Tuesday, July 10, 2018
July 8, 2018 (Washington Post), Roe isn't just about women's rights. It's about everyone's personal liberty, by Nancy Northup:
In an opinion piece, Nancy Northup writes that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade "everyone's personal-liberty rights are on the line." She explains:
The constitutional framework of Roe is about far more than abortion. It’s about rearing our children without unwarranted government interference. It’s about choosing whom we want to marry. It’s about deciding with whom we want to create a home. It’s about the right to use contraception. It’s about what the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey explained is the “promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.”
Roe was the basis for many cases protecting liberty outside of the context of reproductive rights. For instance, the Supreme Court relied on Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey when it held that states can't criminalize intimate sexual conduct between same sex partners in Lawrence v. Texas and guaranteed the right of same sex couples to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Northup argues that it is dangerous to look at Roe as a "stand-alone" case:
This guarantee of individual liberty is bound together through decades of accumulated legal precedent. Within the interconnected framework of our rights, Roe is a load-bearing element. Knock it down, and the structure falls.
The Center for Reproductive Rights' report analyzing Roe's relationship to fundamental liberty rights to marry, use contraceptives and to procreate as well as sexual rights, rights to bodily integrity and medical decision-making can be found here.
Monday, July 9, 2018
July 3, 2018 (Bustle): 10 Books About 'Roe v. Wade' To Give You Historical and Political Context On the Groundbreaking Supreme Court Decision, by Melissa Ragsdale:
While we wait to see whether President Trump's next Supreme Court nominee will put Roe v. Wade in jeopardy, Bustle has come out with a list of 10 books to provide historical and political context for the decision.
Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, by Katha Pollitt
Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling, by Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel
Abortion & Life, By Jennifer Baumgardner
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, by Ann Fessler
The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service, by Laura Kaplan
Crow After Roe: How "Separate But Equal" Has Become the New Standard in Women's Health and How We Can Change That, by Jessica Mason Pieklo and Robin Marty
Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice, by Loretta Ross, Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Elena R. Gutierrez and Elena Gutierrez
How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics, and the War on Sex, by Cristina Page
Roe v. Wade: The Untold Story of the Landmark Supreme Court Decision That Made Abortion Legal, by Marian Faux
The Boundaries of Her Body: A Shocking History of Women's Rights in America, by Debran Rowland
The article includes descriptions of the books and a link to a free pdf version of Before Roe v. Wade, by Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel.
Sunday, July 8, 2018
AllAfrica (Jul. 6, 2018): South Africa: Social Development Co-Hosts Abortion and Reproductive Justice Conference, Press Release:
The Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction, Rhodes University, the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition (South Africa), and the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, in partnership with South Africa's Department of Social Development will co-host the Abortion & Reproductive Justice: The Unfinished Revolution III conference at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa from July 8 - 12, 2018.
The conference is the third in a series that began in Canada in 2014 and continued in Northern Ireland in 2016. This year's conference aims to focus the conversation and scholarship on jurisdictions where abortion access is highly restricted. It will provide a platform "for delegates to explore, identify, share and pursue learning and research opportunities on a range of issues relating to abortion and reproductive justice in context, including access to abortion, activism and abortion politics."
The conference aims to contribute to the vision of universal access to reproductive justice and will be broken down into three parts: workshops, knowledge sharing, and action discussions. It will include the voices of a Youth Committee to speak to issues particularly relevant to young people.
The conference's presence in South Africa is notable, as, despite abortion being legal in the country, experts estimate that half the abortions that take place in South Africa are illegal due to lack of access to abortion providers.
The South African Government's position on abortion and reproductive justice is predicated on the understanding that the decision to have children is fundamental to women's physical, psychological and social health and that universal access to reproductive health care services includes family planning and contraception, termination of pregnancy, as well as sexuality education and counselling programmes and services.
The Guardian (Jul. 8, 2018): Battle lines drawn over abortion ahead of Trump's supreme court pick, by Ed Pilkington:
Battle lines have been drawn over the future of abortion in America on the eve of President Donald Trump’s nomination of a second justice to the U.S. Supreme Court that could put Roe v. Wade in jeopardy.
Trump has said he will announce his nominee for the seat in a characteristic display of political braggadocio on primetime TV at 9pm ET on Monday night (July 9). On Sunday there was no indication that he had yet made his decision, as speculation continued to swirl around the shortlist for the appointment.
Both sides in the increasingly acrimonious dispute took to the Sunday political talk shows at the start of what promises to be an epic tussle over the ninth seat on the nation’s highest court. The position will be left vacant by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who had acted as the swing vote on many critical issues including abortion.
