Saturday, November 30, 2013
Media Matters: Fox Uses Hobby Lobby Case To Falsely Call Morning-After Pill Abortion, by Brian Powell & Samantha Wyatt:
Fox News repeatedly conflated the emergency contraceptive Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill) with abortion while covering two Supreme Court cases brought by companies that object to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control coverage benefits. However, experts agree that the morning-after pill is not abortion -- it prevents pregnancy but cannot stop pregnancy after fertilization takes place. . . .
The New York Times: Abortion Cases in Court Helped Tilt Democrats Against the Filibuster, by Jeremy W. Peters:
Within hours of each other, two federal appeals courts handed down separate decisions that affirmed sharp new limits on abortion and birth control. One on Oct. 31 forced abortion clinics across Texas to close. The other, on Nov. 1, compared contraception to “a grave moral wrong” and sided with businesses that refused to provide it in health care coverage.
“These are the kinds of decisions we are going to have to live with,” a blunt Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, warned his caucus later as it weighed whether to make historic changes to Senate rules. . . .
Balkinization: The Establishment Clause and the Contraception Mandate, by Micah Schwartzman, Richard Schragger, and Nelson Tebbe:
Yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, which ask whether large, for-profit corporations and their religious owners can assert rights of religious free exercise under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and, if so, whether their rights are violated by the government’s requirement that they pay for health insurance that includes coverage for various forms of contraception. . . .
The Daily Beast: The GOP’s Late-Term Abortion Strategy Is Backfiring, by Sally Kohn:
Right wing politicians who are push laws to restrict a woman’s access to later-term abortions presumably do so because they don’t want women having abortion after 20 weeks. But new research from medical school-based scholars finds that other policies that conservative Republicans are pushing, including restrictions on access to clinics as well as constrained access to health insurance, actually result in more women seeking later-term abortions. In other words, not only are Republicans hypocrites—but their hypocrisy is backfiring.
Diana Greene Foster and Katrina Kimport are professors in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences in the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. Between 2008 and 2010, Foster and Kimport studied the cases of 272 women who had received an abortion at or after 20 weeks of gestation, as well as of 169 women who received first-trimester abortions. These women were interviewed just one week after their abortions and asked a variety of questions including what led to the delay in their medical care. The results are striking and profoundly important for those who seek to promote—or constrict—the rights of women to access and exercise their own reproductive freedom. . . .
Friday, November 29, 2013
The New Yorker: The Stakes in the Hobby Lobby Birth-Control Case, by Amy Davidson:
Is the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which the Supreme Court agreed to hear this week, about health-care mandates or about religion? Hobby Lobby’s owners, who are Christian—they buy ads in newspapers on Easter recommending that people get to know Jesus Christ—feel that their right to worship freely is being denied by the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby is a privately held for-profit company, with five hundred stores selling arts-and-crafts supplies and thirteen thousand full-time employees, not all of them Christians. . . .
New Emergency Contraception Label Undermines Corporations' Objections To Health Plans Covering the Pills
As I was saying in my last post, the evidence shows that emergency contraceptive pills work before fertilization, not after (contrary to the claims of corporations like Hobby Lobby). Now European health authorities are changing the labeling to reflect this information.
The New York Times: New Birth Control Label Counters Lawsuit Claim, by Pam Belluck:
European health authorities have made two significant changes to the label of an emergency contraception pill that is equivalent to Plan B One-Step. One of the changes could be relevant to two cases that the Supreme Court added to its docket on Tuesday.
The new label of the drug, Norlevo, says it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb,” contradicting a claim by some abortion opponents that has fueled their objections to the Affordable Care Act.
The new label also warns that Norlevo loses effectiveness in women weighing more than 165 pounds and does not work in women over 176 pounds.
Norlevo is not sold in the United States, but Plan B One-Step and two generic versions are identical to it. . . .
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The New York Times: Justices Take Companies’ Cases Challenging Contraception Rule, by Adam Liptak:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a pair of cases on whether corporations may refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraception to their workers based on the religious beliefs of the corporations’ owners. . . .
In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver, ruled for Hobby Lobby, a corporation owned by a family whose members have said they try to run the business on Christian principles. The company, which operates a chain of arts-and-crafts stores and has more than 15,000 full-time employees of many faiths, objected to a requirement in the health care law requiring large employers to provide their workers with comprehensive insurance coverage for contraception. . . .
Hobby Lobby's objection is to "drugs and devices that can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb." However, the best available evidence indicates that emergency contraceptive pills work before fertilization, not after. More information on how different types of emergency contraception work can be found here.
