Wednesday, July 8, 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania (July 8, 2020), in a split opinion, with the majority written by Justice Thomas. Justices Kagan and Breyer concurred in the judgment.
Justice Ginsburg strongly dissented,. recognizing the threat to not just women's healthcare, but women's equality.
In accommodating claims of religious freedom, this Court has taken a balanced approach, one that does not allow the religious beliefs of some to overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs. Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree. *** Destructive of the Women’s Health Amendment, this Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets. The Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause, all agree, does not call for that imbalanced result. Nor does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U. S. C. §2000bb et seq., condone harm to third parties occasioned by entire disregard of their needs. I therefore dissent from the Court’s judgment, under which, as the Government estimates, between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services.
Monday, July 6, 2020
Caroline Criedo Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.
Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates the shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women, diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, unforgettable exposé that will change the way you look at the world.
Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued. If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you're a woman.
Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.
Award-winning campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the impact this has on their health and well-being. From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women. In making the case for change, this powerful and provocative book will make you see the world anew. (less)
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
The attorney featured in this ABA story, Julie Abbate, and I were colleagues many years ago at the law firm of Covington & Burling. There we worked together on a class action pro bono case, along with Caroline Brown, Leecia Eve, Peter Nickles, and National Women's Law Center attorneys Debbie Brake and Brenda Smith. Glad to see she is still working on these issues.
The case we brought on behalf of the women prisoners of DC raised claims of unconstitutional conditions, pregnancy and healthcare, sexual assault and harassment, and inequalities in education and employment. Women Prisoners of DC Dep't of Corrections v. DC (filed 1993). Ultimately, through the appeal to the DC Circuit, we won most of the claims--except healthcare. Women Prisoners v. DC, 93 F.3d 910 (D.C. Circ. 1996).
The number of incarcerated women is growing, and with it the unique and pressing needs of female prisoners in the system. In response, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights did an 18-month investigation. It released a report, Women in Prison: Seeking Justice Behind Bars, in February.
The population of women in prison has increased dramatically since the 1980s, according to the report, and the rate of increase has outpaced that of men. In 2017, women accounted for approximately 225,000 of the slightly more than 2 million people in local, state and federal facilities in this country, according to the Sentencing Project, which tracks incarceration statistics.
The Women in Prison report cites disciplinary disparities between men and women—with a particularly negative impact on LGBT-identified women and women of color—and notes that many prisons do not meet the health, prenatal and personal hygiene needs of female inmates. It stresses the impact of women being incarcerated far from home with limited visitation access and having their parental rights terminated.
The commission is calling on the Department of Justice to expand its investigation capacity and continue to litigate enforcement of incarcerated women’s civil rights in states that violate them; it asks Congress to enact stricter penalties for noncompliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, focused on inmate safety, and to consistently appropriate funding sufficient to ensure correctional agencies comply; and it urges institutions to provide more mental health treatment programs.***
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, “If ever there was a time to focus on lowering the prison population and looking at who could be [housed] in less restrictive settings, it is now,” says Judith Resnik, a Yale Law School professor and founding director of its Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law.
She calls the coronavirus crisis “an early cri de coeur [a passionate outcry] that makes that plain many women do not need to be in prison.” And she adds, “There is nothing in the law saying that people can be sentenced to the risk of serious illness or death.”
In an effort to mitigate virus risks after some staff members and inmates tested positive, Decatur Correctional Center in Illinois released several mothers and babies in March.
Attorney Julie Abbate observes, “Prison systems were not built with women in mind.”
Abbate, national advocacy director of Just Detention International in Washington, D.C., has been a relentless fighter for the rights of female prisoners. She is the former deputy chief in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, a member of the ABA Criminal Justice Section, and she testified before the commission in hearings about the study.
She drafted a resolution adopted by the ABA House of Delegates in 2019, urging governments to enact legislation, and correctional and detention facilities to enact policies that provide female prisoners with unrestricted access to free toilet paper and a range of free feminine hygiene products. Since then, she has been working with state correctional agencies and county sheriffs to help implement the ABA policy.
Abbate says disparate prison disciplinary rules are also a particular concern.
“For men, an assault in prison usually involves a violent fight. For women, it could be pushing or hair-pulling. For both, it’s punished as assault,” she says, adding that women are particularly at risk of violence and sexual abuse in prison. “Whenever you have scarcity and deprivation, it creates power over women. An unscrupulous correctional officer could pressure a woman to perform a sexual act on him [and say,] ‘Do it, or I’ll put you in isolation.’ The fear of being separated from her children drives a woman to comply.”
The report also notes solitary confinement for minor violations denies women good-time credits and shorter sentences.
The commission is calling on prisons to implement evidence-based, trauma-informed discipline policies to avoid harsh punishments for minor infractions.
In some states, things seem to be improving, albeit slowly. Lhamon points to recent disciplinary changes under guidelines adopted and enforced by the Alabama Department of Corrections and MCI-Framingham, a women’s medium-security facility in Massachusetts. She says data showed “astonishing progress” in inmate safety after those institutions implemented a gender-responsive trauma-informed disciplinary policy.
Those policies are informed by studies on the different characteristics and pre-incarceration experiences of men and women (particularly trauma), and generate information on how to meet the unique needs and challenges of female inmates.
