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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Datapoints: 'Bad Medicine' in the States, Myths About Abortion Providers & More

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 20:40

This month's visual snapshot of women's health developments highlights dangerous state laws that put political ideology above medical evidence. We also debunk a common claim from abortion-rights opponents about abortion providers in minority communities.

Datapoints: 'Bad Medicine' in the States, Myths About Abortion Providers & More

July 24, 2014 — This month's visual snapshot of women's health developments highlights dangerous state laws that put political ideology above medical evidence. We also debunk a common claim from abortion-rights opponents about abortion providers in minority communities.

'Bad Medicine'



The majority of states have enacted laws that go against medical evidence and mandate how women's health care providers must practice abortion care, according to a report and infographic out this month from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

The report -- "Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women's Health Care" -- found that 33 states have passed at least one abortion-related law imposing ultrasound requirements, biased counseling, mandatory delays or medication abortion restrictions that are not supported by medical evidence. Sixteen of the 33 states have all four types of medically unsound laws on the books, the report found (National Partnership release, 7/14).


Abortion Providers and Minority Communities



While antiabortion-rights activists like to claim that most abortion providers are located in predominantly black or Hispanic neighborhoods -- supposedly because they "target" minority women for abortions -- the fact is that the majority of abortion providers are in areas where most residents are white, according to this infographic from the Guttmacher Institute.

Findings from Guttmacher's most recent census of abortion providers nationwide found that fewer than one in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-black neighborhoods, while about 13% are in majority-Hispanic neighborhoods. By contrast, six in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods, Guttmacher found (Guttmacher release, June 2014).


TRAP Surge



Guttmacher's midyear report on state-level reproductive health care laws highlights a surge in targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP, laws in recent years. Nationwide, nearly six in 10 women live in states with such laws, which include requirements such as mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Guttmacher release, 7/8).


Appeals Courts Issue Different Rulings on Legality of Tax Subsidies in ACA's Federal Marketplaces

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 20:37

Two federal appeals courts on Tuesday issued conflicting rulings on whether the federal government can provide subsidies to U.S. residents who purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act's federally operated insurance marketplaces, the New York Times reports.

Appeals Courts Issue Different Rulings on Legality of Tax Subsidies in ACA's Federal Marketplaces

July 23, 2014 — Two federal appeals courts on Tuesday issued conflicting rulings on whether the federal government can provide subsidies to U.S. residents who purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act's federally operated insurance marketplaces, the New York Times reports.

Both cases involve an Internal Revenue Service regulation that permits consumers shopping for health insurance through the federal marketplace to receive tax subsidies.

In the first case, a panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in a 2-1 decision ruled that the Affordable Care Act allows subsidies only for consumers purchasing insurance through state-run marketplaces. The law "does not authorize the I.R.S. to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal exchanges," the panel said. According to the panel, the law "plainly makes subsidies available only on exchanges established by states." A dissenting opinion filed by Judge Harry Edwards called the case an "attempt to gut" the ACA and said the majority opinion "defies the will of Congress."

Meanwhile, in the second case, a three-judge panel for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., unanimously ruled to uphold the subsidies. That decision declared the IRS regulation "a permissible exercise of the agency's discretion." The panel noted that the ACA's language is "ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations" and, thus deferred to the IRS (Pear, New York Times, 7/22).

Effects for Consumers

The rulings will have no immediate impact on consumers, according to government officials (Savage, "Nation Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/22). DOJ said the federal government will continue providing the subsidies in states that use the federal marketplaces while the issue is reviewed in courts.

According to the New York Times, if the ruling outlawing the subsidies stands, more than 4.5 million people who purchased coverage through the federal marketplaces could lose their financial assistance. The White House estimated that the subsidies have helped lower average monthly insurance premium payments from $346 to $82 (New York Times, 7/22). Avalere Health Vice President Caroline Pearson said if the ruling stands, "individuals in at least 25 states who remain in their current plans could see an average premium increase of over 70%."

Issue Could Land at Supreme Court

Legal experts have noted that the split rulings indicate the cases could end up before the Supreme Court (Wolf, USA Today, 7/22). According to the Los Angeles Times' "Nation Now," if the issue does end up before the high court, the case could be heard as early as next year ("Nation Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/22).

Meanwhile, at least two other cases challenging the subsidies are pending in federal district courts in Indiana and Oklahoma (New York Times, 7/22).

In the meantime, Congress or states could act to address the issues. According to the New York Times' "The Upshot," Congress could fix the language in the ACA to clarify how the subsidies are awarded. In addition, states that do not operate their own marketplace could move to do so, which would mean consumers there would be eligible for subsidies (Sanger-Katz, "The Upshot," New York Times, 7/22).


Datapoints: 'Bad Medicine' in the States, Myths About Abortion Providers & More

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 20:35

This month's visual snapshot of women's health developments highlights dangerous state laws that put political ideology above medical evidence. We also debunk a common claim from abortion-rights opponents about abortion providers in minority communities.

Datapoints: 'Bad Medicine' in the States, Myths About Abortion Providers & More

July 24, 2014 — This month's visual snapshot of women's health developments highlights dangerous state laws that put political ideology above medical evidence. We also debunk a common claim from abortion-rights opponents about abortion providers in minority communities.

'Bad Medicine'



The majority of states have enacted laws that go against medical evidence and mandate how women's health care providers must practice abortion care, according to a report and infographic out this month from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

The report -- "Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women's Health Care" -- found that 33 states have passed at least one abortion-related law imposing ultrasound requirements, biased counseling, mandatory delays or medication abortion restrictions that are not supported by medical evidence. Sixteen of the 33 states have all four types of medically unsound laws on the books, the report found (National Partnership release, 7/14).


