Daily Women's Health Policy Report

Syndicate content
Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 1 hour 4 min ago

Miss. Gov. To Sign 20-Week Abortion Ban

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 17:55

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Tuesday said he will sign into law a bill (HB 1400) that would ban most abortions beginning at 18 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

Miss. Gov. To Sign 20-Week Abortion Ban; 'Religious Practices' Bill Also Approved

April 2, 2014 — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Tuesday said he will sign into law a bill (HB 1400) that would ban most abortions beginning at 18 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports (Pender/Chandler, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 4/1).

Earlier Tuesday, the state House approved the measure 91-20 and the state Senate passed it 41-10 (Wagster Pettus, AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald, 4/1). Bryant said he looks forward to "quickly signing it into law" (Jackson ¬Clarion-Ledger, 4/1).

Bill Details

The bill states that physicians convicted of violating the ban could lose their license to practice. The measure includes exceptions for severe fetal anomalies or if a physician determines that a pregnancy endangers a woman's life.

The bill originally calculated pregnancy as beginning when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, which would have banned abortion after 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/13).

Reaction

House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak questioned whether the measure would expose Mississippi to lawsuits, noting that Arizona recently lost in a lawsuit over a similar law.

Planned Parenthood Southeast Director of Public Policy Felicia Brown-Williams said, "Women who make the deeply personal and often complex decision to end a pregnancy after 18 weeks should do so in consultation with their physician, not politicians" (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 4/1).

State Sen. Angela Hill (R), who voted for the bill, said, "This is not about a woman's body. This is about the life of an unborn 20-week baby" (AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald, 4/1).



Ariz. Medication Abortion Ruling Appealed as Law Takes Effect

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 17:54

Planned Parenthood of Arizona and Tucson Women's Center on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona while a lawsuit over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports.

Ariz. Medication Abortion Ruling Appealed as Law Takes Effect

April 2, 2014 — Planned Parenthood of Arizona and Tucson Women's Center on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona while a lawsuit over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports (Schwartz, New York Times, 4/1).

The law took effect Tuesday after U.S. District Court Judge David Bury denied a request from women's health providers to block them while a trial continued. Bury said the rules do not unduly burden women because they can still access surgical abortion.

The medication abortion rules -- which are among several abortion-related regulations mandated under a 2012 state law (HB 2036) -- bar physicians from administering abortion-inducing drugs beyond seven weeks of pregnancy. Physicians also would be required to administer both drugs in the medication abortion regimen on site and at the FDA-approved dosage, which is higher than the dosage typically used in practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/1).

Appeal

On Tuesday, the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, filed an appeal of Bury's ruling with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Galvan, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/1).

David Brown, an attorney with CRR, said in a statement, "Arizona women should not be denied their constitutional rights or their ability to get critical health care from the medical professionals they trust while this unconstitutional law continues to make its way through the courts" (Muskal, Los Angeles Times, 4/1).

Effects on Services

Last week, an attorney with Planned Parenthood told Bury that the organization's center in Flagstaff would have to suspend services if the rules took effect. However, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson on Monday said that the clinic will remain in operation while the organization evaluates how to move forward.

According to Planned Parenthood, about 800 women seeking abortion in 2012 would have had to undergo surgical abortions if the rules blocking medication abortions had been in effect at that time (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/1).


Medication Abortion Restrictions Advance in Okla. Senate

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 16:43

An Oklahoma Senate committee has advanced a measure (HB 2684) that would restrict the use of medication abortion drugs in the state, the AP/Oklahoman reports.

Medication Abortion Restrictions Advance in Okla. Senate

April 2, 2014 — An Oklahoma Senate committee has advanced a measure (HB 2684) that would restrict the use of medication abortion drugs in the state, the AP/Oklahoman reports.

The Republican-controlled Senate Committee on Health and Human Services voted 5-1 in favor of the bill (AP/Oklahoman, 3/31).

The bill would require that physicians in the state administer medication abortion drugs according to FDA protocol. However, it specifies that it would not ban the use of the drug misoprostol in medication abortions and that it would not prohibit the off-label use of drugs for the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Randy Grau (R), was written in direct response to a recent court decision that struck down a similar Oklahoma law (HB 1970) as unconstitutional because it effectively banned all medication abortions in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).


Miss. Gov. To Sign 20-Week Abortion Ban; 'Religious Practices' Bill Also Approved

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 15:53

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Tuesday said he will sign into law a bill (HB 1400) that would ban most abortions beginning at 18 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.

Miss. Gov. To Sign 20-Week Abortion Ban; 'Religious Practices' Bill Also Approved

April 2, 2014 — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Tuesday said he will sign into law a bill (HB 1400) that would ban most abortions beginning at 18 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports (Pender/Chandler, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 4/1).

Earlier Tuesday, the state House approved the measure 91-20 and the state Senate passed it 41-10 (Wagster Pettus, AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald, 4/1). Bryant said he looks forward to "quickly signing it into law" (Jackson ¬Clarion-Ledger, 4/1).

Bill Details

The bill states that physicians convicted of violating the ban could lose their license to practice. The measure includes exceptions for severe fetal anomalies or if a physician determines that a pregnancy endangers a woman's life.

