Friday, November 17, 2017

Facebook is Ignoring Anti-Abortion Fake News

The New York Times (Nov. 10, 2017): Facebook is Ignoring Anti-Abortion Fake News, by Rossalyn Warren

As Facebook addresses the role of "fake news" on its platform, largely in relation to the 2016 election and Russian political propaganda, another potentially more difficult concern arises. The spread of false reproductive rights and health news is widespread and often harder for Facebook to spot (and manage).

Facebook’s current initiatives to crack down on fake news can, theoretically, be applicable to misinformation on other issues. However, there are several human and technical barriers that prevent misinformation about reproductive rights from being identified, checked and removed at the same — already slow — rate as other misleading stories.

Identifying a fake news sources is not always straightforward. The social media giant says it often targets "spoof" sites that mimic legitimate news sources. But misleading anti-abortion sites can be hazier to identify. They generally publish original pieces, but often alongside inaccurate facts or with poor sourcing, which "helps blur the line between what’s considered a news blog and 'fake news.'"

Facebook aims to limit fake news by making it more difficult for these sources to buy ads or generate spam. "Most false news is financially motivated," Facebook says. This is not often the case with anti-abortion advocates, though, who are overwhelmingly driven by strong religious or political beliefs. The goal isn't profit but persuasion. 

Many are concerned that misinformation regarding reproductive rights and abortion in particular may detrimentally affect current political movements. Ireland plans to hold a referendum next year regarding whether to lessen the country's strict abortion regulations. Pro-choice advocates are worried that the rapid spread of abortion-related misinformation on Facebook (like a purported causal link between abortion and breast cancer) may affect the vote. 

Facebook has yet, though, to directly address concerns over this type of scientific misinformation in the same way they have begun to address fake news about last year's election. 

November 17, 2017 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers

Los Angeles Times (Nov. 13, 2017): Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers, by David G. Savage:

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to hear NIFLA vs. Becerra, in which an anti-abortion group challenges a California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to notify patients that the state offers contraception and abortion services. 

The case centers on the Reproductive FACT Act, which requires pregnancy centers to disclose whether they have a medical license and whether medical professionals are available. The law also requires centers to post a notice in the waiting room that reads: "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, pre-natal care and abortion."

California lawmakers passed the disclosure law two years ago after concluding as many as 200 pregnancy centers in the state sometimes used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women” about their options for medical care.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) represents 110 pregnancy centers in California that all claim the disclosure provision violates their free speech as "compelled speech." Such a disclosure, they claim, conflicts with their faith-based goal of encouraging childbirth and preventing abortion. 

The Californian pregnancy centers initially lost their case under three federal district judges. On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court upheld the lower court's decision. Last month, however, a judge in Riverside County ruled that the law violated the free-speech provisions of California's own state Constitution. 

California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra stands by the disclosure provision and its intent to provide women accurate information about their health care options.

It takes five justices for a majority opinion, and many expect the Court's decision to turn on the vote of Justice Kennedy. 

November 14, 2017 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sexual Violence In Latin America And The Caribbean Takes Center Stage At The Inter-American Commission On Human Rights

Center for Reproductive Rights (Oct. 26, 2017): Sexual Violence In Latin America And The Caribbean Takes Center Stage At The Inter-American Commission On Human Rights

In late October advocates for human rights, reproductive rights, and child and adolescent rights gathered together in Uruguay to testify "on the failure of governments to condemn sexual violence and provide access to justice for adolescents and girls."

The Commission was presented with a declaration signed by over 100 organizations calling for the Commission to hold countries accountable for having policies which provide justice for sexual violence survivors, and policies that would ensure the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

"The declaration specifically calls for the elimination of legal and administrative barriers to sexual and reproductive health services and the development of specific protocols to provide redress for victims of sexual violence, including reparation."

Catalina Martínez Coral, the regional director for Latin America & the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated

“Too many young girls and women who experience sexual violence are oppressed, stigmatized and denied access to justice.

