Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sixth Circuit En Banc Majority Rules Ohio Can Defund Planned Parenthood

Politico (Mar. 12, 2019): Appeals court rules Ohio can defund Planned Parenthood, by Alice Miranda Ollstein:

In an en banc opinion issued Tuesday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ohio may cut state funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions, overturning a lower court ruling that blocked the state from stripping about $1.5 million of annual support from the network of clinics.

The Sixth Circuit's ruling affects six state public health programs in Ohio, but doesn't touch Medicaid. The Supreme Court in December declined to review a case brought by other Republican-led states seeking to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health organizations that offer abortions.

Four of the eleven Sixth Circuit judges who sided with Ohio in Tuesday's decision were appointed by President Donald Trump. The judges said Ohio’s law barring state health department funding from going to any provider who offers “non-therapeutic abortions” or advocates for abortion rights, “does not violate the Constitution because the affiliates do not have a" substantive "due process right" under the Fourteenth Amendment "to perform abortions."

In her dissent, Judge Helene White and five of her colleagues argued that the state’s law “would result in an undue burden on a woman’s right to obtain non-therapeutic abortions if imposed directly.”

The opinion is available here.

March 12, 2019 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News, Supreme Court | 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)

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)

Friday, February 8, 2019

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)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Voters in Alabama, West Virginia Approve Abortion Restrictions

TIME (Nov. 7, 2018): Voters in Two States Approved Abortion Restrictions on Tuesday, by Abigail Abrams:

Two out of three states that were considering adding restrictions on abortion approved ballot measures on Tuesday.

Alabama and West Virginia approved measures that would significantly restrict access to abortion care if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Another measure in Oregon failed.

In Alabama, voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that would effectively give a fetus the same rights as a person who has been born. Amendment 2 would add language to the Alabama constitution that would “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”

Abortion rights advocates worry this could make it more difficult for women to get access to abortion through the courts or that it could lead to criminalizing contraception or in-vitro fertilization. Other states have passed similar amendments, but Alabama’s is especially restrictive and does not include exceptions for incest, rape or life of the mother.

In West Virginia, the “No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment”, or Amendment 1, would explicitly change the state’s Constitution to read “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”

The amendment would effectively mean that people in West Virginia do not have a right to abortions with Medicaid funding. Medicaid in the state currently covers abortions considered medically necessary, but the amendment does not include such an exception.

Finally, in Oregon, Measure 106 would have prohibited public funds from paying for abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest or threats to the pregnant person’s health. Voters in the state rejected the measure on Tuesday. The measure would have meant that public employees and people on Medicaid could not get coverage for abortion care in the state. 

November 7, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Politics, State and Local News | 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)

Monday, September 24, 2018

How safe are abortion rights in New York if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed?

Albany Times-Union (Sept. 18, 2018): How safe are abortion rights in NY if Kavanaugh is confirmed?, by Bethany Bump:

New York legalized abortion in 1970, becoming the second state in the United States to broadly legalize abortion care and the first state in the nation to legalize it for out-of-state residents.

At the time, the law was seen as liberal, but no longer, according to legal scholars and experts. As confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh proceed in the U.S. Senate and the fate of Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance, New York's abortion laws have received increased attention at the state and local level.

"There has been a dramatic increase by states in the last decade to try to test the boundaries of the nation's abortion law, and it seemed to be in anticipation of changes on the Supreme Court," said Andy Ayers, director of Albany Law School's Government Law Center.

Though a common assumption is that New York is generally safe from federal rollbacks on progressive issues, a policy brief authored by Ayers and published last week by Albany Law School and the Rockefeller Institute of Government highlights exactly why that might not be the case when it comes to abortion rights.

Under New York penal law, abortion is technically a crime. The 1970 law that legalized abortion simply made the procedure a "justifiable" crime under two specific circumstances: when it is performed within 24 weeks of conception or when it is performed to save a woman's life. The law contains no health exception or any other exception (such as when the fetus is nonviable) from the 24-week restriction. However, the Supreme Court later ruled in Roe and in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that denying a health exception or forcing women to carry nonviable fetuses to term constitute unconstitutional restrictions on access to abortion care.

