Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sixth Circuit En Banc Majority Rules Ohio Can Defund Planned Parenthood

Politico (Mar. 12, 2019): Appeals court rules Ohio can defund Planned Parenthood, by Alice Miranda Ollstein:

In an en banc opinion issued Tuesday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ohio may cut state funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions, overturning a lower court ruling that blocked the state from stripping about $1.5 million of annual support from the network of clinics.

The Sixth Circuit's ruling affects six state public health programs in Ohio, but doesn't touch Medicaid. The Supreme Court in December declined to review a case brought by other Republican-led states seeking to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health organizations that offer abortions.

Four of the eleven Sixth Circuit judges who sided with Ohio in Tuesday's decision were appointed by President Donald Trump. The judges said Ohio’s law barring state health department funding from going to any provider who offers “non-therapeutic abortions” or advocates for abortion rights, “does not violate the Constitution because the affiliates do not have a" substantive "due process right" under the Fourteenth Amendment "to perform abortions."

In her dissent, Judge Helene White and five of her colleagues argued that the state’s law “would result in an undue burden on a woman’s right to obtain non-therapeutic abortions if imposed directly.”

The opinion is available here.

March 12, 2019 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Challenges of Innovating Access to Abortion

The New Yorker (Mar. 6, 2019): The Challenges of Innovating Access to Abortion, by Sue Halpern:

As states across the country continue to enact burdensome and medically unnecessary restrictions on safe and legal abortion care, last week the New Yorker examined the landscpe for access to abortion care via telemedicine.

Hawaii has one of the least restrictive abortion policies in the country, and yet services are still hard to come by due to geographic challenges. In 2018, only two of the Hawaiian islands had abortion providers: Maui and Oahu. As a result, medication abortion via telemedicine is a vital service to Hawaiian women seeking care.

Telemedicine—obtaining medical services over the phone or through the Internet—is not a new phenomenon. In the U.S., it began to take off in the late nineteen-fifties, and a 2016 federal grant to increase access to health care in rural areas has made it more mainstream.

TelAbortion, a service provided by the reproductive-health initiative Gynuity, enables a woman to terminate a pregnancy in the privacy of her own home, but with medical oversight. The service is available in Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Washington as a five-state trial launched by Gynuity in response to the ever-diminishing availability of abortion services in the United States.

Although the five states in the TelAbortion trial have some of the most accommodating abortion laws in the country, Gynuity is only able to run the trial with a waiver from the F.D.A., which has put onerous restrictions on the distribution of abortifacients. Mifepristone is one of only seventy-five F.D.A.-approved medications controlled through its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), and only one of fifty with its most stringent restrictions. According to the F.D.A., REMS, which regulates such drugs as Thalidomide, which is known to cause birth defects, is a drug-safety program for “medications with serious safety concerns to help ensure the benefits of the medication outweigh its risks.” The REMS mandates that mifepristone only be dispensed to a patient in a clinic, medical office, or hospital. A doctor can’t send a patient to their local pharmacy with a prescription for the medication, because pharmacies are not allowed to carry the drug. This limits the ability of physicians to administer the medication and of patients to obtain it, despite nearly twenty years of evidence demonstrating its safety and efficacy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended eliminating the REMS altogether. An F.D.A. panel of experts recommended eliminating one aspect of the REMS in 2016 when the mifepristone REMS came up for review. It was overruled by the F.D.A. commissioner, an Obama appointee.

Medication abortion should make access to care easier, but some of the more recent restrictions passed by state legislatures also make getting medication abortion, which is already constrained by the REMS, more difficult. Seventeen states require that a clinician be physically present when mifepristone is taken. Thirty-four states require those clinicians to be licensed physicians. Women who obtain and self-administer medication abortion outside the traditional medical establishment, typically from an Internet pharmacy, may be subject to arrest and imprisonment. In 2013, a woman in Pennsylvania who had ordered them online for her daughter was sentenced to a nine-to-eighteen-month jail term for “providing abortion without a medical license, dispensing drugs without being a pharmacist, assault and endangering the welfare of a child.”

It is now possible to order these medications through AidAccess, a program overseen by a doctor in the Netherlands. While no one has been arrested, the promulgation of fetal-homicide laws—thirty-eight states now have them—and aggressive prosecutors puts women at risk of arrest if they obtain them in this manner.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, “these laws are even being used to pursue women who are merely suspected of having self-induced an abortion but in fact had suffered miscarriages.”

