Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
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Some Insurers Failing To Cover All Contraceptives; Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 14:35

Some insurers that are required to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) are only providing coverage for a limited number of methods, Kaiser Health News reports.

Some Insurers Failing To Cover All Contraceptives; Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

August 22, 2014 — Some insurers that are required to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148)are only providing coverage for a limited number of methods, Kaiser Health News reports.

Federal guidance on the contraceptive coverage rules states that insurers must cover the full range of FDA-approved methods without cost sharing. Insurers are permitted to use "reasonable medical management techniques" to curb costs, such as only covering the generic version of an approved contraceptive. In addition, some plans qualify for an exemption to the rules because they have "grandfathered" status or are for certain religious employers.

However, some women have found that health plans that are subject to the rules are not covering certain methods, KHN reports.

"[W]e've seen this happen, plenty," Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, said. Despite guidance mandating full coverage, some "insurance companies think things are ambiguous enough that they can get away with it," he added.

Sonfield said that if a person is denied coverage, the individual should appeal the decision to his or her state insurance department. "The state has the right and responsibility to enforce this law," he said (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 8/22).

Ill. To Increase Medicaid Reimbursement for Contraception

In related news, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on Wednesday proposed a plan that aims to increase access to long-acting contraceptive methods by raising Medicaid provider reimbursements for contraceptive services, the Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports.

DHFS Director Julie Hamos said that the policy was spurred in part by the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed some private businesses to deny contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. She said that while Illinois' policy change would only affect Medicaid beneficiaries, not employers, the court ruling created "an opportune time when women across the country are paying attention," which can be used "to focus on what's available to them through Medicaid."

The Illinois proposal would double provider reimbursement rates for vasectomies and intrauterine devices. The plan also would boost reimbursements for non-surgical sterilization kits and bar "step therapy" rules that require women to try certain forms of contraception before others.

Under the plan, DHFS would immediately increase the reimbursement rates for Planned Parenthood clinics and other walk-in health care providers, the Tribune/KHN reports. The changes for other providers would take effect Oct. 1.

In addition, DHFS is weighing whether it has the authority to add a new rule that would require health care providers who object to contraception to refer patients to other providers who offer the services. Federal law bars the agency from requiring providers with such objections to inform patients about contraceptives.

According to the Tribune/KHN, the department is accepting comment on the proposed policy through Sept. 15 and expects to finalize the rule later this fall (Venteicher, Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 8/21).


Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 12:14

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on Wednesday proposed a plan that aims to increase access to long-acting contraceptive methods by raising Medicaid provider reimbursements for contraceptive services, the Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports.

Ill. Revises Medicaid Rules To Boost Access

August 22, 2014 — The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services on Wednesday proposed a plan that aims to increase access to long-acting contraceptive methods by raising Medicaid provider reimbursements for contraceptive services, the Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports. 


DHFS Director Julie Hamos said that the policy was spurred in part by the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case, which allowed some private businesses to deny contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. She said that while Illinois' policy change would only affect Medicaid beneficiaries, not employers, the court ruling created "an opportune time when women across the country are paying attention," which can be used "to focus on what's available to them through Medicaid."

The Illinois proposal would double provider reimbursement rates for vasectomies and intrauterine devices. The plan also would boost reimbursements for non-surgical sterilization kits and bar "step therapy" rules that require women to try certain forms of contraception before others.

Under the plan, DHFS would immediately increase the reimbursement rates for Planned Parenthood clinics and other walk-in health care providers, the Tribune/KHN reports. The changes for other providers would take effect Oct. 1.

In addition, DHFS is weighing whether it has the authority to add a new rule that would require health care providers who object to contraception to refer patients to other providers who offer the services. Federal law bars the agency from requiring providers with such objections to inform patients about contraceptives.

According to the Tribune/KHN, the department is accepting comment on the proposed policy through Sept. 15 and expects to finalize the rule later this fall (Venteicher, Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 8/21).


HHS Updates Contraceptive Coverage Rules for Not-for-Profits, Considers Changes for Businesses

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 21:13

HHS on Friday announced two rules designed to preserve contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) in light of recent court decisions on the issue, MSNBC reports.

HHS Updates Contraceptive Coverage Rules for Not-for-Profits, Considers Changes for Businesses

August 22, 2014 — HHS on Friday announced two rules designed to preserve contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) in light of recent court decisions on the issue, MSNBC reports.

The changes are meant to address gaps in coverage created by the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which allowed a business to deny contraceptive coverage in its employer-sponsored health plan, as well as the court's decision to grant an injunction to Wheaton College, an evangelical university that objected to filling out a form that would authorize a third party to provide the coverage for its employees and students (Carmon, MSNBC, 8/22).

"Women across the country deserve access to recommended preventive services that are important to their health, no matter where they work," HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said (Bassett, Huffington Post, 8/22).