“Survivors of sexual violence should never feel alone or silenced and it’s time for states to provide channels for women and girls to get the medical services and support services they need without fear.

“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must call on states to take meaningful action to prevent sexual violence and prioritize reproductive health and rights.”

During the hearing video testimony was shown. The videos displayed the "harsh reality" of being a survivor of sexual violence and how being a survivor often leads to further discrimination and violence. This in combination with the lack of reproductive health care leads to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and higher risk of STIs. 

Currently, litigation is pending with the Commission for a case filed in 2015 on behalf of an Ecuadorian teenager who was sexually assaulted by her school's vice-principal and later committed suicide after learning she was pregnant. 

 

 

November 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

These 2017 Election Winners Backed Reproductive Rights — And You Can Thank Women For That

Bustle (Nov. 8, 2017): These 2017 Election Winners Backed Reproductive Rights — And You Can Thank Women For That, by Lauren Holter:

Earlier this week, advocates for reproductive rights won many state and local elections. Planned Parenthood's director of political communications, said "voters spoke really loud and clear that they want to see women’s rights protected." 

In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam, who was endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, won the governor's race against Republican Ed Gillespie who has previously stated that he would like to see abortion banned. The winner of the lieutenant governor's seat beat out a candidate who had sponsored a bill which would have required women to have a vaginal ultrasound before an abortion. In the Virginia House of Delegates, Democrats took back the majority by flipping 14 seats, the majority of which were won by women. 

In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy “trounced Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno” for the governor’s seat. Chris Christie, the current New Jersey Governor, has recently rid family planning services from the state’s budget. Murphy during his campaign promised to support family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood, while Guadagno stated that “she wouldn’t restore family planning funds if elected.”

In the state of Washington, Manka Dhingra's campaign focussed on reproductive health care.  She won her state senate race giving Democrats the majority. Dhingra has previously said, “women need to be able to make their own health care choices and part of that means ensuring access to affordable, reliable contraception, and equal access to all reproductive options.”

These wins come just a few months after leaders of the Democratic Party “wouldn’t have a litmus test on abortion in 2018.” The victories from Tuesday night prove that candidates who “champion abortion access” can win elections.

Women Democrats also won is several mayoral elections across the country. “While none of these women explicitly ran on reproductive rights platforms (and most abortion legislation happens on the state level), more Democratic women in office typically means more people publicly advocating for women’s rights.”

Maya Rupert, senior director of policy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, emphasizes the importance of representation, stating “And the fact that multiple cities have elected female leaders represents a huge opportunity to center the issue of reproductive rights at the local level.”

 

 

November 11, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The global abortion policies database - legal knowledge as a health intervention

thebmjopinion (Nov. 1, 2017): The global abortion policies database - legal knowledge as a health intervention, by Joanna Erdman:

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs have launched the Global Abortion Policies Database.  The database is an open-access repository of abortion laws, policies, standards and guidelines from 197 countries.  According to Joanna Erdman:

The breadth of abortion law captured in the database is one of its key innovations. Global abortion maps and other collections tend to focus on the legal grounds for abortion, classifying countries on this basis. The database provides a more comprehensive picture, capturing a range of “policy domains” (legal grounds, gestational limits, authorization and service delivery requirements), as well as, the complexities and subtleties of regulation in multiple and sometimes conflicting standards or sub-national variation. Moreover, while abortion was historically addressed in penal codes, these have been increasingly replaced or supplemented by health legislation, constitutional court decisions, and other forms of soft regulation such as clinical guidelines and medical ethics codes. The database captures these many sources of regulation, and thereby dispels the myth of a single “abortion law.”

Erdman also notes that the European Court and other human rights bodies and courts have recognized state obligations to create regulatory frameworks for lawful abortion. The database can help governments meet these obligations by linking country profiles with with human rights standards, allowing easier comparisons across countries and geographic regions and supporting "community actors to hold governments accountable for gaps between these entitlements and abortion practice on the ground."