March 12, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Politics, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 11, 2019

New Bill to Classify Reproductive Rights as Human Rights

Rewire.News (Mar. 7, 2019): Here's How Democrats Want to Classify Reproductive Rights as Human Rights, by Katelyn Burns:

The Trump administration's State Department deleted reproductive rights from its human rights report last year. Now, Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill that would require the inclusion of reproductive rights--by way of an accounting of "access to reproductive health care"--in the report.

"The 'Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights Act' was introduced by Democratic caucus vice chair Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and announced at a press conference Thursday [March 7, 2019] along with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and U.S. Senate co-sponsors Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)."

Representative Clark said:

The way that we are able to protect human rights internationally is through shining a light on the violations. I think what this administration is saying is that we are no longer interested in finding out what is happening with women’s health and monitoring, assessing and protecting women across the globe.

The State Department's annual human rights report is of critical important to the our government, notes Amanda Klasing, acting co-director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. Congress uses this report in determining appropriations pertaining to foreign assistance, and immigration judges likewise rely on the report in making decisions about pending asylum claims. 

If a woman crosses the border from El Salvador claiming asylum in the United State because she is threatened with jail time in her home country for having a miscarriage, for example, an immigration judge might look to the human rights report to determine whether this is a credible basis on which she may claim asylum.

The information that used to be included on the report was gathered by foreign service officers who had established relationships with health care providers and advocates around the world. These relationship no longer exist under the current administration. Not only is the information foreign service officers previously gathered lost, the contacts that enabled substantial, accurate reporting are gone.

"There will be a minimum of a year or two years for embassies to rebuild meaningful relationships where they can actually be substantially reporting on what’s happening," said Stephanie Schmid, U.S. foreign policy council at the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR).

Since the deletion of reproductive rights from the report, the CRR has twice sued the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to access documentation about the erasure. The newly-proposed bill "mandates that foreign service officers must consult with reproductive health and rights organizations in local communities to gather accurate information for the human rights report."

Advocates for reproductive rights hope this bill will solidify the importance of including reproductive rights among human rights generally.

'There is a sense that there are hard human rights issues and then there are soft human rights issues,' Klasing said. 'The State Department is still reporting on the hard human rights issues like torture, extrajudicial killings, but there’s some flexibility as to whether or not these [reproductive rights] actually qualify as human rights. As somebody who has interviewed both people who have been victims of state sponsored violence, torture, abuse, and people who have had their reproductive rights violated, the feeling of abuse, the feeling of violation is the same. It’s a visceral feeling.'

March 11, 2019 in Congress, Culture, Current Affairs, International, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Irish ban on funding abortion services in developing world to be lifted

The Irish Times (Mar. 4, 2019): Irish ban on funding abortion services in developing world to be lifted, by Pat Leahy: 

As a result of the 2018 repeal of Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion, Irish foreign humanitarian and development policy is shifting, too. Previously, Irish foreign aid money was generally prohibited from being used to fund abortion services, because such medical and reproductive health programmes were contrary to Irish law. 

Irish Aid, the development aid programme of Ireland's government, is now launching a new initiative on "sexual and reproductive health and rights." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week launched its new policy on development aid: "A Better World." The policy has four priorities, including prioritizing gender equality, reducing humanitarian need, climate action, and strengthening governance. The reconsiderations of reproductive health aid are expected to flow from this new policy. 

The main focus of Irish Aid's programmes lies in sub-Saharan Africa, where Ireland has long-standing assistance programs in eight countries. Irish Aid also has established programming in Vietnam, South Africa, and Palestine, among other nations.

The prior Irish policy of withholding funding for abortion services echos the Trump administration's global gag rule pertaining to foreign aid. Programs and policies that police the reproductive health services offered in foreign nations have a significant, negative impact in countries aiming to slow population growth and provide comprehensive health care and education to women and girls. 

March 9, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Texas gave anti-abortion group millions for women's health, despite warnings

Houston Chronicle (Feb. 25, 2019): Texas gave anti-abortion group millions for women's health, despite warnings, by Jeremy Blackman:

In May 2016, Carol Everett sent an email to fellow anti-abortion activists detailing “an extraordinary pro-life opportunity.” Her nonprofit, the Heidi Group, she said, had spent the past year pushing for nearly $40 million in funding to help Christian pregnancy centers “bless many poor women” across Texas. The opportunity she was discussing? An application to become one of the state’s leading family planning providers as part of the Healthy Texas Women program, which offers free women’s health and family planning services to eligible, low-income women.

