Daily Women's Health Policy Report

Syndicate content
Daily Women's Health Policy Report by the National Partnership for Women & Families
Updated: 32 min 58 sec ago

Two Alabama Abortion Clinics Reopen; Lawsuit Will Determine Future Access

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 18:18

Two Alabama abortion clinics have reopened after closing earlier this year, but a lawsuit in federal court will determine whether one of them, as well as two others, will have to close, the AP/UT-San Diego reports.

Two Alabama Abortion Clinics Reopen; Lawsuit Will Determine Future Access

October 24, 2014 — Two Alabama abortion clinics have reopened after closing earlier this year, but a lawsuit in federal court will determine whether one of them, as well as two others, will have to close, the AP/UT-San Diego reports.

The Planned Parenthood Southeast Clinic in Birmingham had closed in January after discovering that two employees were selling abortion medication in the center's parking lot. The two employees were fired, and the clinic has since hired new staff members and made other adjustments, according to health department records.

The other clinic, in Huntsville, reopened in a new location after closing in June 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.

Court Case Could Determine Clinics' Future

In addition to structural requirements, the law also requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. A federal judge struck down the requirement in August, but the state has appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although physicians at the Huntsville clinic and one in Tuscaloosa, which performs the most abortions in the state, already meet the admitting privileges requirement, officials with the Birmingham clinic and two clinics in Mobile and Montgomery have said they will have to close if the law is enforced.

Eleven other states, including neighboring Mississippi, have similar admitting privileges laws (Rawls, AP/UT-San Diego, 10/22).


Wash. Senators' 'Winning Legal Argument' Could Trump Hobby Lobby Ruling, Editorial States

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 18:15

A group of state senators in Washington plans to introduce a bill in the 2015 legislative session that would "overturn the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision in the state," which they hope will "prevent discrimination against women by employers who refuse to offer contraceptive coverage in their health-care plans," an editorial in the Olympian states.

Wash. Senators' 'Winning Legal Argument' Could Trump Hobby Lobby Ruling, Editorial States

October 24, 2014 — A group of state senators in Washington plans to introduce a bill in the 2015 legislative session that would "overturn the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision in the state," which they hope will "prevent discrimination against women by employers who refuse to offer contraceptive coverage in their health-care plans," an editorial in the Olympian states.

According to the editorial, the measure makes a "winning legal argument" and "would amend the Washington Law Against Discrimination to make the denial of contraceptive coverage an unfair practice."

The editorial argues that the measure could legally "trump" the high court's decision because the ruling "was based on a federal statute -- the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [PL 103-141] -- not the Constitution," which means it applies only to "federal actions, not action by the states." As a result, "states are free to make laws and regulations requiring employers to cover women's reproductive health care in their insurance plans," the editorial states.

The editorial adds that it is "important for this legislation to succeed" because "its intended outcome -- to protect women's access to contraceptive coverage in employer-provided insurance plans -- is consistent with Washingtonian[s'] values" (Olympian, 10/22).


Calif. Law Helps Expand Abortion Access, Destigmatize Procedure

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 18:14

Contrary to many state legislatures across the country, California is moving to expand abortion access, not restrict it, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Calif. Law Helps Expand Abortion Access, Destigmatize Procedure

October 24, 2014 — Contrary to many state legislatures across the country, California is moving to expand abortion access, not restrict it, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, a California law (AB 154) that allows non-physician health care providers to provide certain abortion services was the only abortion-related measure enacted in the U.S. last year "that increased the number of abortion providers" (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 10/23).

The law allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy and requires the providers to complete specific training and comply with standardized medical protocols (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/10/13). Previously, only physicians were allowed to offer the procedure.

National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta said the measure solidifies the state's reputation as "the gold standard" for abortion access.

While four other states allow non-physicians to perform aspiration abortions, California is the only state to do so after previously only allowing physicians to provide the procedure.

More Providers Training To Expand Access

According to the Times, about 50% of California's 58 counties do not have a readily accessible abortion provider, and only a few of the non-physicians trained to conduct aspiration abortions are located in less populated areas of the state.

However, abortion-rights supporters are hopeful that new programs to train non-physicians to perform the procedure will help further expand access. For example, University of California-San Francisco School of Nursing in fall 2016 is planning to provide a post-masters certification program that includes training on conducting vacuum aspirations and has begun the process of preparing faculty to train others on the procedure.

Less Stigma

AB 154 has allowed Planned Parenthood's San Rafael Health Center to provide aspiration abortions throughout the week as part of its routine services because more clinicians can perform the procedure. Previously, one physician would perform abortions for four hours every Friday.

The clinic's lead clinician -- a nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife named Anna, who declined to provide her last name -- said offering the service throughout the week is "a much less stigmatizing way to offer an abortion."

According to the Times, advocates believe the clinic is the first in the state and one of just a few nationwide "to move away from segregated abortion days."

Planned Parenthood Northern California Medical Director Jeff Waldman noted that offering aspiration abortions as part of a clinic's routine services likely will not be feasible for every facility. The San Rafael clinic is able to do so not only because of Anna's clinical skills but also because the volume of procedures is manageable, he explained. A shift toward greater use of medication abortion has decreased demand for aspiration procedures nationwide, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/23).


Experts Say N.D. Personhood Measure Could Have Drastic Effects on Health Care Services

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 18:13

A "personhood" amendment (Measure 1) on the North Dakota ballot next month could have a widespread impact on health care services in the state, Modern Healthcare reports.

Experts Say N.D. Personhood Measure Could Have Drastic Effects on Health Care Services

October 24, 2014 — A "personhood" amendment (Measure 1) on the North Dakota ballot next month could have a widespread impact on health care services in the state, Modern Healthcare reports.

