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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Judge Blocks Alaska Law on Medicaid Abortion Coverage

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 14:54

An Alaska judge blocked a state law restricting abortion coverage in its Medicaid program from taking effect on Wednesday while he considers a Planned Parenthood lawsuit claiming that the legislation is unconstitutional, Alaska Public Media reports.

Judge Blocks Alaska Law on Medicaid Abortion Coverage

July 16, 2014 — An Alaska judge blocked a state law restricting abortion coverage in its Medicaid program from taking effect on Wednesday while he considers a Planned Parenthood lawsuit claiming that the legislation is unconstitutional, Alaska Public Media reports.

The law revises the state's definition of what constitutes a "medically necessary" abortion that is eligible for Medicaid coverage (Gutierrez, Alaska Public Media, 7/15).

In an injunction issued Tuesday, Superior Court Judge John Suddock noted that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest raised "substantial issues" regarding the restrictive nature of the law that "enhances the risk of constitutional invalidity" (AP/Washington Times, 7/15).

Background

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) signed the legislation (SB 49) into law in April. The law, which is similar to state regulations issued in January, states that abortions are only medically necessary to preserve a woman's life or physical health, whereas the regulations also permitted Medicaid abortion coverage when the procedure was needed to protect a woman's mental health.

Specifically, the measure defines an abortion as medically necessary if the pregnancy poses "serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman," including the risk of death, complications that could impair a major bodily function or one of 21 specified conditions, physical disorders or injuries.

PPGNW previously challenged the regulations but amended the lawsuit in May to incorporate the new state law (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/9).


Supreme Court Asked To Review N.C. 'Choose Life' License Plates Law

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 14:21

Republican leaders in the North Carolina Legislature have petitioned the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court ruling barring the state from issuing antiabortion-rights license plates, the AP/Raleigh News & Observer reports.

Supreme Court Asked To Review N.C. 'Choose Life' License Plates Law

July 16, 2014 — Republican leaders in the North Carolina Legislature have petitioned the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court ruling barring the state from issuing antiabortion-rights license plates, the AP/Raleigh News & Observer reports (Biesecker, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 7/14).

In 2011, state lawmakers approved the "Choose Life" plates but rejected proposals for plates with messages backing abortion rights. For each plate sold, $15 would go to not-for-profit crisis pregnancy centers that oppose abortion rights. However, the state never manufactured any of the plates because of the legal dispute.

Legal Background

In February, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court ruling that it is unconstitutional for North Carolina to offer license plates with the message as the state does not also offer plates that support abortion rights (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/18).

Although North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) defended the law in federal court, he declined to appeal the 4th Circuit ruling. In an email to North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) and state Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R) in April, Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley urged the lawmakers not to pursue further appeals.

Instead, Kelley urged Tillis and Berger to draft new legislation "as an efficient way to resolve the issues." He also noted that the 4th Circuit previously struck down a similar law in 2004 and that the Supreme Court at that time refused to review the case (AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 7/14).


New Injectable Contraceptive Debuts in Four African Countries

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 14:21

Last week, a new form of an injectable contraceptive was introduced to women in Burkina Faso, one of four African countries where it will be available, the New York Times reports.

New Injectable Contraceptive Debuts in Four African Countries

July 16, 2014 — Last week, a new form of an injectable contraceptive was introduced to women in Burkina Faso, one of four African countries where it will be available, the New York Times reports.

Called Sayana Press, Pfizer's new contraceptive is similar to the drugmaker's Depo-Provera but designed to be easier to use. It comes in a plastic capsule that contains a short needle, which is injected just below the skin, rather than into the muscle.

Sara Tifft, associate director of global reproductive health at the Seattle-based health technology developer PATH, said the contraceptive's developers hope that women eventually will be able to administer it themselves.

Injectable contraceptives last for three months, which makes them popular among African women who might not want their husbands to know they are using birth control, according to the Times.

Burkina Faso will receive 250,000 doses of the contraceptive initially. Sayana Press also will be introduced in Niger, Senegal and Uganda. A Pfizer spokesperson did not say how much the company is charging per dosage (McNeil, New York Times, 7/14).


Featured Blogs

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 17:24

"How Bad Medicine is Sweeping the Country, One State at a Time," (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/14); "Tennessee Arrests First Mother Under Its New Pregnancy Criminalization Law," (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/11).