In the course of the 2016 election, Trump made changing the face of the Supreme Court a key campaign pledge that was instrumental in firing up his base of right-wing conservative voters. In the presidential debates he vowed to appoint only Justices committed to “automatically” overturning Roe.
Now, key players in the appointment are reining back on the suggestion that the newly-composed court will target the pro-choice ruling and re-criminalise the practice. Leonard Leo, the vice president of the conservative Federalist Society who selected Trump’s longlist of 25 candidates for the Supreme Court, told ABC’s This Week that warnings about Roe v Wade were a “scare tactic." Leo said that it was impossible to predict the positions of any of the leading candidates for the seat on abortion. “Nobody really knows,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for 36 years going all the way back to the nomination of Sandra O’Connor, and after that you only have a single individual on the court who has expressly said he would overturn Roe.”
Trump is known to have interviewed at least seven candidates for the post, all drawn from the Federalist Society longlist. Of those, the shortlist is understood to have boiled down to four judges from various US Courts of Appeals– Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge.
Of those individuals, Barrett is considered to have the most hard-line record opposing abortion rights, but that could cause problems among more moderate Republicans in the Senate, notably Susan Collins of Maine, who is already the target of ads being put out by pro-choice groups.
The New York Times on Sunday reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was strongly urging Trump to opt for either Hardiman or Kethledge on grounds that the other two might be impossible to get confirmed. While Barrett is problematic on the abortion issue, Kavanaugh is unpopular among some Republican senators because of his track record as staff secretary under President George W. Bush.
Democrats and pro-choice groups stepped up their rhetoric on Sunday over the danger of Trump’s second pick. Richard Blumenthal, Democratic senator from Connecticut, told ABC’s This Week that it posed a fundamental threat to abortion rights. “This next nomination will be the swing vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and equally important to eviscerate the protections of millions of Americans who suffer from existing conditions and other healthcare rights along with workers’ rights, gay rights, voting rights.”
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Bustle (Jun. 29, 2018): The Iowa Abortion Waiting Period Has Been Struck Down & It's A Major Reproductive Rights Victory, by Morgan Brinlee:
Despite concerns for the future of reproductive rights in the imminent wake of Justice Kennedy's retirement, reproductive rights advocates secured a victory in Iowa last week when the Supreme Court of Iowa struck down a 72-hour waiting period imposed on women seeking abortions.
"The vast majority of women have made their decision by the time they present for care so the laws [mandating waiting periods] do not lead women to change their minds, Dr. Sarah Roberts, an abortion waiting period researcher who works as an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Bustle. "They really just lead to increases in financial costs and increases in delay and also some increases in emotional distress along the way."
The Iowa Supreme Court found the restriction a violation of the state Constitution. Dr. Sarah Roberts, an abortion waiting period researcher who works as an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, found that imposed wait periods actually lead to even greater delays in care as well as substantial increased costs for the women.
The ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland are also involved in a lawsuit against the state's "heartbeat law," which bans abortion after 6-weeks, the time at which a fetal heartbeat can sometimes be detected. A District Court judge temporarily blocked the law, but if it goes into effect, some women may not have any option for abortion at all, as many don't find out they're pregnant until after six weeks.
Saturday, June 30, 2018
June 28, 2018 (New York Times): The End of Abortion, by Reva Siegel:
With the retirement of Justice Kennedy, we are now at "the moment of reckoning." Professor Reva Siegel weighs in on what we can expect in an op ed in the New York Times that considers what a reconstituted Roberts Court might do and emphasizes the need for a rigorous confirmation process. Whether or not the new Court directly overrules Roe or allows states to enact restrictions that make abortion impossible to obtain as a practical matter (Prof. Siegel thinks the latter more likely "Stealth overruling would effectively produce the same result as an explicit overruling of Roe - with less political backlash"), we will certainly see "greater waves of abortion restrictions in the name of protecting unborn life." Given this new reality, Professor Siegel argues that we should re-examine "when and how government protects life" and challenge existing frameworks that assume a conflict between the protection of unborn life and women's reproductive autonomy.
Expanding the frame beyond abortion, we can ask: Does government protect new life in ways that respect and support women’s choices — for instance, through sexual education, contraception, health care, income assistance and accommodating pregnancy and parenting in the workplace? Or does government protect life selectively, in ways that restrict women’s choices? I call this way of thinking prochoicelife.