While the amendment has been primarily viewed as a measure to limit abortion rights, some experts argue that its broad language could allow the state government to interfere in other medical services, like end-of-life care.

The amendment would change the state's constitution to state that "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected." North Dakota would be the only state with such a law if the ballot measure is approved.

'Unprecedented' Effects

Supporters of the amendment have dismissed claims that it would affect health care services other than abortion.

However, University of North Dakota School of Law constitutional law professor Steven Morrison said the amendment's effect would be "unprecedented," adding that it could lead to in vitro fertilization providers being charged with murder and invalidate documents like living wills and end-of-life directives. In addition, Morrison said the state government could be required to provide life-sustaining care to all state residents, regardless of their medical conditions.

Further, some health care providers have wondered what could happen to them if they provide care that saves a pregnant woman's life but threatens the fetus. One obstetrician in the state, Siri Fiebiger, said, "Am I going to get prosecuted because I'm taking care of the life of the mother?" Fiebiger added that the amendment "is so vague. You can use it as you wish" (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 10/22).


Calif. Law Helps Expand Abortion Access, Destigmatize Procedure

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 15:54

Contrary to many state legislatures across the country, California is moving to expand abortion access, not restrict it, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Calif. Law Helps Expand Abortion Access, Destigmatize Procedure

October 24, 2014 — Contrary to many state legislatures across the country, California is moving to expand abortion access, not restrict it, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, a California law (AB 154) that allows non-physician health care providers to provide certain abortion services was the only abortion-related measure enacted in the U.S. last year "that increased the number of abortion providers" (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 10/23).

The law allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy and requires the providers to complete specific training and comply with standardized medical protocols (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/10/13). Previously, only physicians were allowed to offer the procedure.

National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta said the measure solidifies the state's reputation as "the gold standard" for abortion access.

While four other states allow non-physicians to perform aspiration abortions, California is the only state to do so after previously only allowing physicians to provide the procedure.

More Providers Training To Expand Access

According to the Times, about 50% of California's 58 counties do not have a readily accessible abortion provider, and only a few of the non-physicians trained to conduct aspiration abortions are located in less populated areas of the state.

However, abortion-rights supporters are hopeful that new programs to train non-physicians to perform the procedure will help further expand access. For example, University of California-San Francisco School of Nursing in fall 2016 is planning to provide a post-masters certification program that includes training on conducting vacuum aspirations and has begun the process of preparing faculty to train others on the procedure.

Less Stigma

AB 154 has allowed Planned Parenthood's San Rafael Health Center to provide aspiration abortions throughout the week as part of its routine services because more clinicians can perform the procedure. Previously, one physician would perform abortions for four hours every Friday.

The clinic's lead clinician -- a nurse practitioner and certified nurse midwife named Anna, who declined to provide her last name -- said offering the service throughout the week is "a much less stigmatizing way to offer an abortion."

According to the Times, advocates believe the clinic is the first in the state and one of just a few nationwide "to move away from segregated abortion days."

Planned Parenthood Northern California Medical Director Jeff Waldman noted that offering aspiration abortions as part of a clinic's routine services likely will not be feasible for every facility. The San Rafael clinic is able to do so not only because of Anna's clinical skills but also because the volume of procedures is manageable, he explained. A shift toward greater use of medication abortion has decreased demand for aspiration procedures nationwide, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/23).


Wash. Senators' 'Winning Legal Argument' Could Trump Hobby Lobby Ruling, Editorial States

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 15:50

A group of state senators in Washington plans to introduce a bill in the 2015 legislative session that would "overturn the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision in the state," which they hope will "prevent discrimination against women by employers who refuse to offer contraceptive coverage in their health-care plans," an editorial in the Olympian states.

Wash. Senators' 'Winning Legal Argument' Could Trump Hobby Lobby Ruling, Editorial States

October 24, 2014 — A group of state senators in Washington plans to introduce a bill in the 2015 legislative session that would "overturn the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision in the state," which they hope will "prevent discrimination against women by employers who refuse to offer contraceptive coverage in their health-care plans," an editorial in the Olympian states.

According to the editorial, the measure makes a "winning legal argument" and "would amend the Washington Law Against Discrimination to make the denial of contraceptive coverage an unfair practice."

The editorial argues that the measure could legally "trump" the high court's decision because the ruling "was based on a federal statute -- the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [PL 103-141] -- not the Constitution," which means it applies only to "federal actions, not action by the states." As a result, "states are free to make laws and regulations requiring employers to cover women's reproductive health care in their insurance plans," the editorial states.

The editorial adds that it is "important for this legislation to succeed" because "its intended outcome -- to protect women's access to contraceptive coverage in employer-provided insurance plans -- is consistent with Washingtonian[s'] values" (Olympian, 10/22).


Experts Say N.D. Personhood Measure Could Have Drastic Effects on Health Care Services

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 15:48

A "personhood" amendment (Measure 1) on the North Dakota ballot next month could have a widespread impact on health care services in the state, Modern Healthcare reports.

Experts Say N.D. Personhood Measure Could Have Drastic Effects on Health Care Services

October 24, 2014 — A "personhood" amendment (Measure 1) on the North Dakota ballot next month could have a widespread impact on health care services in the state, Modern Healthcare reports.

While the amendment has been primarily viewed as a measure to limit abortion rights, some experts argue that its broad language could allow the state government to interfere in other medical services, like end-of-life care.

The amendment would change the state's constitution to state that "the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected." North Dakota would be the only state with such a law if the ballot measure is approved.

'Unprecedented' Effects

Supporters of the amendment have dismissed claims that it would affect health care services other than abortion.