Rule for Religious Not-for-Profits

One rule maintains the accommodation for religiously affiliated not-for-profits that object to contraceptive coverage but creates a second way for those entities to inform the government of their objections (MSNBC, 8/22).

Under the new option, religiously affiliated not-for-profits can send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans. Such organizations still have the option of filling out the form if they prefer.

The rule takes effect immediately upon publication, but HHS will take comments, it said.

Comments Sought on Accommodation for For-Profit Entities

The second rule seeks comments on allowing the same accommodation for "closely held for-profit entities, like Hobby Lobby."

Specifically, HHS called for comments "on how to define a closely held for-profit company and whether other steps might be appropriate to implement this policy" (HHS release, 8/22).


Video Round Up: Abortion Provider Explains Threats to Clinics, Anti-Choice Activists Track Patients

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 20:02

Abortion provider Willie Parker describes how state restrictions are making it harder for women to access the procedure. We also feature a video from two Texas reproductive-rights groups that includes undercover audio from a training session for antiabortion-rights activists.

Video Round Up: Abortion Provider Explains Threats to Clinics, Anti-Choice Activists Track Patients

August 22, 2014 — Abortion provider Willie Parker describes how state restrictions are making it harder for women to access the procedure. We also feature a video from two Texas reproductive-rights groups that includes undercover audio from a training session for antiabortion-rights activists.



Physician Willie Parker, who travels from Chicago to Mississippi to provide abortions at the state's only abortion clinic, talks with MSNBC's Joy Reid about restrictive state laws that are leaving women with no nearby abortion clinics in increasingly larger regions of the South. Parker also discusses a recent documentary about the Mississippi clinic, "The Last Clinic," in which he was featured.

"It's really easy to say that women can [take] other measures, like leave the state," if the Mississippi clinic closes, "but that presumes that women have those resources, and ... most of the women that I see are women who are in desperate circumstances," Parker explains (Reid, "The Reid Report," MSNBC, 8/6).




A video from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Progress Texas compiles undercover audio recorded at a training session for antiabortion-rights activists. The speakers at the training explain disturbing tactics they use to track and harass patients and clinic staff members, such as recording license plates, searching tax records and lining sidewalks to discourage patients from entering facilities (NARAL Pro-Choice Texas release, 8/12).

Planned Parenthood v. Iowa Board of Medicine

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 19:25

State court challenge to a rule prohibiting the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion to patients.

Planned Parenthood v. Iowa Board of Medicine

State court challenge to a rule prohibiting the use of telemedicine to provide medication abortion to patients. The rule requires a physician to have an in-person exam with the patient and to be present when the medication abortion is dispensed. The Polk County District Court issued a temporary stay of the rule, allowing providers to continue to use telemedicine to administer medication abortion until a court ruling on the merits of the case. Current Status: In August 2014, the Polk County District Court upheld the rule, allowing it to take effect 30 days after the court issued its decision. Planned Parenthood immediately announced plans to appeal the ruling. (Read more about the case here.)

Blogs Discuss 'Part-Time Penalty' Hurting Working Moms, Transgender Lobby Day, More

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 15:47

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the New York Times, NOW and more.

Blogs Discuss 'Part-Time Penalty' Hurting Working Moms, Transgender Lobby Day, More

August 22, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the New York Times, NOW and more.

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "How a Part-Time Pay Penalty Hits Working Mothers," Claire Cain Miller, New York Times' "The Upshot": "Women get paid less than men in almost all jobs, but when women in low-wage jobs need to take time off work to care for children, they are at an even greater disadvantage," according to an unpublished data analysis from Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, Cain Miller writes. Cain Miller writes that Goldin found both women and men in low-wage jobs "get paid disproportionately less per hour when they work fewer than 40 hours a week," but the penalty "ends up hurting women more, because they are far more likely to take breaks during their careers or need shorter or predictable hours to handle child care." In addition, Goldin found that women who return to work "get paid less than men still on the job because they have lost skills during their time off and because they tend to work less than full time," Cain Miller writes. She writes, "While the challenges are different at high-income and low-income jobs, the bottom line is the same: Employees, particularly parents, need some measure of predictability and control over the hours they work" (Cain Miller, New York Times, 8/21).

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS: "Transgender Lobby Day Gives a Voice to Trans Folks and Allies," Jenna Archer, National Organization for Women's "Say It, Sister!": Archer recounts her participation in Transgender Lobby Day, when she joined other National Organization for Women "interns, trans folk, and allies from all across the country" to lobby their representatives to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S 815) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (S 1088). Archer notes that in "29 states, there is no legal protection from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 80 percent of transgender students say they feel unsafe at school due to their gender identity." The lobbying effort was significant "[e]ven in cases where representatives wouldn't budge on their official position on ENDA and SNDA" because "[a]mplifying the voices and stories of transgender people puts a human face to these issues and reveals the true impact of discrimination and the urgent need to afford LGBTQIA people federal protections," she adds (Archer, "Say It, Sister!," National Organization for Women, 8/18).

