Friday, August 3, 2018

With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Maryland House speaker aims to strengthen state protections

Aug. 2, 2018 (Washington Post): With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Md. House speaker aims to strengthen state protections, by Erin Cox:

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to lead a statewide effort to enshrine a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care in the Maryland constitution, joining other states in attempting to preempt any move by the Supreme Court to erode abortion protections.

The Speaker said he will personally introduce and earn support for legislation asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment, likely in the 2020 presidential election. An amendment would ensure that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, no legislation outlawing abortion could be passed in Maryland.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who is anti-abortion, said that that letting voters decide on the issue “sounds like a great idea.” Ben Jealous, his Democratic opponent running to replace Hogan this November, vowed to campaign in support of the amendment.

Abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates believe a strongly worded dissent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh issued last fall, in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, indicates he would favor more abortion restrictions and might support overturning the federal protections that began with Roe.

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill repealing century-old laws that criminalized abortion care. West Virginia and Alabama have initiatives on the ballot this year to clarify that their state constitutions do not protect the right to an abortion.

If Busch succeeds in persuading three-fifths of each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to approve the constitutional amendment next year, Maryland voters would see it on the 2020 ballot.

Nine states currently have abortion protections in their state constitutions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights: Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico.

Busch said the amendment would insert Maryland’s existing abortion statute into the state constitution. That law was approved by the General Assembly in 1991. After antiabortion groups petitioned it to a referendum, it passed with 61.7 percent of the vote.

The law allows individuals to seek abortion care without interference from the state if the fetus is not viable outside the womb. An individual may also terminate a pregnancy at any point if the fetus has a “genetic defect or serious anomaly” or if an abortion is necessary to protect the health of the pregnant person.

Busch said he will introduce the amendment proposal when the legislature convenes in January and is confident he can find the votes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

August 3, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Democratic governors warn: We'll pull our states out of Title X

July 31, 2018 (Politico): Democrats warn: We'll pull our states out of Title X, by Dan Diamond:

Three Democratic governors are threatening to pull out of the Title X federal family planning program if the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) moves forward with its proposal to prohibit referrals for abortion care and make other changes that would exclude abortion providers from participating in the program.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, Hawaii Governor David Ige, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in separate statements that if the legal battle to prevent the Trump administration's Title X changes fails, their states would not be able to participate in the “unethical” Title X program.

“We would be left with no choice but to refuse to participate in an unethical Title X program," Inslee said in a statement Monday. “Hawai‘i will not accept federal funds for these programs if the proposed rules are implemented,” Ige said. “It would leave me no choice but to act in the best interests of the citizens of Oregon and our state law, and withdraw our state’s participation from an unethical, ineffective Title X program that reduces access to essential preventive health services,” Brown said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a similar warning that his state's program would be "impossible" to continue, although he did not explicitly vow to pull New York out of the program.

The moves intensify a quickly escalating battle between the Trump administration and Title X program participants that also offer abortion care over the future of the family planning program. The deadline for public responses to the Trump administration's proposed changes was Tuesday, July 31.

Attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia on Monday also jointly issued a comment in opposition to the proposed rule, which can be found here.

August 1, 2018 in Abortion, Contraception, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 30, 2018

7th Circuit panel affirms order blocking Indiana ultrasound abortion law

July 26, 2018 (Indianapolis Star): Court says women have 'ability to reason' in upholding block on abortion waiting period, by Vic Ryckaert:

A three-member panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld an injunction blocking an Indiana law that requires women to undergo an ultrasound and wait 18 hours before seeking abortion care.

The panel found that the 18-hour waiting period imposes an "undue burden" on women seeking abortion care.

"Women, like all humans, are intellectual creatures with the ability to reason, consider, ponder and challenge their own ideas and those of others," Judge Ilana Rovner wrote in the 51-page ruling. "The usual manner in which we seek to persuade is by rhetoric, not barriers."

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said he is reviewing the decision.

Opponents of access to safe and legal abortion blamed a rise in Indiana abortions last year, the first since 2009, on U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt's 2017 ruling that blocked the ultrasound requirement. The restriction was included in a state law passed in 2016 and signed into law by then-Governor Mike Pence.

The ACLU filed the case on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, arguing that an 18-hour wait would force those seeking abortion care to take two days off work and pay for additional travel or overnight lodging expenses.