Everett had never contracted with the state and had no clinical background. Many of the pregnancy centers she cited don’t provide contraception, a core family planning service. Still, state health officials gave her significant public funding anyway, ignoring warning signs and overruling staff that recommended millions less in funding, according to a review of the contracting by the Houston Chronicle. When Everett’s clinics began failing, Texas delayed for months in shifting money to higher performing clinics and chose to devote vast amounts of time to support Everett and her small, understaffed team.

The Heidi Group was not the only contractor that struggled in Healthy Texas Women. By the end of the first year, others had met just 46 percent of their combined patient targets. They had spent just over a third of their proposed fee-for-service expenditures, the state’s preferred source because every expense can be tracked. Those excelling early on were established providers versed in the state’s complex billing procedures. For them, the program has been a boon from the beginning, increasing funding for equipment and staff, and adding reimbursements for a larger swath of health services. Still, many of the smaller, less-experienced clinics could not scale up quickly enough and felt they had not received adequate training on billing and enrollment delays.

The state's separate Family Planning program within HHS had twice the success rate, both in spending and patient targets. Though the 39 Healthy Texas Women contractors had access to more money in the first year, those in the Family Planning program outspent them by several million dollars, which the state said it could not immediately verify. Because of its less stringent eligibility requirements, Family Planning program providers say they can more easily meet need where it exists. And for many of them, that is with immigrant and undocumented families.

Though it’s impossible to say how many more women could have been served had the resources been shifted sooner, several competing clinics involved in Healthy Texas Women burned through their funding early in the grant cycle, surpassing their targets for both spending and patients treated. Had they been sent some of the $6.75 million sitting in wait for the Heidi Group, the door could have opened for thousands more women to receive access to contraception, STD screenings and breast exams.

“We would definitely have been able to serve more,” said Marcie Mir, the chief executive officer of El Centro de Corazon, which serves immigrant communities in East Houston.

The Houston Chronicle’s review included emails, internal records, and interviews with two dozen people, and found that the Texas HHS made repeated concessions, and not just to the Heidi Group. State health officials lowered the standards for applicants in two new women’s health programs, including Healthy Texas Women, and revised past patient counts, making it easier to show growth. Quality control measures were stalled, and only the Heidi Group received on-site clinical assessments in the first year, despite similar problems with other contractors.

At least one top Republican, Governor Greg Abbott, laid the groundwork for Everett’s selection, controlling her appointment to an influential committee helping to develop the new programs, according to records. The health official who allocated Everett's award has close personal ties to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, whose founder, Dr. James Leininger, has been a key donor to the Heidi Group, as well as to Abbott.

Everett’s funding was revoked last fall after two years of poor performance, and auditors are reviewing whether the Heidi Group mishandled funds.

Despite an uptick in number of people served in 2017 from the previous year, Texas still served 100,000 fewer patients than in 2010, despite spending about $35 million more in 2017, including federal dollars.

What has happened in Texas may be a preview for the country at large. The Trump administration on Friday announced it is cutting family planning funding to abortion affiliates, a decision that further undermines groups like Planned Parenthood, which provide the bulk of non-abortion services to low-income women nationally. The move, much like the one in Texas years ago, is expected to direct millions toward faith-based providers.

March 5, 2019 in Contraception, Politics, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

An 11-Year-Old in Argentina Was Raped. A Hospital Denied Her an Abortion.

The New York Times (Mar. 1, 2019): An 11-Year-Old in Argentina Was Raped. A Hospital Denied Her an Abortion, by Daniel Politi: 

Despite laws in Argentina saying that pregnant people may seek abortions in the case of rape (one of the only instances in which abortion is legal in the country), an 11-year-old rape survivor was denied the abortion she requested and instead forced into a C-section delivery. 

The child was reportedly raped by her grandmother's boyfriend. She discovered her pregnancy at 19 weeks after going to the hospital complaining of severe stomachaches. Both the child and her mother pushed for her to receive the abortion, but doctors administered drugs without consent to hasten the development of the fetus so that she could deliver instead (the doctors told her that they were giving her "vitamins"). 

Fernanda Marchese is the executive director of Human Rights and Social Studies Lawyers of Northeastern Argentina, which is representing Lucía (a pseudonym) and her family. Marchese reports that the hospital permitted anti-abortion activists to enter Lucía’s hospital room, "where they urged her to have the baby, warning that she otherwise would never get to be a mother."

