Daily Women's Health Policy Report

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Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 1 hour 17 min ago

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 18:00

The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports.

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

December 18, 2014 — The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports (Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 12/17).

Council member David Grosso introduced the measure, called the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, in May, a few months after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. The court later ruled in the case that certain closely held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their employer-sponsored health plans if their owners have religious objections.

"An employer should not be able to tell their employee whether or not they can access certain kinds of health care," Grosso said in May.

The measure now heads to Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is expected to sign it into law.

Measure Details

The measure would amend Washington, D.C.'s Human Rights Act of 1977 to include language prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions and from limiting the extent of employees' reproductive health coverage and services.

Specifically, the measure states, "An employer or employment agency shall not discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service, because of or on the basis of an employer's personal beliefs about such services."

The D.C. Council on Wednesday amended the measure to explicitly state that it applies to both men and women (Gryboski, Christian Post, 12/17).

According to Politico Pro, the measure would apply to all employers, whether or not they hold themselves out as religious (Politico Pro, 12/17).

The D.C. Council acknowledged concerns from the district's Office of the Attorney General about the lack of a "ministerial exemption" to the measure. However, the council concluded that the measure did not present First Amendment concerns because such an exemption likely would be "read into" the law upon enactment (Christian Post, 12/17).


Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 17:41

In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.

Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

December 18, 2014 — In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.



HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski and the Huffington Post's Chris Gentilviso talk about the prospects for numerous antiabortion-rights measures pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers, including proposed 20-week abortion bans (S 28, S 130) and a "personhood" measure (S 129). Minkovski notes that, according to Planned Parenthood, more than 2,000 South Carolina residents made calls to state legislators urging them not to pass abortion restrictions last year, and that efforts to pass several such bills were stalled (Minkovski, HuffPost Live, 12/9).




As part of a roundtable on MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," Feministing's Alexandra Brodsky speaks with the host about the legal and cultural framework that college sexual assault survivors contend with when they come forward. Brodsky, a Yale Law School student and founder of Know Your IX, is joined by Byron Hurt, an anti-sexism activist and filmmaker, and Salamishah Tillet, an author and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, for additional discussion on the language surrounding sexual assault prevention and adjudication (Harris-Perry, "Melissa Harris-Perry," MSNBC, 12/14).

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 17:34

The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports.

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

December 18, 2014 — The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports (Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 12/17).

Council member David Grosso introduced the measure, called the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, in May, a few months after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. The court later ruled in the case that certain closely held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their employer-sponsored health plans if their owners have religious objections.

"An employer should not be able to tell their employee whether or not they can access certain kinds of health care," Grosso said in May.

The measure now heads to Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is expected to sign it into law.

Measure Details

The measure would amend Washington, D.C.'s Human Rights Act of 1977 to include language prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions and from limiting the extent of employees' reproductive health coverage and services.

Specifically, the measure states, "An employer or employment agency shall not discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service, because of or on the basis of an employer's personal beliefs about such services."

The D.C. Council on Wednesday amended the measure to explicitly state that it applies to both men and women (Gryboski, Christian Post, 12/17).

According to Politico Pro, the measure would apply to all employers, whether or not they hold themselves out as religious (Politico Pro, 12/17).

The D.C. Council acknowledged concerns from the district's Office of the Attorney General about the lack of a "ministerial exemption" to the measure. However, the council concluded that the measure did not present First Amendment concerns because such an exemption likely would be "read into" the law upon enactment (Christian Post, 12/17).


Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 17:15

In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.

Video Round Up: Conservative State Lawmakers Plan Anti-Choice Bills for 2015

December 18, 2014 — In today's clips, HuffPost Live recaps a slew of recent antiabortion-rights bills pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers who faced resistance to such measures last session. Meanwhile, a "Melissa Harris-Perry" panel discusses the complex legal and cultural framework that shapes the handling of sexual assault cases at colleges and elsewhere.



HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski and the Huffington Post's Chris Gentilviso talk about the prospects for numerous antiabortion-rights measures pre-filed by South Carolina lawmakers, including proposed 20-week abortion bans (S 28, S 130) and a "personhood" measure (S 129). Minkovski notes that, according to Planned Parenthood, more than 2,000 South Carolina residents made calls to state legislators urging them not to pass abortion restrictions last year, and that efforts to pass several such bills were stalled (Minkovski, HuffPost Live, 12/9).




As part of a roundtable on MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," Feministing's Alexandra Brodsky speaks with the host about the legal and cultural framework that college sexual assault survivors contend with when they come forward. Brodsky, a Yale Law School student and founder of Know Your IX, is joined by Byron Hurt, an anti-sexism activist and filmmaker, and Salamishah Tillet, an author and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, for additional discussion on the language surrounding sexual assault prevention and adjudication (Harris-Perry, "Melissa Harris-Perry," MSNBC, 12/14).

President Obama Signs Omnibus That Includes Limited Peace Corps Abortion Coverage

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 16:48

President Obama this week signed into law a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending measure that includes a provision lifting a 35-year ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in instances of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life, the Washington Post's "Federal Eye" reports.

President Obama Signs Omnibus That Includes Limited Peace Corps Abortion Coverage

December 18, 2014 — President Obama this week signed into law a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending measure that includes a provision lifting a 35-year ban on abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in instances of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life, the Washington Post's "Federal Eye" reports (Hicks, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 12/18).