“The ruling affirms that deeply personal decisions about abortion should be made by women in consultation with their doctors, not politicians pursuing an extreme ideological agenda,” Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement.

ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk described the ruling as "a victory for women and another repudiation of the unnecessary and unconstitutional attempts by Indiana politicians to interfere with women’s reproductive rights.”

July 30, 2018 in Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Massachusetts Passes Repeal of 173-Year-Old Abortion Ban Amid Fears for Future of Roe v. Wade

July 23, 2018 (TIME): Massachusetts Passes Repeal of 173-Year-Old Abortion Ban Amid Fears for Future of Roe v. Wade, by Samantha Cooney: 

Earlier this month, Massachusetts became the first state to formally respond to the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the world of a two-Trump-nominee Supreme Court. Although abortion is already legal in the state, Massachusetts still has a 173-year-old law on the books banning the procurement of a miscarriage. 

The bill is called the NASTY Women Act (Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women) and passed in a landslide. While abortion has technically been legal in the state since 1981, state legislators were driven to quick action to further protect these rights after Justice Kennedy announced his retirement.

A Masschusetts State Democrat said:

I think people are beginning to realize these are strange times we live in. Nothing is impossible, and we’ve got to have a ‘plan B.’ If these laws are enforced, what do we do? We’re not willing to sit back and say, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen here.’ The word for that is denial.

New Mexico and New York each have efforts underway to protect abortion rights as well.

While some critics accuse the NASTY Women Act and other similar bills of unnecessary political posturing, supporters cite that the rights we may take for granted are not always guaranteed. Rebecca Hart Holder, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, says "the reality is any state can have a threat to abortion care.”

July 28, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, Medical News, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

As Cuomo Rallies for Abortion Rights, Nixon Questions His Bona Fides

The New York Times (Jul. 10, 2018): As Cuomo Rallies for Abortion Rights, Nixon Questions His Bona Fides, by Jesse McKinley: 

The New York primary season is heating up as incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon are both advocating, among other things, for hard line policies to protect the right to abortion and women's health services in New York State. 

Governor Cuomo told voters that New York needs to codify the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade on the state level and called on the State Legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act to do so. He's previously put forth similar legislation, none of which made it through the State Senate's Republicans and "rogue," anti-abortion Democrats. Cuomo is also advocating for the decriminalizing of abortion--moving laws and regulations pertaining to the procedure over to the public health code instead. 

Nixon, in her primary campaign, has highlighted previous, unflattering statements by Cuomo about feminism and women as well as his failure to execute a comprehensive shift in New York reproductive policies in order to distinguish her own platform, which lies somewhat farther to the left and is endorsed by the New York Working Families Party. 

The stakes are clearly raised in in this year's Gubernatorial race in light of Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court and growing concerns that the fundamental rights to abortion and reproductive health will be formidably challenged under a much more conservative court.

 

July 18, 2018 in Abortion, Contraception, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says.

The Washington Post (Jul. 17, 2018): Who gets the embryos? Whoever wants to make them into babies, new law says, by Ariana Eunjung Cha: 

New court cases cases are grappling with the decision of what to do with frozen embryos created during a marriage that later dissolves. In many cases that Cha reports on, the couples chose to create and freeze several embryos in the wake of a cancer diagnosis and treatment schedule that threatened later fertility.

When these same couples faced divorce, there were bitter divides over what should be done with the embryos: one party wanted to maintain "ownership" of the embryos for a future chance at children while the other wanted the embryos destroyed, fearing unwanted future financial or relationship obligations. 

With the number of frozen embryos in the United States soaring into the millions, disputes over who owns them are also on the rise. Judges have often — but not always — ruled in favor of the person who does not want the embryos used, sometimes ordering them destroyed, following the theory that no one should be forced to become a parent.

In Arizona, though, a "first-in-the-nation law" went into effect on July 1 that states "custody of disputed embryos must be given to the party who intends to help them 'develop to birth.'"

The legislation represents for some lawmakers the idea that frozen embryos have their own right to life, and many imagine that the implications could eventually include a delineation of when life begins and a claim to a separate set of embryonic rights of their own as human beings (rather than the discussion being centered on who "owns" the embryos). 

Some groups, like the anti-abortion Thomas More Society, advocate for that embryos to be considered "children" in the legal sense, asking judges to make decisions on disputes based on the best interest of the "child." 