July 15, 2014

FEATURED BLOG

"How Bad Medicine is Sweeping the Country, One State at a Time," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "[A] wave of anti-choice legislation has completely reoriented the women's health landscape, ensuring that medical professionals are forced to ignore their best judgment in order to remain compliant with the law, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families," Culp-Ressler writes. The report focuses on four types of laws that have no scientific justification, including "unnecessary ultrasound requirements, biased counseling sessions, mandatory waiting periods, and regulations on the abortion pill," Culp-Ressler explains. According to the report, 33 states have adopted at least one of these laws, while 16 have passed all four types (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/14).

What others are saying about protecting reproductive rights:

~ "An Opportunity for Congress To Stand Up for Women," Nancy Northup, MSNBC.

~ "Map of the Day: 'Bad Medicine' Laws Undermine Reproductive Health Care Across the Country," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing.

~ "Should Abortion Be 'Rare'?'" Fran Moreland Johns, Huffington Post blogs.

FEATURED BLOG

"Tennessee Arrests First Mother Under Its New Pregnancy Criminalization Law," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler discusses the case of 26-year-old Mallory Loyola who is "the first woman to be arrested under a new law [SB 1391] in Tennessee that allows the state to criminally charge mothers for potentially causing harm to their fetuses by using drugs." The measure took effect this month and "stipulates that 'a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.'" However, Culp-Ressler explains that "this may not actually apply to Loyola's case" because there is no evidence that Loyola "either used a narcotic drug or caused harm to her newborn child" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/11).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnancy:

~ "Rick Perry’s 'Pro-Life' Hypocrisy: How Texas Puts Pregnant Women at Risk," Katie McDonough, Salon.

~ "Pregnant Texas Woman Denied Methadone Treatment in Jail Released to Home Monitoring," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

Multi-Million Fundraising Goals Set for Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Referendum

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 17:19

Abortion-rights supporters and opponents in Tennessee have both set fundraising goals of millions of dollars in a battle over a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution, the Tennessean reports.

Multi-Million Fundraising Goals Set for Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Referendum

July 15, 2014 — Abortion-rights supporters and opponents in Tennessee have both set fundraising goals of millions of dollars in a battle over a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution, the Tennessean reports (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 7/13). State residents will vote on the ballot measure in November.

Background

In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the state constitution guarantees women in the state a fundamental right to abortion. The judges in their opinion wrote, "A woman's right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution."

If it passes in November, Amendment 1 would amend the state constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/11).

Fundraising Details

Abortion-rights advocates behind the Vote No on One campaign have set a fundraising goal of about $4 million and have raised more than $360,000 in the past six months, according to the Tennessean.

Most of the money has come from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion-rights groups both inside and outside the state, including $175,000 from Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, $50,000 from Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest in Seattle and $35,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union, along with a dozen individual contributions that ranged from $200 to $1,000.

Vote No on One Campaign Director and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee CEO Jeff Teague said, "We know from conversations we've had with national donors and other Planned Parenthood affiliates that people are very concerned about what's happening in the South, where we have seen really draconian laws passed in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama."

Meanwhile, abortion-rights opponents with the Yes on 1 campaign have set a fundraising goal of $2.1 million and have raised more than $518,000, according to disclosure forms filed last week with the state. Much of the money came from a $250,000 fundraiser headlined by Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R) last fall (Tennessean, 7/13).


Bill Proposed To Protect Mass. Abortion Clinics After Supreme Court Ruling

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 17:17

A Massachusetts bill filed Monday aims to bolster security and anti-harassment protections at the state's reproductive health centers after the Supreme Court struck down its 35-foot "buffer zone" law, the New York Times reports.

Bill Proposed To Protect Mass. Abortion Clinics After Supreme Court Ruling

July 15, 2014 — A Massachusetts bill filed Monday aims to bolster security and anti-harassment protections at the state's reproductive health centers after the Supreme Court struck down its 35-foot "buffer zone" law, the New York Times reports (Bidgood, New York Times, 7/14).

The buffer zone law, enacted in 2007, only permitted people to enter a 35-foot zone around abortion clinics to access the facility itself or reach another destination. In striking down the law, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that "buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve [Massachusetts'] asserted interests" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

New Legislation Details

The new bill, filed by state Sen. Harriette Chandler (D), 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.

