Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Challenges of Innovating Access to Abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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)

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)

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)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

South Carolina's anti-abortion lawmakers say they’ll push for stricter laws in 2019

Greenville News (Dec. 4, 2018): South Carolina's anti-abortion lawmakers say they’ll push for stricter laws in 2019, by Tom Barton & Avery G. Wilks, The State:

Conservative state lawmakers in South Carolina say they will push for a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected when the full General Assembly reconvenes in January. If it becomes law, the proposal effectively would bar most abortions in South Carolina and could set up a showdown in the federal courts.

“It’s a common-sense bill. If a heart stops beating permanently, the person is dead,” said state Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, who plans to file the fetal heartbeat bill in the South Carolina House. “Common sense should tell us that when a heart is beating, we have a precious human life that should not be terminated.”

The proposed law would ban nearly all abortions after a fetus has a detectable heartbeat — as early as six weeks in a pregnancy. That would be about two weeks after a woman’s first missed period, and well before many women realize they are pregnant, said Vicki Ringer, the public affairs director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

More than 60 percent of the roughly 5,100 abortions performed in South Carolina in 2017 occurred after six weeks of gestation or post-fertilization, according to the latest data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Iowa passed a fetal heartbeat bill this spring, among the strictest abortion laws in the country. But that law is on hold for now as opponents challenge it in court. North Dakota and Arkansas passed similar laws, only to see them overturned by federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the lower court rulings, but that could possibly change with Justice Brett Kavanaugh now on the court

Efforts to pass a fetal heartbeat law in South Carolina have thus far failed. Bills introduced in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018 all died without reaching the House or Senate floor.

The proposal faces a tough road to passage again this year, especially in the state Senate, where Republicans hold a majority but Democrats can filibuster controversial bills and block them. Last year, Senate Democrats took turns stalling a vote on an outright abortion ban for days until Republicans gave in and dropped the proposal.

Anti-choice lawmakers in the General Assembly also plan to reintroduce a ban on dilation & extraction, also known as a D&E ban, as well as the sweeping "Personhood Act," which would establish that fetuses have legal rights at the moment of conception, banning almost all abortions.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has promised to sign anti-choice legislation into law.

December 6, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

More than 5,500 women came to Illinois to have an abortion last year, amid growing restrictions in the Midwest

Chicago Tribune (Nov. 30, 2018): More than 5,500 women came to Illinois to have an abortion last year amid growing restrictions in the Midwest, by Angie Leventis Lourgos:

More women are crossing state lines to have abortions in Illinois, according to the latest statistics from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Last year, 5,528 women traveled to Illinois from other states to obtain abortion care, almost one thousand more than the 4,543 women who came from out of state in 2016. The total number of abortions statewide during the same period increased slightly, from 38,382 in 2016 to 39,329 in 2017, according to annual state reports. Of those, about 1,000 abortions each year were provided to women whose home states were marked “unknown.”

Illinois is generally considered a reproductive rights haven amid the more restrictive Midwest, where women often face waiting periods, gestational limits, fewer clinics and other hurdles.

Within the Midwest, the availability of abortion providers differed drastically state by state. For example, Illinois had about two dozen clinics, roughly one for every 120,135 women of reproductive age. By contrast, in neighboring Wisconsin researchers found three facilities providing abortions, about one for every 423,590 women, according to data collected in early 2017.

Edwin Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said the rise in out-of-state travel for abortion “fits a pattern that we have seen the past few years.”

“While other states in the Midwest have imposed increasing restrictions and limitations on the ability of a woman to access health care, including abortion care, Illinois has largely moved to keep such health care more accessible,” he said. “As a state that imposes relatively fewer unnecessary and punitive barriers, we should expect women to seek care in Illinois.”

December 4, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Ohio House of Representatives passes 6 week abortion ban

WLWT5 (Nov. 15, 2018): 'Heartbeat bill,' which puts limits on abortions, passes through Ohio House:

On Thursday, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill which would ban abortions as soon a fetal heartbeat is detected which can be as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy.  The bill now moves on to the Ohio Senate.  The Ohio legislature passed a similar bill in 2016.  However, former Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed the bill because it is unconstitutional.  Ohio governor-elect Mike DeWine has said that he will sign the bill if passed.