"Reproductive rights groups filed emergency lawsuits that led to a court order instructing the hospital to carry out an abortion at once." The doctors still refused, citing conscientious objections. 

Private sector doctors Cecilia Ousset and José Gigena agreed to conduct the abortion, but because Lucía’s pregnancy was so far along, they decided they had no choice but perform a C-section. Dr. Ousset identified that Lucía’s life was at risk throughout the ordeal in a phone interview with the New York Times. Lucía is now healthy and should be discharged soon. 

Genetic material from the umbilical cord will be studied and possibly used to prosecute the man who is alleged to have raped Lucía. He has already been arrested. 

Although the case has gained notoriety, many say it reflects a reality in parts of Argentina. “In the north of Argentina,” Dr. Ousset said, “there are lots of Lucías and there are lots of professionals who turn their back on them.”

March 5, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Media, International, Medical News, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 4, 2019

"Wrongful Birth" Claims and the Paradox of Parenting a Child with a Disability- applying a therapeutic justice lens

Therapeutic justice in the Mainstream (Feb. 28, 2019): "Wrongful Birth" Claims and the Paradox of Parenting a Child with a Disability- applying a therapeutic justice lens, by Sophia Yakren:

Prof. Sophia Yakren discusses her new article in the Fordham Law Review on "Wrongful Birth" claims.  She argues that the claim, which is typically raised by a mother with a child who was born with a disability against a medical professional who failed to disclose relevant prenatal information which denied her full information in deciding whether to abort the pregnancy, "likely has a significant anti-therapeutic impact on the individuals it is designed to compensate."  She writes:

It is distressing enough for a parent to characterize her child’s existence as a harm in public; making matters worse, scholars, courts, and the media have also blamed and shamed mothers for following tort law’s lead in this way.  

Although plaintiff-mothers often file suit because they lack the funds necessary to raise children with disabilities in an inadequate health care system, legal scholars have portrayed them as the messengers of discriminatory attitudes about disability and have even accused them of supporting eugenics.  Further, scholars have condemned plaintiff-mothers for allegedly failing to embrace, accept, and love their own children unconditionally.  

Noting that the current legal regime both stigmatizes disability and strains caretakers, Yakren's blog and article suggest needed legal reforms to acknowledge the complex reality and emotion strain of the situation.

March 4, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bill that bans abortions in Tennessee after fetal heart beat sails through House committee

The Tennessean (Feb. 26, 2019): Bill that bans abortions in Tennessee after fetal heart beat sails through House committee, by Anita Wadhwani:

A Tennessee House committee voted 15-4 in favor of a bill that would ban most abortions in that state, getting one step closer to a vote by the legislature on one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nations. Tuesday's vote in the health committee means the so-called "fetal heartbeat" ban moves on to a vote by the House of Representatives.

The bill bans nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs early in a pregnancy and usually before a woman knows she's pregnant. The bill includes a medical emergency exception.

A similar bill failed in 2017 after the state's attorney general determined it was "constitutionally suspect" and unlikely to survive legal challenges.

After the hearing, the ACLU of Tennessee announced it plans to file a lawsuit should the measure become law.

The bill includes no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest — a point Democratic lawmakers stressed during their remarks in the committee room that was packed with both supporters and opponents of the ban.

The ban redefines fetal viability as the point when a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically at about 6 weeks of pregnancy, and would make it a Class C felony for anyone to perform an abortion after this point, punishable by three to 15 years in prison and fine of up to $10,000.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee supports the bill.

February 27, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Trump Administration Adopts Domestic Gag Rule

Mother Jones (Feb. 22, 2019): A New HHS Rule Aims to Strip Planned Parenthood's Title X Funding, by Marisa Endicot:

Friday, the Trump Administration adopted a new rule that will bar family providers from participating in the federal Title X program if they also perform abortions in the same facilities.  The regulations will also prohibit providers participating in the program from giving abortion referrals. The rule has been criticized as an indirect way for the federal government to de-fund Planned Parenthood, which it has unable to do directly, and because it will cause participating health care providers to violate their ethical obligation to counsel patients in a non-directive manner and undermine  the doctor-patient relationship.

