Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 49 min 5 sec ago

Texas Lawmakers Consider Changes to State's Sex Ed Rules

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 18:47

A Texas House committee this week opened debate on a bill (HB 467) that would modify the state's sexual education requirements, KEYE TV reports.

Texas Lawmakers Consider Changes to State's Sex Ed Rules

March 6, 2015 — A Texas House committee this week opened debate on a bill (HB 467) that would modify the state's sexual education requirements, KEYE TV reports.

Bill Details

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Donna Howard (D), would remove language from the state's current sexual education code that states that "sexual activity before marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical consequences." The measure would not change many of the other current requirements, including an emphasis on abstinence as the only method that is completely effective against avoiding pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (Dryer, KEYE TV, 3/3).

Debate on the Measure

Opponents of the measure have argued that it would not do enough to encourage abstinence. For example, Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, said, "The message is that there's really not as much to be concerned about" from having sex, adding, "These are harmful consequences that come at very high statistics to young people. Giving them a substantial warning, I think, has tremendous value."

However, Howard said education programs under the bill would continue to "emphasiz[e] the importance of abstinence and more precisely stat[e] the consequences that can result from sexual activity among adolescen[ts]."

Meanwhile, some state lawmakers recommended that instead of removing the language about the potential consequences of engaging in sexual activity before marriage, the statement should instead be amended to say that such activity "may" have such consequences (Wallace, TWC News, 3/3).


Iowa House Panel Advances Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 18:46

An Iowa House subcommittee on Wednesday voted 2-1 to advance a bill (HF 58) that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, the Davenport Quad-City Times reports.

Iowa House Panel Advances Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

March 6, 2015 — An Iowa House subcommittee on Wednesday voted 2-1 to advance a bill (HF 58) that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, the Davenport Quad-City Times reports.

The legislation now heads to the full state House Human Resources Committee for consideration (Boshart, Davenport Quad-City Times, 3/4). The full committee has a Friday deadline to advance the legislation. According to the AP/Washington Times, the legislation would be unlikely to pass the state Senate.

Bill Details

The bill would require physicians to conduct an ultrasound on women seeking abortions. A physician would then be required to ask women if they want to view the ultrasound images or have fetal heartbeat made audible (Rodriguez, AP/Washington Times, 3/4).

Physicians who violate the measure would be subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Supporters, Opponents Comment

Supporters of the measure said it would result in women having more information to make abortion decisions. Further, Norm Pawlewski of the Iowa Right to Life Committee and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, said the bill would ensure "that what [physicians are] doing is appropriate for the age of the gestation of the [fetus]."

However, Erin Davison-Rippey, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the bill would "sen[d] the message that we don't trust a woman to make decisions about her health care and that we don't trust a physician to provide appropriate information."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D) said the measure would be "shaming," "demeaning" and would create a "dangerous precedent" for the state Legislature to be involved in personal medical decisions (Davenport Quad-City Times, 3/4).


Ark. Senate Panel Advances Bill To Block Funding to Women's Health Clinics

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 18:45

An Arkansas Senate panel on Wednesday advanced a bill (SB 569) to the full chamber that would bar the state from distributing grants to individuals or entities that offer abortion services, counseling or referrals, or that have affiliations with such individuals or entities, the Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record reports.

Ark. Senate Panel Approves Bill To Block Funding To Abortion Providers, Regulate Tissue Disposal

March 6, 2015 — An Arkansas Senate panel on Wednesday advanced a bill (SB 569) to the full chamber that would bar the state from distributing grants to individuals or entities that offer abortion services, counseling or referrals, or that have affiliations with such individuals or entities, the Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record reports (Lyon, Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record, 3/5).

The measure would not apply to funds provided through the state's Medicaid program (AP/KAIT, 3/4).

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokesperson Angie Remington noted that "[t]here are already laws preventing the use of public funds for abortion, with rare exceptions." She added, "It's difficult to understand why people who are opposed to abortion want to undermine funding for programs that work to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion."

State Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R), who is sponsoring the bill, argued that even if funds do not directly go toward abortion, he believes that no taxpayer money should go to entities that provide the procedure.

Stubblefield in 2013 sponsored a similar measure that failed to pass.

Tissue Disposal Bill Advances

In addition, the Senate panel on Wednesday voted to advance to the full Senate a bill (HB 1407) that would restrict how health care facilities, including abortion clinics, dispose of human tissue, the Times Record reports.

The bill would require physicians and facilities to dispose of human tissue "in a respectful and proper manner." Under the bill, respectful is defined as burial, cremation, incineration or release to a person authorized by the patient (Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record, 3/5).


Ark. House Approves Medication Abortion Restrictions

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 18:42

The Arkansas House on Thursday voted 61-7 in favor of a bill (HB 1394) that would restrict medication abortion, Arkansas News reports. The bill will now be considered by the state Senate.

Ark. House Approves Medication Abortion Restrictions; Senate Panel Advances Bill To Block Funding to Women’s Health Clinics

March 6, 2015 — The Arkansas House on Thursday voted 61-7 in favor of a bill (HB 1394) that would restrict medication abortion, Arkansas News reports. The bill will now be considered by the state Senate (Lyon, Arkansas News, 3/5).

Bill Details

The bill would require that medication abortion drugs be prescribed in accordance with guidelines and dosage limits set by FDA when the drugs were initially approved. The FDA protocol is no longer current and goes against common medical practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5). Specifically, the bill would require providers to administer a dose higher than what is commonly prescribed. In addition, under the bill, medication abortions could not be administered past seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than the nine-week limit that is used in practice (DeMillo, AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/5).

The bill also stipulates that only physicians could provide medication abortion drugs to patients. The bill would require such physicians to have a contract with another physician who has agreed to handle any complications. The second physician would have to hold admitting and gynecological/surgical privileges at a nearby hospital that can handle such cases.

Providers found in violation of the requirements could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face civil penalties and disciplinary action (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Comments

State Rep. Charlene Fite (R), the bill's sponsor, said, "We have said we want to make abortion rare and safe" (AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/5).

However, state Rep. Deborah Ferguson (D) said the bill would not increase safety. "The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ... determined that actually a smaller dose of the medicine is better," she said (Arkansas News, 3/5).

