Saturday, June 24, 2017

4 Ways the Senate Health Care Bill Would Hurt Women

TIME (Jun. 22, 2017): 4 Ways the Senate Health Care Bill Would Hurt Women, by Amanda MacMillan

The newly unveiled Senate health care bill intended to repeal the Affordable Care Act has a name: the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. The Senate bill looks very similar to the American Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year, with a few changes. What hasn't changed much is the debilitating effects the legislation could have on women and families, and especially low-income Americans and those with pre-existing conditions.

Under the Senate plan, women could lose essential benefits like cervical cancer screenings, breast pumps, contraception, and domestic violence screening and counseling, and prescription drug coverage could be severely limited. The bill also slashes Medicaid, which currently funds half of all childbirths in the United States, and includes language that allows states to impose employment requirements for Medicaid eligibility.

The Senate plan eliminates Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for one year, which would further limit access to essential services like well-woman visits, cancer screenings, and STI testing. Finally, the Republican plan repeals the individual mandate and the requirement that employers with 50 or more employees provide health coverage. Without these requirements, many women will lose their health insurance and face unique challenges, particularly regarding childbirth. With the U.S.'s maternal mortality rate already the highest among the developed world, both the House and Senate bills are likely to make a bad problem worse.

 

June 24, 2017 in Congress, Contraception, Current Affairs, Politics, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Calling on Congress to Support Black Women's Maternal Health

Ms. Magazine (Jun. 21, 2017): Calling on Congress to Support Black Women's Maternal Health, by Meliss Arteaga:

Last week, members of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), a maternal health advocacy committee organized by SisterSong, briefed members of Congress and non-profit groups on Capitol Hill about the state of black maternal health in the United States. BMMA called on Congress to "improve policies that impact the health of pregnant black women and stressed that access to affordable contraception and abortion is a human rights issue."

The U.S. maternal mortality rate has risen by more than fifty percent between 1990 and 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), black women are four times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, and the year following childbirth than white women, and black women also experience more pregnancy complications than white women.

What is causing this significant discrepancy between black and white women? A combination of poverty-driven health disparities, systemic racism in healthcare, and lack of access to care lead to poorer health outcomes for black families.

"Racial discrimination is very real in the health care system," said SisterSong Executive Director Monica Simpson. "We need to listen to pregnant women, talk to pregnant women and love pregnant women. That includes ensuring that programs and policies support the health and the needs of pregnant women."

June 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Anti-Abortion Lawmakers Win Even While Losing in Court

Texas Observer (Jun. 20, 2017): How Texas' Anti-Abortion Lawmakers Win Even While Losing in Court, by Sophie Novack:

Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 8 into law, "an omnibus measure that mandates burdensome clinic regulations and outlaws a safe, common abortion procedure" known as dilation & evacuation, or D&E. SB 8 is the most sweeping set of restrictions on abortion care signed into law in Texas since House Bill 2 in 2013, culminating in last year's Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down two of the bill's major provisions. A lawsuit against SB 8 is expected later this summer.

Novack argues that while abortion-rights advocates ultimately claimed victory in the courts over HB 2, the law "forced the closure of more than half the state’s abortion clinics, and only three have reopened since." The main issue for abortion-rights advocates, Novack says is that "legislation often moves faster than the courts, and SB 8 could wreak similar havoc on the abortion provider community in Texas.

“We’re looking at again the possibility of clinic closures and other restrictions that force women to leave the state if they need abortion care,' said Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit against HB 2 and has pledged to fight SB 8. 'In terms of access on the ground, this presents a huge threat to Texas.”

The major provisions at issue in SB 8 are a requirement that fetal remains be buried or cremated, and a ban on D&E, the most common form of second-trimester procedure. Abortion-rights advocates take some comfort in knowing that both of these provisions have been successfully challenged in court, but if either provision goes into effect, clinics could face closure for failure to comply with the law.

Texas Right to Life pushed the D&E ban, while Texas Alliance for Life championed the fetal burial/cremation requirement. Each group has a different strategy: Texas Right to Life favors pushing the D&E ban to the Supreme Court, while Texas Alliance for Life favors "a more incremental approach" that chips away at access until the Supreme Court becomes less favorable to abortion rights. Said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life: "it’s very clear now that [Justice Kennedy] will not uphold any state or federal provision that makes abortion less accessible, that’s the unfortunate reality."