The bill originally calculated pregnancy as beginning when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, which would have banned abortion after 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/13).

Reaction

House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak questioned whether the measure would expose Mississippi to lawsuits, noting that Arizona recently lost in a lawsuit over a similar law.

Planned Parenthood Southeast Director of Public Policy Felicia Brown-Williams said, "Women who make the deeply personal and often complex decision to end a pregnancy after 18 weeks should do so in consultation with their physician, not politicians" (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 4/1).

State Sen. Angela Hill (R), who voted for the bill, said, "This is not about a woman's body. This is about the life of an unborn 20-week baby" (AP/Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald, 4/1).

Religious Freedom Bill Advances

Meanwhile, the Mississippi House and Senate on Tuesday passed a bill (SB 2681) that would allow state residents to sue over regulations they claim place a substantial burden on their religious freedom, the Washington Post's "GovBeat" reports (Wilson, "GovBeat," Washington Post, 4/1).

According to MSNBC, the bill largely mirrors the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141). Supporters of the state's version said it would protect religious freedom, while opponents argued that it could be used to justify discrimination in the name of religion.

Mississippi lawmakers last month shelved a broader version of the measure after backlash, instead opting for a version that closely mirrors RFRA, except for the addition of a provision that bars employees from filing religious-based claims against private employers.

Eunice Rho of the American Civil Liberties Union said that while the bill is "an improvement upon the language that the legislature previously contemplated, it still falls short." She added that the measure's language "still exposes virtually every branch, office and agency of the government to litigation, which will require taxpayer funds to defend" (Serwer, MSNBC, 4/2).


Studies Call for More Individualized Decisions on Routine Mammograms

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 15:51

Women and their physicians should discuss whether and when they would benefit from routine mammograms, according to two new reports that call for more individualized decision-making on the screenings, USA Today reports.

Studies Call for More Individualized Decisions on Routine Mammograms

April 2, 2014 — Women and their physicians should discuss whether and when they would benefit from routine mammograms, according to two new reports that call for more individualized decision-making on the screenings, USA Today reports (Painter, USA Today, 4/1).

The findings, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, add to other recent research suggesting that mammograms prevent relatively few deaths and can sometimes lead to unneeded treatment of cancers that would have never caused problems.

Similar research led the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to revise its recommendations on when women should begin mammograms, while the American Cancer Society has not changed its guidelines (Beck, Wall Street Journal, 4/1). ACS recommends that women have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 and continue to do so "as long as a woman is in good health," while USPSTF advises that women wait until age 50 to begin the screenings and only receive them every other year (USA Today, 4/1).

First Study

For one new study, Harvard University researchers reviewed all mammogram research since 1960, as well as evidence on the harms of false-positive test results and over-diagnoses.

The researchers concluded that while mammograms have notable benefits, their advantages have been oversold, while the potential harms have been understated. According to the study, while annual mammograms reduce the risk of death from breast cancer by almost 19%, the benefit varies widely based on a woman's underlying cancer risk and age. For example, about 1,904 women in their 40s would have to have a mammogram to prevent one death, compared with 377 women in their 60s.

The reason for the variation is that the chances of developing breast cancer increase as a woman ages. For instance, a 40-year-old woman has a 1.5% risk of developing breast cancer over the next decade, which increases to 2.3% risk at age 50 and 3.5% risk at age 60.

In addition, the study found that nearly 19% of women who received a breast cancer diagnosis from a mammogram were over-diagnosed, meaning they received unnecessary chemotherapy, surgery or radiation for cancers that would not have caused death.

The researchers wrote, "Decisions about mammography should involve discussion of risks, benefits, uncertainties, alternatives and patient preferences" (Schute, "Shots," NPR, 4/1). Study lead author Nancy Keating of Harvard Medical School added, "There isn't a one-size-fits-all on mammograms" (Wall Street Journal, 4/1).

Study on Older Women

Meanwhile, a second study, focusing on older women, found that starting at age 75, women should reconsider whether they should continue routine mammograms.

According to the study, there have not been any randomized, controlled trials focusing on mammography in women ages 75 and older, so there is no way of knowing how effective the screenings are at extending those women's lives.

Overall, the study suggested that the harms of mammogram screenings likely outweigh the benefits in women who will probably live less than 10 years. The study's authors recommended that women who think they will live longer than a decade should discuss the benefits and risks of mammograms with their physicians ("Shots," NPR, 4/1).

Comments

ACS Chief Cancer Control Officer Richard Wender said, "There is a point at which screening for cancer should stop," adding that some women with health problems that are more likely to end their lives before breast cancer could be getting unnecessary mammograms.

However, Wender noted that the new studies included decades-old research that might have underestimated mammograms' benefits and not included current breast cancer treatments. He added that although mammograms do have drawbacks, he "continue[s] to believe that most people in the United State place a high value on preventing a cancer death and will put up with a lot of downsides" (USA Today, 4/1).

Keating said, "The more we screen for cancer, the more we find it. But we could have saved some of these women the angst of being told they have cancer." She added, "The challenge is, we can't tell which are the aggressive cancers" (Wall Street Journal, 4/1).


