Thursday, September 12, 2019

Medication abortion reversal is "devoid of scientific support," judge rules in North Dakota

Sept. 10, 2019 (CBS News): Medication abortion reversal is "devoid of scientific support," judge rules in North Dakota, by Kate Smith: 

Legislators in North Dakota recently mandated physicians tell patients who are receiving medication abortions that the procedure may be reversed. North Dakota House Bill 1336 bases its text "on a pair of studies that have been contested by The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology." 

Judge Daniel Hovland, on Tuesday, September 10, issued a 24-page decision granting an injunction against the bill, which he said is "devoid of scientific support, misleading, and untrue." Further elaborating that:

'State legislatures should not be mandating unproven medical treatments, or requiring physicians to provide patients with misleading and inaccurate information...The provisions of [Bill 1336] violate a physician's right not to speak and go far beyond any informed consent laws addressed by the United States Supreme Court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, or other courts to date.'

The lawsuit against the Bill was filed by the American Medical Association and Red River Women's Clinic. Red River is North Dakota's only legal abortion provider. According to research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, people seeking abortions in the state must, in addition to very likely traveling long distances to reach the clinic, "undergo a state-mandated 24-hour waiting period." Minors may not receive an abortion in North Dakota without notifying their parents, and the state limits the ways a private insurance provider may cover the procedure. 

A separate North Dakota state law "requires physicians to tell patients that abortion terminates 'the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.'" The AMA and Red River suit also challenges this law, but the court has not yet addressed this claim, thus far only issuing the preliminary injunction against House Bill 1336.

September 12, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Fetal Rights, In the Courts, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Medical News, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A woman gave birth alone in a jail cell after her cries for help were ignored

Aug. 29, 2019 (The Washington Post): 'Nobody cared': A woman gave birth alone in a jail cell after her cries for help were ignored, lawsuit says, by Allyson Chiu: 

Diana Sanchez was booked into Denver County Jail just three weeks ahead of her due date in July 2018. Early in the morning on July 31, Sanchez's contractions began. Her water broke and labor progressed without any help from prison or medical personnel. Sanchez gave birth to a baby boy alone in her jail cell, on top of a single absorbent pad--the only item provided to her despite her persistent cries for help. Immediately after the birth of Sanchez's son, a man wearing surgical gloves entered her cell to apparently examine the baby; however it wasn't until over 30 minutes post-birth that Sanchez and her new baby were transferred to the hospital.

Sanchez's birth experience was captured in full on surveillance footage of her cell. In the footage, Sanchez is seen unfolding the square pad deputies provided her and placing it on her bed. The video also shows her labor in full, including her water breaking, her shouts for help, her frantic efforts to remove her pants and underwear as the baby was coming. In August, Sanchez told KDVR: "They put my son's life at risk. When I got to the hospital, they said I could have bled to death." 

The U.S. has the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world across the board, but for women of color and incarcerated women, the rates rise significantly.

Sanchez has filed a lawsuit against the city and county of Denver, Denver Health Medical Center, and six individuals after the internal investigation found no wrongdoing. Mari Newman, Sanchez's attorney, says she hopes to "achieve some measure of accountability and to force wrongdoers to change their behavior.”

The suit mentions several past incidents in which inmates under the supervision of the city and county of Denver and Denver Health Medical Center personnel allegedly did not receive adequate care. One case, which was settled about 10 years ago, resulted in an agreement that jail staff are required to report medical emergencies up the chain of command and if no action is taken, to call 911 themselves, Newman said. Had that commitment been followed, Sanchez’s experience might have been avoided, she said.

A spokesperson with the Denver Sheriff Department asserted that deputies took appropriate action and "followed the relevant policies and procedures," adding that the Department has updated its policies to "ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital." 

September 5, 2019 in Incarcerated Women, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

How many steps it takes to get an abortion in each state

August 24, 2019 (Axios): How many steps it takes to get an abortion in each state, Orion Rummler, Aida Amer:

Each year states devise and pass more and more restrictions on access to abortion -- from mandatory waiting periods to required viewing of an ultra sound.  While legislatures consider each new restriction on its own, people who need abortion care experience the collective impacts of multiple restrictions. And, collectively these restrictions can create an undue burden to abortion access, as delay, travel time and cost, days off from work, childcare all add up.