In January, a federal judge blocked new Texas regulations that would’ve required burials for fetal remains. Courts have blocked D&E abortion bans in four other states. While it remains to be seen how courts will decide on SB 8, the battle will be long, and if it plays out like HB 2, there could be lasting consequences.

June 22, 2017 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, Pro-Choice Movement, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

U.N. Experts Tell U.S. They Are Concerned About Laws Criminalizing Women Who Have Abortions

[Cross-posted on Human Rights at Home Blog] (June 21, 2017): U.N. Experts Tell U.S. They Are Concerned About Laws Criminalizing Women Who Have Abortions, by Cynthia Soohoo:

Since the Presidential election last fall, we’ve seen intensified attacks on women’s reproductive health. In the current political environment, it’s even more crucial that U.N. human rights bodies call out the U.S. when it violates human rights. Yesterday, United Nations human rights experts sent a letter to the U.S. government expressing concern about criminalization of abortion and the declining access to reproductive health services. The letter welcomed state efforts to turn back the “negative trend on women’s reproductive rights” and urged states to adopt laws to help ensure that women’s human rights are respected, like the Reproductive Health Act currently pending in the New York state legislature.

Human rights bodies have repeatedly recognized that women’s access to reproductive health services implicates multiple human rights including the right to dignity, autonomy, personal integrity, health, non-discrimination and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Given the range of rights involved, U.N. experts on health, violence against women, and discrimination against women banded together to write a joint letter to the U.S. expressing their concerns.

The experts’ letter focused on two current threats to reproductive rights – “the failure to provide adequate access to services for the termination of an unwanted pregnancy” and the “criminalization of abortion.” Last year, the U.N. Working Group on Discrimination Against Women criticized the “ever-increasing barriers . . . created to prevent [women’s] access to abortion procedures” in the U.S. Yesterday’s letter reiterated these concerns and specifically focused on laws that allow women to be criminally prosecuted for terminating their own pregnancies.

The human rights experts emphasized that criminalizing women for having abortions “instrumentalizes women’s bodies, undercuts women’s autonomy and puts their lives and health and risk” because women who experience complications will not seek medical help for fear of prosecution. The letter also warned that because symptoms of spontaneous miscarriage and self-induced abortion can be similar criminalizing abortion often results in “collateral consequences, including the imprisonment of women who have had miscarriages.” Last month, the experts criticized an El Salvador law criminalizing abortion noting that, in addition to violating the rights of women who chose to terminate their pregnancies, the law resulted in the arrest and prosecution of women who suffered miscarriages.

Human rights law emphasizes that governments must ensure that people can meaningfully access their human rights. In the U.S. context, this means that a constitutional right to abortion is not sufficient if women cannot actually access abortion and family planning or are punished or penalized for their reproductive health choices. The experts expressed concern that criminal prosecution of self-induced abortions “has discriminatory effects on economically disadvantaged women whose limited resources render them unable to access safe reproductive health services in the same manner as privileged women.”

In addition to the onslaught of anti-choice laws that are being passed in Texas and other states, laws criminalizing women who have abortions are often remnants of laws passed before Roe v. Wade that were never repealed. For instance, New York still has a pre-Roe law on the books that imposes criminal penalties on women for self-inducing an abortion. It also criminalizes health care providers who perform abortions after 24 weeks -- even if the abortion is necessary to preserve a woman’s health or if the fetus is not viable. Human rights bodies have recognized that forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy knowing that the fetus she is carrying will not survive is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. And denying a woman access to an abortion when necessary to preserve her health violates the U.S. Constitution.

The experts’ letter is addressed to the U.S. government, but the experts aren’t holding their breath awaiting a reply from the Trump Administration. Instead, the letter urges New York to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would repeal the criminal abortion provisions, and encourages similar state efforts to bring their laws in compliance with human rights law.