Ariz. Medication Abortion Ruling Appealed as Law Takes Effect

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 14:46

Planned Parenthood of Arizona and Tucson Women's Center on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona while a lawsuit over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports.

Ariz. Medication Abortion Ruling Appealed as Law Takes Effect

April 2, 2014 — Planned Parenthood of Arizona and Tucson Women's Center on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona while a lawsuit over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports (Schwartz, New York Times, 4/1).

The law took effect Tuesday after U.S. District Court Judge David Bury denied a request from women's health providers to block them while a trial continued. Bury said the rules do not unduly burden women because they can still access surgical abortion.

The medication abortion rules -- which are among several abortion-related regulations mandated under a 2012 state law (HB 2036) -- bar physicians from administering abortion-inducing drugs beyond seven weeks of pregnancy. Physicians also would be required to administer both drugs in the medication abortion regimen on site and at the FDA-approved dosage, which is higher than the dosage typically used in practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/1).

Appeal

On Tuesday, the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, filed an appeal of Bury's ruling with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Galvan, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/1).

David Brown, an attorney with CRR, said in a statement, "Arizona women should not be denied their constitutional rights or their ability to get critical health care from the medical professionals they trust while this unconstitutional law continues to make its way through the courts" (Muskal, Los Angeles Times, 4/1).

Effects on Services

Last week, an attorney with Planned Parenthood told Bury that the organization's center in Flagstaff would have to suspend services if the rules took effect. However, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson on Monday said that the clinic will remain in operation while the organization evaluates how to move forward.

According to Planned Parenthood, about 800 women seeking abortion in 2012 would have had to undergo surgical abortions if the rules blocking medication abortions had been in effect at that time (AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/1).


La. House Approves Admitting Privileges, Abortion Reporting Bill

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 14:30

The Louisiana House on Monday passed a bill (HB 388) that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles, among other regulations, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

La. House Approves Admitting Privileges, Abortion Reporting Bill

April 2, 2014 — The Louisiana House on Monday passed a bill (HB 388) that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles, among other regulations, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports (O'Donoghue, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/31).

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D), also would create a database that would contain anonymous statistics on the number of abortions performed in the state.

The measure also would require physicians who provide abortions only occasionally to acquire a license from the state if they perform more than five abortions annually, up from more than five monthly under current rules. The doctors' names, locations and status as an abortion provider would be public information.

Further, the bill would extend the state's restrictions on surgical abortions to apply to medication abortions. For example, women seeking medication abortions would face a mandatory delay of 24 hours after requesting the drugs. Medication abortions also would have to be reported to the state Department of Health and Hospitals under the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/14).

The state House on Monday approved the bill in an 85-6 vote, with many of the state's Democratic lawmakers joining Republicans to advance the legislation. The measure -- which is supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) -- now proceeds to the state Senate (Deslatte, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/31).

Ramifications

According to opponents of the measure, the bill likely would close three of the state's five abortion clinics. Only two clinics in the Shreveport area would be able to meet the bill's requirements and remain operational (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/31).

Similar laws have been enacted in North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, and lawmakers in Oklahoma are considering such a measure, Reuters reports (Finn, Reuters, 3/31).

Comments

Jackson, in introducing the bill on the floor, said it "is about the safety of women and making sure that every physician performing surgeries, including abortions, does so in a prudent manner and with a woman's health in mind."

However, Melissa Flournoy, state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said, "The intent of this legislation is to restrict access to safe, legal abortion, plain and simple" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/31).

Noting that other states have adopted similar measures, Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said, "Now the effort is to simply adopt enough abortion restrictions so that clinics can't keep their doors open and women can't navigate all the legal barriers put in their way" (Reuters, 3/31).


Featured Blog

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 17:01

"5 Simple Strategies To Reduce Teen Pregnancies That Worked in This Rural South Carolina Town," (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/31).

April 1, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"5 Simple Strategies To Reduce Teen Pregnancies That Worked in This Rural South Carolina Town," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler highlights a small South Carolina town's success in lowering its teen pregnancy rate, which was "one of the highest" in the U.S., "by more than two thirds" over the past 30 years. She explains, "The town is employing a few common sense strategies to make sure teens have the tools they need to have healthy sexual relationships," including teaching "comprehensive sex ed"; focusing "messages at teen boys, not just at the girls"; involving the entire community in the efforts; making "condoms widely available"; and "[e]ncourag[ing] mentoring" between older teens and "their younger peers" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/31).

What others are saying about adolescent health:

~ "How One Small Town Lowered Their Teen Birth Rate," Alter, Time. 

Ohio Abortion Clinic Hopes To Stay Open After Securing Deal With Hospital

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 16:57

The only abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, has secured a hospital-transfer agreement that might enable it to stay open under a state law, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Ohio Abortion Clinic Hopes To Stay Open After Securing Deal With Hospital

April 1, 2014 — The only abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, has secured a hospital-transfer agreement that might enable it to stay open under a state law, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/28).