Abortion Providers and Minority Communities



While antiabortion-rights activists like to claim that most abortion providers are located in predominantly black or Hispanic neighborhoods -- supposedly because they "target" minority women for abortions -- the fact is that the majority of abortion providers are in areas where most residents are white, according to this infographic from the Guttmacher Institute.

Findings from Guttmacher's most recent census of abortion providers nationwide found that fewer than one in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-black neighborhoods, while about 13% are in majority-Hispanic neighborhoods. By contrast, six in 10 abortion providers are located in majority-white neighborhoods, Guttmacher found (Guttmacher release, June 2014).


TRAP Surge



Guttmacher's midyear report on state-level reproductive health care laws highlights a surge in targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP, laws in recent years. Nationwide, nearly six in 10 women live in states with such laws, which include requirements such as mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals (Guttmacher release, 7/8).


Ohio Democrats To Propose Bill Mandating Employers Cover Contraceptives

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 18:09

Ohio Democrats in the House and Senate plan to introduce a bill that would require small and mid-sized companies in the state to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Ohio Democrats To Propose Bill Mandating Employers Cover Contraceptives

July 24, 2014 — Ohio Democrats in the House and Senate plan to introduce a bill that would require small and mid-sized companies in the state to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

According to the Dispatch, the bill comes in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling (Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, 7/23). The high court said that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) said the legislation would prohibit companies from offering coverage that does not include all FDA-approved contraceptives. In addition, the measure would prohibit employers from firing workers based on their use of contraceptives or decision to have an abortion.

According to Clyde, 28 states already have passed similar measures.

Comments

Clyde said, "The steps you take to live your healthiest life shouldn't be anyone else's business but your own," adding that it is "discrimination to deny women this preventive care."

Similarly, state Sen. Charleta Tavares (D), who is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill, said that employees should not have to "fear losing their job because of a personal health-care decision they made with their families and doctors."

Meanwhile, Katherine McCann, spokesperson for Ohio Right to Life, said the measure "isn't going to go anywhere in a pro-life legislature." She said the bill is a "political tool that [Democrats are] going to use to cry 'war on women' later in the fall and continue to propagate that myth" (Columbus Dispatch, 7/23).


Study Evaluating Effects of Texas' HB 2 Shows 13% Drop in Abortions

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 18:08

The number of abortions in Texas has dropped by 13% since provisions of a state law (HB 2) took effect, according to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study published in the journal Contraception, the Texas Tribune reports.

Study Evaluating Effects of Texas' HB 2 Shows 13% Drop in Abortions

July 24, 2014 — The number of abortions in Texas has dropped by 13% since provisions of a state law (HB 2) took effect, according to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study published in the journal Contraception, the Texas Tribune reports (Edelman, Texas Tribune, 7/23).

The law includes four abortion regulations: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, a requirement that abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, a mandate that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person and a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30/13). Supporters of the law contended that it would make abortion safer, but opponents raised concerns that restricted access to the procedure would lead to more unintended pregnancies and self-induced abortions, the Tribune reports (Texas Tribune, 7/23).

Key Findings

For the study, researchers analyzed data from all licensed Texas abortion clinics between November 2012 and April 2014 (Grossman et al., Contraception, 7/22).

Overall, the researchers found that as the number of available clinics in the state dwindled, so did the number of abortions. However, the drop in abortions was not as large as the researchers expected, the Tribune reports.

The admitting privileges requirement contributed to a drop in the number of operating clinics, according to the Tribune. Before the law, 42 abortion clinics operated in Texas, and as of July 1, the number dropped to 20. The report estimates that the clinic closures increased the number of women of reproductive age who live farther than 100 miles from a reproductive health center from roughly 400,000 to 1.3 million (Texas Tribune, 7/23).

The researchers predicted that as abortion facilities are required to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers by September, about 752,000 women of reproductive age -- or 5.65% of all female Texans -- will live more than 200 miles away from a clinic. About 290,000 women live more than 200 miles from an abortion clinic now (Psencik, KVUE, 7/23). In addition, only six of the 20 clinics currently operating meet surgical center standards, according to the Tribune.

The report also found that the law's requirement limiting medication abortion to women who are seven or fewer weeks pregnant caused a 70% drop in such abortions.

Comments

Report co-author Daniel Grossman, a California physician, said, "There's no evidence that the safety of abortion has been increased by these restrictions," adding, "The provisions in this law were not based on any medical evidence."

He added that the reason why the decline in abortions was not steeper might be because the remaining abortion clinics are located in the state's population centers. Further, the report suggests that financial contributions and other support from abortion-rights groups helped blunt the law's impact.

However, Andrea Ferrigno of Whole Woman's Health said she is worried abortions will continue to decrease because reproductive rights groups might no longer be able to financially support clinics. "A lot of those organizations are out of funds already, and the full extent of the law hasn't even taken effect," she said (Texas Tribune, 7/23).


Opponents of Colorado 'Personhood' Amendment Launch Campaign Against Proposed Measure

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 18:07

Opponents of a proposed Colorado constitutional "personhood" amendment launched a campaign Tuesday, saying the ballot measure could further restrict abortion rights and limit some fertility treatments, the AP/CBS4 reports.

Opponents of Colorado 'Personhood' Amendment Launch Campaign Against Proposed Measure

July 24, 2014 — Opponents of a proposed Colorado constitutional "personhood" amendment launched a campaign Tuesday, saying the ballot measure could further restrict abortion rights and limit some fertility treatments, the AP/CBS4 reports. Members of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado attended a campaign kickoff rally at the state Capitol (AP/CBS4, 7/22).

The ballot initiative will ask voters whether the state's constitution should be amended to protect "pregnant women and unborn children by defining 'person' and 'child' in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings."

