Friday, March 30, 2018

Doctors Gather Ideas For Stopping Maternal Deaths In Texas

Houston Public Media (Mar. 27, 2018): Doctors Gather Ideas For Stopping Maternal Deaths In Texas, by Ashley Lopez:

Some of the leading physicians in Texas vetted ideas at this past weekend's Texas Medical Association Maternal Health Congress to reduce the deaths of women while pregnant or shortly after giving birth.

One of the biggest challenges addressed was lack of access to health care. Dr. Carlos Cardenas, president of the Texas Medical Association, said the problem starts with family planning.

Since Texas implemented significant funding cuts for family planning in 2011, the rate of unplanned pregnancies in Texas has risen 27 percent. Medicaid also isn’t serving enough Texas women. The state didn’t expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, so many women are not getting health care before they’re pregnant.

Dr. Ryan Van Ramshorst, chairman of the Texas Medial Association’s Select Committee on Medicaid, CHIP, and the Uninsured, said women are also kicked out of the state’s Medicaid program just 60 days after giving birth.

Physicians also discussed why black women in Texas are dying at higher rates than white women while pregnant or after giving birth. Dr. Carla Ortique, vice chair of the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, said individual and institutionalized racism are to blame.

“Until we address these issues, the inequities will persist,” she said. “But why should we care? Aside from the ethical and moral reasons that we as physicians are pledged to, it’s economically imperative to address these issues.”

Ortique said research shows racial inequities cost Americans hundreds of millions dollars a year.

March 30, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Legislation, lawsuit show push-pull over abortion rights in Louisiana

Gambit (Mar. 26, 2018): Legislation, lawsuit show push-pull over abortion rights in Louisiana, by Kat Stromquist: 

As a legal battle rages over neighboring Mississippi's recent ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, similar legislation and a lawsuit demonstrate ongoing tensions over the right to obtain an abortion in Louisiana.

The Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider two bills that could further restrict abortion access in the state, including a 15-week ban that mirrors the temporarily enjoined Mississippi law. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and Planned Parenthood Center for Choice have filed suit against the Louisiana Department of Health over what the organization says is an unnecessary delay in the processing of an abortion license for its Claiborne Avenue health center in New Orleans.

It's not clear how much support the 15-week ban will attract among Louisiana legislators, but the bill's primary sponsor, Sen. John Milkovich, D-Keithville,  has a key ally: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. Edwards, a Democrat, opposes abortion and announced on his monthly radio program that he would likely sign a 15-week ban that made it to his desk.

In New Orleans, Planned Parenthood has moved to expand the availability of abortions. In February, the group filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Louisiana Department of Health. Planned Parenthood alleges that the Department is deliberately delaying the processing of its application for an abortion license at its Claiborne Avenue facility. If approved, it would be the first Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisiana to offer abortion services. 

In the absence of a license — and as its lawsuit against the Department of Health proceeds — Planned Parenthood's hands are essentially tied.

Louisiana, which lost one of its few remaining abortion clinics last year, remains a very difficult and hostile environment for abortion rights advocates and for access to abortion care. According to Guttmacher Institute data, there were seven clinics operating in Louisiana in 2011. Today, following year after year of newly enacted state restrictions on abortion providers, there are just three clinics remaining in operation. Planned Parenthood hopes to raise that number to four.

March 29, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 23, 2018

UN human rights committee to Poland parliament: reject anti-abortion bill

JURIST (Mar. 22, 2018): UN human rights committee to Poland parliament: reject anti-abortion bill, by David Zwier: 

This week, Poland's parliament will debate the bill "Stop Abortion," which would ban abortion in cases of severe fetal anomaly. Currently, this is one of only three bases on which a person can terminate a pregnancy in Poland. Poland is known to have some of the most restrictive abortion laws throughout Europe. 

A committee of experts under the UN Human Rights Council has urged the parliament to reject the bill, citing that such restrictions will threaten women's equality and autonomy as well as violate their rights to privacy and health while also putting pregnant persons at risk of cruel and inhuman treatment. Forcing the continuation of a pregnancy, they say, violates an individual's fundamental human rights. 

In 2016, Poland rejected a bill outright outlawing abortion, in part many believe as a response to protests over it. The UN experts have not received a response to their recent communications regarding the current pending legislation. 

March 23, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Current Affairs, In the Media, International, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Judge blocks Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mississippi Governor Signs Nation's Toughest Abortion Ban Into Law

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

NIFLA v. Becera Argument Preview

SCOTUS Blog (March 14, 2016): Argument Preview: Justices take on First Amendment challenge to state abortion-disclosure laws, by Amy Howe:

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in NIFLA v. Becera.  Amy Howe of SCOTUS blog offers an argument preview.