However, University of North Dakota School of Law constitutional law professor Steven Morrison said the amendment's effect would be "unprecedented," adding that it could lead to in vitro fertilization providers being charged with murder and invalidate documents like living wills and end-of-life directives. In addition, Morrison said the state government could be required to provide life-sustaining care to all state residents, regardless of their medical conditions.

Further, some health care providers have wondered what could happen to them if they provide care that saves a pregnant woman's life but threatens the fetus. One obstetrician in the state, Siri Fiebiger, said, "Am I going to get prosecuted because I'm taking care of the life of the mother?" Fiebiger added that the amendment "is so vague. You can use it as you wish" (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 10/22).


Blogs Comment on Abortion Stigma Research, Contraceptive Coverage Accommodations, More

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 15:39

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

Blogs Comment on Abortion Stigma Research, Contraceptive Coverage Accommodations, More

October 24, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the RH Reality Check, Feministing and more.

ABORTION STIGMA: "Groundbreaking Research Aims To Expand Our Knowledge of Abortion Stigma," Steph Herold, RH Reality Check: The academic community has given "little scholarly attention" to abortion stigma, even though it "permeates every level of our culture," from "myths and mischaracterizations of abortion in the media" to the "marginalization of the procedure" among health professionals, Sea Change Program Deputy Director Steph Herold writes. Herold notes that "scholars from [the] Sea Change Program, as well as Ipas and the University of California, San Francisco-affiliated research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health" have launched a special issue of the journal Women and Health that focuses on abortion stigma and its "long-ranging consequences on a national scale," as well as "ways to combat it." According to Herold, "The organizers of the project hope that the issue ... both inspires and supports other academics interested in studying abortion stigma" and "'spark[s] a movement of individuals and organizations working to understand and mitigate abortion stigma at local, regional, and global levels'" (Herold, RH Reality Check, 10/22).

What others are saying about abortion stigma:

~ "What Having an Abortion in 1959 Was Like," Diana Wiener, Buzzfeed.

CONTRACEPTION: "Legal Scholars, Reproductive Health Advocates Comment on Exemptions to Birth Control Benefit," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "The commenting period on a proposed expansion of the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) accommodation to the contraception coverage benefit for religious objectors closed Tuesday, leaving the Obama administration to the task of deciding what kind of companies can avoid covering contraception for their employees," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, "the next question is whether or not those that have filed lawsuits challenging the contraception rule will accept whatever proposal the Obama administration comes up with." Meanwhile, Mason Pieklo writes that the Obama "administration's accommodation woes continue on the religiously affiliated nonprofit front as well," as those groups have indicated the administration's latest update to the accommodation "will not be sufficient and that they will likely continue with their litigation regardless of what accommodation the administration ultimately releases" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 10/23).

WORKPLACE POLICIES: "American Business Should Take the Lead on Paid Parental Leave," David Hanrahan, Huffington Post blogs: "[B]usiness leaders should step up and offer paid parental leave -- for all parents -- at least at the [Family and Medical Leave Act (PL 103-3)] minimum of 12 weeks," writes Hanrahan of Change.org, noting that "[t]he challenge for CEO's and HR leaders is deciding whether to wait for the government to mandate full pay for parental leave, or to lead on leave themselves." Hanrahan writes that employees should not be "be penalized with reduced pay for taking protected parental leave." In the absence of state and federal mandates on the issue, businesses can either wait or "be on the leading edge" and "take tangible action to value the role of parents at your company," Hanrahan writes (Hanrahan, Huffington Post blogs, 10/22).

SEX EDUCATION: "Want Kids To Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor": A new study found that an "abstain-for-now message" in a comprehensive sex education program for younger teenagers produced "impressive results," Marcotte writes, describing Planned Parenthood's Get Real program for middle schoolers, which emphasizes communication skills and "realistically frames abstinence as good for younger teens while accepting that things change when [they] get a little older." Researchers from Wellesley Centers for Women tracked middle school students who completed the Get Real program and found that 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls had sex, compared with their peers who did not participate in the program, Marcotte explains. She adds that the program's messages help debunk norms that boys cannot be responsible for sexual decision-making, in contrast to many abstinence-only programs that convey that such decisions are "solely the responsibility of girls, on the faulty assumption that boys can't help themselves" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 10/22).

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "Let's Stop Neglecting Dating Violence Survivors," Dana Bolger, Feministing: Despite a greater awareness of sexual assault in recent years, there has "been little attention paid to other pervasive forms of gender-based violence also protected against under Title IX -- including campus dating (or domestic) violence," Bolger writes. She continues, "Implicit in this refusal to acknowledge dating violence as worthy of our concern is a collective construction of hierarchies of harm, a framing of some forms of violence as more 'real' and thus more important than others." She notes that dating violence encompasses not only physical assault but also "emotional abuse and psychological manipulation," which "we persistently lack the (legal) language to describe." She writes, "The failures of the criminal justice system for dating and domestic violence survivors ... are reasons why we need better civil responses to violence" (Bolger, Feministing, 10/21).

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

~ "New Federal Rules Will Change the Way Colleges Handle Sexual Assault," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.

~ "The Day That Men's Sports Got it Right," Michele Kort, Ms. Magazine blog.


Datapoints: Public Funding for Family Planning is a Sound Investment, LARC Lowers Teen Pregnancy & More

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 14:53

This week's visuals include a look at the public savings and health benefits of U.S. investments in family planning services, as well as graphics examining the impact of expanded contraceptive access for teens and the link between HIV and intimate partner violence.