November 16, 2018 in Abortion Bans, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 9, 2018

What the Election Results Mean for Abortion in America

The Cut (Nov. 8, 2018): What the Election Results Mean for Abortion in America, by Irin Carmon:

"Tuesday’s results were messy and contradictory, just like the current reality of reproductive rights," writes Irin Carmon for The Cut.

With federal courts failing to protect abortion access, it will be up to the states to give and take away. “We made huge gains at the state level, which is going to be crucially important as we face the post-Roe reality,” says NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. Exit polls showed broad support for Roe v. Wade, but Republican voters in states like Indiana and North Dakota were motivated by Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to vote Republican.

First, the bad: the Senate and the federal judiciary "are gone." Republicans took a firm majority in the Senate, which has the sole authority to select federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Should Donald Trump have the chance to make another pick for the Supreme Court justice, writes Carmon, "the impact would be catastrophic."

Plenty of damage has and still can be done by Trump-controlled federal agencies, too. Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules to limit abortion coverage on insurance plans on the exchange and to grant employers broad ability to opt out of including birth control in their plans.

But the good news is that without Republican control of the House, no major legislation restricting access to contraception or birth control — including defunding Planned Parenthood or a ban on abortion at 20 weeks — is likely to go anywhere.

At the state level, pro-choice Democrats didn’t lose a single governor’s seat and actually picked up seven seats. Former governors in some of the those states — like Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin — were zealous in limiting abortion access, making the replacements especially significant. Blue states also saw a total of 300 state legislature seats flipping Democratic, paving the way for stronger protections for abortion access.

In New York, eight state Senate seats went to Democrats, after a concerted campaign highlighted Republican opponents’ refusal to a Reproductive Health Act that would safeguard abortion liberty in New York in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. Democrats now control the New York State Senate for the first time in a decade.

Some Republican supermajorities, which can override vetoes, were shrunk to simple majorities. Perhaps most promisingly, pro-choice champions won in red states, like Colin Allred in Texas. In Orange County, California, 31-year-old Katie Hill, who spoke openly about how her miscarriage at 18 had informed her support for reproductive freedom, bested the anti-abortion Steve Knight.

November 9, 2018 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, In the Courts, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Abortion May Be Mobilizing More Democratic Voters Than Republicans Now

FiveThirtyEight (Oct. 31, 2018): Abortion May Be Mobilizing More Democratic Voters Than Republicans Now, by Daniel Cox:

Two new surveys reveal a remarkable shift in how important the issue of abortion is to Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm election this Tuesday, November 6.

A recent PRRI survey found that nearly half (47 percent) of Democrats said abortion is a critically important issue to them personally; 40 percent of Republicans said the same. That represents a dramatic swing since 2015, when 36 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans said abortion was a critical concern. Democrats are almost twice as likely today as in 2011 to rate the issue as critical.

Meanwhile, a recent Pew poll showed that abortion is a far more central voting concern for Democrats today than it has been at any point in the last decade — 61 percent of Democratic voters said abortion is very important to their vote this year. In 2008, only 38 percent of Democratic voters said the same.

Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court appears to have elevated the perceived threat level to the right to abortion. A PRRI poll conducted during Kavanaugh's confirmation process found that nearly two-thirds of Democrats believed that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Another likely reason for the rising concern among Democrats, Cox reasons, is the years-long campaign to curb abortion access at the state level. 

Cox also finds that reproductive health care has taken a more central place in the Democratic agenda as women, particularly young women, have taken on more prominent roles in the party. Many Democratic women, Cox writes, see abortion access as inextricably linked to the financial security and autonomy of women.

However, polls show that when most Democrats make voting decisions, they still weigh the issue against a host of competing concerns, such as other health care issues and the environment. It is not a litmus-test issue for most Republican or Democratic voters. Only 21 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats say they would only ever support a candidate whose views on abortion align with their own, according to a PRRI poll.