A Supreme Court that would reverse or gut Roe and allow the states to coerce women to carry a pregnancy to term will not ask these questions. But if the court will not ask these questions, we must.
The "prochoicelife" perspective is discussed in greater depth in a recent essay published by Prof. Siegel in the Indiana Law Journal.
Friday, June 29, 2018
Washington Post (Jun. 27, 2018): Students sue University of Notre Dame for restricting access to some birth control, by Erin B. Logan:
A Notre Dame alumna and three current student sued the university on Tuesday in the wake of Notre Dame's February 2018 announcement that it would deny access to "abortion-inducing" contraceptives. The lawsuit alleges violations of federal law and the First and Fifth Amendments. In addition to the university, the suit names the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury.
These health-care policy changes to Notre Dame's plan will affect undergraduate and graduate students as well as university employees and their dependents. The policy will go into effect on July 1 for employees and in August for students.
The roll-back of coverage by the university is a response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' fall 2017 announcement that it would rescind the Obama-era rule mandating free contraceptive coverage in health plans. This requirement currently remains in effect, though, due to judicial injunctions. Notre Dame, however, carved out an exception for itself with the federal government after a 2013 suit against the mandate claimed a violation of its moral and religious convictions.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
New York Magazine (Jun. 27, 2018): Steps the Next Supreme Court Might Take to Roll Back Abortion Rights, by Ed Kilgore:
With the announcement of Justice Kennedy's imminent retirement comes the prospect of a much more conservative Supreme Court, particularly in relation to reproductive rights. Justice Kennedy stood in the majority of the 2016 Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt decision, which reaffirmed basic abortion access rights. Trump has promised to pursue the reversal of Roe v. Wade, though, and has stated his intentions to nominate a similarly-minded next justice.
Many states have recently enacted stricter abortion access requirements--like Louisiana's legislation banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy or Iowa's fetal heartbeat ban. "Such laws are aimed at setting up a challenge to Roe if the Supreme Court lurches to the right — which is now an imminent possibility."
While it's unlikely that, even under a more conservative court, Roe would be immediately overturned, a shift to the right on the Supreme Court will likely lead to affirmation of new, state-level abortion restrictions. For example, rather than overturn Roe, which is backed by additional, subsequent precedent in 1992's Casey and 2016's Hellerstedt, the court might instead find an opportunity to reverse Hellerstedt, as the more recent decision. Such a move might reinvigorate efforts to enact Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, likely forcing abortion providers out of business with burdensome requirements and eliminating much abortion access, especially in already-conservative states.
Either way, if Trump nominates an anti-Roe Supreme Court candidate this year, and the Senate approves them, we can expect many more legal battles on the availability of abortion. "With one SCOTUS appointment and one decision, that could all change, and we could enter a period of abortion-policy activism unlike anything America has seen in decades."
June 28, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
New York Times (Jun. 26, 2018): Supreme Court Backs Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers in Free Speech Case, by Adam Liptak:
Justice Thomas wrote for the five-justice, conservative majority who decided Tuesday that California's "crisis pregnancy centers" cannot be forced to provide information on abortion services in the state.
The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, No. 16-1140, centered on a California law that requires pregnancy centers whose aim is to dissuade pregnant people from abortions to provide information on the availability of abortions in California.
The state requires the centers to post notices that free or low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide the phone number for more information.
The centers argued that the law violated their right to free speech by forcing them to convey messages at odds with their beliefs. The law’s defenders said the notices combat incomplete or misleading information provided by the clinics.
The state legislature enacted the law after finding that hundreds of the pregnancy centers used "intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling" to confuse or intimidate women from making informed decisions about their health care. The law also required that unlicensed clinics disclose that they are unlicensed.
Justice Thomas wrote that the requirements for the notices regarding abortion availability were too burdensome and infringed on the clinics' rights under the First Amendment. The ruling reverses a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had upheld the law.
Justice Breyer penned a dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, citing the contradiction between the majority's decision here and a Court decision in 1992 that upheld a Pennsylvania law that required abortion-performing doctors to inform their patients about other options, like adoption.
June 27, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Pro-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
BBC News (Jun. 16, 2018): Sinn Féin votes to change Northern Ireland abortion policy, by Jayne McCormack:
Sinn Féin party delegates in Northern Ireland have voted to change the party's position on abortion at a conference in Belfast. Members comprehensively backed a leadership motion stating that women should have access to abortions within "a limited gestational period." The party can now support a law due to be brought before the Irish parliament, which is expected to allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The decision comes shortly after a referendum in the Republic of Ireland removed a constitutional amendment which effectively outlawed abortion. Sinn Féin had previously backed making abortion available in circumstances like fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or sexual abuse.
