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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Featured Blogs

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 19:19

"Colorado Pro-Choice Advocates: Giving Legal Rights to Fetuses Doesn't Protect Pregnant Wom[e]n" (Salzman, RH Reality Check, 4/23); "A 'New Low'? GOP Tries To Block D.C.'s New Reproductive Health Law" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 4/22).

April 24, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Colorado Pro-Choice Advocates: Giving Legal Rights to Fetuses Doesn’t Protect Pregnant Wom[e]n," Jason Salzman, RH Reality Check: "Colorado pro-choice activists on Wednesday decried a bill (SB 15-268) introduced ... in response to a grotesque crime against a pregnant woman that would give 'personhood' rights to fetuses," Salzman writes. He notes that during a news conference before a hearing on the measure, "pro-choice advocates urged lawmakers to focus on measures to protect women from violence instead of giving fetuses legal rights that could be used to arrest pregnant women." For example, Salzman notes that Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, asked, '"Why are we having a conversation about how many years is long enough (to incarcerate someone for destroying a fetus), rather than asking whether these laws do anything to deter violence against pregnant women, to protect pregnancies, embryos, and fetuses?"' Meanwhile, Salzman notes that other abortion-rights supporters said the state's current law against such crimes -- which "does not give legal rights to fetuses" -- already imposes "severe penalties" on individuals who illegally terminate pregnancies while simultaneously protecting pregnant women and medical professionals from prosecution (Salzman, RH Reality Check, 4/23).

FEATURED BLOG

"A 'New Low'? GOP Tries To Block D.C.'s New Reproductive Health Law," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday voted 20-16 to advance a measure that aims "to overturn a new law [Act 20-593] that would protect women in Washington, D.C., from being fired due to their reproductive health-care choices," Crockett writes. Supporters of the law, D.C.'s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, cite "cases of non-Catholic women who become pregnant out of wedlock being fired from Catholic schools as an example of why the law is needed," Crockett notes, explaining that "[l]aws against gender discrimination or pregnancy discrimination don't always cover cases in which a woman's reproductive health choices run afoul of her employer's ideology." Meanwhile, the law's opponents, "which include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops," have "claim[ed] that it would restrict religious freedom," Crockett writes. She notes that because the effort to halt the law is "unlikely to succeed," opponents have "urged House budget leaders to stop the new law by blocking funds to implement it" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 4/22).

What others are saying about the D.C. antidiscrimination measure:

~ "It Won't Surprise You, But the House Wants To Allow Bosses To Fire Women for Their Personal Reproductive Health Decisions," Leila Abolfazli, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake."

Abortion-Rights Opponents Target Roe Protections with Fetal Homicide, Criminalizing Pregnancy Laws

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 19:08

Abortion-rights opponents are pursuing legislation that grants legal rights to fetuses as part of "a much broader national campaign ... to overturn Roe v. Wade," Rolling Stone reports.

Abortion-Rights Opponents Target Roe Protections with Fetal Homicide, Criminalizing Pregnancy Laws

April 24, 2015 — Abortion-rights opponents are pursuing legislation that grants legal rights to fetuses as part of "a much broader national campaign ... to overturn Roe v. Wade," Rolling Stone reports.

According to Rolling Stone, such measures are rooted "in a so-called personhood strategy that grew out of the Supreme Court's assertion, in Roe v. Wade, that as the Constitution's definitions of persons did not extend to prenatal life, abortion was still a matter of a woman's right to privacy." Since then, abortion-rights opponents have tried to overturn the ruling directly, such as through 'personhood' measures, and indirectly, such as through measures that penalize pregnant women for substance misuse and various fetal homicide laws.

Measures To Criminalize Pregnancy

Under some such measures, women have faced criminal prosecution or been subject to forced intervention for substance misuse, for declining caesarian sections and for attempting suicide, among other actions, according to Rolling Stone.

For example, a pregnant woman in Wisconsin, Tammy Loertscher, was imprisoned for 18 days for refusing to undergo treatment under a state law (Act 292) that permits pregnant women to be penalized, arrested or detained for substance use. During her trial, Loertscher was not afforded legal representation, although her fetus was.

According to Rolling Stone, South Dakota and Minnesota also have laws that allow pregnant women who misuse substances to be committed involuntarily to a psychiatric or drug treatment center. In addition, at least 15 states consider substance misuse during pregnancy a form of "child abuse" and a majority of states require birth certificates for stillborn fetuses.

Overall, there had been more than 400 cases in which pregnant women were detained, arrested or forced to undergo substance misuse intervention by state authorities between 1973 and 2005, according to a 2013 study. Lynn Paltrow, study author and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said, "What this is really about is creating a separate legal status for pregnant women," adding, "There is no way to grant separate rights to eggs and fetuses without removing rights from women."

According to Rolling Stone, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and several other medical groups have opposed such measures. ACOG in a statement said the fear of incarceration discourages women from care and has "proved to be ineffective in reducing ... alcohol and drug abuse."

Fetal Homicide Statutes

Meanwhile, according to Rolling Stone, 38 states have adopted "fetal-homicide statutes," with 23 states applying the laws to early stages of pregnancy.

Some states have implemented provisions that bar the laws from being used against pregnant women. However, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that when restrictions are not in place, "prosecutors are free to try to use these laws to turn any woman who has a miscarriage into a criminal."

For example, Kolbi-Molinas cited a recent case in which an Indiana woman, Purvi Patel, received a 20-year prison sentence for feticide. Patel was found guilty of both abandoning a child and attempting an illegal abortion, Rolling Stone reports.

Kolbi-Molinas said, "This case exposes as a lie the refrain the anti-abortion movement has been clinging to for ages: that if abortion was illegal, women who still sought abortions -- as we know they would -- would not be prosecuted." She explained that "Patel was sentenced to 20 years for self-inducing an abortion -- for attempting to perform a constitutionally protected medical procedure on herself," adding, "If the criminal laws can be used against women this way while abortion is legal, imagine what it will be like if it isn't" (Reitman, Rolling Stone, 4/22).


N.C. House Approves 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 19:07

The North Carolina House on Thursday voted 74-45 to approve a bill (HB 465) that would extend the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, WNCN News reports.

N.C. House Approves 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

April 24, 2015 — The North Carolina House on Thursday voted 74-45 to approve a bill (HB 465) that would extend the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, WNCN News reports.

The bill now heads to the state Senate (Minnick, WNCN News, 4/23). If approved, the measure would make North Carolina the fourth state to impose a 72-hour delay, joining Missouri, Utah and South Dakota (Robertson, AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22).

Bill Details

The legislation shares some provisions with a state Senate bill (SB 604) filed last month. Specifically, both measures would allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions if they say they have ethical, moral or religious objections to the procedure. In addition, both bills would institute additional reporting requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/6).

According to the AP/Charlotte Observer, the state House bill specifically requires physicians to provide the state Department of Health and Human Services with information about abortions performed during or after the 18th week of pregnancy (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22). In addition, both the state House and Senate bills would require additional documentation for abortions performed after 20 weeks' gestation to demonstrate that continuing the pregnancy would have threatened the woman's life or substantially impaired her health. The state prohibits abortion after 20 weeks in other circumstances (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/6).