Blogs Comment on Safety of Abortion, King v. Burwell at Supreme Court, More

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 18:22

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Huffington Post, the National Women's Law Center and more.

Blogs Comment on Safety of Abortion, King v. Burwell at Supreme Court, More

March 6, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Huffington Post, the National Women's Law Center and more.

ABORTION RIGHTS AND ACCESS: "How Safe is Abortion?" David Grimes, Huffington Post blogs: Abortion-rights opponents' "routin[e] claim[s] that abortion is unsafe," are made "by cherry-picking studies, citing obsolete literature, extrapolating inappropriately and misinterpreting results," writes Grimes, former chief of the Abortion Surveillance Branch at CDC. Grimes notes that national CDC data "indicate that induced abortion and miscarriage are the safest outcomes of pregnancy," adding that "[a]s a gynecologist," he "ha[s] had to spend considerable time over the years disabusing patients of these false claims" made by abortion-rights opponents. He cites several examples of the safety of abortion, including how CDC data show that "the risk of death from pregnancy and childbirth is 14 times higher than with abortion" and how other data show that "[i]n recent decades, the risk of death from abortion has been around 1 per 100,000 procedures," making it similar in risk to "paddling a canoe." He writes, "Given this fact, the current preoccupation of state legislatures with gynecology (and not canoes) clearly stems from partisan politics, not concerns about public health" (Grimes, Huffington Post blogs, 3/3).

SUPREME COURT: "Can the Supreme Court Take Away Maternity Coverage?" Dania Palanker, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": "If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, then women -- including pregnant women -- who buy their coverage in 37 states' health insurance Marketplaces could lose the federal [tax credits] that make health insurance affordable," Palanker writes. She notes that such a ruling could "leav[e] pregnant women (and others) without coverage"; "unravel" some of "the protections of the [Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148)]"; and bring back aspects of the "individual health insurance market" that "failed women ... before the passage of the [ACA]." She adds that new mothers who are uninsured or do not have coverage that covers maternity care "could leave the hospital with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills for labor, delivery, and newborn care" (Palanker, "Womenstake," NWLC, 3/3).

ABORTION COVERAGE: "Reproductive Rights Shouldn't Be Just for the Rich," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights": Amiri discusses her recent efforts as "part of the team that is fighting" a law in Alaska that, if allowed to take effect, would "withhol[d] almost all Medicaid coverage for abortion from qualified women." She writes that if her team does not win a lawsuit challenging the law, "the consequences will be devastating," noting that "[w]ithout Medicaid coverage for abortion, some women will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, despite the consequences to their families and their physical and mental health." Amiri cites several abortion patients who testified at the trial about how "even the smallest unexpected expense can send a family into financial chaos, and patients routinely delay or forgo health care because they can't afford it." She discusses other state abortion restrictions and an investigation from Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" into "the consequences [of such] restrictions" on low-income women, concluding, "What was true before Roe v. Wade is true today: Rich women will always have access to abortion, while low-income women may not" (Amiri, "Blog of Rights," ACLU, 3/3).

WOMEN'S HEALTH PROTECTIONS: "Congressional Pro-Choice Bill Would Expand Obamacare's Women's Health Gains," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: Crockett discusses the "21st Century Women's Health Act, introduced by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)" on Thursday, which includes "several provisions to both expand reproductive health-care access and improve research and public awareness on the topic." According to Crockett, the bill would address coverage for women with Medicaid, who cannot "always access the full range of contraceptive methods, or services like breast pumps and breast feeding counseling ... by extending the [Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148)] preventive care standards for these services to all Medicaid recipients." In addition, she writes that the bill includes provisions that would "help enforce women's health-care rights and combat misinformation," and require "all hospitals to provide rape victims with emergency contraception," among other measures (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 3/5).

What others are saying about women's health protections:

~ "Female Senators Introduce Pro-Choice Bill To ‘Fight Back Against Those Who Miss the Mad Men Era,'" Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY: "International Women's Day: 10 Top Health Problems for Women," Flavia Bustreo, Huffington Post blogs: Bustreo -- director-general for Family, Women's and Children's Health at the World Health Organization and vice chair of the board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance -- writes that International Women's Day, which falls on March 8, should be used to both "celebrate women and their achievements" and "to take stock of how women's rights, especially the right to health, are fulfilled in the world." Bustreo touches on 10 main health issues that continue to affect women, including cancer, particularly breast and cervical cancers; reproductive health issues, such as contraceptive access; maternal health, including family planning services and access to pregnancy and childbirth care; HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections; and violence against women, among other concerns. She writes that these health concerns, among other women's issues, are "why WHO and its partners are developing a new global strategy for women's, children's and adolescents' health, and working to enshrine the health of women in the post-2015 United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals" (Bustreo, Huffington Post blogs, 3/5).


Ark. House Approves Medication Abortion Restrictions; Senate Panel Advances Bill To Block Funding to Women's Health Clinics

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 18:22

The Arkansas House on Thursday voted 61-7 in favor of a bill (HB 1394) that would restrict medication abortion, Arkansas News reports. The bill will now be considered by the state Senate.

Ark. House Approves Medication Abortion Restrictions; Senate Panel Advances Bill To Block Funding to Women’s Health Clinics

March 6, 2015 — The Arkansas House on Thursday voted 61-7 in favor of a bill (HB 1394) that would restrict medication abortion, Arkansas News reports. The bill will now be considered by the state Senate (Lyon, Arkansas News, 3/5).

Bill Details

The bill would require that medication abortion drugs be prescribed in accordance with guidelines and dosage limits set by FDA when the drugs were initially approved. The FDA protocol is no longer current and goes against common medical practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5). Specifically, the bill would require providers to administer a dose higher than what is commonly prescribed. In addition, under the bill, medication abortions could not be administered past seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than the nine-week limit that is used in practice (DeMillo, AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/5).

The bill also stipulates that only physicians could provide medication abortion drugs to patients. The bill would require such physicians to have a contract with another physician who has agreed to handle any complications. The second physician would have to hold admitting and gynecological/surgical privileges at a nearby hospital that can handle such cases.