University of Michigan Health System officials on Thursday confirmed that they signed an emergency-care transfer agreement with Capital Care Clinic on Jan. 20. The hospital is about 53 miles from the clinic, but Denise Gray-Felder, chief communications officer for the health system, said it considers Toledo to be part of its service area (Harris-Taylor, Toledo Blade, 3/28).

Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in the case of emergencies. In September, provisions in the state budget took effect that require abortion clinics to secure the transfer agreements with private hospitals and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals, among other restrictions (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/17/13).

Efforts To Meet Requirement

Terrie Hubbard, owner of Capital Care, approached UM hospital officials after the University of Toledo Medical Center opted not to renew its one-year agreement with the clinic as of July 31, 2013. According to the Toledo Blade, no other private hospital in the region was willing to form an agreement. The Ohio Department of Health revoked the clinic's license and ordered it to close unless it could secure another agreement (Toledo Blade, 3/28).

The department is expected to make a final decision on the matter in June.

Debate

At a hearing in Columbus last week, antiabortion-rights activists argued that the UM hospital should not be considered "local."

However, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio noted that any medical emergency could be handled at Toledo hospitals because they cannot lawfully turn away patients. She added, "This is not an argument about public safety," but a "gotcha game" designed by the Ohio governor's administration to close clinics (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/28).

Hubbard added that there has never been a need for a hospital transfer in the four years she has owned the clinic, nor the eight years before that when she worked there as a registered nurse (Toledo Blade, 3/28).


Judge Orders Trial in Ala. Admitting Privileges Lawsuit

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 16:56

A federal judge on Monday ordered a trial to determine the constitutionality of an Alabama law (HB 57) that requires physicians who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Reuters reports.

Judge Orders Trial in Ala. Admitting Privileges Lawsuit

April 1, 2014 — A federal judge on Monday ordered a trial to determine the constitutionality of an Alabama law (HB 57) that requires physicians who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Reuters reports (Gates, Reuters, 3/31).

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson previously issued a temporary injunction to block enforcement of the law. Both sides had asked Thompson to issue summary judgment, meaning the judge would rule on the law based on legal arguments rather than a trial (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/11).

Planned Parenthood Southeast, Reproductive Health Services and the American Civil Liberties Union have said that the law is potentially unconstitutional because it could close three of the state's five abortion clinics (Reuters, 3/31). The state has argued that the regulations are a constitutional means of protecting fetal life, which the state says it has a legitimate interest in doing (Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser, 3/31).

Monday's Ruling

Thompson, in an 86-page opinion, rejected the request for summary judgment and said a trial should be held to determine whether the law violates women's constitutional rights by imposing a "substantial obstacle" to their access to abortion (Reuters, 3/31).

Thompson wrote that while the court could not yet determine if the law was passed "with a fetal-protective purpose," any statute "which attempts to save fetal lives (that is, stop abortions) by using the state's coercive power to make access to abortion more difficult is interfering with the core of the constitutional abortion right: the right of a woman to make the final decision about whether to have an abortion."

The judge continued, "It is clear that admitting privileges as a prerequisite to obtaining an abortion will save no fetal lives -- unless the requirement closes abortion clinics or reduces their capacity," adding, "Therefore, if [the rule] was intended to protect fetal lives, it operates only through coercive means, specifically by closing down clinics or limiting their capacity."

However, Thompson noted that there is "a genuine dispute of material fact" on how the regulation would affect clinics and whether the clinics could comply with the requirements.

Reaction

PPSE CEO Staci Fox said that she is "confident the court will ultimately rule on the side of Alabama women, who deserve to make their own private health care decisions without the interference of politicians."

She added that letting the law take effect would close "three-fifths of the licensed health centers that provide safe, legal abortion" in the state and leave "many women without access to safe, constitutionally protected medical care."

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney working on the case, said the law is "just another attempt by politicians to prevent a woman from getting a safe and legal abortion" (Montgomery Advertiser, 3/31).


Judge Allows Ariz. Medication Abortion Restrictions To Take Effect

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 16:54

A federal judge on Monday refused to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona, ruling instead that the regulations may take effect April 1 while a case over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports.

Judge Allows Ariz. Medication Abortion Restrictions To Take Effect

April 1, 2014 — A federal judge on Monday refused to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona, ruling instead that the regulations may take effect April 1 while a case over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports (Schwartz, New York Times, 3/31).

The medication abortion rules -- which are among several abortion-related regulations mandated under a 2012 state law (HB 2036) -- bar physicians from administering abortion-inducing drugs beyond seven weeks of pregnancy. Physicians also would be required to administer both drugs in the medication abortion regimen on site and at the FDA-approved dosage, which is higher than the dosage typically used in practice. The rules are among the harshest in the nation.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona sued the state over the proposed rules, asking the court to issue an injunction before the law takes effect. U.S. District Court Judge David Bury heard arguments from PPAZ and the state over the law's constitutionality last week (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/27).

Monday's Ruling

On Monday, Bury denied PPAZ's request, ruling that the regulations would not unduly burden women because they can still access surgical abortions. He said the facts that the process would become more costly and that some women would have to travel hundreds of miles at least twice to access a medication abortion "do not qualify as irreparable harm."