BREASTFEEDING: "California Moms Stage 'Nurse-In' at Anthropologie Store," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Several nursing moms staged a protest at a Beverly Hills area Anthropologie store on Wednesday after a shopper says a store manager asked her to breastfeed her child in the bathroom," writes Culp-Ressler, noting that similar "nurse-ins" have been staged around the country over the past few years. The nurses-ins share a common message: "Women shouldn't be ashamed of taking care of their children, and breastfeeding should be normalized as something that isn't considered to be inappropriate or sexual" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/21).

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT: "South Carolina: Where Men Murder Women and Legislators Don't Care," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor": A recent Charleston Post and Courier series highlights South Carolina's "failure to take domestic violence seriously -- a failure that has resulted in the state leading the nation in the murder rate of women at the hands of men," Marcotte writes. The stories "chronicl[e] the failures of legislators, law enforcement, social services, and even churches to do enough to fight the problem of domestic violence," she continues, noting that "power players in the state frequently prioritize keeping couples together over victims' safety." Marcotte adds, "Hopefully this important piece will compel the South Carolina legislature to actually do something" to address domestic violence (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 8/20).

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

~ "The Second Wave of Backlash Against Anti-Rape Activism," Caroline Heldman/Baillee Brown, Ms. Magazine blog.

~ "'Vagina' is not a Bad Word," June Eric-Udorie, Huffington Post blogs.

~ "26 Percent of Women Scientists Say They've Been Sexually Assaulted Doing Fieldwork," Indre Viskontas, Mother Jones.

~ "College Dudes Worried That Movement To Take Rape Seriously is Ruining Their Sex Lives," Katie McDonough, Salon.

~ "Wendy Davis Wants To End Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault and Rape," Jenny Kutner, Salon.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "70 Percent of Voters Say the Government Should Not Restrict Access to Abortion," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: Despite the persistent "framing of abortion as a 'polarizing' issue in the media, Americans are actually pretty united in their support of abortion rights," according to a recent poll, Dusenbery writes. The NARAL Pro-Choice America poll found that 70% of registered voters say the government should not limit access to abortion. Although a pollster for the firm that conducted the survey said that much of the public is in a "gray area" when it comes to the morality of abortion versus its legality, Dusenbery notes that "there is actually nothing particularly 'gray' about the category of people who personally wouldn't get an abortion but don't want the government denying the right to others." She adds that surveys that only ask "whether people identify as 'pro-choice' or 'pro-life' are not actually capturing the public's opinions on abortion" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 8/19).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "This is What Abortion Would Look Like in the U.S. if Abortion Opponents had Their Way," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "Politics May Have Been at Play in Iowa Telemedicine Abortion Ban Ruling," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

~ "Cincinnati Clinic Will Stop Providing Surgical Abortions This Week," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.


Women's Health Policy Report Will Not Publish Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 15:32

The Women's Health Policy Report will be on a publishing break from Monday, Aug. 25 through Monday, Sept. 1. The report resumes publication on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Women's Health Policy Report Will Not Publish Aug. 25-Sept. 1

August 22, 2014 — The Women's Health Policy Report will be on a publishing break from Monday, Aug. 25 through Monday, Sept. 1. The report resumes publication on Tuesday, Sept. 2.



Study Suggests Disparities in Infertility Treatment

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:47

White, heterosexual women are more likely to seek infertility treatment than women who are racial minorities, bisexual or lesbian, a recent study in Health Psychology found, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

Study Suggests Disparities in Infertility Treatment

August 22, 2014 — White, heterosexual women are more likely to seek infertility treatment than women who are racial minorities, bisexual or lesbian, a recent study in Health Psychology found, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

A main reason for the disparity is that the groups that are less likely to seek infertility treatment are also more likely to lack insurance, according to the researchers.

Study Details

For the study, researchers analyzed National Survey of Family Growth data collected in 2002 and between 2006 and 2010. The data covered responses from almost 20,000 U.S. women ages 21 through 44.

The study included infertility-related services ranging from seeking a physician's advice to obtaining tests, drugs, surgery or artificial insemination.

Study co-author Bernadette Blanchfield said the "findings reveal that sexual minority women do face inequities in fertility care." For example, in the 2002 data, 13% of white, heterosexual women sought treatment, compared with 7% of minority, heterosexual women; 7% of white lesbian and bisexual women; and 1% of minority lesbian and bisexual women.

Blanchfield added that more "research on the access to and use of reproductive health care by lesbian and bisexual women is vital to understanding health disparities in the U.S." (Preidt, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 8/20).


