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Blogs Review Women's Health Battles of 2014, Look Ahead to Next Year

Blogs Review Women's Health Battles of 2014, Look Ahead to Next Year

December 23, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the National Women's Law Center, "ThinkProgress" and more.

INSURANCE COVERAGE: "5 Major Changes for Women's Health Coverage in 2014," Stephanie Glover, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": Glover notes that 2014, which was "the first year of the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148]," brought "significant changes for women's access to health coverage." Glover outlines five examples of positive changes: "Access to affordable health insurance," with millions of women signing up for coverage through the ACA's marketplaces and receiving credits to help pay for coverage; the end of the practice known as "gender rating," meaning that insurers "on the individual market" can no longer "discriminate against women by charging them more than men for the same health coverage"; increased Medicaid coverage, with 27 states and Washington, D.C., having implemented expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals under the ACA; "[a]ccess to health services women need," with "[a]ll plans offered on the individual market" now "required to cover essential health benefits including preventive care" and "maternity and newborn care" which many plans often excluded before; and "[p]reventive services without cost-sharing," giving "30 million women" in 2014 access to services like "birth control, well-woman visits, and breastfeeding support and supplies" without out-of-pocket costs. However, Glover adds that "2014 also brought important set-backs for the coverage of women's reproductive health -- most notably the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision" (Glover, "Womenstake," NWLC, 12/22).

ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Proof That the Women Who Share Their Abortion Stories Can Make a Difference," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Noting that "some advocates have started calling 2014 'the year of the abortion story,'" Culp-Ressler discusses how sharing abortion stories can "translate into more public support for legal abortion." She writes that "preliminary results" from a political canvassing study "provide some concrete evidence" that abortion-rights opponents are "more likely to shift their view about whether the procedure should be legal" when they "have an in-person conversation with a woman who's chosen to end a pregnancy." Specifically, the preliminary results show that "canvassers were able to increase public support for legal abortion by 10%." Moreover, the researchers noted a "ripple effect" in that those who heard the story "were more likely to tell other members of their households" and that "there's some evidence that the personal abortion stories softened the impact of national news related to abortion" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/22).

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "It's Been a Terrible Year for Reproductive Rights," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: Marcotte writes that "[t]hings are looking bleak for American women" when it comes to abortion and contraception access, describing "three big court cases that really show how dire things got in 2014." She reviews the Supreme Court's "asinine" reasoning behind its ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, as well the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' rulings to allow enforcement of Texas' hospital admitting privileges requirement for abortion providers (Planned Parenthood v. Abbott) and ambulatory surgical center standards for clinics "even if all the facilities do is provide the abortion pill" (Whole Women's Health v. Lakey), as part of a state law (HB 2). The Supreme Court later issued a stay against enforcement of the ambulatory surgical centers provision. Marcotte adds that looking ahead to 2015, "things do not look like they're getting better," with conservative state lawmakers already filing many bills to restrict reproductive health care, including increased attacks on contraception. She writes, "Those against reproductive rights are losing culturally" and are looking to "regain control legally," adding that "as this year's events show, there's a lot of power in going that route" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 12/19).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Sponsor of Missouri's 'Father Knows Best' Bill: "It's Not a Woman's Body with an Abortion. It's a Child's Body," Katie McDonough, Salon.

~ "Federal Court Unanimously Calls North Carolina Anti-Abortion Law a Violation of the First Amendment," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

PREGNANT WOMEN'S RIGHTS: "Irish Hospital Reportedly Keeping Brain Dead Pregnant Woman Alive," Mary Williams, Salon: Williams writes that Irish officials' decision over "whether or not to honor the wishes of the family of a pregnant, brain dead woman" and end mechanical support is "further evidence that in many parts of the world, a fetus has more protections than an adult woman." Williams explains that under Irish law, the fetus "is considered as much of a citizen as the woman herself" and that the family is considering legal action. The case marks "the second potentially landmark challenge to Ireland's abortion restrictions," Williams notes, writing that a teenage immigrant "who says she was suicidal after a rape that left her pregnant" has filed a legal claim that "she was coerced into undergoing an early caesarian," even though "recent reforms to [Irish] law were supposed to help women at serious risk of medical complications or suicide to obtain [abortions]" (Williams, Salon, 12/19).

What others are saying about pregnant women's rights:

~ "Pregnant Women Aren't Being Arrested To Protect Their Fetuses," Juliana Britto Schwartz, Feministing.