However, the party will now back a policy put forward by the Sinn Féin leadership that is broadly in line with the new Irish law, which is expected to make abortion available to women within the first 12 weeks of their pregnancies.
Sinn Féin's Northern Irish leader Michelle O'Neill opened the debate and told delegates: "No one is saying members can't have a conscience and you're entitled to have your viewpoint respected, but there is a difference between personal views and our role as legislators."
Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, meaning that it is the only region of the UK or Ireland where abortion is illegal unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health. Abortions in cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal abnormalities are not automatically legally permitted to be carried out.
At the conference on Saturday, the party's leadership had backed a motion stating that women should have access to abortions within a "a limited gestational period."
The motion by the party leadership did not specify the 12-week period, but refers to making abortions available through a general practitioner-led service "without specific indication for a limited gestational period."
Mrs O'Neill denied that this gives the Sinn Féin leadership blanket authority to eventually back abortion in line with the 24-week period provided by the UK's 1967 Act, arguing it allowed the party flexibility in case legislation brought before the Dáil (Irish parliament) eventually reduces the time limit to 10 weeks.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since the collapse of power-sharing between Sinn Féin and the DUP in January 2017.
Monday, June 18, 2018
New York Times (Jun. 17, 2018): Leading Republicans Join Democrats in Pushing Trump to Halt Family Separations, by Peter Baker:
On Sunday, leading figures of both parties demanded that President Trump halt his administration’s practice of separating children from their parents when apprehended at the border, as the issue further polarized the already divisive immigration debate in Washington.
Republican lawmakers, the former first lady Laura Bush, a conservative newspaper and a onetime adviser to Mr. Trump joined Democrats in condemning family separations that have removed nearly 2,000 children from their parents in just six weeks. The administration argued that it was just enforcing the law, a false assertion that Mr. Trump has made repeatedly.
Even Melania Trump weighed in, saying she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together.” Mrs. Trump “believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with a heart,” the first lady’s office said in a statement.
The issue took on special resonance on Father’s Day as Democratic lawmakers visited detention facilities in Texas and New Jersey to protest the separations and the House prepared to take up immigration legislation this week. Pictures of children warehoused without their parents in facilities, including a converted Walmart store, have inflamed passions and put the administration on defense.
By laying responsibility for the situation on “both sides,” Mrs. Trump effectively echoed her husband’s assertion that it was the result of a law written by Democrats. In fact, the administration announced a “zero tolerance” approach this spring, leading to the separations.
Laura Bush, the last Republican first lady, spoke out forcefully against the practice on Sunday in a rare foray into domestic politics, comparing it to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “I live in a border state,” she wrote in a guest column in The Washington Post. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, deplored separations on Sunday, except in cases where there is evidence of abuse or another good reason. “What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that, if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “That is traumatizing to the children, who are innocent victims. And it is contrary to our values in this country.”
Contrary to the president’s public statements, no law requires families to be separated at the border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” announcement this spring that the government will prosecute all unlawful immigrants as criminals set up a situation in which children are removed when their parents are taken into federal custody.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, rejected responsibility for the separations in a series of tweets on Sunday. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” she wrote. “Period.”
But there have been reports of people arriving at the ports of entry asking for asylum and being taken into custody, and some of the designated ports are not accepting asylum claims. In those cases, migrants sometimes cross wherever they can and, because it is not an official border station, are detained even though they are making a claim of asylum. Many would-be asylum applicants do not know where official ports of entry are.
Democrats are trying to focus attention on the separation policy as an example of what they call Mr. Trump’s extremist approach to immigration. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has collected 43 Democratic sponsors for legislation to limit family separations.
Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland led a group of Democratic lawmakers to a detention facility in Brownsville, Tex., on Sunday but were not allowed to talk with children held there. Seven House Democrats visited a detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J. and said they were blocked for nearly two hours before being allowed to see parents separated from their children.
Anthony Scaramucci, who served briefly as White House communications director last year, said separating children from their families is not “the Christian way” or “the American way,” and made clear he thinks Mr. Trump can end it on his own. “The President can reverse it and I hope he does,” he wrote on Twitter.
The conservative editorial page of The New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, agreed on Sunday. “It’s not just that this looks terrible in the eyes of the world,” it wrote. “It is terrible.”
