Saturday, November 23, 2013
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. . . .
Concurring Opinions: Why is Reproductive Technology a Battleground in the Abortion Debate?, by Richard Storrow (CUNY Law School):
Caitlin Borgmann has made the convincing argument that incrementalism in the anti-abortion movement developed from the failure of the movement’s initial post-Roe strategy to win the hearts and minds of the undecided. The strategy of equating abortion with murder and vilifying women who have abortions was far too strident to be persuasive and too off-putting to have emotional appeal. The strategy was eventually abandoned in favor of chipping away at Roe by degrees. Incrementalism takes the long view toward outlawing abortion in any form, but its progress, ironically, is asymptotic, tending toward prohibition without ever achieving it. This is because incrementalism’s objective is to render access to abortion illusory. Even if Roe remains in place, rendering abortion inaccessible will mean that it is legal in theory but not in practice. Although alternatives to incrementalism have appeared in recent years as certain factions within the movement have grown restive, incrementalism remains the primary strategy of the anti-abortion movement today.
The incrementalist strategy now includes arguments for limiting assisted reproduction by raising concerns about its use at all four stages of the cycle of human reproduction: pre-conception, pre-implantation, post-implantation, and even post-birth. Although seemingly an odd direction for the anti-abortion movement to take, it should not come as a complete surprise; after all, the moral status of the embryo has played a major role in the development of the legal regimes that regulate assisted reproduction in other countries, particularly those with strong commitments to Roman Catholicism. . . .
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health: The Fight for Women's Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley:
In late 2012 and early 2013, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health documented the impact of state funding cuts to family planning services on women in the Rio Grande Valley. This report draws from their stories to show how funding cuts to women’s preventive services are more than failed policies—they are violations of their human rights. . . .
The New York Times: Albuquerque Voters Defeat Anti-Abortion Referendum, by Fernanda Santos:
Voters here on Tuesday defeated a ballot question that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, delivering a critical setback to an anti-abortion movement that had sought to use this progressive city to recalibrate the national debate around women’s reproductive rights. . . .
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Lori R. Freedman (University of California, San Fransisco) & Debra B. Stulberg (The University of Chicago Medical Center) have published Conflicts in Care for Obstetric Complications in Catholic Hospitals in AJOB Primary Research. Here is the abstract:
A recent national survey revealed that over half of obstetrician-gynecologists working in Catholic hospitals have conflicts with religious policies, but the survey did not elucidate the nature of the conflicts. Our qualitative study examines the nature of physician conflicts with religious policies governing obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) care. Results related to restrictions on the management of obstetric complications are reported here. Methods: In-depth interviews lasting about one hour were conducted with obstetrician-gynecologists throughout the United States. Questions focused on physicians’ general satisfaction with their hospital work settings and specific experiences with religious doctrine-based ob-gyn policies in the various hospitals where they have worked. Results: Conflicts reported here include cases in which Catholic hospital religious policy (Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services) impacted physicians’ abilities to offer treatment to women experiencing certain obstetric emergencies, such as pregnancy-related health problems, molar pregnancy, miscarriage, or previable premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), because hospital authorities perceived treatment as equivalent to a prohibited abortion. Physicians were contractually obligated to follow doctrine-based policies while practicing in these Catholic hospitals. Conclusions: For some physicians, their hospital's prohibition on abortion initially seemed congruent with their own principles, but when applied to cases in which patients were already losing a desired pregnancy and/or the patient's health was at risk, some physicians found the institutional restrictions on care to be unacceptable.
H/t: Linda Hutjens
SCOTUSblog: Texas abortion law left in effect, by Lyle Dennison:
Splitting five to four, the Supreme Court late Tuesday afternoon refused to block a Texas abortion law that critics say is forcing the closing of one-third of all clinics in the state. The Court had been studying the issue for the past week. The majority said that the challengers had not met the requirement for setting aside a federal appeals court’s order permitting the law to take effect on October 31.
The majority specifically included Justices Antonin Scalia, who wrote separately in a concurring opinion joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Clarence Thomas. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy presumably voted with those three, because it would have taken five votes to act definitively on the plea by doctors and clinics when there were four Justices who wanted to block the law. . . .
Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the four dissenters, including Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. . . .
The order and opinions are available here.
ACLU press release: Supreme Court Refuses to Block Texas Abortion Law:
Health Care Providers Vow to Continue Fight to Protect Women
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to halt a Texas law that has forced more than a dozen of the state’s women’s health centers to stop providing abortion care, leaving large parts of the state without an abortion provider and preventing women from obtaining abortions.
“We are not giving up on Texas women,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If the constitutional right to abortion means anything, it must mean that laws like this one that prevent women from obtaining an abortion must be invalidated. This is a very disappointing decision, but we will continue to do everything we can to protect the health and rights of Texas women.”
The case will now continue in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the full merits of the case in January 2014. . . .
NPR: Using Birth Control Pills May Increase Women's Glaucoma Risk, by Nancy Chute:
Taking birth control pills may increase a woman's risk of eye disease later in life, a study finds, because they may reduce protective levels of estrogen. . . .
In this study, researchers looked at data on 3,406 women over 40 who participated in a bignational health survey administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The women who had taken oral contraceptives for more than three years were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma.
But the absolute risk of getting glaucoma after age 40 is small, about 1.86 percent, according to the CDC. So doubling that risk would bring it up to a bit under 4 percent.
And there's no proof that taking birth control pills, which contain hormones that keep estrogen levels from peaking midway through a woman's monthly cycle, cause the apparent increased risk. . . .