To illustrate the barriers placed in the path of a person seeking abortion care, Axios has published piece showing how many steps it takes to get an abortion in each state.

Women and transgender men must take 5-8 steps to get an abortion in the most heavily regulated states. They often have to wait at least 24 hours after seeking an abortion, attend counseling against the decision and take at least 2 trips to a facility — and in 6 states, only 1 such facility is available.

Based on statistics from Guttmacher Institute, Axion charts restrictions in each state to conclude that

 

  • Virginia is the most restrictive state in the U.S. for minors under 18, who must take 8 steps to have an abortion by obtaining parental notification and parental consent.
  • Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia are the most restrictive states for adults over 18.

In addition,

  • Utah, South Dakota, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Missouri have the longest wait times before one can undergo the procedure, clocking in at 72 hours.

 

 

September 4, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

HHS Threatens to Defund UVM Medical Center for Allegedly Failing to Protect Conscience Rights of Nurse Who Opposes Abortions

August 29, 2019 (Rewire News): HHS Launches Another Attach on Abortion Providers Under Guise of 'Conscience Rights," by Dennis Carter:

Rewire News reports that the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services has accused the University of Vermont Medical Center of “intentionally, unnecessarily, and knowingly” scheduling nurses to assist with abortions “against their religious or moral objections." HHS Head Roger Severino claims that these alleged actions violate the Church Amendments, laws from the 1970s that protect the conscience rights of individuals to object to performing or assisting in abortion or sterilization procedures if it is contrary to their religious or moral beliefs.  HHS has given the center 30 days to change its religious freedom policies or lose federal funding. 

 
According to Severino, the nurse who filed the claim feared she would lose her job if she opted out of assisting with the abortion. A medical center spokesperson stated that UVM has “robust, formal protections that safeguard both our employees’ religious, ethical and cultural beliefs, and our patients’ right to access safe and legal abortion” and that “employees are protected from discrimination based on any decision they make to opt out of procedures for treatments.”  She also stated that UVM promptly investigated the allegations when they were first made and determined that they were unsupported. 
 
Despite UVM’s ongoing discussions with HHS, Severino opted to issue the public statement. This action appears reflective of the direction of the Civil Rights Office, which has prioritized discrimination and religious claims of health care providers rather than discrimination faced by people who seek to access health care services.  According to Rewire: 
 
Since Trump entered the White House, OCR officials have transformed the office into a powerful political entity centered on so-called religious freedom. In 2018 Severino launched a health-care discrimination wing of OCR, known as the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, to defend health-care providers who oppose abortion and do not want to treat LGBTQ people. This case marks the third enforcement action the division has taken to protect “conscience rights,” and it’s first action in defense of an individual health-care worker who objects to participating in abortion care.

September 3, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 2, 2019

Racial Disparities Persist for Breastfeeding Moms

August 24, 2019 (PBS News Hour): Racial Disparities Persist for Breastfeeding Moms, by Laura Santhanam:

A recent study released by the CDC indicates that while 83 percent of mothers report breastfeeding babies at birth, substantial racial disparities exist with 85% of white mothers and 69% of black mothers reporting that they breastfed.  Several factors appear to contribute to the difference, including lack of support for breastfeeding in maternity wards and lack of community support including maternity leave.  PBS News Hour explains:

Previous research shows hospital maternity wards that serve larger black populations are less likely to help black women initiate breastfeeding after giving birth or offer lactation support following delivery, according to the CDC study. Often, staff in these facilities instead offer black babies formula.

Another serious barrier against breastfeeding for some black mothers is the need to return to work shortly after giving birth, according to previous studies the CDC cited. Black women are more likely than others to need to return to work earlier than 12 weeks, and tend to be confronted with “inflexible work hours” that make consistently nursing and expressing milk difficult, the study authors wrote.

Differences in breastfeeding rates are significant because breastfeeding can improve the health of mothers and their babies.  In the United States, the maternal mortality rate of black women is 3-4 times that of white women and the infant mortality rate of black babies is more than twice that of white babies.

