Monday, January 21, 2019
Rewire.news (Jan. 16, 2019): Lawsuit: Pennsylvania's Medicaid Abortion Coverage Ban is Unconstitutional, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:
Perhaps signaling a turn towards state courts strategies, last week the Women's Law Project filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's ban on Medicaid abortion coverage alleging violation of the Pennsylvania constitution. Like the federal government's Hyde Amendment, Pennsylvania law prohibits the use of state Medicaid funds to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest or where the pregnancy endangers a woman's life.
The lawsuit alleges that the ban on funding violates Pennsylvania's Equal Rights Amendment.
“Pennsylvania’s ban on Medicaid coverage of abortion is a decades-long injustice that deprives low-income women of reproductive health care in violation of the state Constitution’s Equal Rights Amendment,” Susan J. Frietsche, senior staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project, said in a statement. “The coverage ban discriminates on the basis of sex because Medicaid comprehensively covers men’s health care but not women’s. It inflicts severe harm on women because of their reproductive capacity, and it does so in service to discredited sex-role stereotypes that continue to limit women’s equal participation in society."
The lawsuit seeks reversal of a 1985 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case that ruled that the abortion funding restrictions do not violate the state constitution.
Monday, January 14, 2019
The Inquirer (Jan. 14, 2019): Philly judge blocks Trump efforts to rollback birth control mandate, Jeremy Roebuck:
One day after a California judge issued a temporary injunction preventing new Trump Administration regulations expanding employers' ability to opt out of the ACA's contraceptive mandate from going into effect in 13 states and D.C., a Philadelphia court issued a nationwide injunction.
According to the Inquirer, in granting a temporary injunction, Judge Wendy Beetlestone
concluded that the Trump administration’s new regulations run counter both to government rule-making procedures and the intent of Congress in crafting the Obama administration’s signature healthcare law.
“The breadth of the exemptions set out in the [regulations] is remarkable," she wrote. "The ... religious exemption allows all non-profit and for-profit entities, whether closely held or publicly traded, to deny contraceptive coverage based on sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The regulations also would permit all employers, except publicly traded corporations, and private colleges and universities to deny contraceptive coverage on "moral grounds."
New York Times (January 14, 2019): Judge Blocks Trump's Attempt to Roll Back Birth Control Mandate, by Matt Stevens:
Yesterday, a federal judge in Oakland issued a preliminary injunction preventing new rules that would allow employers to opt out of the ACA's contraceptive mandate from going into effect in 13 states and D.C. The new rules will go into effect in the other 37 states that were not party to the lawsuit.
Under the ACA, employers and insurers providing health care are required to cover preventative services, including FDA approved contraceptives, free of charge. The Obama Administration initially provided exemptions for churches and non-profit religious organizations. Following the Supreme Court's 2014 Hobby Lobby case, the exemptions were expanded to include privately held for profit corporations.
The regulations challenged by the lawsuit significantly broaden the scope of the exemptions by allowing all types of employers to opt out based on religious objection and all employers except publicly traded corporations to opt out based on moral objections. The judge issued the preliminary injunction based on a finding that the rules were not "in accordance with" the ACA.
The states that are party to the lawsuit are California,Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
BBC News (Dec. 18, 2018): El Salvador court frees woman jailed under anti-abortion laws, by BBC News:
A woman who was jailed for attempted murder under El Salvador's strict anti-abortion laws has been freed.
Imelda Cortez, 20, says she became pregnant by her stepfather who sexually abused her for many years. Doctors suspected she had tried to perform an abortion after she gave birth to a baby girl in a latrine in April 2017. The child survived, but Imelda Cortez was arrested and spent more than 18 months in jail as she awaited trial. Prosecutors argued that her failure to tell anyone about the pregnancy and seek medical help after giving birth constituted attempted murder, which carries a possible 20-year sentence in El Salvador.