The Atlantic: Is This the End of One of the World's Harshest Abortion Laws, by Erica Hellerstein:
In July, a harrowing story dominated headlines in Chile: "Belen," an 11-year-old girl from the southern city of Puerto Montt, had been raped and impregnated by her mother's partner—and was not legally permitted to have an abortion. Belen vowed on television to have the baby. Chile's president praised her "depth and maturity." Outraged pro-abortion activists ransacked a cathedral in the capital, Santiago.
Now, four months later, the country is once again at a crossroads on abortion. On November 17, for the first time in history, Chileans will cast ballots in a presidential election where the top two candidates are women—not to mention childhood playmates with a turbulent past. And the outcome of the race could have major implications for reproductive rights in one of the few countries in the world where getting an abortion can still land you in jail. . . .
New York Magazine: Why the Abortion Pill Didn't Change Everything, by Ann Friedman:
In 1993, Time magazine declared mifepristone — the abortion pill that’s often called RU-486 — “The Pill that Changes Everything.” In 1999, The New York Times Magazine called it a “little white bombshell” with “enormous political consequences.” On a political level, activists hoped that it would allow women to sidestep clinic protests and make abortion less controversial. Advocates hoped — and anti-abortion groups feared — that the abortion pill would be prescribed by regular doctors, family practitioners and OB/GYNs, allowing women to have an abortion in the privacy of their home, far from the picket lines. It would move abortion toward the mainstream realm of routine health care. And on a medical level, women were curious about the method: taking a pill seemed to promise a more convenient, less invasive experience.
By 2013, though, it’s become clear that the pill hasn’t revolutionized the way most women get abortions; it’s become just another front in the legislative and legal battles over reproductive rights, one more method pro-choice activists must fight to defend. . . .
Huffington Post: An Historic Push to Protect Reproductive Rights, by: Sen. Richard Blumenthal & Rep. Judy Chu
The antiabortion bill introduced just days ago in the Senate -- mirroring the House's 20 week restrictions -- is a nonsensical, unconstitutional nonstarter. But it is still dangerous -- more for what it reflects in the nation than its chances of passing. . . .
This assault on essential, constitutionally protected rights has gone on too long. We are introducing the Women's Health Protection Act of 2013 this week to end it, once and for all. . . .
The American Prospect: 20-Week Abortion Bans: Coming to a City Near You?, by Amelia Thompson-Deveaux:
If you want to take a plunge into the roiling id of the anti-choice movement, go to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tomorrow, the half-million residents of the state's most populous city will vote on a ballot measure that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. . . .
If the ballot measure passes on Tuesday, it could go into effect as soon as early December. But it will almost certainly face a legal challenge. Caitlin Borgmann, a professor of law at the City University of New York, says there are a couple of tacks the measure’s opponents, who will likely be led by the ACLU of New Mexico, could take. In addition to arguing that the 20-week ban violates the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, they could contend that the restriction runs afoul of New Mexico’s Equal Rights Amendment. But, she adds, any court would be wading into unchartered waters. “It’s a clever new tactic,” Borgmann says. “It’s a sign that [anti-choice activists] have realized that they may be able to achieve locally what they can’t do statewide, particularly when you’re talking about something like later abortions when you have so few providers.”
TIME: Vote Lands Albuquerque at Center of Abortion Battle, by Grace Wyler:
National groups collide in New Mexico's largest city as residents weigh the first municipal ban of late-term abortions in the U.S.
Students leaving afternoon classes at the University of New Mexico last Thursday were greeted with a raucous spectacle: abortion protesters had flooded the campus, passing out flyers and occasionally yelling slurs from across the quad. . . .
This circus has become familiar in Albuquerque, where city residents will vote Tuesday on the nation’s first-ever municipal referendum to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The vote — which would effectively end late-term abortions in New Mexico — has turned this low-key, progressive city of a half million people into the latest flash point in the abortion culture wars. . . .
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The New Republic: How Blue States Could Push Back For Abortion Rights, by Nora Caplan-Bricker:
Wednesday, a group of legislators introduced a different kind of abortion bill into the U.S. Senate. The Women’s Health Protection Act would outlaw all regulations on abortion that “are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures, … do not significantly advance women’s health or the safety of abortion services, and … make abortion services more difficult to access.” In layman’s terms, it would make all of the nearly 200 laws impeding abortion rights that have been enacted at the state level since 2011 illegal. “Enough is enough,” said Representative Judy Chu at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “We’ve been playing defense far too long. It’s time to stop playing Whac-A-Mole in each state. We need to provide a national response in fighting this.” . . .
Slate: Finally!, by Dahlia Lithwick:
New York Magazine: 26 Women Share Their Abortion Stories, by Meaghan Winter:
Of all the battles in our half-century culture war, perhaps none seems further from being resolved, in our laws and in our consciences, than abortion. It’s a fight now in its fifth decade, yet in the past two years, 26 states have passed over 111 provisions restricting abortion. In Texas, the state where the single, pregnant woman who became Jane Roe sued for access to an abortion 41 years ago, Wendy Davis became a national hero for filibustering abortion legislation, as did her governor for signing it into law. . . .
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
USA Today: Steady stream of abortion cases headed toward high court, by Richard Wolf:
A steady stream of abortion cases are heading toward the Supreme Court, making it only a matter of time before the justices are likely to consider a new wave of state restrictions. . . .
"It's a pivotal moment," says Caitlin Borgmann, a City University of New York law professor who writes a blog on reproductive rights. "The restrictions are now getting to a point where they're actually shutting down clinics." . . .