Planned Parenthood, which serves about 41% of Title X patients, has indicated that it will not accept Title X funding if the rule goes into effect because it would undermine providers' ethical obligations.  In addition to prohibiting abortion referrals, the rule eliminates a requirement that providers provide "non-directive counseling" and a November funding announcement elevated the importance of "natural family planning" and abstinence as Title X funding priorities. Critics are concerned that the rule may result in a shift of funding to religiously affiliated organizations that try to persuade women not to have abortions or use contraception.  The rule states that the requirement is "inconsistent with federal conscience laws" signaling that the Administration might prioritize funding religiously affiliated groups seeking to impose their beliefs on others rather than insuring that patients receive unbiased and medically accurate information in a government funding health program.

The rule will go into effect in 60 days after publication.  Legal challenges are expected.

February 23, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Black History Legacy: Honoring The Black Women Who Birthed Our Movements

Essence (Feb. 20, 2018): Black History Legacy: Honoring The Black Women Who Birthed Our Movements, by Cameron Glover:

"[N]aming the Black women who have metaphorically given birth to the movements that are so vital to social justice and our collective well-being is a necessary step toward truly celebrating Black excellence."

Here is a small reminder of important Black women and their organizations that have and are trailblazing the way toward reproductive justice:

SisterSong, a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, coined the term "reproductive justice" to specifically address the disparities in reproductive health care women of color face.

Defining reproductive justice as "the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities," SisterSong has worked in the Southern United States to fight states’ invasive abortion bill laws, which further restrict access to abortions. But the group has also worked to help communities of color get greater access to resources, education for improved reproductive health, and support for the personal choice to start a family or end a pregnancy. 

The Combahee River Collective.

The Combahee River Collective, a Black lesbian feminist group based in Boston from 1974-1980, highlighted mainstream feminism's problem with inclusivity. The Collective's legacy lives on today calling feminists to intersectionality and inclusivity.

Audre Lorde established the importance of "self-care."

Identified by Lorde as a method of self-preservation and as "an act of political warfare," Lorde's self-care is touted by activists fighting for reproductive rights and justice today as an essential element to centering their own well-being in the midst of the ongoing political fight.

Tarana Burke started the Me Too Movement many years before #metoo became a mainstream hashtag. 

The movement began as a way to increase awareness of sexual violence against Black women and girls. While the movement has grown into a larger conversation and is now often incorrectly credited to the White women who helped amplify the national conversation on sexual harassment and assault, it's important to know that the movement's origin lies with Tarana Burke, a Black woman empowering Black women. "This erasure is all too common for Black women, and it makes the push for centering and saying their names alongside the work they do both necessary and non-negotiable."

From SisterSong to the Combahee River Collective, from Audre Lorde to Tarana Burke, we must ensure that the Black women behind the movements that are vital to our understanding of sexuality and liberation are cited and credited. But the work is not done. We also need to make sure that publicly crediting these Black women becomes routine because, in light of the violence and discrimination that Black women face, these movements are some of the few ways that they will gain public acceptance. It’s time that we move Black women from behind the curtains and into the spotlight, celebrating them for their commitment to change and to centering those that need change most.

February 21, 2019 in Culture, Politics, Race & Reproduction, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Alaska Supreme Court upholds decision blocking restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortions

Jurist (Feb. 18, 2018): Alaska Supreme Court upholds decision blocking restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortions, by Jordan Ross:

The Alaska Supreme Court last week upheld a prior decision preventing the implementation of a 2013 regulation limiting Medicaid coverage of abortion in the state to circumstances either covered by the Hyde Act or deemed medically necessary by a physician.

The Hyde Amendment is a 1976 legislative provision that proscribes the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion except when necessary to save the life of the pregnant person or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. 

The lawsuit was brought by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and argued that the regulations violated the equal protection clause of Alaska’s constitution by discriminating against women choosing to have an abortion.

Planned Parenthood argued that the restrictive definition provided for the “medical necessity” of an abortion singled out the procedure from other Medicaid-funded services. By doing so, the regulations subjected women to discriminatory practices and violated their guarantee of equal protection. A superior court declared the laws unconstitutional and subsequently prevented the laws from taking effect. The state appealed, arguing the statute and regulation should be interpreted more leniently.

In the state's Supreme Court decision, the court reaffirmed the ruling of unconstitutionality. The court "stated the laws are under-inclusive, singling out abortion among other argued 'elective' procedures available to pregnant women." Furthermore, the regulation facially treated pregnant women differently based on their “exercise of reproductive choice,” the court said. As such, the state will not be permitted to enforce the Medicaid-limiting regulations. 