Providers found in violation of the requirements could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face civil penalties and disciplinary action (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Comments

State Rep. Charlene Fite (R), the bill's sponsor, said, "We have said we want to make abortion rare and safe" (AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/5).

However, state Rep. Deborah Ferguson (D) said the bill would not increase safety. "The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ... determined that actually a smaller dose of the medicine is better," she said (Arkansas News, 3/5).

Ark. Senate Panel Approves Bill To Block Funding To Abortion Providers, Regulate Tissue Disposal

In other Arkansas news, a state Senate panel on Wednesday advanced a bill (SB 569) to the full chamber that would bar the state from distributing grants to individuals or entities that offer abortion services, counseling or referrals, or that have affiliations with such individuals or entities, the Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record reports (Lyon, Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record, 3/5).

The measure would not apply to funds provided through the state's Medicaid program (AP/KAIT, 3/4).

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokesperson Angie Remington noted that "[t]here are already laws preventing the use of public funds for abortion, with rare exceptions." She added, "It's difficult to understand why people who are opposed to abortion want to undermine funding for programs that work to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion."

State Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R), who is sponsoring the bill, argued that even if funds do not directly go toward abortion, he believes that no taxpayer money should go to entities that provide the procedure.

Stubblefield in 2013 sponsored a similar measure that failed to pass.

Tissue Disposal Bill Advances

In addition, the Senate panel on Wednesday voted to advance to the full Senate a bill (HB 1407) that would restrict how health care facilities, including abortion clinics, dispose of human tissue, the Times Record reports.

The bill would require physicians and facilities to dispose of human tissue "in a respectful and proper manner." Under the bill, respectful is defined as burial, cremation, incineration or release to a person authorized by the patient (Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record, 3/5).


Senators Introduce 21st Century Women's Health Act

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 18:21

Three senators on Thursday introduced legislation called the 21st Century Women's Health Act, which aims to ensure access to women's health services and improve care, Yahoo! Health reports.

Senators Introduce 21st Century Women's Health Act

March 6, 2015 — Three senators on Thursday introduced legislation called the 21st Century Women's Health Act, which aims to ensure access to women's health services and improve care, Yahoo! Health reports.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced the measure on a press call (Gerson Uffalussy, Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

Bill Details: Contraceptive Coverage, Access to Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault Survivors

The bill would require Medicaid to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without cost-sharing by beneficiaries (Ferris, The Hill, 3/5). Federal guidance on the contraceptive coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) states that most private insurers must cover the full range of FDA-approved methods without cost sharing (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/19/14). However, the ACA does not have the same requirement for Medicaid (Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

In addition, the bill would ensure that all survivors of sexual assault can receive no-cost emergency contraception when they seek treatment at a hospital or clinic (Song, Seattle Times, 3/5). The legislation also would help ensure that survivors receive factual information about EC when they seek treatment in a hospital emergency department. Further, the legislation would ensure women at higher education institutions have access to EC, as well as support higher education educational programs designed to help prevent sexual assault.

According to Yahoo! Health, only 13 states and Washington, D.C., require emergency departments to provide sexual assault survivors with EC upon request (Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

Ensuring Right to Reproductive Health Services

The bill also would create a "women's health ombudsperson" whose job would be to help protect access to women's health services. For example, the individual would be tasked with helping to enforce the federal requirement that insurers cover preventive care, such as breastfeeding counseling, mammograms and screenings for domestic violence, with no cost-sharing (Seattle Times, 3/5).

The legislation would also task HHS with conducting a women's health study every five years and reporting the findings to Congress. Specifically, the study would look at the effect of state antiabortion-rights laws and geographic regions that have limited access to family planning services, including economic effects and the impact on maternal deaths.

In addition, the bill would require every state to create a "Maternal Mortality Review Committee" tasked with addressing and assessing disparities and other factors that contribute to maternal deaths. According to Yahoo! Health, stakeholders could then use the information to craft solutions to make sure women have pregnancy experiences that are as safe as possible (Yahoo! Health, 3/5).

Further, the legislation would establish training programs designed for women's health nurse practitioners (Seattle Times, 3/5).

Comments

Murray said the legislation would help more women "to be in the driver's seat about their own health care" (The Hill, 3/5).

She added that the bill would help "fight back against those who miss that Mad Men era" (Yahoo! Health, 3/5). She specifically called out lawmakers whom she said "are dead set on interfering with personal decisions that should be made between a woman, her doctor and her partner."

Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement that the bill "would promote prevention and make it possible for more women to control their reproductive health and make their own health care decisions." She said the group is "especially pleased that it would study the ways restrictions on access to reproductive health services, including abortion, harm women. Understanding and reversing that trend [of restrictions] is critically important if we are serious about improving women's health in this country" (National Partnership release, 3/5).

Laurel Kuehl, Washington state medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, said in reference to the bill's provisions on contraceptive access that "[a]ccess to reliable contraception is a health issue, as well as an economic issue for women and their families" (Seattle Times, 3/5).

Boxer described the bill as "a bold agenda to strengthen women's health in this century." Murray added, "I do know there are those who are going to say no [to voting for the bill] right off the bat. That will not stop me" (The Hill, 3/5).


Video Round Up: Supreme Court Case Threatens ACA Coverage; Pro-Repro Health Efforts Take Root in Texas, Minn.

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 17:19

In today's clips, an MSNBC panel analyzes this week's Supreme Court oral arguments in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that will decide the fate of health coverage for millions of Americans. Elsewhere, reproductive health advocates in Texas and Minnesota speak out to support women's health care access through state legislation.

Video Round Up: Supreme Court Case Threatens ACA Coverage; Pro-Repro Health Efforts Take Root in Texas, Minn.

March 6, 2015 — In today's clips, an MSNBC panel analyzes this week's Supreme Court oral arguments in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that will decide the fate of health coverage for millions of Americans. Elsewhere, reproductive health advocates in Texas and Minnesota speak out to support women's health care access through state legislation.



Recapping this week's Supreme Court oral arguments in King v. Burwell, MSNBC's Krystal Ball, Ari Melber and others speak with American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson about the justices' questioning and the merits of the arguments on both sides. A ruling for the plaintiffs in the case, which challenges the ACA's tax credits to help people purchase coverage through the federal marketplace, could cut off affordable coverage for millions of Americans (Ball et al., "The Cycle," MSNBC, 3/4).




Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller speaks at a rally for Texas' "Trust. Respect. Access." initiative, a multiyear campaign to improve women's access to reproductive health care in the state. She said, "All of us here today trust Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions" and "respect health care professionals' medical and ethical judgments about the care that each woman needs" (Dallas Morning News, 2/26). The full rally can be seen here and here.




Minnesota Sen. Sandy Pappas (D), state Rep. Erin Murphy (D) and reproductive health advocates at a press conference discuss legislation (HF 1165, SF 1278) that would require most employers in the state to include all FDA-approved contraceptives in their employee health insurance plans without additional cost-sharing.

Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota President Sarah Stoesz said, "It is really unbelievable today, in 2015 that we are having ... to introduce legislation to protect women from bosses who are trying to deny them health coverage for basic health care" (Minnesota Senate Media Services, 2/25).

Iowa House Panel Advances Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 15:44

An Iowa House subcommittee on Wednesday voted 2-1 to advance a bill (HF 58) that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, the Davenport Quad-City Times reports.

Iowa House Panel Advances Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

March 6, 2015 — An Iowa House subcommittee on Wednesday voted 2-1 to advance a bill (HF 58) that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, the Davenport Quad-City Times reports.

The legislation now heads to the full state House Human Resources Committee for consideration (Boshart, Davenport Quad-City Times, 3/4). The full committee has a Friday deadline to advance the legislation. According to the AP/Washington Times, the legislation would be unlikely to pass the state Senate.

Bill Details

The bill would require physicians to conduct an ultrasound on women seeking abortions. A physician would then be required to ask women if they want to view the ultrasound images or have fetal heartbeat made audible (Rodriguez, AP/Washington Times, 3/4).

Physicians who violate the measure would be subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Supporters, Opponents Comment

Supporters of the measure said it would result in women having more information to make abortion decisions. Further, Norm Pawlewski of the Iowa Right to Life Committee and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, said the bill would ensure "that what [physicians are] doing is appropriate for the age of the gestation of the [fetus]."

However, Erin Davison-Rippey, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the bill would "sen[d] the message that we don't trust a woman to make decisions about her health care and that we don't trust a physician to provide appropriate information."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D) said the measure would be "shaming," "demeaning" and would create a "dangerous precedent" for the state Legislature to be involved in personal medical decisions (Davenport Quad-City Times, 3/4).


Texas Lawmakers Consider Changes to State's Sex Ed Rules

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 15:42

A Texas House committee this week opened debate on a bill (HB 467) that would modify the state's sexual education requirements, KEYE TV reports.

Texas Lawmakers Consider Changes to State's Sex Ed Rules

March 6, 2015 — A Texas House committee this week opened debate on a bill (HB 467) that would modify the state's sexual education requirements, KEYE TV reports.

Bill Details

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Donna Howard (D), would remove language from the state's current sexual education code that states that "sexual activity before marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical consequences." The measure would not change many of the other current requirements, including an emphasis on abstinence as the only method that is completely effective against avoiding pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (Dryer, KEYE TV, 3/3).

Debate on the Measure

Opponents of the measure have argued that it would not do enough to encourage abstinence. For example, Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, said, "The message is that there's really not as much to be concerned about" from having sex, adding, "These are harmful consequences that come at very high statistics to young people. Giving them a substantial warning, I think, has tremendous value."

However, Howard said education programs under the bill would continue to "emphasiz[e] the importance of abstinence and more precisely stat[e] the consequences that can result from sexual activity among adolescen[ts]."

Meanwhile, some state lawmakers recommended that instead of removing the language about the potential consequences of engaging in sexual activity before marriage, the statement should instead be amended to say that such activity "may" have such consequences (Wallace, TWC News, 3/3).


Supreme Court Hears Challenge to ACA Tax Credits

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 21:59

The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared divided largely along ideological lines as they heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, which challenges tax credits to help U.S. residents purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) federal health insurance marketplace, the New York Times reports.

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to ACA Tax Credits

March 5, 2015 — The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared divided largely along ideological lines as they heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, which challenges tax credits to help U.S. residents purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) federal health insurance marketplace, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the court's four liberal members "voiced strong support" for the Obama administration's position that the tax credits should be upheld and sharply questioned its challengers' lawyer, while conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia seemed critical of the administration's arguments (Liptak, New York Times, 3/4).

The case's outcome -- and the availability of the tax credits for millions of Americans with coverage through the federal marketplace -- could hinge on the position of Chief Justice John Roberts, according to the Washington Post (Barnes, Washington Post, 3/4). Roberts, who cast the deciding vote to uphold the ACA's constitutionality in 2012, was largely quiet on Wednesday and did not indicate where he stands on the current challenge. Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy -- who sided against the administration in 2012 -- seemed less swayed by the plaintiffs' arguments in the latest case (New York Times, 3/4).

Case Details

At issue in the case is a sentence in the statute that says the tax credits are available to help certain U.S. residents purchase coverage offered through a marketplace, also known as an exchange, that is "established by the State." The plaintiffs argue that the clause should be interpreted literally, meaning that the tax credits are not available to individuals purchasing coverage through the federal marketplace and can only be used in states that have established their own exchanges (Washington Post, 3/4).

A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would mean low- and middle-income residents in the roughly three dozen states that use the federal marketplace would no longer be eligible for tax credits to purchase coverage. As a result, their coverage would become unaffordable and the health insurance markets in those states would become untenable, the Times reports (New York Times, 3/4).

The administration argues that congressional lawmakers intended for the tax credits to be available in all exchanges and that the ACA would not function as designed otherwise. An IRS rule released as part of the law's implementation follows this interpretation (Totenberg, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/3).

Liberal Justices Say Meaning is Clear, Question Standing

During their questioning, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan said that the law when read as a whole is clear that the tax credits should be available to individuals purchasing coverage through the federal marketplace (New York Times, 3/4). Breyer said that even a "person from Mars" would realize that the law intended to allow federal exchange tax credits (Bravin/Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 3/4).

Further, Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that a ruling striking down the tax credits could cause a "death spiral" in the individual market that the ACA "was enacted to avoid" (New York Times, 3/4).