Coloradans have rejected a personhood measure twice before (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/15/13).

Supporters of the measure say it is meant to protect pregnant women from assault, according to the Denver Post.

However, Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said, "If this were passed and the language added to the criminal code, it would be saying that life begins when an egg is fertilized -- in that case, you could bring murder or manslaughter charges up whenever a pregnancy didn't result in a live birth." He added, "If a woman had a miscarriage, there could be a criminal investigation into whether someone caused it or not" (Cotton, Denver Post, 7/23).


Mass. House Approves Bill Protecting Abortion Clinics

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 18:06

The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted 116-35 to approve a bill that would bolster security around abortion clinics in the state, AP/MassLive reports.

Mass. House Approves Bill Protecting Abortion Clinics

July 24, 2014 — The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted 116-35 to approve a bill that would bolster security around abortion clinics in the state, AP/MassLive reports.

Lawmakers developed the legislation in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state's "buffer zone" law, which had barred protests within 35 feet of clinic entrances. The measure -- approved by voice vote in the state Senate last week -- now has to be approved in a final vote in both chambers before proceeding to Gov. Deval Patrick (D) for his signature (AP/MassLive, 7/23). Patrick is expected to sign the legislation (Miller, Boston Globe, 7/23).

Legislation Details

The measure would give law enforcement personnel the authority to give dispersal orders if two or more protesters deliberately prevent patients or staff members from entering a clinic. Individuals who receive such orders would be required to stay at least 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance for up to eight hours.

The bill also would prohibit protesters from interfering with vehicles approaching or leaving the area, as well as intimidating or harming people accessing the clinic. In addition, victims of such intimidation would be allowed to seek damages through civil action (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/17).

The measure also would amend the state's current civil rights act to permit the state attorney general to pursue damages on behalf of individuals who have been blocked from accessing the clinics. The attorney general would be allowed to try to recover litigation costs and pursue civil penalties for individuals whose constitutional rights have been obstructed (AP/MassLive, 7/23).

Reaction

According to Reuters, opponents voiced concerns that the bill effectively chills free speech and gives abortion clinics unfair and unequal treatment (Barber, Reuters, 7/23). State Rep. Marc Lombardo (R) said the bill was a "retaliatory bill" that targeted abortion-rights opponents, while state Rep. James Lyons (R) said the measure is merely a reworking of the original buffer zone law and "is on the face of it unconstitutional."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D) said the bill was about public safety and not free speech. "There is a long, tragic history on this regard," she said, adding, "At some point in time there has to be a line drawn" (AP/MassLive, 7/23).

In a statement, Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said, "The Legislature's swift action will ensure that people can safely access reproductive health care in Massachusetts without fear of violence or intimidation."

Martha Walz, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, added, "There's clear recognition of the public safety concerns faced by the staff and patients at women's reproductive health care centers" (Boston Globe, 7/23).


Blogs Comment on Abortion Restrictions, Pregnancy and Fertility and More

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:40

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from "ThinkProgress," "The XX Factor" and more.

Blogs Comment on Abortion Restrictions, Pregnancy and Fertility and More

July 22, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from "ThinkProgress," "The XX Factor" and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Half of Texas' Abortion Clinics Are Gone," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The number of abortion clinics in Texas "has been cut in half over the past year, dropping from 41 to just 20" under a "stringent package [HB 2] of abortion restrictions" that was approved in 2013, according to a report from Houston Public Media, Culp-Ressler writes. She writes that many of those clinics "were forced out of business because they can't comply with the new law, which requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals" and that just six clinics are expected to be able to comply with a provision of the law that takes effect in September, requiring clinics "to bring their facilities in line with the building codes for ambulatory surgical centers." The "crisis won't be contained within Texas' borders," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that "[o]ther anti-choice lawmakers have followed in Texas' footsteps and proposed the exact same type of laws in their own states" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The People of Color Activists Whose Voices Are Too Often Missing From Stories Abortion Texas' 'Orange Army,'" Shailey Gupta-Brietzke, RH Reality Check.

~ "A New Abortion Rights Bill Could Help Decide the Midterms," Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "The Women's Health Protection Act: Protecting Women's Right to Choose," Ashley Bender, NWLC blog.

~ "What The Abortion Fight Unfolding in Tennessee Means for the Rest of the Country," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

PREGNANCY AND FERTILITY: "Hey Republicans, Here's How To Help Babies Who Haven't Been Born Yet," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Pro-life politicians talk a lot about unborn children," typically focusing on abortion policy and "efforts to dissuade women from ending their pregnancies," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that a new study shows there is a "different policy area that GOP lawmakers could be considering": Medicaid expansion. The study, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, tracked states' varying levels of Medicaid expansion during the 1980s, finding that infants born after their mothers gained Medicaid coverage became healthier adults, having lower rates of obesity and BMI and fewer preventable hospital visits. Culp-Ressler notes that "more than 20 GOP-controlled states continue to resist implementing" the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) Medicaid expansion, "leaving millions of low-income Americans without any access to affordable insurance whatsoever" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgess," Center for American Progress, 7/18).

What others are saying about pregnancy and fertility:

~ "My Fertility Envy," Susie Meserve, Salon.

~ "Why Are Poor Women Having Healthier Babies?" Jessica Grose, Slate's "The XX Factor."

