Monday, January 25, 2016
RH Reality Check (Jan. 19, 2016): ACLU Report: California Jails Denying Reproductive Health Care, by Nicole Night Shine:
Incarcerated California women are denied abortion services, prenatal care, and even menstrual pads, according to a scathing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California report released Tuesday that finds some county jails deny, delay, and ignore prisoners’ reproductive health care.
Among the issues highlighted in the report:
- Delayed and denied abortion access
- Influencing abortion access: Interviews with one jail administrator indicated that jail staff would encourage certain women—those with multiple children or those with chemical dependencies—to have an abortion.
- Dangerous conditions for pregnant inmates, including denial of prenatal and emergency visits with medical staff and use of shackles on pregnant inmates.
- Lack of accommodations for nursing inmates.
- Shortage of menstrual supplies.
- Lack of safeguards for LGBTQ people.
- Poor tracking of sexual assault.
The report also urges abolition of policies that limit reproductive health care to women whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth. It recommends addressing the heightened risk of sexual assault for incarcerated transgender women and providing menstruation pads to all those who need them, regardless of whether the person is housed in a men’s or women’s jail.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Vox (January 22, 2016): A quarter of all post-Roe abortion restrictions were passed in the last 5 years, by Sarah Kliff and Javier Zarracina:
States have passed 288 abortion restrictions since 2008. These restrictions constitute 27% of restrictions passed in the 42 years since Roe v. Wade. Abortion restrictions began rising in 2011 following the national debate about whether abortion would be covered in health plans offered on the health care exchanges created by Obamacare. Republican legislators took the battle to the state level to introduce legislation banning insurance coverage for abortion. According to Vox "Abortion restrictions often come in waves; one state will pass a new type of law, and then others follow":
The waves of new abortion restrictions tend to cluster around specific approaches to regulation. About half of those enacted since 2011 fall into four categories: bans on abortion at 20 weeks, limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, limitations on medical abortions, and targeted regulations of abortion providers (like the admitting privilege laws).
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Daily Beast (Jan. 20, 2016): Catholic Hospitals Are Blocking a Basic Form of Contraception, by Brandy Zadrozny:
Many women choose to have their tubes tied as a pregnancy preventative. Married women may choose this method of sterilization when they have finished growing their families. They sometimes desire to have this procedure performed at the same time they are in surgery for a Caesarean section.
But the belief that tubal ligation is intrinsically evil is a stance assumed by Catholic hospitals in many regions without alternative sources of medical care. A lawsuit brought by Physicians for Reproductive Health (PHR) against what may be the largest hospital provider in California charges violates of the state's anti-discrimination, business and health and safety laws. PHR is arguing that the religious refusal places an undue burden on women who have to travel to facilities often far away from where their physician practices or who are forced to submit to two separate surgeries. The group objects to the intrusion of Catholic doctrine in the doctor-patient relationship.
According to the ACLU and MergerWatch, the number of Catholic acute-care hospitals in the United States continues to rise.
Friday, January 22, 2016
Mother Jones (Jan. 22, 2016): How Roe v. Wade Survived 43 Years of Abortion Wars, by Hannah Levintova:
Mother Jones has been on the front lines throughout the abortion wars with its up-close-and-personal profiles of women making difficult, personal reproductive choices and clinic staff dedicated to helping them. In this chronicle of its coverage, MJ traces the current spate of legislative rollbacks of Roe v. Wade to the unveiling of the "undue burden" standard in the 1992 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Perhaps most poignant is the following insight: In contrast to what Roe v. Wade accomplished back in 1973--stopping deaths from botched abortions "overnight"-- today "discussions of women's safety are more often heard in statehouses enacting further restrictions on abortion." There have been more anti-abortion laws passed since 2010 than in any other five-year period since Roe was decided.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 19, 2016): Anti-Abortion Groups Join Forces Over Frozen Embryos, by Tamar Lewin:
Disputes by divorcing couples over frozen embryos are nothing new. In the past they have been decided in favor of the party who does not want to procreate or in accordance with any contracts the couple executed to control their disposition. But a new litigation strategy is for the party seeking to have children with the embryos without the consent of the other to hire counsel better known for their anti-choice stance in the abortion wars. The legal theory these lawyers expound is that an embryo has a fundamental interest in being born, ergo, that the party who wishes to procreate should be allowed to do so. The strategy fits nicely within the "personhood" theory which holds that an embryo is a person at the moment of conception. Indeed, counsel in an ongoing appeal in a frozen-embryo dispute in Missouri cite the Missouri law that life begins at conception. Of course a court will probably not find the existence of "human life" to be synonymous with the existence of a "human person," if only to adhere with the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which remains the law of the land.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 17, 2016): On Paper, Italy Allows Abortions, but Few Doctors Will Perform Them, by Gaia Pianigiani:
Thirty years ago, the long fight for abortion rights resulted in a law permits abortion with ninety days of pregnancy and later for women in mental or physical danger or in cases of serious fetal pathologies. But nearly three-quarters of the country's gynecologists--more in some regions--are conscientious objectors to the law, reflecting the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the delivery of medical care. Many non-objecting physicians, who tend to be part of the older generation of practitioners, are approaching retirement age. Non-invasive abortions are completely unavailable in some regions, despite a national directive that has been in place since 2009. The European Committee of Social Rights has deemed the lack of access to abortion in certain regions detrimental to the health of women.