Health insurance coverage for Peace Corps volunteers has been prohibited from covering abortion in any circumstance since 1979. The new policy brings the Peace Corps' standard in line with other federal policies that bar the use of federal funding for abortion in cases other than rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger. Currently, the volunteers are one of the only groups with federal health coverage that does not receive abortion coverage in those cases.

Earlier this year, the House and Senate Appropriations committees both approved measures calling to end the Peace Corps policy for the first time. Lawmakers lifted a similar ban last year that had been in place for members of the military and their dependents (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/12).

Comments

Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet on Wednesday said, "The health, safety and security of volunteers are our absolute highest priorities, and this important step forward furthers our work to enhance volunteer support as we build a better, stronger Peace Corps."

The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) proposed similar legislation last year. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who proposed this year's version with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), said in a statement on Wednesday, "Peace Corps service members deserve the same basic health care benefits provided to other women on federal health care plans" ("Federal Eye," Washington Post, 12/18).


Blogs Comment on Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers, Over-the-Counter Birth Control, More

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 15:15

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" and more.

Blogs Comment on Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers, Over-the-Counter Birth Control, More

December 16, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" and more.


ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Government Spending Bill Quietly Resolves Peace Corps Abortion Coverage Debate," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The Senate's passage of "a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill ... signals the quiet end to a fight over abortion coverage that has been playing out over the past year," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that the legislation "includes a provision to extend abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment -- bringing volunteers' coverage in line with the health care that all federal employees receive." According to Culp-Ressler, reproductive rights advocates are "celebrating" the provision's passage after attempts to extend such coverage to Peace Corps volunteers was repeatedly "blocked by GOP lawmakers in the House" over the last several years. Still, she notes that the bill generally "maintains the status quo on insurance coverage for abortion services" for recipients of federally funded health benefits by "includ[ing] longstanding bans on abortion coverage for [Washington, D.C.'s] Medicaid recipients and for federal prisoners." The spending bill also "maintains about the same level of funding for family planning programs" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/15).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Court Passes up RU-486 Abortion Issue, Again," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog.

~ "The GOP's Hidden Ban on Prison Abortions," Harold Pollack, Daily Beast.

~ "The Helms Amendment: Facepalm," Emily Gillingham, Law Students for Reproductive Justice's "Repo Repro."

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Climate Change, Evolution, and Now Abortion: Why Conservatives Mislead About Facts," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: While it has "long been a media and political truism that the abortion debate is primarily a struggle over morals and values, pitting concern for embryonic life against women's right to bodily autonomy," the recent "political landscape" has made it "clear that the anti-choice movement has basically abandoned that moralistic strategy when it comes to their actual political activism," Marcotte writes. She notes that while antiabortion-rights advocates "still lean on the 'pro-life' angle in internal messaging to supporters and while harassing women outside of clinics," they "[c]reate the illusion of a scientific controversy where none exists, and use that as a pretext to push a right-wing agenda" when trying to "mak[e] change happen on a legislative or judicial level." According to Marcotte, their "idea is to create the illusion ... that there is a serious medical debate over the dangers of abortion to a woman's physical and mental well-being, and use that to argue that a bunch of laws making it harder to obtain abortions are necessary," when in fact "abortion is extremely safe" when conducted "in legal clinics in the United States" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 12/15).

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Pregnant Wisconsin Woman Jailed Under State's 'Personhood'-Like Law," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Mason Pieklo compares a Wisconsin substance-misuse law (Act 292) to antiabortion-rights "personhood" laws by discussing the case of Tamara Loerstcher, a woman in Wisconsin who was arrested under Act 292 after disclosing her past substance use to hospital workers during her pregnancy. Mason Pieklo explains that the Wisconsin law effectively "grants 'personhood' rights to fertilized eggs and embryos by granting the state power to initiate child protective actions against the expectant mother anytime the state believes she has substance use issues that will 'seriously affect' the health of the egg, embryo, fetus, or child." Mason Pieklo notes that Loerstcher was "not the first" woman prosecuted under Wisconsin's law and that several other states "have some kind of process in place that allows the state to effectively suspend the civil rights of pregnant people in the name of protecting against fetal harm" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 12/12).

CONTRACEPTION: "We've All Been There, and an Over-the-Counter Pill Should Be There for Us," Mara Gandal-Powers, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center: "[T]here should be at least one birth control pill available over-the-counter" so that "women will be able to use the birth control method that they have determined is best for them when they need it," writes Gandal-Powers, counsel for health and reproductive rights at NWLC, noting that many women using birth control have had a situation in which they "needed to get pills and couldn't because [they] couldn't get a prescription in time." Gandal-Powers urges people to learn "more about why an over-the-counter birth control pill makes sense" by visiting FreethePill.org. OTC availability "doesn't mean every pill that anyone could ever want should be on the shelves," she writes, noting that the OTC pill "could be one specific ... progestin-only pill, which has very few contradictions" and for which "women are able to self-screen." Further, she notes that if an OTC policy were enacted, women "should still see their providers regularly for well-woman visits" and insurers would still be required to cover contraceptives in accordance with the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), as long as women have a prescription (Gandal-Powers, "Womenstake," NWLC, 12/15).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Surprise, Surprise: Increased Contraceptive Use Leads to Fewer Unintended Pregnancies," Anita Little, Ms. Magazine blog.