February 20, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, Medical News, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2019

'Rosie's law' aims to lift ban on Medicaid coverage of abortions in Texas

KXAN (Feb. 14, 2019): 'Rosie's law' aims to lift ban on Medicaid coverage of abortions, by Tulsi Kamath:

 Austin state representative Sheryl Cole recently introduced "Rosie's Law" in the Texas Legislature to expand insurance coverage for low-income Texans enrolled in the state's Medicaid program. 

"Rosie's Law repeals the prohibition on using state funds for abortion care, the Texas version of the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion care," Lilith Fund officials wrote in a press release. "This bill would add abortion care to the list of services for which Medicaid recipients area eligible."

The proposed bill is named after Rosie Jimenez, a woman who died in McAllen, TX in the late 1970s after she couldn't pay for a legal abortion and had to opt for a cheaper, unsafe option.

"We must fight hard for government assistance for those who just don't have it. We have to stand together as women, regardless of income, regardless of race, regardless of personal circumstances, because we as women are the anchors of our families," Rep. Cole said. "And as the anchors, we have to make sure we are in charge of those decisions and at the very least we don't die." 

Medicaid funding in Texas is currently only available for abortions in cases where the pregnancy is a product of rape or incest, or if there is danger to the life of the pregnant person or fetus, according to the press release.

February 15, 2019 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Campus Vending Machines Offer Emergency Contraception Without the Stigma

The Verge (Feb. 11, 2019): Campus vending machines offer emergency contraception without the stigma, by Lux Alptraum:

Thirteen years after a heated battle resulted in over-the-counter approval for emergency contraception, the product is finally shedding some of its stigma, and college campuses are leading the charge toward normalization.

In the fall of 2018, Yale’s Reproductive Justice Action League proposed a new plan to improve the health and wellness of its student population: emergency contraception vending machines. Unfortunately, the university announced that it was halting the plan because of a little-known state law banning vending machines from being used to distribute over-the-counter medications.

Similar laws exist around the country and are currently being challenged. This week, a bill was introduced in Maine at the request of students at the University of Southern Maine that would allow some over-the-counter medications — including emergency contraception — to be sold in vending machines.

But more broadly, says Alptraum, "there’s no denying that our national conversation about [emergency contraception] has undergone a major shift toward normalization: emergency contraception is now available at health clinics, drugstores, and, yes, in vending machines."

For students on isolated college campuses, though, distance is an additional hurdle, says Rachel Samuels, the Stanford alumna who led the charge for more accessible on-campus emergency contraception. At Stanford, Samuels says, the nearest pharmacy is about a 25-minute walk away with no guarantee that emergency contraception will be in stock. On rural campuses, access to pharmacies is usually even more limited.

When Stanford students began petitioning for on-campus access to emergency contraception a few years ago, they looked to vending machines as a solution. The result of that organizing is a small, high-tech vending machine called a Vengo that is located in the all-gender restroom in Stanford’s student center. It allows students to confidentially access My Way brand emergency contraception (and condoms) at any hour of the day. The pill costs $25, which is less than the $26 that the student health center charges or the $40 or $50 Plan B tends to retail for at pharmacies, though that’s more than twice what the same brand retails for on Amazon.

Still, in 2018, the machines sold 329 units of emergency contraception, and Stanford plans to add a second Vengo machine on campus in 2019. Vengo machines have also started dispensing EC at Columbia University in New York and George Mason University in Virginia.

February 13, 2019 in Contraception, Sexuality, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 11, 2019

An Overview of State Abortion Laws

NPR (Feb. 9, 2019): An Overview of State Abortion Laws, by NPR Weekend Edition Saturday:

On Saturday, NPR's Scott Simon spoke with Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News, about new abortion laws in state legislatures across the country.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Louisiana from enforcing a restrictive abortion law. The court will likely hear a challenge to the merits of that law this fall. Many states are moving to pass a number of new abortion laws to prepare for the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Rovner discussed efforts by anti-choice legislators to pass legislation in order to bring the issue of abortion to the Supreme Court again and again, as well as efforts by pro-choice legislators to safeguard abortion access in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. Rovner also discussed the Trump Administration's impending plans to "evict Planned Parenthood" from Title X, the federal family planing program.

Listen to the interview below:

February 11, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 9, 2019

In Nigeria, Trump administration policies bite hard

Devex (Feb. 5, 2019): In Nigeria, Trump administration policies bite hard, by Paul Adepoju: 

Trump's policies limiting reproductive rights and funding for reproductive health and education services continue to wreak havoc on foreign initiatives aimed at promoting family planning, slowing population growth, and educating girls and women.