Debates to extend personhood to unborn embryos and fetuses abound in anti-abortion work. Abortion rights advocates are concerned that these discussions could further disintegrate the right to abortion in the United States. "If a days-old embryo in a freezer has a right to life, why not a days-old embryo in utero?"

While judges have historically ordered disputed embryos destroyed based on the wishes of the party who does not want a child, an Arizona judge chose to balance one party's "probable inability to have a child without the embryos" against the other party's "desire to not be a father" a different way. 

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ronee Korbin Steiner held that Ruby Torres, who wanted the embryos in order to have biological children one day, had no right to them. The judge did not order them destroyed, though, and instead ordered that they go up for donation.

Torres appealed the decision and expects a new ruling any day. 

The new Arizona law that states embryos shall be given to the party who intends to develop them to birth was written in response to this case to "help" people in Torres' situation. It also attempts to recognize the rights of those who do not want the embryos used by providing that those parties would not be liable for child support in the future. 

Both the judicial decisions and the legislation continue to prove extremely controversial:

The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative lobbying group that has successfully pushed antiabortion legislation in the state, supported the measure, saying the bill would “lead to more consistent rulings.”

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which represents doctors, nurses and other professionals who work on fertility issues, opposed the measure, arguing that it would have a profound impact on reproductive medicine.

Medical professionals foresee profound complications to stem-cell research in particular, which relies on embryos donated to science. Such research is believed essential in developing treatments for many diseases and conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The treatment and storage of embryos as a result of the new legislation will likely make embryonic stem cells much more scarce.

In a friend-of-the-court brief in Torres' pending appellate case, the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys urged judges in the Arizona Court of Appeals to balance the interest of each former spouse. They argue that the parties claims are not equal and that "the constitutional protection against compulsory parenthood is [generally] greater than any procreative interest in pre-embryos." 

Time will tell both if the appellate judges affirm Judge Steiner's controversial ruling (likely leading to further appeals) while we also wait for the inevitable challenges to Arizona's new embryo law.

July 18, 2018 in Abortion, Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Culture, Current Affairs, Fertility, Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Medical News, Parenthood, Politics, Public Opinion, Scholarship and Research, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Iowa Abortion Waiting Period Has Been Struck Down & It's A Major Reproductive Rights Victory

Bustle (Jun. 29, 2018): The Iowa Abortion Waiting Period Has Been Struck Down & It's A Major Reproductive Rights Victory, by Morgan Brinlee: 

Despite concerns for the future of reproductive rights in the imminent wake of Justice Kennedy's retirement, reproductive rights advocates secured a victory in Iowa last week when the Supreme Court of Iowa struck down a 72-hour waiting period imposed on women seeking abortions.

"The vast majority of women have made their decision by the time they present for care so the laws [mandating waiting periods] do not lead women to change their minds, Dr. Sarah Roberts, an abortion waiting period researcher who works as an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Bustle. "They really just lead to increases in financial costs and increases in delay and also some increases in emotional distress along the way."

The Iowa Supreme Court found the restriction a violation of the state Constitution.  Dr. Sarah Roberts, an abortion waiting period researcher who works as an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, found that imposed wait periods actually lead to even greater delays in care as well as substantial increased costs for the women.

The ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland are also involved in a lawsuit against the state's "heartbeat law," which bans abortion after 6-weeks, the time at which a fetal heartbeat can sometimes be detected. A District Court judge temporarily blocked the law, but if it goes into effect, some women may not have any option for abortion at all, as many don't find out they're pregnant until after six weeks.

July 4, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, In the Courts, Politics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Supreme Court Backs Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers in Free Speech Case

New York Times (Jun. 26, 2018): Supreme Court Backs Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers in Free Speech Case, by Adam Liptak: 

Justice Thomas wrote for the five-justice, conservative majority who decided Tuesday that California's "crisis pregnancy centers" cannot be forced to provide information on abortion services in the state. 

The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, No. 16-1140, centered on a California law that requires pregnancy centers whose aim is to dissuade pregnant people from abortions to provide information on the availability of abortions in California.

The state requires the centers to post notices that free or low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide the phone number for more information.

The centers argued that the law violated their right to free speech by forcing them to convey messages at odds with their beliefs. The law’s defenders said the notices combat incomplete or misleading information provided by the clinics.

The state legislature enacted the law after finding that hundreds of the pregnancy centers used "intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling" to confuse or intimidate women from making informed decisions about their health care. The law also required that unlicensed clinics disclose that they are unlicensed. 

