Monday, March 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 4, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee supports the bill.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Trump Administration Adopts Domestic Gag Rule

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

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

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

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

February 23, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Combahee River Collective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Campus Vending Machines Offer Emergency Contraception Without the Stigma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 11, 2019

An Overview of State Abortion Laws

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

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

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

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

Listen to the interview below:

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

Saturday, February 9, 2019

In Nigeria, Trump administration policies bite hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Restrictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

February 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Supreme Court Temporarily Stays LA Admitting Privileges Law

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

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

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

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

 

 

February 2, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Idaho legislators seek to criminalize abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Virginia bill would loosen restrictions on late-term abortion care

CBS News (Jan. 30, 2019): Virginia bill would loosen restrictions on late-term abortions, by Kathryn Watson:

A new bill proposed by Delegate Kathy Tran in the Virginia House of Delegates would ease restrictions on abortion care during the third trimester of pregnancy, and allow abortions during the second trimester to take place outside hospitals.

Under current Virginia law, abortions during the third trimester require a determination by a doctor and two consulting physicians that continuing the pregnancy would likely result in the woman's death or "substantially and irremediably" impair her mental or physical health. However, the new bill would require one doctor to make the determination that the pregnancy threatens the woman's life or health, and would eliminate the requirement that abortions during the second trimester be performed in a state-licensed hospital. Proponents of the Virginia legislation argue the bill, which is similar to the Reproductive Health Act passed in New York, is needed to protect women's health.

Only slightly more than 1 percent of abortions are performed at 21 weeks of pregnancy or later. Patients at this stage often seek abortion care after a doctor has detected a life-threatening fetal abnormality.

Republicans narrowly control the House of Delegates, so the bill is unlikely to pass anytime soon. A subcommittee voted to table the bill in a 5-3 vote Monday.

January 30, 2019 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

This is What New York’s Reproductive Health Act Means to an Abortion Provider

Rewire.News (Jan. 25, 2019): I'm an Abortion Provider. This is What New York’s Reproductive Health Act Means to Me, by Dr. Monica Dragoman:

On January 22, 2019, the 46th anniversary of landmark court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States, New York state lawmakers passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). The RHA enshrines the protections of Roe into state law, removes abortion from the criminal code, and clarifies that trained health-care providers acting within their scope of practice can provide abortion care.

Dr. Monica Dragoman, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood of New York City, says she is thrilled to see state legislators "recognize how critical abortion access is to the health and well-being of our communities," especially in the face of increased threats to abortion access from Washington, DC.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, only slightly more than 1 percent of abortions are performed at 21 weeks of pregnancy or later. Patients at this stage often seek abortion care after a doctor has detected a life-threatening fetal abnormality.

Under New York’s previously outdated abortion law, those seeking abortion care later in pregnancy had to travel out of state to receive the procedure. Says Dr. Dragoman, "this is often a logistical nightmare that includes the stress of finding a provider out of state, raising funds for the procedure itself and the associated travel, and dealing with insurance coverage," creating particularly insurmountable obstacles for people with low incomes.

Dragoman cites the case of reproductive health activist Erika Christensen, "who, at 31-weeks pregnant, carrying a pregnancy she and her husband desperately wanted, learned that her baby would be unable to survive outside the womb." New York’s abortion law, which housed the procedure in the criminal code, forced Christensen to travel to Colorado, where the procedure alone cost her $10,000, "an unthinkable amount for most, even for a necessary medical procedure."

With passage of the Reproductive Health Act, Dragoman says, "New York can finally grow to be a model of what sexual and reproductive health care should be." The RHA "is a resounding endorsement of an individual’s autonomy to determine if and when to parent."

But the work isn't done, says Dragoman After the RHA, New York "must tackle issues of affordability, insurance coverage, and comprehensive provider training when it comes to abortion."

January 29, 2019 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Lawsuit: Pennsylvania's Medicaid Abortion Coverage Ban is Unconstitutional

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.

January 21, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Philly judge blocks Trump efforts to rollback birth control mandate

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." 

January 14, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Curbs Trump Administration's Attempt to Gut Contraceptive Mandate

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.

 

January 14, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

El Salvador court frees Imelda Cortez, jailed under anti-abortion laws

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.

December 18, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, International | Permalink | Comments (0)