On Monday, however, a court ruled that Cortez, who was unaware that she was pregnant, had not sought an abortion. Cortez's lawyers said that to avoid a harsher sentence, she had admitted to neglecting her newborn baby, which carries a one-year jail term. The court ultimately decided to dismiss that offense and told Cortez she was free to go home.
"This sentence... represents hope for women who are still in prison and are also being tried for aggravated homicide," defense attorney Ana Martinez told reporters following the verdict.
El Salvador is one of several countries in the world where abortion is completely banned and carries heavy penalties. While the country is not alone in Latin America in having a total ban on abortions, it is particularly strict in the way it enforces the ban: doctors have to inform the authorities if they think a woman has tried to end her pregnancy. If they fail to report such cases, they too could face long sentences in jail.
Human rights groups are calling this enforcement of the ban a criminalization of miscarriages and medical emergencies, with more than 100 people convicted in El Salvador since 2000.
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Greenville News (Dec. 4, 2018): South Carolina's anti-abortion lawmakers say they’ll push for stricter laws in 2019, by Tom Barton & Avery G. Wilks, The State:
Conservative state lawmakers in South Carolina say they will push for a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected when the full General Assembly reconvenes in January. If it becomes law, the proposal effectively would bar most abortions in South Carolina and could set up a showdown in the federal courts.
“It’s a common-sense bill. If a heart stops beating permanently, the person is dead,” said state Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, who plans to file the fetal heartbeat bill in the South Carolina House. “Common sense should tell us that when a heart is beating, we have a precious human life that should not be terminated.”
The proposed law would ban nearly all abortions after a fetus has a detectable heartbeat — as early as six weeks in a pregnancy. That would be about two weeks after a woman’s first missed period, and well before many women realize they are pregnant, said Vicki Ringer, the public affairs director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
More than 60 percent of the roughly 5,100 abortions performed in South Carolina in 2017 occurred after six weeks of gestation or post-fertilization, according to the latest data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Iowa passed a fetal heartbeat bill this spring, among the strictest abortion laws in the country. But that law is on hold for now as opponents challenge it in court. North Dakota and Arkansas passed similar laws, only to see them overturned by federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the lower court rulings, but that could possibly change with Justice Brett Kavanaugh now on the court
Efforts to pass a fetal heartbeat law in South Carolina have thus far failed. Bills introduced in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018 all died without reaching the House or Senate floor.
The proposal faces a tough road to passage again this year, especially in the state Senate, where Republicans hold a majority but Democrats can filibuster controversial bills and block them. Last year, Senate Democrats took turns stalling a vote on an outright abortion ban for days until Republicans gave in and dropped the proposal.
Anti-choice lawmakers in the General Assembly also plan to reintroduce a ban on dilation & extraction, also known as a D&E ban, as well as the sweeping "Personhood Act," which would establish that fetuses have legal rights at the moment of conception, banning almost all abortions.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has promised to sign anti-choice legislation into law.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
More than 5,500 women came to Illinois to have an abortion last year, amid growing restrictions in the Midwest
Chicago Tribune (Nov. 30, 2018): More than 5,500 women came to Illinois to have an abortion last year amid growing restrictions in the Midwest, by Angie Leventis Lourgos:
More women are crossing state lines to have abortions in Illinois, according to the latest statistics from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Last year, 5,528 women traveled to Illinois from other states to obtain abortion care, almost one thousand more than the 4,543 women who came from out of state in 2016. The total number of abortions statewide during the same period increased slightly, from 38,382 in 2016 to 39,329 in 2017, according to annual state reports. Of those, about 1,000 abortions each year were provided to women whose home states were marked “unknown.”
Illinois is generally considered a reproductive rights haven amid the more restrictive Midwest, where women often face waiting periods, gestational limits, fewer clinics and other hurdles.
Within the Midwest, the availability of abortion providers differed drastically state by state. For example, Illinois had about two dozen clinics, roughly one for every 120,135 women of reproductive age. By contrast, in neighboring Wisconsin researchers found three facilities providing abortions, about one for every 423,590 women, according to data collected in early 2017.