In addition, Bury said that it is "unlikely that plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of the constitutional claims" and that they "have not established serious questions going to the merits nor that the hardship balance tips sharply toward them" (New York Times, 3/31).

Bury concluded, "The court finds that the injunction is not in the public interest" (Galvan, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/31).

Comments

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (R) said that Monday's ruling "would be an indication that [the state is] likely to win."

However, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the organization would continue to fight the law, adding, "It is outrageous that politicians are interfering in a doctor's ability to provide the highest quality medical care for women in Arizona" (New York Times, 3/31).

Similarly, David Brown -- an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents PPAZ in the case -- said in a statement, "This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier and less effective method" (Ingram, Reuters, 3/31).


National Antiabortion-Rights Group Splits With Ga. Affiliate After Dispute Over Rape, Incest Cases

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 16:29

A dispute over exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape and incest has led the National Right to Life Committee to cut ties with state-based affiliate Georgia Right to Life and instead partner with the Georgia Life Alliance, the AP/WRCBTV reports.

National Antiabortion-Rights Group Splits With Ga. Affiliate After Dispute Over Rape, Incest Cases

April 1, 2014 — A dispute over exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape and incest has led the National Right to Life Committee to cut ties with state-based affiliate Georgia Right to Life and instead partner with the Georgia Life Alliance, the AP/WRCBTV reports (AP/WRCBTV, 3/30).

According to an NRLC statement, its board of directors voted to oust GRTL on Saturday. NRLC President Carol Tobias said in the statement that GRTL in the last year had "demanded that members of the U.S. House of Representatives vote against National Right to Life's top-priority federal legislation, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act [HR 1797], and subsequently praised some House members who did in fact join with pro-abortion congressmen to vote against that landmark bill" (Malloy, "Political Insider," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/29).

The bill, which passed the House last year, would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed theory that fetuses can experience pain at that point.

The bill originally only would have allowed an exception to save a woman's life in certain instances, but it was revised in committee after bill sponsor Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) made controversial remarks about the incidence of pregnancies resulting from rape. The changes would allow exceptions in instances of incest of a minor or rape if either type of incident was reported "at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/19/13).

In addition, Tobias noted that GRTL "praised a U.S. House member for not voting in favor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act [HR 7]," which would have "strengthen[ed] and expand[ed] prohibitions on federal funding of abortion -- another ... top legislative priority for [NRLC]" ("Political Insider," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/29).

The House approved HR 7 in January (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/29).

GRTL Response

In response, GRTL President Dan Becker said in a statement, "It's a tragedy that a pioneering, highly successful pro-life organization is considered unworthy to remain affiliated" with NRLC, "especially ... since GRTL has accomplished so much." He added that the two groups "[f]rom a policy standpoint" are "on the same page."

However, the statement noted that the group in 2000 "changed its candidate endorsement criteria and legislation policy to ensure that all pre-born children are protected, except in cases where the life of the mother is threatened" ("Political Insider," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/29).


Blogs Comment on 'Sanctioning Inequality' in Contraceptive Coverage Cases, Violence Against Women, More

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 15:24

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

Blogs Comment on 'Sanctioning Inequality' in Contraceptive Coverage Cases, Violence Against Women, More

April 1, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from the American Constitution Society, RH Reality Check and more.

CONTRACEPTION: "When You Marginalize Women's Health, You Sanction Inequality," Sarah Lipton-Lubet, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy's "ACSblog": "[T]here is no good reason that the [Supreme] Court should treat laws that protect contraception access differently from other civil rights laws and worker protections," writes Lipton-Lubet, director of reproductive health programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families. In two recently argued cases, "Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are pursuing a radical proposition: that corporations have a right to impose religious beliefs on their employees by withholding benefits otherwise legally guaranteed to the women who work there," she explains. She notes that although "in the past, courts have rejected claims that religion-based arguments could allow restaurants to discriminate on the basis of race, or businesses to ignore wage-and-hour laws," the current cases are wrongly being viewed differently "because these jurisprudence-shifting questions are being re-litigated in the context of women's reproductive health care." She argues, "[A]s we characterize what's at risk in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases, let's stop allowing those who would deny basic rights and fairness to get a foot in the door by making reproductive rights the target of their attacks" (Lipton-Lubet, "ACSblog," American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, 3/28).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "2014: The Year of the IUD?" Elizabeth Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check.

~ "Why Contraception is a Health Issue for Everyone," Rachel Walden, Our Bodies Ourselves' "Our Bodies, Our Blog."

~ "Doctors at an Oklahoma Hospital Were Just Told They Can't Prescribe Birth Control Anymore," Steven Hsieh, The Nation.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "When Cops Rape Crime Victims," Stephanie Hallett, Ms. Magazine blog: "Just this month, three police officers in different cities have been charged with raping women who called the police for help," Hallett writes. After detailing the three incidents, Hallett notes that other "ongoing rape investigations involving police officers" are taking place "all over the country." Hallett questions how women can "feel safe calling the police knowing they may find themselves victimized by those charged with protecting them," adding that an "[i]ntervention by the federal government into local police departments may be one way" (Hallett, Ms. Magazine blog, 3/28).