 

June 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why is Reproductive Justice Vital to This Political Moment? A New Book Breaks it Down

Nation (June 13, 2017): Why is Reproductive Justice Vital to This Political Moment? A New Book Breaks it Down, by Dani McClain:

In 1994, a dozen black women at a pro-choice conference developed a new intellectual framework for understanding reproductive health and rights.  Loretta Ross explains “We placed ourselves in the center of our analysis and made the case that while abortion was a crucial resource for us, we also needed health care, education, jobs, day care, and the right to motherhood.”  At that moment the reproductive justice movement was born.

Twenty-three years later, Ross and historian Rickie Solinger have published "an introduction" to reproductive justice.  According Dani McClain of the Nation:

This history will be new and useful reading to some people long connected to reproductive-rights struggles, but Ross said she and Solinger wrote Reproductive Justice primarily as a teaching tool for high-school and college students. “So much of feminist theory is presented in such abstract language you can’t even begin to understand it even if you’ve got a PhD in women studies,” she said. “I took pains to make sure we could talk about complex concepts but in a way that someone with good reading skills could understand.”

The book explains how race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender expression, and immigration status intersect with gender to impact a person's ability to protect her reproductive health, choose whether and when to have a child and safely raise the children that she has.  The reproductive justice movement also recognizes the need to embrace human rights concepts that go beyond our Constitution, including positive government obligations to protect and ensure rights and to create enabling conditions.  A comprehensive book on reproductive justice has been sorely needed and seems particularly appropriate given the current attacks on reproductive rights, immigrants and minorities.  “When we created reproductive justice in 1994, it was for this political moment,” Ross said.

June 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

UN repeats criticism of Ireland's 'cruel and inhumane' abortion laws

Guardian (May 13, 2017): UN repeats criticism of Ireland's cruel and inhumane' abortion laws, by Henry McDonald:

For the second time in a year, the UN Human Rights Committee has held that Ireland's highly restrictive abortion law violates women's human rights.  Under Irish law, women are not permitted to have an abortion even in cases in which the fetus suffers from a fatal abnormality. In 2010, Sioban Whelan was denied access to an abortion in Ireland after being told that her fetus suffered from a fatal condition.

"When I received the diagnosis, I was told I would have to continue with the pregnancy since Ireland’s abortion laws do not allow you to end the pregnancy even in these circumstances.

If I wanted to end the pregnancy, I would have to travel to another jurisdiction. This, to me, was very wrong and I knew that the suffering I endured because I had to travel to access healthcare was inhuman."

The Human Rights Committee agreed that denial of an abortion in such instances constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  As in a case brought by Amanda Mellet last summer, the Committee held that Whelan was entitled to damages.  It also stated that Ireland should change its abortion law.  In order to do so, Ireland must amend its constitution, which protects fetal life.  An Irish Citizen's Assembly recently voted in favor of changing the 8th Amendment in April.

June 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 12, 2017

States Lead the Fight Against the President's Rollback of Birth Control

New York Times (June 10, 2017): States Lead the Fight Against the President's Rollback of Birth Control, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

The Trump Administration's draft rule, leaked last week, would expand the number of employers and insurers that could claim exemptions under current Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate.  In anticipation of this type of Department of Health and Human Services regulation and other federal threats to birth control access, a number of states are considering state laws to ensure access to affordable birth control.

In 2014, California was the first state to pass legislation that codified the ACA's birth control mandate under state law.  Illinois, Vermont and Maryland have also passed contraceptive equity laws.  State lawmakers are also looking at how to make contraceptives more accessible. Last week, Nevada's Republican governor signed a bill requiring insurers to cover 12 months of birth control at a time with no co-payment.  Washington and Colorado recently passed similar bills.  

According the New York Times, "[c]urrently, 28 states have some type of 'contraceptive equity' law aimed at making birth control cheaper and more accessible." Efforts to pass state legislation to expand contraceptive coverage and access can codify current ACA provisions at the state level and even expand access in some states.  But sole reliance on state initiatives will create unequal access to contraceptives for women based on where they live.

 

June 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

No Idle Threat: Dangerously Outdated Abortion Laws Must Go

Rewire (May 30, 2017): No Idle Threat Dangerously Outdated Abortion Laws Must Go, by Farah Diaz-Tello and Clare Murphy:

In New York state, the legislature is considering a bill to remove abortion, including self-induced abortion, from the penal code. A proposal in the U.K. Parliament would change a 19th-century criminal law that allows prosecution of people who end their own pregnancies.