'BUFFER ZONE' LEGISLATION: "Repro Wrap: Massachusetts Gets Harsh With Abortion Protesters and Other News," Marty, Care2: "Massachusetts may have lost its buffer zone law thanks to a 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court, but the state, its governor, and its attorney general aren't willing to let that loss go quietly," writes Marty. She adds that the governor has proposed a new bill "to combat harassment at clinics" by "allowing police to have more power to disperse groups impeding an entrance way and forcing protesters to stay away longer once they have been accused of blocking a patient or a vehicle." Marty writes that while abortion-rights opponents might try to bring the proposed law to court if enacted, doing so will "make it clear that their intention was never about 'counseling'" but instead "to block the entry way and harass patients and staff." Marty also touches on similar legislative efforts in New York and New Hampshire, among other measures related to abortion rights (Marty, Care2, 7/18).

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "Finally, Better Protections for Pregnant Workers," Ms. Magazine blog: "Many women nationwide ... are forced to take unpaid leave or leave their jobs altogether during pregnancy," Ms. Magazine writes, adding that "[p]regnancy discrimination complaints in the U.S. increased by 71 percent between 1992 and 2011." In response, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week released new pregnancy discrimination guidelines. "[S]ome company managers claim that they're unsure how federal laws apply to their workers," the blog post notes, adding that the guidelines "make it clear that an employer cannot discriminate against a worker because she is pregnant or has recently given birth, and cannot force a pregnant woman to take early leave if she is still able to work." Overall, "[i]n updating its policies, the EEOC hopes to provide clarity" (Ms. Magazine blog, 7/18).

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "Saying That a Killer 'Snapped' is not an Explanation for Domestic Violence," Libby Copeland, Washington Post's "She The People": Copeland writes that most "of the language the media uses to explain domestic homicides falls short -- or worse, makes the murders seem less shocking by rationalizing them," and she highlights various recent cases in which "reporters frame such murders in the language of romance." For example, it took only two days for an "Alaska TV station" to "gathe[r] the observations of childhood friends" of Ronald Lee Haskell, who was "accused of killing six members of his ex-wife's family in Texas this month," describing him "as funny, compassionate and religiously devout" and saying he "'must have snapped.'" Copeland notes that the manner in which the media "frame[s] such crimes affects how" the public comprehends them. She concludes, "Reporters don't do readers a service by painting a portrait of a normal, even-tempered guy who was like any one of us, until he wasn't." Instead, they should highlight that domestic violence is "not a crime of passion, but in many ways the opposite" (Copeland, "She The People," Washington Post, 7/21).

What others are saying about gender-based violence:

~ "Most Female Scientists Are Sexually Harassed on the Job," Kevin Mathews, Care2.


Fewer Low-Income Women Having Infants With Unhealthy Birthweights

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:18

Even though economic and health disparities persist, more low-income women are giving birth to infants with healthier birthweights than 25 years ago, the Washington Post reports.

Fewer Low-Income Women Having Infants With Unhealthy Birthweights

July 22, 2014 — Even though economic and health disparities persist, more low-income women are giving birth to infants with healthier birthweights than 25 years ago, the Washington Post reports.

A recent study by Princeton University economist Janet Currie and colleagues compared birthweights of infants born to women who were black, unmarried high school dropouts -- typically demographic indicators of being low-income -- with those of women who were white, married college graduates -- a group that tends to include individuals with higher incomes. According to the Post, many researchers use demographic information, such as race, marital status and education, as proxies for income information, which is not included on birth certificates.

The researchers found that one-sixth of infants born in 1989 to the lower-income group weighed under five-and-a-half pounds -- which doctors consider to be the lower bound of a healthy birthweight -- compared with one out of 32 infants born to the higher-income group.

About 20 years later, one-eighth of the infants born to the lower-income group had unhealthy birthweights, while the rate was largely unchanged for the higher-income group. The authors also found the same trends when they looked at the data after removing the factor of race.

Factors Influencing Birthweight

Other researchers have found that government policies such as food stamps, nutritional counseling and efforts to expand access to care have had a significant positive effect on birthweight. Further, other policy efforts and social trends -- such as regulations limiting pollution and auto emissions, and a decline in smoking rates -- also have played a role.

Meanwhile, studies have found several factors that continue to contribute to lower-income women giving birth to underweight infants at a higher rate, including pollution, stress and violence.

For example, researchers have found that women with annual incomes below $25,000 are two-and-a-half times more likely to be survivors of domestic violence. Further, women who have been sent to a hospital as the result of domestic violence tend to have infants who weigh five ounces less on average than women who have not (Goldfarb, Washington Post, 7/20).


Study Evaluating Effects of Texas' HB 2 Shows 13% Drop in Abortions

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:16

The number of abortions in Texas has dropped by 13% since provisions of a state law (HB 2) took effect, according to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study published in the journal Contraception, the Texas Tribune reports.

Study Evaluating Effects of Texas' HB 2 Shows 13% Drop in Abortions

July 24, 2014 — The number of abortions in Texas has dropped by 13% since provisions of a state law (HB 2) took effect, according to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study published in the journal Contraception, the Texas Tribune reports (Edelman, Texas Tribune, 7/23).

The law includes four abortion regulations: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, a requirement that abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, a mandate that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person and a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30/13). Supporters of the law contended that it would make abortion safer, but opponents raised concerns that restricted access to the procedure would lead to more unintended pregnancies and self-induced abortions, the Tribune reports (Texas Tribune, 7/23).

Key Findings

For the study, researchers analyzed data from all licensed Texas abortion clinics between November 2012 and April 2014 (Grossman et al., Contraception, 7/22).

Overall, the researchers found that as the number of available clinics in the state dwindled, so did the number of abortions. However, the drop in abortions was not as large as the researchers expected, the Tribune reports.

The admitting privileges requirement contributed to a drop in the number of operating clinics, according to the Tribune. Before the law, 42 abortion clinics operated in Texas, and as of July 1, the number dropped to 20. The report estimates that the clinic closures increased the number of women of reproductive age who live farther than 100 miles from a reproductive health center from roughly 400,000 to 1.3 million (Texas Tribune, 7/23).