Monday, November 25, 2013
NBCNews.com/Reuters: Putin signs law banning advertisements for abortion in Russia, by Ian Bateson:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning advertisements for abortion, the Kremlin said on Monday, a step activists said would infringe on the reproductive rights of women.
Putin has made stemming a post-Soviet population decline a priority during 14 years in power and struck a conservative tone in his new term, praising what he calls traditional values and holding up the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral guide. . . .
The Wall Street Journal: Abortion Fight Hits Tennessee, by Cameron McWhirter:
The battleground over abortion is shifting to Tennessee, where campaigns are heating up on a referendum that is a year away.
The referendum, pushed by anti-abortion groups for years, would add an amendment to the state constitution stating, "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion." The amendment would apply to all abortions, including those stemming from "circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother." . . .
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Meant To Shield Religious Practices from Government Intrusion, Is Now Invoked by Corporations to Discriminate Against Women
The Los Angeles Times: 1993 religious freedom act is at heart of contraception case, by David Savage:
When the Supreme Court confronted the case of Native Americans who were fired for smoking an illegal drug during a religious ceremony, Justice Antonin Scalia called a halt to granting religious exemptions under the Constitution's protection for the "free exercise" of religion. It "would be courting anarchy" to permit "religious objectors" to ignore the law, he said.
But Democrats in Congress rose up to overturn his decision and to bolster religious freedom.
Backed by a broad coalition, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Christian Legal Society, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act became law 20 years ago this month. It declared that the government may not "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" unless it had a "compelling" reason to do so.
Now, that little-known law is at the center of a major "religious liberty" challenge to President Obama's health insurance overhaul and its requirement that employers pay for full contraceptive coverage for their female employees. . . .
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Miami Herald: Unsafe abortions: Haiti’s abortion crisis, by Jacqueline Charles:
. . .Abortion is illegal in Haiti but women and girls are losing their uteruses and their lives as they turn to clandestine, increasingly deadly ways to terminate their pregnancies. These unsafe abortions are leading to a public health crisis in a region with one of the world’s highest rates of unintended pregnancies, experts say. . . .
news.com.au: Tas abortion reform removes stigma: govt:
TASMANIA'S new abortion laws will help remove the stigma around the procedure, the state's health minister says.
Minister Michelle O'Byrne's private members bill to remove abortion from Tasmania's criminal code has resulted in the state becoming the third jurisdiction in Australia to do so, joining Victoria and the ACT.
Ms O'Byrne said abortion should be dealt with as a health matter, not a criminal matter. . . .
The Guardian (opinion column): Abortion in Tasmania is decriminalised, but it wasn't an easy battle, by Briony Kidd:
Tasmania has removed abortion from its criminal laws after seven months of deliberations in parliament – but politicians have had to face a barrage of anti-choice tactics in the process
In the last days of her prime ministership this June, Julia Gillard attempted to warn of "abortion [becoming] the political plaything of men who think they know better” and was smacked down hard, first by the media and then her own party, for "cynically" raising the issue.
That same month in Tasmania, Labor health minister Michelle O'Byrne and pro-choicers were facing fierce opposition as they spearheaded a bill decriminalising abortion. The bill, which had passed through the lower house in April, was now debated by the largely conservative upper house. It finally passed this week. . . .
West Virginia Gazette-Mail: Poll: Plurality of W.Va. voters oppose more abortion regulations, by Lori Kersey:
A new poll commissioned by an abortion rights agency suggests that West Virginians do not support more regulations that some say are meant to close abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood sponsored the poll, which found that 49 percent of voters in West Virginia oppose adding more restrictions to the state's abortion clinics. Twenty-eight percent of people support more restrictions and 23 percent are not sure, according to the poll. . . .
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Reuters: Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas, resumes abortion services, by Lisa Maria Garza:
A Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas, resumed abortion services on Friday under strict new state rules, the organization said, but 11 other abortion clinics in the state are still not performing the procedure.
Planned Parenthood said its Austin doctor had received admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a requirement under the new law. The clinic had closed on October 31 when the law was enacted after a federal appeals court overturned a lower-court ruling that said the law was an undue burden on women seeking abortions. . . .
MSNBC: Female voters defeated Albuquerque abortion ban, by Irin Carmon:
Earlier this week, voters in Albuquerque voted down a city-wide measure that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks, by a ten-point margin. According to voter data analyzed by ProgressNowNM, the pro-choice side has women to thank for it. . . .
Friday, November 22, 2013
National Catholic Reporter: Behind scenes, Catholic bishops seek an exit strategy for Obamacare mandate, by David Gibson:
After a closed-door session at their annual meeting in Baltimore this month, the U.S. Catholic bishops issued an unusual "special message" reaffirming their long-standing opposition to the Obama administration's birth control insurance mandate. . . .
