Friday, October 13, 2017
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.
Saturday, October 7, 2017
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.
Friday, October 6, 2017
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."
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.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
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.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Refinery 29 (Sept. 27, 2017): House Republicans Want To Ban Abortion After 20 Weeks, by Andrea Gonzalez-Ramirez
The Republicans in the House are planning to vote next Friday (October 3rd) on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This law would ban abortions after 20 weeks with certain exceptions: rape, incest, and danger to the mother's life. While 17 states have already adopted similar legislation, this law would make the 20 week ban apply nationwide. This law, if passed, would make it illegal after 20 weeks to attempt or perform an abortion, and the penalty would include fines and up to 5 years in prison.
House Republican Kevin McCarthy, who is introducing the bill for a vote, stated that this law will, "...protect those children who science has proven can feel pain, and give them a chance to grow and live full and happy lives. We have an obligation to speak and defend for those who can’t speak for themselves." Despite McCarthy's claim, there is currently no scientific consensus supporting the idea that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. Most scientists believe that the pain feeling brain development occurs in the third trimester.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
The Portugal News Online (Sept. 14, 2017): Portugal Is European County with Fewest Abortions:
Portugal held a national referendum in 2007 that resulted in the legalization of abortion of pregnancies of up to ten weeks. Abortions must be performed in a facility licensed to perform the procedure. Figures from 2015 indicate that abortions were at their lowest level in that country since 2008, the first year that they were legal. Every year there have been fewer abortions than the year before. Portugal's retiring health director Francisco George has cited the small percentage of abortions per 1,000 live births as evidence of the success of Portugal's abortion laws.
Abortion used to be against the law in Portugal, a reality that resulted in grim health consequences for women in need of safe termination procedures. George remarked that the decriminalization of abortion "has improved the health conditions for women."
Friday, September 22, 2017
Huffington Post (Sept. 17, 2017): Breastfeeding Behind Bars: Do All Moms Deserve the Right?, by Kimberly Seals Allers
33-year-old Monique Hidalgo is mom to a 5-week old baby. Her child's father brings their infant to visit her on the weekends, as Hidalgo is also an inmate at a New Mexican state prison. Due to her incarceration, Hidalgo was refused contact with her newborn when she wanted to breastfeed her. She was also denied access to a breast pump that would've allowed her to provide milk for her baby from behind bars.
Last month, though, a Sante Fe judge ruled that the Corrections Department policy denying incarcerated mothers their right to breastfeed was unconstitutional. The judge ordered that Hidalgo be able to breastfeed her child during visits and also ordered that she receive access to an electric pump.
"While there have been many cases, both in federal and state court, affirming a woman’s right to breastfeed in a public place or at work, incarcerated women have largely been left out of this conversation,” said Amber Fayerberg, Ms. Hidalgo’s lead counsel, at Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward, whose firm is working the case pro-bono. “This case acknowledges that incarcerated women are not just “inmates,” but women and, often, mothers,” Fayerberg said in an email interview.
Prisons are generally punitive over rehabilitative when it comes to incarcerated parents dealing with incarceration. Society rarely accounts for the circumstances that led to a parent's imprisonment, including poverty and racism. An incarcerated mother is deemed a "bad mom" in order to justify stripping her of the opportunity to maintain important, biological connections with her child like breastfeeding.
Women's advocates highlight that, in an effort to punish mothers, policies like those that forbid breastfeeding are actually punishing the infants as well, depriving them not only of their mother, but also of the benefits associated with breastfeeding. Experts also find that enabling the mother-baby connection may be a beneficial way to keep a mother connected to her family and community, therefore increasing her chances of successful re-integration and discouraging recidivism.
Reproductive justice is scarcely considered with incarcerated women in mind, however, Democratic senators have recently introduced positive legislation. Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) introduced The Dignity for Incarcerated Women's Act. The bill would prohibit federal prisons from shackling pregnant women or placing them in solitary confinement, require federal prisons to provide free tampons and pads for women, and would extend visiting hours for inmates and their children.