Data after implementation of those policies has shown “extraordinary, just jaw-dropping” improvements, she says, adding that the new disciplinary policies could be models for other states to follow.
Lhamon says the commission is working with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) on his bipartisan efforts with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) urging better oversight of Prison Rape Elimination Act compliance. The commission is also working with U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, which she co-sponsored with U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.). The bill addresses many issues raised in the commission’s report, and companion legislation was reintroduced in the Senate last year by Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
Monday, June 1, 2020
Rachel Rebouche, Contracting Pregnancy, 105 Iowa L. Rev. (2020)
Several states recently have passed laws that permit and regulate gestational surrogacy, changing course from the prohibitions that characterized an earlier era. These statutes require mental health counseling before pregnancy and legal representation for all parties to the contract. Scholars and practitioners alike herald this legislation as the way forward in protecting the interests of both intended parents and surrogates. State law, however, may not resolve a recurrent tension over who controls prenatal decision making in gestational surrogacy agreements. Intended parents want authority to make decisions regarding the pregnancy. Contract provisions cater to that desire and support the broader assumption that parents should seek as much prenatal information as possible. Yet surrogates have the right, by statute and as patients, to manage their prenatal care.
Analyzing the most controversial terms of surrogacy contracts—those governing prenatal testing, prenatal behavior, and abortion—this Article demonstrates that neither statutory rights nor contractual remedies adequately address disputes over prenatal care. Rather, mental health professionals who provide pre-pregnancy counseling and lawyers who draft surrogacy contracts have greater effect on parties’ expectations and conduct. Lawyers, in implementing surrogacy contracts, help build trust between parties that induces compliance with otherwise unenforceable terms. When there is a conflict between the parties, lawyers diffuse it.
This Article identifies the consequences of relational contracting for surrogacy, including shielding parties’ behavior from view and entrenching the power of fertility agencies and brokers. It concludes by suggesting how law might challenge the dominance of professionals and agencies by opening the fertility market to a broader population of participants.
Members of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls issued a statement on Wednesday expressing regret that states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee “appear to be manipulating the crisis” to curb women’s reproductive rights.
UN experts are concerned some US states – such as Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee – appear to be manipulating #COVID19 crisis measures to restrict access to essential. services.
“This situation is also the latest example illustrating a pattern of restrictions and retrogressions in access to legal abortion care across the country. We fear that, without clear political will to reverse such restrictive and regressive trends, states will continue pursuing this pattern,” said Elizabeth Broderick, Vice-Chair of the Working Group.***
The Working Group was also extremely concerned by the US insistence to remove references to “sexual and reproductive health and its derivatives” from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) on COVID-19, as expressed through a letter on 18 May from USAID to the UN Secretary-General.
“We reiterate that sexual and reproductive health services, including access to safe and legal abortion, are essential and must remain a key component of the UN’s priorities in its responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ms. Broderick.
“Removing references to sexual and reproductive health from the HRP will have devastating consequences for women worldwide. It will seriously undermine the international community’s joint effort to respond to women’s health needs in this time of crisis.”
Global Times, US Women's Rights Breach
Some US states are exploiting the coronavirus crisis to restrict access to abortion, a group of independent United Nations (UN) rights experts said on Wednesday.
Eight states have used COVID-19 emergency orders - which suspend medical procedures not deemed immediately necessary - to limit access to pregnancy terminations, said the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls.
The group singled out Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
"We regret that the above-mentioned states, with a long history of restrictive practices against abortion, appear to be manipulating the crisis to severely restrict women's reproductive rights," said the group's vice-chair Elizabeth Broderick.
The independent experts do not speak for the UN but report their findings to the world body.
"For many women in the US, bans on abortion during this pandemic will delay abortion care beyond the legal time limit or render abortion services completely inaccessible," said Broderick.
Those who do seek termination services will be forced to travel interstate, thereby risking their own health and disregarding public health guidelines, the experts said.
"Abortion care constitutes essential health care and must remain available during the COVID-19 crisis," Broderick added.
"Restrictions on access to comprehensive reproductive health information and services, including abortion as well as contraception, constitute human rights violations and can cause irreversible harm."
The group said it was "inherently discriminatory" to women to deny them access to services only they require.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Reproductive rights advocates are suing the Trump administration, asking a federal court to suspend restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone during the coronavirus pandemic.
The drug mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 20 years ago for use in medication abortions in early pregnancy. It's also used to help manage miscarriages for some women trying to avoid surgery.
In a federal lawsuit filed in Maryland on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other groups, the American Civil Liberties Union requests an emergency order lifting regulations requiring patients in the United States to pick up the drug at a hospital or medical facility.
Julia Kaye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that requirement is putting patients at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A patient who has already been evaluated by a clinician, either through telemedicine or at a prior in person visit, still must make this entirely unnecessary trip just to pick up their prescription," Kaye said during a conference call announcing the lawsuit.
ACOG supports lifting the restrictions, called the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy or REMS, and has said they are medically unnecessary to preserve patient safety. In 2017, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Hawaii, seeking to force the FDA to remove the REMS for mifepristone.
