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Blogs Comment on 2015 Abortion Legislation, Helms Amendment, More

Blogs Comment on 2015 Abortion Legislation, Helms Amendment, More

December 19, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Mother Jones, Huffington Post and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "The War on Reproductive Rights Will Get a Lot Uglier Next Year," Molly Redden, Mother Jones: "After a record-shattering year in 2013, the pace of harsh anti-abortion bills introduced in 2014 slowed down ... [b]ut brace yourself for 2015," Redden writes. She explains that in 2015, "Republicans will control 11 more legislative chambers than they did in 2014," lawmakers in Texas and North Dakota will reconvene, and "there are no major elections to take up lawmakers' time or cause them [to] worry about war-on-women attacks." Redden lists several antiabortion-rights measures pre-filed so far for next year in nine states: Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. The "list only covers states where bills have actually been submitted," Redden adds, noting that "[i]n other states, abortion foes are still scribbling away" (Redden, Mother Jones, 12/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Your Body, His Choice: Missouri GOP Bill Requires Men To Give Written Permission for Abortion," Katie McDonough, Salon.

HELMS AMENDMENT: "An Unhappy Birthday: Helms Still Hurts," Dawn Laguens, Huffington Post blogs: Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Laguens "wish[es] a very unhappy [41st] birthday to the Helms Amendment," explaining that the policy "prevents U.S. foreign assistance programs from supporting abortion 'as a method of family planning,'" but that it has been incorrectly implemented "as a total ban on funding for abortion -- even in cases of incest, rape and life endangerment." She writes that as a result, women "[a]round the world ... in especially traumatic situations are denied a health care procedure that's legal in their countries -- and in ours." She urges the Obama administration "to reduce the harm [the Helms Amendment] does around the world by correcting how the policy is implemented," adding that "eventually, we can and must get rid of the Helms Amendment entirely" (Laguens, Huffington Post blogs, 12/17).

PEACE CORPS: "Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers, at Last," Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families blog: "The funding bill Congress passed last weekend" ensures that "women who serve their country in the Peace Corps finally have the same abortion coverage as other women who get their insurance through the federal government," writes Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. She explains that the law "lifts the terribly unfair ban on coverage for abortion services for Peace Corps volunteers who survive rape or incest, or whose lives would be jeopardized by continuing a pregnancy." Ness adds that while the law marks a "victor[y]" over injustice, women's health supporters "won't rest until all women have access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion care beyond the limited circumstances of rape, incest and life endangerment" (Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families blog,12/16).

What others are saying about the Peace Corps:

~ "Amidst the Budget Chaos, Long-Awaited Abortion Coverage for Women in the Peace Corps," Georgeanne Usova, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights."

~ "Congress Delivers for Women in the Peace Corps," Latanya Mapp Frett, The Hill's "Congress Blog."

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH DISCRIMINATION: "D.C. Council Prohibits Employment Discrimination Based on Reproductive Health Choices," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "The Washington, D.C., city council unanimously passed a bill Wednesday [B20-0790] that would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on reproductive health decision-making -- including the decision to terminate a pregnancy," Crockett writes. Specifically, she explains that the measure "amends the District's Human Rights Act ... to add that an employer cannot discriminate in 'compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment' because of an employee's or a dependent's 'reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service.'" Crockett notes that D.C. council member David Grosso, who sponsored the bill, has also clarified that the bill does not contradict the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling because it does not "force employers to purchase a certain kind of insurance or be involved in conversations about contraception or abortion with employees." Rather, the bill only ensures employers cannot "fire or retaliate against an employee if, for instance, the boss finds out the employee is using birth control or once had an abortion," Crockett writes (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 12/18).

ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "Journal of Adolescent Health Assesses Progress on Youth Sexual Health and Rights," Suzanne Ito, International Women's Health Coalition blog: "According to a special supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health," progress "on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights over the past 20 years ... has been 'limited and patchy' since governments made a series of commitments at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994," Ito writes. She notes that the supplement, "fostered by the World Health Organization and the International Women's Health Coalition," calls for "promising programs for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights [to] be implemented on a large, national scale." Specifically, "[t]he supplement defines five complementary and intersecting areas for intervention: scaling up comprehensive sexuality education programs that address gender and human rights; increasing access to effective, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services; preventing intimate partner violence and sexual violence; increasing youth participation in sexual and reproductive health policymaking; and addressing the key social, cultural, economic, and political factors that impact young people's ability to lead healthy lives," Ito writes, adding that the supplement also urges further research into new and existing "approaches for improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights" (Ito, International Women's Health Coalition blog, 12/18).

FAMILY PLANNING: "The Devastating Consequences of Chipping Away at Family Planning Programs," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler writes that federally funded Title X "family planning clinics that are supposed to offer a safety net for low-income Americans are in crisis," adding that as more U.S. residents "slipped into poverty" as a result of the recession, "Title X's patient load increased, but its budget didn't." Culp-Ressler explains that compared with 2012, last year "the program's clinics served about 206,000 fewer patients" and "[t]here were 21 fewer service sites available to visit," meaning that many people who needed care did not receive it. The program survived an unsuccessful defunding attempt in Congress in 2011, but "states like New Jersey, Montana, Texas and Maine have all slashed family planning funding," Culp-Ressler adds. Guttmacher Institute research "has actually shown that the program is one of the best investments that lawmakers can make," saving taxpayers an estimated "$7 for every dollar the government spends on family planning" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/18).