Nigerian hospitals and NGOs are facing severe shortages of reproductive health supplies since Trump both cut funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and implemented the "global gag rule," withdrawing funding from any agency that offers abortion-related education or services. 

Nigeria, a middle-income country facing a population boom, lost over 60% of its funding for family planning supplies and services in the year after Trump pulled UNFPA funding. "In 2016, when UNFPA got its last support from the U.S. government, it was able to spend $15,444,880 on family planning in Nigeria. In 2017, it spent just $6,132,632."

Trump justified these funding cuts by promulgating theories that the UNFPA cooperated with coercive abortions and involuntary sterilization, which the UNFPA categorically denies and is readily backed up by multiple human rights organizations.

The rate of contraceptive usage in Nigeria is already very low, and the African country also faces one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. 

Several organizations--including Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network--are on-the-ground in Nigeria working to educate women and provide safe and reliable access to health care to shift these statistics. Their work, though, has been severely limited by the loss of funding as a result of U.S. policies under the Trump administration. 

Erin Williams, program officer for grantmaking and international partnerships at the International Women's Health Coalition, told Devex: 

As a result [of these policies], Nigerian health services will continue to fragment, deteriorate, and decrease, increasing the burden on vulnerable women and girls in search of comprehensive and quality health care. More women will look for contraceptive and pregnancy alternatives outside the medical and legal system.

While much of the justification for pulling U.S. funding relies on anti-abortion ideology, the implications of the policies are much farther-reaching than "just" abortion. Nigeria has slowed in its ability to address maternal health needs generally, including instances of gender-based violence, as well in its ability to address wide-reaching disease concerns like the spread of malaria and tuberculosis. Furthermore, the policy-shift has actually led to increased numbers of abortions throughout Sub-Saharan Africa in the countries hit hardest by the loss of funding. 

Congress this week is set to introduce the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, which would repeal the global gag rule permanently and help to ensure consistent reproductive health care around the world. It is unlikely to be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, however, or to be signed by Trump. 

February 9, 2019 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Contraception, Current Affairs, International, Medical News, Politics, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, President/Executive Branch, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 8, 2019

NY’s Reproductive Health Act is Not Radical; It Simply Recognizes that the Lives and Dignity of Pregnant People Count Too

NY’s Reproductive Health Act is Not Radical; It Simply Recognizes that the Lives and Dignity of Pregnant People Count Too (Feb. 7, 2019), by Cynthia Soohoo:

Not surprisingly, President Trump’s attack on New York’s Reproductive Health Act during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address blatantly mischaracterized the RHA. But it also underscores a glaring gap in anti-abortion advocates’ pro-life views -- the right to life and dignity of people who are pregnant.

The RHA continues to recognize a state interest in fetal life and prohibits abortions after 24 weeks in almost all circumstances. However, the law also recognizes that in some situations, denying a pregnant person the ability to end a pregnancy imposes serious and irreparable harm on her, including situations where the pregnancy endangers her life and health. And in those situations, the state cannot force the pregnant woman to continue the pregnancy against her will. This is consistent with current Supreme Court jurisprudence and international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Committee made this explicit in a recent General Comment clarifying that while states can regulate abortions, they should not do so in a manner that violates the right to life of the pregnant person or her fundamental human rights.

The RHA does no more than protect the human rights of pregnant people. The law only allows abortions post-24 weeks in two situations. First, abortions are allowed where the fetus will not survive outside of the womb. The RHA recognizes that a woman should not be forced to continue what was often a wanted pregnancy -- knowing that the fetus will not survive -- against her will. In such cases, the state’s interest in protecting a viable fetus is not at issue, and human rights experts have held that denying a woman access to an abortion in these circumstances is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  

Second, the RHA allows a woman to have an abortion where continuing the pregnancy endangers her life or health. Some women may choose to continue pregnancies in these circumstances. But the RHA acknowledges that the pregnant person must be allowed to make her own choice taking into account the risk that she faces and the impact her death or disability would have on her family and community.

In both situations covered by the RHA, human rights experts have held that state denial of an abortion violates the human rights of the pregnant person. In fact, concern over state prohibition of abortions in those circumstances led UN human rights experts to write to the U.S. to encourage passage of laws like the Reproductive Health Act. This is not a radical position. It is merely the recognition of the value of the life and dignity of pregnant people. The failure of critics of the RHA to understand this is a glaring gap in their “pro-life” views.