But this new lawsuit is more narrow, Kaye said, in asking the court to suspend the rules during the pandemic only. The lawsuit asks for an emergency order allowing the mifepristone to be dispensed through the mail or by pharmacies. It notes that in other areas of medicine, federal agencies "have taken substantial action ... to encourage telemedicine use" and "forego unnecessary in-person visits" during the coronavirus crisis.
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Call for Papers Columbia Journal of Gender & Law: Symposium "Are You There Law, It's Me, Menstruation"
Columbia Journal of Gender & Law: Symposium Announcement and Call for Papers
Are You There, Law? It’s Me, Menstruation
The Columbia Journal of Gender & Law is pleased to announce a call for papers for its Spring 2021 symposium: Are You There, Law? It’s Me, Menstruation.
This symposium explores the intersection of law and menstruation. Over half the population menstruates for a large portion of their lives, but the law has mostly been silent on the issue. Virtually all people with female biology menstruate, although not all who menstruate are girls or women. A truly inclusive law reform movement will take all who menstruate into account, without regard to race, economic class, age, or gender identity. A legal system that takes into account the biology of over half the population is the foundation for a more just society.
Judy Blume’s young adult classic, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, first captured readers’ attention fifty years ago, but only recently have periods entered the public discourse. The “tampon tax”—the state sales tax on menstrual products—is currently the subject of multi-state litigation and legislative advocacy. Public awareness of the unfairness of the tax has inspired many people to start speaking and mobilizing about other obstacles, including the lack of employment-related accommodations for menstrual needs, the lack of access to safe and affordable products (particularly in schools and prisons), and the anxiety and harassment that menstruating students can face at school. Increasingly, litigation is being brought about some of these issues, and some states and localities are also taking action on their own, notably by requiring free menstrual products in settings like prisons, schools, and shelters. “Period poverty”—being unable to afford menstrual products—remains an obstacle to school, work and full participation in public life.
The Symposium will be held at Columbia Law School on April 9, 2021. The conference will include a full day of panel discussions and will be open to the public. The program concludes with a reception celebrating the journal’s thirtieth anniversary.
To be considered for a paper presentation at the symposium, please submit an abstract of your proposed paper by 5:00 p.m. on August 15, 2020 to email@example.com. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words and should relate to the conference theme. Possible topics might include:
- Affordability, availability, or safety of menstrual products.
- Challenging the state sales tax on menstrual products.
- Menstruation-related discrimination and harassment in employment, education, and/or other contexts.
- Menstrual education in schools.
- Menstruation-related challenges unique to prisoners, incarcerated people, and visitors and employees in carceral facilities.
- Menstruation-related needs of homeless and low-income individuals and families.
- Cultural stigmas and taboos related to menstruation.
- Lawyering and social movements that are inclusive of all who menstruate, including trans boys and men, people with gender fluid identities, and people with non-binary gender identities.
- Research related to health issues connected with menstruation and menstrual products.
- Environmental issues related to menstruation, including access to water, disposal of menstrual products, and toxic chemicals used in menstrual products.
- Alternatives to commercial menstrual products, including micro-lending for financing of menstruation-related small businesses.
- Human rights concerns, including the right to dignity, the right to education, and/or the right to employment, and their connection to menstruation.
- The relationship of popular culture, including Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, to the understanding of menstruation.
- The use of female empowerment and feminist messaging in selling menstrual products and menstrual education.
- Menstrual-related activism, including litigation and legislative reform.
- Coalition-building between and among groups around issues related to menstruation.
Successful proposals will include a discussion of how the selected topic relates to the law. Interdisciplinary approaches and perspectives from outside the legal academy are very welcome.
Selected speakers will be notified by September 15, 2020.
The selected speakers from this Call for Papers will have the opportunity to publish their papers in a special symposium issue of CJGL. All such papers will be due by February 1, 2020. They must be no more than 3,000 words and should be lightly-footnoted. The abstracts will be posted to CJGL’s public website, and the complete versions may be made available prior to the symposium on a password-protected site to all symposium participants.
Registration and Transportation
There is no registration fee associated with the conference. There are funds available to cover the reasonable transportation costs and accommodations for speakers coming from outside the New York metropolitan area.
Short On-Line Essays
In connection with the symposium, CJGL invites expressions of interest in contributing short essays (100-500 words, including footnotes) on any aspect of law and menstruation, or reflections on the influence of Judy Blume’s book and its legacy for generations of readers. Essays will be hosted on the CJGL website beginning in early 2021 and are intended to be written for a general audience. We warmly welcome contributions from students, faculty, attorneys, activists, artists and others. Contributions may take the form of personal reflections, cultural critiques or other menstruation-related topics of the author’s choice. Short essays do not have to be in a traditional academic format.
To be considered for contribution of a short essay, please submit a short (2-4) sentence proposal by 5:00 p.m. on August 15, 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected contributors will be notified by September 15, 2020.
Final versions of short on-line essays will be due November 1, 2020.