Datapoints: Public Funding for Family Planning is a Sound Investment, LARC Lowers Teen Pregnancy & More

October 24, 2014 — This week's visuals include a look at the public savings and health benefits of U.S. investments in family planning services, as well as graphics examining the impact of expanded contraceptive access for teens and the link between HIV and intimate partner violence.

Publicly Funded Family Planning Improves Health, Saves Money



Publicly funded family planning services in the U.S. improve women's health in myriad ways and net billions of dollars in savings in public funds, as shown in a new infographic from the Guttmacher Institute.

In addition to providing contraceptive services that help millions of women avoid unintended pregnancies, space their births and reduce the need for abortion, the U.S. publicly funded family planning program supports testing for sexually transmitted infections that help avert additional cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, according to Guttmacher's research. Further, Pap testing and vaccination against the human papillomavirus at publicly funded family planning clinics prevent thousands of cervical cancer cases and deaths each year (Guttmacher release, 10/14).


LARC Access Tied To Fewer Teen Pregnancies



A study that provided teens with information about long-acting reversible contraceptives and offered them no-cost access to the methods led to substantial reductions in pregnancy, birth and abortion rates, as depicted in this graph from The Guardian.

LARC methods -- like intrauterine devices and hormonal implants -- have much lower failure rates than birth control pills and condoms, but only a small proportion of adolescents use LARC. By contrast, 72% of study participants chose LARC methods after learning about them and being offered no-cost access.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and is part of the Contraceptive CHOICE Project, a four-year research project following thousands of women in the St. Louis area (Popovich, The Guardian, 10/3).


HIV, Intimate Partner Violence and the ACA



According to a KFF issue brief, women's risk factors for contracting HIV often are "similar to those that make them vulnerable to experiencing trauma and IPV." This contributes to a dangerous cycle in which women who experience IPV face a higher risk for contracting HIV and HIV-positive women are at higher risk for experiencing IPV.

The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) and related guidance provide several protections for such women, including coverage of IPV screenings and counseling with no out-of-pocket costs as part of the law's preventive services provision and a prohibition against insurers denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions (Dawson/Kates, KFF issue brief, 10/21).


Two Alabama Abortion Clinics Reopen; Lawsuit Will Determine Future Access

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 14:17

Two Alabama abortion clinics have reopened after closing earlier this year, but a lawsuit in federal court will determine whether one of them, as well as two others, will have to close, the AP/UT-San Diego reports.

Two Alabama Abortion Clinics Reopen; Lawsuit Will Determine Future Access

October 24, 2014 — Two Alabama abortion clinics have reopened after closing earlier this year, but a lawsuit in federal court will determine whether one of them, as well as two others, will have to close, the AP/UT-San Diego reports.

The Planned Parenthood Southeast Clinic in Birmingham had closed in January after discovering that two employees were selling abortion medication in the center's parking lot. The two employees were fired, and the clinic has since hired new staff members and made other adjustments, according to health department records.

The other clinic, in Huntsville, reopened in a new location after closing in June 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.

Court Case Could Determine Clinics' Future

In addition to structural requirements, the law also requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. A federal judge struck down the requirement in August, but the state has appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although physicians at the Huntsville clinic and one in Tuscaloosa, which performs the most abortions in the state, already meet the admitting privileges requirement, officials with the Birmingham clinic and two clinics in Mobile and Montgomery have said they will have to close if the law is enforced.

Eleven other states, including neighboring Mississippi, have similar admitting privileges laws (Rawls, AP/UT-San Diego, 10/22).


NYT's Collins: Midterm Election Candidates Cast Issues in 'New, Woman-Centric Way'

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:33

"No group is more courted" than women in the upcoming midterm election, with candidates in both parties "re-interpreting their old arguments in a new, woman-centric way," New York Times columnist Gail Collins writes.

NYT's Collins: Midterm Election Candidates Cast Issues in 'New, Woman-Centric Way'

October 23, 2014 — "No group is more courted" than women in the upcoming midterm election, with candidates in both parties "re-interpreting their old arguments in a new, woman-centric way," New York Times columnist Gail Collins writes.

For example, Collins writes that Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), a candidate for Senate, talks about opponent Terri Land's (R) "opposition to Obamacare as a plan to 'cut women's access to ... mammograms," while Land "has developed a tendency to deflect questions by mentioning that she's a parent."

Collins also notes that "some [Colorado] commentators have given Democrat [Sen.] Mark Udall the nickname 'Mark Uterus' because Udall has run so hard on women's reproductive rights." In particular, Udall has "devoted a prodigious amount of ad-time to the fact that his opponent, Representative Cory Gardner, is a longtime supporter of the personhood movement," Collins writes, noting that voters find the movement "so unnerving that a personhood amendment to the Constitution was soundly defeated in Mississippi" and twice in Colorado, where it is on the ballot again this year.

Collins touches on other federal and state campaigns, noting, "It's great" that "[w]omen are big this election season" because "[t]he issues are important" (Collins, New York Times, 10/22).


Judge Refuses To Block Okla. Medication Abortion Restrictions

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:31

An Oklahoma County District Court judge on Wednesday refused to block a state law (HB 2684) that restricts medication abortion from taking effect Nov. 1, but he did grant a temporary injunction against the measure's enforcement mechanism for physicians, the Oklahoman reports.

Judge Refuses To Block Okla. Medication Abortion Restrictions

October 23, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District Court judge on Wednesday refused to block a state law (HB 2684) that restricts medication abortion from taking effect Nov. 1, but he did grant a temporary injunction against the measure's enforcement mechanism for physicians, the Oklahoman reports (Clay, Oklahoman, 10/22).