Edwin Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said the rise in out-of-state travel for abortion “fits a pattern that we have seen the past few years.”
“While other states in the Midwest have imposed increasing restrictions and limitations on the ability of a woman to access health care, including abortion care, Illinois has largely moved to keep such health care more accessible,” he said. “As a state that imposes relatively fewer unnecessary and punitive barriers, we should expect women to seek care in Illinois.”
Friday, November 30, 2018
NPR (Nov. 26, 2018): For Doctors Who Want To Provide Abortions, Employment Contracts Often Tie Their Hands, by Mara Gordon:
As the federal government has recently worked to beef up protections for doctors who choose not to provide abortions because of their religious beliefs, doctors who would like to provide abortions are often prohibited from doing so because of the religious beliefs of their employers.
Since the 1970s, "conscience protections" have protected clinicians who do not want to provide or assist in abortions keep their jobs. Religious hospitals can also refuse to provide abortion or sterilization procedures without risking government funding. However, there are few protections for doctors who would like to provide abortions from having their employers' religious beliefs against abortions being imposed on them.
Religious hospitals often prohibit their doctors from performing abortions — even if they do so at unaffiliated clinics, says Noel León, a lawyer with the National Women's Law Center. León was hired about two years ago to help physicians who want to be abortion providers. They have little in the way of legal protection, she says.
"Institutions are using the institutional religious and moral beliefs to interfere with employees' religious and moral beliefs," León says.
This has become a serious issue as hospital mergers have increased Catholic-affiliated health care. When doctors who work for religious hospitals are forced to sign contracts to "uphold religious values," it makes it more difficult for abortion clinics, which often rely on doctors working part-time, to operate. According to a 2016 MergerWatch study, 14.5% of acute hospitals are Catholic-owned or affiliated.
León has worked with at least 30 physicians and nurse practitioners from 20 different states who faced problems when they told their employers, or potential employers, that they planned to provide abortions.
"They're being told, 'We can't provide the care we went into medicine to provide,' " León says. "We shouldn't be putting providers in the position of caring for their patients or keeping their jobs."
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
NPR (Nov. 21, 2018): U.S. Judge Strikes Down Mississippi Law That Bans Abortion After 15 Weeks, by Emily Sullivan,
A district court judge permanently enjoined a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks with exceptions for medical emergencies and severe fetal abnormalities. Although the state tried to argue that the law did not impose an undue burden, the court recognized that the law was a ban and not a regulation and emphasized that, "[t]he record is clear: States may not ban abortions prior to viability; 15 weeks [since a woman's last menstrual period] is prior to viability."
The decision also invalidates a 15-week ban in Louisiana, which would only go into effect if the Mississippi law survived court challenge.
Judge Carlton Reeves expressed some frustration with the Mississippi legislature for passing a law that was so clearly unconstitutional.
"The State chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade," Reeves wrote. "This Court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature."
He also expressed skepticism about the legislature's purported interest in women's health when the legislature has failed to do anything to address the state's "alarming infant and maternal mortality rate."
If Mississippi decides to continue its challenge to Roe v. Wade, the next stop will be the Fifth Circuit.
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Rewire (Nov. 12, 2018): Self-managed Abortion Highlights Need to Decriminalize Abortion Worldwide, by Patty Skuster, Kinga Jelinska and Susan Yanow:
In a recent commentary published in Rewire News, Patty Skuster, Kinga Jelinska and Susan Yanow argue that decades-old abortion laws around the world fail to reflect the advent of the abortion pill which allows women to safely end pregnancies outside of a clinical setting. According to the Skuster, Jelinska and Yanow:
Abortion laws around the world fail to accommodate practice. Most of the world’s abortion laws are decades-old, reflecting the science of their time and legislators’ politics to control women’s bodies. For the most part, laws criminalize abortion overall but then carve out protections for certain clinicians, deemed adequately skilled to provide abortion legally at the time the law was written.
