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Blogs Comment on Threat to Tennessee Clinics, Spread of Catholic Hospital Restrictions on Care, More

Blogs Comment on Threat to Tennessee Clinics, Spread of Catholic Hospital Restrictions on Care, More

May 12, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at Bustle, Salon and more.

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Tennessee's New Abortion Law Could Leave the State With Just Four Abortion Clinics," Lauren Barbato, Bustle: "Following the path cleared by abortion foes in Texas, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam [R] signed an extreme anti-abortion measure [SB 1280] that could close a handful of the state's clinics by July 1," Barbato writes. She explains that the new law requires "all clinics and physicians' offices that perform more than 50 abortions per year to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers," meaning that they "will need to meet the same building requirements as hospital-style outpatient surgery centers," including "creating wider hallways and entrances ... and changing the size of the exam rooms." According to Barbato, only "about half of Tennessee's clinics -- just four in all -- meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center" and the remaining clinics, including those in more populous areas of the state, will "be forced to close unless they can upgrade their facilities by July 1." Citing figures from the Guttmacher Institute, Barbato notes that 23 states currently mandate similar requirements and that in one of those states, Texas, "the requirement has been successful at not only shutting clinics, but rendering abortion nearly obsolete for women outside metropolitan areas" (Barbato, Bustle, 5/9).

RELIGION AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: "When the Catholic Church Owns Your Doctor: The Insidious New Threat to Affordable Birth Control," Patricia Miller, Salon: Having an obstetrician/gynecologist who is not able to prescribe contraceptives "could be a reality if your doctor's practice is purchased by a Catholic health system that then imposes the Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a set of rules created by the U.S. Bishop's Conference that prohibits doctors from doing everything from prescribing [birth control pills] to performing sterilizations or abortions," Miller writes. Health systems are purchasing "physician practices at an unprecedented rate," Miller continues, noting that "with Catholic hospital systems accounting for eight of the 10 ... largest nonprofit health systems in the U.S., these hospitals are poised to become major owners of doctors' offices, which could severely impede access to contraceptives if doctors are forced to follow the Directives." She notes that the Directives not only could require women "to face the inconvenience of making -- and paying -- for another doctor's appointment to get one of the most basic gynecological services," but also contribute to "a bigger problem" of stigmatizing and sidelining reproductive health care (Miller, Salon, 5/11).

ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Why Are We Still Asking if a Dying Woman Should Be Able To Get an Abortion To Save Her Life?" Jennifer Dalven, Huffington Post blogs: "All too often, we're still asking the wrong questions when it comes to gauging public opinion on abortion" that "do little to illuminate the reality of most women's lives and the range of feelings people have about abortions that happen in the real world," Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, writes. For example, she expresses doubt about whether one such extreme question -- "whether a woman should be forced to die rather than have an abortion" -- is "really still up for debate when it comes to public opinion." She explains that "it's been clear" for years "that when you ask people about how abortion impacts real women's lives -- instead of party-line questions about abortion under all circumstances or no circumstances -- you get surprising answers and high levels of agreement." For example, she notes that, when asked more nuanced questions, people's responses show "overwhelming agreement that a woman who has decided to get an abortion should be able to get one without additional hurdles," that "we shouldn't be passing laws that make a woman who has decided to get an abortion feel ashamed about her decision" and "that lawmakers who are determined to restrict access to abortion are moving our country in the wrong direction" (Dalven, Huffington Post blogs, 5/8).

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Is Your OB-GYN a Member of This Anti-Choice Group?" Anita Little, Ms. Magazine blog: Little writes about the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "an organization of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who strongly oppose abortion and some forms of contraception." While the group is "[u]nderreported and under the radar," Little writes, "they've been around for more than 40 years and have fought to dismantle pro-choice victories," such as "over-the-counter availability of Plan B" and FDA's approval of medication abortion drug Mifeprex. She lists several "falsehoods" held by AAPLOG and debunked by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, including claims that "[a]bortion is not safer than childbirth"; "ultrasound requirements before an abortion are necessary"; "[e]mergency contraception, also known as Plan B, should not be available over-the-counter"; "[b]reast cancer and abortion could be linked and further studies are required"; and "AAPLOG is somehow affiliated with or under the umbrella of ACOG." Little writes, "AAPLOG is the academic, institutionalized face of an extremist anti-abortion movement that has been whittling away at abortion access in communities across the country" (Little, Ms. Magazine blog, 5/11).

LGBT: "Oregon Bans 'Conversion Therapy' of LGBTQ Youth," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: Oregon is set to become "the fourth jurisdiction, following California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., to ban so-called conversion therapy for minors" under a bill (HB 2307) passed Friday by the state Senate, Liss-Schultz writes. She notes that conversion therapy, "in which mental health professionals seek to change a person's sexual identity or orientation, relies on both the outdated belief that non-straight sexual orientation is a mental health disorder and the discriminatory belief that same-sex orientation is of less value than heterosexuality." Conversion therapy "has been lambasted by the medical and mental health professional communities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association," she adds, noting that bills similar to HB 2307 have been introduced in 17 states. Further, she notes that "[b]oth the California and New Jersey laws have recently held up in court" and that the Obama administration in April "threw its support behind the bans" (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 5/11).

CONTRACEPTION: "The New War on Your Birth Control: How Big Pharma and Hobby Lobby-Types Put IUDs Out of Reach," Valerie Tarico, Salon: Tarico discusses how the Liletta intrauterine device, a new IUD out this month, "may be a game changer" by "shatter[ing] the monopoly that has put top-tier contraceptives out of reach for many women." She writes that "an IUD is more than 20 times as effective as the pill" and is "far cheaper in the long run." However, she notes that "monopoly pricing," including high upfront costs, "has put top-tier birth control methods like IUD's and implants out of reach for many" U.S. women, including those who work for certain companies whose owners have religious objections to IUDs. "Enter Medicines360," Terico writes, explaining that the company, which manufactures the Liletta IUD, will help women by providing the device "to federally qualified health centers serving low income women for less than one fifth of what they are paying today ... substantially drop[ping the] wholesale IUD price for other clinics" and providing women with more choices (Tarico, Salon, 5/11).