Background

The law requires physicians to administer medication abortion drugs according to FDA protocol and ban the method after 49 days of pregnancy, which goes against common medical practice.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of Nova Health Systems and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. In their brief, the plaintiffs argued that the law is "an unconstitutional intrusion on women's reproductive rights that will harm women's health and well-being."

CRR in a statement added that requiring clinics to adhere to FDA protocol would prevent clinics from administering the drugs in ways that make medication abortion safer, faster and less costly, with fewer complications (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/1).

Ruling Details

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Roger Stuart allowed the underlying law to take effect. However, he granted the plaintiffs' request to halt portions of the measure that would have made abortion providers liable if they did not follow the law.

Stuart said, "It seems to me the impact of this on physicians and their patients is pretty heavy" (Murphy, AP/Washington Times, 10/22). He added that physicians should not be left in legal uncertainty while court challenges against the law continue to go forward. According to the Oklahoman, Stuart's ruling only pertained to the temporary injunction request, and he could still rule against the law after hearing more evidence in the case (Oklahoman, 10/22).

Reaction

CRR attorney Autumn Katz said that the plaintiffs might appeal the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. She said, "We still sort of have to digest what the court has said here and consider all the options we have."

Dana Stone, an Oklahoma City-based ob-gyn, said the ruling likely would deter most abortion providers from administering medication abortions. "I can't imagine [abortion providers] are going to go against Oklahoma law and take the risks that go along with that," Stone said, adding, "They'd be requiring women to use an outdated [FDA] protocol with more side effects."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) called the ruling a "victory for the health of Oklahomans" (AP/Washington Times, 10/22).


Blogs Comment on 'Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding,' 'Pregnancy Penalty,' More

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:06

Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Salon, the Center for American Progress and more.

Blogs Comment on 'Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding,' 'Pregnancy Penalty,' More

October 21, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Salon, the Center for American Progress and more.

BREASTFEEDING: "'You Sat in the Splash Zone': The Messy Truth About Breast-Feeding," Kathleen Founds, Salon: Founds, who considers herself a "breast-feeding advocat[e]," shares "the messy truth" about breastfeeding that she tells her "pregnant friends, in the hope that realistic expectations will empower them to persist through breast-feeding's challenges in order to secure its very real rewards." Breastfeeding, Founds explains, "involves a learning curve," is "messy," potentially "irritating" and "may make you envy your baby." Further, Founds writes that "[d]iscretion is overrated" when it comes to breastfeeding and that "bodily shame regarding breasts seems silly once their actual purpose sinks in" (Founds, Salon, 10/19).

ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Cecile Richards Shares an Important Abortion Story: 'It Wasn't a Difficult Decision,'" Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards shared "her personal abortion story in an essay published in Elle on [Thursday], writing that women who feel comfortable enough to share their experiences with the medical procedure can help decrease some of the stigma surrounding it," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler notes that Richards said her abortion "'wasn't a difficult decision,'" which differs from the typical discussion about abortion being "'the most difficult decision a woman has to make' -- a dynamic that implicitly forces women to prove why exactly they deserved to have an abortion." Culp-Ressler writes, "The way [Richards] speaks about her own experiences may help get us closer to creating a society for all women that's free of those demands" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/17).

WORKPLACE POLICIES: "New Report Shows How the 'Pregnancy Penalty' Drives Economic Inequality," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "[T]he 'bias and inflexibility towards women in the workplace that starts when they become pregnant and snowballs into lasting economic disadvantages' is driving gender inequality and overall economic inequality" in New York City, according to a report from A Better Balance, Dusenbery writes. Specifically, the report critiques the "pregnancy penalty," which results from "both 'blatant discrimination' against pregnant workers ... and lack of workplace policies -- like paid family leave and flexible schedules -- to make it easier to juggle both a job and children at the same time -- particularly for poor families," Dusenbery writes. She notes that the penalty drives "overall economic inequality" by keeping "families on the treadmill of poverty" and adds that A Better Balance has called on New York lawmakers to address the issue through legislation (Dusenbery, Feministing, 10/20).

BREAST CANCER: "Breast Cancer: Survivors' Wisdom for the Newly Diagnosed," Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana, Huffington Post blogs: In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Zeppieri-Caruana spoke with women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to share "their stories and pearls of wisdom for anyone who has recently received a breast cancer diagnosis." She notes that "[a]ll of the women shared one common goal for the future -- to be a solid foundation and source of support and knowledge for those newly diagnosed." Zeppieri-Caruana includes advice from the women on topics such as "work[ing] and taking care of themselves and family while undergoing treatment," support systems, "thoughts regarding cancer and hair loss," and their "top three pieces of advice for someone newly diagnosed" (Zeppieri-Caruana, Huffington Post blogs, 10/17).

What others are saying about breast cancer:

~ "Why are Black Women Dying of Breast Cancer, Even Though More White Women are Diagnosed?" Tiffany Denee Jones, Huffington Post blogs.

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Where's the '16, Parenting, and OK' Reality Show?," Gloria Malone, Echoing Ida/RH Reality Check: Malone writes that she "firmly believe[s] the negative ways in which the media ... portrays teenage pregnancy and parenting influenced how the adults in [her] life treated" her after she "became pregnant at 15" and also "affected [her] self-image and already low self-esteem." Specifically, she notes that the adults she told about her pregnancy "believed [her] life was over," treated her "differently and even stopped helping [her] look into colleges because they believed" she would drop out of high school. She writes, "The way the media represents teenage pregnancy and parenting has real-life consequences and effects on teen families, including depression and poverty because of lack of support from society." However, she writes that if the media "mov[es] away from these stereotypes, and featur[es] more positive story lines and outcomes," it could be easier for "teens to create thriving families" (Malone, Echoing Ida/RH Reality Check, 10/20).