Currently all countries other than Canada and China criminalize abortion outside of the health system. The authors point out that criminalization of self-managed abortion should be prohibited from a harm reduction and a human rights perspective.
Laws change slowly, and abortion laws are no exception. As medical technology continues to develop and communities make use of these technologies, many abortion laws remain rooted in the power relations and medicalized technology at their time of their inception, criminalizing abortion provided with later-developed safe methods. Abortion pills provide a perfect example of a technology that has outpaced current legal restrictions—which may have been originally intended to promote health and safety, but now impede progress.
Friday, November 16, 2018
WLWT5 (Nov. 15, 2018): 'Heartbeat bill,' which puts limits on abortions, passes through Ohio House:
On Thursday, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill which would ban abortions as soon a fetal heartbeat is detected which can be as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy. The bill now moves on to the Ohio Senate. The Ohio legislature passed a similar bill in 2016. However, former Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed the bill because it is unconstitutional. Ohio governor-elect Mike DeWine has said that he will sign the bill if passed.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
AP (Nov. 12, 2018): More women in poor countries use contraception, says report, by Ignatius Ssuuna and Rodney Muhumuza:
A report released this week states that modern contraception is effectively expanding and becoming more commonplace in developing countries throughout the world.
The report--issued by Family Planning 2020, a U.N.-backed international advocacy group--cites that there are 46 million more users of contraception in the world's 69 poorest countries in 2018 than there were in 2012.
Access to modern contraception helped prevent over 119 million unintended pregnancies and averted 20 million unsafe abortions between July 2017 and July 2018, although populations continue to soar across Africa and other low income countries, the report said.
'The best way to overcome this challenge of rapid population growth is by giving women and girls (the) opportunity to decide how many children they want to have,' Beth Schlachter, executive director of Family Planning 2020, told The Associated Press.
Many of the countries included in the report are in sub-Saharan Africa. The birth rate in this part of the world is about 5.1 births per woman, according to a recent U.N. global population report. "Over half of the global population growth between now and 2050 will take place in Africa, according to U.N. figures." Despite the growing fertility rates in Africa, contraceptive use is growing fastest in this region of the world as well.
Options for various contraceptive methods--including short-term, long-lasting, emergency, and permanent--have significantly expanded in many of the countries analyzed in the report.
Many millions of people who wish to delay or prevent pregnancy, however, still do not have adequate access to birth control. Lack of information--including perceived side-effects of medications as well as societal disapproval--deter many from finding the right contraceptive method for them.
The goal of Family Planning 2020 is to bring contraception to "120 million more women and girls in developing countries by the year 2020." Donors have committed millions of dollars to meet this goal.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
The Guardian (Nov. 12, 2018): Woman who bore rapist’s baby faces 20 years in El Salvador jail, by Nina Lakhani:
In the wake of fetal personhood, or similar, ballot measures being proposed and passed throughout the U.S., it's important to look to other countries where abortion is criminalized to see the effects of living in a world where abortion and those who seek or perform them are punished.
A survivor of habitual sexual abuse by her grandfather has been imprisoned in El Salvador since April 2017 on charges of attempted murder. Last April, Imelda Cortez, then 20-years-old, gave birth to a child fathered by her rapist. She experienced intense pain and bleeding before the birth, which caused her mother to bring her to the hospital. The doctors there suspected an attempted abortion and called the police. The baby was born alive and well, but Imelda has never been able to hold her, as she's been in custody since her time in the hospital last year.
Authorities conducted a paternity test, which confirmed Imelda's claims of rape, yet her grandfather has not been charged with any crime. Imelda's criminal trial began this week and a decision from a three judge panel is expected next week.
Abortion is illegal in all circumstances--no exceptions--in El Salvador. The strict ban has led to severe persecution of pregnant people throughout the country, often most heavily affecting impoverished, rural-living people. Most people accused of abortion simply experienced a pregnancy complication, including miscarriage and stillbirth.