The U.S. has one of the lowest breast-feeding initiation rates in the industrialized world and is the only developed nation that does not mandate paid maternity leave.  "In July 2018, the Trump administration drew criticism when they rejected a policy that supported breastfeeding at the World Health Organization, under pressure from the infant formula industry."  In 2010, Congress required that large employers provide reasonable break times for nursing mothers for up to one year as part of the Affordable Care Act.  However, despite the law, breastfeeding remains difficult for women in low wage jobs and jobs that lack flexibility.

September 2, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 30, 2019

What’s Become of All the Extreme Abortion Bans From This Year?

Aug. 30 2019 (The Cut): What’s Become of All the Extreme Abortion Bans From This Year?, by Amanda Arnold:

This legislative season, a number of states passed extreme abortion restrictions.  The Cut's Amanda Arnold provides a rundown on the fate of these laws. Alabama passed a law that prohibits abortion in all cases except where the fetus is not viable or the pregnancy creates a serious danger to a woman's health. Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia passed 6 week bans and Missouri passed an 8 week ban.  In addition to banning abortion way before fetal viability, these laws have been criticized for banning abortion before a woman may even be aware she is pregnant.

None of the laws have gone into effect thanks to litigation.  TROs or preliminary injunctions have been issued in most states.  In Alabama it appears that the state will consent to a TRO pending the outcome of the underlying legal challenge, and a TRO hearing in Georgia is scheduled for late September. 

All these laws are clearly unconstitutional so the result is not surprising. However, states are expected to appeal the decisions with the hopes that Trump appointees to federal Courts of Appeal will be willing to ignore Supreme Court precedent.

“Trump has appointed over 100 judges to the federal bench, and we’re seeing circuit courts become more and more anti-abortion,” [Planned Parenthood director of state advocacy media Bonyen Lee-Gilmore] told the Cut. “This is no coincidence. Trump is remaking the judicial branch in order to push these unconstitutional laws forward, and we’re seeing these judges stare Supreme Court precedent in the face and create new rules.”

Even if Appellate Courts uphold lower court decisions blocking these laws from taking effect, it is likely that states will try to get the Supreme Court to hear the cases and reconsider Roe v. Wade.

August 30, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Planned Parenthood Just Lost $60M in Funding. What Does That Mean for Women?

August 20, 2019 (The Cut): Planned Parenthood Just Lost $60M in Funding.  What Does That Mean for Women?, by Erica Schwiegerhausen: 

Earlier this week Planned Parenthood announced that it would forgo approximately $60 million in federal funding under the Title X program rather than comply with new regulations issued by the Trump Administration.  Title X is a federal program that funds contraception and other reproductive care for low income women.  Under federal law, Title X funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.  However, the new rule would prohibit the provision of Title X services at the same facilities in which abortion care is provided and also limit Title X health care providers from providing referrals for abortion.

Planned Parenthood's acting president has stated that “We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients.”  Instead Planned Parenthood will withdraw from Title X while legal battles over the rule continue.  Last month, a federal appeals court refused to stay enforcement of the rule while the case is pending.

Planned Parenthood serves about 40% of Title X recipients.  In the short-term. Planned Parenthood will make "emergency funds" available and fundraise to make up for the loss of funds.  Other small, independent clinics are also affected.  For instance as many as 15 clinics in Maine may close rather than continue to receive Title X funding and comply with the rule.

August 20, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 29, 2019

India's Transgender Bill Raises Rights Concerns

July 23, 2019 (Human Rights Watch): India's Transgender Bill Raises Rights Concerns:

India's parliament introduced a new bill meant to protect the rights of transgender people on July 19 this year. Human Rights Watch ("HRW"), though, says that the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill does not protect certain important rights upheld by India's Supreme Court in 2014--namely, the right of transgender persons to self-identify. 

The human rights organization warns that "even though the bill says that a transgender person 'shall have a right to self-perceived gender identity,' its language could be interpreted to mean transgender people are required to have certain surgeries before legally changing their gender."

Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director at HRW, emphasized that "it's crucial the the law be in line with the Supreme Court's historic ruling on transgender rights." The proposed law, instead, "appears to mandate a two-step process for legal gender recognition," requiring a trans person first to apply for an initial certificate and then to apply for a "change in gender certificate," which many perceive as requiring gender-affirmation surgery along with medical confirmation.