NYT Editorial Applauds City Council Speaker for Sharing HPV Diagnosis

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 14:45

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito deserves praise for tweeting that she has the human papillomavirus, a New York Times editorial states.

NYT Editorial Applauds City Council Speaker for Sharing HPV Diagnosis

August 22, 2014 — New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito deserves praise for tweeting that she has the human papillomavirus, a New York Times editorial states.

The speaker's announcement can help "reduce the stigma surrounding HPV, which is linked to cervical and other cancers," the editorial argues.

Mark-Viverito is typically "a reticent person," but "[s]he saw a chance to send a message, particularly to parents, that cervical cancer is a dangerous disease, and that there is a highly effective vaccine for the virus that far too few children are getting," according to the editorial.

The editorial calls HPV "an important but overlooked public-health priority," adding that Mark-Viverito's announcement provides "a heartening example of the usefulness of social media and the power of honesty to extract some good from a personal travail" (New York Times, 8/20).


Video Round Up: Abortion Provider Explains Threats to Clinics, Anti-Choice Activists Track Patients

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 19:15

Abortion provider Willie Parker describes how state restrictions are making it harder for women to access the procedure. We also feature a video from two Texas reproductive-rights groups that includes undercover audio from a training session for antiabortion-rights activists.

Video Round Up: Abortion Provider Explains Threats to Clinics, Anti-Choice Activists Track Patients

August 21, 2014 — Abortion provider Willie Parker describes how state restrictions are making it harder for women to access the procedure. We also feature a video from two Texas reproductive-rights groups that includes undercover audio from a training session for antiabortion-rights activists.



Physician Willie Parker, who travels from Chicago to Mississippi to provide abortions at the state's only abortion clinic, talks with MSNBC's Joy Reid about restrictive state laws that are leaving women with no nearby abortion clinics in increasingly larger regions of the South. Parker also discusses a recent documentary about the Mississippi clinic, "The Last Clinic," in which he was featured.

"It's really easy to say that women can [take] other measures, like leave the state," if the Mississippi clinic closes, "but that presumes that women have those resources, and ... most of the women that I see are women who are in desperate circumstances," Parker explains (Reid, "The Reid Report," MSNBC, 8/6).




A video from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Progress Texas compiles undercover audio recorded at a training session for antiabortion-rights activists. The speakers at the training explain disturbing tactics they use to track and harass patients and clinic staff members, such as recording license plates, searching tax records and lining sidewalks to discourage patients from entering facilities (NARAL Pro-Choice Texas release, 8/12).

Ind. Asks Federal Court To Let Medication Abortion Restrictions Take Effect

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:47

The Indiana attorney general's office on Monday requested summary judgment in a federal court case challenging a state law (SB 371) that would impose additional building requirements on health clinics offering medication abortion, the AP/Lafayette Journal & Courier reports.

Ind. Asks Federal Court To Let Medication Abortion Restrictions Take Effect

August 21, 2014 — The Indiana attorney general's office on Monday requested summary judgment in a federal court case challenging a state law (SB 371) that would impose additional building requirements on health clinics offering medication abortion, the AP/Lafayette Journal & Courier reports (Wilson, AP/Lafayette Journal & Courier, 8/19).

The law requires clinics that offer only medication abortions to adhere to the same building and equipment standards as facilities that perform the surgical procedure. It would affect just one clinic, a Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky facility in Lafayette, Ind.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana in August 2013 filed suit against the law, which was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. In November, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued a temporary injunction to block the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/31).

State's Arguments

The state on Monday argued that ACLU of Indiana did not prove in its court filings that the law would prevent women from obtaining abortions.

State attorneys acknowledged that the law might require women to travel farther for an abortion, but they said that imposition was not illegal and that women would still be able to access abortion. "The Supreme Court has never held that a woman is entitled to the abortion method of her choice," they wrote.

If the law took effect, women in Lafayette would have to travel more than an hour to obtain medication abortion in either Indianapolis or Merrillville, according to PPINK CEO Betty Cockrum.

The state's filing also disputed ACLU's claims that the law violates a constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

ACLU made the equal protection argument based on the fact that the law does not require doctors' offices that offer medication abortion to meet the building requirements if medication abortion is not the offices' primary source of business. The state countered that lawmakers have the constitutional authority to treat doctors' offices and abortion clinics differently (AP/ Lafayette Journal & Courier, 8/19).


NYT Editorial: 'Deception' Behind State Abortion Restrictions Revealed in Texas Cases

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:45

Texas' defense of an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) underscores "[t]he deception behind the wave of state-level abortion restrictions now threatening women's access to safe and legal abortions," according to a New York Times editorial.