This pattern of prosecutions targeting a particular demographic suggests a discriminatory state policy which violates multiple human rights, according to Paula Avila-Guillen, director of Latin America Initiatives at the New York based Women’s Equality Centre. Cortez’s case is a stark illustration of how the law criminalises victims.
Abortion has been criminalized in El Salvador for 21 years. While a bill was drafted nearly two years ago--with public and medical support--aiming to reform the system and relax the ban to allow the option of abortion at least in certain cases (for example, rape, human trafficking, an unviable fetus, or threat to a pregnant person's life), it remains stuck in committee and is not expected to make it to vote.
November 13, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, In the Courts, International, Politics, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, November 9, 2018
The Cut (Nov. 8, 2018): What the Election Results Mean for Abortion in America, by Irin Carmon:
"Tuesday’s results were messy and contradictory, just like the current reality of reproductive rights," writes Irin Carmon for The Cut.
With federal courts failing to protect abortion access, it will be up to the states to give and take away. “We made huge gains at the state level, which is going to be crucially important as we face the post-Roe reality,” says NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. Exit polls showed broad support for Roe v. Wade, but Republican voters in states like Indiana and North Dakota were motivated by Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to vote Republican.
First, the bad: the Senate and the federal judiciary "are gone." Republicans took a firm majority in the Senate, which has the sole authority to select federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Should Donald Trump have the chance to make another pick for the Supreme Court justice, writes Carmon, "the impact would be catastrophic."
Plenty of damage has and still can be done by Trump-controlled federal agencies, too. Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules to limit abortion coverage on insurance plans on the exchange and to grant employers broad ability to opt out of including birth control in their plans.
But the good news is that without Republican control of the House, no major legislation restricting access to contraception or birth control — including defunding Planned Parenthood or a ban on abortion at 20 weeks — is likely to go anywhere.
At the state level, pro-choice Democrats didn’t lose a single governor’s seat and actually picked up seven seats. Former governors in some of the those states — like Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin — were zealous in limiting abortion access, making the replacements especially significant. Blue states also saw a total of 300 state legislature seats flipping Democratic, paving the way for stronger protections for abortion access.
In New York, eight state Senate seats went to Democrats, after a concerted campaign highlighted Republican opponents’ refusal to a Reproductive Health Act that would safeguard abortion liberty in New York in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. Democrats now control the New York State Senate for the first time in a decade.
Some Republican supermajorities, which can override vetoes, were shrunk to simple majorities. Perhaps most promisingly, pro-choice champions won in red states, like Colin Allred in Texas. In Orange County, California, 31-year-old Katie Hill, who spoke openly about how her miscarriage at 18 had informed her support for reproductive freedom, bested the anti-abortion Steve Knight.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
TIME (Nov. 7, 2018): Voters in Two States Approved Abortion Restrictions on Tuesday, by Abigail Abrams:
Two out of three states that were considering adding restrictions on abortion approved ballot measures on Tuesday.
Alabama and West Virginia approved measures that would significantly restrict access to abortion care if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Another measure in Oregon failed.
In Alabama, voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that would effectively give a fetus the same rights as a person who has been born. Amendment 2 would add language to the Alabama constitution that would “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”
Abortion rights advocates worry this could make it more difficult for women to get access to abortion through the courts or that it could lead to criminalizing contraception or in-vitro fertilization. Other states have passed similar amendments, but Alabama’s is especially restrictive and does not include exceptions for incest, rape or life of the mother.
In West Virginia, the “No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment”, or Amendment 1, would explicitly change the state’s Constitution to read “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
The amendment would effectively mean that people in West Virginia do not have a right to abortions with Medicaid funding. Medicaid in the state currently covers abortions considered medically necessary, but the amendment does not include such an exception.