Friday, January 15, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 15, 2016): Planned Parenthood Sues Abortion Foes, by Erik Eckholm:
Planned Parenthood mounted a legal counterattack Thursday against the anti-abortion activists who used covertly taped videos to accuse the organization of trading in aborted baby parts, charging in a federal lawsuit that “anti-abortion extremists” had engaged in a three-year “complex criminal enterprise.”
Defendants in the lawsuit include the Center for Medical Progress, which created and disseminated the videos and is registered as a charitable trust in California, and the head of Operation Rescue, Troy Newman, described as a "dangerous and reckless extremist" in the complaint. These activists hoped to convince the American public that Planned Parenthood was illegally trading in aborted baby parts, an allegation that was not substantiated in subsequent congressional and state investigations. The videos have nonetheless fueled the campaign to de-fund Planned Parenthood and have triggered vandalism, harassments and threats of violence at its clinics.
The complaint charges fraud and violations of conspiracy laws, state privacy laws and specific statutes and seeks money damages. The complaint may be found here.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 11, 2016): Law on Ultrasounds Reignites the Abortion Debate in a 2016 Battleground, by Richard Fausset:
North Carolina has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, one the Hilary Clinton campaign has called "outrageous." Any doctor who performs an abortion after the 16th week of pregnancy must submit an ultrasound to the state. The state says it wishes to verify that doctors are not performing post-20-week abortions. Opponents of the law, which also extends the mandated waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours, call it an effort to intimidate both doctors, who know that determining gestational age is an inexact science, and women, who may hesitate before allowing information about their pregnancy to be shared with a governmental agency. The law also requires doctors performing abortions after 20 weeks to send the health department the findings and analysis that were used to determine that a medical emergency existed. The controversy has become an important issue in the political sphere, as Democrats harness liberal anger in an attempt to unseat the Republican governor Pat McCrory in his bid for a second term.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
SoctusBlog (Dec. 17, 2015): Symposium: Integrity, Mission, and the Little Sisters of the Poor, by Richard W. Garnett:
The current iteration of the religious-freedom challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s preventive-services mandate (not, as is sometimes suggested, to the act itself) is called Zubik v. Burwell. This is unfortunate. True, the caption choice improves the “optics” for the Obama administration and reduces the likelihood of awkward headlines and embarrassing talking points. However, calling the case – as I will – Little Sisters of the Poor better captures its bizarre core and character. Calling it by this name reminds us that the administration has not reluctantly stumbled into but has instead doggedly pursued a conflict with a religious community of Roman Catholic nuns over whether and how its employees will receive government-mandated, cost-free insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives. Regardless of how the Court rules, that this pursuit appears to have been for the administration a matter not merely of policy but also of principle is extraordinary.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Jezebel (Dec. 19, 2015): Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood is Still Closed, but the Protestors are Back, by Stassa Edwards:
The clinic has been closed since November 27 when Robert Lewis Dear walked in and opened fire on patients and staff. Though PP employees haven’t even entered the building since the shooting, anti-choice protesters replete with obligatory signage, stand on the corner outside of the closed clinic.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Associated Press (Dec. 22, 2015): Support for Legal Abortion at Highest Level in Two Years, by Nancy Benac and Emily Swanson:
Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. It was conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.
However, just over a third of Americans want laws on abortion to be stricter than they are now, the poll shows, while a quarter think they should be less strict.