Even as we make progress, though, the question remains: which aspects of the mother-child connection are a right versus a privilege? When the early months of an infant's life are so critical to future development, shouldn't minimizing the separation of incarcerated mothers and their children be a societal goal rather than a constitutional battle?
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Tribunal Constitucional de Chile (Aug. 21, 2017):
A Chilean court has upheld a law decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, fatal fetal impairment, and when a woman's life is in danger. A group of conservative senators representing more than a quarter of the members of Senate challenged the law's constitutionality.
The decision is grounded in international human rights treaties. With these rights in mind, and in view of the effect of pregnancy on women, the court concluded that the criminal law should be used only as a last resort.
Regarding the "threat to the woman's life" criterion, the Court has decided that only assessment of the physician attending the woman is necessary in order not to delay the provision of care.
The opinions of two physicians are required in an assessment of whether a case is one of "fatal fetal impairment." The Court warned against "decisional paralysis" in such cases, since delay can pose a danger to the patient.
Finally, in cases of rape, a child under the age of 14 must have an abortion before 14 weeks of gestation, while an older patient has under 12 weeks of gestation.
Even though it remains under in the Inter-American human rights systems whether artificial legal persons have the right to conscientious objection, the Court, intending to promote freedom of conscience and religion, ruled that hospitals and clinics may lodge institutional conscientious objections to abortion.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
The Nation (September 13, 2017): My Body, My Choice, Why the Principle of Bodily Autonomy Can Unite the Left, by David M. Perry:
An advocate for disability argues that the right to bodily autonomy can unite groups on the "left." In particular, he suggests that the struggle to defend body autonomy can bring reproductive rights and disability rights activists together.
Reproductive rights and disability rights are often seen as being in tension, but they don’t have to be. As recently argued by attorney and autistic activist Shain Neumeier, history shows us that allowing the government to exercise control over reproduction always goes badly for disabled people. This is most famous visible in the history of eugenic sterilization of disabled men and women in the United States, but continues in more subtle battles about whether disabled people should be allowed to have sex at all. Disability rights and reproductive rights find common ground over resisting governmental intrusion into individual reproductive decisions. The abstract principle of bodily autonomy unites rather than fragments.
Perry argues that body autonomy is a principle that resonates with other seemingly disparate movements as well and creates a place to "unite our struggles without erasing our differences."
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The Pudding (September 2017): How far is too far? An analysis of driving times to abortion clinics in the US, by Russell Goldenberg, Amber Thomas and Caitlyn Ralph
As states continue to impose restrictions on abortion clinics that force facilities to close or stop providing services for women later in pregnancy, it is becoming increasingly difficult for women to access abortion care. A new analysis published in The Pudding quantifies how clinic closures actually impact the distance women have to travel to abortion clinics. The study looks at driving distances from cities with populations over 500,000. Currently there are 151 urban areas that do not have an abortion clinic within an hour roundtrip drive. Women living in urban areas in Texas and in South Dakota have no clinics within an 8 hour roundtrip drive.
The article provides an interactive tool that allows readers to see how long a round trip to an abortion clinic would be from different urban areas. Because many clinics do not provide services later in pregnancy, the tool also allows readers to see the distance women must travel to obtain abortions at 8, 12, 16 and 20 weeks. The article also looks at changes in accessibility in states that are currently considering legislation that could could force further clinic closures. For instance, if the sole abortion clinic in North Dakota is forced to close, the length of time women would have to drive to access abortion services from Fargo, ND would increase from under an hour to 6 hours and from 5 hours to 11 hours for women living in Bismarck, ND.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Reuters (September 7, 2017): Abortion via telemedicine as safe as seeing doctor in person, by Ronnie Cohen:
A new study has found that the safety of medication abortion is the same when doctors provide information about how to use abortion inducing drugs through video conferencing as when doctors meet with a woman in person.
“We can really say definitively now that there is no increased risk of complications among women who obtain medication abortion by telemedicine as opposed to women who have an in-person visit with a physician,” said lead author Dr. Daniel Grossman, an obstetrician-gynecologist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
The study also found that adverse events in both situations were extremely rare.