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned whether the plaintiffs in the case have the standing to bring the tax credits challenge because they might be eligible for health coverage through other means or otherwise not affected by the law's rules (Bravin/Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 3/4). She noted that the court should know whether any of the plaintiffs have a "concrete stake" in the case's outcome.

The plaintiffs' lawyer argued that only one of the plaintiffs needs to have standing to bring the challenge. Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts seemed skeptical that the standing issue was important (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 3/4).

Kennedy, Roberts Could be Swing Votes

Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy made statements indicating he could be swayed to both sides of the case. For example, Kennedy said that the plaintiffs could "prevail" based on "the plain words of the statute," but he also said there would be "a serious constitutional problem" if the justices "adopt [the plaintiffs'] argument." Kennedy repeatedly questioned whether Congress holds the constitutional power to force states to choose between creating their own marketplaces or allowing their residents to lose out on the tax credits (New York Times, 3/4).

However, Kennedy also noted that it would be a "drastic step" for the court to rule that the IRS "and its director can make this call one way or the other when there are ... billions of dollars of subsidies involved" (Howell, Washington Times, 3/4). Roberts noted that in such an instance, "a subsequent administration could change that interpretation" of the law to no longer allow the tax credits for coverage sold through the federal marketplace (Haberkorn, Politico, 3/4).

Conservative Justices Look To Text

Alito and Scalia focused mostly on the ACA's text and seemed critical of the Obama administration's arguments. Scalia noted that the ACA "means what it says," even if that means "disastrous consequences" (New York Times, 3/4). He continued, "I mean, it may not be the statute [Congress] intended," but "[t]he question is whether it's the statute that they wrote" (Washington Times, 3/4).

Alito and Scalia added that Congress or the affected states could act to remedy the issue if the tax credits are ruled illegal (New York Times, 3/4). Further, Alito said the court could delay its ruling's effective date to the end of the tax year if the tax credits are struck down to allow states to create their own exchanges so that "[g]oing forward, there would be no harm." According to Reuters, Justice Clarence Thomas did not ask any questions during the arguments, which is usual for him (Hurley, Reuters, 3/4).

Law's Backers Warn of Consequences if Tax Credits End

Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that a ruling ending the tax credits would lead to "absurd results," because other ACA provisions would remain in place. She said, "You would have in place a national rule that says no company could ban people with a pre-existing condition; you would have a national rule that says everybody has to have coverage; and then you would have millions of people who would have no affordable way to get that coverage" ("Morning Edition," NPR, 3/3).

Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement that women account for 55% of individuals buying on the federal marketplace, adding that the challenge to the law was "politically motivated and utterly irresponsible" (Wheaton, "Afternoon Pulse," Politico, 3/4).

Separately, Jessica González Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, noted in a statement that implications for Latinas' reproductive health could be especially drastic. "Latinas already face higher rates of cervical cancer incidence and death and unintended pregnancy. By denying affordable coverage, the court would be sentencing untold numbers of Latinas to needless suffering and struggle," she said (Gamboa, NBC News, 3/5).

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest warned that it is "unwise" to make assumptions on the case's fate based on the justices' questions, which could produce "some erroneous predictions about the likely outcome" (New York Times, 3/4). Still, he reiterated that the administration believes there are "no contingency plans that could be implemented that would prevent the catastrophic damage" that would come from a ruling invalidating the tax credits. Further, Earnest said he doubted that Congress would act to remedy the issue if the tax credits are struck down because conservatives have fought "tooth and nail" to dismantle the ACA (Reuters, 3/4).


Supreme Court Hears Challenge to ACA Tax Credits

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 21:58

The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared divided largely along ideological lines as they heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, which challenges tax credits to help U.S. residents purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) federal health insurance marketplace, the New York Times reports.

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to ACA Tax Credits

March 5, 2015 — The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared divided largely along ideological lines as they heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, which challenges tax credits to help U.S. residents purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) federal health insurance marketplace, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the court's four liberal members "voiced strong support" for the Obama administration's position that the tax credits should be upheld and sharply questioned its challengers' lawyer, while conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia seemed critical of the administration's arguments (Liptak, New York Times, 3/4).

The case's outcome -- and the availability of the tax credits for millions of Americans with coverage through the federal marketplace -- could hinge on the position of Chief Justice John Roberts, according to the Washington Post (Barnes, Washington Post, 3/4). Roberts, who cast the deciding vote to uphold the ACA's constitutionality in 2012, was largely quiet on Wednesday and did not indicate where he stands on the current challenge. Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy -- who sided against the administration in 2012 -- seemed less swayed by the plaintiffs' arguments in the latest case (New York Times, 3/4).

Case Details

At issue in the case is a sentence in the statute that says the tax credits are available to help certain U.S. residents purchase coverage offered through a marketplace, also known as an exchange, that is "established by the State." The plaintiffs argue that the clause should be interpreted literally, meaning that the tax credits are not available to individuals purchasing coverage through the federal marketplace and can only be used in states that have established their own exchanges (Washington Post, 3/4).

A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would mean low- and middle-income residents in the roughly three dozen states that use the federal marketplace would no longer be eligible for tax credits to purchase coverage. As a result, their coverage would become unaffordable and the health insurance markets in those states would become untenable, the Times reports (New York Times, 3/4).

The administration argues that congressional lawmakers intended for the tax credits to be available in all exchanges and that the ACA would not function as designed otherwise. An IRS rule released as part of the law's implementation follows this interpretation (Totenberg, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/3).

Liberal Justices Say Meaning is Clear, Question Standing

During their questioning, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan said that the law when read as a whole is clear that the tax credits should be available to individuals purchasing coverage through the federal marketplace (New York Times, 3/4). Breyer said that even a "person from Mars" would realize that the law intended to allow federal exchange tax credits (Bravin/Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 3/4).

Further, Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that a ruling striking down the tax credits could cause a "death spiral" in the individual market that the ACA "was enacted to avoid" (New York Times, 3/4).

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned whether the plaintiffs in the case have the standing to bring the tax credits challenge because they might be eligible for health coverage through other means or otherwise not affected by the law's rules (Bravin/Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 3/4). She noted that the court should know whether any of the plaintiffs have a "concrete stake" in the case's outcome.