Friday, January 8, 2016
RH Reality Check (Jan. 7, 2106): ACLU: Catholic Hospital Illegally Denying Women Contraception, by Zoe Greenberg:
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic hospital network Dignity Health based on the network's refusal to allow a doctor to perform a tubal ligation requested by patient who is eight months pregnant and scheduled to deliver her third child by C-section. The patient seeks to have a tubal ligation immediately following the C-section to avoid an unnecessary additional surgery. Dignity in Health prohibited her doctor from performing the procedure based on religious directors written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The suit is the latest in an ongoing conflict over whether Catholic hospitals, which are growing in number, can prevent doctors from performing certain types of reproductive health services while receiving state and federal funding. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Physicians for Reproductive Health, a national nonprofit made up of doctors, and Rebecca Chamorro, a patient at Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center Redding in California.
Tubal ligation is a common form of contraception for married women. According to RH Reality Check "The best time to perform the procedure is directly after a woman gives birth. It takes one to two minutes and doesn't require any additional equipment or recovery time." The ACLU argues that the restriction interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. Dignity in Health is the fifth-largest health system in the country and receives millions in government grants and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
Huffington Post (Jan. 5, 2016): Women in Oregon Can Now Buy Birth Control Over the Counter, by Alanna Vagianos:
On January 1, Oregon became the first state to allow women to get oral contraceptives without a doctor's prescription. Under the law, women can fill out a health questionnaire and receive birth control pills from their pharmacist. Supporters of the law, emphasize the use of oral contraceptives is safe and should not be made contingent on an annual check up.
A Nov. 22, 2015 New York Times article States Lead Effort to Let Pharmacists Prescribe Birth Control by Pam Belluck and Sabrina Taverise described the Oregon law and a similar law that passed in California that has yet to be implemented.
The laws are the latest effort to make birth control more accessible, a longstanding goal of medical professionals and policy makers. But unlike other recent debates over contraception — including the firestorm over the Obama administration’s requirement under the Affordable Care Act that all health plans pay for contraceptives — these legislative efforts have been largely free of political rancor.
According to Belluck and Tavernise, while reproductive health and medical associations generally support making birth control more accessible, some worry that pharmacist-prescribed contraceptives do not go far enough. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has expressed some concern about these laws because it maintains that oral contraceptives should be available over the counter without a doctor or pharmacist's intervention.
“My basic tenet is there should be nobody between the patient and the pill,” said Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, [ACOG] president. “I’m afraid we’re going to create a new model that becomes a barrier between that and over the counter. I worry that it’s going to derail the over-the-counter movement.”
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
This week SCOTUSblog is publishing a multi-part online symposium on Whole Woman's Health v. Cole. Contributors include Professors Michael Dorf, Gillian Metzger, Kevin Walsh, Reva Siegel and Linda Greenhouse, Misha Tseytlin, Solicitor General of the State of Wisconsin, and Mailee R. Smith, Staff Counsel for Americans United for Life.
ThinkProgress (Jan. 5, 2016): The Abortion Case That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade Has a Lot of Opponents, by Alex Zielinski:
This March, the Supreme Court will hear argument in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole to decide whether HB2, a Texas law which places burdensome, unnecessary guidelines on abortion clinics and has already forced more than half of the state's clinic to close is constitutional. The regulations are framed as health regulations, but they have been criticized as having little to do with women's health while imposing costly and unnecessary requirements on clinics.
Reproductive rights advocates have been outspoken since HB2 passed in 2013, but since the Supreme Court’s November decision to hear the case, the diversity of opponents has grown. The 45 briefs were filed by a variety of petitioners, including physicians, historians, religious leaders, military officers, scientists, members of Congress, civil rights advocates, law scholars, entire cities, and the United States federal government itself.
Several of the briefs tell the personal stories of women who have had abortions and the real world impact that HB2 will have on them.
Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, [spoke about] the women already harmed the most by the current Texas law.
“For immigrants, mothers, low-wage workers, and Latinas who are all three, securing an abortion means navigating a state-created obstacle course,” she said. “Those unable to jump through these hoops will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or take matters into their own hands.”
The briefs reflect the largest coalition of faith leaders and organizations to oppose anti-choice laws at the Supreme Court level as well as the views of scientists and medical professionals. Argument is set for March 2.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
RH Reality Check (Jan. 4, 2016): Attacks of Abortion Rights Continued in 2015 Ensnaring Family Planning Funding and Fetal Tissue Research, Rachel Benson Gold and Elizabeth Nash:
As discussed in previous posts, during the 2015 state legislative session, state legislatures adopted 57 new abortion restrictions. But the year was also memorable "because the politics of abortion ensnared family planning programs and providers, as well as critical, life-saving fetal tissue research."