A proposed amendment that would have eliminated the reporting requirements did not pass, according to WRAL News (Leslie, WRAL News, 4/23).

However, lawmakers removed a provision that would have prohibited medical schools at the University of North Carolina and East Carolina University from performing abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or life endangerment (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22). Lawmakers also removed a provision that would have allowed only licensed obstetricians or gynecologists to perform abortions (WNCN News, 4/23).

Discussion

State Rep. Susan Martin (R), the bill's primary sponsor, said the measure aims to ensure women have "more time" to make an informed decision.

However, Dalia Brahmi, a physician who provides abortion care at Planned Parenthood clinics, said the measure is "dangerous" because "it would mandate a medically unnecessary 72-hour delay." She added, "Delaying access limits the options for medical abortion and in some cases (forces) women to have a surgical procedure when the less invasive treatment such as abortion with pills might be preferred."

Similarly, Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said, "There is a very short window of time for a woman to make these deeply personal decisions and politicians should not be placing unnecessary barriers for those women" (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22).

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina also criticized the measure, noting that the bill is "based on the condescending notion that a woman can't or won't take the time she needs to consult with her doctor and make the best decision for her own circumstances" (WNCN News, 4/23).


Ala. Rep. Files Legislation Targeting Northern Ala.'s Only Abortion Clinic

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 19:05

Alabama Rep. Ed Henry (R) on Tuesday filed a measure (HB 527) that would prevent the state's Department of Public Health from licensing abortion clinics or reproductive health care centers that are located within 2,000 feet of a public school, the Huntsville Times reports.

Ala. Rep. Files Legislation Targeting Northern Ala.'s Only Abortion Clinic

April 24, 2015 — Alabama Rep. Ed Henry (R) on Tuesday filed a measure (HB 527) that would prevent the state's Department of Public Health from licensing abortion clinics or reproductive health care centers that are located within 2,000 feet of a public school, the Huntsville Times reports (Edgemon, Huntsville Times, 4/22).

The measure threatens to close the Huntsville Women's Clinic, the sole clinic in Northern Alabama, which is located almost directly across from a school (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/25/14). According to the Florence Times Daily, the bill also would force most of the state's abortion clinics to close (Sell/Edwards, Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

Background

The Huntsville clinic in October 2014 reopened in a new location after closing in June 2014 because its old location did not comply with a state law (HB 57) that requires abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

The Christian Coalition of Alabama filed suit against the clinic, arguing that it should not be allowed to open unless it applies to be zoned as a surgical center. In November 2014, Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann denied CCA's request for a temporary injunction and dismissed the case. He said the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case and that the zoning board acted in its normal capacity when it zoned the clinic.

In response to the ruling, CCA's James Henderson said the group would ask local lawmakers to support a measure that would require a 2,000-foot minimum distance between a school and an abortion clinic (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/25/14).

Lawmakers File School Zoning Measure

Henry filed such a measure on Tuesday. The bill is co-sponsored by state Reps. Terri Collins (R) and Ken Johnson (R) (Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

The bill would prohibit DPH from issuing or renewing health center licenses to abortion or reproductive health clinics located with 2,000 feet of a public school's campus or property (Huntsville Times, 4/22). According to the Times Daily, the bill does not specify what constitutes a public school or whether the measure would apply to property owned by state colleges or universities (Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

According to Henderson, CCA drafted the legislation with the intent to close the Huntsville clinic. Henderson added that he believes the legislation would survive a legal challenge because it would only affect clinics seeking an operating license (Huntsville Times, 4/22).

Meanwhile, Henry said he "did not know" the measure "would impact closing (a clinic)," but he noted that such legislation had been requested "by several of the [antiabortion-rights] groups around the state."

Abortion-Rights Supporters Voice Concerns

Dalton Johnson, clinic administrator at HWC, said the clinic currently is the only one in Alabama that has "a physician on staff [who] actually does the procedures and has admitting privileges at a hospital." He added that if a legal challenge against a state law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is not successful, the clinic would be "the only one left in the entire state, and now they are coming at us with this legislation to try to close us down" (Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

Meanwhile, Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said the bill would be subject to litigation if it becomes law. She noted, "You can't pass a law taking away somebod[y's] business just because you don't like it."

Mia Raven, legislative affairs director for Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, said she was not surprised the bill was filed and is "always ready for ... attacks ... that target Alabamian women and their reproductive healthcare." She added, "We remain as committed as ever to fight for women and their Constitutional right to make their own decisions about their healthcare along with maintaining unfettered access to reproductive services in Alabama" (Hunstville Times, 4/22).


N.C. House Approves 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 19:04

The North Carolina House on Thursday voted 74-45 to approve a bill (HB 465) that would extend the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, WNCN News reports.

N.C. House Approves 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

April 24, 2015 — The North Carolina House on Thursday voted 74-45 to approve a bill (HB 465) that would extend the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, WNCN News reports.

The bill now heads to the state Senate (Minnick, WNCN News, 4/23). If approved, the measure would make North Carolina the fourth state to impose a 72-hour delay, joining Missouri, Utah and South Dakota (Robertson, AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22).

Bill Details

The legislation shares some provisions with a state Senate bill (SB 604) filed last month. Specifically, both measures would allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions if they say they have ethical, moral or religious objections to the procedure. In addition, both bills would institute additional reporting requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/6).

According to the AP/Charlotte Observer, the state House bill specifically requires physicians to provide the state Department of Health and Human Services with information about abortions performed during or after the 18th week of pregnancy (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22). In addition, both the state House and Senate bills would require additional documentation for abortions performed after 20 weeks' gestation to demonstrate that continuing the pregnancy would have threatened the woman's life or substantially impaired her health. The state prohibits abortion after 20 weeks in other circumstances (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/6).

A proposed amendment that would have eliminated the reporting requirements did not pass, according to WRAL News (Leslie, WRAL News, 4/23).

However, lawmakers removed a provision that would have prohibited medical schools at the University of North Carolina and East Carolina University from performing abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or life endangerment (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22). Lawmakers also removed a provision that would have allowed only licensed obstetricians or gynecologists to perform abortions (WNCN News, 4/23).

Discussion

State Rep. Susan Martin (R), the bill's primary sponsor, said the measure aims to ensure women have "more time" to make an informed decision.

However, Dalia Brahmi, a physician who provides abortion care at Planned Parenthood clinics, said the measure is "dangerous" because "it would mandate a medically unnecessary 72-hour delay." She added, "Delaying access limits the options for medical abortion and in some cases (forces) women to have a surgical procedure when the less invasive treatment such as abortion with pills might be preferred."

Similarly, Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said, "There is a very short window of time for a woman to make these deeply personal decisions and politicians should not be placing unnecessary barriers for those women" (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22).