The bill also gives discretion to the district magistrate to determine the "correctness" of the person's application for the certificates yet is silent as to how the decision of "correctness" should be made. 

In 2014, the country's highest court ruled in NALSA v. India that transgender people are a recognized third gender, enjoy all fundamental rights, and are entitled to specific benefits in education and employment. The bill introduced this month does not address whether a trans person holding a male or female gender certificate, though, will have access to the government welfare meant for transgender persons. 

Human Rights Watch further calls out the bill for not only seemingly violating India's Supreme Court holding, but also for violating international standards for gender recognition, which require separation of legal and medical processes of gender reassignment. "Self-declared identity should form the basis for access to all social security measures, benefits, and entitlements."

Notably, the bill also includes intersex persons; HRW calls for the parliament to rename the  bill to make it clear that it includes intersex persons and establish additional explicit protections for intersex persons along with transgender persons.

Other changes parliament should make, HRW says, include: prohibiting medically unnecessary procedures on children, requiring the issuing of legal identity documents to interested persons that identify their preferred gender, and emphasizing training of teachers to "adopt inclusive methods" to ensure transgender or intersex children are not harassed, bullied, or discriminated against. 

Says Ganguly: “To enact a law that meets international standards, it’s critical that parliament fully bring transgender people into the conversation."

July 29, 2019 in International, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Another State Could Soon Insert Anti-Abortion Propaganda Into Public Schools

July 19, 2019 (Rewire.News): Another State Could Soon Insert Anti-Abortion Propaganda Into Public Schools, by Erin Heger: 

Ohio--the only U.S. state without standardized health education--may soon require public schools to focus on the “humanity of the unborn child” in health education curriculum. 

House Bill 90, introduced by the state's GOP legislature, infuses anti-abortion language into health and science materials for students and would restrict schools from providing any abortion-related information or referrals to students facing pregnancy. The legislature aims for school programs to thoroughly detail information about fetuses and gestation, promoting carrying any pregnancy to term.

In 2016, Oklahoma also introduced similar legislation (calling it the "Humanity of the Unborn Child Act"), however it has not yet been implemented in the state due to "budget constraints."

Both HB 90 in Ohio and Oklahoma’s Humanity of the Unborn Child Act state their intended purpose is an “abortion-free society.” However, not informing young people of all their options does little to prevent abortion and instead leaves people not knowing what to do or where to turn when they do face an unintended pregnancy, said Cameron Brewer, an educator with Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

“If we are restricting the information students have access, to then we are doing them a disservice as educators,” Brewer told Rewire.News. “My goal as an educator is to make sure my students have all the information they need to make the best decisions for them.” 

July 26, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Culture, Fetal Rights, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Telemedicine Abortion is Safe

July 23, 2019 (Rewire.News): Telemedicine Abortion is Safe, No Matter What Anti-Choice Lawmakers Claim, by Auditi Guha: 

A study released July 9 finds that outcomes for medication-driven abortion through telemedicine are comparable in-person medication abortion.

The results support the importance of telemedicine for reproductive health and safety particularly for those who cannot easily reach abortion clinics due to oppressively-restrictive anti-choice legislation. 

Medication abortion has been legal in the United States for nearly twenty years and is supported by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, National Abortion Federation, and Planned Parenthood. The procedure uses a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol pills and the telemedicine aspect helps clinicians have a wider reach in authorizing and supervising the process through remote video conferencing.

Telemedicine medication abortions have often been provided in clinics where the licensed clinicians video conference in while the patient is in clinic with nurses or other professionals, but direct-to-patient telemedicine abortion services are growing. Most patients requesting these services live in abortion-hostile states where they cannot easily reach a clinic at all.

The anti-choice movement has responded by working to restrict access to telemedicine abortion as well as in-clinic abortion services. Legal bans or restrictions currently exist in Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and Utah. 

The recent study, though, "indicates that telemedicine abortion is 'a safe and effective way of ending an early pregnancy, with very rare complications' and can provide the same quality of health care patients receive at a health center," according to Dr. Julia Kohn, national director of research at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the lead author of the study.