The researchers predicted that as abortion facilities are required to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers by September, about 752,000 women of reproductive age -- or 5.65% of all female Texans -- will live more than 200 miles away from a clinic. About 290,000 women live more than 200 miles from an abortion clinic now (Psencik, KVUE, 7/23). In addition, only six of the 20 clinics currently operating meet surgical center standards, according to the Tribune.

The report also found that the law's requirement limiting medication abortion to women who are seven or fewer weeks pregnant caused a 70% drop in such abortions.

Comments

Report co-author Daniel Grossman, a California physician, said, "There's no evidence that the safety of abortion has been increased by these restrictions," adding, "The provisions in this law were not based on any medical evidence."

He added that the reason why the decline in abortions was not steeper might be because the remaining abortion clinics are located in the state's population centers. Further, the report suggests that financial contributions and other support from abortion-rights groups helped blunt the law's impact.

However, Andrea Ferrigno of Whole Woman's Health said she is worried abortions will continue to decrease because reproductive rights groups might no longer be able to financially support clinics. "A lot of those organizations are out of funds already, and the full extent of the law hasn't even taken effect," she said (Texas Tribune, 7/23).


White House to Modify Contraceptive Coverage Accommodation for Religiously Affiliated Not-For-Profit Groups

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:15

The Obama administration in a brief filed Tuesday said it was revising the contraceptive coverage accommodation to provide an alternative way for religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations to object to providing contraceptive coverage to their employees, the Wall Street Journal reports.

White House to Modify Contraceptive Coverage Accommodation for Religiously Affiliated Not-For-Profit Groups

July 23, 2014 — The Obama administration in a brief filed Tuesday said it was revising the contraceptive coverage accommodation to provide an alternative way for religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations to object to providing contraceptive coverage to their employees, the Wall Street Journal reports (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 7/22).

Under the federal contraceptive coverage rules, religiously affiliated not-for-profits can fill out a form that enables a third party to arrange and pay for contraceptive coverage (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7). However, many such organizations argued that filling out the form would itself violate their religious beliefs (Barnes/Somashekhar, Washington Post, 7/22).

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court in a split decision granted an injunction to Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian college in Illinois, that prevents the federal government from enforcing the contraceptive coverage rules for the school while its case is pending in lower courts. The justices said that the college did not have to fill out the form to meet the terms of the injunction but instead could simply inform HHS that it has religious objections (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

Modified Accommodation

In a legal brief filed on Tuesday in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the Obama administration indicated that it would modify the accommodation for religiously affiliated not-for-profits, the Post reports.

In the brief, the administration said that the modified accommodation would provide a second option for objecting not-for-profits. Federal agencies "intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting nonprofit religious organizations to provide notification," a senior administration official said (Washington Post, 7/22).

The official said the new rule could be expected within a month (Holland, Reuters, 7/22).

The official added that the White House believes the current "accommodation is legally sound" but that it is pursuing the additional alternative option to help ensure "that all women have access to contraception coverage" (Kenen, Politico, 7/22).


Mass. House Approves Bill Protecting Abortion Clinics

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:13

The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted 116-35 to approve a bill that would bolster security around abortion clinics in the state, AP/MassLive reports.

Mass. House Approves Bill Protecting Abortion Clinics

July 24, 2014 — The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted 116-35 to approve a bill that would bolster security around abortion clinics in the state, AP/MassLive reports.

Lawmakers developed the legislation in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state's "buffer zone" law, which had barred protests within 35 feet of clinic entrances. The measure -- approved by voice vote in the state Senate last week -- now has to be approved in a final vote in both chambers before proceeding to Gov. Deval Patrick (D) for his signature (AP/MassLive, 7/23). Patrick is expected to sign the legislation (Miller, Boston Globe, 7/23).

Legislation Details

The measure would give law enforcement personnel the authority to give dispersal orders if two or more protesters deliberately prevent patients or staff members from entering a clinic. Individuals who receive such orders would be required to stay at least 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance for up to eight hours.

The bill also would prohibit protesters from interfering with vehicles approaching or leaving the area, as well as intimidating or harming people accessing the clinic. In addition, victims of such intimidation would be allowed to seek damages through civil action (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/17).

The measure also would amend the state's current civil rights act to permit the state attorney general to pursue damages on behalf of individuals who have been blocked from accessing the clinics. The attorney general would be allowed to try to recover litigation costs and pursue civil penalties for individuals whose constitutional rights have been obstructed (AP/MassLive, 7/23).

Reaction

According to Reuters, opponents voiced concerns that the bill effectively chills free speech and gives abortion clinics unfair and unequal treatment (Barber, Reuters, 7/23). State Rep. Marc Lombardo (R) said the bill was a "retaliatory bill" that targeted abortion-rights opponents, while state Rep. James Lyons (R) said the measure is merely a reworking of the original buffer zone law and "is on the face of it unconstitutional."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D) said the bill was about public safety and not free speech. "There is a long, tragic history on this regard," she said, adding, "At some point in time there has to be a line drawn" (AP/MassLive, 7/23).

In a statement, Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said, "The Legislature's swift action will ensure that people can safely access reproductive health care in Massachusetts without fear of violence or intimidation."

Martha Walz, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, added, "There's clear recognition of the public safety concerns faced by the staff and patients at women's reproductive health care centers" (Boston Globe, 7/23).


Blogs Comment on 'Dignity of the Refused,' Supporting Working Families, More

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:12

We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from ACLU, the Huffington Post & more.

