just Do in the Wheaton College Case?" Hillary Schneller, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake."

~ "Reid: 'Hobby Lobby' Bill To Be Taken Up Next Week," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.

~ "The Medical Facts About Birth Control and Hobby Lobby -- From an OB/GYN," Jen Gunter, New Republic's "Q.E.D."

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS AND ACCESS: "The Dangerous Abortion Restriction That's Sweeping the Nation," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": A new Guttmacher Institute report on state-level abortion restrictions shows that "the pace of anti-abortion laws is slowing," but "[m]ore than half the states in the country" now have laws "known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP," measures, Culp-Ressler writes. TRAP laws are designed to restrict "women's abortion access by making it too difficult for clinics to stay open," she explains. She adds that the laws include requirements that are framed "in terms of making clinics safer," but "there isn't any medical evidence to support the logic behind TRAP. Multiple studies have shown that abortion clinics are already highly regulated and extremely safe. And the nation's largest organization of OB-GYNs is firmly opposed to TRAP laws" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/8).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions and access:

~ "Chart of the Day: Fewer State Abortion Restrictions Were Passed in the First Half of 2014," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing.

~ "An Open Letter to a Protester Outside the Boston Planned Parenthood This Saturday," Elizabeth Miller, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "Protester Admits That Harassing Women Outside of Abortion Clinics Doesn't Work," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "Survey Offers Insights Into How Colleges Handle Sexual Assaults: Not Well," Diana Reese, Washington Post's "She The People": The results of a survey released by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on how colleges handle sexual assault investigations "are depressing in all areas," writes Reese, whose daughter is college-aged. Reese recommends several changes to address campus sexual assaults, including allowing students to make confidential online reports; requiring a trained sexual assault nurse examiner; and instituting programs to educate students, faculty and staff about consent, bystander intervention and what to do after an assault. "An Act of Congress will help get change started. But so can parents and students," she argues, concluding, "If we ask the right questions, the colleges will need to find answers" (Reese, "She The People," Washington Post, 7/9).

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

~ "Want Colleges To Protect Students From Sexual Assault? Take Action To Give Title IX Teeth," Alexandra Brodsky et al., The Nation's "Take Action."

~ "'It was Degrading': Terry Richardson and the Nasty Sexual Harassment Loophole," Josh Eidelson, Salon.

~ "Men's Rights Conference Host Says Women Who Drink and Dance Are 'Begging' for Rape," Alex DiBranco, RH Reality Check.

~ "The Term 'Classic Rapist' Shows That People Still Don't Understand What Rape Is," Mychal Denzel Smith, Feministing.

~ "16-Year-Old's Rape Goes Viral on Social Media: 'No Human Being Deserved This,'" Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Todd Akin is not Sorry for His Insane Rape Comments," Erika Eichelberger, Mother Jones' "Political MoJo."

PREGNANT WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "Minnesota Law Protects Incarcerated Pregnant Women From Shackling, Provides Doulas," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: Liss-Schultz comments on a Minnesota law (SF 2423) that took effect last week and "will protect incarcerated pregnant women in the state" by "set[ting] new requirements for the state's prisons relating to the treatment of prisoners during pregnancy and childbirth." Among the law's provisions are the requirements "that inmates have access to mental health assessments and treatment during pregnancy and postpartum" and "that correctional facilities offer pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease tests to inmates, along with prenatal, childbirth, and parenting materials," she explains. Further, the law "bans the use of restraints and shackles on pregnant women in most circumstances, and allows women access to doulas as long as there is no extra cost to the state," she adds (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 7/8).

What others are saying about pregnant women's rights:

~ "Texas Jailers Deny Pregnant Navy Vet Medication Needed To Continue Her Pregnancy," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

~ "Texas Loves Babies, So Long as Their Mothers Aren't Former Drug Users," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "First Woman Arrested Under Tennessee Pregnancy Criminalization Law, For a Drug not Covered Under the Law," Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.

BREASTFEEDING: "Mothers Can Now Breastfeed at Barnes & Noble (Even Though It was Already Legal)," Jenny Kutner, Salon: "Nursing mothers of New York may now peruse the stacks of their local Barnes & Noble while breastfeeding their children in peace, which is something they've been entitled to do since the state legalized public nursing 20 years ago," Kutner writes. Under a settlement with the state's attorney general, the retailer "agreed to better educate its employees about laws that protect women's right to nurse in public without interference," Kutner explains. In addition, the company "agreed to pay $10,000 to support a breastfeeding awareness and promotion program in Rockland County, where a March incident involving a nursing mother's dismissal from the bookstore prompted outrage across the state" (Kutner, Salon, 7/9).