February 8, 2019 in Abortion, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, President/Executive Branch, Reproductive Health & Safety, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Restrictions

The New York Times (Feb. 7, 2018): Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Restrictions, by Adam Liptak:

The Supreme Court blocked the Louisiana admitting-privileges law that Justice Alito issued a stay for just last week in June Medical Services v. Gee

The law would have effectively limited the abortion providers in the state of Louisiana to one, by requiring such providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Many hospitals either would not extend such privileges or were not in the required 30-mile radius of the abortion-providing clinics at risk under the law. While initially passed in 2014, the Louisiana law has been entangled in lawsuits ever since. SCOTUS struck down a similar statute in Texas in 2016 in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt

The Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the Louisiana law, but it may ultimately decide to take the case for full review.  This would allow the Court to reconsider the clarification provided by Hellerstedt on the "undue burden" standard, initially implemented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). This standard says that legislation that has either the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the way of a pregnant person seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion creates an undue burden on them, and is therefore unconstitutional. Medically unnecessary laws that offer minimal, if any, health benefits to pregnant persons while increasing their obstacles to seeking an abortion constitute "undue burdens."

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing.

February 8, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP), Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Gov. Cuomo Fires Back on Attacks to NY's Reproductive Health Act

During last night's State of the Union Address, President Trump singled out New York for passage of the Reproductive Health Act.  Governor Cuomo fired back this morning with an op ed in the New York Times stating that "Mr. Trump and the religious right are spreading falsehoods about New York’s law to inflame their base. Activists on the far right continue to mislead with the ridiculous claim that the act will allow abortions up to a minute before birth."

Although the RHA doing little more than codifying current constitutional protections and making it clear that a woman can have an abortion after 24 weeks if the fetus will not survive outside the womb, there has been a steady criticism of New York and Virginia where a similar law is being considered. 

In addition to calling out President Trump, Cuomo's op ed attempts to clarify what the RHA does:

The Reproductive Health Act guarantees a woman's right to abortion in the first 24 weeks of a pregnancy or when the fetus is not viable, and permits it afterward only when a woman's life or health is threatened or at risk. Contrary to what its detractors claim, the Reproductive Health Act does not allow abortions minutes before birth, nor does it allow third-trimester abortions “for any reason.” Third-trimester procedures are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions. The option is available for exactly the reason stated in Roe and successor cases: to protect the life or health of the woman.

 

 

February 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Supreme Court Temporarily Stays LA Admitting Privileges Law

Vox (Feb. 2, 2019): Supreme Court blocks Louisiana's Stringent Abortion Law -  but only for a few days, by Amanda Sakuma:

Late Friday, the Supreme Court issued an ordering staying a 5th Circuit decision which would have allowed a Louisiana admitting privileges law to go into effect. The emergency stay was issued by Justice Alito to give the Supreme Court more time to decide an emergency stay application. The current stay expires on Feb. 7.

The case is being closely watched because the Louisiana law, which requires that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges with a hospital within 30 miles from where an abortion is performed, is similar to a Texas restriction that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016 in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.  The district court judge that initially heard the case found that the Louisiana law imposed an undue burden on abortion access noting that if the law went into effect there would only be one doctor able to perform abortions left in the state, but a 3 judge panel of the 5th Circuit reversed in a 2-1 decision.

The Louisiana case creates an opportunity for the Supreme Court to reverse or substantially narrow Whole Woman's Health , which was decided before Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court.

 

 

February 2, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Idaho legislators seek to criminalize abortion

East Idaho News (Jan. 30, 2019): Idaho legislators seek to make abortion murder, by Mark Price:

Rep. Heather Scott, (R-Blanchard), and freshman Rep. John Green, (R-Post Falls), released a draft of a bill that would repeal the Idaho statute exempting women or anyone participating in abortion from being charged with murder.

By repealing the exemption, any abortion, without exception, performed in Idaho would be considered murder. The woman who has the abortion and the person who performs the abortion could both be prosecuted for murder.

“We either define life as a fetus, or we don’t,” Scott said. “A woman can go out of state if she needs an abortion. But we just wouldn’t do it in our state. We’ll protect life in our state.”

Green said he rejects the idea the bill would go against federal law or Roe v. Wade. The 1973 United States Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion across the country.

The proposed legislation would not allow the prosecution of anyone who has had or participated in an abortion in the past.

Sen. Dan Foreman (R-Moscow) proposed a similar bill in 2017. The bill would have charged women who had and doctors who performed abortions with first-degree murder. It did not find traction during the session.

January 31, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)