Finally, in Oregon, Measure 106 would have prohibited public funds from paying for abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest or threats to the pregnant person’s health. Voters in the state rejected the measure on Tuesday. The measure would have meant that public employees and people on Medicaid could not get coverage for abortion care in the state.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
FiveThirtyEight (Oct. 31, 2018): Abortion May Be Mobilizing More Democratic Voters Than Republicans Now, by Daniel Cox:
Two new surveys reveal a remarkable shift in how important the issue of abortion is to Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm election this Tuesday, November 6.
A recent PRRI survey found that nearly half (47 percent) of Democrats said abortion is a critically important issue to them personally; 40 percent of Republicans said the same. That represents a dramatic swing since 2015, when 36 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans said abortion was a critical concern. Democrats are almost twice as likely today as in 2011 to rate the issue as critical.
Meanwhile, a recent Pew poll showed that abortion is a far more central voting concern for Democrats today than it has been at any point in the last decade — 61 percent of Democratic voters said abortion is very important to their vote this year. In 2008, only 38 percent of Democratic voters said the same.
Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court appears to have elevated the perceived threat level to the right to abortion. A PRRI poll conducted during Kavanaugh's confirmation process found that nearly two-thirds of Democrats believed that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Another likely reason for the rising concern among Democrats, Cox reasons, is the years-long campaign to curb abortion access at the state level.
Cox also finds that reproductive health care has taken a more central place in the Democratic agenda as women, particularly young women, have taken on more prominent roles in the party. Many Democratic women, Cox writes, see abortion access as inextricably linked to the financial security and autonomy of women.
However, polls show that when most Democrats make voting decisions, they still weigh the issue against a host of competing concerns, such as other health care issues and the environment. It is not a litmus-test issue for most Republican or Democratic voters. Only 21 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats say they would only ever support a candidate whose views on abortion align with their own, according to a PRRI poll.
Democrats are likely to continue to prioritize abortion so long as its legal status appears to be threatened and access to it is limited. This may mean that fewer Republicans campaign on their explicit opposition to abortion, at least in the short-term. Conservative Christians, who have worked for decades to overturn Roe, have been conspicuously tight-lipped about abortion in recent months, indicating that they are worried about the possible political fallout of discussing their views. The 2018 election will show if that strategy comes too late and the abortion issue has given Democratic voters another reason to head to the polls.
November 6, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, November 2, 2018
Rewire.News (Nov. 1, 2018): Abortion Is on the Ballot in These States Next Week, by Lauren Holter:
Midterm voting is already well underway throughout the country with election day officially falling on Tuesday, November 6. While the citizenry waits to see whether Republicans or Democrats will next control their state legislatures, next week's elections will also implicate specific issues in addition to deciding our leaders. Abortion rights are on the ballot in Alabama, Oregon, and West Virginia.
Alabama's ballot measure proposes "personhood" rights for fetuses, which could criminalize access to certain contraceptives or in vitro fertilization. The measure, if passed, would act as a "trigger ban"and would completely outlaw abortion under the circumstances of a post-Roe world. Similar ballot measures have previously been proposed--and failed--in Colorado, Mississippi, and North Dakota. Republican legislators in Alabama want the state Constitution to explicitly elevate the rights of unborn fetuses over any right to an abortion. The Amendment does not include any exceptions to a prohibition on abortion--not even in the cases of threat to the mother's life.
In West Virginia, the No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment also aims to update their state Constitution. Lawmakers wish for the text to explicitly assert that nothing in the instrument protects the right to or funding for an abortion. The state already has a pre-Roe abortion ban that remains on the books, which would enter into force should Roe v. Wade be overturned, criminalizing abortion and punishing providers with imprisonment. The new Amendment proposal focuses on eliminating Medicaid funding for abortions. Medicaid currently covers "medically-necessary" abortions in West Virginia. While the Amendment does include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or threats to life, opponents are particularly concerned that the new restriction would disproportionately harm low-income patients who do not qualify for exemptions.
Finally, the proposal in Oregon, called Measure 106, "would prohibit public funds from paying for abortions in Oregon except in cases of rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, or a threat to the pregnant person’s health." Public employees and people on Medicaid would lose access to abortion as well. This measure would specifically override the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which Oregon passed last year to guarantee cost-free access to abortion and reproductive health services.