Bill Aims To Address Free-Speech Issues

The bill's supporters said it would not create a new buffer zone but instead would bolster existing public safety laws and create new ones (LeBlanc, AP/MassLive, 7/14).

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said the measure "is a much more narrowly focused bill" than the previous law. He noted that it "prohibits obstruction of access" not "expression of free speech," which the Supreme Court focused on in its ruling.

However, Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said the "25-foot dispersal area seems to be another name for a buffer zone," which could prompt "a further constitutional challenge" (New York Times 7/14).


Senate Considers Abortion-Rights Bill as New Report Spotlights Nationwide Impact of State Laws

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 16:04

A Senate hearing on Tuesday spotlighted how state laws interfere with women's reproductive rights as lawmakers review a bill (S 1696, HR 3471) designed to block laws that hinder abortion rights, CQ Roll Call reports.

Senate Considers Abortion-Rights Bill as New Report Spotlights Nationwide Impact of State Laws

July 15, 2014 — A Senate hearing on Tuesday spotlighted how state laws interfere with women's reproductive rights as lawmakers review a bill (S 1696, HR 3471) designed to block laws that hinder abortion rights, CQ Roll Call reports (Margetta, CQ Roll Call, 7/14).

The hearing comes as a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families finds that many states have enacted antiabortion-rights laws that require physicians to offer care in ways that go against medical standards.

According to the report, 33 states have adopted laws that go against medical evidence and prioritize political beliefs over women's health care, including unnecessary ultrasound requirements, biased counseling, mandatory delays in abortion care and medication abortion restrictions. The report found that 16 states have all four types of laws.

Hearing Details

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on legislation that aims to protect abortion rights. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) were expected to testify (Villacorta, "Pulse," Politico, 7/15).

The bill, called the Women's Health Protection Act, would prevent states from imposing restrictions on abortion providers "that are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures." It also would prohibit states from banning abortion prior to viability or when a doctor believes that continuing the pregnancy would harm a woman's health.

The bill also would establish guidelines for judges reviewing the constitutionality of states' laws (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/14/13). According to The Hill, the bill has 35 co-sponsors (Viebeck, The Hill, 7/14).

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said that the hearing "show[s] the Senate vividly, dramatically what the practical impacts are of these illegal restrictions that so drastically burden ... women's right to reproductive health care" (CQ Roll Call, 7/14).

Meanwhile, National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias, who was also scheduled to testify at the hearing, said the bill would "impose nationwide the extreme ideological doctrine that elective abortion must not be limited in any meaningful way, at any stage of pregnancy" (The Hill, 7/14).


Blogs Comment on 'Bad Medicine' of State Abortion Restrictions, Paid Leave, More

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 15:26

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

Blogs Comment on 'Bad Medicine' of State Abortion Restrictions, Paid Leave, More

July 15, 2014 — We've compiled some of the most thought-provoking commentaries from around the Web. Catch up on the conversation with bloggers from "ThinkProgress," MSNBC and more.

PROTECTING REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: "How Bad Medicine is Sweeping the Country, One State at a Time," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "[A] wave of anti-choice legislation has completely reoriented the women's health landscape, ensuring that medical professionals are forced to ignore their best judgment in order to remain compliant with the law, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families," Culp-Ressler writes. The report focuses on four types of laws that have no scientific justification, including "unnecessary ultrasound requirements, biased counseling sessions, mandatory waiting periods, and regulations on the abortion pill," Culp-Ressler explains. According to the report, 33 states have adopted at least one of these laws, while 16 have passed all four types (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/14).

What others are saying about protecting reproductive rights:

~ "An Opportunity for Congress To Stand Up for Women," Nancy Northup, MSNBC.

~ "Map of the Day: 'Bad Medicine' Laws Undermine Reproductive Health Care Across the Country," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing.

~ "Should Abortion Be 'Rare'?'" Fran Moreland Johns, Huffington Post blogs.

SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "Why Does the U.S. Rank Dead Last in Paid Time Off for New Parents?" Judy Molland, Care2: The "U.S. is the last remaining industrialized nation to offer only unpaid parental leave to workers," Molland writes, citing a chart on the parental leave policies of 38 industrialized nations that was compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The U.S., along with Mexico, offers certain workers 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave, "which is the smallest amount of leave protection related to the birth of a child among these 38 countries," Molland adds. However, 63% of U.S. residents support the idea of parental leave, according to a 2012 report. Molland writes, "The U.S. needs to get in line with the rest of the industrialized world" (Molland, Care2, 7/14).

