May 29, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," RH Reality Check and more.
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "One of the Strictest Abortion Bans in the Country Was Just Stopped in its Tracks," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit struck down parts of an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion "after just 12 weeks of pregnancy, " which is "significantly before the point of viability that serves as the current cut-off point for legal abortion services under Roe v. Wade," Culp-Ressler writes. According to Culp-Ressler, state lawmakers in 2013 "overrode their governor to approve the 12-week ban -- which, at the time, represented the strictest abortion ban that had ever passed on the state level," although it was "quickly surpassed" when North Dakota "approv[ed] a six-week ban [HB 1456] later that year." She adds that the Arkansas law "has never been allowed to take effect" because a federal judge "blocked, and later permanently struck [it] down," but "state lawmakers have continued to appeal those decisions." Meanwhile, she notes that Arkansas officials have "found plenty of other ways to impede residents' access to" abortion. She writes, "This spring, the Arkansas legislature led the nation in the number of abortion restrictions proposed on the state level," advancing legislation "stripping funding from Planned Parenthood, toughening requirements for parental consent ... restricting the use of" medication abortion and "requir[ing] doctors to tell women about an unproven theory regarding 'abortion reversal,' effectively enshrining junk science into law" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 5/27).
What others are saying about abortion restrictions:
~ "Louisiana Lawmakers Clash as GOP Fails To Advance Anti-Choice Measure," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.
~ "Texas Republicans Fall Short on Abortion Insurance Ban," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Is Anti-Choice Ideology Driving Malpractice Lawsuits?" Byron Calhoun and the Phantom Fetal Skull," Imani Gandy, RH Reality Check: Gandy writes about how Byron Calhoun, an ob-gyn in West Virginia who is "known for promoting junk science ... to undermine access to abortion," helped to spur a malpractice lawsuit based on potentially false claims in an effort to "cast abortion in a negative light." She explains that Calhoun told a former patient, Itai Gravely, about a year after treating her for complications following an abortion that "he had found a 13-week old fetal skull in her uterus." Gandy says the information prompted Gravely to file a lawsuit, but "[t]he pathology report which was conducted after her treatment ... established that there was no fetal skull present in Gravely's uterus" and a judge dismissed all of Gravely's claims. Gandy writes, "Based on the evidence, it's hard to avoid a conclusion that Calhoun ... lied to Gravely, dragging the young woman and her most personal information into a bitter public fight over abortion care, using her as a prop in his own ideological campaign." Further, noting how the discredited lawsuit was timed to capitalize on abortion-rights opponents' reaction to the Kermit Gosnell trial, Gandy also points out how, since Gravely's lawsuit was filed, "anti-choice legislators in West Virginia have stepped up their efforts by introducing more than 30 regressive laws, even overriding Gov. [Earl] Tomblin's [D] veto to pass a 20-week abortion ban [HB 2568] that is flatly unconstitutional" (Gandy, RH Reality Check, 5/26).
What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:
~ "What Was the Worst State for Women This Week?" Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "The XX Factor."
CPCs: "California Lawmakers Vote To Make it Harder for Crisis Pregnancy Centers To Lie to Women," Jenny Kutner, Salon: California's Assembly on Tuesday voted 49-26 to approve a bill (AB 775) that would "require crisis pregnancy centers to stop actively misleading women" by "mak[ing] it more difficult for CPCs to use traditional tactics (such as straight-up lying) to prevent women from terminating their pregnancies," Kutner writes. She explains that the measure would "requir[e] centers that do not have medical licenses to disclose that they do not have medical licenses" and "also requir[e] that licensed medical facilities ... 'notify patients that the state has programs that offer free or affordable abortion services, as well as help with family planning and prenatal care.'" Kutner notes that a NARAL Pro-Choice investigation has found that California's CPCs "routinely and purposely lie to clients about their pregnancy options," adding that the proposed legislation, "which now heads to the California Senate, would require that non-medical facilities make clear they cannot provide medical counseling, and help women learn about all options -- whether they decide to terminate their pregnancies or not" (Kutner, Salon, 5/27).
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Texas Abortion Provider Launches Program To 'Shift' Abortion Stigma: A Q&A With Amy Hagstrom Miller and Amanda Williams," Grimes, RH Reality Check: Grimes interviews Amy Hagstrom Miller -- founder of a new not-for-profit called Shift and former CEO of the Texas-based Whole Woman's Health, an abortion clinic that closed in the wake of one of the state's antiabortion-rights measures (HB 2) -- and Amanda Williams, Shift's program manager, to learn "about their vision for Shift, why they've chosen to launch in Texas, and what the end of abortion stigma might look like in [conservative] states." In the interview, Hagstrom Miller explains that Shift is an organization "'working to strategically shift the stigma around abortion in our culture'" and that it is "'committed to fostering open and honest conversations, lifting up all communities, and advocating for reproductive freedom.'" According to Hagstrom Miller and Williams, Shift will focus on efforts such as bringing "'advocates, patients, and providers together in a statewide way,'" launching "'billboards or some web campaigns that'" advertise abortion resources and helping to address areas in crisis because of abortion clinic closures in the state, Grimes writes (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 5/27).
CONTRACEPTION: "Colorado Is Shuttering the Birth Control Initiative That Made it A National Leader & Here's What 5 Horrified Health Professionals Have To Say," Lauren Holter, Bustle: "Despite being an obvious success, the ... Colorado Senate voted to end the Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI) in late April, which provided free or reduced long-term birth control, like [intrauterine devices] and implants, to low-income women," Holter writes. She explains that since the program launched "in 2009, Colorado's teen pregnancy rate dropped 40 percent and the teen abortion rate fell 35 percent, which saved the state money in healthcare for teen moms and food programs for low-income parents" and "made Colorado a national leader in family planning." However, "the 68 clinics across the state that used the program's funds to provide birth control for low-income women [now] are scrambling to find other sources of money to sustain the initiative," she writes, noting that if they are unable to do so, "Colorado will take a major step backwards on family planning." Holter cites the dismayed responses of several health care providers and women's health leaders, including Eric Ferrero, vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Susan Levy, executive director of the Boulder Valley Women's Health Center, where the initiative first launched. For example, in one such response, Holter cites Liz Romer, director of Adolescent Family Planning at Children's Hospital Colorado, who criticized the decision, pointing out that lawmakers "'can't be against abortion and contraception at the same time'" (Holter, Bustle, 5/29).
What others are saying about contraception:
~ "Republicans Are Pushing for OTC Birth Control, and That's a Bad Thing," Robin Marty, Care2.
TEEN PREGNANCY: "Can You Design a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaign That Does Not Shame Young Mothers, Insult Low-Income People ... And Oh Yeah, and Is Not Racist?" Jamille Fields, Law Students for Reproductive Justice's "Repo Repro": Fields writes about how many teen pregnancy prevention campaigns -- which are "really touted" during Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month in May -- are problematic because they "sham[e] teen mothers" and "exclud[e] men from any role in" reproductive decision-making, among other issues. She stresses that "[i]t is important to empower -- not shame -- all young adults to take charge of their reproductive decision-making." Fields provides several recommendations for improving teen pregnancy prevention campaigns, such as providing teenagers "with evidence-based and comprehensive sexuality education in schools and ... a space for one-on-one discussions about sexual health in medical providers' offices." She also recommends that teenagers "be made aware that their health insurance plan may have to cover contraceptives" at no cost and that "any discussions around sexual health and pregnancy prevention ... be addressed to young men, just as equally as it does to women," as well as to LGBT youth (Fields, "Repo Repro," LSRJ, 5/28).