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina also criticized the measure, noting that the bill is "based on the condescending notion that a woman can't or won't take the time she needs to consult with her doctor and make the best decision for her own circumstances" (WNCN News, 4/23).


Miss. Clinic Files Brief Urging SCOTUS To Dismiss State's Defense of Admitting Privileges Law

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 19:03

Attorneys representing Mississippi's sole abortion clinic in a brief filed Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the state's case in defense of an admitting privileges law (HB 1390), MSNBC reports.

Miss. Clinic Files Brief Urging SCOTUS To Dismiss State's Defense of Admitting Privileges Law

April 24, 2015 — Attorneys representing Mississippi's sole abortion clinic in a brief filed Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the state's case in defense of an admitting privileges law (HB 1390), MSNBC reports (Carmon, MSNBC, 4/22).

Background

The law requires that physicians performing abortions in Mississippi have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The physicians at Jackson Women's Health Organization sought admitting privileges at multiple hospitals but were denied, prompting the state to order the clinic to close for violating the law.

In July 2014, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that the law would have illegally shifted Mississippi's constitutional obligations to other states by eliminating abortion access inside the state. The ruling did not overturn the law or assess whether the admitting privileges requirement is a justified safety measure. Rather, the ruling preserved an existing stay against the law and left the lower courts to consider the measure under the now-clarified principle of state responsibility.

In August 2014, Mississippi's attorney general asked the full 5th Circuit to review the panel's ruling. The full circuit declined to do so in November 2014, meaning the law remains on hold for now and Jackson Women's Health Organization can remain open while the underlying lawsuit proceeds.

Mississippi's Claims

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in February asked the Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit's decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/19).

Among other claims, attorneys for the state wrote that the intent of the law was to "level the playing field by requiring all doctors on staff at abortion clinics to meet the same professional licensing standards applicable to doctors in other areas of outpatient surgical practice."

CRR: State's Claims Are False

On Wednesday, attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing JWHO, urged the high court to dismiss the case, contending that the state's claims are "simply not true."

The attorneys noted, "Mississippi physicians who provide similar or less safe surgical procedures in their offices, such as colonoscopy, hernia repair, hemorrhoidectomy, and dilation and curettage, do not need admitting privileges. Mississippi physicians can even provide surgery with general anesthesia in their offices without having admitting privileges."

The CRR brief also stated that Mississippi's appeal "has nothing to recommend it" because JWHO won in the lower courts based on a novel argument involving the clinic's status as the state's sole abortion facility. According to the brief, it would be easier for the Supreme Court to review one of the lawsuits against similar laws in other states (MSNBC, 4/22).


Advocates: Funding Restrictions on Women's Health Providers in Texas Budget Proposals Would Endanger Access

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 19:03

Women's health advocates warn that a Texas state budget proposal intended to prioritize funding for a women's cancer screening program for groups that do not provide abortion services could reduce women's access to health care, CQ News reports.

Advocates: Funding Restrictions on Women's Health Providers in Texas Budget Proposals Would Endanger Access

April 24, 2015 — Women's health advocates warn that a Texas state budget proposal intended to prioritize funding for a women's cancer screening program for groups that do not provide abortion services could reduce women's access to health care, CQ News reports.

The state House and Senate budgets are now being negotiated through budget reconciliation (Evans, CQ News, 4/22).

Background

The state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program uses state and federal funds to provide no-cost cancer screenings and diagnostic tests to low-income women ages 21 to 64 who do not have health insurance or are underinsured. Planned Parenthood provided such services to about 3,300 of the almost 33,600 women who participated in the program last year (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

Budget Proposal Details

The Texas Senate earlier this month passed a state budget proposal that would reduce or eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood to participate in the BCCS program by creating a tiered system for allocating money (CQ News, 4/22). The state House also has passed a budget proposal that would create such a system (McCrimmon, Texas Tribune, 4/22).

Under the tiered system, public entities, such as state-funded community clinics, would get priority for the money, followed by private clinics. Meanwhile, private clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, could receive funding for the screening program only if money was left from the first two tiers (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).

Ultimately, the plan could reduce or eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood to participate in the program (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28). Further, if enacted, the tiered system would move about one-fifth of the cancer clinics in the screening program to the second or third tiers (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).

According to CQ News, the system would be dropped if the Department of State Health Services concludes that establishing the tiers would make the state lose federal funding for BCCS.

Advocates' Concerns

Women's health advocates have said similar systems in other states have decreased access to non-abortion health services.

According to a Guttmacher Institute report released this month, nine other states have implemented similar restrictions to those being considered in Texas, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

In addition, a report released last month by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission found that almost 30,000 fewer women in 2013 received care through the Women's Health Program in Texas in 2013 compared with 2011. Texas created the state-run Women's Health Program to avoid funding abortion providers under the Medicaid Women's Health Program (CQ News, 4/22). 



Blogs Comment on Human Trafficking Bill, Advocating Contraception To Commemorate Earth Day, More

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:48

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers from RH Reality Check, Care2 and more.

Blogs Comment on Human Trafficking Bill, Advocating Contraception To Commemorate Earth Day, More

April 24, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers from RH Reality Check, Care2 and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Human Trafficking Senate Compromise Will Deny Abortion Funding to Survivors," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "Senators announced a compromise Tuesday [to] move two long-stalled legislative items: a human trafficking bill [S 178] that has been embroiled in a fight over abortion restrictions, and the confirmation of Loretta Lynch to be the nation's first Black female attorney general," Crockett writes. However, Crockett notes that the "compromise on the trafficking bill was a limited victory for pro-choice advocates" because while "[i]t stopped Republican efforts to expand the reach of the anti-choice Hyde Amendment," it also will "restric[t] abortion services for ... victims of sex trafficking." She explains that the deal created two separate funding pools to help survivors, one of which is funded by "fine[s] collected from convicted sex traffickers" and which "would no longer pay for any health-care services, instead going to things like law enforcement and legal aid for survivors." Meanwhile, the second pool will pay for survivors' health care needs via "community health center funds, which recently passed as part of a Medicare reform bill [HR 2] and are already prevented by Hyde from covering abortion services" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 4/21).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Which State Was the Worst for Women This Week?" Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."

CONTRACEPTION: "Have (Safe) Sex This Earth Day," Jeffrey Hollender, Care2: Hollender, founder and CEO of Sustain Condoms, commemorates this year's Earth Day by discussing how "safe sex and climate change ... are two extremely important interconnected issues that most people don't put together." Hollender explains that a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found "that population was one of the most important drivers behind global climate change." He notes that "we [have] had such a hard time connecting the dots" between overpopulation and climate change, however, Hollender explains, "most of the pregnancies in the world are unintended, unplanned or even unwanted." He writes, "Let’s educate and empower women to take control of their sexual and reproductive health so they can have better planned families," which his group believes "is a critical component to addressing the most pressing issues our world is facing" (Hollender, Care2, 4/22).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "The Fighting Irish Shouldn’t Pick a Fight With Women’s Equality," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Speak Freely."