November 7, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Texas' Ban on Safe Abortion Procedure Goes to Court

San Antonio Current (Nov. 2, 2017): Texas' Ban on Safe Abortion Procedure Goes to Court, by Alex Zielinski

The trial fighting Texas' latest anti-abortion law, Senate Bill 8, began last week. Whole Woman's Health sued Texas in July after the governor signed SB 8 into law.

SB 8 would completely prohibit dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedures, require clinics to bury the remains of any abortion, and prohibit hospitals from donating aborted fetal tissue to medical research.

The current lawsuit, though, only challenges the ban on D&E abortions. Dilation and evacuation abortions are considered one of the safest procedures for abortions after 13 weeks. The ban does not allow for exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. The only alternatives to a D&E procedure for a woman seeking an abortion are either inducing labor and forcing delivery of the fetus or a surgery similar to a hysterectomy. Both options are risky and expensive. 

In August, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the law from going into effect on September 1. On November 2, the plaintiffs returned to Judge Yeakel's courtroom to request the bill's D&E ban be permanently blocked. 

Yeakel has thus far supported a woman's constitutionally-protected right to abortion, saying: "The state cannot pursue its interest in a way that denies a woman her constitutionally protected rights to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus is viable." 

 

November 6, 2017 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor

ABC News (Nov. 3, 2017): Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor by, Geneva Sands

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court today asking for possible disciplinary action against the attorneys that represented an undocumented minor who had an abortion over objections from the Trump administration.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of 17-year-old Jane Doe. Doe learned she was pregnant after being placed in a detention facility for children under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. She says she knew immediately that an abortion was the right option for her.

Doe, represented by the ACLU, had been fighting the federal government to be granted a medical visit to a clinic to receive her abortion. The government had instead taken her against her wishes to a pro-life clinic that tried to persuade her not to abort and showed her sonograms against her will. 

Doe was finally able to get her abortion on October 25. 

The Trump administration has now accused the ACLU of misleading the government on the timing of Doe's abortion. They claim that after informing Justice Department attorneys that the teen's procedure would occur on October 26th, Doe's attorneys actually scheduled it for early on October 25, thereby avoiding Supreme Court review. 

Government attorneys allege that the ACLU, while advocating for their client, violated their duties to the court and to the Bar. The administration believes the judgment under review that enabled Doe to receive the abortion should be vacated and additionally seeks potential disciplinary action against Doe's attorneys.

In response, the ACLU says the government failed to file a timely review with the Supreme Court and that Doe's attorneys acted both in the best interest of their client and "in full compliance with the court orders and federal and Texas law."

 According to Jane herself:

"I’m a 17-year-old girl that came to this country to make a better life for myself. My journey wasn’t easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of. I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly," she wrote. "This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice," she concluded.

November 4, 2017 in Abortion, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 30, 2017

It's Still Technically Not Illegal For NYPD to Have Sex With Someone in Custody

Jezebel (October 25, 2017): It's Still Technically Not Illegal For NYPD to Have Sex With Someone in Custody, by Prachi Gupta: 

Under New York State law it is legal for police or other law enforcement to have sex with someone in their custody. This "loop-hole" is coming to light after two NYPD officers admitted to having sex with a teenage girl in their custody.

New York City Councilman Mark Treyger whose district the incident occurred in says he was outraged and disturbed when the attorney for the two officers alleged that the sex was consensual. Treyger states, "there’s no consent to that...that is rape". 

The New York State Penal Code does have laws to protect individuals from sexual abuse in certain aspects of the criminal justice system including: "those incarcerated or under the community supervision of corrections workers, health care providers, parole officers". However, this does not protect individuals in custody from an arresting officer. A NYPD spokesperson explained that it is against the department's policy to have sex while on duty. 

Councilman Treyger is currently working on a bill that would make this type of crime a misdemeanor offense in the city, and plans to ask the NYS legislature to amend the penal code to make it a felony for a police officer to have sex with someone in their custody. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about the incident at a press conference, while he did not comment on the allegations he did state regarding the claim that the girl gave consent in handcuffs, "I don’t see how that’s possible, honestly". 