In the era of a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, advocates are particularly zealous about preemptively protecting abortion access on the state level, and those involved in these three states' campaigns are no exception.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
UN Human Rights Committee Recognizes That Criminalization and Denial of Abortion Access Violates Human Rights
(Nov. 1, 2018) UN Human Rights Committee Recognizes That Criminalization and Denial of Abortion Access Violates Human Rights, by Cynthia Soohoo:
While U.S. politicians continue to talk about criminally prosecuting women who have abortions and the Trump Administration seeks to provide greater protections for health care providers who refuse to provide abortion and other health services for religious reasons, a respected U.N. human rights body has made it clear that governments should not criminalize individuals for terminating their own pregnancy or abortion providers and that the governments must ensure that “conscience claims” do not create a barrier preventing access safe and legal abortion.
This week, the U.N. Human Rights Committee released General Comment 36 “on the right to life," which provides an authoritative interpretation of human rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). In addition to addressing the death penalty, the use of deadly force by law enforcement and assisted suicide, the Comment summarizes current human rights standards on access to abortion. The Comment recognizes that access to abortion is not just a privacy right and that prohibiting pregnant people from voluntarily terminating their pregnancies can also violate the right to life and health of a pregnant person (in cases where the pregnancy endangers their life or health) and that in certain situations forcing a pregnant person to continue a pregnancy against their will can be torture or cruel inhuman and degrading treatment.
The General Comment provides that while governments can adopt measures designed to regulate abortion “such measures must not result in violation of the right to life of a pregnant woman or girl, or her other rights.” Any state "restrictions on the ability of women or girls to seek abortion" cannot “jeopardize their lives, subject them to physical or mental pain or suffering . . . discriminate against them or arbitrarily interfere with their privacy.” The Comment reflects Concluding Observations made to state parties to the ICCPR by the Human Rights Committee as well as decisions the Committee has issued stating that a woman must have safe, legal, and effective access to abortion where (1) the pregnancy endangers her life or health, (2) where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or (3) where the pregnancy is not viable. Other UN Human Rights bodies have issued similar Concluding Observations and decisions.
Further, because governments must not regulate abortion in a way that results in women or girls undertaking unsafe abortion, the Comment provides that states “should not take measures such as criminalizing pregnancies by unmarried women or apply criminal sanctions against women and girls undergoing abortion or against medical service providers assisting them in doing so, since taking such measures compel women and girls to resort to unsafe abortion.” (footnote omitted)
Finally, the Comment recognizes that while governments can regulate abortion, they should not introduce new barriers and must remove existing barriers that deny effective access to safe and legal abortion. In particular, the Comment provides that states should remove “barriers caused as a result of the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers.”
The U.S. ratified the ICCPR in 1992. Its next report to the Human Rights Committee is due in 2019.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Gizmodo (Oct. 22, 2018): FDA Investigation Targets Website That Mails Abortion Pills to Women in the U.S., by Melanie Ehrenkranz:
Aid Access, a website established by Women on Web founder Rebecca Gomperts, is the target of a new Food and Drug Administration investigation, as reported by The Daily Beast.
Aid Access requires women to fill out a consultation form online stating that they are no more than nine weeks pregnant. For women who pass the online screening process–they must say they are less than ten weeks pregnant, and live within one hour of a hospital – Gomperts, a doctor, fills the prescriptions herself and sends them to a pharmacy in India. The group has already mailed medication abortion to about 600 women.
The FDA investigation, the agency says, was triggered by the website's sale of mifepristone.
“Mifepristone, including Mifeprex, for termination of pregnancy is not legally available over the Internet,” the FDA said in a statement to Gizmodo. “The agency takes the allegations related to the sale of mifepristone in the U.S. through online distribution channels very seriously and is evaluating the allegations to assess potential violations of U.S. law.”