Kohn further says: "In many ways, this study does reaffirm what we already know: Medication abortion via telemedicine is safe and effective at ending an early pregnancy."

July 25, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research, Science, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Vaginal exams on unconscious, non-consenting patients are legal in 42 states

Jun. 26, 2019 (Vice): Med Students Are Doing Vaginal Exams on Unconscious, Non-Consenting Patients, by Hannah Harris Green: 

For decades, medical students around the country have been expected to perform pelvic exams on unconscious women--not for the patient's benefit but solely for the student's experience. Sometimes these exams are performed multiple times by different students on the same patient. The exams involve a student inserting "two gloved fingers into the patient’s vagina and [placing] one hand on her pelvis in order to feel the uterus and ovaries." This patient is never asked for consent prior to the procedure nor is she informed of the exam afterward.

One former student--now a pediatrician in Baltimore, Maryland--learned of these procedures during his OB/GYN rotation while studying at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in the 1990s. He refused to participate, joining in a movement to ban the practice. Ari Silver-Isenstadt took a year out of his medical studies to study the ethical implications of this practice at Penn's School of Education. He subsequently published a study in 2003 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that found that over 90 percent of students at the five Pennsylvania medical schools he had focused on had performed vaginal exams on non-consenting, unconscious patients. He noted that students' initial discomfort with the procedure quickly dissipated as it became a regular part of their rotations. 

California became the first state to ban these invasive exams in 2003, the same year of Silver-Isenstadt's study. Since then, Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, Hawaii, Iowa, Utah, and Maryland have followed suit. Additional states that have introduced similar legislation this year include Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Washington, and Texas. No federal legislation yet addresses the issue. 

Some medical schools have also banned the practice institutionally as well--like Harvard--but others, including Duke University, consistently ask their medical students to perform pelvic exams sans consent throughout their education. 

While the procedure invades the privacy of any patient, consequences can be particularly severe for patients with a history of sexual trauma who either find out a pelvic exam was performed on them while unconscious or else wake up during the produce, as did Ashely Weitz in 2007.

Weitz said testifying about her experience in support of Utah's law in February was nerve-racking, especially because she expected there to be other women at the hearing at the state house with similar experiences, but she was the only one. Given the nature of these exams, people don’t know if it's happened to them. She said it was “a very healing practice to say 'this shouldn't happen to me, it shouldn't be happening in the way that it is happening in an institution.'” But there are still parts of the incident that she hasn’t recovered from. “It changed the way that I sought and received medical care,” she said. “I was, you know, thereafter very certain that I was never going to be sedated or unconscious in a manner that would have allowed that situation to happen again. So it was in itself very traumatizing.”

Utah's ban on unconscious pelvic exams was signed into law in March of this year. It requires both medical students and doctors to get explicit consent to perform such exams on anesthetized women. A law professor at the University of Illinois, Robin Fretwell Wilson, credited Weitz's testimony as the primary driving force behind the state legislation. 

Wilson herself advocates for requiring specific consent for any pelvic exams. While opponents to legislation requiring consent argue that general consent forms signed upon entering a teaching hospital already cover these exams, Wilson and other advocates for patient protections assert that it is ethically wrong to practice procedures that are of no benefit to the patient without direct consent.

Many advocates, including Weitz, connect the growing opposition to these vaginal exams to the rising tide of the #MeToo movement in recent years. "The #MeToo movement has helped people like Weitz better understand that the violations they endure are part of a wider cultural problem."

Wilson acknowledges that even 10 or 15 years ago, the attitude toward this practice was completely different. "At the time, medical school faculty 'were more than willing to stand their ground and say, "not only do we do it, but the patients in our hospitals have a duty to participate."' . . .  15 years ago, many schools 'did not see it as an issue.'"

Advocates of legal regulations requiring patient consent, though, still fear that enforcement of the new laws will be difficult. "In order for authorities to find out, students would need to both be aware of the law and willing to report wrongdoing by their supervisors, so [Silver-Isenstadt is] hoping the culture is what will ultimately change."