'FETAL HOMICIDE' MEASURES: "Colorado Pro-Choice Advocates: Giving Legal Rights to Fetuses Doesn’t Protect Pregnant Wom[e]n," Jason Salzman, RH Reality Check: "Colorado pro-choice activists on Wednesday decried a bill (SB 15-268) introduced ... in response to a grotesque crime against a pregnant woman that would give 'personhood' rights to fetuses," Salzman writes. He notes that during a news conference before a hearing on the measure, "pro-choice advocates urged lawmakers to focus on measures to protect women from violence instead of giving fetuses legal rights that could be used to arrest pregnant women." For example, Salzman notes that Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, asked, '"Why are we having a conversation about how many years is long enough (to incarcerate someone for destroying a fetus), rather than asking whether these laws do anything to deter violence against pregnant women, to protect pregnancies, embryos, and fetuses?"' Meanwhile, Salzman notes that other abortion-rights supporters said the state's current law against such crimes -- which "does not give legal rights to fetuses" -- already imposes "severe penalties" on individuals who illegally terminate pregnancies while simultaneously protecting pregnant women and medical professionals from prosecution (Salzman, RH Reality Check, 4/23).

D.C. ANTIDISCRIMINATION MEASURE: "A 'New Low'? GOP Tries To Block D.C.'s New Reproductive Health Law," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday voted 20-16 to advance a measure that aims "to overturn a new law [Act 20-593] that would protect women in Washington, D.C., from being fired due to their reproductive health-care choices," Crockett writes. Supporters of the law, D.C.'s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, cite "cases of non-Catholic women who become pregnant out of wedlock being fired from Catholic schools as an example of why the law is needed," Crockett notes, explaining that "[l]aws against gender discrimination or pregnancy discrimination don't always cover cases in which a woman's reproductive health choices run afoul of her employer's ideology." Meanwhile, the law's opponents, "which include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops," have "claim[ed] that it would restrict religious freedom," Crockett writes. She notes that because the effort to halt the law is "unlikely to succeed," opponents have "urged House budget leaders to stop the new law by blocking funds to implement it" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 4/22).

What others are saying about the D.C. antidiscrimination measure:

~ "It Won't Surprise You, But the House Wants To Allow Bosses To Fire Women for Their Personal Reproductive Health Decisions," Leila Abolfazli, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake."

SEXUALITY EDUCATION: "It's Not Enough To Just Mention Condoms -- Sex Education Should Be Sex-Positive," Marcotte, RH Reality Check: "It's time to start advocating not just for contraception-inclusive or vaguely termed 'comprehensive' sex education, but to call it sex positive-education -- and to call the shaming, religion-based programs what they are, which is sex-negative," Amanda Marcotte writes. She notes that before the Obama administration decided to stop restricting federal sexuality education to only abstinence education, arguments against such programs "convinced the public that 'abstinence-only' doesn't work" to prevent sex, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, but "elide[d] the greater issue of whether or not abstinence-only should work." Marcotte contends that as a result, "conservatives just tweaked [abstinence-only programs] a little so that it's not technically abstinence-only and were able to keep the flame alive." She writes, "Maybe it's time" for abstinence-only opponents "to change strategies and stop playing defense," adding, "We want our young people to grow up looking forward to a future of fun, fulfilling sex, not to teach them that it’s a thing that they will probably do but should feel bad about" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 4/22).

What others are saying about sexuality education:

~ "One Woman Live-Tweeted Her Son’s Abstinence-Focused Sex Ed Class. Now Things Might Change," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "We've Been Here Before: Congress Quietly Increases Funding for Abstinence-Only Programs," Nicole Cushman et al., RH Reality Check.


N.C. House Approves 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:19

The North Carolina House on Thursday voted 74-45 to approve a bill (HB 465) that would extend the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, WNCN News reports.

N.C. House Approves 72-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

April 24, 2015 — The North Carolina House on Thursday voted 74-45 to approve a bill (HB 465) that would extend the state's mandatory delay before an abortion from 24 to 72 hours, WNCN News reports.

The bill now heads to the state Senate (Minnick, WNCN News, 4/23). If approved, the measure would make North Carolina the fourth state to impose a 72-hour delay, joining Missouri, Utah and South Dakota (Robertson, AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22).

Bill Details

The legislation shares some provisions with a state Senate bill (SB 604) filed last month. Specifically, both measures would allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions if they say they have ethical, moral or religious objections to the procedure. In addition, both bills would institute additional reporting requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/6).

According to the AP/Charlotte Observer, the state House bill specifically requires physicians to provide the state Department of Health and Human Services with information about abortions performed during or after the 18th week of pregnancy (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22). In addition, both the state House and Senate bills would require additional documentation for abortions performed after 20 weeks' gestation to demonstrate that continuing the pregnancy would have threatened the woman's life or substantially impaired her health. The state prohibits abortion after 20 weeks in other circumstances (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/6).

A proposed amendment that would have eliminated the reporting requirements did not pass, according to WRAL News (Leslie, WRAL News, 4/23).

However, lawmakers removed a provision that would have prohibited medical schools at the University of North Carolina and East Carolina University from performing abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or life endangerment (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22). Lawmakers also removed a provision that would have allowed only licensed obstetricians or gynecologists to perform abortions (WNCN News, 4/23).

Discussion

State Rep. Susan Martin (R), the bill's primary sponsor, said the measure aims to ensure women have "more time" to make an informed decision.

However, Dalia Brahmi, a physician who provides abortion care at Planned Parenthood clinics, said the measure is "dangerous" because "it would mandate a medically unnecessary 72-hour delay." She added, "Delaying access limits the options for medical abortion and in some cases (forces) women to have a surgical procedure when the less invasive treatment such as abortion with pills might be preferred."

Similarly, Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said, "There is a very short window of time for a woman to make these deeply personal decisions and politicians should not be placing unnecessary barriers for those women" (AP/Charlotte Observer, 4/22).

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina also criticized the measure, noting that the bill is "based on the condescending notion that a woman can't or won't take the time she needs to consult with her doctor and make the best decision for her own circumstances" (WNCN News, 4/23).


Advocates: Funding Restrictions on Women's Health Providers in Texas Budget Proposals Would Endanger Access

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:13

Women's health advocates warn that a Texas state budget proposal intended to prioritize funding for a women's cancer screening program for groups that do not provide abortion services could reduce women's access to health care, CQ News reports.

Advocates: Funding Restrictions on Women's Health Providers in Texas Budget Proposals Would Endanger Access

April 24, 2015 — Women's health advocates warn that a Texas state budget proposal intended to prioritize funding for a women's cancer screening program for groups that do not provide abortion services could reduce women's access to health care, CQ News reports.

The state House and Senate budgets are now being negotiated through budget reconciliation (Evans, CQ News, 4/22).