Democrats are likely to continue to prioritize abortion so long as its legal status appears to be threatened and access to it is limited. This may mean that fewer Republicans campaign on their explicit opposition to abortion, at least in the short-term. Conservative Christians, who have worked for decades to overturn Roe, have been conspicuously tight-lipped about abortion in recent months, indicating that they are worried about the possible political fallout of discussing their views. The 2018 election will show if that strategy comes too late and the abortion issue has given Democratic voters another reason to head to the polls.

 

November 6, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Abortion Is on the Ballot in These States Next Week

Rewire.News (Nov. 1, 2018): Abortion Is on the Ballot in These States Next Week, by Lauren Holter: 

Midterm voting is already well underway throughout the country with election day officially falling on Tuesday, November 6. While the citizenry waits to see whether Republicans or Democrats will next control their state legislatures, next week's elections will also implicate specific issues in addition to deciding our leaders. Abortion rights are on the ballot in Alabama, Oregon, and West Virginia. 

Alabama's ballot measure proposes "personhood" rights for fetuses, which could criminalize access to certain contraceptives or in vitro fertilization. The measure, if passed, would act as a "trigger ban"and would completely outlaw abortion under the circumstances of a post-Roe world. Similar ballot measures have previously been proposed--and failed--in Colorado, Mississippi, and North Dakota. Republican legislators in Alabama want the state Constitution to explicitly elevate the rights of unborn fetuses over any right to an abortion. The Amendment does not include any exceptions to a prohibition on abortion--not even in the cases of threat to the mother's life. 

In West Virginia, the No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment also aims to update their state Constitution. Lawmakers wish for the text to explicitly assert that nothing in the instrument protects the right to or funding for an abortion. The state already has a pre-Roe abortion ban that remains on the books, which would enter into force should Roe v. Wade be overturned, criminalizing abortion and punishing providers with imprisonment. The new Amendment proposal focuses on eliminating Medicaid funding for abortions. Medicaid currently covers "medically-necessary" abortions in West Virginia. While the Amendment does include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or threats to life, opponents are particularly concerned that the new restriction would disproportionately harm low-income patients who do not qualify for exemptions. 

Finally, the proposal in Oregon, called Measure 106, "would prohibit public funds from paying for abortions in Oregon except in cases of rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, or a threat to the pregnant person’s health." Public employees and people on Medicaid would lose access to abortion as well. This measure would specifically override the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which Oregon passed last year to guarantee cost-free access to abortion and reproductive health services.

In the era of a Kavanaugh Supreme Court, advocates are particularly zealous about preemptively protecting abortion access on the state level, and those involved in these three states' campaigns are no exception. 

November 2, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Politics, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Abortion Rights Got Two Important Legal Wins Last Week

Rewire.News (Oct. 1, 2018): Abortion Rights Got Two Important Legal Wins Last Week, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:

 A Federal court in Kentucky ruled a 1998 state law aimed at limiting abortion clinics unconstitutional. 

The law requires abortion clinics to have written transfer agreements with ambulance services and hospitals, often referred to as "transfer and transport" requirements.  Even though the state's last abortion clinic (and a plaintiff in the lawsuit) has been able to maintain the licensure required by the law--and so stay open--the court agreed with the clinic's argument that Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has used the law as a tool to try to cut off abortion access. 

Judge Greg Stivers ruled:

The court has carefully reviewed the evidence presented in this case and concludes that the record is devoid of any credible proof that the challenged regulations have any tangible benefit to women’s health.  The regulations effectively eliminate women’s right to abortions in the state. Therefore, the challenged regulations are unconstitutional.

The judge affirmed that “the challenged regulations are not medically necessary and do absolutely nothing to further the health and safety of women seeking abortions in the Commonwealth of Kentucky." The decision is expected to be appealed in the 6th Circuit. 

A federal court in Virginia also ruled last week that that a similar lawsuit challenging the state's anti-choice licensing and oversight restrictions can move forward. 