The study's findings are significant because providing the option of telemedince can remove barriers to abortion for women who have difficulty traveling to an in person doctor appointment. A 2008 study showed that women's ability to obtain a first trimester abortion, rather than a second trimester abortion increased by 50% when women could obtain medication abortion by telemedicine.
Currently 18 states have laws that require that doctors meet with women in person when providing medication abortion. The study could support a constitutional challenge to these laws since the Supreme Court has held in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt that medical regulations that restrict access to abortion in the guise of protecting women's health must actually provide some health benefit.
Friday, August 25, 2017
(August 24, 2017): Call for Papers:
The Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network is seeking submissions for the Law and Society Annual Meeting, June 7-10, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. Submissions are due Sunday September 17. Submission link: https://form.jotformpro.com/pijip/2018fltcrn
Here is the call for papers:
We invite you to participate in the panels sponsored by the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network at the Law and Society Annual Meeting in Toronto in June 2018. The Feminist Legal Theory CRN brings together law and society scholars across a range of fields who share an interest in feminist legal theory. Information about the Law and Society meeting is available at http://www.lawandsociety.org.
This year’s meeting invites us to explore LAW AT THE CROSSROADS/LE DROIT A LA CROISÉE DES CHEMINS. We seek in proposals that explore the application of feminist legal theory to this rich theme, across any substantive area.
If you would like to present a paper as part of a CRN panel, submit your 500 word abstract to https://form.jotformpro.com/pijip/2018fltcrn by the deadline of September 17, 2017.
Our goal is to stimulate focused discussion of papers on which scholars are currently working. While you may submit papers that are closer to publication, we are particularly eager to receive proposals for works-in-progress that are at an earlier stage and will benefit from the discussion that the panels will provide. We are also especially interested in hearing from junior scholars, and welcome submissions from scholars in VAPs, fellowship programs, non-tenure and pre-tenure positions.
The Planning Committee will group accepted papers into panels of four, based on subject matter. Each presentation should run roughly 10 minutes to allow ample time for discussion. A chair or discussant will provide feedback on each paper.
If you would like to propose a pre-formed panel of four papers with a chair and a discussant, please email us at email@example.com. Include that information in the appropriate box on the submission form for each of the papers as well.
In addition to traditional panels, we are open to some of the other formats that the LSA allows, including Author meets Reader, Salon, or Roundtable. If you have an idea that you think would work well in one of these formats, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that for roundtables, organizers must provide a 500-word summary of the topic and the contributions they expect the proposed participants to make. Please also note that LSA rules limit you to participating only once, either as a paper panelist or as a roundtable participant.
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Washington Post (Aug. 21, 2017): Abstinence-only education doesn't work. We're still funding it, by John Santelli
This year's federal budget includes $90 million in funding for abstinence-only education programs, and in July the Department of Health & Human Services announced that it will end funding for the Office of Adolescent Health’s evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention program in 2018. That program currently tests prevention programs based on the latest available science.
In the article, John Santelli, a professor of pediatrics and public health at Columbia University and former president of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, argues that there is no testing needed on abstinence-only education. It doesn't work, and there is ample research backing that assertion.
The Family & Youth Services Bureau of HHS now refers to abstinence-only education as "sexual risk avoidance," but a new name doesn't fix old problems. In fact, comprehensive evidence-based sex education helps young people remain abstinent, while abstinence-only education fails to achieve that goal. In a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC found inconclusive evidence on the effectiveness of 23 abstinence-only education programs, while the 66 comprehensive sex-ed programs also studied showed positive effects on adolescent behavior, including the use of protection, the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, and pregnancy rates.
Santelli also argues that the goal of abstinence until marriage is increasingly unrealistic in a world where Americans are marrying later in life. The median age for first marriage of American females is now 26.5, and the median age for males is 30.
Since 1982, the federal government has spent over $2 billion on domestic abstinence-only education programs. By 2009, however, half of all states refused funding for abstinence-only programs in favor of comprehensive sex education. Following the 2010 Congressional elections, however, abstinence-only programs are seeing a nationwide resurgence.
