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Blogs Comment on Ramifications of Texas Ruling, OTC Contraception Coverage Bill, More

Blogs Comment on Ramifications of Texas Ruling, OTC Contraception Coverage Bill, More

June 12, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress," RH Reality Check and more.

TEXAS: "The Fifth Circuit Just Stuck a Knife in Roe v. Wade," Ian Millhiser, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a restrictive Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that "that will shut down most of the state's abortion clinics" also "would give many other states broad discretion to restrict access to abortion if its reasoning is ultimately adopted by the Supreme Court," Millhiser writes. He explains that the 5th Circuit opinion "could effectively render what remains of Roe v. Wade a dead letter, at least in the context of facial legal challenges," because it interprets the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart so as to prevent "future plaintiffs' ability to challenge abortion bans disguised as sham health laws." Specifically, the appeals court held that "'medical uncertainty underlying a statute is for resolution by legislatures, not the courts,' even when a sham health law such as HB2 is challenged," Millhiser writes. Noting the law likely will be appealed to the Supreme Court, Millhiser writes that "the fate of the law will likely rest with the author of Gonzales v. Carhart, Justice Anthony Kennedy" (Millhiser, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 6/9).

What others are saying about Texas:

~ "Texas Abortion Providers Set Their Sights on the Supreme Court," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

CONTRACEPTION: "Senate Democrats Propose 'Affordability Is Access' Bill for Over-the-Counter Birth Control," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal Tuesday to make sure that if" some contraceptives become available over-the-counter, "women can still get birth control through their insurance without paying extra," Crockett writes. The Affordability is Access Act (S 1532), introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), "would require insurance companies to cover birth control pills without cost-sharing from patients if [FDA] decides they can be made available without a prescription." According to Crockett, the bill comes in response to a measure (S 1438) introduced by conservatives in the Senate that would "encourage birth control manufacturers to apply for OTC status," which "[w]omen's health advocates and health care providers" dismissed as "a 'sham' and a cynical attempt to undermine the no-copay birth control benefit" required under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 6/10).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Birth Control May Soon Be Way More Accessible in California," Emma Niles, Ms. Magazine blog.

LGBT: "New Guidance is a Step Forward for Transgender Health," Kelli Garcia, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": "[M]any transgender people still struggle just to get basic health care," which is "why recent administrative guidance stating that health insurance companies cannot limit coverage of preventive services based on a person's gender, gender identity, or recorded gender is so important," Garcia writes. She notes that some insurers "were denying coverage" for certain medication procedures "because of a person's gender identity." Specifically, she explains that because "[r]ecommendations for medical services are often based on sex," insurance companies could deny claims for services traditionally ascribed to one gender, such as prostate exams for transgender women. "The new guidance addresses this problem" by "mak[ing] clear that coverage should be based on medical need -- not gender identity," she writes, adding, "According to the guidance, if a provider finds that a preventive service, such as a mammogram or a pap smear for a transgender man, is appropriate the insurer must cover the service regardless of the gender indicated in the plan documents." However, Garcia notes that while this guidance is a good "first step," it "doesn't address another pervasive form of discrimination -- insurance plans' refusal to cover transition related services" (Garcia, "Womenstake," National Women's Law Center, 6/10).

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY: "Women Are Being Arrested and Jailed for Self-Abortion," Michelle Goldberg, The Nation: Goldberg discusses a growing pattern in which pregnant women are being arrested and criminally charged for trying to perform their own abortions, a trend that she notes will "only ... get worse ... as more and more clinics close and more anti-abortion laws are passed." For example, she writes that Kenlissa Jones, a "23-year-old Georgia woman," was charged with murder earlier this week after she allegedly consumed a drug purchased online to end her pregnancy. Goldberg notes that although the charge was later dropped -- Jones "is still being charged with possession of a dangerous drug" -- the case is similar to others, such as Purvi Patel and a case in Arkansas in which a woman was attempting her own abortion using drugs obtained from a nurse. "With abortion access being severely and inexorably eroded all over the country, it has become clear that black-market abortion drugs are the modern version of the old back-alley procedures," she writes. However, she notes that, unlike the situation prior to Roe v. Wade, "police and prosecutors who'd emerged from the anti-abortion movement" are "eager to treat" abortion as murder (Goldberg, The Nation, 6/10).

20-WEEK BAN: "Lindsey Graham Declares War on Science -- and the Constitution: What His 20-Week Abortion Ban Is Really All About," Katie McDonough, Salon: Sen. Lindsey Graham's proposed 20-week abortion ban (S 1553), like a companion bill in the House and certain state bans, "cuts off access to the procedure pre-viability as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade" and "uses inaccuracies about fetal pain as its political centerpiece," McDonough writes. She explains the bill is a revised version of a measure Graham introduced last year, which switches out a police reporting requirement for rape survivors with a requirement that they "seek mandatory counseling" before receiving an abortion, "a change that amounts to a backdoor waiting period." Further, she notes the idea of fetal pain "has been disputed by nearly every major medical association, including the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and smaller studies from researchers at Harvard University, University College London and other institutions," as well as "the very doctors cited by [conservatives] to give cover to these pre-viability bans." The bans also "deny people access to vital reproductive healthcare" because many fetal anomalies cannot be detected until later in a pregnancy, McDonough writes (McDonough, Salon, 6/11).