Blogs Comment on 'Dignity of the Refused,' Supporting Working Families, More

July 18, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from ACLU, the Huffington Post & more.

CONTRACEPTION: "Hobby Lobby and the Dignity of the Refused," Louise Melling, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights": The Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case effectively "enshrin[ed] into law that religion can be used to discriminate against women" and "leaves open the question [of] whether sincerely held religious belief can be used to discriminate in other ways, such as against LGBT people," Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, writes. The debate over religious exemptions has rarely discussed the potential harms to the individuals who are refused services, instead focusing on the "harm to religious objectors caused by not granting these accommodations," she notes. Citing a paper she co-wrote, Melling argues that the "harm goes far beyond the services denied" and also encroaches on the "dignity of the person who is turned away and ostracized," such as when Hobby Lobby "tells women seeking to use certain contraception, 'You are shameful. We won't help you'" (Melling, "Blog of Rights," ACLU, 7/17).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Why are We Still Fighting Over Birth Control in the 21st Century?" Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Huffington Post blogs.

~ "Republicans Block Congress From Reversing the Hobby Lobby Decision," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "White House: Companies Refusing To Cover Contraception Must Tell Employees," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "What To Expect When Your Employee's Expecting," Ariela Migdal, ACLU's "Blog of Rights": "This week the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an enforcement guidance" that "makes clear ... that employers have to give pregnant workers, who have temporary restrictions related to their pregnancies, the same kinds of light-duty assignments and other reasonable accommodations that they give to other workers with temporary lifting restrictions," Migdal writes. She outlines several other components of the guidance, including how it bars employers from "discriminat[ing] against workers for breastfeeding" and "makes clear that employers may not generally force pregnant workers who are able to work to take leave," among other requirements. "The guidance will go a long way towards eliminating this unlawful discrimination and inequality in the workplace," Migdal concludes (Migdal, "Blogs of Rights," ACLU, 7/17).

'BUFFER ZONE' LEGISLATION: "Massachusetts is Rushing Through Legislation To Fix the Supreme Court's Ruling on Buffer Zones," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": After the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Massachusetts' "buffer zone" law, "state lawmakers are rushing through new legislation to ensure that patients will still be able to safely enter clinics," Culp-Ressler writes. If signed into law, the new bill (S 2281) "would strengthen criminal penalties for certain disruptive behavior outside of abortion clinics," she explains. "Lawmakers are hoping the new legislation will strike the appropriate balance between patient safety and protesters' First Amendment rights," but "it's unlikely to please the individuals who brought down buffer zones," she adds (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/17).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "States Prescribe Bad Medicine for Women Seeking Abortions," Emily Shugerman, Ms. Magazine blog: The day "before senators testified on behalf of a bill to protect women's health services, the National Partnership for Women & Families released a report detailing just how threatened these services are," Shugerman writes. Thirty-three states have at least one of the four types of abortion restrictions mentioned in the report -- biased counseling, mandatory delays, medication abortion restrictions and ultrasound requirements -- while 16 states have all four, she notes. "These laws require physicians to act according to state ideologies, not scientific evidence," Shugerman explains, concluding, "More importantly, they obscure the fact that reproductive health care should be treated like any other form of health care: an issue for the patient and her doctor, not for politicians" (Shugerman, Ms. Magazine blog, 7/16).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "A Federal Pro-Choice Bill That Would Stem the Anti-Choice Tide in the States," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing.

~ "How To Get an Abortion in Texas," Jenny Kutner, Salon.


HPV Test More Accurate Than Pap Test For Measuring Cervical Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:10

Testing negative for the human papillomavirus more accurately indicated that women would not develop cervical cancer or other abnormal cervical cells over the next three years than did traditional Pap tests, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Reuters reports.

HPV Test More Accurate Than Pap Test For Measuring Cervical Cancer Risk, Study Finds

July 22, 2014 — Testing negative for the human papillomavirus more accurately indicated that women would not develop cervical cancer or other abnormal cervical cells over the next three years than did traditional Pap tests, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Reuters reports.

According to Reuters, Pap tests -- in which physicians collect cervical cells to look for abnormalities -- have traditionally been used to evaluate a woman's risk for cervical cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2012 recommended that women between ages 21 and 65 undergo a Pap test every three years for cervical cancer screening, while women ages 30 to 65 could instead opt for cotesting -- or undergoing both a Pap and an HPV test -- every five years.

For the study, researchers at the NIH's National Cancer Institute examined data on more than one million women between ages 30 and 64 who had been screened for cervical cancer at Kaiser Permanente Northern California since 2003. They then followed women who received a negative HPV test or Pap test to see if they developed cervical cancer over the next three years, while following women who received both tests for five years.

Key Findings

In the three years following testing, the researchers found that roughly 20 out of 100,000 women developed cervical cancer after a negative Pap test, compared with just 11 out of 100,000 women who received a negative HPV test. Meanwhile, about 14 of every 100,000 women developed cervical cancer in the five years following negative results from cotesting.

Julia Gage, lead author and a researcher at NCI, said, "Primary HPV screening might be a viable alternative to Pap screening alone." However, she said that Pap tests still could be valuable in helping ascertain whether women who have HPV develop abnormal cervical cells (Seaman, Reuters, 7/18).


White House Adviser Jarrett Uses Opinion Piece To Address Measures To Protect Pregnant Women Against Discrimination

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:06

Accommodating pregnant women with "slight job modifications could help them stay in the workforce at no risk to their health," Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, writes in a CNN opinion piece.

White House Adviser Jarrett Uses Opinion Piece To Address Measures To Protect Pregnant Women Against Discrimination

July 21, 2014 — Accommodating pregnant women with "slight job modifications could help them stay in the workforce at no risk to their health," Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, writes in a CNN opinion piece. However, "[i]n so many cases, modest accommodations ... are denied pregnant women, forcing expectant moms to choose between their health and that of their pregnancies, and their jobs," she adds.