NYT Editorial: 'Deception' Behind State Abortion Restrictions Revealed in Texas Cases

August 21, 2014 — Texas' defense of an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) underscores "[t]he deception behind the wave of state-level abortion restrictions now threatening women's access to safe and legal abortions," according to a New York Times editorial.

The Times focuses on reproductive-rights advocates' lawsuit challenging two provisions in the law: one that requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and another that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

The admitting privileges requirement is "already in place" and "has severely limited access to safe and legal care in Texas," while the "unnecessary and prohibitively costly" ambulatory surgical center requirement is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, unless the court intervenes, the editorial explains.

The plaintiffs have "presented compelling evidence of the destructive consequences of the two rules and the emptiness of the claim that they are necessary to protect women's health and safety," the editorial argues.

"By contrast, the state's defense of the rules was a bizarre and unconvincing show," including the use of testimony "crafted by Vincent Rue, an opponent of women's reproductive freedom best known for promoting kooky claims, like the existence of an abortion-related mental illness he calls 'post-abortive syndrome,'" the editorial continues. It urges the judge in the case to "call out Texas' dishonest bid to crush a fundamental right" (New York Times, 8/20).


Washington Post's 'Storyline' Examines Colo. Policies for Pregnant Teens

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:44

The Washington Post's "Storyline" examines how Colorado's family planning policies have improved teens' access to long-acting reversible contraceptives and helped to lower its teen birth rates.

Washington Post's 'Storyline' Examines Colo. Policies for Pregnant Teens

August 21, 2014 — The Washington Post's "Storyline" examines how Colorado's family planning policies have improved teens' access to long-acting reversible contraceptives and helped to lower its teen birth rates.

"Between 2007 and 2012, Colorado saw the highest percentage drop in birth rates among teens 15 to 19 in the country," while "[a]bortion rates in the state among teens fell 35 percent between 2009 and 2012," according to "Storyline."

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which is supported by an anonymous donation, provides intrauterine devices and implants at family planning clinics in the state. A state analysis attributed three-quarters of state's decline in teen birth rates to the initiative. Another program -- called the Colorado Adolescent Maternity Program, or CAMP -- allows low-income teens who have just given birth to receive long-acting reversible contraceptives before leaving the hospital (Griego [1], "Storyline," Washington Post, 8/20).

In a separate piece, "Storyline" also profiles CAMP, which aims to achieve better pregnancy outcomes by focusing on pregnant teens' physical and mental health. The CAMP clinic is located at Children's Hospital Colorado and serves about 500 pregnant teens and women ages 14 to 22 annually. The state's Medicaid program covers the cost of the care (Griego [2], "Storyline," Washington Post, 8/20).


Ohio Clinic Stops Offering Abortions Amid State Restrictions

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:40

An abortion clinic near Cincinnati, Ohio, will stop offering surgical abortions, instead of continuing a dispute with the state over a requirement that it calls politically motivated, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Ohio Clinic Stops Offering Abortions Amid State Restrictions

August 21, 2014 — An abortion clinic near Cincinnati, Ohio, will stop offering surgical abortions, instead of continuing a dispute with the state over a requirement that it calls politically motivated, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Thompson/Perry, Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/20).

The state requirement at issue mandates that abortion clinics secure a transfer agreement with nearby hospitals.

Ohio in 2013 became the first state to bar abortion clinics from arranging such agreements with public hospitals, meaning that, by default, they must arrange them with private hospitals. The Ohio Department of Health ordered Women's Med Center's Lebanon Road Surgery Center to close after it was unable to meet the requirement.

Hamilton County Judge Jerome Metz in January blocked the department's order, but he ruled last week that he did not have the jurisdiction to maintain the injunction. Women's Med Center said Friday that it would not appeal (Palmer, Reuters, 8/20).

Impact on Abortion Access

According to the Enquirer, the clinic's announcement leaves Ohio with 10 abortion clinics, down from 14 clinics before the new law took effect in 2013. Three of the remaining clinics are "in limbo" under the law, the Enquirer reports (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/20).

The Lebanon Road Surgery Center was the only clinic within about 100 miles that provided abortions between 18 weeks and 22 weeks of pregnancy, according to Reuters (Reuters, 8/20).

The Cincinnati metropolitan region would become the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without an abortion clinic if the two others in the area -- a Planned Parenthood in Mount Auburn and a Women's Med Center clinic in Dayton -- also have to stop offering abortion services because of the state law.

Mount Auburn Planned Parenthood spokesperson Rick Pender said the clinic is expecting an "influx of patients" as a result of Lebanon Road Surgery Center's announcement, adding that Planned Parenthood sees the overall situation "as wholly politically motivated and medically unnecessary."