The plaintiffs' lawyer argued that only one of the plaintiffs needs to have standing to bring the challenge. Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts seemed skeptical that the standing issue was important (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 3/4).

Kennedy, Roberts Could be Swing Votes

Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy made statements indicating he could be swayed to both sides of the case. For example, Kennedy said that the plaintiffs could "prevail" based on "the plain words of the statute," but he also said there would be "a serious constitutional problem" if the justices "adopt [the plaintiffs'] argument." Kennedy repeatedly questioned whether Congress holds the constitutional power to force states to choose between creating their own marketplaces or allowing their residents to lose out on the tax credits (New York Times, 3/4).

However, Kennedy also noted that it would be a "drastic step" for the court to rule that the IRS "and its director can make this call one way or the other when there are ... billions of dollars of subsidies involved" (Howell, Washington Times, 3/4). Roberts noted that in such an instance, "a subsequent administration could change that interpretation" of the law to no longer allow the tax credits for coverage sold through the federal marketplace (Haberkorn, Politico, 3/4).

Conservative Justices Look To Text

Alito and Scalia focused mostly on the ACA's text and seemed critical of the Obama administration's arguments. Scalia noted that the ACA "means what it says," even if that means "disastrous consequences" (New York Times, 3/4). He continued, "I mean, it may not be the statute [Congress] intended," but "[t]he question is whether it's the statute that they wrote" (Washington Times, 3/4).

Alito and Scalia added that Congress or the affected states could act to remedy the issue if the tax credits are ruled illegal (New York Times, 3/4). Further, Alito said the court could delay its ruling's effective date to the end of the tax year if the tax credits are struck down to allow states to create their own exchanges so that "[g]oing forward, there would be no harm." According to Reuters, Justice Clarence Thomas did not ask any questions during the arguments, which is usual for him (Hurley, Reuters, 3/4).

Law's Backers Warn of Consequences if Tax Credits End

Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that a ruling ending the tax credits would lead to "absurd results," because other ACA provisions would remain in place. She said, "You would have in place a national rule that says no company could ban people with a pre-existing condition; you would have a national rule that says everybody has to have coverage; and then you would have millions of people who would have no affordable way to get that coverage" ("Morning Edition," NPR, 3/3).

Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement that women account for 55% of individuals buying on the federal marketplace, adding that the challenge to the law was "politically motivated and utterly irresponsible" (Wheaton, "Afternoon Pulse," Politico, 3/4).

Separately, Jessica González Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, noted in a statement that implications for Latinas' reproductive health could be especially drastic. "Latinas already face higher rates of cervical cancer incidence and death and unintended pregnancy. By denying affordable coverage, the court would be sentencing untold numbers of Latinas to needless suffering and struggle," she said (Gamboa, NBC News, 3/5).

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Josh Earnest warned that it is "unwise" to make assumptions on the case's fate based on the justices' questions, which could produce "some erroneous predictions about the likely outcome" (New York Times, 3/4). Still, he reiterated that the administration believes there are "no contingency plans that could be implemented that would prevent the catastrophic damage" that would come from a ruling invalidating the tax credits. Further, Earnest said he doubted that Congress would act to remedy the issue if the tax credits are struck down because conservatives have fought "tooth and nail" to dismantle the ACA (Reuters, 3/4).


Ark. House Committee Advances One Antiabortion-Rights Bill; Another Stalls

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 21:07

An Arkansas House committee on Tuesday approved a bill (HB 1394) that would restrict medication abortion, while a second measure (HB 1421) that would require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges did not advance, the AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Ark. House Committee Advances One Antiabortion-Rights Bill; Another Stalls

March 5, 2015 — An Arkansas House committee on Tuesday approved a bill (HB 1394) that would restrict medication abortion, while a second measure (HB 1421) that would require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges did not advance, the AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Medication Abortion Restrictions Bill

The medication abortion bill would require that the drugs be prescribed in accordance with guidelines and dosage limits set by FDA (AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/3). The FDA protocol goes against common medical practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/6).

Under the bill, only physicians could provide medication abortion drugs to patients. In addition, the bill would require such physicians to have a contract with another physician who has agreed to handle any complications. The second physician would have to hold admitting and gynecological/surgical privileges at a nearby hospital that can handle such cases.

Providers found in violation of the requirements could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face civil penalties and disciplinary action.

The bill now heads to the full state House for consideration (Lyon, Arkansas News, 3/3).

Admitting Privileges Bill

Meanwhile, the committee failed to approve a separate measure that would have required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where they provide abortion services.

While most of the committee members supported the bill, it did not receive the 11 votes needed to pass out of the committee (AP/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/3). State Rep. Mary Bentley (R), who sponsored the legislation, said she would try again to advance the bill because some committee members were absent during the vote (Arkansas News, 3/3).


Ohio House Opens Debate on Twice-Rejected 'Heartbeat' Bill

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 21:06

The Ohio House on Tuesday began discussing a bill (HB 69) that would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Ohio House Opens Debate on Twice-Rejected 'Heartbeat' Bill

March 5, 2015 — The Ohio House on Tuesday began discussing a bill (HB 69) that would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Similar bills failed in two previous legislative sessions. Some antiabortion-rights lawmakers oppose the legislation because of concerns that it would lead to lengthy legal battles and be declared unconstitutional (Borchardt, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/3).

Bill Details

State Reps. Christina Hagan (R) and Ron Hood (R) proposed this year's bill, which would make it a fifth-degree felony for a provider to perform an abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It includes exemptions if an abortion is needed to save a woman's life or prevent serious health complications. Individuals who violate the ban could face up to a year in prison and fines of up to $2,500.

Further, the measure would create a legislative committee to encourage adoption (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/19).

Comments

The Plain Dealer reports that action at Tuesday's hearing suggests the measure "will be heavily debated" in the state House.

Hagan said the bill aims to challenge the standard set in Roe v. Wade (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/3). Under Roe, states cannot ban abortion before the fetus is viable outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/19).

State Rep. Kevin Boyce (D) said the bill fails to acknowledge unique circumstances in individual pregnancies and does not protect rape and incest survivors. He also suggested that the ban could lead women to seek illicit abortions or travel out of state. "What will prevent someone from taking abortion into their own hands?" he asked (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/3).