March 20, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Human Rights Lens on the Detention and Forced Medical Treatment of Pregnant Women

A Human Rights Lens on the Detention and Forced Medical Treatment of Pregnant Women, by Cynthia Soohoo & Risa Kaufman (Cross-Posted on ACS Blog, March 6, 2018)

How far can a state go in restricting a woman’s constitutional rights under the guise of protecting a fetus? The Seventh Circuit will soon have the opportunity to answer this question when it issues its much-anticipated decision in Loertscher v. Anderson. The case challenges a Wisconsin law that allows child protective services to take a pregnant woman into custody to protect her “unborn child,” from “the time of fertilization to the time of birth,” based on concern that the woman’s purported use of alcohol or controlled substances poses a “substantial risk” to the physical health of her “unborn child.”

Wisconsin’s law is unique in that it places a woman in the custody of child protective services. However, several other states allow or promote use of civil commitment laws to detain pregnant women. Civil statutes that detain pregnant women to prevent future substance use and force them to undergo drug treatment raise serious constitutional issues related to a woman’s right to liberty, privacy, personal autonomy, and non-discrimination.

As we argue in a new ACS Issue Brief, they also violate core human rights principles.

Universal human rights standards recognize that every person has the right to be free from arbitrary detention and forced medical treatment. Women do not lose these rights when they become pregnant. Indeed, human rights bodies emphasize the importance of incorporating a gender perspective to ensure that physical differences between women and men -- such as the capacity to be pregnant -- as well as stereotypical attitudes about women’s ability and right to make their own health care decisions, are not used to undermine women’s equal enjoyment of their human rights. Human rights bodies have explicitly rejected the idea that fetal interests can be considered separately from, or promoted to the detriment of, pregnant women. And human rights standards emphasize that pregnant women must be treated with dignity and respect.

International human rights experts have raised concern about statutes like the one at issue in Loertscher. In October 2016, at the conclusion of an official fact-finding visit to the United States, in addition to raising due process concerns, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention described such laws as a “form of deprivation of liberty [that] is gendered and discriminatory . . . , as pregnancy combined with the presumption of drug or other substance abuse, is the determining factor for involuntary treatment.” It recommended that laws like Wisconsin’s that purport to seek to promote maternal and fetal health “be replaced with alternative measures that protect women without jeopardizing their liberty.”  

Ultimately, the Seventh Circuit may avoid addressing whether the Wisconsin law violates women’s liberty and privacy rights by holding the statute void on vagueness grounds (as the district court did). Nevertheless, international human rights law illuminates the fundamental rights violations resulting from Wisconsin Act 292 and state civil confinement laws targeting pregnant women suspected of substance use, and thus provides a useful perspective for courts and legislatures considering similar civil detention schemes.

March 19, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ohio judge blocks legislation preventing abortions in Down syndrome cases

CNN (Mar. 14, 2018): Ohio judge blocks legislation preventing abortions in Down syndrome cases, by Lauren del Valle:

An Ohio federal district court judge blocked legislation that would have banned abortion in cases where a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law in December of last year, and it was scheduled to go into effect March 23. The legislation is now blocked until a final ruling is made in the lawsuit.
In granting the preliminary injunction against the law, Southern District of Ohio Judge Timothy Black said that federal abortion law is "crystal clear" that "a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability."
The law prohibits abortions after prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome in a fetus, or if there's "any other reason to believe" the fetus has the genetic condition. A person performing an abortion in such a case could face a fourth-degree felony charge, and physicians could lose their licenses. The ACLU filed a complaint in mid-February calling the legislation unconstitutional.
"This law does absolutely nothing to support people with disabilities -- it's just another ploy to make it nearly impossible for Ohio women to get the care they need. We are committed to making sure this unconstitutional law is never enforced, and today's ruling brings us one step closer," Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio Freda Levenson said in a statement.
Similar laws have passed in North Dakota and Indiana, though a federal judge blocked the Indiana law. The North Dakota law went into effect in 2013.

March 16, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

'It's none of your business': Arizona lawmakers water down abortion-question bill

The Arizona Republic (Mar. 15, 2018): 'It's none of your business': Arizona lawmakers water down abortion-question bill, by Dustin Gardiner:

An Arizona Senate bill expanding the state's abortion reporting requirements by making doctors list at least one reason from a list of 11 options, including whether the abortion is due to "economic reasons" or "relationship issues, including abuse, separation, divorce and extramarital affairs," is advancing in the legislature. A requirement in the bill that doctors gather new data about why women choose to end their pregnancies caused outrage and made national headlines.

Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives voted Wednesday to amend the legislation, Senate Bill 1394, to remove that especially invasive requirement.

Doctors in the state already must report to the Department of Health Services if an abortion is "elective" or "due to a maternal or fetal medical concern."

The House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee voted to strike the provision from the bill at the urging of Chairman Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. Farnsworth and other Republican supporters of the bill didn't explain why they backed an amendment to remove its most controversial provision.

Earlier this week, opponents of SB 1394 held a press conference outside the Capitol to blast what they called an "invasive" attempt to intimidate women who seek a legal medical procedure.

Serena Knierim, who received an abortion as a teenager, said at the press conference the bill would violate women's privacy by subjecting them to an interrogation "for political and religious reasons."

"Why did I get an abortion?" she said. "It's none of your business."

SB 1394 would require doctors to report more specific information about any medical complications from an abortion, which they already must report to the state. It also would require clinics to report details like the specialty of the doctor, whether the abortion was outpatient or inpatient, the type of facility where it was performed and whether anesthesia was used. Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, an abortion provider in east Phoenix, said that the worst provisions of SB 1394 are its remaining requirements on doctors and facilities.

Serious complications from abortion are rare: In 2016, 13,170 Arizona women received abortions in the state; 33 of them experienced complications, according to the state Health Department.

The bill now faces a vote in the full House. If approved, it must also return to the Senate for another vote because it was amended.

March 15, 2018 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reproductive justice leader becomes latest activist to be detained by ICE

The Daily Dot (Mar. 9, 2018): Reproductive justice leader becomes latest activist to be detained by ICE, by Samantha Grasso

Alejandra Pablos, a nationally recognized reproductive justice and immigrant rights activist with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, was taken into custody last Wednesday during a regularly scheduled check-in with ICE in Arizona. 

Immigrant rights activists say ICE detained Pablos in “retaliation” for protesting outside a Department of Homeland Security building in Virginia in January, making her the latest immigration activism leader to be detained by ICE.

Though Pablos fell out of legal permanent resident status more than two years ago after a drug-related arrest, she had sought asylum status for the “danger she would face as a political organizer” back in Mexico.

“I went in today thinking that they were going to readjust my bond…ICE lied to me. I went in there in good faith. I’m doing everything that I can,” Pablos said in a Facebook video. “It’s been a long time that I’ve been going through this case and they’re trying to really separate me and tear our movement apart and tear our community apart, and I’m not letting that happen.”

Pablos is the latest advocate to be arrested in a string of detainments and deportations of such leaders. In January of this year, ICE detained Ravi Ragbir, executive director of New York’s New Sanctuary Coalition, during a routine check-in with ICE agents. ICE also deported activist Jean Montrevil that month. In February, ICE documents showed undocumented Mexican activist Maru Mora-Villalpando, who is facing deportation, did not come to ICE’s attention until after speaking out in an interview following a protest last year.

Immigration rights groups have sued over the targeting of advocates and are calling these types of detainments “silent raids,” detainments carried out during a person’s regularly-scheduled check-in with ICE.

Pablos has now been detained for seven days. A petition by Mijente and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health demanding Alejandra's release needs 25,000 signatures. It currently has 21,024 signatures as of this writing.

March 14, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

America's Workplaces are Destroying Black Maternal Health

CLASP (Feb. 27, 2018): America's Workplaces are Destroying Black Maternal Health, by Ruth Cosse & Eduardo Hernandez

A new blog post recaps the obstacles that black women still face in accessing quality maternal health care.

Higher levels of workplace stress coupled with the inadequate prenatal care that many low-income pregnant women experience is associated with higher rates of preterm births and infant mortality, according to CLASP report.  Non-Hispanic Black women face the highest (16.3 percent) of preterm births, while non-Hispanic white women have one of the lowest rates (10.2 percent) of preterm of births. The infant mortality rate for black babies currently stands at twice the national average, and black women are two to three times likelier to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

There is also still progress to be made on paid leave. Lack of paid leave may increase a mother’s risk of postpartum depression and make them less likely to breastfeed. Lack of paid leave also can prevent infants and toddlers from accessing the frequent well-baby visits since at that age many babies are susceptible to colds and other minor illnesses. 80 percent of black women are either the household’s sole earner or they bring in nearly half of their household’s income, compared to just 50 percent of white mothers.

CLASP urges passage of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and Healthy Families Act to expand access to paid leave for Black mothers and people with low-incomes, and advocates for black maternal health are fighting to ensure that funding and investments are made in state health care systems and providers to support the health of black mothers and their children.

March 1, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)