Clinic Will Continue Other Services

The Lebanon Road Surgery Center will still see abortion patients for their required pre-abortion consultation, Women's Med Center officials said. The center will then send patients to the Dayton Women's Med Center for the abortion procedure (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/20). The clinic will end surgical abortions on Friday.

Dorothea Langsam, an attorney for the clinic, added that it is considering offering medication abortion (Reuters, 8/20).

Langsam noted that many of the clinic's patients are low-income, meaning that "transportation to Dayton (and for an abortion) is difficult" (Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/20).


Antiabortion-Rights Protests Increase After Portland, Maine, Ends 'Buffer Zone'

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:12

Antiabortion-rights protests have increased "in number and activity" outside a Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic since the City Council repealed a "buffer zone" ordinance, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Antiabortion-Rights Protests Increase After Portland, Maine, Ends 'Buffer Zone'

August 18, 2014 — Antiabortion-rights protests have increased "in number and activity" outside a Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic since the City Council repealed a "buffer zone" ordinance, the Bangor Daily News reports (Koenig, Bangor Daily News, 8/15).

The Portland City Council in November unanimously approved an ordinance that created a 39-foot, protest-free zone around entrances to the clinic, which was facing regular demonstrations from abortion-rights opponents. However, the council voted 7-1 to repeal the ordinance less than two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a similar Massachusetts law (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/8).

Increased Protests

Nicole Clegg, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's vice president of public policy, said PPNNE had to request help from police on a recent weekend, when protesters blocked sidewalks near the clinic's entrance and screamed loud enough to result in a warning from a police officer on duty. She added that demonstrations have been "escalating" since the Supreme Court decision.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck confirmed that the number of protesters had increased and that some had received warnings, which they followed. He said, "Case law has shown that it is a civil rights violation if you can hear the protests from inside the examination room," which is "what Planned Parenthood reported was happening."

City of Portland spokesperson Jessica Grondin said city staff members are investigating alternatives to the buffer zone and expect to deliver recommendations at a City Council committee meeting on Sept. 9 (Bangor Daily News, 8/15).

Antiabortion-Rights Protesters Sue

Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights protesters continue to pursue a lawsuit they filed after the City Council initially approved the buffer zone last year, the Portland Press Herald reports.

A day after the City Council repealed the ordinance, the city filed a motion requesting that U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen dismiss the case because "there is no longer a controversy here." The city on Tuesday filed a final legal brief in support of its dismissal request (Dolan, Portland Press Herald, 8/14).

However, the protesters have requested that the case go forward and want the judge to award them $1 in damages as a symbolic measure to demonstrate the "constitutional violations" and "harm" suffered by the plaintiffs. Erin Kuenzig, an attorney for the protesters, said a ruling in their favor would "set a precedent and would be persuasive authority for a judge to consider if Portland decides to enact a similar buffer zone ordinance" (Bangor Daily News, 8/15).


Judge Allows Ban on Iowa Telemedicine Abortion Program

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:12

An Iowa judge on Tuesday ruled that the state Board of Medicine has the authority to ban the administration of medication abortion drugs via a telemedicine system, Bloomberg reports.

Judge Allows Ban on Iowa Telemedicine Abortion Program

August 20, 2014 — An Iowa judge on Tuesday ruled that the state Board of Medicine has the authority to ban the administration of medication abortion drugs via a telemedicine system, Bloomberg reports.

Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell's decision upholds a board rule that requires a physician to be present and perform a physical examination before administering the medication (Harris, Bloomberg, 8/19). The judge's ruling is expected to take effect in 30 days (Leys, Des Moines Register, 8/19).

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland plans to appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court (Bloomberg, 8/19).

Background

Although the Iowa Board of Medicine in 2010 ruled that doctors at PPH could continue to dispense medication abortion drugs via its telemedicine system, Gov. Terry Brandstad (R) later replaced all of the board members, who then approved rules barring PPH from administering medication abortions through the system.

PPH sued, and a judge last November issued a temporary stay against the ban (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/18). PPH argued in the lawsuit that the board's rule was politically motivated and "promulgated solely for the purpose of preventing access to early abortion, and for no legitimate purpose relating to the health and well-being of Iowa women" (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/6/13).

Tuesday's Ruling

In his ruling, Farrell wrote, "There is no question that the board has the power to establish standards of practice for the medical profession."

He added that the board held public hearings, accepted written comments and, therefore, met the requirements for setting a rule. He said that banning the telemedicine system would not cause "undue hardship" for women who would need to travel to obtain the drugs if it were not in place.

However, Farrell also said that the board "invited scrutiny" through some of its actions, including by acting on the petition for rulemaking just three days after it was received and declining requests from physicians' groups to take more time to consider the matter.

Supporters, Opponents React

PPH Chief Operating Officer Penny Dickey said in a statement, "While the board of medicine claims it is acting to protect women's safety and health, its true purpose is to prevent women from receiving an abortion if and when they need one." She added that PPH will "continue to fight for evidence-based medicine and a woman's right to make her personal health care decisions."