Why are advocates pushing for these reforms now?  Because antiquated criminal abortion laws remain on the books in both places and pose a danger that women can be prosecuted for having abortions.  In both New York and the U.K., when abortion was legalized, legislatures amended existing criminal abortion laws to create exceptions to the criminal provisions providing that abortion would be legal in certain circumstances.  The U.K. law requires that legal abortions be performed in hospitals and clinics, thus leaving women who choose to self-induce abortions outside of a clinical setting open to criminal prosecution.  Similarly, in New York, self-inducing an abortion is a crime. Both laws were "drafted at a time when no one could imagine safely and effectively ending a pregnancy with pills."  Today, women are increasingly obtaining pills online to induce medication abortion.  And in both New York and the U.K. women have been prosecuted for self-inducing abortion.

The experiences of people seeking abortions from the U.K. to New York teach us that access to affordable clinic-based abortion is critical, but is not enough to ensure that no one goes to jail for ending their own pregnancy. Nowadays, people may be pushed toward self-directed care by clinic closures and unnecessary restrictions, or pulled toward it by the private and personalized experience promised by abortion with pills.

The New York bill would move provisions regulating abortion from the Penal Code to the Health Code where they belong.

 

June 1, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Criminalizing Pregnancy: Policing Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs in the United States

Amnesty International (May 23, 2107): Criminalizing Pregnancy: Policing Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs in the United States:

Amnesty International has issued a new report that looks at the impact of pregnancy criminalization laws in the U.S. with a focus on laws that are used to arrest and prosecute women based on the belief that they are harming their fetus.  The report focuses on two states Alabama and Tennessee.  Alabama is the state with the greatest number of prosecutions of pregnant women.  Between 2014 and 2016, Tennessee made it a crime to give birth to child that showed signs of exposure to drugs.  Amnesty asserts that these laws are counter-productive because fear of prosecution deters pregnant women from seeking health care and drug treatment.

“Across the USA, the heavy-handed policing of pregnant women’s behavior is shattering patient trust in health services with devastating consequences. These laws put pregnant women in a double bind, forcing them to choose between risking their health and risking punishment,” said Carrie Eisert, Policy Adviser at Amnesty International, who authored the report.

 

May 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump expansion of abortion 'gag rule' will restrict $8.8 billion in U.S. aid

Washington Post (May 15, 2017): Trump expansion of abortion 'gag rule' will restrict $8.8 billion in U.S. aid, by Ariana Eunjung Cha and Carol Morello:

On Monday, President Trump's executive order blocking U.S. aid to groups that counsel or provide referrals for abortion went into effect.  Known as the "Global Gag Rule" because the order cuts funding to health organizations for merely discussing abortion with patients, the order's restrictions are tied to $8.8 billion in foreign health assistance.  Trump's order massively expands previous versions of the Global Gag Rule.  Republican presidents only applied the Global Gag Rule to about $600 million in family planning funding. Trump's Global Gag Rule will apply to other health programs including AIDS, malaria and child health funding.  The George W. Bush administration specifically excluded funding for the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) in recognition that tying the Global Gag Rule to PEPFAR funding would undermine the program's effectiveness. 

In the past studies have shown that the Global Gag Rule actually has increased abortion rates because of closure of health care centers and lack of contraceptive access. Although the Trump Administration has stressed that it is not cutting funding dollars, many established health care organizations may reject the funding based on ethical concerns.

May 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Black Lives Matter is Bailing Out Women for Mothers's Day

Mother Jones (May 12, 2017): Black Lives Matter is Bailing Out Women for Mother's Day, by Brandon E. Patterson:

Organized around Mother's Day, National Black Mamas Bail Out Day raised nearly $500,000 to bail out over 50 women around the country. Organizers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Oakland and 13 other cities used relationships with criminal justice organizations to identify women to bail out of jail. 

The number of women behind bars in the United States has increased 700 percent since 1980, according to the Sentencing Project. More than 100,000 women are currently in jail. Many have not been convicted of anything but are unable to make bail, and a disproportionate number of them are black. Eighty percent of incarcerated women are mothers, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

Nationally, the median bail set for a felony charge is $10,000, almost a year's income for the average person unable to meet bail, according to the Sentencing Policy Initiative. Nearly 90 percent of inmates awaiting trial can't afford bail; The average bail amount in felony cases has nearly tripled since 1990.