Questions about logistics of the program can be directed to CJGL Symposium Editor Jenna Rae Lauter: email@example.com
Other questions can be directed to the Symposium’s faculty conveners: Professor Bridget Crawford (Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University) firstname.lastname@example.org; Professor Emily Gold Waldman (Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University) email@example.com; and Professor Margaret Johnson (University of Baltimore School of Law) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Call for Papers
Pandemics and the Constitution
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, governments have rapidly imposed restrictions on everyday life that would have seemed unthinkable only a few weeks ago. While as late as mid-March media was repeating the line that draconian measures to contain the virus like those taken in Wuhan, China, could not occur in the United States, Americans have very quickly adjusted to tight restrictions on daily life. Commentary about the constitutionality of coronavirus-related restrictions by legal scholars has just begun to appear in the popular media. Existing jurisprudence has been characterized as recognizing a “seemingly unlimited power to quarantine” on the parts of states. Much of this legal precedent, however, is over a century old, predating many shifts in thinking in legal thinking and constitutional law on civil liberties, procedural due process, and the role of the federal government.
Because scholarship on this subject will be a vital guide to the public and legal community in the months ahead, ConLawNOW is seeking to publish, on an expedited timeline, a written symposium of short essays (preferably 5–10,000 words, about 10 published pages) on the constitutional boundaries of government response to pandemics. Topics may include, but are not limited to, constitutional permissibility of restrictions on movement and travel, legitimacy of closing and limits on commerce, the proper scope of state power to act for the public health, constitutionality of the suspension of fundamental rights like abortion or gun rights, constitutional implications of delays in courts, trials, and juries, First Amendment parameters of restrictions on gatherings and religious services, permissibility of mandated medical testing, surveillance, and tracking, government ability to delay or cancel elections, and Eighth Amendment implications for inmates.
Submissions will be considered and published on a rolling basis. Papers submitted prior to April 19 will receive priority consideration. To submit, please email your manuscript to email@example.com. Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or editor David Belfiglio at email@example.com.
ConLawNOW is an online journal sponsored by the Congressionally-established Center for Constitutional Law and the Akron Law Review. It is an open access journal, also indexed in Westlaw, Lexis, and Hein.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Federal Courts Enjoin States' Attempts to Prohibit Exercise of Abortion Rights During Coronavirus Pandemic
Federal judges on Monday blocked officials in Texas, Ohio and Alabama from banning most abortions in those states as part of their orders to postpone surgeries and other procedures deemed not medically necessary during the coronavirus crisis.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin ruled that Paxton’s action “prevents Texas women from exercising what the Supreme Court has declared is their fundamental constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable.”
The Texas lawsuit was filed last Wednesday after clinics said they were forced to cancel hundreds of appointments for abortions across the state.
“Abortion is essential healthcare, and it’s a time-sensitive service, especially during a public health crisis,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider with three clinics in Texas and a plaintiff in the case.
Dahlia Lithwick, Federal Judges Block Texas and Ohio Coronavirus Abortion Bans
There was bad news on Monday for states trying to use the coronavirus pandemic to halt abortions: Two federal judges ruled that pretextual pretexts are just pretexts. Clinics in Ohio and Texas will remain open, at least for the time being. As my colleague Christina Cauterucci reported last week, Republican governors in both Ohio and Texas tried opportunistically to halt abortions in their states by claiming that the procedures are not-essential and that states should redirect personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, away from clinics so they can better serve coronavirus patients. Of course, women actually need abortion services even more during such crises, clinics don’t use most of the essential medical equipment necessary to fight the virus, and most abortions are time-sensitive procedures that can’t be delayed indefinitely.Texas and Ohio weren’t alone, though. Iowa, Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma had all recently moved to suspend abortion access using the same excuses. The Texas guidance, which was particularly draconian, would have applied to “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life of the mother,” and violations would include a $1,000 fine or up to 180 days in jail. Meanwhile, Ohio’s deputy attorney general, Jonathan Fulkerson, had sent letters to a handful of abortion clinics accusing them of violating the Ohio order, but the clinics had replied that they were in compliance and continued to perform procedures.Two of these suits have already paid dividends. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel lifted Texas’ restriction on abortion just a few hours before Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett enjoined Ohio officials from implementing their ban. In his opinion judge Yeakel, a George W. Bush appointee, found that Texas’ attempt to shut down abortions would cause “irreparable harm” to abortion clinics and their patients, and rested his decision in the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy: “Regarding a woman’s right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure,” Yeakel wrote. “This court will not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent ‘except-in-a-national-emergency clause’ in its previous writings on the issue.”
Federal judges for now blocked Texas, Ohio and Alabama from curbing most abortions amid the new coronavirus pandemic, after the states recently cited the need to preserve medical equipment and public health as reasons to halt the procedure.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett ruled that Ohio's abortion clinics could perform surgical abortions if they could not be delayed because of a medical condition or the delay would prevent the abortion under Ohio law.
The Ohio Department of Health had threatened to apply the ban on all elective surgeries to surgical abortions, effectively banning all abortions after 10 weeks gestation, according to a motion filed by Ohio's surgical abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, on Monday.
Barrett, who granted the temporary restraining order later for 14 days, said the state had not proven that performing surgical abortions would "result in any beneficial amount of net saving of PPE (personal protective equipment) in Ohio such that the net saving of PPE outweighs the harm of eliminating abortion," Barrett wrote.
State officials in Iowa and Ohio were hit with lawsuits on Monday over their decisions to ban abortion during the coronavirus outbreak.