In 1994, the New York Court of Appeals wrote that "the fundamental right of reproductive choice, inherent in the due process liberty right guaranteed by our state constitution, is at least as extensive as the federal constitutional right," and went on to cite both Roe and Casey

"In lawyer terms, this was 'dicta,' meaning non-binding," said Ayers, who is an adviser to the Rockefeller Institute's Center for Law and Policy Solutions. "But to me, it's very, very hard to imagine that our Court of Appeals would find it permissible to restrict abortion in a way that Roe would not have allowed."

Although legal experts agree it's unconstitutional for New York to deny late-term abortions to women to protect their health or when the fetus is nonviable, those exceptions remain a gray area to some medical professionals.

The law governing abortion in New York exists within the state's penal code, meaning violators could face criminal punishment rather than civil liability. Some doctors in New York have urged some patients to seek a late-term abortion in another state.

The Reproductive Health Act, a bill that was introduced in the state Legislature in 2017 to bring New York's abortion law in line with Roe and Casey, would lessen this effect by moving abortion statutes out of state penal law and into the state's public health law. It would also expand the types of medical professionals allowed to perform abortions to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

As President Donald Trump prepared to announce Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee this summer, and amid pressure on the left from Democratic primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke out against Republican state senators who have refused to pass the bill.

Other states have had better luck amending their abortion laws as the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court faces its most significant shift since the Second World War. Massachusetts recently amended its laws to bolster abortion protections, while at least fifteen states have passed laws in recent years that would prohibit abortion should the Supreme Court overturn Roe.

"If a significant number of other states start prohibiting abortion or making it hard to access," Ayers said, "we may see people come into New York to get abortions again, just like they did in the '70s."

This past Thursday, the New York City Council Committee on Women, chaired by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, held a hearing on the current status of reproductive rights and access to abortion services in New York City. The Committee heard Council Resolution 84, introduced by Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Rosenthal, and Council Member Justin Brannan, which urges the State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, the Reproductive Health Act. Abortion rights advocates testified at the hearing, including Cynthia Soohoo, Co-Director of the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at CUNY School of Law. More information about the hearing, including video of the hearing, can be found here.

September 24, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Congress, In the Courts, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Chicago Panel focuses on intersectionality of LGBTQ, reproductive rights

Windy City Times (Sept. 4, 2018): Panel focuses on intersectionality of LGBTQ, reproductive rights, by Carrie Maxwell: 

Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy hosted a panel discussion in Chicago at the end of August to discuss the intersection of LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Cassidy identified these rights as forming the basis of "her life's work" and asked the panelists how the two issues intersect with one another and are viewed by society.

The panel included Pride Action Tank Executive Director Kim Hunt, Planned Parenthood Illinois Director of Community Engagement and Adolescent Health Initiatives B. Deonn Strathman, NARAL Pro-Choice America Field Organizer Nick Uniejewski and Howard Brown Health Women's Health Manager Amy Miller.

The panelists agreed that these discussions--and making them LGBTQ-friendly--are especially integral for youth. "Destigmatizing sex education is vital for everyone's well being," said Uniejewski of NARAL. 

Hunt explained that "everyone has multiple identities," and recognized that today's young people are better at breaking down barriers that have previously existed between separate movements. Intersectionality necessarily breeds conversations about the power dynamics among people, too, which should not be ignored in the quest to bring various movements in solidarity with each other. 

The panel also discussed "crisis pregnancy centers" and how their work has been detrimental to the reproductive rights community, largely due to the false or incomplete information these centers offer. "Miller explained that one of the ways to remove these center's power is by overturning the Hyde Amendment." The Hyde Amendment is a provision, passed in 1976,  that bars the use of federal funds for abortion procedures unless the women's life is at risk or if the pregnancy was a result of incest or rape. 

The panelists all agreed that halting Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court is of primary importance for activists today. 

September 7, 2018 in Abortion, Conferences and Symposia, Current Affairs, Lectures and Workshops, Politics, Public Opinion, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A California Abortion Pill Law Would Require Colleges To Offer Them

Bustle (Aug. 22, 2018): A California Abortion Pill Law Would Require Colleges To Offer Them, Thanks to These Activists, by Lani Seelinger:

California could require medication abortion pills to be available across all of the state's public college campuses if a bill that originated through student activism passes by the end of the month. Activists at the University of California-Berkeley were already focusing on promoting reproductive health care when they realized that expanding that care to include access to medication abortions on campus in particular would improve  many student lives. 