What others are saying about supporting working families:

~ "EEOC to Employers: Stop Discriminating Against Pregnant Workers," Brigid Schulte/Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post's "She The People."

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Tennessee Arrests First Mother Under Its New Pregnancy Criminalization Law," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler discusses the case of 26-year-old Mallory Loyola who is "the first woman to be arrested under a new law [SB 1391] in Tennessee that allows the state to criminally charge mothers for potentially causing harm to their fetuses by using drugs." The measure took effect this month and "stipulates that 'a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.'" However, Culp-Ressler explains that "this may not actually apply to Loyola's case" because there is no evidence that Loyola "either used a narcotic drug or caused harm to her newborn child" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/11).

What others are saying about criminalizing pregnancy:

~ "Rick Perry’s 'Pro-Life' Hypocrisy: How Texas Puts Pregnant Women at Risk," Katie McDonough, Salon.

~ "Pregnant Texas Woman Denied Methadone Treatment in Jail Released to Home Monitoring," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Repro Wrap: Anti-Abortion Activists Lose Eugenics Talking Point and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2: While antiabortion-rights activists claim that "[a]bortion providers prey on communities of color" and use "birth control and abortion as a eugenics plot," new research from the Guttmacher Institute shows that "abortion clinics actually aren't more prevalent in minority communities," Marty writes. The report found that fewer than one in 10 abortion providers are located in areas where the majority of residents are black, while about 13% are located in areas with mostly Hispanic residents (Marty, Care2, 7/11).

SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: "Ronald Lee Haskell Has a History of Domestic Violence. How Did He Get a Gun?" Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor": Marcotte discusses the case of Ronald Lee Haskell, who "allegedly broke into his former sister-in-law's home in Spring, Texas and killed her, her husband, and four of her five children." She notes that media coverage of the event suggests that "the spree appears to have been Haskell's attempt to get revenge on his ex-wife's family." Marcotte continues, "To no one's great surprise, Haskell had been arrested for domestic violence in 2008, and his ex-wife filed a protective order against him in 2013." According to Marcotte, the events "lea[d] to the question: Considering the laws put in place, both on federal and state levels, to prevent domestic abusers from getting guns, how did Haskell get one?" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 7/11).

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

~ "There is No Such Thing as a 'Classic Rapist,'" Ximena Ramirez, Care2.

~ "People are Awful: #JusticeForJada Leads to More Cyberbullying and Hobart and William Smith Colleges' Football Priorities," Viv Smythe, Feministe.


NYT: Women's Health Protection Act 'Vital' To Safeguarding Rights

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:38

While abortion-rights supporters "have been forced to play a defensive game" against state abortion restrictions, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on "could begin to move the dynamics of the fight in a positive direction," a New York Times editorial states.

NYT: Women's Health Protection Act 'Vital' To Safeguarding Rights

July 15, 2014 — While abortion-rights supporters "have been forced to play a defensive game" against state abortion restrictions, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday on "could begin to move the dynamics of the fight in a positive direction," a New York Times editorial states.

The hearing will focus on the Women's Health Protection Act (S 1696, HR 3471), "a vital measure that would safeguard the reproductive rights of women all across the nation, regardless of where they live," the editorial explains. For example, the bill would "bar states from imposing uniquely oppressive 'safety' rules on reproductive health care providers in a thinly veiled effort to drive them out of business," the Times states.

"The bill stands little chance of enactment in this Congress," the editorial notes. However, "the hearing can serve a valuable purpose if it alerts legislators and the public to a pernicious charade by removing the 'patina of respectability' from what are essentially phony restrictions of no medical value," the Times concludes, citing the words of bill sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) (New York Times, 7/14).


Bill Proposed To Protect Mass. Abortion Clinics After Supreme Court Ruling

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:35

A Massachusetts bill filed Monday aims to bolster security and anti-harassment protections at the state's reproductive health centers after the Supreme Court struck down its 35-foot "buffer zone" law, the New York Times reports.