~ "The Right is Coming for Your Birth Control -- They Just Don't Want You To Know it Yet," Katie McDonough, Salon.

SEX EDUCATION: "California Parents Outraged Their Kids Are Learning About Consent, Gender Identity," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": In November, a group of parents in the Acalanes Union High School District in Northern California "formed a coalition called NOISE -- which stands for 'No to Irresponsible Sex Education' -- to pressure school officials to drop Planned Parenthood's [sex education] curriculum," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler explains that the parent group has accused "Planned Parenthood of trying to pressure their kids into having sex," with specific objections against "a 'genderbread person' tool that teaches kids about the spectrum of sexuality and gender" and "a checklist that helps kids decide whether they're ready for sex" and communicate effectively with potential partners. Culp-Ressler notes that district officials "have defended the sex ed courses," adding that "a recent study confirmed that a sex education curriculum developed by [Planned Parenthood] effectively helps kids delay having sex" and that "[m]ost Americans overwhelmingly support comprehensive sex ed" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/12).


CDC STI Report: Chlamydia Rate Declines for First Time

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:59

The rate of reported chlamydia cases in the U.S. per 100,000 residents declined by 1.5% from 2012 to 2013, marking the first reported decrease in the infection rate since national reporting began, according to an annual CDC report on sexually transmitted infections released Tuesday, MedPage Today's "The Gupta Guide" reports.

CDC STI Report: Chlamydia Rate Declines for First Time

December 18, 2014 — The rate of reported chlamydia cases in the U.S. per 100,000 residents declined by 1.5% from 2012 to 2013, marking the first reported decrease in the infection rate since national reporting began, according to an annual CDC report on sexually transmitted infections released Tuesday, MedPage Today's "The Gupta Guide" reports.

Report Details

For the report, researchers analyzed data on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, the three STIs for which there are dedicated federal control programs and national reporting in place, as well as several other STIs. The researchers used data provided by state and local STI programs and other projects that monitor STIs, in addition to national surveys conducted by the federal government and private organizations.

According to CDC, the data likely represent an underestimate of STI infection rates as the result of incomplete reporting and diagnosis (Smith, "The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 12/16). Overall, CDC estimates that there are 20 million new cases of STIs in the U.S. annually, including STIs that are not regularly reported to CDC, such as the human papillomavirus (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 12/16).

Key Findings on Chlamydia

Overall, the report found that although the rate of reported chlamydia cases declined last year, it was still the most commonly reported STI, with 1.4 million new cases (Stobbe, AP/ABC News, 12/16). Specifically, CDC found that there were roughly 446.6 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people. By comparison, the chlamydia rate increased from 1993 through 2011 from 178.0 to 453.4 cases per 100,000 people, then held steady at 453.3 per 100,000 people in 2012.

CDC also found that reported cases of chlamydia declined among women by 2.4% between 2012 and 2013 and increased among men by 0.8%.

However, CDC noted that women continued to report a higher overall rate of the infection than men, at least partly because they are more likely than men to undergo screening for the infection. Specifically, CDC said there were about 993,348 cases reported in 2013 among women, accounting for a rate of 623.1 per 100,000 women.

Additional Findings

CDC also found that there were 333,004 reported cases of gonorrhea in 2013.

According to CDC, the gonorrhea rate declined by 0.6% compared with the 2012 rate, but increased by 8.2% compared with the 2009 rate. CDC said the reported rate of gonorrhea among women deceased by 5.1% compared with 2012, while it increased among men by 4.3%.

In addition, CDC found that there were 17,535 reported U.S. cases of primary and secondary syphilis in 2013, increasing by nearly 11% since 2012 and marking the highest rate since 1995.

CDC noted that compared with 2012, the syphilis rate among women held steady at 0.9 cases per 100,000 in 2013, while increasing among men by 12%, from 9.2 to 10.3 cases per 100,000 men ("The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 12/16).

Researchers said cases of syphilis among men who have sex with men accounted for much of the overall rate increase among men (Washington Times, 12/16). Further, CDC found 52% of MSM who reported having syphilis also reported having HIV, compared with 9.9% of men who have sex with women and 5.2% of women ("The Gupta Guide," MedPage Today, 12/16).


Blogs Comment on Harsher Prison Sentences for Pregnant Women, Safety of Abortion, More

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:41

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at ACLU, RH Reality Check and more.

Blogs Comment on Harsher Prison Sentences for Pregnant Women, Safety of Abortion, More

December 12, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at ACLU, RH Reality Check and more.

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "What's Next? Prosecuting a Pregnant Woman for Working Full Time?" Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights": After Tennessee resident Lacey Weld's prison sentence for committing drug-related crimes was enhanced because she was pregnant, the American Civil Liberties Union joined an amicus "brief filed by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, on behalf of leading constitutional, medical, and public health experts, asking the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision to punish Ms. Weld for her pregnancy," Kolbi-Molinas writes. Kolbi-Molinas notes that ACLU has "also asked Attorney General [Eric] Holder to renounce the federal prosecutor in Tennessee's actions and ensure that no other federal prosecutor takes this position in the future." Criminalizing pregnancy is "flatly unconstitutional [and] it's dangerous for women, families, and babies," she writes, adding, "Those really concerned with the welfare of women and babies would do well to make sure pregnant women struggling with addiction have better access to health care, not use them as examples to further their own private or political gain" (Kolbi-Molinas, "Blog of Rights," American Civil Liberties Union, 12/11).