Justice Thomas wrote that the requirements for the notices regarding abortion availability were too burdensome and infringed on the clinics' rights under the First Amendment. The ruling reverses a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had upheld the law.

Justice Breyer penned a dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, citing the contradiction between the majority's decision here and a Court decision in 1992 that upheld a Pennsylvania law that required abortion-performing doctors to inform their patients about other options, like adoption. 

June 27, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Pro-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New York GOP Lawmakers Quash Contraception, Abortion Protections—For Now

Rewire.News (Jun. 8, 2018): New York GOP Lawmakers Quash Contraception, Abortion Protections—For Now, by Auditi Guha:

The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), or S 2796, was drafted four years ago and recently passed by the Democratic-majority New York Assembly. The RHA is intended to rectify some of the shortcomings of local abortion law. The bill "repeals criminal abortion statutes, permits abortion after 24 weeks when the pregnant person’s health is at risk or when the fetus is not viable, and expands current law so that nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants can provide abortion services."

The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (S 3668), also passed by the Assembly, "would expand contraceptive coverage to include all forms of FDA-approved contraception (including vasectomies), authorize pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, and add coverage for contraceptive education and counseling."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) supported incorporating the RHA’s changes into state law in his budget proposal this year, but it’s been a hard push in a state where Republicans decide what bills get to be voted on. Procedural glitches made the fight tougher this week for both the RHA and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act as the senate ground to a halt, the New York Daily News reported.

Senate Democrats last week again tried to bring both the RHA and the CCCA to the floor for a vote, but Republican leadership ended the session without action.

“Both these bills are supported by the governor and have passed the Assembly," Sen. Krueger said in a statement. "The Senate Republicans should stop using procedural maneuvers to block these bills which would ensure that individuals would have control of their own reproductive health decisions.”

The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Robin Chappelle Golston, told Rewire.News: “Obviously legislation as simple as making access to contraception widely available was too much for the majority of the Senate...And I think the best answer for that is that people need to go out and vote this fall.”

June 14, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Contraception, Culture, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Absent on an abortion-related issue in Louisiana? It's probably a Democratic legislator.

The Advocate (June 3, 2018): Absent on an abortion-related issue in Louisiana? It's probably a Democratic legislator, by Tyler Bridges:

During the past three legislative sessions in the Louisiana legislature, seven Democrats missed more than half of the votes on abortion, an issue fraught with political peril for some Democrats in this state.

Two Democrats from New Orleans — state Rep. Neil Abramson and state Rep. Gary Carter Jr. — missed 15 of the 17 votes taken during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.  Both men said that other legislative business caused them to miss the votes. The other five who have missed at least half of the votes are state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and state Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace.

No Republicans missed more than half of the 17 votes, according to the group’s score card.

Five of the seven Democrats did not vote on the most controversial abortion bill during the 2018 legislative session, Senate Bill 181, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks. That bill passed the House 81-9 with 14 abstentions and the Senate 24-1 with 14 abstentions. Current Louisiana law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the 15-week bill into law, but it will take effect only if a federal court upholds a similar Mississippi law under legal challenge by  abortion rights groups that label it as "cruel" and "unconstitutional." Both measures would impose the strictest bans in the country.

Louisiana Democrats like Gov. Edwards, Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, and Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, hold anti-abortion views that put them at odds with the Democratic Party nationally and the party’s recent presidential candidates.

Some Democrats, however, don’t want to anger Democrats who support abortion rights, a key constituency, or conservative voters who do not support abortion, whose support may be necessary in some elections, said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge pollster and political consultant. Pinsonat said he is not surprised that the legislators who have missed the abortion votes are Democrats.

Voting anti-choice is especially important for Republican candidates, Pinsonat said, noting that 18 to 22 percent of the electorate consists of single-issue, anti-abortion voters.

In a 2016 interview, Rep. Abramson declined to state his views on abortion. “That’s a broad question,” he said when asked whether he supported women having the right to an abortion. “I’m not going to get into the details of all of this,” he said when asked whether he opposed abortion except in the cases of limited exceptions, a common Republican position.

Rep. Carter said he has not intentionally missed abortion votes and said his position on the issue is clear: “I support women having the right to choose as well as to be able to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies,” he said. Had he been present for the vote, Carter said he would have voted against the 15-week abortion ban.