"Medication abortion is the process by which a woman can terminate her pregnancy by taking a series of pills within the first 10 weeks of her pregnancy." These procedures are considered very safe and efficient, and activists recognize that campus access could alleviate the logistical issues of accessing the medication. Often the stress of accessing a medication abortion can harm a student's emotional, academic, and financial well-being. Over 500 students a month on University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campuses seek medication abortions. 

The Women's Foundation of California--which fights for racial, economic, and gender justice--partnered with the students and alumni promoting the cause, and from there the effort spread from Berkeley throughout the state. California Senator Connie Leyva introduced the bill in the Senate earlier this year. It passed. Next, the bill must pass in the Assembly before August 31 in order to land on Governor Jerry Brown's desk.

The activists spearheading the campaign for the bill (SB320) are driven by the greater mission of de-stigmatizing abortion. 

August 25, 2018 in Abortion, Contraception, Culture, Current Affairs, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 3, 2018

With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Maryland House speaker aims to strengthen state protections

Aug. 2, 2018 (Washington Post): With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Md. House speaker aims to strengthen state protections, by Erin Cox:

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to lead a statewide effort to enshrine a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care in the Maryland constitution, joining other states in attempting to preempt any move by the Supreme Court to erode abortion protections.

The Speaker said he will personally introduce and earn support for legislation asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment, likely in the 2020 presidential election. An amendment would ensure that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, no legislation outlawing abortion could be passed in Maryland.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who is anti-abortion, said that that letting voters decide on the issue “sounds like a great idea.” Ben Jealous, his Democratic opponent running to replace Hogan this November, vowed to campaign in support of the amendment.

Abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates believe a strongly worded dissent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh issued last fall, in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, indicates he would favor more abortion restrictions and might support overturning the federal protections that began with Roe.

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill repealing century-old laws that criminalized abortion care. West Virginia and Alabama have initiatives on the ballot this year to clarify that their state constitutions do not protect the right to an abortion.

If Busch succeeds in persuading three-fifths of each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to approve the constitutional amendment next year, Maryland voters would see it on the 2020 ballot.

Nine states currently have abortion protections in their state constitutions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights: Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico.

Busch said the amendment would insert Maryland’s existing abortion statute into the state constitution. That law was approved by the General Assembly in 1991. After antiabortion groups petitioned it to a referendum, it passed with 61.7 percent of the vote.

The law allows individuals to seek abortion care without interference from the state if the fetus is not viable outside the womb. An individual may also terminate a pregnancy at any point if the fetus has a “genetic defect or serious anomaly” or if an abortion is necessary to protect the health of the pregnant person.

Busch said he will introduce the amendment proposal when the legislature convenes in January and is confident he can find the votes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

August 3, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Democratic governors warn: We'll pull our states out of Title X

July 31, 2018 (Politico): Democrats warn: We'll pull our states out of Title X, by Dan Diamond:

Three Democratic governors are threatening to pull out of the Title X federal family planning program if the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) moves forward with its proposal to prohibit referrals for abortion care and make other changes that would exclude abortion providers from participating in the program.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, Hawaii Governor David Ige, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in separate statements that if the legal battle to prevent the Trump administration's Title X changes fails, their states would not be able to participate in the “unethical” Title X program.

“We would be left with no choice but to refuse to participate in an unethical Title X program," Inslee said in a statement Monday. “Hawai‘i will not accept federal funds for these programs if the proposed rules are implemented,” Ige said. “It would leave me no choice but to act in the best interests of the citizens of Oregon and our state law, and withdraw our state’s participation from an unethical, ineffective Title X program that reduces access to essential preventive health services,” Brown said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a similar warning that his state's program would be "impossible" to continue, although he did not explicitly vow to pull New York out of the program.

The moves intensify a quickly escalating battle between the Trump administration and Title X program participants that also offer abortion care over the future of the family planning program. The deadline for public responses to the Trump administration's proposed changes was Tuesday, July 31.

Attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia on Monday also jointly issued a comment in opposition to the proposed rule, which can be found here.

August 1, 2018 in Abortion, Contraception, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0)