ABORTION CARE: "Study of Over 50,000 Abortion Patients Finds Low Complication Rate," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Researchers involved in a new study demonstrating the safety of abortion have noted that the findings "cal[l] into question many conservative lawmakers' claims that requiring legal abortion care be provided in ambulatory surgical centers, or requiring abortion-providing doctors to have hospital admitting privileges, would increase the safety [of] the procedure," Grimes writes. She notes that the study found that "'major complications' after legal abortion care are extremely rare, and that overall, legal abortion care has a 'very low complication rate.'" Grimes adds that while antiabortion-rights lawmakers in several states have expressed safety concerns to advance abortion restrictions, the study's "researchers warned ... that the shuttering of abortion providers as a result of these more stringent laws could put those who need abortion care in danger, forcing them to travel longer distances to access legal abortion care or attempt illegal pregnancy terminations at home" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 12/9).

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Where are All the LGBTQ-Inclusive Sex Ed Books?" Christen McCurdy, RH Reality Check: "Too often, sex education materials meant to explain the 'basics' to kids are not written with a broader understanding of what those basics are," McCurdy writes, noting that this absence "is particularly evident considering the dearth of books describing reproduction, puberty, and sexuality in a way that acknowledges -- implicitly or explicitly -- LGBTQ identities." According to McCurdy, roughly 9% "of teenagers identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning" and "as many as six million" U.S. residents "have an LGBT-identified parent," but adolescents have "few options" for sex education materials that include such individuals. "The puberty guide I'd like to see would describe the process of growing up using a variety of authors and voices with a variety of experiences and gender identities," she writes (McCurdy, RH Reality Check, 12/10).

CONTRACEPTION: "The Rise of the IUD," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": While long-acting reversible contraceptives have "historically been one of the least popular" forms of birth control, a new CDC report shows the trend "may be slowly changing," with the rate of women opting for intrauterine devices and hormonal implants increasing from 3.8% between 2006 and 2010 to 7.2% between 2011 and 2013, writes Culp-Ressler. According to Culp-Ressler, the uptick is linked to several factors, including changing physician practices and attitudes, policy changes such as the federal contraceptive coverage rules, and studies that "repeatedly confirmed that IUDs are safe for younger women." However, she notes that despite increased use, IUDs still are controversial because of "[r]ight-wing religious groups" that "claim that IUDs are a form of abortion, even though there's no scientific evidence to back that up" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/11).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Anti-Abortion Laws Are Expected To Get Even Worse in the New Year," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": After the 2014 elections "handed significant victories to abortion opponents," state legislators have begun planning "harsher restrictions" to propose in 2015, Culp-Ressler writes, noting that states that "have already managed to heavily restrict" access to abortion "will likely double down on their agenda, making their existing anti-choice laws even tougher." For example, she notes that states that already impose mandatory counseling requirements could "tighten their laws so that women are required to make an in-person trip to the clinic," rather than receiving the information over the phone, before an abortion, while states that have imposed "strict building code standards could increase the pressure even further" by enacting admitting privileges requirements (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/10).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "States Facilitate Abortion Disinformation," David Grimes, Huffington Post blogs.


FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:38

FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

December 18, 2014 — FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report (Preidt, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16).

Background

Unlike health care providers, commercial sonographers offer non-medically necessary ultrasound videos and images to women for profit, often promoting the idea that the image will aid bonding. Commercial sonographers typically operate in shopping malls and charge women several hundred dollars for the service, according to The Hill (Viebeck, The Hill, 12/16).

FDA first discouraged non-medical ultrasounds in 1994, according to The Atlantic. Thereafter, the agency has continued to advise against the practice, issuing a warning in 2002 that it is illegal to administer an ultrasound to a person without a prescription.

FDA has also noted that women could use images from medical professionals, rather than commercial providers, for bonding purposes, if they were so inclined.

Several major medical organizations oppose commercial ultrasounds as well, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the American Medical Association and the American Pregnancy Association (Romm, The Atlantic, 12/16).

Latest Warning

In an FDA statement, Shahram Vaezy, a biomedical engineer at the agency, said that while there is no evidence that women or their fetuses have been harmed by the commercial scans, "prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important."

Vaezy explained, "Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles [cavitation] in some tissues."

The long-term effects of cavitation and tissue heating are unknown, and, as a result, ultrasounds should be conducted only by trained medical professionals and when medically necessary, Vaezy added (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16). For example, commercial operators can take up to an hour to capture video of the fetus and could be inattentive to power and heat settings (The Hill, 12/16).


FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:33

FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

FDA Warns Against 'Keepsake' Ultrasounds by Non-Medical Providers

December 18, 2014 — FDA is advising pregnant women to avoid undergoing medically unnecessary "keepsake" ultrasounds and Doppler heartbeat scans by commercial providers because they could pose potential risks if improperly administered, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report (Preidt, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16).

Background

Unlike health care providers, commercial sonographers offer non-medically necessary ultrasound videos and images to women for profit, often promoting the idea that the image will aid bonding. Commercial sonographers typically operate in shopping malls and charge women several hundred dollars for the service, according to The Hill (Viebeck, The Hill, 12/16).