Mr. Trump has said in recent days that Democrats should agree to his panoply of immigration measures, including full financing for a border wall and revamping the system of legal entry to the country, in effect making clear that any legislation addressing family separation must also include his priorities.
A top adviser to Mr. Trump said on Sunday that the president was not using the family separation as leverage to force Democrats to come to the table on other policy disputes, rebutting an unnamed White House official quoted by The Washington Post.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
June 16, 2018, The Unfinished Story of Roe v. Wade:
Reva Siegel and Linda Greenhouse have a new article that tells the story of Roe v. Wade. According to the abstract:
Roe . . . , filed in federal district court in Dallas in March 1970, was one of many cases
in the late 1960s and early 1970s that invoked the Constitution to challenge the century-old
regime of criminal abortion statutes; Roe just happened to be first in line on the Supreme Court's docket. These cases emerged from principled and heated dialogue among powerful
social movements that initially did not even have courts in view. The story of Roe v. Wade is the
story of conflict born in democratic politics that engendered the rights claims that the Court
would ultimately recognize. The conflict continues to this day, even as advocates and their
arguments have changed as few would have expected.
The article provides a fresh context for understanding Roe v. Wade and the ways in which attitudes about abortion have changed of over time and have been influenced by politics and social forces. It also "allows us to recover claims for and against abortion rights to which the Court’s opinion in Roe responded, as well as claims that the Court ignored—claims for women’s equality and for protecting potential life that played an important role in reshaping the abortion right nearly twenty years later in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. "
The article is available on SSRN and will be published in a forthcoming volume in the Foundation Press Law series.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Vox (Jun. 14, 2018): Argentina’s historic vote to decriminalize abortion, explained, by Emily Stewart:
On Thursday, June 14, Argentina's lower legislative house voted 129-125 on a bill that would decriminalize abortions up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy. The bill is part of "a broader women’s rights movement, Ni Una Menos — meaning 'Not One Less' — directed at stopping violence against women, including murder."
Abortion is currently illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or life and health-threatening circumstances. Even in these scenarios, abortions are difficult to obtain and there may be not guidelines or clear legal requirements for providers, according to Shena Cavallo, a program officer at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Half a million women sought illegal abortions in 2016, and abortion-related deaths are one of the top causes of maternal mortality in Argentina.
Over the past 13 years, six different bills decriminalizing abortion have unsuccessfully come before Argentina's Congress. Activist groups like the National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion and Catholics for the Right to Decide Argentina, have helped to gain the momentum for the current bill, contributing to the greater Ni Una Menos movement.
The Ni Una Menos movement, started in 2015, is a campaign against gender-based violence. It began in Argentina after a surge of media reports of women being killed by their husbands, boyfriends, or partners, and it has spread across multiple Latin American countries. Argentina has a history of public protest — it is not uncommon for major city streets and roadways to be shut down for hours or days because of protest — and multiple Ni Una Menos marches have taken place. This new wave of feminism has spurred more women to speak out about a variety of issues, including abortion. Activists see illegal abortion as another way of keeping women oppressed.
While Argentine President Mauricio Macri has not stated public support for the bill, he has encouraged debate over it and also said he would not veto it if it reaches his desk.
Although the more conservative Senate is expected to reject the bill, advocates consider this recent vote a win and will continue to fight for abortion legalization and the overall protection of women throughout Argentina and Latin America.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Rewire.News (Jun. 8, 2018): New York GOP Lawmakers Quash Contraception, Abortion Protections—For Now, by Auditi Guha:
The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), or S 2796, was drafted four years ago and recently passed by the Democratic-majority New York Assembly. The RHA is intended to rectify some of the shortcomings of local abortion law. The bill "repeals criminal abortion statutes, permits abortion after 24 weeks when the pregnant person’s health is at risk or when the fetus is not viable, and expands current law so that nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants can provide abortion services."
The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (S 3668), also passed by the Assembly, "would expand contraceptive coverage to include all forms of FDA-approved contraception (including vasectomies), authorize pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, and add coverage for contraceptive education and counseling."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) supported incorporating the RHA’s changes into state law in his budget proposal this year, but it’s been a hard push in a state where Republicans decide what bills get to be voted on. Procedural glitches made the fight tougher this week for both the RHA and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act as the senate ground to a halt, the New York Daily News reported.
Senate Democrats last week again tried to bring both the RHA and the CCCA to the floor for a vote, but Republican leadership ended the session without action.
“Both these bills are supported by the governor and have passed the Assembly," Sen. Krueger said in a statement. "The Senate Republicans should stop using procedural maneuvers to block these bills which would ensure that individuals would have control of their own reproductive health decisions.”