Both states recently deemed abortion a nonessential surgical procedure that must be deferred or canceled in order to preserve medical supplies for the pandemic.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Ohio are asking district courts to immediately restore abortion access, arguing that it’s an essential, time-sensitive procedure that has been improperly categorized as elective.
A growing number of states largely governed by Republicans are using the coronavirus outbreak to crack down on abortion. In addition to Ohio and Iowa, Texas and Mississippi have ordered health care facilities to stop providing abortions.***
Leading medical experts, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology have urged state leaders to classify abortion as a time-sensitive, essential medical procedure that cannot be delayed.
Monday, March 30, 2020
More than 200 million people in about half of the states are under orders to stay indoors to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.
Under those decrees, businesses have closed unless deemed "essential," which has sparked a nationwide debate among state and local leaders: Should gun stores be considered essential?
"A lot of people may find themselves in situations where they may need to be their own first responders," said Michael Cargill, who runs Central Texas Gun Works in Austin.
Gun owners, he said, "want to protect their family in case things go the other way." . . . .
"Guns will not make Americans safer in the face of COVID-19," Feinblatt said. "Gun stores do not deserve special treatment. In fact, a surge in gun sales will put many communities at greater risk if guns aren't stored securely and if background checks aren't completed."
Increasing concerns for gun control advocates are reports of people using firearms out of fear created by the coronavirus crisis. In Alpharetta, Ga., for instance, a man was arrested for allegedly pulling out a gun on two women wearing medical masks at a post office because he worried they had the coronavirus.
Gun and ammo sales have rocketed since the outbreak surfaced. And some of the panic driving the purchases is also present because of what gun rights advocates see as preserving their constitutional right to bear arms. They argue short-term emergency restrictions on gun sales could erode their enshrined rights.
"Just because we're in a pandemic, American rights do not go away," Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told NPR. "There are disparate interpretations on how people want to view these orders, but the Second Amendment is unequivocal."
State officials in Kentucky and Oklahoma are among a growing number of Republican officials who say abortion is a nonessential procedure that should be put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt have joined the list of officials calling for a suspension of most abortions in their states as part of a larger effort to help free up protective equipment for healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients.
In a statement, Cameron said abortion providers "should join the thousands of other medical professionals across the state in ceasing elective procedures, unless the life of the mother is at risk."
Reproductive health groups say abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure that should not be delayed, and that doing so can jeopardize the health and well-being of pregnant women.
Men are more likely to die from new virus
New research from China has found that men, particularly middle-aged and older men, are having a harder time fighting off the virus than women. Chinese researchers found that while the infection rate among men and women is the same, the death rate among men is 2.8% compared with 1.7% for women.
According to Sabra Klein, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the pattern—men faring worse than women—is consistent with other viral respiratory infections. "Women fight them off better," she said.
Officials noticed this gender difference during the SARS and MERS outbreaks as well, according to Caryn Rabin.
Why are men more likely to die from the new coronavirus?
According to researchers, there are a few reasons men are more likely to die from the new coronavirus.
Women have a heightened immune response
Research on previous outbreaks shows that women have stronger immune responses to coronaviruses.
Some researchers think the higher level of estrogen, which contributes to immunity, and the fact that women have two X chromosomes, which carry immune-related genes, could factor into women's heightened immune response ***
However, when the researchers blocked estrogen in the female mice and removed their ovaries, they were more likely to die from the virus
Men and women have different health behaviors, conditions
China has the largest population of smokers in the world at 316 million people, but while more than 50% of Chinese men smoke, only about 2% of Chinese women partake in the behavior.
Chinese men also have higher rates of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than women
Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunology at Yale University, added that men may have a "false sense of security" about coronavirus and similar diseases. When the outbreak first started, for instance, officials recommended that people wash their hands thoroughly and often to prevent infection, but multiple studies have found that men are less likely to wash their hands and use soap than women, according to Klein.
"We make these broad sweeping assumptions that men and women are the same behaviorally, in terms of comorbidities, biology and our immune system, and we just are not," he said.
Men are faring worse than women in the coronavirus pandemic, according to statistics emerging from across the world.
On Friday, White House COVID-19 Task Force director Dr. Deborah Birx cited a report from Italy showing that men in nearly every age bracket were dying at higher rates than women. Birx called it a “concerning trend.”
The apparent gender gap in Italy echoes earlier statistics from other hard-hit countries. While preliminary, early accounts have suggested that boys and men are more likely to become seriously ill than are girls and women, and that men are more likely to die.***
The emerging picture of male vulnerability to coronavirus may be easily explained by a clear gender disparity with social and cultural roots: Across the world, men are much more likely to smoke cigarettes. That damages their lungs and primes them for inflammation and further damage when they are battling an infection.***
But that’s not the whole story, said Dr. Stanley Perlman, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa who has studied coronavirus infection in mice.***
At the same time, the death rates of infected female mice shot up when their ovaries were removed, or when they got drugs that suppressed the activity of the hormone estrogen.
To Perlman, those dual findings strongly suggest that there’s something about estrogen that protects against the ravages of deadly coronaviruses — and he suspects it’s true for the new SARS-CoV-19 virus. ***
When it comes to fighting infection, he added, “we really need to study both sexes to understand susceptibility.”