FDA first discouraged non-medical ultrasounds in 1994, according to The Atlantic. Thereafter, the agency has continued to advise against the practice, issuing a warning in 2002 that it is illegal to administer an ultrasound to a person without a prescription.

FDA has also noted that women could use images from medical professionals, rather than commercial providers, for bonding purposes, if they were so inclined.

Several major medical organizations oppose commercial ultrasounds as well, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the American Medical Association and the American Pregnancy Association (Romm, The Atlantic, 12/16).

Latest Warning

In an FDA statement, Shahram Vaezy, a biomedical engineer at the agency, said that while there is no evidence that women or their fetuses have been harmed by the commercial scans, "prudent use of these devices by trained health care providers is important."

Vaezy explained, "Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and in some cases, it can also produce very small bubbles [cavitation] in some tissues."

The long-term effects of cavitation and tissue heating are unknown, and, as a result, ultrasounds should be conducted only by trained medical professionals and when medically necessary, Vaezy added (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/16). For example, commercial operators can take up to an hour to capture video of the fetus and could be inattentive to power and heat settings (The Hill, 12/16).


Vatican Report Praises Nuns' 'Feminine Genius,' Lacks Criticism on Abortion Issues

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:30

A Vatican report released Tuesday heavily praised U.S. nuns' social work, marking a "sharp contrast" with the Roman Catholic Church's previous complaints that nuns have "promoted 'radical' feminist themes" about abortion and other issues, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Vatican Report Praises Nuns' 'Feminine Genius,' Lacks Criticism on Abortion Issues

December 18, 2014 — A Vatican report released Tuesday heavily praised U.S. nuns' social work, marking a "sharp contrast" with the Roman Catholic Church's previous complaints that nuns have "promoted 'radical' feminist themes" about abortion and other issues, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, the report comes from a multi-year Vatican investigation into U.S. nuns' actions amid concerns that some nuns were not promoting the church's stance on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

However, the report noted the nuns' "feminine genius" and said the church should act on Pope Francis' desire to give women a larger role in the church (Kington, Los Angeles Times, 12/16).

The report did not offer any direct criticisms of the nuns or demand they make any changes, although it recommended that nuns make sure their ministries are "in harmony with Catholic teaching" (AP/New York Times, 12/16).

Reaction

Various nuns said the report was well received. Sister Sharon Holland, head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said, "One can read the text and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on" (Los Angeles Times, 12/16).

The University of Dayton's Jana Bennett, who specializes in Catholic theology and ethics, said, "The report is clearly focused on cooperation. It's clearly focused on dialogue, which I think is not necessarily what people expected back in 2008 when this issue came up" (AP/New York Times, 12/16).


Egg Freezing Coverage Not Widespread in Employer Health Plans

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:19

Women's health advocates say it is rare that employers offer infertility coverage that includes egg freezing in their health plans, even for women who have serious medical conditions that could affect their fertility, Kaiser Health News reports.

Egg Freezing Coverage Not Widespread in Employer Health Plans

December 18, 2014 — Women's health advocates say it is rare that employers offer infertility coverage that includes egg freezing in their health plans, even for women who have serious medical conditions that could affect their fertility, Kaiser Health News reports.

KHN notes that recent media coverage of decisions by some large companies to cover egg freezing has focused on whether such policies send an implicit message that women are expected to delay childbearing if they want to advance their careers. However, women seeking egg freezing often do so because of illness- or age-related infertility.

Egg freezing can be costly. For example, KHN profiles a Los Angeles woman who paid $12,000 for the egg retrieval procedure and pays an additional $300 annually for her eggs to be stored.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine two years ago issued revised practice guidelines stating that egg freezing is no longer considered experimental because research has shown that pregnancy and fertilization rates from frozen eggs are similar to those for fresh eggs. In addition, research found that children born from frozen eggs do not have a higher likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities or birth defects.

Coverage Not Widely Offered

ASRM Executive Director Richard Reindollar noted that insurance coverage for infertility treatments using frozen eggs is still not widely provided. He said, "Of all the disease processes, insurance coverage is available for essentially all of them, but not for infertility."

Meanwhile, America's Health Insurance Plans spokesperson Susan Pisano said the group has not surveyed insurers on the coverage but she believes many plans cover egg freezing if a woman is diagnosed with a fertility problem or is at risk because of medical treatments like chemotherapy. However, it is less common that insurers cover egg freezing for nonmedical reasons, she said.

An annual Mercer study of employer benefits found that about one-third of companies with at least 500 employees do not provide infertility coverage. The survey found that technology companies were more likely to offer the coverage, with 45% covering in vitro fertilization and 27% covering other advanced reproductive procedures, such as egg freezing, compared with 26% and 14% at other companies, respectively (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 12/16).


Columnists: Supreme Court's Ruling Should Be Signal To Antiabortion-Rights Lawmakers

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 19:22

Two Arizona Republic columnists recently weighed in on the Supreme Court's decision not to consider a federal appeals court's ruling that blocked provisions in an Arizona law (HB 2036) that restricted medication abortion.

Columnists: Supreme Court's Ruling Should Be Signal To Antiabortion-Rights Lawmakers

December 17, 2014 — Two Arizona Republic columnists recently weighed in on the Supreme Court's decision not to consider a federal appeals court's ruling that blocked provisions in an Arizona law (HB 2036) that restricted medication abortion. The high court's refusal to take the case means that the law will remain unenforced for now while the legal challenge continues in the lower courts.

~ Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic: Roberts notes that after the high court's decision this week, opponents of abortion rights now "are 0-3 this year" in cases regarding the legality of Arizona's abortion restrictions. First, the Supreme Court in January declined to hear the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling striking down a provision in 2012 state law (HB 2036) banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy in most cases. Then, in February, the court "refused to hear the state's plea to revive a 2012 law [HB 2800] that stripped funding from doctors and clinics that perform abortions," which the 9th Circuit had also struck down. However, Roberts warns that "conservative legislators ... are no doubt cranking out more bills" and will "battle on with a new batch of bills in January, followed by a new batch of court fights" (Roberts, Arizona Republic, 12/15).

~ Linda Valdez, Arizona Republic: After the Supreme Court's "cue" on the case, "Arizona lawmakers should declare a moratorium on abortion laws" during the next legislative session, Valdez argues. She adds that "[t]he state has more pressing needs than playing roadblock to women who are seeking reproductive health care" and that "the handiwork of our intrepid lawmakers is still working its way through the legal system." Further, Valdez notes that there is precedent for such a move, as "[i]n the early 1990s, then-Senate President John Greene -- a conservative Republican -- put a moratorium on abortion bills" for two years. She concludes, "Current legislative leadership should follow that lead" (Valdez, Arizona Republic, 12/15).


YouTube CEO: Paid Maternity Leave Should Be Available to All U.S. Women

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:41

The "sad truth" is that paid maternity leave is "rare in America, and the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in providing for the needs of pregnant women and new mothers," YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

YouTube CEO: Paid Maternity Leave Should Be Available to All U.S. Women

December 17, 2014 — The "sad truth" is that paid maternity leave is "rare in America, and the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in providing for the needs of pregnant women and new mothers," YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Wojcicki notes that she was four months pregnant when she joined Google, which now owns YouTube, in 1999 and later became its first employee to take maternity leave. Since then, about 5,000 women at Google have taken maternity leave, and Wojcicki is about to take her fifth. All of Google's female employees are entitled to "18 weeks of paid maternity leave," she explains.

While some "generous employer[s]" offer paid maternity leave as an employee benefit and five states "have publicly funded paid-maternity-leave laws," the U.S. "is the only country in the developed world that doesn't offer government-mandated paid maternity leave," Wojcicki writes.

This "patchwork of corporate and state benefits covers only 12% of private workers," and "[l]ow-wage earners ... have it much worse: only 5% get any paid maternity leave," she continues, noting that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (PL 103-3) is "a step in the right direction" but only guarantees unpaid leave and does not apply to half of the female workforce in the U.S.

"In study after study, ... organizations have shown how harmful a lack of paid maternity leave can be for mothers and their babies," with some women "choos[ing] to drop out of the workforce" or returning "to work too quickly," which can have "adverse effects on her and her child's health," according to Wojcicki.

Further, paid maternity leave is "good for business," she writes. For example, a 2011 survey by the Center for Economic and Policy Research "found that 91% of employers said [paid maternity leave] either boosted profits or had no effect."

"[S]upport for motherhood shouldn't be a matter of luck; it should be a matter of course," she argues, concluding, "Paid maternity leave is good for mothers, families and business. America should have the good sense to join nearly every other country in providing it" (Wojcicki, Wall Street Journal, 12/16).


Coalition Launches Campaign To Spark Reproductive Health Conversation Among Latinas

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:39

A coalition of Latina and reproductive health organizations has launched the Yo Soy campaign, which is aimed at creating a dialogue on sexual and reproductive health issues within the Latina community, the Latin Post reports.

Coalition Launches Campaign To Spark Reproductive Health Conversation Among Latinas

December 16, 2014 — A coalition of Latina and reproductive health organizations has launched the Yo Soy campaign, which is aimed at creating a dialogue on sexual and reproductive health issues within the Latina community, the Latin Post reports.

Details of Campaign

According to the Post, the campaign is a collaboration between Advocates for Youth, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, the Hispanic Federation, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Voto Latino.

The campaign will include activist training sessions, cafecitos (coffee meetings), town hall meetings, online resources and social media efforts to prepare Latinas with information about reproductive health care decisions and how to discuss such issues with their families and communities. The campaign also asks supporters to sign a pledge indicating their intent to "break the silence" around reproductive health by discussing "sexual education, birth control, abortion and young parents."

Jessica Reeves, vice president of partnerships for Voto Latino, said, "When Latinas are aware of their sexual and reproductive health options, it increases their awareness about accessibility and helps them take ownership, like getting affordable insurance coverage or looking for ways to get it." She noted that around one-third of Latinas currently do not have health insurance, which can "driv[e] contraceptive costs up" and discourage contraceptive use.

CLRJ Executive Director Laura Jimenez said in a statement, "We have the power to break through the silence and shame about our bodies, our sexuality and our health. When we do, we help generations of Latinos not only ourselves, but our hermanas, hijas, nieces; our fathers, tios and abuelos" (Akoukou Thompson, Latin Post, 12/14).