Video Round Up: Supreme Court Case Threatens ACA Coverage; Pro-Repro Health Efforts Take Root in Texas, Minn.

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 19:15

In today's clips, an MSNBC panel analyzes this week's Supreme Court oral arguments in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that will decide the fate of health coverage for millions of Americans. Elsewhere, reproductive health advocates in Texas and Minnesota speak out to support women's health care access through state legislation.

Video Round Up: Supreme Court Case Threatens ACA Coverage; Pro-Repro Health Efforts Take Root in Texas, Minn.

March 5, 2015 — In today's clips, an MSNBC panel analyzes this week's Supreme Court oral arguments in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that will decide the fate of health coverage for millions of Americans. Elsewhere, reproductive health advocates in Texas and Minnesota speak out to support women's health care access through state legislation.



Recapping this week's Supreme Court oral arguments in King v. Burwell, MSNBC's Krystal Ball, Ari Melber and others speak with American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson about the justices' questioning and the merits of the arguments on both sides. A ruling for the plaintiffs in the case, which challenges the ACA's tax credits to help people purchase coverage through the federal marketplace, could cut off affordable coverage for millions of Americans (Ball et al., "The Cycle," MSNBC, 3/4).




Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller speaks at a rally for Texas' "Trust. Respect. Access." initiative, a multiyear campaign to improve women's access to reproductive health care in the state. She said, "All of us here today trust Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions" and "respect health care professionals' medical and ethical judgments about the care that each woman needs" (Dallas Morning News, 2/26). The full rally can be seen here and here.




Minnesota Sen. Sandy Pappas (D), state Rep. Erin Murphy (D) and reproductive health advocates at a press conference discuss legislation (HF 1165, SF 1278) that would require most employers in the state to include all FDA-approved contraceptives in their employee health insurance plans without additional cost-sharing.

Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota President Sarah Stoesz said, "It is really unbelievable today, in 2015 that we are having ... to introduce legislation to protect women from bosses who are trying to deny them health coverage for basic health care" (Minnesota Senate Media Services, 2/25).

Va. Budget Compromise Excludes Two Antiabortion-Rights Amendments

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 18:28

Virginia General Assembly budget negotiators over the weekend agreed on a compromise plan that does not include two antiabortion-rights amendments from the state House budget proposal, the Washington Post reports.

Va. Budget Compromise Excludes Two Antiabortion-Rights Amendments

February 27, 2015 — Virginia General Assembly budget negotiators over the weekend agreed on a compromise plan that does not include two antiabortion-rights amendments from the state House budget proposal, the Washington Post reports (Vozzella, Washington Post, 2/25).

Both chambers of the state Legislature approved the budget on Thursday, sending it to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) (Vozzella, Washington Post, 2/26).

The state House budget proposal had included an amendment (4-5.04 #2h), proposed by state Delegate Steve Landes (R), that would have barred the state's Medicaid program from covering abortions in cases of serious fetal anomalies. The state Medicaid program currently covers abortions in those instances, in addition to cases of rape or incest.

The budget negotiators also agreed not to include an amendment (4-5.04 #6h), proposed by state Del. Robert Marshall (R), that was aimed at preventing McAuliffe from easing certain abortion clinic regulations (Washington Post, 2/25).

The Virginia Board of Health in December voted 13-2 to begin a process to revise several onerous abortion clinic regulations. The process is expected to take up to two years, and the current rules will remain in place in the meantime (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5/14).


W.Va. House Votes To Override Veto of 20-Week Abortion Ban

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 18:26

The West Virginia House on Wednesday morning voted 77-16 to override a veto of a bill (HB 2568) that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the West Virginia State Journal reports. The bill now heads to the state Senate for an override attempt.

W.Va. House Votes To Override Veto of 20-Week Abortion Ban

March 4, 2015 — The West Virginia House on Wednesday morning voted 77-16 to override a veto of a bill (HB 2568) that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the West Virginia State Journal reports. The bill now heads to the state Senate for an override attempt (Cardosi, West Virginia State Journal, 3/4).

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) vetoed the bill on Tuesday, marking the second year in a row that he has rejected such legislation (Kabler, Charleston Gazette, 3/3).

Bill Details and Background

Tomblin said in a statement that he vetoed the measure on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade said that states cannot ban abortion before fetal viability, which is considered around 24 weeks of pregnancy (Bassett, Huffington Post, 3/3).

"At the start of the regular session, I urged members of the Legislature to consider a compromise that would help us establish legislation that would pass constitutional muster," Tomblin said in the veto message, adding, "Having received a substantially similar bill to the one vetoed last year on constitutional grounds, I must veto House Bill 2568" (Charleston Gazette, 3/3).

The bill is based on the premise that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks.

The bill would allow exceptions to the ban for medical emergencies but not for instances when the woman faces severe psychological distress. Physicians who violate the measure would not face any criminal penalties, but they could have their medical licenses suspended or revoked (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/26).

Veto Override Effort

According to the State Journal, the state Legislature has two days after a veto to attempt to override it (West Virginia State Journal, 3/4).

An override requires a simple majority vote in both chambers. The bill passed the state House 87-21 and the state Senate 29-5 earlier this year (Charleston Gazette, 3/3).

Comments

State House Speaker Tim Armstead (R) said he was "disappointed" that Tomblin vetoed the bill. Armstead added that he "believe[s] the legislation is constitutionally sound and represents the right public policy in our state" (West Virginia State Journal, 3/4).

However, WV Free Executive Director Margaret Chapman Pomponio said the governor made the right decision. She noted that veto override could set the stage for a costly legal battle over the legislation, adding, "The idea of dragging taxpayers through an unconstitutional fight is unthinkable" (Charleston Gazette, 3/3).

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic Vice President Melissa Reed said, "The reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens in complex circumstances where a wanted pregnancy has gone tragically wrong," adding, "These are the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available" (Huffington Post, 3/3).