Iowa Board of Medicine Executive Director Mark Bowden said the ruling showed the board acted appropriately, "carefully studied the issue and provided ample opportunity for public comment." He added, "The board considers a thorough medical history and physical examination to be the cornerstone of good medical care" (Des Moines Register, 8/19).


Women's Health Issues Key for Both Parties in Senate Campaigns

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:11

Republicans vying for Senate seats in the midterm election are working to rally abortion-rights opponents and "counterbalance" Democrats' criticism of GOP positions on women's health issues, The Hill reports.

Women's Health Issues Key for Both Parties in Senate Campaigns

August 20, 2014 — Republicans vying for Senate seats in the midterm election are working to rally abortion-rights opponents and "counterbalance" Democrats' criticism of GOP positions on women's health issues, The Hill reports.

Republicans would need to gain six Senate seats to win control of the chamber, according to The Hill.

The GOP strategy is built around a bill (S 1670) from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A conservative group called Women Speak Out PAC is targeting three Democratic senators who oppose Graham's bill: Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.).

The group plans to spend between $8 million and $10 million this election cycle, fund several ad campaigns and set up field offices in key states. Another group called National Right to Life Victory Fund plans to spend $250,000 on advertising against Landrieu.

Democrats Target GOP's Stance on Birth Control

Meanwhile, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, EMILY's List and other abortion-rights groups are backing Democratic candidates in federal and state races and highlighting Republicans' efforts to restrict birth control access, among other issues. The groups have "an enormous cash advantage" over their antiabortion-rights counterparts, according to The Hill (Viebeck, The Hill, 8/20).

EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock argued that "momentum" is also on Democrats' side. "Democratic women have been at the forefront on every major issue and not only are Americans impressed, they are ready to send them reinforcements," she said.

Donors have contributed more than $46 million to candidates and political committees linked to EMILY's List, including nearly $6 million in July alone. The group is supporting senators such as Hagan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), as well as several state-level Democratic candidates (Elliot, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20).

PPAF likely will spend up to $20 million during this election cycle, including $3 million in North Carolina (The Hill, 8/20).


NCAA Says Athletic Depts. Should Stop Oversight of Campus Sexual Assault Cases

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:10

College athletic departments should cooperate with investigations into sexual assault allegations against student athletes, but they should not oversee such cases, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Executive Committee said in a resolution last week, the McClatchy/Miami Herald reports.

NCAA Says Athletic Depts. Should Stop Oversight of Campus Sexual Assault Cases

August 18, 2014 — College athletic departments should cooperate with investigations into sexual assault allegations against student athletes, but they should not oversee such cases, the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Executive Committee said in a resolution last week, the McClatchy/Miami Herald reports.

The Executive Committee -- NCAA's highest decision-making body -- unanimously approved the resolution in light of a recent survey that found that 22% of colleges let their athletic departments handle such investigations. Among Division I, II and III schools, 30% permit athletic departments to have oversight of the investigations (Schoof, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 8/14). Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) office conducted the survey to gauge how campuses and local law enforcement deal with sexual assault investigations (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/10).

McCaskill after a Senate hearing last month expressed surprise that NCAA President Mark Emmert, who testified at the hearing, was not aware that many schools allowed athletic department to oversee the investigations. "The fact [that] he didn't know [the statistics] until our survey is probably an indictment as to how serious [colleges] have been about this problem," McCaskill said.

Resolution Details

The resolution calls on collegiate athletic departments to "cooperate with but not manage, direct, control or interfere with college or university investigations into allegations of sexual violence ensuring that investigations involving student-athletes and athletics department staff are managed in the same manner as all other students and staff on campus."

The Executive Committee said the resolution "recognizes the importance of addressing the abhorrent societal issue of sexual violence," adding that it is the "collective responsibility" of NCAA members "to maintain campuses as safe places to learn, live, work and play" (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 8/14).


FDA Approves New Option for Late-Stage Cervical Cancer

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:09

FDA on Thursday approved Genentech's Avastin for the treatment of late-stage cervical cancer, in combination with chemotherapy drugs, the AP/New York Times reports.

FDA Approves New Option for Late-Stage Cervical Cancer

August 19, 2014 — FDA on Thursday approved Genentech's Avastin for the treatment of late-stage cervical cancer, in combination with chemotherapy drugs, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 8/15).

Avastin is the first drug approved for late-stage cervical cancer since 2006 and the first biologic agent approved to treat for disease, Richard Pazdur, FDA's director of hematology and oncology products, said.