The Atlantic, The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism
Enough already. When people try to be cheerful about social distancing and working from home, noting that William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton did some of their best work while England was ravaged by the plague, there is an obvious response: Neither of them had child-care responsibilities.***
For those with caring responsibilities, an infectious-disease outbreak is unlikely to give them time to write King Lear or develop a theory of optics. A pandemic magnifies all existing inequalities (even as politicians insist this is not the time to talk about anything other than the immediate crisis). Working from home in a white-collar job is easier; employees with salaries and benefits will be better protected; self-isolation is less taxing in a spacious house than a cramped apartment. But one of the most striking effects of the coronavirus will be to send many couples back to the 1950s. Across the world, women’s independence will be a silent victim of the pandemic
Purely as a physical illness, the coronavirus appears to affect women less severely. But in the past few days, the conversation about the pandemic has broadened: We are not just living through a public-health crisis, but an economic one.
The evidence we do have from the Ebola and Zika outbreaks should inform the current response. In both rich and poor countries, campaigners expect domestic-violence rates to rise during lockdown periods. Stress, alcohol consumption, and financial difficulties are all considered triggers for violence in the home, and the quarantine measures being imposed around the world will increase all three.
Researchers, including those I spoke with, are frustrated that findings like this have not made it through to policy makers, who still adopt a gender-neutral approach to pandemics. They also worry that opportunities to collect high-quality data which will be useful for the future are being missed.
But in other, perhaps less obvious ways, the virus appears to disproportionately affect women. As the fight against COVID-19 continues, an increasing number of women around the world are on the front lines. Many of them will be expected to work longer hours, while juggling domestic responsibilities such as childcare
Friday, March 27, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is deepening the divide on abortion access between blue and red states by sparking a debate over whether the procedure is medically essential.
Anti-abortion forces led by Republican governors in Ohio, Texas and Mississippi are citing the critical shortage of medical supplies in trying to close abortion clinics, in some instances threatening jail time if they don't shut down and donate protective gear and other necessities to local hospitals. Meanwhile, in blue states like New York, Washington and New Jersey, governors are deeming abortion and family planning clinics an essential service that can continue during the pandemic.***
Progressive states that have implemented broad orders shutting down businesses during the pandemic, such as Washington, have clarified that they consider abortion and family planning clinics an essential service that can continue during the pandemic. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was one of a handful of Democratic leaders to explicitly carve out an exception for “the full range of family planning services and procedures, including terminations of pregnancies” from his executive order that suspends elective surgeries.
Meanwhile in New York, clinics are working to expand access to medication abortion. Planned Parenthood is conducting more assessments over its telehealth platform so eligible patients only have to come to centers to pick up medication, as is required by law.
As COVID-19 spreads across the nation, many are voicing alarm that sickness and social distancing will spark an epidemic of domestic violence. The alarm is merited. Social and economic stressors like job loss, discrimination, community dislocation and trauma correlate with increased domestic violence. The fact that families are cooped up together may make matters worse.
As domestic violence scholars and victims’ advocates, we are heartened that the media and public commentators have shifted from describing domestic violence solely as something individual criminals do to a phenomenon deeply connected with social marginality and economic precarity — conditions that will be exponentially aggravated by the virus.However, we are concerned that having identified the potential for increased violence, the solution will be increased arrests and prosecutions. Police and prosecutors’ offices have assured the public that they are open for “business as usual” when it comes to domestic violence.
The pandemic has put a spotlight on the perils of the United States’ decades-long addiction to using criminal law as a primary solution to social problems.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Texas and Ohio have included abortions among the nonessential surgeries and medical procedures that they are requiring to be delayed, setting off a new front in the fight over abortion rights in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
Both states said they were trying to preserve extremely precious protective equipment for health care workers and to make space for a potential flood of coronavirus patients.
But abortion rights activists said that abortions should be counted as essential and that people could not wait for the procedure until the pandemic was over.
Pro-choice groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood say the order is an excuse from the state to restrict access to abortion.
Ohio's legislators have sought to curb people's access to abortion prior to the pandemic.
“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is ensuring every person can continue accessing essential healthcare, including abortion,” Planned Parenthood of Ohio said in a statement, adding that they are still being compliant with the state order.
“Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion, and our health centers continue to provide services that our patients depend on,” they added.
Despite a state health order banning non-essential procedures during the coronavirus health emergency, Ohio abortion clinics remained open last week.
But after receiving complaints, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost ordered two of them to follow Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton’s orders.
“You and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions. Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient,” Yost said.
“If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the [health director’s] order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures.”
On Wednesday, Acton issued an order saying “all non-essential or elective surgeries and procedures that utilized [personal protective equipment] should not be conducted.” The state is attempting to preserve supplies of equipment needed in combating the vir
Republicans in states around the country are doing their best to use the growing coronavirus epidemic in order to push through their rightwing, anti-abortion agendas. The latest—on Sunday night, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order to “postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary” until April 21. In response, the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered all abortion clinics to stop providing “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother,” or face penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.
The move by Republican officials in Texas comes on the heels of Ohio’s attorney general’s office ordering abortion clinics in Dayton, Cleveland, and Cincinnati to “immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions.”