Bill Proposed To Protect Mass. Abortion Clinics After Supreme Court Ruling

July 15, 2014 — A Massachusetts bill filed Monday aims to bolster security and anti-harassment protections at the state's reproductive health centers after the Supreme Court struck down its 35-foot "buffer zone" law, the New York Times reports (Bidgood, New York Times, 7/14).

The buffer zone law, enacted in 2007, only permitted people to enter a 35-foot zone around abortion clinics to access the facility itself or reach another destination. In striking down the law, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that "buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve [Massachusetts'] asserted interests" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).

New Legislation Details

The new bill, filed by state Sen. Harriette Chandler (D), 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.

Bill Aims To Address Free-Speech Issues

The bill's supporters said it would not create a new buffer zone but instead would bolster existing public safety laws and create new ones (LeBlanc, AP/MassLive, 7/14).

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said the measure "is a much more narrowly focused bill" than the previous law. He noted that it "prohibits obstruction of access" not "expression of free speech," which the Supreme Court focused on in its ruling.

However, Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said the "25-foot dispersal area seems to be another name for a buffer zone," which could prompt "a further constitutional challenge" (New York Times 7/14).


More Health Plans Covering Gender Reassignment Surgery

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:32

Although transgender-rights advocates are encouraged by a series of recent decisions expanding health insurance coverage for gender affirmation surgery, they expect progress toward widespread coverage to remain incremental, Politico reports

More Health Plans Covering Gender Reassignment Surgery

July 15, 2014 — Although transgender-rights advocates are encouraged by a series of recent decisions expanding health insurance coverage for gender affirmation surgery, they expect progress toward widespread coverage to remain incremental, Politico reports.

In what was seen as "both a practical and symbolic shift," Medicare in May ended a longstanding ban on covering the surgery, according to Politico. Since then, Massachusetts and Washington have begun requiring health plans to cover gender affirmation surgery, citing provisions in the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) that prohibit sex discrimination in health coverage. However, HHS has said that the ACA does not specifically require health plans to cover the surgery.

In 2012, Oregon became the first state to require private insurers to cover medically necessary transition surgeries. Since then, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Vermont and Washington, D.C., have followed suit.

Uneven Benefits

Despite the progress, coverage of gender affirmation surgery remains uneven overall and is "rarely comprehensive," according to Politico. For example, at least 167 of the Fortune 1,000 companies provide surgical benefits for transgender employees under their employer-sponsored plans, according to the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.

In addition, some insurance companies will cover changes to certain body parts but exclude other procedures, such as voice modification surgery, as cosmetic. Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management allows coverage for the surgery but does not require providers to include it in plans offered through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, "Sometimes inevitability takes a while" (Politico, 7/13).


Multi-Million Fundraising Goals Set for Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Referendum

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:29

Abortion-rights supporters and opponents in Tennessee have both set fundraising goals of millions of dollars in a battle over a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution, the Tennessean reports.

Multi-Million Fundraising Goals Set for Tenn. Antiabortion-Rights Referendum

July 15, 2014 — Abortion-rights supporters and opponents in Tennessee have both set fundraising goals of millions of dollars in a battle over a state ballot initiative (SJR 127) that would decrease abortion-rights protections in Tennessee's constitution, the Tennessean reports (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 7/13). State residents will vote on the ballot measure in November.

Background

In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the state constitution guarantees women in the state a fundamental right to abortion. The judges in their opinion wrote, "A woman's right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution."

If it passes in November, Amendment 1 would amend the state constitution to include the statement, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/11).

Fundraising Details

Abortion-rights advocates behind the Vote No on One campaign have set a fundraising goal of about $4 million and have raised more than $360,000 in the past six months, according to the Tennessean.

Most of the money has come from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other abortion-rights groups both inside and outside the state, including $175,000 from Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, $50,000 from Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest in Seattle and $35,000 from the American Civil Liberties Union, along with a dozen individual contributions that ranged from $200 to $1,000.

Vote No on One Campaign Director and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee CEO Jeff Teague said, "We know from conversations we've had with national donors and other Planned Parenthood affiliates that people are very concerned about what's happening in the South, where we have seen really draconian laws passed in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama."

Meanwhile, abortion-rights opponents with the Yes on 1 campaign have set a fundraising goal of $2.1 million and have raised more than $518,000, according to disclosure forms filed last week with the state. Much of the money came from a $250,000 fundraiser headlined by Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R) last fall (Tennessean, 7/13).


Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:41

Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

July 14, 2014 — Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Perry, Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).

Background

In January, the Ohio Department of Health ordered the Women's Med Center in Sharonville, Ohio, to close after denying its request for reprieve from a state law that requires ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- to have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23).

The clinic appealed the order and asked the court to order the state to renew the clinic's operating license and provide a temporary stay of the closure order while the case proceeds. Later that month, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz said that the clinic could remain open while the appeal continued.

However, Hamilton County Common Pleas Magistrate Michael Bachman earlier this month affirmed the health department's order and said he would lift the stay.

Under Hamilton County court rules, a common pleas judge must approve a magistrate's rulings, which means that Bachman's decision has to be approved by Metz (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/2). According to the Enquirer, Bachman's order can be appealed within 14 days or remain ineffective should Metz decide not to approve it.

Metz' Ruling Stands

Attorneys representing the clinic on Thursday said that they would appeal the order, which means that the Metz ruling permitting the clinic to remain open will stand.

According to the Enquirer, the case over the clinic is scheduled to resume on Aug. 15 (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).


Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:40

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports.

Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

July 14, 2014 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports (Lyon, Fort Smith Times-Record, 7/10).

The law prohibits abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal disorder.

A federal judge overturned the law earlier this year, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than on fetal viability is unconstitutional. In May, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling and uphold the law, arguing that it protects women, fetuses and medical professionals (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/29).

Plaintiffs Urge Court To Reject Appeal

In a brief filed Thursday, ACLU of Arkansas and CRR -- who are challenging the law on behalf of two abortion providers in Little Rock -- asked the court to reject McDaniel's appeal, arguing that the state is trying to overturn court precedent by defending the law.

The brief states, "For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that, before viability, states lack the power to ban abortion and wrest from a woman the ultimate decision of whether to continue a pregnancy -- regardless of the particular interests asserted by the state, and regardless of whether the state includes exceptions to the ban."

It adds, "This court does not have the authority to overturn this precedent, and the state's arguments to the contrary should be roundly rejected" (AP/Arkansas Business, 7/10).


N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:39

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports.

N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

July 14, 2014 — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports (Branch, Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a Massachusetts buffer zone law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics violates the First Amendment's right to free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26). The decision has prompted officials in some areas to stop enforcing their buffer zone laws, the Albany Times Union reports.

Twenty-two counties in New York have buffer zones laws, while New York City enforces a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, according to the Times Union.

Schneiderman Comments

In a memorandum to law enforcement agencies, Schneiderman said his office has received reports of antiabortion-rights groups "suggesting to [abortion] service providers that the Supreme Court invalidated all buffer zones and other protections. That is not true." He added that the court "also affirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to reproductive health services" (Seiler, Albany Times Union, 7/10).

Schneiderman also said he is "committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure [the state's laws] are fully enforced" (Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Tracey Brooks of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York State said Schneiderman's statement "should send a clear message to those extremists willing to intimidate patients and staff at health centers" (Albany Times Union, 7/10).


Contraceptive Coverage Form Designed To Accommodate Religious Employers Draws Objections

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:14

The form that religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations must complete to opt out of directly providing contraceptive coverage to their employees has "provoked a titanic clash between the government and many religious organizations" and become a "a tangible symbol of President Obama's struggle to balance religious freedom and women's rights," the New York Times reports.

Contraceptive Coverage Form Designed To Accommodate Religious Employers Draws Objections

July 14, 2014 — The form that religiously affiliated not-for-profit organizations must complete to opt out of directly providing contraceptive coverage to their employees has "provoked a titanic clash between the government and many religious organizations" and become a "a tangible symbol of President Obama's struggle to balance religious freedom and women's rights," the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 7/12).

Under the federal contraceptive rules, religiously affiliated not-for-profits that object to contraception are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide contraceptive coverage to their employees (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

Employers wishing to receive the accommodation must complete a two-page form that asks for the name of the "objecting organization," as well as the name, title, address and phone number of a person who certifies that the organization objects to providing contraceptive coverage.

Several religiously affiliated organizations -- such as the Eternal Word Television Network and the Little Sisters of the Poor have launched legal challenges against the accommodation, arguing that signing the form essentially authorizes "their insurers or plan administrators to pay for contraceptives, including some that they believe may cause abortion."