The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Robin Chappelle Golston, told Rewire.News: “Obviously legislation as simple as making access to contraception widely available was too much for the majority of the Senate...And I think the best answer for that is that people need to go out and vote this fall.”
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Los Angeles Times (Jun. 11, 2018): Trump administration moves to block victims of gang violence and domestic abuse from claiming asylum, by Evan Halper:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has overturned precedent that created a basis for survivors of domestic violence in foreign countries to receive asylum in the United States.
As Attorney General, Sessions' review of an earlier case that granted a Salvadoran woman asylum as a victim of physical and emotional abuse by her husband, including rape, is binding. A federal appellate court, though, has the power to overturn Sessions decision, and immigration advocates anticipate immediate challenges to the decision.
To establish asylum in the United States, applicants must "prove that they have a reasonable fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political views or membership in a particular social group." Under the Obama administration, in 2014, a Guatemalan woman fleeing domestic violence was granted asylum after the immigration appeals board ruled that victims of domestic violence constituted, in some cases, "a particular social group."
Advocates estimate that tens of thousands of U.S. asylum applicants annually fall into this precedential category targeted now by Sessions and the Trump administration. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees "warned that such action would violate international agreements the U.S. has entered into concerning refugees and would subject victims to being returned to situations in which their lives are in danger." The American Bar Association has also joined in voicing its concern that this ruling will further endanger those most vulnerable.
Sessions has stated through this decision that the United States will not offer help to women suffering from and living in fear of domestic violence, rape, and death, as their situations constitute only "private crimes" that their home governments should be able to manage. He has cast doubt on well-founded assertions that police in the home countries of these women "often don't respond to reports of domestic violence" and rejects that, as such, these women constitute "a distinct group in need of protection by the U.S."
"The attorney general’s skepticism that victims of abuse lack effective recourse in their home countries runs counter to reports published by the U.S. Department of State on human rights conditions in those countries."
Friday, June 8, 2018
Rewire.News (June 6, 2018): Is Your Hospital Catholic? Many Women Don’t Know, by Amy Littlefield:
About one in six women in the United States name a Catholic facility as their go-to hospital for reproductive health care.
However, more than a third of these women are unaware that their hospital is Catholic, according to a survey revealing an “information gap” about Catholic hospitals, where religious rules dictate access to contraception, sterilization, and abortion services.
Among women who listed a Catholic hospital as their primary facility for reproductive care, only 63 percent knew that the hospital was Catholic, researchers found. The study, published in the journal Contraception, did not address whether respondents knew how Catholic hospitals restrict care.
Women with annual incomes under $25,000 are less likely to realize their hospital is Catholic than women who make more than $100,000 a year, the researchers found, underscoring how these barriers disproportionately affect marginalized patients. A January report found women of color are more likely to give birth in Catholic hospitals and thus bear the brunt of these religious restrictions.
Patients seeking care in Catholic facilities have been turned away while bleeding and made to wait until they sicken to receive miscarriage treatment. Cesarean section patients in Catholic hospitals often can’t have their tubes tied at the same time they give birth, requiring a second surgery elsewhere. Transgender patients have had gender-affirming surgeries canceled on religious grounds.
The researchers called on hospitals to better advertise their Catholic affiliations. “Efforts are needed to increase hospital transparency and patient awareness of the implications that arise when health care is restricted by religion,” they wrote.
Women overwhelmingly want to be informed about religious restrictions: eighty-one percent say it’s important to know these barriers when they decide where to go for care.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
June 1, 2018 (Tonic): Abortion Providers Are America’s Best Doctors, by Garnet Henderson:
Over the past two decades, the cost of medical care in the US has risen by about 3.6 percent per year, outpacing overall inflation by 70 percent. Meanwhile, the cost of an abortion has remained virtually the same. Prices do vary, from about $400 to $2,500 in the first or second trimester. This depends on the state, the provider, and the complexity of the procedure, generally determined by how far along in pregnancy the abortion is performed (for instance, one woman who wanted to terminate her nonviable pregnancy after 30 weeks was quoted $25,000 to $30,000). However, the average cost of a first-trimester abortion—they account for almost 90 percent of all abortions in the US—is about $500, a figure that has remained remarkably stable over time.
Providing abortions has not become more affordable. Instead, it has become significantly more expensive in many states, thanks to targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws. These regulations single out abortion providers and require them to conduct medically unnecessary tests and procedures and operate in more expensive facilities.