Framing these moves as a way to ensure that health care professionals have the resources they need, which is what officials in both Texas and Ohio have done, is an incredibly manipulative and underhanded way to sneak in anti-abortion measures under the guide of public health. In a statement to Jezebel, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas executive Aimee Arrambide wrote, “Abortion is essential healthcare, but especially in the wake of the public health crisis we are facing now.... Abortion is a procedure where time is of the essence and cannot be delayed without profound consequences.”
Over the weekend, two states made moves to ban certain abortions under the guise of preparing for the expected surge in coronavirus cases. In Ohio, Attorney General Dave Yost sent letters to three abortion clinics ordering them to stop performing “nonessential” surgical abortions that “can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.” In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a halt to all procedures performed on patients not facing an immediate risk of “serious adverse medical consequences or death.” The Texas attorney general confirmed on Monday that most abortions would fall under the order.
Both officials have said the bans are necessary to reduce coronavirus-induced strain on health care systems and reserve personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, for more urgent uses during a time of nationwide medical supply shortages. Their misclassification of abortion as nonessential health care betrays a deep-seated indifference for the health and welfare of pregnant women. Abortion care isn’t a delayable luxury, even during a pandemic. It’s essential preventive care—and if anything, it might be more essential than usual.
Abortion providers in Texas and Ohio have said they consider themselves exempt from the orders and will continue seeing patients, since the care they provide is necessary and time-sensitive. Though abortion care is extremely safe, it gets riskier, more expensive, and more difficult—or impossible—to access as a pregnancy progresses.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Medication abortion is incredibly common in the United States; it’s also incredibly safe. And it’s because of this relative ease and safety, in fact, that conservative states are now targeting it in the same ways they have targeted providers and clinics in recent decades: In 18 states, a provider must be physically present to prescribe abortion medication, a barrier compounded by the fact that nearly 40 percent of women in the U.S. aged 15–44 live in a county without an abortion clinic. A number of states also have laws on the books that criminalize people who terminate their own pregnancies, and “there have been at least half a dozen U.S. cases where women have been arrested and charged after attempting to self-induce an abortion using illicitly obtained abortifacients,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.
It is now 47 years after Roe v. Wade, and we are still someplace we’ve already been. But that sense of familiarity goes back even further than the landmark abortion case: 200 years ago, as medicines and tonics meant to cause abortion were made more accessible through advertising, laws targeted their use as well.
Abortion has gone from being legal to illegal in this country before, and with Roe in jeopardy, advocates for reproductive freedom have forecast a future that looks much like our past, when pills were a major part of abortion access—and an obsessive target for abortion opponents.
The story of abortion regulation and criminalization in the U.S. begins, in some ways, with the sale of abortion pills. Such open business was part of the reason states pushed to pass the first laws governing abortion in the 1820s and 1830s, according to Lauren MacIvor Thompson, historian at Georgia State University and author of the forthcoming Battle for Birth Control: Mary Dennett, Margaret Sanger, and the Rivalry That Shaped a Movement. “But they were mostly only governing the advertising and sale of abortifacient drugs.” The laws were meant to regulate, not to outlaw, abortion, she told me in an email.
This didn’t quell the demand for abortion—which was not really the point. Neither did criminalization drive abortion fully underground. Into the 1860s and 1870s, New York readers could still learn, however euphemistically, of the alleged effects and availability of “Dr. Vlcaoli’s Italian Female Monthly Pills” or “Chichester’s English Pennyroyal Pills,” in big city and local papers alike, from the New York Evening Telegram to the Syracuse Daily Standard. People using titles like “Professor of Midwifery” or “Professor of Diseases of Women” offered “A Certain Cure,” “safe and healthy,” for “immediate removal of all special irregularities in females, with or without medicine, at one interview.”
H/T Kimberly Hamlin
David Cohen & Carole Joffe, Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America (Introduction)
Book available here.
It seems unthinkable that citizens of one of the most powerful nations in the world must risk their lives and livelihoods in the search for access to necessary health care. And yet it is no surprise that in many places throughout the United States, getting an abortion can be a monumental challenge. Anti-choice politicians and activists have worked tirelessly to impose needless restrictions on this straightforward medical procedure that, at best, delay it and, at worst, create medical risks and deny women their constitutionally protected right to choose.
This forthcoming book tells the story of abortion in America, capturing a disturbing reality of insurmountable barriers people face when trying to exercise their legal rights to medical services. Authors David S. Cohen and Carole Joffe lay bare the often arduous and unnecessarily burdensome process of terminating a pregnancy: the sabotaged decision-making, clinics in remote locations, insurance bans, harassing protesters, forced ultrasounds and dishonest medical information, arbitrary waiting periods, and unjustified procedure limitations.
Based on patients’ stories as well as interviews with abortion providers and allies from every state in the country, Obstacle Course reveals the unstoppable determination required of women in the pursuit of reproductive autonomy as well as the incredible commitment of abortion providers. Without the efforts of an unheralded army of medical professionals, clinic administrators, counselors, activists, and volunteers, what is a legal right would be meaningless for the almost one million people per year who get abortions. There is a better way—treating abortion like any other form of health care—but the United States is a long way from that ideal.
The Virginia Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday requiring public schools to include free menstrual products in their bathrooms.