What others are saying about violence against women:

~ "What the Dartmouth Rape Acquittal Really Teaches Us," Lulu Chang, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "'Law And Order's Mariska Hargitay Teams Up With Amy Poehler And Other Celebrities To Fight Rape Culture," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Harvard Student: School Made Me Live With Attacker After Sex Assault," Charlotte Alter, Time.

~ "Wealthy Child Rapist Given Probation as Judge Felt He Would 'Not Do Well' in Jail," Alter, Time.

GLOBAL ISSUES: "Poverty Need Not Bar Women From Healthcare in Latin America," Rosario Perez, Huffington Post blogs: Perez, president and CEO of Pro Mujer, notes that 37% more Latin American women than men live in poverty and that nearly 50% of women older than age 15 in the region "have no income of their own." However, Pro Mujer, a women's development organization, has found "that when women have access to independent sources of income, they improve economic conditions for their children" and "[f]emale micro-entrepreneurs are successful engines for economic improvement both in their communities and their countries," Perez writes. Noting that "this demographic does not generally have access to healthcare," Perez explains Pro Mujer's model of increasing health care access by using "four pillars: convenience, affordability, preventive care and financial sustainability." The model has proved successful and should be adopted by the "more than 3,500 microfinance institutions working with more than 190 million households worldwide" to help "transform the delivery of healthcare to people at the bottom of the economic pyramid," she says (Perez, Huffington Post blogs, 3/31).

What others are saying about global issues:

~ "Why My Fight for Latina Health Took Me All the Way to the UN," Lucy Felix, RH Reality Check.

~ "Sexual Health and Rights Conference Tackles Harmful Traditional Practices in Africa," Jennifer Dreher, International Women's Health Coalition's "Akimbo."

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "5 Simple Strategies To Reduce Teen Pregnancies That Worked in This Rural South Carolina Town," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler highlights a small South Carolina town's success in lowering its teen pregnancy rate, which was "one of the highest" in the U.S., "by more than two thirds" over the past 30 years. She explains, "The town is employing a few common sense strategies to make sure teens have the tools they need to have healthy sexual relationships," including teaching "comprehensive sex ed"; focusing "messages at teen boys, not just at the girls"; involving the entire community in the efforts; making "condoms widely available"; and "[e]ncourag[ing] mentoring" between older teens and "their younger peers" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/31).

What others are saying about adolescent health:

~ "How One Small Town Lowered Their Teen Birth Rate," Alter, Time.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Repro Wrap: Abortion is Safer Than Birth, Except When It's in the Hands of Anti-Choice Judges and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to allow Texas' "HB 2 to remain in effect," meaning that clinics "will continue to shut down as the bill goes fully into effect," could foretell its reasoning in a challenge to an admitting-privileges requirement (HB 1390) in Mississippi, according to Marty. However, given that the "cases are somewhat different," it is possible the judges will find the latter law to be an "undue burden" for women in Mississippi because it would close the state's sole abortion clinic. "On the other hand, for many people who would be seeking care, the distance from where they reside to a clinic outside the state could actually be closer than it was for pregnant people in Texas to now get to one of the remaining clinics that will be open six months from now, so the question may be do state borders even matter," Marty writes (Marty, Care2, 3/28).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "A Devastating Loss for Texas Women," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights."

~ "Appeals Court on Texas Abortion Law: So What if Women Have Long Drive?" Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times' "Opinion L.A."

~ "This State is Quietly Becoming One of the Worst for Women's Health (And No, It's Not Texas)," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "West Virginia Governor Vetoes 20-Week Abortion Ban," Sharona Coutts, RH Reality Check.


Judge Allows Ariz. Medication Abortion Restrictions To Take Effect

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 14:40

A federal judge on Monday refused to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona, ruling instead that the regulations may take effect April 1 while a case over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports.

Judge Allows Ariz. Medication Abortion Restrictions To Take Effect

April 1, 2014 — A federal judge on Monday refused to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona, ruling instead that the regulations may take effect April 1 while a case over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports (Schwartz, New York Times, 3/31).

The medication abortion rules -- which are among several abortion-related regulations mandated under a 2012 state law (HB 2036) -- bar physicians from administering abortion-inducing drugs beyond seven weeks of pregnancy. Physicians also would be required to administer both drugs in the medication abortion regimen on site and at the FDA-approved dosage, which is higher than the dosage typically used in practice. The rules are among the harshest in the nation.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona sued the state over the proposed rules, asking the court to issue an injunction before the law takes effect. U.S. District Court Judge David Bury heard arguments from PPAZ and the state over the law's constitutionality last week (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/27).

Monday's Ruling

On Monday, Bury denied PPAZ's request, ruling that the regulations would not unduly burden women because they can still access surgical abortions. He said the facts that the process would become more costly and that some women would have to travel hundreds of miles at least twice to access a medication abortion "do not qualify as irreparable harm."

In addition, Bury said that it is "unlikely that plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of the constitutional claims" and that they "have not established serious questions going to the merits nor that the hardship balance tips sharply toward them" (New York Times, 3/31).