The FDA says that only approved health care providers can prescribe and offer mifepristone, and that the pill can only be dispensed in certain health care settings including “clinics, medical offices and hospitals, by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber.”
Gomperts told The Atlantic that Aid Access is legal because the FDA allows the importation of medicine for personal use. Mifeprex, the brand name for mifepristone, has been FDA-approved since 2000. The FDA, however, subjects mifepristone to a strict distribution protocol, which prevents it from being sold online or in retail pharmacies.
Numerous medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have challenged the FDA protocol, saying it is outdated and inconsistent with the requirements for other drugs with even greater risks.
Monday, October 22, 2018
The Guardian (Oct. 17, 2018): Queensland parliament votes to legalise abortion, by Ben Smee:
Abortion will become legal in Queensland after the Australian state’s parliament voted to support new legislation and erase a 119-year-old “morality” section of its criminal code.
Loud cheers in the legislative assembly chamber on Wednesday evening brought an end to a 50-year struggle by women’s groups in a state once notorious for its conservative politics.
Abortion was codified as an “offence against morality” under the Queensland criminal code, which the current premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said in parliament was written before women had the right to vote.
Both the Labor and the Liberal National party granted their members a conscience vote, and most expected a close result. In the end, the laws passed 50-41.
Abortion will become legal until 22 weeks gestation, and after 22 weeks with the approval of two doctors. Safe access zones will restrict protesters and people who harass patients from coming within 150 meters of abortion clinics. Doctors under the law may refuse to treat a woman on moral grounds, but will also be legally required to refer patients to another medical practitioner.
Children by Choice, the all-options counselling service, was at the forefront of debates about abortion in Queensland for decades.
“Children by Choice has been fighting for this important reform to cruel and archaic laws since 1972 and we are so proud of all of the people who have advocated on behalf of Queenslanders who couldn’t advocate for themselves,” Children by Choice manager Daile Kelleher said.
The anti-abortion group Cherish Life put out a statement vowing to continue its campaign and to target Queensland members of parliament who supported the new laws at the next state election.
Friday, October 19, 2018
FIGO.org (Oct. 16, 2018): International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Speaks Out on Violence Against Women:
The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (Fédération Internationale de Gynécologie et d'Obstétrique - FIGO) is a global organization that represents national societies of obstetricians and gynecologists. FIGO is meeting for their XXII World Congress in Rio de Janeiro this week. Early in the week FIGO announced, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), a Global Declaration on Violence Against Women, citing stark statistics of the violence women suffer and the wide-reaching effects of such harm, including on reproductive health and safety.
The organizations found that 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes. Most of this violence is committed by intimate partners. Circumstances of unrest, armed conflict, and displacement exacerbate the statistics. Women in South Sudan, for example, experience intimate partner violence at a rate double the global average.
WHO estimated that women who have been physically or sexually abused by a partner are 16% more likely to have a low-birth-weight baby.They are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and, 1.5 times more likely to acquire an STI, and in some regions, HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence.Health services are critical for supporting survivors to heal, recover and thrive. If accessed in time, health services can prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of HIV, STIs, following rape. Unfortunately, these services are often not available and survivors lack access to basic, lifesaving care.
The Declaration on Violence Against Women announces members' dedication to, among other things, promoting women's health and rights, including sexual and reproductive rights. It announces concern over the "global public health problem" of violence against women and how it affects women physically, mentally, and sexually as well as how the violence affects the children of surviving women.
The Declaration concludes with several calls to action, urging delegates' governments to ratify CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and ensure the treaty's thorough implementation. It also calls for strengthened health systems, better allocation of budgets and resources to prevent and respond to violence, and the promotion of widely-available health services. The Declaration further advises obstetricians and gynecologists to "advocate for strategies to address violence against women in their communities, towns, cities or countries and [to] collaborate with civil society and voluntary organizations, particularly women’s health and rights organizations, which advocate for women affected by violence"
The World Congress continues to meet through the end of this week.