Senate Bill 232 applies to schools that educate fifth-to-12th graders. According to the Virginia Department of Education, this encompasses 132 school districts and almost over 630,000 female students.
"I would like to see that the supplies are available, just like other supplies that we keep in the bathroom," said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, the legislation's chief patron.
An earlier version of the bill applied the stipulation to the aforementioned schools where at least 40% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch.
Boysko introduced the bill to make it more convenient for students to access menstrual products and help them avoid accidents.
"This is a necessity and girls can't carry out their school day without it," Boysko said. "Some girls are missing school time and end up going home and missing classes because of these kinds of challenges."
According to Boysko, school budgets currently cover menstrual product expenses, but they are often kept in the nurse's office, making it inconvenient for students.
Friday, January 17, 2020
The Supreme Court grant cert today in Trump v. Pennsylvania and the related Little Sisters of the Poor regarding religious exemptions for the federal healthcare mandate that employers provide women employees birth control.
From the Petition for Cert, Questions Presented:
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 42 U.S.C. 18001 et seq., requires many group health plans and health-insurance issuers that offer group or individual health coverage to provide coverage for preventive services, including women’s preventive care, without cost-sharing. See 42 U.S.C. 300gg-13(a). Guidelines and regulations implementing that requirement promulgated in 2011 by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury mandated that such entities cover contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The mandate exempted churches, and subsequent rulemaking established an accommodation for certain other entities with religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage. In October 2017, the agencies promulgated interim final rules expanding the exemption to a broad range of entities with sincere religious or moral objections to providing contraceptive coverage. In November 2018, after considering comments solicited on the interim rules, the agencies promulgated final rules expanding the exemption. The questions presented are as follows:
1. Whether the agencies had statutory authority under the ACA and the Religious Freedom Restoration
Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq., to expand the conscience exemption to the contraceptive-coverage mandate.
2. Whether the agencies’ decision to forgo notice and opportunity for public comment before issuing the interim final rules rendered the final rules—which were issued after notice and comment—invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., 701 et seq.
3. Whether the court of appeals erred in affirming a nationwide preliminary injunction barring implementation of the final rules.
Thursday, September 26, 2019
In what could be seen as defiance of the Court and indifference to Whole Woman’s Health, the Louisiana’s legislature did not repeal the “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act” or Act 620—its version of the Texas law, which requires “a physician performing or inducing an abortion” to “[h]ave active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than thirty miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced and that provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services.” To place in context the Louisiana legislature’s brazen disregard of Whole Woman’s Health, imagine that state enacted a separate but equal public school segregation law based on race, in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education striking down such legislation.
Even more curious, imagine if the court of appeals upheld it.
One need not study this hypothetical too long nor relitigate the shameful horrors of Jim Crow in Louisiana and throughout the American south to recognize the harms it would inflict on Black students in Louisiana if such a law were in effect. The vestiges and badges of slavery would be apparent. Indeed, any claims by Louisiana that its version of separate but equal was so factually different such that Brown does not apply would be farcical. The distinctions are irrelevant when the very principle violates the constitution. Brown did not apply only in Topeka, Kansas.
In the present case, not surprisingly, both doctors and clinics challenged Louisiana’s law, securing a permanent injunction at the district court level, which the Fifth Circuit vacated in June Medical Services v. Gee. Unconvinced that the facts undergirding Whole Woman’s Health applied in Louisiana, the Fifth Circuit lifted the injunction. In doing so, the court brushed aside that more than half the clinics in Texas closed in light of the Texas admitting privileges law going into effect, because doctors could not obtain such privileges; the closure of clinics meant that in some cases women traveled hundreds of miles in order to terminate a pregnancy or simply lost access altogether; and admitting privileges bore no relation to physician competency or protecting women’s health, because abortions are safe procedures that nearly never require any form of hospitalization. ***
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision voted to stay the Fifth Circuit’s decision, which allows the district court’s injunction to remain in effect until the Court decides whether to grant certiorari this fall. Tellingly, Justice Kavanaugh dissented in the ruling, giving strong indication of not only his vote should the Court grant certiorari, but also his jurisprudence on abortion rights in cases to come.
What June Medical Services teaches is the power of the antiabortion playbook to take root in legislatures across the country, causing the repeat play of legislation already determined unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (Minnesota legislators proposed an ambulatory surgical standards law, which I testified against—also after Whole Woman’s Health). The goal of the playbook is to hobble abortion access and one powerful means of doing so is to surreptitiously drive doctors out of their practices, thereby forcing clinics to close, leaving women with virtually no options for safe termination of unintended, unwanted, or unsafe pregnancies.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
In First, California Passes Bill Requiring Public Universities to Provide Medication Abortion on Campus
At a time when conservative states are sharply limiting abortion access, California signaled a new frontier in abortion-rights on Friday with the passage of legislation that would require all public universities in the state to provide medication abortion on campus.
The bill, which would use money raised from private donors to equip and train campus health centers, grew out of a student-led movement at the University of California, Berkeley, and it has sparked the introduction of a similar bill in Massachusetts.
Anti-abortion groups say they are likely to challenge the legislation if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law. He has a month to decide. A spokesman declined to say what he will do, but last year during his campaign for governor, Mr. Newsom said he supported a similar effort.