Organizers in some cities held welcome events for newly freed women and their families. The groups are also raising money for a similar bail out effort in honor of Father's day on June 18. 

 

May 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Focus on Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms in Danger

NPR (May 12, 2017): Focus on Infants During Childbirth Leaves Moms in Danger, by Nina Martin & Renee Montagne:

NPR and ProPublica profile Lauren Bloomstien, a 33 neonatal nurse who died in childbirth. Every year in the U.S., 700-900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth related causes.  The U.S. maternal mortality rate is three times that of Canada and six times that of Scandinavia.  In recent years, Great Britain has seen a dramatic decline in maternal mortality, but maternal deaths in the U.S. increased from 2000 to 2014, and according the CDC Foundation, almost 60% of those deaths are preventable. 

Maternal mortality rates are significantly higher among African-Americans, low-income women and women who live in rural areas, but according to NPR and ProPublica, maternal mortality affects women of all races, ethnicities and income levels.

[T]he worsening U.S. maternal mortality numbers contrast sharply with the impressive progress in saving babies' lives. Infant mortality has fallen to its lowest point in history, the CDC reports, reflecting 50 years of efforts by the public health community to prevent birth defects, reduce preterm birth, and improve outcomes for very premature infants. The number of babies who die annually in the U.S. — about 23,000 in 2014 — still greatly exceeds the number of expectant and new mothers who die, but the ratio is narrowing.

The divergent trends for mothers and babies highlight a theme that has emerged repeatedly in ProPublica's and NPR's reporting. In recent decades, under the assumption that it had conquered maternal mortality, the American medical system has focused more on fetal and infant safety and survival than on the mother's health and wellbeing.

In the U.K. maternal deaths are treated as system failures, and a committee of experts investigates every death from pregnancy or childbirth complications. In the U.S. maternal mortality reviews are left to the states. Thirty-one states have maternal mortality review process.  A federal bill Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017 would authorize federal funding for states to establish or improve review processes. 

 

May 15, 2017 in Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Abortion and the Economy: Which Side Are You On?

by Richard Storrow

Two op-eds appearing in the New York Times recently addressed the intersection of abortion and economics.  Both develop their arguments around Bernie Sanders's recent appearances with abortion rights supporter Jon Ossof, Democratic candidate for Congress in Georgia, and abortion rights foe Heath Mello, a pro-life Democatic candidate for Omaha mayor.  The seemingly contradictory optics these appearances create are concerning for progressives who fear that the Democratic Party, in trying to woo voters, may move reproductive rights to the back burner.  They appear to be right. Democratic Party National Committee chair Thomas Perez has made clear that the party's focus must now be on economics instead of "social issues" like reproductive rights and abortion.

In Why Abortion Is an Economic IssueBryce Covert speaks out against the efforts of the Democratic Party to revive itself by divorcing issues of reproductive rights from issues of economics.  "To pretend that these issues are different and that one can be abandoned for the other," he writes, "is disproved in countless women's lives."  In The Problem with Linking Abortion and EconomicsLori Szala takes aim at the "enormous baggage" freighting the old saw that "women on the margins need abortion so that they can scramble up the economic ladder without children holding them back."  The argument justifies eliminating beings "who impede our economic progress," and urges that abortion is a simple solution to deep, systemic inequalities.  

Continue reading

May 10, 2017 in Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Abortion Foes Find a Friend in Donald Trump. But for How Long?

New York Times (May 6, 2017): Opponents of Abortion Warily Measure Progress, by Jeremy W. Peters:

President Trump has proven himself to be a friend of abortion opponents.  Left unclear, though, is whether he has any influence in the battle over the roughly $500 million Planned Parenthood receives each year.  Moderate Republicans are not lining up to end support of Planned Parenthood.  Even the bill passed in the House of Representatives last Thursday only reduces funding for Planned Parenthood for one year and leaves the organization eligible for money to support family planning.  The Senate will prove more of a hurdle in any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

Conservative Republican attempts to revive interest in completely defunding Planned Parenthood have now taken the form of vilifying the organization for focusing more on defeating Republicans than on supporting women.  The position is hopelessly out of step with American opinion.  The majority of Americans believe the group should receive public funding for its work.   

