May 15, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at The Atlantic, the National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake" and more.
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "The Worst State for Reproductive Rights," Olga Khazan, The Atlantic: South Dakota is "the worst state in the nation for reproductive rights," followed by Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho and Tennessee, according to a report released by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Khazan writes. Khazan cites several reasons for South Dakota's poor ranking, including its 72-hour mandatory delay before abortions; requirements that women "undergo in-person counseling that necessitates two trips to the clinic"; and how almost 25% "of women in the state live in a county that doesn't have an abortion provider." Further, according to the report, the state also "does not require insurers to cover infertility treatments"; it does not "mandate sex education in schools"; and it has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), "which would have increased the number of women eligible to receive family-planning services," Khazan writes. Meanwhile, she notes that the report ranks "Oregon [a]s the best state for reproductive rights ... followed by Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, and Hawaii." According to the Khazan, Oregon earned its ranking by providing "public funding for abortions ... having a 'pro-choice' governor" and not requiring mandatory delays for women seeking abortions (Khazan, The Atlantic, 5/12).
What others are saying about abortion restrictions:
~ "We're Living in an Anti-Choice Nightmare: 25 Ways Anti-Women Warriors Are Playing Doctor," Katie McDonough, Salon.
20-WEEK BAN: "Another Week, Another Bad Vote on Women's Health," Leila Abolfazli, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": Abolfazli, senior counsel for NWLC, outlines "a whole host of new restrictions" included in the House-approved bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy. For example, she writes that the legislation would "impos[e] a new set of hurdles for adult survivors of rape to navigate, but kept the original set of hurdles for minors who survive rape or incest." Specifically, Abolfazli notes that while "[a]dult survivors can forgo the reporting requirement if they seek medical care or counseling at least 48 hours before the abortion ... the care they seek can't be with the abortion provider, can't be with a provider in any non-hospital facility that performs an abortion, and it can't be with any counselor who is not licensed by the state." Further, the measure would "interfer[e] with the provider-patient relationship," would mandate certain reporting requirements for providers, "and, of course, ... would criminalize providers for providing care that their patients need and that is constitutional," she writes (Abolfazli, " Womenstake," National Women's Law Center, 5/14).
What others are saying about the 20-week ban:
~ "House Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban With Exciting New Hassles for Rape Victims," Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "The XX Factor."
REPRODUCTIVE CARE ACCESS: "The Family Planning Cuts That the Texas Legislature Forced Through Are Having Dire Consequences," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "[M]ore than half of Texas women have faced at least one barrier to getting the reproductive health services they need" since the state in 2011 "slashed funding for family planning services by two-thirds and dismantled the state's network of family planning providers in an effort to exclude Planned Parenthood," according to a report from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, Culp-Ressler writes. She notes that "the attacks on ... family planning," which resulted in the closure of 76 women's health clinics, have "left low-income and rural women struggling to access basic preventative services like Pap smears, STD tests, and birth control consultations." According to Culp-Ressler, "[t]he new survey provides some data points" on the situation, finding that women "are struggling to get to a clinic for their gender-based health needs," with many citing difficulties with transportation, childcare, insurance and affordability, among other barriers. "Texas lawmakers have attempted to take some steps to restore the funding for family planning services," she writes, but she adds that "women's health experts in the state say it's not enough, and warn that it will take years for Texas to truly recover" from the cuts (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 5/12).
SEXUALITY EDUCATION: "California Judge: Abstinence-Only Sex Education Isn't Sex Education at All," Jenny Kutner, Salon: A recent ruling by a California judge "affirms what reproductive health advocates and science have been saying for a long time: Abstinence-only sex education isn't really sex education at all," Kutner writes. She notes that, in the case, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black ruled that "'access to medically and socially appropriate sexual education is an important public right,' and that state law requires students receive accurate information in public school sex ed courses." Kutner writes that the decision "explicitly excludes abstinence-only curricula, which incorrectly -- and ineffectively -- teach[es] students that remaining celibate until marriage is the only route to avoiding sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy." She adds, "Even if the California ruling doesn't have far-reaching implications for the state of abstinence-only sex education" in other states "just yet, it is a step in the right direction" (Kutner, Salon, 5/13).
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Pop-Up Abortion Storytelling Campaigns Showcase the Power of Youth Activism," Katie Klabusich, RH Reality Check: "The power of storytelling to combat stigma and the power of art to open hearts came together last month as students on 95 college campuses around the country participated in the 1 in 3 campaign's 'Week of Artivism,'" Klabusich writes. According to Klabusich, the campaign encouraged activists "[f]rom April 13 through 19" to "pos[t] 'pop-up' displays" that "featured real people's abortion stories in a variety of locations" throughout the schools. She interviewed several students who participated in the campaign, noting that they said "labels like 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life' took a backseat to story-sharing -- perhaps offering insight about ways that young activists, far from being apathetic or disinterested, are engaging their peers about issues of reproductive rights and justice." According to Klabusich, the students were able to see how the campaign "spark[ed] a dialogue on [the] campuses as awareness about the need for reproductive health care access led to widespread, nuanced discussion of views on abortion" (Klabusich, RH Reality Check, 5/13).
CONTRACEPTION: "Feds to Insurance Companies: You Actually Have to Cover Birth Control," Anna Merlan, Jezebel: "Three federal agencies issued a pointed set of 'clarifications' Monday, basically reminding health insurance companies that under the Affordable Care Act [PL 111-148], they really do have to cover birth control without a co-pay or deductible" and "[t]he same goes for 'well woman' exams, preventive services for transgender people and numerous other things insurers have [been] squirreling their way out of paying since the ACA passed," Merlan writes. Specifically, she notes that the guidance details how "insurers must cover 'without cost sharing ... at least one form of contraception in each of the methods (currently 18) that the FDA has identified for women in its current Birth Control Guide.'" Further, she writes that the guidelines make clear that if a woman's health care provider "recommends a specific service or type of birth control and deems it medically necessary," insurers "'must cover that service or item without cost sharing.'" In addition, the guidelines clarify "that [insurers] can't charge higher co-pays or deductibles or refuse coverage based on someone's 'sex assigned at birth, gender identify, or recorded gender,'" she writes. She adds that while not all insurers have to follow the guidance, "at least the new guidelines let patients and medical providers know what their rights are" (Merlan, Jezebel, 5/11).