Bury concluded, "The court finds that the injunction is not in the public interest" (Galvan, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/31).

Comments

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (R) said that Monday's ruling "would be an indication that [the state is] likely to win."

However, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the organization would continue to fight the law, adding, "It is outrageous that politicians are interfering in a doctor's ability to provide the highest quality medical care for women in Arizona" (New York Times, 3/31).

Similarly, David Brown -- an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents PPAZ in the case -- said in a statement, "This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier and less effective method" (Ingram, Reuters, 3/31).


Supreme Court Rejects Catholic Groups' Contraceptive Coverage Appeals

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 14:37

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will not review appeals of lower courts' decisions to uphold the federal contraceptive rules in two cases involving the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Catholic University; and other Catholic not-for-profits, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Supreme Court Rejects Catholic Groups' Contraceptive Coverage Appeals

April 1, 2014 — The Supreme Court on Monday said it will not review appeals of lower courts' decisions to uphold the federal contraceptive rules in two cases involving the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Catholic University; and other Catholic not-for-profits, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Stohr, Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/31).

The contraceptive coverage rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most insurers to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage for their employees. Private companies are not eligible for an exemption or accommodation (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/2).

The plaintiffs contend that the accommodation for religiously affiliated not-for-profits is inadequate because it requires them to facilitate contraceptive coverage. In December, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked enforcement of the rules for the groups while their cases continue (Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/31).

Upcoming Appellate Court Arguments

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is scheduled to hear the two cases -- Roman Catholic Archbishop v. Sebelius and Priests for Life v. Health and Human Services Department -- on May 8 (Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 3/31).

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, it is unsurprising that the Supreme Court did not take the cases because the plaintiffs had taken the "unusual step of bypassing the intermediate appellate [court]" by appealing directly to the high court (Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/31).

According to Reuters, if the Catholic groups lose at the federal appeals court, they will have the opportunity to again appeal their cases to the Supreme Court (Hurley, Reuters, 3/31).


Judge Orders Trial in Ala. Admitting Privileges Lawsuit

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 14:34

A federal judge on Monday ordered a trial to determine the constitutionality of an Alabama law (HB 57) that requires physicians who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Reuters reports.

Judge Orders Trial in Ala. Admitting Privileges Lawsuit

April 1, 2014 — A federal judge on Monday ordered a trial to determine the constitutionality of an Alabama law (HB 57) that requires physicians who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Reuters reports (Gates, Reuters, 3/31).

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson previously issued a temporary injunction to block enforcement of the law. Both sides had asked Thompson to issue summary judgment, meaning the judge would rule on the law based on legal arguments rather than a trial (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/11).

Planned Parenthood Southeast, Reproductive Health Services and the American Civil Liberties Union have said that the law is potentially unconstitutional because it could close three of the state's five abortion clinics (Reuters, 3/31). The state has argued that the regulations are a constitutional means of protecting fetal life, which the state says it has a legitimate interest in doing (Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser, 3/31).

Monday's Ruling

Thompson, in an 86-page opinion, rejected the request for summary judgment and said a trial should be held to determine whether the law violates women's constitutional rights by imposing a "substantial obstacle" to their access to abortion (Reuters, 3/31).

Thompson wrote that while the court could not yet determine if the law was passed "with a fetal-protective purpose," any statute "which attempts to save fetal lives (that is, stop abortions) by using the state's coercive power to make access to abortion more difficult is interfering with the core of the constitutional abortion right: the right of a woman to make the final decision about whether to have an abortion."

The judge continued, "It is clear that admitting privileges as a prerequisite to obtaining an abortion will save no fetal lives -- unless the requirement closes abortion clinics or reduces their capacity," adding, "Therefore, if [the rule] was intended to protect fetal lives, it operates only through coercive means, specifically by closing down clinics or limiting their capacity."

However, Thompson noted that there is "a genuine dispute of material fact" on how the regulation would affect clinics and whether the clinics could comply with the requirements.

Reaction

PPSE CEO Staci Fox said that she is "confident the court will ultimately rule on the side of Alabama women, who deserve to make their own private health care decisions without the interference of politicians."

She added that letting the law take effect would close "three-fifths of the licensed health centers that provide safe, legal abortion" in the state and leave "many women without access to safe, constitutionally protected medical care."

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney working on the case, said the law is "just another attempt by politicians to prevent a woman from getting a safe and legal abortion" (Montgomery Advertiser, 3/31).


Ohio Abortion Clinic Hopes To Stay Open After Securing Deal With Hospital

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 14:30

The only abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, has secured a hospital-transfer agreement that might enable it to stay open under a state law, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Ohio Abortion Clinic Hopes To Stay Open After Securing Deal With Hospital

April 1, 2014 — The only abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, has secured a hospital-transfer agreement that might enable it to stay open under a state law, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/28).

University of Michigan Health System officials on Thursday confirmed that they signed an emergency-care transfer agreement with Capital Care Clinic on Jan. 20. The hospital is about 53 miles from the clinic, but Denise Gray-Felder, chief communications officer for the health system, said it considers Toledo to be part of its service area (Harris-Taylor, Toledo Blade, 3/28).

Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in the case of emergencies. In September, provisions in the state budget took effect that require abortion clinics to secure the transfer agreements with private hospitals and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals, among other restrictions (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/17/13).

Efforts To Meet Requirement

Terrie Hubbard, owner of Capital Care, approached UM hospital officials after the University of Toledo Medical Center opted not to renew its one-year agreement with the clinic as of July 31, 2013. According to the Toledo Blade, no other private hospital in the region was willing to form an agreement. The Ohio Department of Health revoked the clinic's license and ordered it to close unless it could secure another agreement (Toledo Blade, 3/28).

The department is expected to make a final decision on the matter in June.

Debate

At a hearing in Columbus last week, antiabortion-rights activists argued that the UM hospital should not be considered "local."

However, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio noted that any medical emergency could be handled at Toledo hospitals because they cannot lawfully turn away patients. She added, "This is not an argument about public safety," but a "gotcha game" designed by the Ohio governor's administration to close clinics (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/28).

Hubbard added that there has never been a need for a hospital transfer in the four years she has owned the clinic, nor the eight years before that when she worked there as a registered nurse (Toledo Blade, 3/28).


Planned Parenthood To Complete Texas Abortion Clinic Before Restrictions Take Effect

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 17:31

Planned Parenthood is planning to open a $5 million facility in San Antonio, Texas, that will comply with abortion regulations that are scheduled to take effect in September under a state law (HB 2), Reuters reports.

Planned Parenthood To Complete Texas Abortion Clinic Before Restrictions Take Effect

March 31, 2014 — Planned Parenthood is planning to open a $5 million facility in San Antonio, Texas, that will comply with abortion regulations that are scheduled to take effect in September under a state law (HB 2), Reuters reports.

The group expects to complete the facility, which will offer surgical abortions, before the restrictions take effect (Garza, Reuters, 3/27).

Many abortion clinics in the state are unable to meet the law's requirement that they have on-site ambulatory surgical centers. In addition, many Texas clinics have stopped offering abortions or closed because they are not able to comply with a provision that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/7).

According to Planned Parenthood, only about six abortion clinics are expected to be able to comply with the ambulatory surgical center requirements.

Planned Parenthood South Texas spokesperson Mara Posada said, "Women may have the right to legal abortion in theory, but in practice, this right is vanishing for many women in Texas" (Reuters, 3/27).


W. Va. Gov. Tomblin Vetoes 20-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 17:30

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) on Friday vetoed a bill (HB 4588) that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying that the bill likely is unconstitutional and would restrict pregnant women's health care, the Charleston Gazette reports.

W. Va. Gov. Tomblin Vetoes 20-Week Abortion Ban

March 31, 2014 — West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) on Friday vetoed a bill (HB 4588) that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying that the bill likely is unconstitutional and would restrict pregnant women's health care, the Charleston Gazette reports (White, Charleston Gazette, 3/28).

The state House approved the bill earlier this month after the state Senate amended it to allow exceptions if a pregnancy is not viable. The changes also reduced the penalty for physicians who violate the ban from a felony to a misdemeanor (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/11).

Tomblin said he vetoed the bill because his legislative attorneys and his legal team advised that it "is unconstitutional as shown by actions of the Supreme Court of the United States" (Charleston Gazette, 3/28). The high court previously rejected a request to consider a similar law in Arizona that a lower court had struck down, according to AP/Sacramento Bee.

Tomblin also said he vetoed the bill because the medical community believes that the measure's legal penalties would impose on the patient-doctor relationship (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/28).

"All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options," Tomblin said, adding, "The medical community has made it clear to me [that] the legal penalties this bill imposes will impede that advice, and those options, to the detriment of the health and safety of expectant mothers" (Charleston Gazette, 3/28).


W. Va. Gov. Tomblin Vetoes 20-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 14:23

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) on Friday vetoed a bill (HB 4588) that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying that the bill likely is unconstitutional and would restrict pregnant women's health care, the Charleston Gazette reports.

W. Va. Gov. Tomblin Vetoes 20-Week Abortion Ban

March 31, 2014 — West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) on Friday vetoed a bill (HB 4588) that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, saying that the bill likely is unconstitutional and would restrict pregnant women's health care, the Charleston Gazette reports (White, Charleston Gazette, 3/28).

The state House approved the bill earlier this month after the state Senate amended it to allow exceptions if a pregnancy is not viable. The changes also reduced the penalty for physicians who violate the ban from a felony to a misdemeanor (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/11).

Tomblin said he vetoed the bill because his legislative attorneys and his legal team advised that it "is unconstitutional as shown by actions of the Supreme Court of the United States" (Charleston Gazette, 3/28). The high court previously rejected a request to consider a similar law in Arizona that a lower court had struck down, according to AP/Sacramento Bee.

Tomblin also said he vetoed the bill because the medical community believes that the measure's legal penalties would impose on the patient-doctor relationship (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/28).

"All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options," Tomblin said, adding, "The medical community has made it clear to me [that] the legal penalties this bill imposes will impede that advice, and those options, to the detriment of the health and safety of expectant mothers" (Charleston Gazette, 3/28).