Christian conservatives, whom President Trump hopes to reward for supporting him in 2016, are becoming wary of his attempts to prove that he is a friend of their causes.  He has, for example, refused to end workplace protections for LGBTQ employees put in place by President Obama in 2014, although last March he did make the protections harder to enforce.  Christian conservatives are upset that the lives of those forced by Obama's executed order not the discriminate against LGBTQ employees are being "destroyed by the demands of the sexual identity activist class . . . ."  Trump may not be up to the task of coming to the aid of groups who hold such extreme and unyielding perspectives.    

May 9, 2017 in Abortion, Politics, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Has Self-Induced Abortion Become Plan C?

New York Times (April, 27, 2017): Spreading Plan C to End Pregnancy, by Patrick Adams:

As access to clinical abortion becomes more restricted in the U.S., there are growing discussion about the legality and safety of self-induced abortions. And evidence suggests that more women may be considering self-induction as an option for dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.  Since 2011, researchers have documented a significant increase in google searches for self-induced abortion.

For many, non-clinical abortions raise concerns about safety.  Unsafe, illegal abortions have led to high maternal mortality rates in countries where abortion is illegal and highly restricted. However, not all methods of self-inducing an abortion are inherently unsafe.

The reality, however, is that increasingly, self-induced abortion in the United States means using pills procured through the mail, much as it is in many other countries. Women on Web, a Netherlands-based nonprofit collective that pioneered the practice of putting the pills directly into women’s hands, has provided abortion medications to more than 50,000 women in 130 countries.

Women on Web and Safe2Chooae, another organization that provides abortion pills do not mail pills in the U.S. because of concerns about legal restrictions.  Ironically, this has meant that U.S. women who are unable or unwilling to see a licensed abortion provider must resort to unregulated sites found on the internet.  This poses the risk that pills may be counterfeit.  And women who choose to self-induce also face legal risks.

 “We’ve discovered 40 different kinds of laws that are potentially implicated when someone ends their own pregnancy,” said Jill E. Adams, chief strategist of the Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team, a nonprofit consortium formed in 2015 to support advocates who legally share information on self-induced abortion and to halt its criminalization. So far, she said, the S.I.A. team has identified 18 arrests related to self-induced abortion around the country, “but I’m afraid that’s just what made the news. I suspect the true number is significantly higher.”

 

April 27, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Some States Are Making it Easier to Get Birth Control

FiveThirtyEight (April 24, 2017): Some States Are Making it Easier to Get Birth Control, by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux:

As we wait to see whether the Trump Administration will get rid of the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), some states are taking steps to protect contraceptive access.  

Unlike other controversial parts of the ACA, [the contraceptive mandate] is controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services, which could unilaterally drop birth control from Obamacare’s list of fully covered preventive services, allowing insurers to charge co-pays for contraception again. If the mandate were revoked or weakened, insurers could return to the pre-Obamacare status quo, where women shouldered more out-of-pocket expenses for contraception.

Perhaps motivated by federal threats to birth control several states have passed or introduced laws that could maintain or expand women's access to contraceptives.  Some states have passed laws that would reinforce or expand the contraceptive mandate. Others have passed laws requiring that insurers provide a 12 month supply of birth control.  These laws are intended to make it easier for women to obtain contraceptives by decreasing trips to the pharmacy. Finally, states have passed laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control. 

While it is good to see that state innovation in expanding access to birth control, advocates are worried about the growing disparities between states.  An OB-GYN from Washington cautioned:

It’s great that big states like New York are making this a priority, because they can affect a lot of women,” she said. “But the more politicized the issue of women’s health becomes, the more women’s birth control access really will depend on where they happen to live.”

 

April 26, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Irish Citizens Assembly Votes to Amend Constitutional Provision Prohibiting Abortion

Irish Times (April 22, 2017): Irish Citizens Assembly votes to amend abortion laws, by Niamh McIntyre: 

Currently Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, only legally permitting abortions in cases where the pregnancy presents a real and substantial risk to a woman's life.  This has been interpreted to include instances where the pregnancy is the result of a rape.  Ireland has been criticized by human rights bodies because it has been difficult for women to actually obtain abortions under the circumstances it is legal and because the law does not allow women to have an abortion in cases of several fetal anomalies.  Ireland came under international scrutiny a few years ago when a hospital failed to perform an abortion on a woman who was severely hemorrhaging following a miscarriage who died because of lack of treatment.

