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Blogs Comment on State of Abortion Care Access in U.S., Helms Amendment, More

Blogs Comment on State of Abortion Care Access in U.S., Helms Amendment, More

January 16, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Report Card: U.S. Receives 'D' for Abortion Care Access in 2014," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: Liss-Schultz discusses a recent report by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which says that the U.S. "deserves an overall 'D' grade for access to abortion services." The report found that "[s]ince 1995 states have enacted 835 laws that restrict abortion access," Liss-Schultz writes, adding that the "most popular" abortion restrictions enacted in 2014 were "[i]nsurance coverage bans, forced waiting periods, and medically unnecessary TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion provider) laws," according to the report. Overall, the report found that "[s]ixteen states were responsible for the 27 pieces of [antiabortion-rights] legislation" passed last year, with Louisiana enacting the most restrictions, at four, and an additional eight states each enacting two such restrictions. However, "the news isn't all bad for reproductive rights advocates," Liss-Schultz continues, noting that the report found that "[m]ore pro-choice measures were enacted in 2014 than in any year since 2008" (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 1/14).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Where Abortion Opponents -- and Backers-- Rule, in Five Maps," Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post's "The Fix."

~ "Exposing the Junk Science of the Anti-Choice Movement," Anita Little, Ms. Magazine blog.

~ "Getting an Abortion In 2016 Could Be Near-Impossible in These 4 States," Lauren Barbato, Bustle.

20-WEEK BAN: "House GOP Schedules Vote on a National Abortion Ban," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Next week, on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the country, House Republicans will mark the occasion by voting on -- and, in all likelihood, advancing -- a national" ban (HR 36) on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Culp-Ressler writes. She notes that the bill "represents a direct attack to Roe, which legalized abortion until the point of viability ... sometime around 24 weeks." Further, she writes that the legislation "is based on the scientifically inaccurate assertion that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy." The push for such bans appears to be "more about political optics than it is about accomplishing the GOP's stated goal of lowering the abortion rate," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that "[l]ater abortions are already incredibly rare" and "typically occur only in very desperate situations -- like when women discover serious fetal health issues that weren't evident earlier in their pregnancy" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 1/13).

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS: "How To Prevent Your STD Test From Getting Mailed To Your Parents," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Young adults who take advantage of a provision of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) that allows them to remain on their parents' health care plan until age 26 could inadvertently have their sexual health information shared with their parents, Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler notes that while the provision expands coverage options for "[m]illions of young adults," it "comes with some unintended consequences for [enrollees'] sensitive sexual health information" because "[i]nsurers are typically in regular communication with a plan's main policyholder, giving that person detailed information about how their plan is being used." Such communications can tell parents whether their children "fill a birth control prescription, take a pregnancy test, receive treatment for [a sexually transmitted infection], or get an abortion," according to Culp-Ressler. However, she notes that there is a "simple fix to this," citing legislation (SB 138) that took effect in California this month -- with 20 other states expressing interest in the measure -- that allows state policyholders "to indicate that they want the information about their sensitive health data sent straight to them, instead of to the person who holds the policy" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 1/14).

HELMS AMENDMENT: "As Roe Anniversary Approaches, Advocates Push for Abortion Rights in Foreign Aid," Katie McDonough, Salon: McDonough comments on reproductive health advocates on Thursday "gather[ing] in Washington to push [President] Obama" to clarify the Helms Amendment "to allow foreign aid to cover some abortion care in countries where the procedure is currently legal." She explains that while the amendment "ostensibly allows for reproductive health services that provide counseling, information and post-care services related to abortion as well as funding for abortion in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment," its language as currently interpreted means that it "effectively functions as a total ban and gag rule" on abortion. According to McDonough, "reproductive rights advocates are working to put" the Helms Amendment "back on the table" after a push to repeal it stalled in Congress in 2012. While a total repeal "may feel like a pipe dream at a moment of increasing restrictions on abortion, advocates are hoping that a clarification of the amendment could be a lifesaving stopgap for the nearly 50,000 women who die each year from unsafe abortion," McDonough writes (McDonough, Salon, 1/15).