July 9, 2019 in Culture, Medical News, Miscellaneous, Scholarship and Research, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

UK Appeal court overturns forced abortion ruling

Jun. 24, 2019 (The Guardian): Appeal court overturns forced abortion ruling, by Harriet Sherwood: 

An appeals court in the UK overturned a recent decision by the court of protection in London, which had ordered a young pregnant woman to have an abortion against her wishes. 

The pregnant woman is in her twenties and suffers from learning and mood disorders, such that her mental capacity is akin to that of a "six to nine-year-old child."

There is no public information as to how the woman got pregnant and a police investigation is ongoing. In the meantime, the woman--now 22-weeks pregnant--and her mother  both wish for the pregnancy to continue and her mother intends to care for the child once born. A social worker agrees that the pregnancy should be allowed to continue. 

Three medical professionals, including one obstetrician and two psychiatrists, with England's National Health Service initiated the legal challenges when they sought permission from the court to terminate the pregnancy.

The court that ordered the termination originally stated that its decision was in the best interests of the woman. The woman's mother, a former midwife, appealed the decision. The appeals court is expected to provide their rationale at a later date. 

Abortions may be performed up to 24 weeks in a pregnancy under Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act.

June 26, 2019 in Abortion, In the Courts, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Here's What You Need to Know abut the Hyde Amendment and Efforts to End It

June 21, 2019 (Rewire News): Here's What You Need to Know abut the Hyde Amendment and Efforts to End It, by Ally Boguhn:

As the Hyde Amendment re-emerges as a political issue, Rewire News provides a helpful information about the rider that is attached to federal appropriations each year that prevents the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion care.  The article notes that similar restrictions have been applied to other forms of government health insurance including the Indian Health Services, Medicare, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and health care for people in the military, federal prisons, and the Peace Corp and federal government employees. Similar restrictions were also imposed on plans available on the Affordable Care Act's Health Exchanges.  

Since the Amendment became law in the 1970s, some states have used their own funds to provide abortion coverage for individuals on Medicaid as a result of court decisions requiring coverage under their state constitutions or legislative action.  In 2017, Illinois became the first state in decades to pass legislation authorizing the use of state Medicaid funds for abortion.  And earlier this month, New York City allocated $250,000 to fund abortions for women who are not covered by Medicaid or insurance and cannot afford the procedure.

In recent years there has been new momentum at the federal level to eliminate the Hyde Amendment.  In 2015, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act, which would ensure that individuals who received health insurance through the federal government were covered for abortion care.  In 2016, the Democratic Party included repeal of Hyde on its platform. However, House Democrats have not pushed the issue.

Despite their stated opposition to the Hyde amendment, House Democrats included it in their 2019 budget. In early June, Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jane Schakowsky (D-IL), and [Pramila] Jayapal introduced an amendment to strike Hyde and instead expand access to abortion coverage. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

The Hyde Amendment is poised to be a critical topic in the 2020 presidential election. Many contenders for the Democratic nomination have come out against the policy, and former Vice President Joe Biden recently twice switched his position on the matter (ultimately being against it). Meanwhile, President Trump supports codifying Hyde into law.

 

 

 

 

June 25, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Missouri’s lone abortion clinic must remain open for now

Jun. 10, 2019 (Politico): Judge says Missouri’s lone abortion clinic must remain open for now, by Rachana Pradhan: 

On Monday, a judge blocked Missouri's attempts to close its last remaining abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood, which operates the clinic, has struggled against state officials' attempts to shutter the clinic based on claims of violations, which jeopardize its licensing.

Judge Michael Stelzer had previously granted the Planned Parenthood clinic reprieve from the states' attempts to deny license renewal upon the clinic's license lapse in May, and Stelzer has now directed Missouri health officials to make a decision as to whether to renew the clinic's license by June 21.

Planned Parenthood officials attest that the licensing conditions were essentially pretextual and "accused state officials of orchestrating a politically motivated probe to stamp out abortion." Last month, Missouri lawmakers banned almost all abortions beyond week eight of a pregnancy.  

Missouri is just one of six U.S. states that have only one clinic providing abortions.

June 13, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Botswana's High Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex

Jun. 11, 2019 (The New York Times): Botswana's High Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex, by Kimon de Greef:

A three-judge panel in the capital of Botswana voted unanimously to overturn a colonial-era law banning gay sex in the country. 