Laws Criminalizing Pregnancy 'Subsume Women's Rights' to Those Granted to Fetuses, Columnist Writes

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:38

At both the state and federal level, courts are "impos[ing] additional punishments on women by dint of the fact they were pregnant" when their actions occurred, Daily Beast columnist Emily Shire writes.

Laws Criminalizing Pregnancy 'Subsume Women's Rights' to Those Granted to Fetuses, Columnist Writes

December 15, 2014 — At both the state and federal level, courts are "impos[ing] additional punishments on women by dint of the fact they were pregnant" when their actions occurred, Daily Beast columnist Emily Shire writes.

There are currently "17 states with laws that consider drug abuse during pregnancy a form of child abuse," according to Shire. She notes that Tennessee this year became the first state to enact a law that allows criminal charges against women for using illicit drugs during pregnancy, while "Minnesota, South Dakota, and ... Wisconsin consider the presence of drugs in a pregnant woman grounds for civil commitment and forced rehabilitation." Shire highlights the case of Wisconsin resident Tamara Loertscher, who was imprisoned under a 1997 state law, "which claims to protect 'unborn children who are at substantial risk of serious physical injury due to the habitual lack of self-control of their expectant mothers in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs.'"

According to a study by National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which is aiding Loertscher in a lawsuit against the state, there were "'413 cases from 1973 to 2005 in which a woman's pregnancy was a necessary factor leading to attempted and actual deprivations of a woman's physical liberty,'" and there have been an additional 380 of such cases since 2005, Shire writes.

Problems With Laws

NAPW and women's health advocates argue that enhanced penalties that only apply to pregnant women are "a form of sex-based discrimination that violates the 14th Amendment," Shire continues.

Further, such policies "may ultimately discourage pregnant women from seeking help for addictions or even basic medical care," Shire notes, adding that physicians groups like the National Perinatal Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have also spoken out against them. Overall, Shire argues that the policies "subsume women's rights in favor of those granted to their weeks-old fetuses" (Shire, Daily Beast, 12/12).


Reproductive Health Group Launches Website Promoting OTC Birth Control Pills

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:35

Ibis Reproductive Health has launched a website, FreethePill.org, to provide information and promote efforts related to making a birth control pill available over the counter, the Huffington Post reports.

Reproductive Health Group Launches Website Promoting OTC Birth Control Pills

December 17, 2014 — Ibis Reproductive Health has launched a website, FreethePill.org, to provide information and promote efforts related to making a birth control pill available over the counter, the Huffington Post reports. Allowing stores to sell birth control without requiring a prescription would improve access, according to the site's creators.

The site includes information about the safety of OTC birth control and also tracks efforts to require insurers to cover OTC contraceptives (Weingus, Huffington Post, 12/16). Federal guidance on the contraceptive coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) states that insurers must cover the full range of FDA-approved methods without cost sharing (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/19). However, the policy only applies to prescriptions. Without insurance coverage, out-of-pocket costs for oral contraceptives can be hundreds of dollars per year.

According to Britt Wahlin, Ibis' director of development and communications, one of the site's goals is to urge more women to call for access to OTC birth control.

Ibis Vice President Daniel Grossman said, "Unplanned pregnancy continues to be an important public health problem in this country. Allowing women to obtain a birth control pill off the drugstore shelf, without needing a prescription, could expand access to contraception and help to reduce unplanned pregnancy" (Huffington Post, 12/16).


CDC: LARC Use Up, Contraceptive Use Steady

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:32

The percentage of women ages 15 to 44 using long-acting reversible contraceptives doubled between 2006-2010 and 2011-2013, while the overall proportion of women in that age group who used contraceptives remained steady, according to a new CDC survey, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.

CDC: LARC Use Up, Contraceptive Use Steady

December 12, 2014 — The percentage of women ages 15 to 44 using long-acting reversible contraceptives doubled between 2006-2010 and 2011-2013, while the overall proportion of women in that age group who used contraceptives remained steady, according to a new CDC survey, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.

LARC, including hormonal implants and intrauterine devices, have a very low failure rate, at less than 1%. By comparison, the failure rate for oral contraceptives is 9% and condoms' failure rate as a contraceptive is 18%, with typical use, according to CDC.

Key Findings: Contraceptive Use by Type

The survey found that 61.7% of women ages 15 to 44 used a form of contraception in the period from 2011 through 2013, compared with 62.2% from 2006 through 2010 (Millman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 12/11).

For the most recent time period, the most commonly used methods were oral contraceptives, at 16%; female sterilization, at 15.5%; and male condoms, at 9.4%. Women ages 15 to 24 were the most likely to report using oral contraceptives, at about 25%, compared with 16.9% of respondents ages 25 to 34 and 8.7% of respondents ages 35 to 44 (Rettner, Live Science, 12/11).

Meanwhile, the researchers found that the rate of LARC use increased from 3.8% to 7.2% between the two time periods.

Specifically, the survey found that 11.1% of women ages 25 to 34 and 5% of women ages 15 to 24 used LARC in the 2011 through 2013 period. According to "Wonkblog," one area that "will be important to watch" going forward is the LARC use rate among younger women, as guidelines that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued in fall 2012 said that physicians should recommend LARC as "'first-line contraceptive options'" for adolescents who want to avoid pregnancy ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 12/11).

Further, researchers found that IUDs were the most widely used LARC method, with 6.4% of women using IUDs between 2011 and 2013, compared with 3.5% who used IUDs between 2006 and 2010.