June 4, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Iowa Lawmakers Pass Strictest Abortion Law in the U.S.

The Hill (May 2, 2018): Iowa lawmakers pass strictest abortion law in the US, by Julia Manchester:

On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Iowa legislators passed "the heartbeat bill." The legislation bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Essentially, the heartbeat distinction would ban abortions by the sixth week of pregnancy. 

Opposition to the bill claims that it would ban abortions before some women even know they're pregnant. 

The passage of the bill comes as the Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance on abortion, spurring a slew of abortion laws across the nation.

Nineteen states adopted a total of 63 restrictions to the procedure in 2017, which is the highest number of state laws on the issue since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds's (R) desk, but, if signed, is expected to be challenged as a violation of Supreme Court precedent including Roe v. Wade. 

May 3, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Judge blocks Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks

The Hill (Mar. 20, 2018): Judge blocks Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, by Rebecca Savransky: 

The Gestational Age Act, signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on March 19, has already been judicially blocked. 

The law bans abortions after 15 weeks and is the toughest restriction on abortion in the nation. 

In response to the legislation, Mississippi's only abortion clinic sued, and U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves granted a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, March 20. 

Mississippi was already one of the toughest states in which to receive an abortion before the new law was signed. The state requires people seeking abortions to receive counseling and to wait 24 hours before receiving the procedure. 

 

March 21, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mississippi Governor Signs Nation's Toughest Abortion Ban Into Law

NPR (Mar. 19, 2018): Mississippi Governor Signs Nation's Toughest Abortion Ban Into Law, by Jenny Gathright: 

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law the Gestational Age Act on Monday, March 19, officially banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The legislature had initially passed the bill on March 8, 2018.

There is only one clinic in Mississippi that performs abortions; they have already sued the state in response to the legislation. 

After signing the bill, the Governor said: "We are saving more of the unborn than any state in America, and what better thing we could do...We'll probably be sued here in about a half hour, and that'll be fine with me. It is worth fighting over."

March 21, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Baltimore to join lawsuit against U.S. health agency over cuts to programs that help prevent teen pregnancy

The Baltimore Sun (Mar. 7, 2018): Baltimore to join lawsuit against U.S. health agency over cuts to programs that help prevent teen pregnancy, by Ian Duncan:

The city of Baltimore intends to join a lawsuit against President Trump filed last month by the nonprofit Healthy Teen Network. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore after Healthy Teen Network's federal grant--given to develop and fund the study of an app providing sex education--was significantly reduced.

Baltimore’s health department received an $8.5 million federal grant to help provide sex education for about 20,000 students over five years. Last year, the federal health agency told Baltimore that the program would be severed from its funding after three years instead, leading to a loss of $3.5 million.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s appointee to a senior position in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reduced federal grants for programs that do not match the official’s belief that people should not have sex until they are married.

While the lawsuit by Healthy Teen Network states they did not receive a clear explanation for the funding cut, the lawyers claim that the cut in funding is directly related to the appointment of abstinence-only advocate Valerie Huber, who was appointed Chief of Staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services in June 2017.

"Dr. Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner, said the reduction would greatly harm the department’s ability to provide services."

“We have made significant progress to reduce teen birth rates, and the last thing that should happen is to roll back the gains that have been made.”

March 10, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Sexuality Education, State and Local News, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Mississippi is perilously close to passing a big crackdown on reproductive rights

ThinkProgress (Feb. 28, 2018): Mississippi is perilously close to passing a big crackdown on reproductive rights, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:

A committee of lawmakers in the Mississippi Senate passed House Bill 1510, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. While the bill provides exceptions for medical emergencies or certain cases of fetal abnormalities, it does not except rape or incest. The House originally proposed and passed the bill earlier in February of this year.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) has previously stated his goal is to completely end abortions in Mississippi, and has affirmed he would sign the bill if it lands on his desk.

Mississippi already proscribes abortions after 20 weeks, a law that was originally defended on the basis of preventing fetal pain, despite research that shows a fetus may not feel pain until 27 weeks. 

As many people do not find out they are pregnant for several weeks, or even months, pro-choice advocates are concerned about the difficulty a 15-week ban imposes on persons who would seek an abortion but do not discover their pregnancy in time. 

20-week bans have been proposed and judicially struck down in Arizona and Idaho, however there has been no challenge yet to Mississippi's current 20-week ban. It's likely the new bill, if made law, would be challenged in court. 