"'Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized,' Judge Michael Leburu said as he delivered the judgment, adding that laws that banned gay sex were 'discriminatory.'"

"Homosexuality has been illegal in Botswana since the late 1800s, when the territory, then known as Bechuanaland, was under British rule." The penal code outlawed “unnatural offenses,” defined as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.” Violations of this law could result in seven years in prison; a five-year sentence could be imposed just for attempting to have gay sex or engage in any other "homosexual acts." 

The court had the opportunity to strike down the law, because an anonymous gay plaintiff challenged the law's constitutionality. The court had previously upheld Botswana's discriminatory laws in the face of a prior 2003 challenge. 

Last year, India similarly struck down its anti-gay statutory vestiges of colonialsm. 

Unfortunately, other African countries like Kenya have decided the opposite way, upholding laws that criminalize sexuality.

Homophobia is widely entrenched on the continent, with gay sex outlawed in more than 30 countries. In several northern African nations, including Somalia and Sudan, homosexuality is punishable by death; offenders in Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda face life in prison.

Even in countries like South Africa with progressive gay rights legislation, the African continent continues to find "widespread rejection" of homosexuality.

Nonetheless, gay rights groups and LGBTQ activists in Botswana celebrate the historical moment this week that came with the High Court's decision.

June 12, 2019 in Culture, In the Courts, International, Politics, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Canada to invest in women’s and girls’ health, also recognizes genocide of Indigenous women

Jun. 4, 2019 (Quartz): Canada will invest $1 billion globally in women's and girls' health every year, by Annabelle  Timsit:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada's new commitment to invest over one billion dollars annually in women's and girls' health. The funding will in large part benefit sexual and reproductive health in the face of growing threats around the world to women's rights, including the right to abortion. 

This funding is an increase from Canada's prior years' commitments and comes with increased focus on supporting "female entrepreneurs, indigenous women, and LGBTQ people."

Allocating funding, among other socio-political resources, to the protection of Indigenous women in particular is especially critical in light of the recent report of the Canadian national inquiry regarding mass killings and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls throughout Canada. (See The New York Times (Jun. 3, 2019), by Ian Austen and Dan Bilefsky).

The three-year inquiry's final report labeled the systemic violence suffered  by the Indigenous populations in Canada "a race-based genocide." It also included over 200 recommendations to implement systemic changes, like reforming police practices and the criminal justice system overall, as well as expansion of Indigenous women's shelters and empowering Indigenous persons to serve on civilian boards overseeing civil services. In addition, the report's authors call for the elevation of Indigenous languages to official languages of Canada, alongside English and French. 

The inquiry, long overdue in the face of pervasive, violent colonialism, was prompted in 2014 when Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation was found dead in the Manitoba Red River, wrapped in a plastic bag and weighed down with 25 pounds of rocks. The main suspect in her murder was acquitted. 

June 7, 2019 in International, Miscellaneous, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Illinois affirms the “fundamental right” to abortion by passing a new bill

Jun. 1, 2019 (Vox): Illinois affirms the "fundamental right" to abortion by passing a new bill, by Gabriela Resto-Montero: 

Illinois, in a newly-passed bill called the Reproductive Health Act, states that a “fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights." The passing of this law thus grants pregnant people in Illinois the protected right to terminate their pregnancies. The Act was passed on Friday, May 31, 2019 and is expected to be signed by the governor.

State Senator Melinda Bush sponsored the bill and declared Illinois "a beacon for women's rights, for human rights." The legislation "repeals a 1975 state law that required spousal consent, waiting periods, placed restrictions on abortion facilities, and outlined procedures for pursuing criminal charges against abortion providers." It also "rolls back some state restrictions on late-term abortions by repealing Illinois’ Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act," a law that had not yet been enforced due to court injunctions.

While legislative threats to reproductive rights grow in numbers and severity throughout the country, Illinois is one of the first states to take concrete steps toward cementing the right to abortion--among other reproductive rights--within its borders. Other states (i.e. Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi) are vying for a slot on the SCOTUS docket and with it a chance at the overturning of Roe v. Wade and its Constitutional protections. 