Key Findings: Demographic Differences

Meanwhile, the survey found that while condom use was similar across racial and ethnic groups, other contraceptive use rates varied. For example, black women had the highest rate of female sterilization at 21%, compared with 14% of white women, in the most recent time period. In addition, 19% of white women reported using oral contraceptives, compared with 11% of Hispanic women and 10% of black women.

Further, 27% of women with only a G.E.D. or high school diploma reported using female sterilization, compared with 10% of women with at least a bachelor's degree.

Reaction

According to Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's vice president for external medical affairs, differences in health care access contribute to racial differences in contraceptive use. Cullins said, "We know that black and Hispanic women are less likely to have access to regular affordable health care, less likely to have insurance, and access to contraception is part of that." She added, "Cost is a huge barrier. When a woman has to make a choice between her birth control and feeding her kids, birth control is going to get short shrift."

Cullins continued, "This is one of the many reasons that the Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148] is so important. Because of the ACA's birth control benefit, millions more women have access to no-copay birth control, so cost is no longer a barrier."

Meanwhile, Guttmacher Institute senior research associate Laura Lindberg attributed the rise in LARC use to recent revisions in guidelines from some health care organizations. However, she noted that such methods do not prevent sexually transmitted infections, so it remains important to "continu[e] to promote and support the use of" female and male condoms, "either alone or in conjunction with a hormonal method," to reduce STI risk (Haelle, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 12/11).


For-Profit Companies Increasingly Denying Contraceptive Coverage After Hobby Lobby Ruling

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:31

While the Supreme Court's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision received the most public attention, more than two dozen other for-profit companies have also obtained court rulings allowing them to deny contraceptive coverage to their workers, and about two dozen more are expected to do so soon, the Daily Beast reports.

For-Profit Companies Increasingly Denying Contraceptive Coverage After Hobby Lobby Ruling

December 17, 2014 — While the Supreme Court's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision received the most public attention, more than two dozen other for-profit companies have also obtained court rulings allowing them to deny contraceptive coverage to their workers, and about two dozen more are expected to do so soon, the Daily Beast reports (Haglage, Daily Beast, 12/17).

The companies' owners object on religious grounds to rules implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) that require most for-profit, private businesses to offer contraceptive coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans.

In the Supreme Court case, which involved arts-and-craft retail chain Hobby Lobby and cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties, the justices ruled that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

Consequences of Ruling

According to the Daily Beast, 82 similar lawsuits filed by corporations were stayed in anticipation of the high court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga case. Based on the ruling, courts have allowed more than two dozen such corporations to refuse to offer contraceptive coverage based on their owners' religious objections, with 25 others "well on their way" to similar rulings, the Daily Beast reports.

National Women's Law Center senior counsel Leila Abolfazli said that the rulings in favor of the companies are having a "real impact" on women. She said, "Paying out of pocket for some women may be impossible because they don't have the income -- or for some, it may be that they can't afford the right one. It's a full range of problems."

According to the Daily Beast, "thousands of women" are affected at companies across the U.S. and have to pay for contraceptives out-of-pocket, which can cost hundreds of dollars annually.

A 2009 Guttmacher study found that out-of-pocket costs for contraceptives caused some women to "forego [contraceptives] completely, to choose less effective methods, or to use [contraceptives] inconsistently or incorrectly."

According to Abolfazli, many women have been calling NWLC's "Cover Her" helpline for assistance with coverage questions. She said, "There's just this feeling [among the callers] that comes through that it's really unfair" that "[d]epending on your employer, you have different rights" (Daily Beast, 12/17).


Supreme Court Declines To Review Ariz. Medication Abortion Restrictions, Leaving Law Blocked for Now

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 16:30

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider a federal appeals court's decision that blocked an Arizona law restricting medication abortion, meaning that the law will remain unenforced for now, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Supreme Court Declines To Review Ariz. Medication Abortion Restrictions, Leaving Law Blocked for Now

December 15, 2014 — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider a federal appeals court's decision that blocked an Arizona law restricting medication abortion, meaning that the law will remain unenforced for now, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Stohr, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/15).

As is customary, the justices did not comment on their decision (Barnes, Washington Post, 12/15).

Background on Law

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

Previous Rulings

Planned Parenthood Arizona and other groups filed suit over the rules. In June, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction until a hearing could be held, reversing a federal judge's decision to allow the rules to take effect on April 1 (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/3).

In a unanimous decision, the three-judge 9th Circuit panel said the law placed an undue burden on a woman's right to abortion. Judge William Fletcher wrote in the decision, "Arizona has presented no evidence whatsoever that the law furthers any interest in women's health," whereas letting the law take effect would delay and impinge on abortion care by increasing costs, making it more difficult to obtain the procedure and increasing health risks (Liptak, New York Times, 12/15). PPAZ's case in federal court was placed on hold after the state in September petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the injunction (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/3).

Reaction

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said in a statement, "The court did the right thing today, but this dangerous and misguided law should never have passed in the first place." She added, "Politicians across the country should take note: These harmful and unconstitutional restrictions won't be tolerated by the courts or the public" (Washington Post, 12/15).

Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement, "Women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy will continue to get safe, legal care based on the expertise of their doctors, not politicians who presume to know better" (Williams, NBC News, 12/15).