SUPREME COURT: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Wants To See 9 Women on the Supreme Court," Katie McDonough, Salon: McDonough discusses a recent interview conducted by NPR's Nina Totenberg with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during which Ginsburg reflected her experience as a female justice and called for more women on the bench. Ginsburg said the high court would have enough female justices "[w]hen there are nine," adding, "For most of the country's history, there were nine and they were all men. Nobody thought that was strange." Ginsburg also reflected on how she felt "lonely" after Sandra Day O'Connor retired. Ginsburg said, "No one wants to be a one-at-a-time curiosity, and that's what I was. I was the only one. It wasn't the way the court should be at this time in our history" (McDonough, Salon, 10/20).


Policymakers Must 'Stand Up' to Gun Lobby To Stop Domestic Violence, Advocate Argues

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:05

To help protect women from gun violence, the U.S. needs "legislators who are willing to stand up to the gun lobby," Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts writes in a Daily Beast opinion piece.

Policymakers Must 'Stand Up' to Gun Lobby To Stop Domestic Violence, Advocate Argues

October 20, 2014 — To help protect women from gun violence, the U.S. needs "legislators who are willing to stand up to the gun lobby," Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts writes in a Daily Beast opinion piece.

Watts notes that "an average of 48 American women are shot to death by a current or former intimate partner" monthly, but 38% "fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners" in states that require background checks to be performed on every person seeking to purchase a handgun. She adds, "[M]illions of guns are sold every year without a background check, so the ease with which a prohibited purchaser can buy a gun in this country is hard to overstate."

Watts also calls on policymakers to take stronger action to "prevent abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers from purchasing a firearm." She explains that more U.S. women die annually "at the hands of dating partners rather than spouses," but federal laws restricting gun purchases by abusers do not apply to non-spouses in most circumstances.

While lawmakers in some states have "achieved significant victories" in addressing gun violence this year, Watts argues that "[t]he best thing we can do for survivors of domestic violence is to provide them with avenues of support and ensure that the laws don't make their lives harder or more dangerous."

To do so, the U.S. "need[s] leaders at every level -- state, local and federal -- to understand the lives of women matter more than their NRA rating," Watts writes. She concludes, "We must enact the reforms necessary to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and that work begins with our vote on November 4" (Watts, Daily Beast, 10/16).


Studies Show Racial Disparity in IVF Pregnancy Rates Among Whites, Blacks

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:04

Black women are about half as likely as white women to become pregnant after in vitro fertilization, a new study has found, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

Studies Show Racial Disparity in IVF Pregnancy Rates Among Whites, Blacks

October 23, 2014 — Black women are about half as likely as white women to become pregnant after in vitro fertilization, a new study has found, according to HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago, was presented this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's annual meeting.

The researchers analyzed more than 4,000 IVF cycles over two years. They controlled for several factors that can affect pregnancy, including age, body-mass index, hormone levels and smoking habits.

Key Findings

The researchers found about 31% of white women became pregnant after IVF, compared with about 17% of black women. They also found that miscarriage rates after IVF among blacks were about double those among whites.

Although other studies have found similar results, the latest study was "quite large" and "really confirmed those other findings," said study author Eve Feinberg, an assistant clinical professor at University of Chicago Medical Center and physician at Fertility Centers of Illinois. "We were just struck by these outcomes," she added.

Second Study: Disparities Persist When Donor Eggs Used

In a different study presented at the conference, Columbia University Medical Center researchers observed racial disparities in IVF pregnancy rates even when donor eggs were used. The research controlled for uterine conditions, including fibroids and prior cesarean sections, because such conditions are more common among blacks than whites.

The study found that the implantation rate among whites was 36.3%, compared with 30.4% among blacks.

Reproductive endocrinologist Edward Illions of Montefiore Medical Center, who was not involved in the new research, said the results did not surprise him. He noted that they align with previous research showing racial disparities in IVF success rate, as well as what he has seen in his own practice. He suggested that the differences might be related to BMI, which he noted is often considerably higher in blacks in such studies.

Researchers were in agreement that future large-scale projects are necessary to determine the causes for the disparities (Salamon, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 10/21).


NYT Op-Ed Notes Medical Limitations of Egg Freezing

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:03

Apple and Facebook's decision to "include egg freezing in their benefits packages" spurred debate "over egg freezing's role in women's careers," but "there has been less talk about the still serious limitations of the medical procedure," author Sarah Richards writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

NYT Op-Ed Notes Medical Limitations of Egg Freezing

October 20, 2014 — Apple and Facebook's decision to "include egg freezing in their benefits packages" spurred debate "over egg freezing's role in women's careers," but "there has been less talk about the still serious limitations of the medical procedure," author Sarah Richards writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

Richards notes that amid all the reactions to the decision, "[w]e are forgetting an essential fact: Egg freezing isn't going to work for all women." According to Richards, the procedure's success rate "varies according to the expertise of doctors and the quality of eggs, but even the best fertility centers report that a woman's chance of pregnancy per embryo transferred to the uterus is between 30 and 50 percent."

Further, she notes that while the "American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the experimental label from the procedure in 2012, [it] still doesn't recommend it to healthy women who simply want to delay childbearing."

While Richards believes that women "should take advantage of every opportunity to freeze" their eggs if they "are anxious to preserve their fertility" and that more companies will likely "follow Facebook and Apple's example," she cautions that women "should never forget" the procedure's "power to disappoint" (Richards, New York Times, 10/16).