Jarrett notes that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week issued new guidelines to remind employers that they are prohibited from discriminating against workers based on pregnancy. The guidance "will translate into real relief for countless women, especially low-income women who are working hard to support their families," Jarrett argues.

Jarrett recounts her own experience working while pregnant, "worrying that" it was "causing [her] colleagues to question whether [she] could keep up." Her experience reinforced for her that "[p]regnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are otherwise qualified to perform, and certainly should not be a basis for treating women less favorably than other similarly situated workers," she writes.

"The EEOC is helping employees and job seekers learn more about their rights," Jarrett writes, adding, "And, as importantly, it is helping employers -- the vast majority of which want to do the right thing and only need the technical assistance to do so -- understand their obligations" (Jarrett, CNN, 7/20).


Employers Must Inform Workers When Denying Contraceptive Coverage, Labor Dept. Says

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 17:03

The Department of Labor on Thursday said that corporations that refuse to provide contraceptive coverage per the Supreme Court's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling must inform their employees of the change within 60 days, Modern Healthcare reports.

Employers Must Inform Workers When Denying Contraceptive Coverage, Labor Dept. Says

July 18, 2014 — The Department of Labor on Thursday said that corporations that refuse to provide contraceptive coverage per the Supreme Court's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling must inform their employees of the change within 60 days, Modern Healthcare reports (Carlson, Modern Healthcare, 7/17).

The department posted the notice on its website shortly after Senate Republicans blocked passage of a bill that would have reversed the high court's ruling, according to the Wall Street Journal (Armour, Wall Street Journal, 7/17).

An Obama administration official said Thursday that "the House should act" on similar legislation but added that in the meantime, "we are making clear that if a corporation like Hobby Lobby drops coverage of contraceptive services from its health plan, it must do so in the light of day by letting its workers and their families know."

Notice Details

According to the Huffington Post, current law already requires employers to disclose any insurance coverage changes to their employees. The new notice clarifies that those disclosure requirements also apply to businesses refusing to provide contraceptive coverage under the Hobby Lobby ruling (Bassett, Huffington Post, 7/17).

The notice -- posted on DOL's website as a "frequently asked question" about the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) -- says employer-sponsored health plans that previously covered contraceptives but have stopped doing so are subject to "expedited disclosure requirements for material reductions in covered services or benefits" (Wolf, USA Today, 7/17).

Democrats Propose Disclosure Bill

In related news, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) on Thursday proposed a measure that would require businesses to disclose any services guaranteed under the ACA they do not cover in their employer-sponsored health plans. If enacted, the legislation would apply retroactively to July 1.

According to The Hill, the bill would not apply to religious employers or religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations that have received an exemption or accommodation related to the law's contraceptive coverage requirements.

The senators said, "At the very least, we cannot stand by and allow young women or single moms to take a job expecting to get the basic insurance coverage that the law requires, only to find out too late that the corporation is denying her that coverage."

They added that the "bill ensures that employees have the information they need to make smart decisions" (Al-Faruque, The Hill, 7/17).


10.3M Obtained Health Coverage Since Fall 2013 Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period, Study Says

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:37

About 10.3 million U.S. residents have gained health coverage since the fall 2013 launch of the initial open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplaces, according to a report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Reuters reports.

10.3M Obtained Health Coverage Since Fall 2013 Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period, Study Says

July 24, 2014 — About 10.3 million U.S. residents have gained health coverage since the fall 2013 launch of the initial open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplaces, according to a report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Reuters reports.

For the report, researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital, the Harvard School of Public Health and the federal government analyzed census data, national survey results and government enrollment data (Morgan, Reuters, 7/23). The report is the first on newly insured adults to be published in a major medical journal and authored by federal health researchers (Galewitz, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 7/24).

According to the report, the uninsured rate among adults fell by 5.2 percentage points in 2014's second quarter. The most significant declines in the uninsured rate occurred among blacks, Latinos and young adults (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 7/23).

The report authors said their data were not sufficient to demonstrate a causal relationship between the ACA and the uninsured rate, but rather showed "suggestive associations" (Reuters, 7/23). In addition, they noted that the number of individuals who gained coverage under the ACA could range from 7.3 million to 17.2 million U.S. residents depending on the models and confidence intervals used to interpret the data (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 7/23).

The report also found that the uninsured rate for individuals with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level declined by six percentage points in states that expanded Medicaid, while the uninsured rate for the same population declined by a "nonsignificant" 3.1 percentage points in states that did not expand Medicaid (Sommers et al., NEJM, 7/23).

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement, "This study also reaffirms that expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is important for coverage, as well as a good deal for states" (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 7/23).

The researchers also found that the likelihood of U.S. residents having a personal physician increased by 2.2 percentage points. Further, the number of adults who said they could not afford medical care declined by 2.7 percentage points (NEJM, 7/23).


Study Evaluating Effects of Texas' HB 2 Shows 13% Drop in Abortions

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:36

The number of abortions in Texas has dropped by 13% since provisions of a state law (HB 2) took effect, according to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study published in the journal Contraception, the Texas Tribune reports.

Study Evaluating Effects of Texas' HB 2 Shows 13% Drop in Abortions

July 24, 2014 — The number of abortions in Texas has dropped by 13% since provisions of a state law (HB 2) took effect, according to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study published in the journal Contraception, the Texas Tribune reports (Edelman, Texas Tribune, 7/23).