"After Treyger’s office submits a draft of the bill, it will be assigned to a committee. There will be a public hearing, and then it will enter into negotiations with the administration. The committee will then vote on the bill and send it to the council". If passed it will end up on Mayor De Blasio's desk to be signed into law. 

October 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ontario makes it illegal to protest right outside of abortion clinics

VICE News (October 26, 2017): Ontario makes it illegal to protest right outside of abortion clinics, by Tamara Khandaker: 

A new billed passed by the Ontario legislature will soon make it illegal to protest outside of abortion clinics. The bill will create a "safe zone" around abortion clinics that will be 50-150 meters. Within the safe zone protesters will not be allowed to protest, hand out literature, advise against abortion, or "physically interfere with anyone trying to gain access to or provide an abortion". 

The "safe zones" will very in size. Outside abortion providers it will be 150 meters. Outside other places which provided abortions including Planned Parenthood and hospitals, these places will have to apply to have their buffer zones up to 150 meters.

Punishment for violating the "safe zones" will include fines and possible jail time. Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in her statement announcing the new law said, "our government believes that every woman in Ontario has the right to make decisions about her own health care – and she deserves to do so freely, without fear...this legislation sends a clear message that we will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose.”

This bill comes after an increase in harassment outside of abortion clinics. One example of this harassment which led to the bill being passed was a woman being spat on while trying to enter the clinic by an anti-abortion protester. 

 

October 29, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Judge OK denying parole to pregnant addict for baby's sake

The Washington Post (Oct. 12, 2017): Judge OK denying parole to pregnant addict for baby's sake, by Associated Press: 

A Pennsylvania judge last year denied a 28-year-old pregnant woman parole even after she had served her minimum jail sentence.

Britnee Becker was arrested on a theft case probation violation and appealed the judge's decision. The higher court, though, said the judge was justified in denying Becker parole in order to protect her unborn child from Becker's drug use.

The appeals court says the judge was right to consider Becker’s unborn child, especially since Becker acknowledged using heroin when she was five months pregnant. She was arrested for the violation in May 2016.

The court says that denying Becker parole “ensured Becker could not use heroin and harm her unborn child.”

October 26, 2017 in In the Courts, Incarcerated Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Court blocks undocumented teen's abortion — for now

USA Today (Oct. 20, 2017): Court blocks undocumented teen's abortion — for now, by Richard Wolf:  

October 25, 2017 in Abortion, In the Courts, In the Media, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Movement of #MeToo

The Atlantic (Oct. 16, 2017): The Movement of #MeToo, by Sophie Gilbert: 

In response to the widespread allegations of Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults, women and men beyond Hollywood have been coming forward via social media with hundreds of thousands of stories ranging from verbal assaults to physical violence. 

The "me too" movement began ten years ago when activist Tarana Burke encouraged survivors of sexual assault to foster solidarity and support for each other. This week, it's gone viral after actress Alyssa Milano took to twitter to mobilize women to stand and say "me too" if they had experienced sexual harassment or assault. The goal was "to give people a sense of 'the magnitude of the problem.'" Within the last 24 hours, Twitter has confirmed that the #MeToo hashtag has been circulated nearly half a million times--and this does not account for the stories shared on alternative social media sites, and, of course, those shared in private among family and friends.

Importantly, many are also recognizing that along with those speaking up and sharing, there are just as many who have very likely survived an assault and are not sharing their stories publicly. With a world of voices being raised and heard this week, the hope is that awareness will breed action and the culture of sexual violence against others will end. 

Unlike many kinds of social-media activism, it isn’t a call to action or the beginning of a campaign, culminating in a series of protests and speeches and events. It’s simply an attempt to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society. To get women, and men, to raise their hands.

Recent revelations about the alleged abuses of Weinstein and Bill Cosby and Jimmy Savile and R. Kelly have proven that truth has power. There’s a monumental amount of work to be done in confronting a climate of serial sexual predation—one in which women are belittled and undermined and abused and sometimes pushed out of their industries altogether. But uncovering the colossal scale of the problem is revolutionary in its own right.