The government's ability to amend its laws is constrained by the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution which recognizes “the right to life of the unborn . . . with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.”

The Irish government convened a Citizens Assembly to determine whether to change the 8th Amendment.  The Assembly was composed of 99 members of the public that has met regularly since last October.  

Eighty-seven percent of the Citizens Assembly voted against retaining the 8th Amendment in its current form.  However, the Assembly voted in favor of replacement or amendment of the 8th Amendment rather than simply deleting the 8th Amendment without replacement.  The Assembly will now move onto a third vote considering when abortion should be permitted. The Assembly also recommended that there be a national referendum on Irish abortion laws.

April 25, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

State ASC and Hospital Admitting Privilege Requirements Fall After Whole Woman's Health

The Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health is having a impact on state targeted regulations against abortion providers.  In Whole Woman's Health, the Supreme Court struck down two parts of a Texas law that required that facilities providing abortions meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) and that physicians providing abortions have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. 

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Missouri granted a preliminary injunction against state ASC and admitting privileges requirements. Missouri currently only has one abortion provider.  Following the judge's decision, Planned Parenthood announced plans to restore abortion services at four additional other locations in the state. 

Last week, the Tennessee Attorney General announced that the state will cease enforcing admitting privilege and ASC requirements.  The statement was issued in response to a lawsuit brought by three Tennessee clinics in 2015.  A federal court stayed proceedings in the case to await the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health.  However, the state will continue to defend a third provision passed by the Tennessee legislature which requires women to wait 48 hours after obtaining counseling before obtaining an abortion.  The state legislature is currently considering two new anti-choice bills despite the fact that the Attorney General has issued an opinion finding the bills "suspect" and "constitutionally infirm."

 

April 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Book by Linda Fentiman Explores How Mothers Became Legal Targets

Professor Linda C. Fentiman has just published a new book, Blaming Mothers: American Law and the Risks to Children's Health.  According to the publisher:

In Blaming Mothers, Professor Fentiman explores how mothers became legal targets. She explains the psychological processes we use to confront tragic events and the unconscious race, class, and gender biases that affect our perceptions and influence the decisions of prosecutors, judges, and jurors. Fentiman examines legal actions taken against pregnant women in the name of “fetal protection” including court ordered C-sections and maintaining brain-dead pregnant women on life support to gestate a fetus, as well as charges brought against mothers who fail to protect their children from an abusive male partner. She considers the claims of physicians and policymakers that refusing to breastfeed is risky to children’s health. And she explores the legal treatment of lead-poisoned children, in which landlords and lead paint manufacturers are not held responsible for exposing children to high levels of lead, while mothers are blamed for their children’s injuries. 

An excerpt from the book is available on Broadly.

April 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2017

GRR!: Grandmas Fighting for Reproductive Rights

Business Insider (April 12, 2017): Grandma activists fight for the reproductive rights of young women, by Caroline Praderio:

Four years ago, Grandmas for Reproductive Rights or GRR! was founded by a group of women in Maine to protect access to reproductive health services. GRR! adds an important perspective to their work:

most members recall a time when abortions were illegal — sometimes deadly — and contraception was difficult to access. Before 1972, for example, it was illegal for unmarried American women to possess birth control.

"I think that age has something to do with the impact that we have," [said Judy Kahrl]. "Because we've lived through it — we've seen what happened in the past."

Since 2013, the grandmas have met with legislators, testified at legislative hearings, marched in protests, and one member ended up running for office.   Jay McCreight, an original member of GRR!, is now serving her second term in the Maine House of Representatives and successfully introduced a bill giving low income Maine citizens access to free reproductive health care.

The grandmas are inspiring others.  Following a post on the Facebook group Pantsuits Nation, the group has received 16,000 likes and multiple requests to join the group. Now GRR! has become a 501(c)(4) organization and is looking to expand in other states.

April 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)