Definition of 'Closely Held Corporation' Should Be Narrow for Contraceptive Coverage Purposes, Groups Say

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:03

More than three dozen advocacy groups that support the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage requirements have submitted comments urging federal regulators to narrowly define which private businesses can object to providing the coverage and claim the accommodation currently in place for certain not-for-profit organizations, following the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.

Definition of 'Closely Held Corporation' Should Be Narrow for Contraceptive Coverage Purposes, Groups Say

October 23, 2014 — More than three dozen advocacy groups that support the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage requirements have submitted comments urging federal regulators to narrowly define which private businesses can object to providing the coverage and claim the accommodation currently in place for certain not-for-profit organizations, following the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.

The Obama administration will review these comments and others before issuing a final policy (Millman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/22).

Background

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception. However, the high court did not explicitly define the term "closely held corporation."

As a result, federal regulators requested comments on proposed rules for how to define the term for the purposes of determining which private companies can refuse to provide contraception coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans. Under the proposed rules, employees would receive coverage directly from the insurance company (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/3).

While there is no universal definition of the term, the Internal Revenue Service defines closely held corporations as those that have more than 50% of their outstanding stock value owned by no more than five individuals at any point in the last half of the tax year and that are not personal service corporations, "Wonkblog" reports. Closely held corporations employ an estimated 52% of the U.S. workforce, according to a 2009 study.

Groups' Comments

In a letter addressed to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, groups that support contraceptive coverage -- including Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America -- said for-profit companies should only be able to seek the accommodation under narrow circumstances.

Specifically, they said that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141) only permits corporations to claim an accommodation when its business practices "reflect and promote the owners' religious beliefs." To claim an accommodation, a company's owners must have unanimously agreed to operate the business under a set of shared religious principles, the letter argued.

Contraceptive Coverage Opponents Weigh In

Meanwhile, Alliance Defending Freedom -- which represented another business, Conestoga Wood Specialties, in the Hobby Lobby case -- in a formal comment said the exemption should be broader.

The group argued that the Supreme Court's decision prevents the administration from implementing additional limits on the definition of closely held corporation ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/22).


Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:03

The Department of Education on Monday published a final rule regarding changes to the Clery Act, emphasizing colleges' responses to sexual assault, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Education Dept. Finalizes Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

October 21, 2014 — The Department of Education on Monday published a final rule regarding changes to the Clery Act, emphasizing colleges' responses to sexual assault, stalking, and domestic and dating violence, Inside Higher Ed reports (New, Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).

The Clery Act, first passed in 1992, requires colleges and universities that receive federal student financial aid to track and publish crime statistics (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).

Details of Final Rule

Effective July 1, 2015, the act will require higher education institutions to disclose the number of reported crimes that were determined to be unfounded from the past three calendar years and moving forward. Until then, DOE officials encourage schools to follow the changes with "a good faith effort." Institutions that do not follow the changes by July may lose federal financial aid access.

According to the final rule, schools must now describe disciplinary proceedings used for each case, explain why that type of proceeding was used, and include a statement on policy and procedures for the relevant crimes in their annual security reports. In addition, schools must record stalking incidents based on where the perpetrator began the stalking or where the victim became aware of it.

Changes to the Clery Act resulted from the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (PL 113-4), which included the creation of a 15-member panel of sexual assault survivors and representatives of colleges, law enforcement and advocacy groups to develop the new regulations. The panel agreed on the new regulations in April and has changed them little since then.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the final rule does not vary much from what DOE officials proposed in June. As announced at that time, DOE added gender identity and national origin bias to the hate crime definition, increased victim confidentiality protections, and mandated that both accuser and accused be allowed to have an attorney or other adviser present during disciplinary proceedings. Previously, schools dictated what type of adviser students could have, although the new rule still allows the institutions to limit advisers' participation in the process.

Reaction

The inclusion of dating violence and stalking in the reporting requirements "is a wonderful step forward," Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women, said. She added, "When we talk about sexual and gender-based violence on campus, we're not often talking about the bogeyman jumping out of the bushes on the college green so this is a much more realistic way to look at these crimes."

SurvJustice Executive Director Laura Dunn, a sexual assault survivor and member of the 15-member panel, said of the changes that permit advisers, "Schools would limit who could be brought in, but in reality there would often be an attorney in the wings helping the accused," which could make the process "distinctly unfair" for the accuser (Inside Higher Ed, 10/20).


Blogs Comment on 'Abortion Access as an Economic Issue,' Reproductive Justice Agenda, More

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 18:59

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

Blogs Comment on 'Abortion Access as an Economic Issue,' Reproductive Justice Agenda, More

October 17, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Center for American Progress, RH Reality Check and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS AND ACCESS: "Polling Confirms That Voters See Abortion Access as an Economic Issue for Women," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": A majority of voters see abortion "as a mainstream policy that's inextricably linked to women's financial stability," according to a new poll released by the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Culp-Ressler writes. The poll surveyed "voters in New York and Pennsylvania, both states where lawmakers have proposed broad legislative agendas with several policies intended to advance women's rights." The findings suggest that the "legislative agendas were very popular with voters in both" states, with many of them saying "they see abortion as one piece of the larger push to help women lead fuller lives," Culp-Ressler notes. According to NIRH President Andrea Miller, the results also "should be a 'wake up call for elected officials' who insist on separating abortion issues from financial issues, even though that's out of step with their constituents' views on the subject," Culp-Ressler writes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/16).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions and access:

~ "The Hidden Costs of Abortion Restrictions," Carole Joffe, RH Reality Check.

~ "This Year's Most Outrageous Anti-Abortion Strategy," Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's "Jurisprudence."

~ "Supreme Court Surprises Everyone, Allows Texas Abortion Clinics To Reopen. For Now." Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."