“We’ve really tried to figure out how to comply with all the regulations and keep abortion as affordable as possible,” says Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which provides abortion care in Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and Virginia.
In 2011, Texas passed a law requiring anyone seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound at least 24 hours in advance. The law went one step further than similar rules in other states by requiring that a physician perform the ultrasound and that the same physician perform the abortion.
“We knew our patients couldn’t afford to take off from work twice, arrange childcare twice, and pay more for the procedure on top of that. Across the state, we chose not to raise the price of an abortion. We had to work hard to get doctors to understand that we couldn’t charge extra to the patient for that second visit. The cost on our end went up quite a bit,” Miller says.
“I think providers are bending over backwards to keep costs low. They realize that cost can be prohibitive. Being unable to afford an abortion is one of the primary reasons that women end up carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term,” says Ushma Upadhyay, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco and a researcher with UCSF’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program. For instance, abortion providers often intentionally keep the price of medication abortion and procedural abortion the same, even though the cost of providing those services can be quite different. “We would never want anyone to choose one method or the other just because of cost,” Miller says.
In keeping costs down, abortion providers are not compromising the safety of their patients. One large study found that the complication rate in abortion procedures was just 2.1 percent, with serious complications occurring only 0.23 percent of the time. This overall complication rate is significantly lower than for the other in-office procedures researchers used for comparison, including wisdom tooth extraction (7 percent) and tonsillectomy (8 to 9 percent).
Many of the providers who do offer abortion are performing the procedure at high volume, which may be one factor that helps control costs on their end. “Doctors doing high volume become more efficient and skilled at doing the procedure, and as procedure times fall, that makes services less expensive to provide. We see that for most services, but for most services they don’t actually adjust the price downward,” says Miriam Laugesen, an associate professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and author of Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians are Paid.
“A lot of my work has shown that the cost of providing medical care doesn’t usually relate to what is charged for it, or what insurance reimburses,” Laugesen says. In other words, if abortion providers are passing on any efficiency-derived savings to their patients, it is because they choose to do so when most healthcare providers do not.
One study of abortion patients in California found that they were highly satisfied with the care they received, rating it 9.4 out of 10 on average. Another study, which surveyed women who received an abortion in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, found that 93 percent were very satisfied with their care. By contrast, in the most recent Gallup poll on the subject from 2016, only 65 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their overall medical care.
“I do think we need more nuanced measures of quality of care. With abortion, women go in with a problem. A clinician can take care of the problem, and they leave so happy. It’s unlike many conditions where you have to go back for multiple treatments,” Upadhyay says. “That said, a lot of independent clinics have set up a model to really nurture the social and emotional needs of women, and they provide great quality of care.”
According to Laugesen, doctors tend not to be motivated to perform procedures that are less lucrative, pointing to the shortage of primary care doctors as evidence of this trend. Abortion providers, on the other hand, have chosen work that is highly stigmatized and frequently not reimbursed by insurance.
“You don’t work in an abortion clinic unless you love it. You can’t. You couldn’t come into work everyday being harassed, yelled at, having your life threatened,” says Kim Chiz, a registered nurse and executive director of Allentown Women’s Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “Many of our staff could leave and work elsewhere for twice as much money. But we love what we do because it allows our patients to live fully autonomous lives.”
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Young Immigrant Women Have the Right to Access Abortion. Monday’s Supreme Court Decision Doesn’t Change That.
Jun. 4, 2018 (American Civil Liberties Union: Speak Freely): Young Immigrant Women Have the Right to Access Abortion. Monday’s Supreme Court Decision Doesn’t Change That, by Brigitte Amiri:
The Supreme Court on Monday steered around a long-pending abortion dispute between the Trump administration and ACLU lawyers over young immigrant women in custody, telling lower courts on Monday to start over in deciding the issue. In a short opinion, the justices wiped away rulings by several judges who last fall had cleared the way for a 17-year-old to see a doctor and obtain an abortion.
There has been a lot of confusion about Monday’s decision in the Jane Doe case, Azar v. Garza, but ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri provides two big takeaways "to clear things up."
First, Amiri writes that the ruling was limited to the case of one young woman, who already had her abortion. There is still a court order in place that prohibits the government from obstructing or interfering with unaccompanied minors’ access to abortion, and today’s decision does not change that. Second, the Supreme Court rejected what Amiri calls the "government’s baseless request to find" that Amiri and her colleagues acted unethically.
