June 30, 2015 — Read the week's best commentary from bloggers at RH Reality Check, American Civil Liberties Union's "Speak Freely" and more.
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "What the 'Abortion Drone' Will (And Won't) Mean for Reproductive Rights (Updated)," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: Crockett interviews Rebecca Gomperts, founder and director of Women on Waves, to clear up some "misinformation and anxiety" about the group's successful delivery of medication abortion from Germany to Poland via drone last week. In the interview, Gomperts explained that the drone delivered medication abortion directly to women in need without any intermediary involvement, which protected women's groups that participated in the action from Poland's "restrictive abortion laws." Gomperts added that the "drone's mission" was to "provid[e] a few women access to needed services, and rais[e] awareness about the social injustices of illegal abortion," Crockett writes. She adds that, according to Gomperts, "That awareness serves both to inform women that they have the power to safely terminate their own pregnancies ... and to put pressure on governments to change their draconian anti-choice policies." Meanwhile, Crockett notes that while some abortion-rights supporters in other countries have expressed concerns about the technology being used where abortion access is banned or restricted, Gomperts clarified that Women on Waves consults with local abortion-rights groups before implementing any operation. According to Crockett, Gomperts also added that "she hopes [the drone technology] might give a boost of positive energy to activists who are burned out by relentless attacks on women's human rights" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 6/29).
FEDERAL BUDGET PROPOSALS: "2 Sneaky Ways Women's Rights Are Being Threatened Right Now," Georgeanne Usova, American Civil Liberties Union's "Speak Freely": "Two harmful new policy riders" in separate House spending bills "make ... crystal clear" that House lawmakers are "discriminating against women in the name of religious liberty," Usova writes. She explains that one budget bill rider, a "sweeping provision called the Health Care Conscience Rights Act ... would allow any employer or insurance company to deny health insurance coverage for any health care service they have a religious or moral objection to, even if it's required by law," including "mental health screenings, vaccines, or tests for cervical cancer, HIV, or Type 2 Diabetes." Further, she notes that the provision "would also expand and entrench an existing policy rider called the Weldon Amendment that already obstructs women's access to abortion care, with language that could allow health care providers to deny patients basic services and information about their health and treatment options and would open the door to frivolous lawsuits." Meanwhile, Usova writes that the same House committee that approved that budget bill also "voted to add language to another funding bill that would block a [Washington, D.C.,] nondiscrimination law [Act 20-593] that protects employees in the nation's capital from workplace discrimination based on their reproductive health care decisions." Usova adds, "Both spending bills, riders included, are now poised for the House floor" (Usova, "Speak Freely," American Civil Liberties Union, 6/26).
CONTRACEPTION: "Meet The Man Who's Asking The Internet To Help Him Develop Male Contraception," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler writes about the Male Contraception Initiative, "the only organization in the U.S. 'whose primary purpose is to promote the development of new male contraceptives.'" According to Culp-Ressler, the group earlier this month "launched its first crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a potential birth control pill for men being developed by a Stanford University researcher," Garry Flynn, who "believes he may have found a way to target a protein that's critical in the production of sperm." Further, MCI head Aaron Hamlin believes the online campaign will also help "engage with supporters of male birth control" and dispel the "widespread misconception that men simply aren't interested in using male contraception," Culp-Ressler writes. She cites research showing that men are "dissatisf[ied] with condoms" and "about half of men report they'd take a male form of the birth control pill." Meanwhile, she writes that women also might be interested in male contraception, noting, "Some women's health advocates are hopeful that male birth control could be a way to address the current gender gap in reproductive services, arguing that men need to get more involved in pregnancy prevention efforts" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 6/25).
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "This State's Attempt To 'Regulate Abortion Out of Existence' Is Flying Under the Radar," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Ohio lawmakers "have pursued a successful incremental strategy that helps their attacks on abortion fly under the radar" and side-step national attention, Culp-Ressler writes. Comparing Ohio abortion restrictions to those passed in Texas, she notes that Ohio lawmakers are "currently making similar attempts to restrict the procedure and shutter clinics" via "several complex provisions to the state budget [HB 64]." According to Culp-Ressler, the 2013 state budget (HB 59) included a provision "requiring abortion clinics to have 'transfer agreements' with private hospitals," which frequently "are Catholic-affiliated and won't partner with abortion providers on religious grounds." She explains that while clinics "unable to get a transfer agreement ... can apply for a waiver through the Ohio Department of Health," the department "has been stacked with several anti-abortion activists" and has used the process to close down "half of the state's abortion clinics" since the law took effect. "Now, the new budget seeks to make this process even more difficult for clinics" by "stipulat[ing] that 'transfer agreements' are only valid if the hospital is within 30 miles of the clinic" and "ensur[ing] that applications for waivers are automatically denied after 60 days," she writes. Further, Culp-Ressler adds that state lawmakers "have also been advancing a 20-week abortion ban" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 6/29).
SUPREME COURT: "Court Blocks Texas Abortion Law," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog: "Splitting five to four, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing two new requirements that abortion clinic operators say will force many of them to close," Denniston writes. Specifically, the order temporarily blocks provisions of Texas' antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that would have "require[d] all doctors performing abortions in the state to have the right to send patients to a nearby hospital" and "require[d] all abortion clinics in the state to have facilities equal to a surgical center," he writes. According to Denniston, the rules were upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and were scheduled to take effect on Wednesday." He notes that "the Justices did not explain why they were postponing the law" and "the order will be lifted" if the high court later decides not to review the provisions. However, "if review is granted," the order "will stay in effect until a final ruling emerges." Meanwhile, he notes that the high court has not yet decided whether it will review a separate case involving an admitting privileges requirement (HB 1390) in Mississippi (Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 6/29).
REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: "Recent SNAP Restrictions Are Another Reminder That Poverty Is a Reproductive Issue," Katie Klabusich, RH Reality Check: While "the word 'choice'" is frequently used "to indicate the legal right to choose what happens to us ... the existence of a right does not ensure that those who need to exercise it will have access to it," Klabusich writes. According to Klabusich, "In order for health and true equality to be in reach for all, we must understand what poverty is, who is affected by it, and deal with our discomfort as a culture acknowledging the millions who live and struggle under its weight." She explains that, "for many people, poverty is often related to a lack of access to basic health care, including abortion," but this "burden ... is a blind spot for many legislatures and courts around the country, particularly where restrictions on abortion and other kinds of reproductive care are concerned." Klabusich writes she was "reminded of the link between health-care access and poverty yet again in the face of the justifications from the current wave of governors and state representatives proposing rules undercutting vital food assistance programs," because poverty for many individuals means "deciding between food and other necessities," such as contraception. She concludes, "Just as SNAP funding provides a lifeline to those who need it, access and funding to reproductive health care provide a basic level of bodily autonomy and the opportunity to determine one's own present and future," adding, individuals cannot be "functional, autonomous human[s] without the ability to eat, just as [they] can't be fully human and free without the ability to control if, whether, and when [they] become .. parent[s]" (Klabusich, RH Reality Check, 6/29).