Background

The state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program uses state and federal funds to provide no-cost cancer screenings and diagnostic tests to low-income women ages 21 to 64 who do not have health insurance or are underinsured. Planned Parenthood provided such services to about 3,300 of the almost 33,600 women who participated in the program last year (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

Budget Proposal Details

The Texas Senate earlier this month passed a state budget proposal that would reduce or eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood to participate in the BCCS program by creating a tiered system for allocating money (CQ News, 4/22). The state House also has passed a budget proposal that would create such a system (McCrimmon, Texas Tribune, 4/22).

Under the tiered system, public entities, such as state-funded community clinics, would get priority for the money, followed by private clinics. Meanwhile, private clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, could receive funding for the screening program only if money was left from the first two tiers (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).

Ultimately, the plan could reduce or eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood to participate in the program (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28). Further, if enacted, the tiered system would move about one-fifth of the cancer clinics in the screening program to the second or third tiers (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).

According to CQ News, the system would be dropped if the Department of State Health Services concludes that establishing the tiers would make the state lose federal funding for BCCS.

Advocates' Concerns

Women's health advocates have said similar systems in other states have decreased access to non-abortion health services.

According to a Guttmacher Institute report released this month, nine other states have implemented similar restrictions to those being considered in Texas, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

In addition, a report released last month by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission found that almost 30,000 fewer women in 2013 received care through the Women's Health Program in Texas in 2013 compared with 2011. Texas created the state-run Women's Health Program to avoid funding abortion providers under the Medicaid Women's Health Program (CQ News, 4/22). 



Miss. Clinic Files Brief Urging SCOTUS To Dismiss State's Defense of Admitting Privileges Law

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:10

Attorneys representing Mississippi's sole abortion clinic in a brief filed Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the state's case in defense of an admitting privileges law (HB 1390), MSNBC reports.

Miss. Clinic Files Brief Urging SCOTUS To Dismiss State's Defense of Admitting Privileges Law

April 24, 2015 — Attorneys representing Mississippi's sole abortion clinic in a brief filed Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the state's case in defense of an admitting privileges law (HB 1390), MSNBC reports (Carmon, MSNBC, 4/22).

Background

The law requires that physicians performing abortions in Mississippi have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The physicians at Jackson Women's Health Organization sought admitting privileges at multiple hospitals but were denied, prompting the state to order the clinic to close for violating the law.

In July 2014, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that the law would have illegally shifted Mississippi's constitutional obligations to other states by eliminating abortion access inside the state. The ruling did not overturn the law or assess whether the admitting privileges requirement is a justified safety measure. Rather, the ruling preserved an existing stay against the law and left the lower courts to consider the measure under the now-clarified principle of state responsibility.

In August 2014, Mississippi's attorney general asked the full 5th Circuit to review the panel's ruling. The full circuit declined to do so in November 2014, meaning the law remains on hold for now and Jackson Women's Health Organization can remain open while the underlying lawsuit proceeds.

Mississippi's Claims

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in February asked the Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit's decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/19).

Among other claims, attorneys for the state wrote that the intent of the law was to "level the playing field by requiring all doctors on staff at abortion clinics to meet the same professional licensing standards applicable to doctors in other areas of outpatient surgical practice."

CRR: State's Claims Are False

On Wednesday, attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing JWHO, urged the high court to dismiss the case, contending that the state's claims are "simply not true."

The attorneys noted, "Mississippi physicians who provide similar or less safe surgical procedures in their offices, such as colonoscopy, hernia repair, hemorrhoidectomy, and dilation and curettage, do not need admitting privileges. Mississippi physicians can even provide surgery with general anesthesia in their offices without having admitting privileges."

The CRR brief also stated that Mississippi's appeal "has nothing to recommend it" because JWHO won in the lower courts based on a novel argument involving the clinic's status as the state's sole abortion facility. According to the brief, it would be easier for the Supreme Court to review one of the lawsuits against similar laws in other states (MSNBC, 4/22).


Abortion-Rights Opponents Target Roe Protections with Fetal Homicide, Criminalizing Pregnancy Laws

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:06

Abortion-rights opponents are pursuing legislation that grants legal rights to fetuses as part of "a much broader national campaign ... to overturn Roe v. Wade," Rolling Stone reports.

Abortion-Rights Opponents Target Roe Protections with Fetal Homicide, Criminalizing Pregnancy Laws

April 24, 2015 — Abortion-rights opponents are pursuing legislation that grants legal rights to fetuses as part of "a much broader national campaign ... to overturn Roe v. Wade," Rolling Stone reports.

According to Rolling Stone, such measures are rooted "in a so-called personhood strategy that grew out of the Supreme Court's assertion, in Roe v. Wade, that as the Constitution's definitions of persons did not extend to prenatal life, abortion was still a matter of a woman's right to privacy." Since then, abortion-rights opponents have tried to overturn the ruling directly, such as through 'personhood' measures, and indirectly, such as through measures that penalize pregnant women for substance misuse and various fetal homicide laws.

Measures To Criminalize Pregnancy

Under some such measures, women have faced criminal prosecution or been subject to forced intervention for substance misuse, for declining caesarian sections and for attempting suicide, among other actions, according to Rolling Stone.

For example, a pregnant woman in Wisconsin, Tammy Loertscher, was imprisoned for 18 days for refusing to undergo treatment under a state law (Act 292) that permits pregnant women to be penalized, arrested or detained for substance use. During her trial, Loertscher was not afforded legal representation, although her fetus was.

According to Rolling Stone, South Dakota and Minnesota also have laws that allow pregnant women who misuse substances to be committed involuntarily to a psychiatric or drug treatment center. In addition, at least 15 states consider substance misuse during pregnancy a form of "child abuse" and a majority of states require birth certificates for stillborn fetuses.

Overall, there had been more than 400 cases in which pregnant women were detained, arrested or forced to undergo substance misuse intervention by state authorities between 1973 and 2005, according to a 2013 study. Lynn Paltrow, study author and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said, "What this is really about is creating a separate legal status for pregnant women," adding, "There is no way to grant separate rights to eggs and fetuses without removing rights from women."

According to Rolling Stone, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and several other medical groups have opposed such measures. ACOG in a statement said the fear of incarceration discourages women from care and has "proved to be ineffective in reducing ... alcohol and drug abuse."

Fetal Homicide Statutes

Meanwhile, according to Rolling Stone, 38 states have adopted "fetal-homicide statutes," with 23 states applying the laws to early stages of pregnancy.

Some states have implemented provisions that bar the laws from being used against pregnant women. However, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that when restrictions are not in place, "prosecutors are free to try to use these laws to turn any woman who has a miscarriage into a criminal."

For example, Kolbi-Molinas cited a recent case in which an Indiana woman, Purvi Patel, received a 20-year prison sentence for feticide. Patel was found guilty of both abandoning a child and attempting an illegal abortion, Rolling Stone reports.

Kolbi-Molinas said, "This case exposes as a lie the refrain the anti-abortion movement has been clinging to for ages: that if abortion was illegal, women who still sought abortions -- as we know they would -- would not be prosecuted." She explained that "Patel was sentenced to 20 years for self-inducing an abortion -- for attempting to perform a constitutionally protected medical procedure on herself," adding, "If the criminal laws can be used against women this way while abortion is legal, imagine what it will be like if it isn't" (Reitman, Rolling Stone, 4/22).