Approval Details

FDA granted the new approval after reviewing results from a study involving 452 patients with late-stage, recurrent or persistent cervical cancer. The study found that participants who took Avastin in combination with paclitaxel and cisplatin or paclitaxel and topotecan had a median survival of 16.8 months, compared with 12.9 months among patients who used only paclitaxel and cisplatin or paclitaxel and topotecan (Bankhead, MedPage Today, 8/15).

FDA approved Avastin for use in combination with paclitaxel and cisplatin or paclitaxel and topotecan.

According to MedScape, Avastin was already approved to treat several other cancers, including forms of lung and colon cancer (Lowes, MedScape, 8/14). However, the agency in 2011 revoked its approval to treat advanced breast cancer after studies showed its benefits did not outweigh its risks (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/21/11).


Blogs Comment on Need for Better Family Leave Policies, Decriminalizing Sex Work, More

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:08

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Washington Post, "ThinkProgress" and more.

Blogs Comment on Need for Better Family Leave Policies, Decriminalizing Sex Work, More

August 15, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Washington Post, "ThinkProgress" and more.

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "A Tale of Two Maternity Leaves," Darlena Cunha, Washington Post's "On Parenting": Cunha compares the family leave options available to herself and other U.S. parents with leave that is available to families in Finland. She notes that only 11% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave, while other families struggle financially to take unpaid leave or do not qualify for any leave at all under the Family Medical Leave Act (PL 103-3),which only applies to certain employers and workers. By contrast, Finnish families have access to "about four months maternity leave," 54 days of paternity leave, "parental leave" that can be taken by any parent at separate times from when a child is four months old to nine months old, and a small stipend for "home child care leave until the child is 3 years old" (Cunha, "On Parenting," Washington Post, 8/13).

CONTRACEPTION: "Our Safety Net is Failing the Impoverished Women Who Need Birth Control," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "As the number of low-income women who need government assistance to access family planning services has been on the rise, the number of patients served by publicly funded clinics has been falling, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute," Culp-Ressler writes, adding that the findings "illustrate the widening gulf between poor women and wealthier women when it comes to their ability to use reproductive health services, a disparity driven partly by partisan attacks on abortion." She explains that in contrast to the "broad bipartisan support" of the past "for government funding to help impoverished women manage their reproductive health," conservatives today have "turned their attention to attacking Planned Parenthood," federal family planning programs have become "caught in the crossfires" of the abortion-rights debate and "GOP lawmakers have repeatedly cut family planning budgets" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "How Colorado's Teen Birthrate Dropped 40% in Four Years," Gail Sullivan, Washington Post's "Morning Mix."

~ "Obama Administration To Issue New Rules for Religious Accommodation to Birth Control Benefit," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

HEALTH DISPARITIES: "Report: Racial Discrimination Severely Undermines Black Women’s Health," Elizabeth Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check: The Reproductive Health Technologies Project's Dawes Gay comments on a "new shadow report ... by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective" that "shares some alarming data on maternal health outcomes as well as disturbing firsthand accounts of the racial discrimination experienced by Black women." She notes, "The stories ... included in the report convey the gross under-education and discriminatory treatment of Black women living in the South, in particular, where sexual and reproductive health education is nonexistent and stigma is rampant." Dawes Gay adds, "Black women are victims of something much worse than stigma, judgment, and discrimination: We are victims of a system and society that abrogates our basic human rights, including the rights to health, life, and non-discrimination" (Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check, 8/13).

SEX WORK: "The Evidence is in: Decriminalizing Sex Work is Critical to Public Health," Anna Forbes/Sarah Elspeth Patterson, RH Reality Check: Forbes and Elspeth Patterson analyze why "the trend toward criminalizing populations involved in the sex trades [is] increasing in the United States," even as medical research and a growing number of public health organizations affirm "the decriminalization of sex work as vital to preventing the spread of [HIV] and [AIDS]" and improving overall public health. They explain the trend in relation to three factors: the conflation of sex work with trafficking, the lack of health care access among sex workers and how criminalization exacerbates violence toward sex workers. "We can't stop HIV in the United States without sustainable and long-term solutions to end the arrest, detention, and incarceration of sex workers in the [U.S.], as well as end the violations against sex workers within the correctional system," they write (Forbes/Elspeth Patterson, RH Reality Check, 8/13).

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "California Parents Complain That Sex Ed Textbook is 'Equivalent To Pornography,'" Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Comprehensive sex ed materials often spark controversy for being too sexually explicit," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that a California school district recently "agreed to temporarily shelve a ninth grade sex education textbook" after some parents "compared the book to porn." The district's superintendent said the textbook was picked "because it 'provides current, accurate, factual and relevant information our students need to make responsible decisions about their health,'" she adds. Culp-Ressler writes that "from a public health perspective, experts suggest that kids should actually learn accurate information about sexuality from a very early age," but "most teens don't receive" such information "until after they've already started having sex" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).