For example, EWTN argued in its court filings that the "coerced execution of the form is the trigger for contraceptive coverage." The government in that case argued that EWTN's refusal to complete the form "would deprive hundreds of employees and their families of medical coverage."

According to the Times, the organizations have had differing success in their legal challenges. The Supreme Court recently granted a temporary injunction to Wheaton College while the litigation continues. However, a judge from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the government in a case involving the University of Notre Dame, which the court said was not substantially burdened by completing and submitting the form.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration maintains that insurers have an independent obligation to provide birth control coverage, separate from the disputed form, the Times reports (New York Times, 7/12).

New York Times Column: Hobby Lobby Decision Reflects Supreme Court's Religious Divide

Most analyses about the Supreme Court's decision allowing Hobby Lobby to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage have focused on how the justices aligned ideologically or by gender, but "it is at least as compelling to consider the Catholic-Jewish divide," New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman writes.

Freedman notes that five of the high court's six Catholic justices -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- "formed the majority that espoused a larger place for religious practice in public life," while "[a]ll three Jewish justices -- Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan -- joined by one Catholic, Sonia Sotomayor, dissented on behalf of a wider, firmer separation."

He asks, "Did nine individuals just coincidentally disagree based on their legal reasoning, or have American Catholics and American Jews arrived at different communal positions about where to properly draw the line between church and state?" Freedman argues that the "Jewish organizational sphere developed largely along secular lines," while "American Catholics advocated largely through overtly religious bodies" -- a difference that "helps one make historical sense" of the Hobby Lobby ruling (Freedman, New York Times, 7/11).

Washington Post Editorial: ENDA Should Be Revised in Wake of Hobby Lobby Ruling

Concerns that employers could use the Hobby Lobby ruling to seek exemptions from anti-discrimination rules "came into focus [last] week when several gay rights groups withdrew their support from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) [S 815], a bill that is supposed to offer workplace protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans," a Washington Post editorial states.

Given that "more than half the states lack workplace protections for gay, lesbian and transgender Americans," the editorial urges the bill's supporters to "push to strengthen [ENDA's] language, removing any possibility that it would condone the sort of workplace discrimination it seeks to eliminate, and [to] continue to work for its passage" (Washington Post, 7/11).


N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:22

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports.

N.Y. Attorney General Affirms That State's Buffer Zones Remain in Place

July 14, 2014 — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports (Branch, Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a Massachusetts buffer zone law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics violates the First Amendment's right to free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26). The decision has prompted officials in some areas to stop enforcing their buffer zone laws, the Albany Times Union reports.

Twenty-two counties in New York have buffer zones laws, while New York City enforces a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, according to the Times Union.

Schneiderman Comments

In a memorandum to law enforcement agencies, Schneiderman said his office has received reports of antiabortion-rights groups "suggesting to [abortion] service providers that the Supreme Court invalidated all buffer zones and other protections. That is not true." He added that the court "also affirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to reproductive health services" (Seiler, Albany Times Union, 7/10).

Schneiderman also said he is "committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure [the state's laws] are fully enforced" (Mineola Patch, 7/11).

Tracey Brooks of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York State said Schneiderman's statement "should send a clear message to those extremists willing to intimidate patients and staff at health centers" (Albany Times Union, 7/10).


FDA Advisory Panel Says Cancer Risk From Surgery Device Cannot Be Minimized

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 15:19

An FDA advisory panel on Friday said that there are no proven ways to use a common technique for hysterectomies and fibroid removal without risking the spread of malignant cancers to other parts of the body, the AP/Modern Healthcare reports.

FDA Advisory Panel Says Cancer Risk From Surgery Device Cannot Be Minimized

July 14, 2014 — An FDA advisory panel on Friday said that there are no proven ways to use a common technique for hysterectomies and fibroid removal without risking the spread of malignant cancers to other parts of the body, the AP/Modern Healthcare reports.

FDA asked its advisory panel of obstetrics and gynecology experts to review the technique, called laparoscopic power morcellation, after concluding that it might present a higher risk of spreading undetected cancer than previously thought. The agency takes its panelists' recommendations into account when making regulatory decisions, but it has not announced a timeline for making a determination about the use of morcellation (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/12).

Background

Laparoscopic power morcellation was developed as an alternative to invasive surgery for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, which are responsible for about 40% of the 500,000 hysterectomies performed each year in the U.S. It uses a power device to grind uterine tissue so it can be removed through a tiny incision.