Datapoints: LARC Use Increases Among U.S. Teens, Abortion Coverage Data Lack Transparency

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:04

In today's graphics, we look at U.S. teenagers' increased use of long-acting reversible contraceptives and declining use of moderate- and least-effective forms of contraception. We also spotlight marketplace health plans' inadequate transparency on abortion coverage and lingering gaps in no-cost contraception coverage.

Datapoints: LARC Use Increases Among U.S. Teens, Abortion Coverage Data Lack Transparency

April 24, 2015 — In today's graphics, we look at U.S. teenagers' increased use of long-acting reversible contraceptives and declining use of moderate- and least-effective forms of contraception. We also spotlight marketplace health plans' inadequate transparency on abortion coverage and lingering gaps in no-cost contraception coverage.

Teenagers' LARC Use Increases



A new CDC report has found that teenagers in the U.S. increasingly are using long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as intrauterine devices and implants, but that overall use remains low compared with other forms of contraception.

This graphic, excerpted from the report, shows that the percentage of teenagers using LARCs has increased from 0.4% in 2005 to about 7% in 2013. Meanwhile, although the use of moderately effective and least effective forms of contraception decreased, they still remained more common than LARCs among teenagers. According to the study, the use of moderately effective methods decreased from 76.9% to 73.4% between 2005 and 2013 and the use of the least effective methods decreased from 22.7% to 19.5% during that time frame (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 4/7).


Marketplace Abortion Coverage Lacks Transparency



According to a new Guttmacher Institute report, individuals seeking to buy coverage from the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplaces face difficulty locating information on whether the plans include abortion coverage. Specifically, the report found that fewer than half of states that do not restrict abortion coverage in marketplace plans offer at least one plan that publishes resources explaining that they covered the procedure.

This map, excerpted from the report, outlines which states bar most abortion coverage in their marketplace plans and which states do not impose any coverage restrictions (Guttmacher Policy Review, 2015).


No-Cost Contraceptive Coverage Not Yet Universal



The Affordable Care Act has significantly improved access to no-cost contraceptives. However, a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Lewin Group finds that some insurers still are not covering all FDA-approved contraceptives without copayments.

The chart above details coverage from the 20 surveyed insurers for several types of FDA-approved contraception, including emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, among others. The study did not examine coverage of oral contraceptives (KFF/Lewin Group report, 4/16).


Ala. Rep. Files Legislation Targeting Northern Ala.'s Only Abortion Clinic

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 15:02

Alabama Rep. Ed Henry (R) on Tuesday filed a measure (HB 527) that would prevent the state's Department of Public Health from licensing abortion clinics or reproductive health care centers that are located within 2,000 feet of a public school, the Huntsville Times reports.

Ala. Rep. Files Legislation Targeting Northern Ala.'s Only Abortion Clinic

April 24, 2015 — Alabama Rep. Ed Henry (R) on Tuesday filed a measure (HB 527) that would prevent the state's Department of Public Health from licensing abortion clinics or reproductive health care centers that are located within 2,000 feet of a public school, the Huntsville Times reports (Edgemon, Huntsville Times, 4/22).

The measure threatens to close the Huntsville Women's Clinic, the sole clinic in Northern Alabama, which is located almost directly across from a school (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/25/14). According to the Florence Times Daily, the bill also would force most of the state's abortion clinics to close (Sell/Edwards, Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

Background

The Huntsville clinic in October 2014 reopened in a new location after closing in June 2014 because its old location did not comply with a state law (HB 57) that requires abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

The Christian Coalition of Alabama filed suit against the clinic, arguing that it should not be allowed to open unless it applies to be zoned as a surgical center. In November 2014, Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann denied CCA's request for a temporary injunction and dismissed the case. He said the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case and that the zoning board acted in its normal capacity when it zoned the clinic.

In response to the ruling, CCA's James Henderson said the group would ask local lawmakers to support a measure that would require a 2,000-foot minimum distance between a school and an abortion clinic (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/25/14).

Lawmakers File School Zoning Measure

Henry filed such a measure on Tuesday. The bill is co-sponsored by state Reps. Terri Collins (R) and Ken Johnson (R) (Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

The bill would prohibit DPH from issuing or renewing health center licenses to abortion or reproductive health clinics located with 2,000 feet of a public school's campus or property (Huntsville Times, 4/22). According to the Times Daily, the bill does not specify what constitutes a public school or whether the measure would apply to property owned by state colleges or universities (Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

According to Henderson, CCA drafted the legislation with the intent to close the Huntsville clinic. Henderson added that he believes the legislation would survive a legal challenge because it would only affect clinics seeking an operating license (Huntsville Times, 4/22).

Meanwhile, Henry said he "did not know" the measure "would impact closing (a clinic)," but he noted that such legislation had been requested "by several of the [antiabortion-rights] groups around the state."

Abortion-Rights Supporters Voice Concerns

Dalton Johnson, clinic administrator at HWC, said the clinic currently is the only one in Alabama that has "a physician on staff [who] actually does the procedures and has admitting privileges at a hospital." He added that if a legal challenge against a state law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is not successful, the clinic would be "the only one left in the entire state, and now they are coming at us with this legislation to try to close us down" (Florence Times Daily, 4/22).

Meanwhile, Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said the bill would be subject to litigation if it becomes law. She noted, "You can't pass a law taking away somebod[y's] business just because you don't like it."

Mia Raven, legislative affairs director for Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, said she was not surprised the bill was filed and is "always ready for ... attacks ... that target Alabamian women and their reproductive healthcare." She added, "We remain as committed as ever to fight for women and their Constitutional right to make their own decisions about their healthcare along with maintaining unfettered access to reproductive services in Alabama" (Hunstville Times, 4/22).


Datapoints: LARC Use Increases Among U.S. Teens, Abortion Coverage Data Lack Transparency

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 16:46

In today's graphics, we look at U.S. teenagers' increased use of long-acting reversible contraceptives and declining use of moderate- and least-effective forms of contraception. We also spotlight marketplace health plans' inadequate transparency on abortion coverage and lingering gaps in no-cost contraception coverage.

Datapoints: LARC Use Increases Among U.S. Teens, Abortion Coverage Data Lack Transparency

April 23, 2015 — In today's graphics, we look at U.S. teenagers' increased use of long-acting reversible contraceptives and declining use of moderate- and least-effective forms of contraception. We also spotlight marketplace health plans' inadequate transparency on abortion coverage and lingering gaps in no-cost contraception coverage.

Teenagers' LARC Use Increases



A new CDC report has found that teenagers in the U.S. increasingly are using long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as intrauterine devices and implants, but that overall use remains low compared with other forms of contraception.