Recently, though, the Supreme Court signaled it is not quite ready to re-consider Roe. "In its decision regarding an abortion law passed by Illinois’ neighbor, Indiana, justices struck down one provision while affirming another part of the law, largely avoiding the question of whether abortion should be legal."

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are leading the way with lawsuits aimed at preventing the so-called "heartbeat laws," and comparable legislation threatening reproductive rights and the safety and dignity of pregnant persons, from going into effect within anti-abortion state legislatures. "The Planned Parenthood Action Fund reports that so far in 2019, there have been 300 anti-abortion bills introduced in 36 states."

Illinois is not the only state working to protect abortion rights, though. "Some 13 states including New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Nevada have proposed bills to include a right to abortion in their Constitutions. While many of those efforts are still in their early stages, Vermont passed a bill to include the protection in its Constitution last week."

June 4, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, Fetal Rights, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Trump Administration Strengthens 'Conscience Rule' for Health Care Workers

May 2, 2019 (New York Times): Trump Administration Strengthens 'Conscience Rule ' for Health Care Workers, by Margot Sanger-Katz:

On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a new regulation to protect health care providers who refuse to provide services based on their religious or moral conviction. Under the regulations, health care institutions that fail to respect the the conscience rights of such workers would face the loss of federal funds.

After the 440-page rule was released, some groups said they feared the provisions were overly broad and could imperil care for patients seeking reproductive health care. They also said it could lead to discrimination against gay or transgender patients and their children, and weaken public health efforts to expand childhood vaccinations.

On a call with reporters, Roger Severino, Director of HHS's Office of Civil Rights maintained that the regulation is needed to protect health care workers who object to providing certain services.  However, there are concerns that the rule is overly broad and will interfere with patients' ability to get care.

“The rule allows a very wide range of people — from the receptionist to the boards of hospitals and everyone in between — to deny a patient’s medical care if their personal beliefs get in the way,” said Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center. Ms. Goss Graves described the rule as not only tightening enforcement of civil rights laws but also changing the balance of rights between patients and their clinicians.

May 3, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Trump abortion 'gag' rule blocked by federal judge

April 25 (Washington Post): Trump abortion 'gag' rule blocked by federal judge, by Fred Barbash:

Last Thursday, a district court judge in Washington state issued a nationwide injunction preventing a new Health and Human Services Administration regulation from going into effect. 

Groups receiving money under the Title X program, about $286 million annually, already were prohibited from performing abortions with those funds. But under the new rule, they could no longer refer a patient for an abortion and would also have to maintain a “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and abortion services or referrals.

In issuing the injunction, the judge found that the regulations violated Title X and the Affordable Care Act and were arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act.  He also found that the change in the regulations “likely violates the central purpose of Title X, which is to equalize access to comprehensive, evidence-based, and voluntary family planning.”

In a particularly scathing passage [he] wrote that the rule probably "creates unreasonable barriers for patients to obtain appropriate medical care; impedes timely access to health care services; interferes with communications regarding a full range of treatment options between the patient and their health care provider, restricts the ability of health care providers to provide full disclosure of all relevant information to patients” and “violates the principles of informed consent and the ethical standards of health care professions."

April 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Alabama Lawmakers Want to Make Abortion a Felony

The Cut (Apr. 3, 2019): Alabama Lawmakers Want to Make Abortion a Felony, by Amanda Arnold: 

States' attempts to severely restrict access to abortion services show no signs of slowing down, and in one state, the race to prohibit the procedure has indeed turned down the path of total criminalization. 

The bill, HB314, was proposed proudly by Alabama representative Terri Collins and would classify performing any abortion as a Class A Felony, which carries a sentence of 10-99 years in the state. The single exception included in the bill is if "foregoing the procedure would pose a 'a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.'"

Of course, as a blatant violation of precedent under Roe v. Wade and the established Constitutional right to an abortion, the bill, should it pass, would immediately be subject to legal challenges. In a showing of support for the extreme anti-abortion movement, though, 65 of Alabama's 105-member House co-sponsored HB314.

The ACLU of Alabama pointed out that, in addition to the "egregious infringement on women’s reproductive rights" that the bill represents, HB314 "will potentially cost taxpayers 'hundreds of thousands' of dollars to cover the bill’s legal fees."

April 9, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)