CONTRACEPTION: "U.S. Taxpayers Save $7 for Every Dollar the Government Spends on Family Planning," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Publicly funded family planning programs "'resulted in net government savings of $13.6 billion in 2010, or $7.09 for every public dollar spent,'" primarily by "averting costly medical expenses," such as potential Medicaid spending "for abortions, for miscarriages, or for maternity and infant care," among other costs, according to a new Guttmacher Institute analysis, Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler notes that the findings "are relevant to the larger health policy debate, too, since Obamacare's contraceptive coverage requirement seeks to expand exactly these type[s] of preventative services to privately insured women across the country." However, she writes that "[d]espite the well-documented benefits of family planning programs, states continue to slash funding in this area as women's health issues have become a politicized issue" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/15).

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Pregnant Texans are Being Charged With Crimes That Don't Exist," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Despite Texas' "fetal homicide" law clearly stating that a "pregnant person cannot be charged with injury to [her] own fetus," prosecutors in West Texas have not stopped "charging women with reckless child endangerment for ingesting controlled substances while pregnant," Grimes writes. Grimes notes that while "these erroneous [child] endangerment charges don't stick," women "are nearly always persuaded to plead guilty to possession or other drug-related offenses, which often carry heftier penalties of incarceration" and that "judges may take the child endangerment charges into consideration as well." Grimes writes that these "attempts to criminalize pregnancy in Texas could not only break up families by forcing pregnant women into prisons and children into foster care; they could be the starting point for a new strike on reproductive rights across the state" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 10/16).

REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: "Announcing the National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda," Linda Goler Blount et al., RH Reality Check: Black Women's Health Imperative President and CEO Goler Blount, alongside several other representatives from reproductive justice groups, announces the formation of "In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, an organizational initiative designed to amplify and lift up the voices of Black women at national and regional levels in our ongoing fight to secure reproductive justice for all women and girls." The authors write that the initiative will use a human-rights perspective to "focus on abortion rights and access, contraceptive equity, and comprehensive sex education." They add, "For us, reproductive justice is the human right to control our bodies, our sexuality, our gender, our work, and our reproduction," which "can only be achieved when all women and girls have the complete economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives" (Goler Blount et al., RH Reality Check, 10/14).

WORKPLACE POLICIES: "Is Freezing Eggs the Best Way To Help Women in Careers?" Robin Marty, Care2: Marty considers whether it is a "good thing" that Facebook and Apple have "added egg freezing as a part of their employee benefits package, making this massively expensive medical procedure something that can now be in reach for even more people." She writes, "Freezing eggs should be available to anyone, regardless of [her] bank account, if that person wants to ensure the ability to be pregnant with her own genetic child years down the road." However, she also notes that "we ... need to have a family friendly change in workplace policies that doesn't punish a woman as soon as she becomes a mother." The "egg freezing policy, though laudable, continues to imply that work and motherhood can't go hand in hand," she writes (Marty, Care2, 10/15).

What others are saying about workplace policies:

~ "Freezing Eggs as Part of Employee Benefits: Some Women See Darker Message," Claire Cain Miller, New York Times' "The Upshot."

~ "In 2014, Companies are Still Asking Their Employees To Choose Between Work and Family," Allison O'Kelly, Huffington Post blogs.

MISCARRIAGE: "5 Ways Pregnancy After a Miscarriage is Different," Meredith Hale, Huffington Post blogs: In recognition of Oct. 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, Hale recounts a miscarriage she experienced, calling it a "scar that never fully fades," adding that it was "surprisingly" more difficult to be pregnant after the loss. She lists "reasons why being pregnant after a miscarriage is different," such as the "[f]ear of the unknown" and "[m]orning sickness envy." She writes, "I'm glad that there's a day to shine a light on this issue -- for people to acknowledge and share their sadness about such a difficult subject," adding that this "openness" helped her after her miscarriage and will hopefully "help others to know that there's light -- and even hope -- beyond the darkness" (Hale, Huffington Post blogs, 10/15).


Planned Parenthood's Richards Discusses Abortion Stigma, Shares Her Abortion Story in Elle

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 18:57

Abortion carries a "stigma and judgment" unlike any other medical procedure, but women's increasing openness in sharing their experiences can help reduce those perceptions, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in Elle magazine.

Planned Parenthood's Richards Discusses Abortion Stigma, Shares Her Abortion Story in Elle

October 21, 2014 — Abortion carries a "stigma and judgment" unlike any other medical procedure, but women's increasing openness in sharing their experiences can help reduce those perceptions, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in Elle magazine.

Women's abortion experiences "are often seen through the lens of cultural and political battles," leaving "hardly any real firsthand experiences at the center of the discussion," she notes. "If a woman says that she's relieved after having an abortion, she may be judged for being heartless or unfeeling," but "[i]f she says that she feels regret, anti-abortion activists use this to push for laws that restrict access to abortion or laws that assume women are incapable of making their own decisions without the interference of others," according to Richards.

"[T]he point is that women shouldn't have to answer" questions about their need for an abortion "at all," she writes. Voluntarily sharing abortion stories can help women "connect with each other and begin to end myths and misconceptions about both the procedure and the women who have it," but "[t]here's a big difference between sharing your story and being forced to justify your decision," she adds.

Richards "know[s] this firsthand" because she had an abortion, which "wasn't a difficult decision" for her and her husband. However, "[w]hatever a woman's reason for having an abortion, for some people it will never be good enough," she writes. While there is "a long way to go to end abortion stigma in this country," women who are sharing their stories and advocates who are creating platforms for them to do so "show what's possible, and why it matters so much," Richards concludes (Richards, Elle, 10/16).