The Supreme Court ruling vacates Jane Doe’s individual victory in the court of appeals that paved the way for her to obtain an abortion. Because Jane Doe has already obtained an abortion, the Court ruled that her individual claim related to abortion access is now moot. The ruling does not say anything about the merits of the constitutional question presented in the underlying case, namely whether the government can violate decades of Supreme Court precedent by banning abortion for unaccompanied minors.
The ACLU is still seeking a ruling that the government's policy is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court’s ruling that Jane Doe's individual case is moot does not affect the rest of the case in any way, nor does it diminish a district court order that blocks the government’s policy of obstructing unaccompanied pregnant minors' access to abortion.
On March 30th, the district court allowed the case to proceed as a class action and issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government’s no-abortion policy. The government has appealed that decision and asked the court of appeals to allow the policy to go back into effect while the appeal is pending. The court of appeals denied that request on the evening of June 4th, 2018 (following the Supreme Court's ruling), reaffirming that unaccompanied minors must have access to abortion. The briefing on appeal will happen during the summer, and oral argument will take place in September.
The Court also rejected the government’s request to impose discipline on Amiri and her colleagues for representing their client to the best of their abilities. The government’s ethics claims have always been baseless, Amiri writes, and they are merely an attempt to intimidate Amiri and her colleagues.
Monday, June 4, 2018
The Advocate (June 3, 2018): Absent on an abortion-related issue in Louisiana? It's probably a Democratic legislator, by Tyler Bridges:
During the past three legislative sessions in the Louisiana legislature, seven Democrats missed more than half of the votes on abortion, an issue fraught with political peril for some Democrats in this state.
Two Democrats from New Orleans — state Rep. Neil Abramson and state Rep. Gary Carter Jr. — missed 15 of the 17 votes taken during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Both men said that other legislative business caused them to miss the votes. The other five who have missed at least half of the votes are state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and state Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace.
No Republicans missed more than half of the 17 votes, according to the group’s score card.
Five of the seven Democrats did not vote on the most controversial abortion bill during the 2018 legislative session, Senate Bill 181, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks. That bill passed the House 81-9 with 14 abstentions and the Senate 24-1 with 14 abstentions. Current Louisiana law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the 15-week bill into law, but it will take effect only if a federal court upholds a similar Mississippi law under legal challenge by abortion rights groups that label it as "cruel" and "unconstitutional." Both measures would impose the strictest bans in the country.
Louisiana Democrats like Gov. Edwards, Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, and Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, hold anti-abortion views that put them at odds with the Democratic Party nationally and the party’s recent presidential candidates.
Some Democrats, however, don’t want to anger Democrats who support abortion rights, a key constituency, or conservative voters who do not support abortion, whose support may be necessary in some elections, said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge pollster and political consultant. Pinsonat said he is not surprised that the legislators who have missed the abortion votes are Democrats.
Voting anti-choice is especially important for Republican candidates, Pinsonat said, noting that 18 to 22 percent of the electorate consists of single-issue, anti-abortion voters.
In a 2016 interview, Rep. Abramson declined to state his views on abortion. “That’s a broad question,” he said when asked whether he supported women having the right to an abortion. “I’m not going to get into the details of all of this,” he said when asked whether he opposed abortion except in the cases of limited exceptions, a common Republican position.
Rep. Carter said he has not intentionally missed abortion votes and said his position on the issue is clear: “I support women having the right to choose as well as to be able to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies,” he said. Had he been present for the vote, Carter said he would have voted against the 15-week abortion ban.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
May 29, 2018 (New York Times): Supreme Court Allows Arkansas Abortion Restrictions to Stand, by Adam Liptak:
Today the Supreme Court declined to grant certiorari in a case challenging an Arkansas law that requires that doctors providing medication abortions have a contractual agreement with a doctor who has hospital admitting privileges in case complications arise. In 2016, an Arizona district court preliminarily enjoined the law before it went into effect. The district court decision was issued before Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt but applied a similar test balancing the benefits and burdens of the law. Because of the low complication rate for medication abortion, the district court enjoined the law finding that it was "a solution in search of a problem." The 8th Circuit vacated the decision holding that a facial challenge to the statute required the district court to make a finding estimating the number of women who would be unduly burdened by the statute.
Planned Parenthood has said that it is unable to find doctors in the state with hospital admitting privileges who are willing to enter into contracts, and it will stop providing medication abortions in the state if the law goes into effect. There are currently only 3 abortion providers in the state, two of which are operated by Planned Parenthood and only provide medication abortion. The third provider, located in Little Rock provides both surgical and medication abortions.
The case now goes back to the district court to make further findings.