Surveys: Millions of Previously Uninsured Have Gained Coverage Under ACA

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 15:27

Between eight million and 11 million previously uninsured U.S. residents have obtained health coverage since the fall 2013 launch of the initial open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplaces, according to data from a trio of new surveys, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Surveys: Millions of Previously Uninsured Have Gained Coverage Under ACA

July 11, 2014 — Between eight million and 11 million previously uninsured U.S. residents have obtained health coverage since the fall 2013 launch of the initial open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplaces, according to data from a trio of new surveys, the Los Angeles Times reports (Terhune/Lauter, Los Angeles Times, 7/10).

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Survey

In one survey, Gallup-Healthways conducted telephone interviews with 45,125 adults ages 18 and older across the U.S. from April 1 to June 30 (Gallup survey, 7/10).

The survey found that the uninsured rate fell to 13.4% in the second quarter of 2014, down 3.7 percentage points since last fall. The rate is the lowest level recorded since Gallup first began tracking the issue in 2008 (Viebeck, The Hill, 7/10).

Urban Institute Survey

Meanwhile, the Urban Institute's Health Reform Monitoring Survey found that eight million people have gained coverage since fall 2013 (Nather, Politico, 7/10). Specifically, researchers found that the uninsured rate for adults under age 65 declined to 13.9%, down four percentage points since September 2013.

The data were based on the HRMS, which has been tracking insurance trends on a quarterly basis since March 2013 (Urban Institute survey, 7/10).

Commonwealth Fund Survey

Separately, the Commonwealth Fund this week released a survey that determined that 9.5 million fewer adults are now uninsured (Politico, 7/10). Specifically, the survey found that the uninsured rate among adults under age 65 declined from 20% to about 15%, the New York Times' "The Upshot" reports (Sanger-Katz, "The Upshot," New York Times, 7/10).

For the survey, researchers interviewed 4,425 U.S. residents ages 19 to 64 between April 2014 and June 2014 and compared uninsured rates to data from July 2013 to September 2013 (Commonwealth Fund release, 7/10).

Reaction

According to Politico, many health care experts believe that while there is too much variation in the data to precisely estimate how many people have gained coverage since the beginning of the marketplaces' initial open enrollment period, these surveys and others that have found similar results are sufficient to conclude that the ACA is reducing the uninsured rate.

Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that the variation in survey results also could mean the true number of uninsured could be a "couple million more or less" than the Commonwealth Fund survey results (Politico, 7/10).


Quote Round Up: The Buzz on the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling, Mass. 'Buffer Zone' Law and More

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 14:01

Our monthly quote roundup compiles notable comments from key stakeholders in women's health. In today's edition, we feature the response to the Supreme Court's rulings on major contraceptive coverage cases, Massachusetts' "buffer zone" law and more.

Quote Round Up: The Buzz on the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling, Mass. 'Buffer Zone' Law and More

July 11, 2014 — Our monthly quote roundup compiles notable comments from key stakeholders in women's health. In today's edition, we feature the response to the Supreme Court's rulings on major contraceptive coverage cases, Massachusetts' "buffer zone" law and more.

"Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will." -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), on proposed legislation designed to override the Supreme Court's ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell by prohibiting employers from denying women coverage of preventive health services guaranteed under federal law (Pear, New York Times, 7/8). Although the Republican-controlled House is not expected to advance the legislation, Democrats hope that debate on the measures will help motivate voters who support reproductive rights to turn out in this fall's midterm election (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).

"Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees' bedrooms." -- NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, on the Hobby Lobby ruling (NARAL statement, 6/30). The high court's 5-4 decision said that closely held for-profit corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

"After expressly relying on the availability of the religious-nonprofit accommodation to hold that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141)] as applied to closely held for-profit corporations, the [Supreme Court] now, as the dissent in Hobby Lobby feared it might, retreats from that position." -- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent castigating the court's majority for a decision exempting a Christian college from having to comply with the federal contraceptive rules' accommodation for not-for-profit institutions (Politico, 7/3). Sotomayor found the decision troubling because the majority in the Hobby Lobby cases cited the accommodation as an example of how employees can access contraceptive coverage when their employers have religious objections (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

"Instead of allowing Massachusetts to take this reasonable step to protect women accessing essential health care services, the Court is giving extremists freer rein to intimidate and harass women." -- Judith Lichtman, senior advisor at the National Partnership for Women & Families, on the high court's decision to strike down Massachusetts "buffer zone" law (National Partnership release, 6/26). The Supreme Court ruled that the law, which prohibited protesters from coming within 35 feet of abortion clinic entrances, violated their First Amendment rights to free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26).