It isn't just medical organizations and doctors that oppose abstinence-only sex education. Many churches also oppose the practice, including the United Church of Christ, and most American parents strongly support evidence-based sex education programs. It is up to Americans, Santelli says, to step up and tell Congress and President Trump that we want our tax dollars to fund comprehensive sex education programs that truly prepare our children for sexual activity.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
openDemocracy.net (Aug. 15, 2017): Reproductive Rights on the Move: Refugee Women in Greece Struggle to Access Contraception, by Zoe Holman
Refugee women are struggling to maintain control of their bodies and reproductive choices as a result of practical and cultural challenges within their transitional lives. A recent study has identified that while 60% of women in pre-war Syria used some form of contraception, only 37% of married Syrian women currently living as refugees in Lebanon do the same.
Often, statistics like this exist because refugee women are not comfortable or reasonably able to use the common forms of contraception available in their relocated states. Injectable contraceptives are popular among refugee women, as they're more conducive to women on the move, but they are not always widely available in every country. Contraceptive pills--often more easily accessible--are not always a realistic choice for a woman without a regular routine or stability.
The lack of contraception among refugee populations can lead to more unwanted and challenging pregnancies as well as dangerous, often illicit, attempts at abortion. Seeking an abortion in a foreign country, even where it is legal, is an intimidating prospect for a refugee woman and often logistically prohibitive.
Of particular concern to many migrating women is the exacerbated risk of sexual violence and the resulting threat to a woman's reproductive autonomy.
The director of the Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights says that women emigrating from Eritrea can expect to be raped at least twice before reaching Europe. With this known risk in mind, many women take potent doses of contraceptive before starting their journey to lessen the risk of an unwanted pregnancy from sexual violence. This can lead to longterm damage and reproductive difficulties in the future.
In Greece, a study of nine refugee camps found that insecure conditions left many women at constant risk of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage and trafficking. Perpetrators, it said, have included volunteers and fellow refugees.
Despite the UN noting that reproductive health is a crucial element to mental and social well-being, conflict-ridden regions still receive 50% less funding for reproductive services than non-conflict zones. Thus far, the international outcry to increase funding for safe contraception and sexual healthcare for refugee and migrant women has gone largely unanswered.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
The New York Times (Aug. 9, 2017): The Right to (Black) Life, by Renee Bracey Sherman
Three years since the killing of Michael Brown, women of color are asserting that one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time is not abortion, as anti-choice advocates argue, but police brutality.
While the fundamental right to procreate (or not to) remains essential for black women, many point out that this choice, without the legitimate ability to raise their children in safety and away from violence, "rings hollow."
It’s important to understand that the fight for reproductive justice and the fight to end police brutality go hand in hand. State violence and control, whether through racist policing, the criminal justice system or the welfare system, are all issues at the core of reproductive justice. They are fundamentally about whether you, or the state, has control over your own body and destiny.
Reproductive justice as a human rights framework, was initiated by women of color in the early 1990s. Beyond abortion, the movement is about ensuring a woman's right to choose whether to conceive, her right to a safe, shame-free pregnancy, and the right to raise her children free from state control and brutality.
Discrimination against black mothers and mothers-to-be begins right away and is recognized by organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Racial bias, they say, affects mothers and families both directly through unequal treatment, and indirectly through the stress of such an environment.
Anti-abortion activists, in particular, when black mothers survive the killing of their children, look to blame the mother or the child himself. "They scrutinize every parenting decision and ignore the structural issues that force those decisions."
Far too often, compassion for black lives doesn’t extend beyond the womb or to the black women carrying that womb. Too few tears are shed for the people killed by police violence. Reproductive justice is about the resolve to raise our families on our own terms, safely. This is the fight for the right to life.
Friday, August 18, 2017
The New York Times (Aug. 16, 2017): Sperm Count in Western Men Has Dropped Over 50 Percent Since 1973, Paper Finds, by Maya Salam
The sperm count of men in Western countries has been declining precipitously with no signs of “leveling off,” according to new research, bolstering a school of thought that male health in the modern world is at risk, possibly threatening fertility.