But after repeatedly drawing that line in the sand, a growing number of bishops have begun to push back, arguing that such hard-line rhetoric has put them in an untenable position. These bishops do not want to close Catholic institutions over a birth control policy -- and they say they actually can't do so in most cases.
In addition, they argue that there is no reason to try -- the exemptions and accommodations in the mandate are sufficient, some say, and the church's teaching that access to good, affordable health care is a basic right should outweigh any remaining reservations.
That's why those familiar with the deliberations in Baltimore note that the statement is carefully worded to acknowledge that each bishop can make his own arrangements on health insurance -- as some are doing -- and it begins to provide cover for the entire hierarchy as the prelates try to find an exit strategy. . . .
Federal District Judge Grants Catholic-Affiliated Employers Temporary Delay in Complying with Contraception Mandate
Herald-Star: Catholics win delay, by Kevin Begos:
A federal judge ruled Thursday that two Western Pennsylvania Catholic groups don't immediately have to comply with mandates in the federal health care overhaul law, and has granted them a temporary delay while the issue is appealed to higher courts.
U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab wrote that forcing schools and charities related to the Pittsburgh and Erie Catholic dioceses to comply with the Affordable Care Act could result in decreased donations, loss of employees and fines that could force the closure of some church programs. The dioceses object to the law's requirement that contraception, including sterilization, be offered in employee health care plans. . . .
H/t: Roz Litman
To be clear, the contraception mandate does not apply at all to "pervasively sectarian entities," including churches and some parochial schools. The Department of Health and Human Services later provided further accommodation to not-for-profit employers such as hospitals, universities, and charities that object on religious grounds to the provision of contraceptive services. These employers are not forced to pay for contraceptives themselves. Instead, their insurance providers will directly pay for the services. But even that accommodation hasn't satisfied some employers. Here is a summary of the exemptions for employers who object to the mandate on religious grounds. Here is a summary of challenges to the contraception rules by both non-profit and for-profit employers.
Arizona Willing to Sacrifice Pregnancy Prevention and Other Women's Health Services in Zeal to Attack Abortion
The American Prospect: Razing Arizona Women's Health Care, by Amelia Thomson-Deveaux:
Like Napoleon forging into the Russian winter, anti-choice politicians are loath to give up on abortion restrictions, however minor, until the Supreme Court forces them to. On Wednesday, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a law that would strip Medicaid funding from doctors and clinics who perform abortions. Poor women already can’t use federal dollars to cover abortion procedures—that’s been illegal since the late 1970s. The law, which was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in August, instead would prevent the state’s abortion providers from being reimbursed by Medicaid for providing any kind of care to low-income women, whether it’s breast exams, cervical cancer screenings, or contraceptive services. . . .
Indiana made a similar bid for the Supreme Court’s attention after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down its law, which prohibited Planned Parenthood from receiving state or federal funds. But the justices refused to hear the case. Caitlin Borgmann, a professor of law at the City University of New York, says it’s unlikely, given the justices’ unwillingness to hear Indiana’s appeal, that Arizona’s petition will be successful. “To read the statute as broadly as Arizona wants would allow the state to exclude providers for any reason,” says Borgmann. “Such a precedent ought to give the Supreme Court pause too, because its implications extend far beyond abortion.” . . .
It’s undeniable that without programs like Medicaid, which help low-income women afford contraception, the abortion rate in the country would be much higher. . . . “Laws like these reveal the anti-abortion rights movement for what it is,” Borgmann says. “Their goal is to be punitive and prevent access to abortion, not come up with solutions to help women make autonomous decisions about their health.” . . .
CNBC: Oh, baby! Most women unaware of Obamacare birth control mandate, by Dan Mangan:
A majority of women remain unaware that birth control is available for free from health insurance plans under Obamacare—even as the Supreme Court is likely to soon consider legal fights over that law.
And while lack of awareness about the so-called "contraception mandate" might reflect overall, widespread confusion about Obamacare's details, an expert who has been following the issue said it also reflects the fact that pharmaceutical companies aren't advertising the fact that their contraceptives could be effectively obtained free by many women. . . .
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Arizona Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Its Law Denying Medicaid Funding To Medical Providers That Offer Abortion
AZcentral.com: Arizona again asks Supreme Court to look at abortion law, by Alia Beard Rau:
For the second time in as many months, an Arizona official has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a controversial state abortion law.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Wednesday asked the nation’s highest court to rule on a law that strips Medicaid funding from doctors and clinics that perform abortions.
House Bill 2800, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Jan Brewer signed in 2012, would have halted Medicaid reimbursements for contraceptives, cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and annual women’s exams at more than 80 Arizona hospitals and clinics that also perform abortions. . . .