"[T]here is no one single law that can offer the same kind of comprehensive protection that the buffer zone did, [but] we believe we can enhance a number of laws that, when combined together, can help provide safe access to [abortion] facilities." -- Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), on plans to propose a new law to protect abortion clinic access in compliance with the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the "buffer zone" law (Los Angeles Times, 7/2). Abortion-rights opponents have already threatened legal action if the proposal becomes law (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/10).

"[A]ccessing abortion is much more difficult in 2014 than it was in 2009." -- Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, on the impact of state laws restricting abortion rights (Vox, 7/8). Guttmacher reported this week that states passed fewer abortion restrictions in the first half of this year compared with the same time period in the past three years, but the slower pace was partly due to cyclical factors, such as legislatures not being in session (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).

"No longer will women in the Peace Corps ... have to face the indignity of being forced to pay for essential medical care with their own limited resources." -- Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup, on a provision in a 2015 State-Foreign Operations spending bill that would provide abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in instances of rape, incest or life endangerment (The Hill, 6/24). The provision is included in both the House and Senate versions of the legislation and is not expected to face a challenge when the chambers combine their spending plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/25).

Democratic Leaders Lambaste Supreme Court Justices Over Hobby Lobby Decision

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 13:58

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday criticized the Supreme Court's ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, calling the decision "a frightening one" and adding that people "should be afraid of this court," The Hill reports.

Democratic Leaders Lambaste Supreme Court Justices Over Hobby Lobby Decision

July 11, 2014 — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday criticized the Supreme Court's ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, calling the decision "a frightening one" and adding that people "should be afraid of this court," The Hill reports.

She added that a boss' "business is whatever his business is. But it's not what contraception [a female employee] uses" (Lillis, The Hill, 7/10).

Justices Misled Senate, Democrats Say

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday called the decision the worst in the last 25 years, adding, "It's wrong for five men to decide what happens to women in America."

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) suggested that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito misled the Senate during their confirmation hearings about where they stood on Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 Supreme Court ruling that struck down state laws prohibiting contraception.

Durbin said he "asked that question repeatedly of Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to make sure that they would honor that same tradition of privacy," but their ruling in the Hobby Lobby case "violates that fundamental premise." He said that both justices, while careful in their responses, "said they stood by the Griswold decision" (Lefferman, "The Note," ABC News, 7/10).

Reid said that Roberts "misdirected us. He's certainly been a disappointment to us." He said Alito's decision to side with Hobby Lobby was less unsurprising because "Alito told [the Senate] who he was" during his confirmation hearing (Crittenden, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 7/10).


One Year After Law's Passage, N.C. Yet To Release Abortion Clinic Regulations

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 13:31

North Carolina health care officials have not finished drafting abortion clinic regulations authorized under a 2013 state law (SB 353), leaving many abortion providers unsure how the rules could potentially affect them, the AP/Virginian-Pilot reports.

One Year After Law's Passage, N.C. Yet To Release Abortion Clinic Regulations

July 11, 2014 — North Carolina health care officials have not finished drafting abortion clinic regulations authorized under a 2013 state law (SB 353), leaving many abortion providers unsure how the rules could potentially affect them, the AP/Virginian-Pilot reports (Ferral, AP/Virginian-Pilot, 7/9).

The expansive antiabortion-rights measure, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in July 2013, allows the state Department of Health and Human Services to "apply any requirement" for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, so long as the regulations do not impede access to abortion.

DHHS was required to provide an update on its progress in developing the rules by Jan. 1, but there is no deadline to create the rules for abortion clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/28).

According to the AP/Virginian-Pilot, just one of the state's clinics currently meets the ambulatory surgical center requirements, meaning that the remaining 15 clinics will likely have to make changes.

Abortion-Rights Groups 'In the Dark'

Abortion-rights supporters are "in the dark" about what will be included in the new regulations or when they will be released, the AP/Virginian-Pilot reports.