This graphic, excerpted from the report, shows that the percentage of teenagers using LARCs has increased from 0.4% in 2005 to about 7% in 2013. Meanwhile, although the use of moderately effective and least effective forms of contraception decreased, they still remained more common than LARCs among teenagers. According to the study, the use of moderately effective methods decreased from 76.9% to 73.4% between 2005 and 2013 and the use of the least effective methods decreased from 22.7% to 19.5% during that time frame (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 4/7).


Marketplace Abortion Coverage Lacks Transparency



According to a new Guttmacher Institute report, individuals seeking to buy coverage from the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplaces face difficulty locating information on whether the plans include abortion coverage. Specifically, the report found that fewer than half of states that do not restrict abortion coverage in marketplace plans offer at least one plan that publishes resources explaining that they covered the procedure.

This map, excerpted from the report, outlines which states bar most abortion coverage in their marketplace plans and which states do not impose any coverage restrictions (Guttmacher Policy Review, 2015).


No-Cost Contraceptive Coverage Not Yet Universal



The Affordable Care Act has significantly improved access to no-cost contraceptives. However, a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Lewin Group finds that some insurers still are not covering all FDA-approved contraceptives without copayments.

The chart above details coverage from the 20 surveyed insurers for several types of FDA-approved contraception, including emergency contraception and intrauterine devices, among others. The study did not examine coverage of oral contraceptives (KFF/Lewin Group report, 4/16).


Obama Signs Medicare Legislation With Hyde Language, Sexuality Education Funding

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 16:31

President Obama on Thursday signed legislation (HR 2) designed to reform Medicare physician reimbursements, Reuters reports.

Obama Signs Medicare Legislation With Hyde Language, Sexuality Education Funding

April 17, 2015 — President Obama on Thursday signed legislation (HR 2) designed to reform Medicare physician reimbursements, Reuters reports (Mason, Reuters, 4/16).

The law includes Hyde Amendment language in a provision aimed at funding community health centers (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15). It also includes funding for both comprehensive and abstinence-only sexuality education (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 4/15).

Background

The Medicare legislation aims to put in place a long-term solution to a problematic formula that Medicare uses to determine physician reimbursements. Congress has been addressing the issue with short-term fixes for years.

Abortion-rights advocates raised concern about the abortion restriction in the community health centers provision. Specifically, the provision includes Hyde Amendment language that restricts federal funding for abortion.

However, the Senate on Tuesday passed the measure after rejecting six amendments to the underlying bill, including one that would have directed more funding to women's health care and removed the abortion funding restriction (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/15).

Sexuality Education Funding Details

The law also will renew funding for a program that supports comprehensive sexuality education, called the Personal Responsibility Education Program, at $75 million annually for two years.

In addition, the law will increase annual funding for the Title V Abstinence Education grant program by $25 million. Overall, the abstinence program will receive a total of $75 million annually for two years.

Advocacy Groups Comment on Sexuality Education Funding

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States said the funding for the PREP program would ensure that teenagers and young people receive "medically accurate and evidence-based" sexuality education. However, SIECUS said it was "incredibly disappointed" that Title V program funding would increase, noting that "abstinence-only-until-marriage" programs can harm young people, particularly individuals who are sexually active or in a same-sex relationship.

Meanwhile, Valerie Huber, president of the National Abstinence Education Association, expressed support for the bill's passage and for the increase in Title V funding and flexibility (Washington Times, 4/15).


Fla. House Advances 24-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 16:31

The Florida House on Wednesday voted 77-41 to advance a bill (HB 633) that would require a 24-hour mandatory delay period before a woman can have an abortion, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Fla. House Advances 24-Hour Mandatory Delay Bill

April 23, 2015 — The Florida House on Wednesday voted 77-41 to advance a bill (HB 633) that would require a 24-hour mandatory delay period before a woman can have an abortion, the Tallahassee Democrat reports (Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat, 4/22).

The state Senate is set to take up an identical bill (SB 724) on Thursday (Menzel, News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 4/22). Through a procedural move, the state Senate is expected to substitute its measure for the House bill before voting on its final passage. According to the Democrat, the state Senate's approval of the measure "appears certain" (Tallahassee Democrat, 4/22).

Bill Details

The bill, proposed by state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), would require a woman to meet in person with a physician at least 24 hours prior to having an abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/3). According to the Democrat, Florida already requires women to receive counseling from a physician prior to the procedure (Tallahassee Democrat, 4/22).

The state House on Tuesday approved an amendment to the legislation to waive the delay for women who are survivors of rape, incest, human trafficking or domestic violence. However, the exemptions would only be provided if women could produce certain documentation, such as medical records, police reports or restraining orders (News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 4/22).

Comments

Sullivan said the legislation is intended to "empower[r] women."

However, state House Minority Leader Mark Pafford (D) said, "The presumption that there has not already been 24 hours to make that decision is perplexing to me," adding, "This is an example of government intrusion" (Sweeney, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/23).

Meanwhile, state Rep. Victor Torres (D) criticized the documentation requirement for waiving the mandatory delay. He said, "As a retired cop, I look at the victim of rape, the victim who is violated by a family member. You think she's going to have documentation? She's going to run to the police and report it?" (McGrory, Tampa Bay Times, 4/22).

Several state lawmakers who support abortion rights also said the measure, if made law, likely would be challenged on constitutional grounds in the courts. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Florida Constitution requires laws that invade individuals' privacy to be as unobtrusive and narrow as feasible, a more stringent standard than the U.S. Constitution.

State Rep. Lori Berman (D) said, "Requiring two in-person visits with a doctor is far from the least intrusive means necessary" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/23).


La. Officials Publish Final Version of Revamped Abortion Clinic Regulations

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 16:31

Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals this week published the final version of updated licensing standards for abortion clinics, AP/ABC News reports.

La. Officials Publish Final Version of Revamped Abortion Clinic Regulations

April 23, 2015 — Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals this week published the final version of updated licensing standards for abortion clinics, AP/ABC News reports.

According to AP/ABC News, the finalized regulations are not substantively different than changes that were proposed in December 2014. Those changes garnered more than 1,800 public comments opposed to the proposed regulations (DeSlatte, AP/ABC News, 4/21).

Background

In February, the state DHH said the then-proposed regulations would revise current rules to accommodate several recently enacted laws and would outline clearly the state's clinic licensing and staffing requirements. If the clinics do not comply, they could face closure. Among other rules, the regulations include requirements that clinics must maintain detailed records of "every 'job skill' of every employee" and annual employee evaluations on the specific job skills.

DHH spokesperson Olivia Watkins acknowledged that some of the new requirements "are outside of the specific legislative mandates" (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/2).

Reaction

Melissa Flournoy, the state's director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said her group is "deeply disappointed that [its] call[s] for regulations based on medicine were ignored." She said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) "administration has instead decided to risk patient health and safety by imposing further restrictions on a woman's ability to have a safe, legal abortion in" the state.

According to AP/ABC News, it is not clear whether anyone will challenge the final rules in court. Jewel Bush, a spokesperson for PPGC, said the group "is committed to protecting access to safe, legal abortion and views this as an urgent situation, and ... will explore all options" (AP/ABC News, 4/21).