Meanwhile, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said in a statement Tuesday that he would defend the measure if it is challenged in court. "It is long-past time that limits are placed on abortions in West Virginia," he said, adding, "While no one can predict with certainty how a court will rule, I believe that there are strong, good-faith arguments that this legislation is constitutional and should be upheld by the courts" (Charleston Gazette, 3/3).


Ohio Abortion Restrictions Strain Providers, Limit Access for Patients

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 18:24

Measures that restrict abortion in Ohio have made it harder for women in the state to access the procedure, NPR's "Shots" reports.

Ohio Abortion Restrictions Strain Providers, Limit Access for Patients

March 4, 2015 — Measures that restrict abortion in Ohio have made it harder for women in the state to access the procedure, NPR's "Shots" reports.

State Abortion Restrictions

Several antiabortion-rights laws have passed in the state since 2011. In that time, the number of clinics has dropped from 16 to eight. According to "Shots," some of the closings are connected to the laws, while one was related to safety violations and another was for business reasons.

One of the state's antiabortion-rights measures requires women to consult with a physician in person and then wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. As a result, women must either stay overnight near the clinic or make two trips, "Shots" reports (Ludden, "Shots," NPR, 3/3).

Another Ohio law (HB 78) bans abortions at 24 weeks and requires physicians to perform tests to determine if a fetus is viable beginning at 20 weeks. The law states that a physician cannot perform an abortion between 20 weeks and 24 weeks unless a woman's life is at risk or the physician has determined that the fetus cannot survives outside the womb (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

In addition, provisions in the state budget require abortion clinics to secure a transfer agreement with a private hospital and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1/13). According to "Shots," many private hospitals are hesitant to grant such agreements to abortion providers because they are Catholic-affiliated or for other reasons.

Restrictions Strain Providers, Limit Abortion Access

Kellie Copeland, executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said that the clinic restrictions are wearing on providers. Specifically, she noted that the 20-week testing requirement has driven some clinics to stop offering abortions after that time frame, while the transfer agreement rules have placed clinics "in this Catch-22 that really doesn't have anything to do with patient care."

Separately, Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm, an abortion clinic in Cleveland, said the caseload at her clinic has increased by 10% since the restrictions began. "We are more fully booked," she said.

France also noted the clinic is seeing women who travel from farther away, as clinics in locations closer to them have closed, "Shots" reports. She added that finding child care "and transportation are often big issues" for patients trying to comply with the 24-hour mandatory delay requirement.

Further, some women are leaving the state to obtain abortion care, as Ohio restricts the use of medication abortion, "Shots" reports. According to "Shots," roughly one-fourth of women who chose to have an abortion opt for a medication abortion.

Copeland noted that abortion restrictions will not stop women from seeking to end their pregnancies. "At no time in history, nowhere around the globe did outlawing abortion mean women stopped having them," she said, adding, "What it meant is [abortions] became dangerous."

Antiabortion-Rights Efforts Continue

Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights advocates have begun discussing several new abortion restrictions, including a stricter 20-week ban, a measure that would ban abortion in the case of a Down syndrome diagnosis and a fetal "heartbeat" bill (HB 69) that could ban the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, "Shots" reports.

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said, "Our goal ultimately is to live in a society where abortion is no longer even considered" ("Shots," NPR, 3/3).


Ore. Lawmakers Announce Comprehensive Women's Health Bill

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 18:23

A group of Oregon lawmakers on Friday announced legislation aimed at closing gaps in reproductive health care coverage for women in the state, the Portland Business Journal reports.

Ore. Lawmakers Announce Comprehensive Women's Health Bill

March 2, 2015 — A group of Oregon lawmakers on Friday announced legislation aimed at closing gaps in reproductive health care coverage for women in the state, the Portland Business Journal reports.

The measure, called the Comprehensive Women's Health Bill, would require all health plans in the state to cover abortion, contraceptives and maternity care. It would also require health plans to cover a twelve-month supply of birth control dispensed at one time. Democratic state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, Sen. Sara Gelser, Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer and Rep. Barbara Smith Warner said they will introduce the bill.

Michele Stranger Hunter, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon and the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health, said, "As states across the country are stripping women of reproductive health services and coverage, Oregon is making strides to ensure that [our] residents ... are healthy by providing a full range of reproductive health care."

Separately, Aimee Santos-Lyons, gender justice director at the Western States Center, urged Oregon lawmakers "to swiftly pass the Comprehensive Women's Health Bill," which will "fil[l] the gaps in our current laws so that Oregonians will be covered for [their] reproductive health needs regardless of income, how they are insured or where they live" (Thompson, Portland Business Journal, 2/27).


Study: Over-the-Counter Birth Control Without Cost-Sharing Would Reduce Unintended Pregnancies

Thu, 03/05/2015 - 18:22

Making birth control pills available without a prescription or out-of-pocket costs could reduce the number of unintended pregnancies among low-income women by 7% to 25%, according to a study published in Contraception, Medical Daily reports.

Study: Over-the-Counter Birth Control Without Cost-Sharing Would Reduce Unintended Pregnancies

March 3, 2015 — Making birth control pills available without a prescription or out-of-pocket costs could reduce the number of unintended pregnancies among low-income women by 7% to 25%, according to a study published in Contraception, Medical Daily reports (Bushak, Medical Daily, 2/27).

Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco and Ibis Reproductive Health collaborated on the study. They projected scenarios in which women would be able to obtain birth control pills at a pharmacy without a prescription and have the cost covered by insurance (Bassett, Huffington Post, 2/27).

Key Findings

About 11% to 12% more women would use the pill if it could be obtained at a pharmacy without a prescription or out-of-pocket costs, the researchers estimated. The increase in pill use would reduce the number of women who do not use contraception or who only rely on condoms by about 20% to 36%, resulting in a reduction in unintended pregnancies.

Study co-author Dan Grossman explained, "Women who are currently using methods that are less effective than the pill -- mainly condoms or nothing -- would use it," adding, "Particularly low-income women" (Medical Daily, 2/27).

Grossman noted that although the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) has expanded access to contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing, "there is still a need for over-the-counter birth control to fill the gap when women run out of pills while traveling, for example, or for those who find it inconvenient to get to a clinic." He added, "But to reach the largest number of women most in need, it's critical that a future [over-the-counter] pill be covered by insurance" (Huffington Post, 2/27).