October 24, 2017 in Culture, Current Affairs, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 23, 2017

New bill would protect employees from discrimination regarding reproductive health choices

New York Daily News (Oct. 16, 2107): Councilman to introduce bill to protect employees from discrimination when it comes to reproductive health, by Jillian Jorgensen:

New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams plans to introduce a bill to prohibit workplace discrimination based on reproductive decisions in the wake of Trump's recent health care initiatives. 

This proposal follows the "Boss Bill," currently before the state legislature, which aims to guarantee women access to medical procedures and medicine such as fertility treatments, contraceptives, and abortion.

The bill is co-sponsored by several women council members, including the chair of the Committee on Women's Issues, Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) and co-chair of the Women's Caucus Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).

The bill would modify the city’s Human Rights Law to protect against employment discrimination based on “sexual and reproductive health decisions.”

That would include fertility treatments, family planning services and counseling, birth control drugs and supplies, emergency contraception, sterilization, pregnancy tests, abortions and HIV testing and counseling.

 

October 23, 2017 in Abortion, Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

U.S. judge orders Trump administration to allow abortion for undocumented teen

The Washington Post (Oct. 18, 2017): U.S. judge orders Trump administration to allow abortion for undocumented teen, by Maria Sacchetti:
 
Federal District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered the U.S. government to allow an undocumented, pregnant minor in its custody to have an abortion if she chooses.
 
The Justice Department has already appealed the ruling, asking for a stay to prevent the teen from having an “irreversible elective abortion” while the appeal is pending. "Court filings make clear that the government is trying to prevent minors in its custody from having abortions, a departure from U.S. practice under Obama."
 
Jane Doe, as she is referred to in court documents, has been held in custody in South Texas since crossing the border illegally in September. She says that federal officials have refused to transport her to a clinic for the procedure and have instead taken her, against her wishes, to a Christian pregnancy facility that aims to persuade patients against abortion and allegedly conducted, also against her will, an ultrasound. The government has informed the girl's mother of her pregnancy. Both of these actions are potential violations of the minor's constitutional rights. 
 
All that is required of the government in this instance, per Judge Chutkan's order, is completion of routine paperwork that would allow the minor to visit a clinic.

October 22, 2017 in Abortion, In the Courts, In the Media, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 16, 2017

In West Africa, youth ambassadors serve as family planning advocates

Devex (Oct. 3, 2017): In West Africa, youth ambassadors serve as family planning advocates, by Christin Roby:

In West Africa, young people are receiving training from health professionals and becoming community-based family planning advocates. They use their skills to initiate conversations with their local ministries of health to demand access to contraceptives, reproductive health services, and to ensure they each have a voice in future reproductive policies. 

West Africa has the world’s lowest contraceptive prevalence rate accompanied by the world’s highest fertility rate. While the world averages 2.4 children per woman, African women average 4.7 children. West Africa surpasses even the African average with five children per woman, and a 17 percent modern contraception prevalence rate as compared to the global rate of 64 percent.

These initiatives are part of a larger project by the nations that make up the Ouagadougou Partnership (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo). This Partnership has a goal to provide 2.2 million more people in the region better access to family planning methods by 2020. The youth ambassadors especially aim to reach rural communities that don't often have much knowledge about contraception or family planning. 

Experts hope that introducing effective family planning methods into more communities will enable young mothers-to-be to space their births, so as to reduce potentially negative health consequences. Young men are important to the conversation as well, and educating them on the risks of un-spaced births and the health complications that young pregnant women face--especially those under 18 years old--is imperative. 

By empowering the youth to advocate for themselves and their communities, these groups--such as Strengthening Civil Society Engagement for Family Planning in West Africa--hope to facilitate cooperation between religious and community leaders. Bridging these spheres is important in order to account for various cultural contexts when considering reproductive rights advocacy and establishing new health services programs. Youth ambassadors have effectively organized trainings within mosques and churches and are beginning to open a line of communication about safe sex practices, discussion of which is often considered taboo. 