 

October 4, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Medical News, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Louisiana's 'admitting privileges' abortion law upheld

NOLA.com (Sep. 27, 2018): Louisiana's 'admitting privileges' abortion law upheld, by The Associated Press:

A panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Louisiana law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals does not violate the constitutional right to abortion.

The 2-1 ruling from the 5th Circuit panel notes Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, but the majority found Louisiana's law does not impose the same "substantial burden" on women as the Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The ruling reversed a Baton Rouge-based federal judge's ruling in the case and ordered the lawsuit by opponents of the law dismissed.

"Almost all Texas hospitals required that for a doctor to maintain privileges there, he or she had to admit a minimum number of patients annually," Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote in the opinion joined by Judge Edith Brown Clement. "Few Louisiana hospitals made that demand."

The law's immediate effects are unclear as to the three abortion clinics that court records indicate operate in Louisiana -- in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport.

Opponents of the law have argued it would make it very difficult or impossible for many to obtain abortion care in Louisiana, saying the law could result in one or two clinic closures and, eventually, a loss of access to abortion by 70 percent of individuals seeking abortion care in Louisiana.

Judge Smith rejected that argument. His opinion didn't attack the district judge's decision that the law's benefits were minimal. Instead, he wrote that the 2017 ruling, by Judge John deGravelles, exaggerated the burden on women seeking an abortion. He found no evidence that any Louisiana clinics will close because of the law, stating that there is only one doctor at one clinic who currently is unable to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. If he stops performing the procedure, Smith wrote, it would affect "at most, only 30 percent of women, and even then, not substantially."

The dissenting judge, Patrick Higginbotham, took his colleagues to task, saying they retried the case after the district judge had given full consideration to the facts. "At the outset," he wrote, "I fail to see how a statute with no medical benefit that is likely to restrict access to abortion can be considered anything but 'undue."

 

September 28, 2018 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Students Fought For Abortion Access On California Campuses. Now It's Jerry Brown's Turn.

Refinery29 (Sep. 25, 2018): Students Fought For Abortion Access On California Campuses. Now It's Gov. Brown's Turn, by Phoebe Abramowitz:

California Governor Jerry Brown could implement a historic expansion of abortion access for California university students by signing SB 320 into law and bringing medication abortion to student health centers at California public universities by 2022.

The measure was introduced in February 2017 by state Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Inland Empire) and passed the state senate in January 2018. After passing the state assembly this past August, it now sits on Governor Brown's desk.

In California, the push for access to medication abortion on college campuses began with Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ), a student organization at UC Berkeley, which started pushing for more access to health care on campus in 2016. Although their advocacy efforts on campus resulted in significant pushback and little administrative support, SURJ continued to advocate for more inclusive health-care services on campus, eventually focusing on advocacy for SB 320.

Abramowitz, a UC Berkeley senior organizing with SURJ at Berkeley and the justCARE campaign, writes that "students from across the state have been consistently organizing in support of SB 320 since the bill’s inception" and that if  "the legislature trusts students to make choices for ourselves," then so should Governor Brown.

Currently, students face significant and unnecessary barriers to medication abortion, Abramowitz writes. No California public university currently offers medication abortion in its student health center. Under this system, students have had to miss class and work, wait weeks for their referral appointment, and pull together hundreds of dollars. Students have to travel to an off-campus clinic and navigate bureaucratic and logistical hurdles in the process of referral to a new provider. Barriers like this disproportionately impact low-income students and students of color. SB 320, Abramowitz argues, would provide resources that "will have a tangible impact on students’ experiences."

Support for SB 320 extends beyond college campuses. A recent poll found that seven in ten women and nearly two thirds (64%) of all Californians support students who choose to terminate their pregnancies being able to get their medication on campus.

Student leaders said some of the strongest opposition against SB 320 behind closed doors comes from administrators within the UC system, which contains campuses such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. Campus officials have not taken a public stance against the bill.

September 26, 2018 in Abortion, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)