At the same time, several states made important advances in 2015 on other sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. Some of the new provisions include measures that allow women to obtain a full year’s worth of prescription contraceptives at one time from a pharmacy, that allow a provider to treat a patient’s partner for an STI without first seeing the patient, that prohibit the use of “conversion therapy” with minors, and that expand access to dating or sexual violence education.
According to Guttmacher, in 2015, 11 states tried to cut funding for Planned Parenthood to any family family provider that also offers abortion. This could seriously impact family planning for low income women because Planned Parenthood health centers serve half or more of the women obtaining contraceptive care from safety-net health centers in two-third of the counties where they operate. Five states tried to exclude Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program, although these efforts were blocked by federal courts. Ten states tried to regulate fetal tissue donation and research.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Mother Jones (Dec. 30, 2016): This Year, States Took the War on Uteruses to the Next Level, by Becca Andrews:
According to a year-end report released by the Center for Reproductive Rights, nearly 400 anti-abortion bills were introduced across the country in 2015, up from 335 provisions introduced in 2014. The bills ranged from regulation of medication abortions to all-out bans on the most common method of second-trimester abortions, and the Guttmacher Institute reports 57 of them were enacted.
The laws passed by state legislatures included restrictions on medication abortion, bans on procedures for second-trimester abortions, waiting periods, parental consent requirements, and bans on abortion after 20 weeks.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
RH Reality Check (Dec. 23, 2015): California Crisis Pregnancy Centers Dealt a Double Blow in Court, by Nicole Knight Shine:
Two federal judges declined to grant a preliminary injunction to block California's new reproductive disclosure law. The California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) requires that pregnancy-related clinics provide notice about access to abortion and birth control. The law is designed to address crisis pregnancy centers (CPC), which discourage patients from having an abortion by lying to women about their options:
Passed by a Democrat-led legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in October, the Reproductive FACT Act, or AB 775, was enacted to regulate pregnancy-related clinics, including the nearly 350 CPCs that operate in the Golden State, according to a directory by the CPC umbrella group Heartbeat International. . . . Backers of AB 775 cited a recent undercover report by NARAL Pro-Choice California that found CPCs routinely lie about the physical and psychological risks of ending a pregnancy and delay a patient’s decision until abortion is no longer an option.
The two lawsuits challenging FACT were brought by CPCs arguing that the law violated their rights to freedom of speech, assembly and free exercise of religion. Judges in the Northern and Eastern Districts of California declined to grant a preliminary injunction. Judge Kimberly Mueller stated that "enjoining the act would interfere wight eh public interest regarding the health of state residents." Similar disclosure laws "have been met with mixed success in court." According to the article ordinances in New York City and Baltimore have been struck down while a San Francisco ordinance requiring pregnancy-related centers to tell the truth in advertisements survived a federal court challenge this year. FACT will go into effect in California on January 1, 2016.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
New York Times (Dec. 19, 2015): The Reproductive Rights Rollback of 2015:
The New York Times reports that no fewer than 288 restrictions on abortion have been enacted since 2011. These include the familiar targeted regulation of abortion providers scheduled for review next year by the Supreme Court. But abortion is being attacked in other ways as well, including extensions of waiting periods, mandated in-person counseling necessitating two separate trips to an abortion provider, and bans on inexpensive medical abortions. Against the backdrop of the forceful move in many states to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the only reproductive health provider for millions of poor women, these efforts reflect an attempt not only to unduly burden but indeed to obliterate entirely every woman's right to manage her reproductive life.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
New York Times (Dec. 23, 2015): Utah: Judge Says State Can Block Funding for Planned Parenthood:
A judge ruled Tuesday that Utah can cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood, a move that Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, ordered after the release of secretly recorded videos by an anti-abortion group. The ruling, by Judge Clark Waddoups of Federal District Court in Salt Lake City, reversed a temporary order that the money keep flowing while the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah pursues its lawsuit against the state. Mr. Herbert stopped about $275,000 in federal funds for sex education and for tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Judge Waddoups said that even though the Utah group had not engaged in wrongdoing, it was affiliated with other Planned Parenthood entities “that have allegedly engaged in illegal conduct.”