March 8, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

State employees left out of expanded contraception access under new Maryland law

The Baltimore Sun (Feb. 16, 2018): State employees left out of expanded contraception access under new Maryland law, by Meredith Cohn:

A new Maryland state law expanding access to contraception took effect on January 1, but the law surprisingly omits one group from the new benefits: state employees.

Maryland's Contraceptive Equity Act requires insurers to offer up to six months of contraceptive pills at one time with no copay, and also requires the provision of most other forms of birth control without cost, including Plan B, the over-the-counter morning-after pill. Women no longer need pre-authorization from their insurance provider for implants and IUDs. The law requires insurers to cover sterilization for men without charging out-of-pocket.

Now, Baltimore County Del. Shelly Hettleman has introduced legislation to fix the state employee loophole and ensure that almost 110,000 Maryland state employees can enjoy the new law's benefits. The Maryland Insurance Administration reports that the state is currently exempt because the new law only applies to state-regulated plans. Currently, the state government is mostly self-insured and only regulated by federal law.

According to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, about a dozen states have enacted laws ensuring access coverage of contraception.

February 22, 2018 in Contraception, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Women Still Must See A Doctor For The Pill, A Year After Tennessee Law Changed

Nashville Public Radio (Jul. 17, 2017): Why Women Still Must See A Doctor For The Pill, A Year After Tennessee Law Changed, by Chas Sisk

Early last year, Democrats and Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature co-sponsored and passed legislation that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. Over a year later, pharmacists in Tennessee are still waiting on finalized rules from the Tennessee Department of Health.

State health officials say that final rule drafting has been "complicated." Originally scheduled to be published this summer, the Department has struggled to balance federal regulations with existing law.

The bill had widespread bipartisan support in Tennessee and the backing of major medical associations, pharmacist groups, and reproductive rights organizations. In the face of federal inaction on the issue and the FDA's resistance to over-the-counter birth control, Tennessee took matters into its own hands.

Under the law, women will still have to answer questions about their health before they can receive birth control pills at the pharmacy, and they'll have to be warned of potential side effects. Pharmacists are also required to write out the prescriptions, primarily for record-keeping purposes.

Tennessee will be just the fourth state to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, after California, Oregon, and Colorado. California's law spent 18 months in the rulemaking process, and Tennessee officials now expect the same for their own law.

July 18, 2017 in Contraception, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

California Gets Rid of Cap on Family Aid

Los Angeles Times (June 16, 2106): Good riddance to a repugnant California cap on family aid, by Times Editorial Board:

As part of a budget deal struck by California legislators, California will end the "maximum family grant" rule,  a cap on family aid designed to discourage poor women from having babies while on welfare.  Although typically the amount of aid welfare recipients receive is based upon the number of children in a family, the maximum family grant rule prohibited any increase to aid based upon a birth that occurred to a family that was already receiving benefits.

It was a repugnant policy and, furthermore, it didn’t seem to work. Studies have found little evidence of a link between caps in benefits and reproduction. What we do know, however, is that the maximum family grant rule punished poor kids for the choices of their parents.

Twenty-two states adopted family caps in the 1990s.  California is the seventh state to repeal the cap. According to ThinkProgress, 12 states give families no extra money for additional children while enrolled in welfare. Two other states give a flat amount of money no matter the number of children in the family, and tow states reduced benefits for additional children.  Check out ThinkProgress for a map and listing of states that still have maximum family caps. 

June 19, 2016 in About this Blog, Parenthood, Poverty, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Abortion on the Test in Utah

Salt Lake Tribune (June 3, 2016): Online Utah High School’s Biology Test Asked Students If a Woman Should Have an Abortion, Benjamin Wood:

A question on a final biology tests administered to high school students in Utah has raised the ire of some parents in that state.  The question, since removed from the state's electronic testing database, concerned a 40-year-old woman who was considering an abortion after having been told that the fetus she was carrying had Down's syndrome. 

The potential answers include: waiting and redoing the genetic testing closer to the baby's due date; trusting the scientific knowledge of the doctor and going forward with an abortion; prioritizing the wishes of the mother; and considering aspects like religious beliefs, financial burden and the effect on other family members before making "the best decision for everyone."

Some believe the question unlawfully tests students' religious views.  Others object that the question denies students the option of expressing respect for the unborn. 

June 7, 2016 in Abortion, State and Local News, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)