International health experts are optimistic that the West African model will expand contraceptive use and effective family planning and improve reproductive health in the region.

October 16, 2017 in Contraception, Culture, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Sex with underage wife is rape, Indian supreme court rules

The Guardian (Oct. 11, 2017): Sex with underage wife is rape, Indian supreme court rules

On Wednesday, India's supreme court ruled against an sexual assault law exception which allowed men to have sex with girls as young as 15 years old if they were married. Advocates who brought this case said that the criminal code exception to rape, encouraged child marriage. Justice Madan Lokur wrote in his decision, "we are left with absolutely no other option but to harmonise the system of laws relating to children."

A recent study showed that approximately 12 million children in India under the age of 10 were married. Most of these children are "girls from poor, rural families with little or no education." Promoters of marriage exception in the Indian government had continuously argued that child marriages result from social and economic conditions and should not be fixed with laws, but rather development programs. 

Early marriage is a deep rooted part of the culture in many Indian communities. "Mass child marriages occur in many parts of the country on days considered auspicious in the Hindu calendar, such as the Akshaya Tritiya festival." Kriti Bharti, an activist who is known for preventing thousands of child marriages, was pleased by the decision. She notes that parents often pose challenges to her work. She describes this scenario:

“A minor girl being abused by her husband will tell her mother: ‘I’m feeling pain. [Sex] is uncomfortable. Please help me,’” she said. “But mothers say: ‘It’s your destiny. You are a female so you have to go through this.’”

Bharti is concerned that this law will be difficult to enforce, but will have positive outcomes as girls can now go to the police and the criminal justice system to say they are being exploited and abused.

 

 

October 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Trump administration narrows Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate

Washington Post (Oct. 6, 2017): Trump administration narrows Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, by Juliet Eilperin, Amy Goldstein and William Wan:

In the next move on Trump's path to dismantle as many Obama-administration initiatives as possible, the Trump administration issued a rule today that many predict will leave hundreds of thousand of women without free access to contraceptives. 

The Health and Human Services Department now allows a much wider group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering birth control on religious or moral grounds. Although the administration estimates that "99.9%" of women will still receive free birth control through their insurance, the only basis of that estimate is the finite number of lawsuits that have been filed since Obama introduced the contraceptive mandate provision in 2012. Officials do not know, however, how many employers denied contraceptive coverage on "religious" or "moral" grounds before the ACA, and so an accurate number of women who may lose coverage cannot yet be estimated. 

In 2014, the Supreme Court heard the Hobby Lobby case in which the Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain craft store objected to providing certain forms of birth control. The court ruled it illegal to impose the provision on "closely held corporations," the definition of which is sure to widen under Trump's provision. 

Senior Justice Department officials said the guidance was merely meant to offer interpretation and clarification of existing law. But the interpretation seemed to be particularly favorable to religious entities, possibly at the expense of women, LGBT people and others.

The guidance, for example, said the ACA contraceptive mandate “substantially burdens” employers’ free practice of religion by requiring them to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs in violation of their religious of beliefs or face significant fines.

 

This new rule will almost certainly prompt fresh litigation against the Trump administration, likely on the grounds of sex discrimination--as the mandate disproportionately affects women--and religious discrimination based on the argument that these exceptions enable employers to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. 

October 7, 2017 in Contraception, Current Affairs, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 6, 2017

ACLU Sues to Increase Access to Abortion Pill

NPR (October 3, 2017): ACLU Sues To Increase Access to Abortion Pill, Sarah McCammon:

The ACLU has just filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii arguing that medication abortion be offered by prescription and stocked in local pharmacies.  Currently, the FDA requires that mifepristone, one of the drugs used in medication abortion, can only be dispensed at a medical facility under the care of a certified provider.  Certified providers must pre-register with the drugs' manufacturer, keep the medication in stock and be capable of providing a surgical abortion if complications arise. Although the regulations require that the pill be dispensed at a qualified medical facility, the woman actually takes the mifepristone at home.