The law includes four abortion regulations: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, a requirement that abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, a mandate that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person and a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30/13). Supporters of the law contended that it would make abortion safer, but opponents raised concerns that restricted access to the procedure would lead to more unintended pregnancies and self-induced abortions, the Tribune reports (Texas Tribune, 7/23).

Key Findings

For the study, researchers analyzed data from all licensed Texas abortion clinics between November 2012 and April 2014 (Grossman et al., Contraception, 7/22).

Overall, the researchers found that as the number of available clinics in the state dwindled, so did the number of abortions. However, the drop in abortions was not as large as the researchers expected, the Tribune reports.

The admitting privileges requirement contributed to a drop in the number of operating clinics, according to the Tribune. Before the law, 42 abortion clinics operated in Texas, and as of July 1, the number dropped to 20. The report estimates that the clinic closures increased the number of women of reproductive age who live farther than 100 miles from a reproductive health center from roughly 400,000 to 1.3 million (Texas Tribune, 7/23).

The researchers predicted that as abortion facilities are required to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers by September, about 752,000 women of reproductive age -- or 5.65% of all female Texans -- will live more than 200 miles away from a clinic. About 290,000 women live more than 200 miles from an abortion clinic now (Psencik, KVUE, 7/23). In addition, only six of the 20 clinics currently operating meet surgical center standards, according to the Tribune.

The report also found that the law's requirement limiting medication abortion to women who are seven or fewer weeks pregnant caused a 70% drop in such abortions.

Comments

Report co-author Daniel Grossman, a California physician, said, "There's no evidence that the safety of abortion has been increased by these restrictions," adding, "The provisions in this law were not based on any medical evidence."

He added that the reason why the decline in abortions was not steeper might be because the remaining abortion clinics are located in the state's population centers. Further, the report suggests that financial contributions and other support from abortion-rights groups helped blunt the law's impact.

However, Andrea Ferrigno of Whole Woman's Health said she is worried abortions will continue to decrease because reproductive rights groups might no longer be able to financially support clinics. "A lot of those organizations are out of funds already, and the full extent of the law hasn't even taken effect," she said (Texas Tribune, 7/23).


Mass. House Approves Bill Protecting Abortion Clinics

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:35

The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted 116-35 to approve a bill that would bolster security around abortion clinics in the state, AP/MassLive reports.

Mass. House Approves Bill Protecting Abortion Clinics

July 24, 2014 — The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted 116-35 to approve a bill that would bolster security around abortion clinics in the state, AP/MassLive reports.

Lawmakers developed the legislation in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state's "buffer zone" law, which had barred protests within 35 feet of clinic entrances. The measure -- approved by voice vote in the state Senate last week -- now has to be approved in a final vote in both chambers before proceeding to Gov. Deval Patrick (D) for his signature (AP/MassLive, 7/23). Patrick is expected to sign the legislation (Miller, Boston Globe, 7/23).

Legislation Details

The measure would give law enforcement personnel the authority to give dispersal orders if two or more protesters deliberately prevent patients or staff members from entering a clinic. Individuals who receive such orders would be required to stay at least 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance for up to eight hours.

The bill also would prohibit protesters from interfering with vehicles approaching or leaving the area, as well as intimidating or harming people accessing the clinic. In addition, victims of such intimidation would be allowed to seek damages through civil action (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/17).

The measure also would amend the state's current civil rights act to permit the state attorney general to pursue damages on behalf of individuals who have been blocked from accessing the clinics. The attorney general would be allowed to try to recover litigation costs and pursue civil penalties for individuals whose constitutional rights have been obstructed (AP/MassLive, 7/23).

Reaction

According to Reuters, opponents voiced concerns that the bill effectively chills free speech and gives abortion clinics unfair and unequal treatment (Barber, Reuters, 7/23). State Rep. Marc Lombardo (R) said the bill was a "retaliatory bill" that targeted abortion-rights opponents, while state Rep. James Lyons (R) said the measure is merely a reworking of the original buffer zone law and "is on the face of it unconstitutional."

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D) said the bill was about public safety and not free speech. "There is a long, tragic history on this regard," she said, adding, "At some point in time there has to be a line drawn" (AP/MassLive, 7/23).

In a statement, Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said, "The Legislature's swift action will ensure that people can safely access reproductive health care in Massachusetts without fear of violence or intimidation."

Martha Walz, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, added, "There's clear recognition of the public safety concerns faced by the staff and patients at women's reproductive health care centers" (Boston Globe, 7/23).


Ohio Democrats To Propose Bill Mandating Employers Cover Contraceptives

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 15:11

Ohio Democrats in the House and Senate plan to introduce a bill that would require small and mid-sized companies in the state to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Ohio Democrats To Propose Bill Mandating Employers Cover Contraceptives

July 24, 2014 — Ohio Democrats in the House and Senate plan to introduce a bill that would require small and mid-sized companies in the state to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

According to the Dispatch, the bill comes in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling (Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, 7/23). The high court said that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) said the legislation would prohibit companies from offering coverage that does not include all FDA-approved contraceptives. In addition, the measure would prohibit employers from firing workers based on their use of contraceptives or decision to have an abortion.

According to Clyde, 28 states already have passed similar measures.

Comments

Clyde said, "The steps you take to live your healthiest life shouldn't be anyone else's business but your own," adding that it is "discrimination to deny women this preventive care."

Similarly, state Sen. Charleta Tavares (D), who is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill, said that employees should not have to "fear losing their job because of a personal health-care decision they made with their families and doctors."

Meanwhile, Katherine McCann, spokesperson for Ohio Right to Life, said the measure "isn't going to go anywhere in a pro-life legislature." She said the bill is a "political tool that [Democrats are] going to use to cry 'war on women' later in the fall and continue to propagate that myth" (Columbus Dispatch, 7/23).