The technique has come under fire for its potential to spread a type of cancer -- known as a uterine sarcoma -- within the body.

In April, FDA issued a safety communication notice discouraging the use of the procedure. FDA in the notice said that uterine sarcoma affects about one in 350 women undergoing fibroid removal procedures and that laparoscopic power morcellation could significantly worsen the chances of long-term survival (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/12). The technique is used in about 50,000 procedures annually in the U.S. (Kamp, Wall Street Journal, 7/11).

Panel's Findings

FDA asked the advisory panel to evaluate whether there are ways to minimize the risk of spreading cancer during morcellation, such as using plastic specimen bags to collect tissue.

Although some surgeons are already using the bag technique, the panelists said it is unproven. "There's no evidence that the bags or any containment devices prevent the outcome we are trying to prevent," Craig Shriver, a surgical oncologist at Walter Reed Medical Center, said (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/12).

The panel also said there is no reliable method for determining whether a woman has the cancer before the morcellation procedure (Wall Street Journal, 7/11).

The panel recommended that women who undergo laparoscopic power morcellation should have to sign a written consent form acknowledging that they understand the procedure's risks (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/12).

According to the Wall Street Journal, some panelists seemed to support also requiring FDA's strongest warning -- known as a black box warning -- for morcellators, while others called for a complete ban (Wall Street Journal, 7/11). Cancer patients and their family members who spoke at the meeting also urged FDA to ban the device (Weintraub, USA Today, 7/11).

However, others said the procedure could still be useful. According to panelist and gynecologist Keith Isaacson, the tool may help young women who want to remain fertile. Meanwhile, a doctor providing testimony on behalf of the main trade group for minimally invasive gynecologists told the panel that prohibiting morcellators likely would lead more women to have more-invasive open surgery (Wall Street Journal, 7/11).


Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:36

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports.

Abortion-Rights Groups Urge Court To Reject Appeal of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

July 14, 2014 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion at 12 weeks, arguing that it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Fort Smith Times-Record reports (Lyon, Fort Smith Times-Record, 7/10).

The law prohibits abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal disorder.

A federal judge overturned the law earlier this year, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than on fetal viability is unconstitutional. In May, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling and uphold the law, arguing that it protects women, fetuses and medical professionals (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/29).

Plaintiffs Urge Court To Reject Appeal

In a brief filed Thursday, ACLU of Arkansas and CRR -- who are challenging the law on behalf of two abortion providers in Little Rock -- asked the court to reject McDaniel's appeal, arguing that the state is trying to overturn court precedent by defending the law.

The brief states, "For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that, before viability, states lack the power to ban abortion and wrest from a woman the ultimate decision of whether to continue a pregnancy -- regardless of the particular interests asserted by the state, and regardless of whether the state includes exceptions to the ban."

It adds, "This court does not have the authority to overturn this precedent, and the state's arguments to the contrary should be roundly rejected" (AP/Arkansas Business, 7/10).


Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:28

Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Ohio Abortion Clinic Will Remain Open During Appeal, Despite Order To Close

July 14, 2014 — Attorneys representing an Ohio abortion clinic are asking a common pleas judge not to sign a common pleas magistrate's order that would close the clinic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Perry, Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).

Background

In January, the Ohio Department of Health ordered the Women's Med Center in Sharonville, Ohio, to close after denying its request for reprieve from a state law that requires ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- to have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23).

The clinic appealed the order and asked the court to order the state to renew the clinic's operating license and provide a temporary stay of the closure order while the case proceeds. Later that month, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz said that the clinic could remain open while the appeal continued.

However, Hamilton County Common Pleas Magistrate Michael Bachman earlier this month affirmed the health department's order and said he would lift the stay.

Under Hamilton County court rules, a common pleas judge must approve a magistrate's rulings, which means that Bachman's decision has to be approved by Metz (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/2). According to the Enquirer, Bachman's order can be appealed within 14 days or remain ineffective should Metz decide not to approve it.

Metz' Ruling Stands

Attorneys representing the clinic on Thursday said that they would appeal the order, which means that the Metz ruling permitting the clinic to remain open will stand.

According to the Enquirer, the case over the clinic is scheduled to resume on Aug. 15 (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/10).