Blogs Comment on Curbing CPC Misinformation, Protecting Pregnant Women's Rights, More

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 15:49

Read some of the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, National Women's Law Center and more.

Blogs Comment on Curbing CPC Misinformation, Protecting Pregnant Women's Rights, More

April 17, 2015 — Read some of the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, National Women's Law Center and more.

CPCs: "California Bill Would Require Crisis Pregnancy Centers To Discuss Abortion Options," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: The California Assembly Committee on Health on Tuesday approved a bill (AB 775) aimed at "regulat[ing] the information anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) provide to clients," Liss-Schultz writes. She explains that CPCs "have the either explicit or unstated goal of preventing clients from obtaining abortions," a goal they aim to accomplish by "regularly dol[ing] out misinformation about the procedure" and "disguising themselves as abortions clinics, advertising their services as unbiased counseling and buying up or leasing space near abortion clinics." According to Liss-Schultz, some cities in the state, such as San Francisco, "have taken steps to curb the influence of CPCs." She writes that the new, statewide bill would require licensed facilities that "'provide family planning and pregnancy-related services to inform patients about available assistance for affordable contraception, abortion, and prenatal care, including how to obtain that assistance.'" In addition, it would mandate that "facilities without medical licenses that offer similar services to post a notice saying they have neither a license nor licensed providers on staff" (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 4/16).

PREGNANT WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "'Marlise's Law' Could Give End-of-Life Rights to Pregnant Texans," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: The family of a pregnant woman, Marlise Muñoz, "whose body was kept on mechanical support against her wishes for months," on Wednesday testified in favor of a measure [HB 3183] "that would give end-of-life decision-making rights to pregnant Texans," Grimes writes. Grimes explains that under current Texas law, pregnant women are prevented "from being able to issue advance directives about their end-of-life care, requiring doctors and hospitals to keep pregnant Texans on mechanical support against their consent and regardless of their, or their families' instructions." According to Grimes, the new bill, proposed by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, would enable pregnant women in Texas to have more control over their end-of-life care by "strik[ing] a line in the state's advance directives code that bars the code from applying in cases where a patient is pregnant." She notes that the bill "was left pending in committee," while a separate bill (HB 1901) that "directly counters the intention of" HB 3183 has "not yet been assigned a hearing" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/15).

RELIGIOUS REFUSALS: "Denied Care When Losing a Pregnancy: Pharmacies Refuse To Fill Needed Prescriptions," Kelli Garcia, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": "A provider's personal beliefs should not be allowed to dictate whether someone gets the healthcare they need," writes Garcia, citing the recent case of a Georgia woman, Brittany Cartrett, who was denied medication for a miscarriage. According to Garcia, Cartrett "needed the drug Misoprostol to help her complete a miscarriage and avoid a more invasive surgical procedure" but opted to undergo the surgical procedure after being "'lecture[d]'" by a pharmacist. Garcia writes, "Georgia is among six states that specifically allow pharmacists to refuse to provide any medication to patients," adding that the state "doesn't even require that pharmacists refer the customer elsewhere or transfer the prescription." Further, Garcia notes that "it's not just pharmacists who refuse to provide care," citing instances of "[r]eligiously affiliated hospitals ... den[ying] women medically appropriate treatment" and "[r]ape survivors ... be[ing] denied emergency contraception in the" emergency department, among other situations (Garcia, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center, 4/16).

What others are saying about religious refusals:

~ "The Scary Law That Allowed Pharmacists To Deny This Woman the Drugs She Needed After Her Miscarriage," Molly Redden, Mother Jones.

SEXUALITY EDUCATION: "'Safe Sex Is Kind of a Misnomer': Bioethicist Live-Tweets Insane Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Lesson," Jenny Kutner, Salon: Recently, a "[f]eminist bioethicist" named Alice Dreger learned that "her son's school health class included the sort of delusional, fear-mongering abstinence-only instruction that attempts to scare students out of ever touching each other or engaging in healthy sexual relationships," Kutner writes. Dreger decided to sit in on the class, Kutner writes, and live-tweet the lesson "to document the insane 'wisdom' imparted to thousands of American public school students." According to Dreger, the teacher giving the lesson "promoted 'abstinence stories' while being 'completely condescending.'" Kutner notes that similar lessons are used "to shame and misinform students, which have proven ineffective in anti-comprehensive-sex ed strongholds such as Texas and Mississippi -- two states that have some of the highest teen pregnancy and repeat teen pregnancy rates in the country" (Kutner, Salon, 4/15).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Anti-Choicers Are Going To Take Away Second-Trimester Abortion Without Much Notice," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: "Kansas and Oklahoma, both of which have passed laws [SB 95, HB 1721] banning the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure that is used in most abortions after 13 weeks, have graduated to a new level in their efforts to stamp out reproductive rights," Marcotte writes. She notes that if the Supreme Court were "to agree with the anti-choice side about these bans," it "would open the door to just banning abortion outright." While similar legislation is "being considered in Missouri [HB 920], South Carolina [SB 531], and South Dakota," the mainstream media has made limited mention of the issue, and there has "been little outrage or fear," Marcotte writes. According to Marcotte, the strategy behind such laws is twofold, with abortion-rights opponents aiming to "[o]verwhelm the news cycle with restrictions on abortion so that the public starts to tune the stories out" and make the regulations seem "minor" so that people "shrug" off the news. Marcotte questions whether "a weary public is going to shrug off [these laws] as no big deal," adding, "by the time we're all panicked enough to stop shrugging, it will be too late" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 4/16).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Senate Passes Medicare 'Doc Fix' Bill, Including Anti-Choice Language," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.


L.A. Times: Kansas, Okla. Laws Do Not 'Even Bother To Pretend To Protect Women's Health'

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 15:49

New antiabortion-rights laws in Kansas (SB 95) and Oklahoma (HB 1721) that "ban the safest, most widely used method of abortion in the second trimester," do not "even bother to pretend to protect women's health" and go "straight for the drama," a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

L.A. Times Op-Ed: Kansas, Okla. Laws Do Not 'Even Bother To Pretend To Protect Women's Health'

April 20, 2015 — New antiabortion-rights laws in Kansas (SB 95) and Oklahoma (HB 1721) that "ban the safest, most widely used method of abortion in the second trimester," do not "even bother to pretend to protect women's health" and go "straight for the drama," a Los Angeles Times editorial states.

The editorial notes that the "nearly identical laws" ban a "procedure known as 'dilation and evacuation,'" allowing exceptions when the woman's life is in danger. "The bills were designed to make the procedure sound as gruesome as possible in nonmedical, emotion-laden terms," the editorial states.

However, according to the editorial, the procedure is used "in about 95% of second trimester abortions because it is the most effective method at that stage of pregnancy." The alternative procedure, called a medical abortion, "takes longer, is less certain to work and sometimes requires a second procedure," according to the editorial.

The editorial states, "No matter how abortion opponents describe the ... procedure, their efforts represent nothing more than another attack on access to legal and safe abortions" (Los Angeles Times, 4/19).