By examining thousands of studies and conducting a meta-analysis of 185 — the most comprehensive effort to date — an international team of researchers ultimately looked at semen samples from 42,935 men from 50 countries from 1973 to 2011.
They found that sperm concentration — the number of sperm per milliliter of semen — had declined each year, amounting to a 52.4 percent total decline, in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Possible causes that researchers have identified include exposure to cigarette smoke, alcohol, and chemicals--such as phthalates--in utero. Age, obesity, and stress also play a role in lowered sperm count and quality. While long-term consequences have yet to be identified, research shows that fertility rates in Western nations are too low to sustain the current population.
Washington's Top News (August 12, 2017): Texas set to restrict insurance coverage for abortion, by The Associated Press
A bill that would require women to purchase separate insurance for abortions that are not medical emergencies has passed the Texas state House after hours of debate. The next step is the Texas Senate which could pass the bill as early as tonight. After that the bill would be sent to the Texas Governor, Greg Abbottt. If signed into law Texas would follow in the footsteps of several other states that have laws which restrict health insurance coverage of abortion.
Supporter of the bill Republican Rep. John Smithee states that the proposed law, "applies only to 'elective' abortions and promotes 'economic freedom' by not forcing Texas policyholders who object to abortion to 'subsidize' insurance coverage for women undergoing the procedure". Democrats however argue that this move is purely political since most insurance companies only cover medically necessary abortions. Democrat Rep. Chris Turner states that this law would essentially require women to purchase "rape insurance" since the law would not have a rape or incest exception.
Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute states, "my sense is that there isn't any identifiable impact of these restrictions since most women pay out of pocket already". According to the Guttmacher Institute about 60 percent of insured abortion recipients pay out of pocket. The insurance ban has also been condemned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which says that abortion procedures should be compared to other essential health care procedures.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Chicago Tribune (August 16, 2017): Federal court: Arkansas can block Planned Parenthood money, by Andrew DeMillo:
On Wednesday, the 8th Circuit vacated a preliminary injunction prohibiting Arkansas from suspending Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood. The district court initially enjoined Arkansas from suspending Medicaid payments under a Medicaid provision that provides a right to Medicaid recipients to choose any qualified provider. Four other circuits reached the same conclusion as the district court and prohibited states from disqualifying Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid payments.
However, in a 2 to 1 decision, the Eighth Circuit held that the "choice of provider" provision does not create a cause of action for individual plaintiffs (here the Medicaid recipients who received services from Planned Parenthood). Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson claimed that the state ended Planned Parenthood's contract because of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue sales, which have been deemed false by multiple investigations. The decision does not reach the question of whether the videos constitute an appropriate grounds to terminate Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood has indicated that it is "evaluating all options to ensure our patients receive uninterrupted care."
Chicago Tribune (August 9, 2017): Abortion rights group starts advocacy campaign aimed at men, by Rick Pearson
In an effort to engage men, an abortion rights group in Illinois has started a campaign which is named "CallBullS***" or "CallBS". The goal of the campaign is to show men that they do not face the same type of restrictions on their reproductive health as do women. The group hopes to promote awareness of a bill in the state legislature that would expand abortion rights, but that the governor, Bruce Rauner, says he will veto.
The digital media campaign will feature men supporting abortion rights. The campaign will be spread using various social media platforms. The co-founder and executive director of Men4Choice, Oren Jacobson, says that the name is how the campaign first evolved. The name he says it how most men react when they hear about possible restrictions to their reproductive health and Jacobson believes the name will strongly speak to men.
Personal PAC CEO, Terry Cosgrove, one of the organizations leading this campaign, says that this is not just about abortion, but about all reproductive health services and access to birth control. He says the idea was created organically, simply by asking men how they would feel about needing to travel to other states to receive Viagra or a vasectomy. "We decided to give men a space to get involved and take action".
The legislative effort is being conducted by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly in Illinois as a way to ensure abortion remains legal in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The bill would also remove restrictions on using state funding for elective abortions for women on Medicaid and to provide abortion coverage to Illinois state employees. Lawmakers however are hesitant to send Governor Rauner the bill as they are unsure of his position and whether or not he veto it.