Paige Johnson, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, said, "The question is, what will DHHS come up with? Will these be regulations based on women's health ... or will these regulations be politically motivated?" She added, "Everybody is waiting to see what they're going to do."

However, Johnson said she is encouraged by the fact that rules are being drafted by health officials and not lawmakers.

Planned Parenthood will host a "Too Far Tillis" rally on Thursday night to mark the law's one-year anniversary and encourage residents to vote against state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) -- who helped pass the measure -- in his bid for the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, DHHS said in an email that it is following the standard rulemaking procedures. "We are fully committed to complying with (the law) in that any revised regulations will address patient safety and privacy without unduly restricting access," the agency said (AP/Virginian Pilot, 7/9).


Study: Sutures Tied to Fewer Complications for Closing C-Sections

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 13:27

Women who have their cesarean section incision closed with sutures have a 57% lower risk of experiencing complications than those whose wounds are closed with staples, according to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the New York Times' "Well" reports.

Study: Sutures Tied to Fewer Complications for Closing C-Sections

July 11, 2014 — Women who have their cesarean section incision closed with sutures have a 57% lower risk of experiencing complications than those whose wounds are closed with staples, according to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the New York Times' "Well" reports (Bakalar, "Well," New York Times, 7/9).

For the study, researchers randomly assigned either sutures or staples to 746 women who were undergoing C-sections between 2010 and 2012 at three hospitals. The participants were all at least 23 weeks into their pregnancies at delivery. After delivery, the women were monitored for complications such as infection, separation of the closure of at least one centimeter and hematoma.

Women with uncontrolled diabetes and other serious health conditions were not included in the study, but the researchers did include women with previous C-sections and high body mass index.

Key Findings

The researchers found that 4.9% of women with sutures experienced complications, compared with 10.6% of those with staples.

In addition, C-sections closed with sutures were 80% less likely to separate. Specifically, 1.6% of wounds closed with sutures re-opened, compared with 7.4% closed with staples (Wickline, "The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 7/9).

However, it takes doctors about nine minutes longer to close wounds with sutures than with staples. Study co-author Vincenzo Berghella, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, said the time difference is not a problem because local anesthesia is often used in C-sections ("Well," New York Times, 7/9).

Doctors Continue Staple Use

Whether staples or sutures are preferable has been a subject of debate in the obstetrics community.

Although the new research adds to growing evidence in favor of sutures, experts said many doctors continue to use staples. Some doctors, especially older physicians, are simply more accustomed to staples, or they perceive staples to be less costly because they are faster.

In addition, staples are more likely to be used for patients who are obese, diabetic or undergoing a repeat surgery, according to Stephen Thung of the Ohio State University Medical Center ("The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 7/9).


Mass. Antiabortion-Rights Group Says New Efforts To Protect Clinics Will Spur Litigation

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 18:26

An antiabortion-rights group in Massachusetts has sent a letter to state lawmakers warning that legislation designed to protect access to abortion clinics would likely face legal challenges, the AP/Boston Herald reports.

Mass. Antiabortion-Rights Group Says New Efforts To Protect Clinics Will Spur Litigation

July 10, 2014 — An antiabortion-rights group in Massachusetts has sent a letter to state lawmakers warning that legislation designed to protect access to abortion clinics would likely face legal challenges, the AP/Boston Herald reports (Salsberg, AP/Boston Herald, 7/8).

The Supreme Court last month struck down the state's "buffer zone" law, which only permitted people to enter a 35-foot zone around abortion clinics to access the facility itself or to reach another destination.

Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has said he aims to have a bill on his desk by the end of July to bolster abortion clinic security in a manner that complies with the high court's ruling. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) indicated that she and state lawmakers have started working on the legislation, but details have not yet been finalized (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

According to the AP/Herald, lawmakers could propose the bill as early as this week.

Letter Details

Massachusetts Citizens for Life in the letter to state lawmakers wrote that potential legislation "in all likelihood will lead to more litigation" because it might infringe on protesters' First Amendment rights.

The group added, "As you consider voting on [Coakley's] new proposal, please think carefully as to whether or not the latest version will pass constitutional muster." The group noted that Coakley had previously made assurances the buffer zone legislation, enacted in 2007, would withstand a legal challenge.

Lawmakers Pledge To Pursue Measure

Meanwhile, Coakley and other state and local officials at a rally on Tuesday night pledged to continue to protect women's access to abortion clinics.

Coakley said the new legislation would protect women's access to care while also respecting protesters' rights (AP/Boston Herald, 7/8).