The FDA regulations have big implications in locations where there is not a nearby abortion clinic or hospital that provides medication abortion.  The plaintiff in the case, Dr. Graham Chilies lives in Kauai, which does not have a single abortion clinic.  So if one of his patients needs an abortion she must fly to a different island 150 miles away. 

Chelius argues those rules are unnecessary and cumbersome. Hawaii has one of the nation's highest poverty rates, and the delays and expenses are sometimes insurmountable barriers, Chelius said. The casecould have implications beyond Hawaii.

"The FDA restrictions create delays that often push medication abortion out of reach of my patients," he said. "And some of my patients are simply unable to make this trip and instead have been forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will."

 

October 6, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

UN Ambassador Flounders to Explain U.S. Vote Against Rebuking the Use of the Death Penalty to Target LGBTQ People

Think Progress (Oct. 4, 2017): Haley tries, fails to explain UN vote against rebuking use of death penalty to target LGBTQ people, by Zack Ford:

The United Nations approved a resolution on Friday, September 29 condemning the use of the death penalty in a discriminatory manner. The text of the resolution called for the death penalty to be banned "as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations."

The United States, however, voted against the resolution, along with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Only 13 out of 47 countries on the Human Rights Council voted against it. 

A spokesperson for the State Department cited "broader concerns" about the resolution as the reason for the negative vote, specifying disagreement with the resolution's "approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances." UN Ambassador Nikki Haley took to twitter to claim that the vote was not one for "the death penalty for gay people," claiming that Friday's vote was the same as the U.S.'s vote on the same issue under the Obama administration. In 2014, however, the Obama administration abstained from the death penalty resolution, which is distinct from actively voting "no." Additionally, the language regarding same-sex relationships was a new addition to the resolution. 

The rest of the resolution’s calls to action refer to how the death penalty is implemented, not whether it should be. It simply calls upon states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not applied in a discriminatory way and to take all possible precautions to protect the civil rights of people who are facing that punishment.

The controversy surrounding this vote highlights the United States' isolation on the death penalty compared to the rest of the democratized world. Many studies have found the death penalty to be applied in a discriminatory manner across the world where it is still implemented, especially against racial minorities and economically-vulnerable people. In the U.S., 55% of those awaiting execution today are people of color, according to the ACLU.

While the resolution encouraged countries to sign a protocol that aims at abolishing the death penalty, it did not require it. 

October 5, 2017 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Illinois becomes first state in decades to lift restrictions on Medicaid coverage for abortions

ACLU Blog (Sept. 29, 2017): Medicaid Will Now Cover Abortion for Low Income Women Illinois.  Take That, Hyde!, by Lorie Chaiten: 

Last week, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois signed a bill that will allow abortion coverage for low-income women enrolled in Medicaid.  With the signing of the law, Illinois became they first state to lift restrictions on Medicaid coverage in decades.  The law also removes restrictions on coverage for state employees who are covered under state health care plans.

Rauner's signature comes after many months of speculation about whether or not he would sign the bill. At a news conference prior to signing, he stated that he personally supports abortion rights and decided to act consistent with his views. He also recognized that the current restrictions on Medicaid coverage unfairly takes away the right of poor women to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

"The passions, the emotions, the sentiments on both sides of these issues are very powerful. I respect them very much," Rauner said. "I believe that a woman living with limited financial means should not be put in a position where she has to choose something different than a woman of higher income would be able to choose." 

In celebrating the victory, Lorie Chaiten, Director of the ACLU-Illinois' Women and Reproductive Rights Project stated:

This bill backs up our state’s values by ending political interference with insurance coverage for abortion and ensuring that a woman isn’t treated differently just because of her income or where she gets her insurance. It is simply common sense: When health programs for women with low incomes cover birth control and abortion — not just childbirth — it’s good for them and it’s good for society as a whole.

October 1, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)