January 27, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at ProPublica, Care2 and more.
YEAR AHEAD: "7 Reproductive Rights Issues To Watch in 2015," Nina Martin, ProPublica: Martin outlines seven key reproductive rights "trends and themes to watch for this year," beginning with a "[n]ew [w]ave" of restrictions on abortion that could include "a torrent of 20-week bans" and "a likely clampdown on medication abortions." Further, Martin predicts "an explosion in religious-exemption challenges" and bills related to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141); an increase in requests for "religious-type 'conscience' exemptions to non-religious organizations"; ongoing debates over contraception; and a "regroup[ing]" of the "personhood" movement following defeats on ballot initiatives last November. Martin also cites efforts in the abortion-rights movement, including an agenda that "focus[es] on proactive bills" aimed at "improv[ing] the lives of women and children." She also writes that reproductive rights opponents will be closely watching an upcoming case in California that challenges a 2014 insurance determination "that every health plan in the state must cover all maternity-related services, including abortion" (Martin, ProPublica, 1/16).
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Repro Wrap: House Revolt Over Anti-Abortion Ban in Congress and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2: The 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade was "unsurprisingly ... full of big news -- but not the sort of news many of us expected," Marty writes, noting that opposition from some GOP lawmakers last week delayed an antiabortion-rights bill (HR 36) in the House that had "easily passed the year before." However, she notes that while that bill "was put on hold, massive amounts of anti-abortion legislation" are underway "across the country," including another House bill (HR 7) and state bills in South Carolina, West Virginia, Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas and Minnesota, among others (Marty, Care2, 1/23).
What others are saying about abortion restrictions:
~ "The 'No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act' is Just as Extreme as the 20-Week Ban," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check.
~ "Congress Rejected a 20-Week Abortion Ban, But These States Didn't," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Deniers of Science: The Anti-Vaccination and Anti-Abortion Movements," David Grimes, Huffington Post blogs: Grimes, former head of CDC's Abortion Surveillance Branch, draws parallels between the anti-vaccination movement and the antiabortion-rights movement. He notes that just as "many parents of young children today did not live through the 'bad old days' before immunization, ... [a]n entire generation of Americans has grown up unaware of the danger of unsafe abortions" because they were born after Roe v. Wade. According to Grimes, "The scientific foundation for safe, legal abortion is incontrovertible," with "[a]ll major medical and public health organizations" recognizing legal abortion's health benefits. He writes, "Whether the public health threat is viral or political, medical science should guide health decisions," otherwise the world could "'backslid[e] into medieval ignorance' and revers[e] decades of medical progress" (Grimes, Huffington Post blogs, 1/23).
What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:
~ "'Legitimate Rape' and the March for Life," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.
WOMEN'S HEALTH PROTECTION ACT: "Your Rights Do Not Depend on Your Zip Code (Unless You Are a Woman)," Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Huffington Post blogs: Chu writes that where a person lives "should not dictate [his or her] rights," but "[i]n today's America, a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body depends on her zip code." According to Chu, various states have used the "guise of 'women's health'" to "enac[t] legislation that would make it almost impossible for a woman to have access to a safe, legal abortion -- a tactic that is actually harming women by forcing them to make unhealthy choices like seeking unlicensed and unsafe abortions." Although such "laws are being challenged through the courts," Chu argues that "women should not have to wait for the courts to decide on a case-by-case, state-by-state basis." The U.S. should implement "a national standard that defends the right of all women, no matter where they live, to make choices about their own bodies," she writes, adding that she and other federal lawmakers have introduced the Women's Health Protection Act, which would keep "states from restricting access to abortion if they cannot actually demonstrate a benefit to women's health" (Chu, Huffington Post blogs, 1/26).
CONTRACEPTION: "Lawmaker Opposes Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Because IUDs Stop a 'Small Child From Implanting,'" Jason Salzman, RH Reality Check: A Colorado program that has "reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent over five years and teen abortions by 35 percent is facing opposition from" state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R), chair of the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee, who incorrectly believes that intrauterine devices, "distributed for low or no cost as part of the program, cause abortions," Salzman writes. He explains that "Colorado's chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk," has repeatedly "said Lundberg is 'not medically correct,' noting that IUDs work by preventing pregnancy from occurring." Salzman writes that private funding is set to end this year for the program, which has distributed "about 30,000 IUDs and other long-lasting contraceptive implants"; "saved $23 million in Medicaid costs since it started five years ago"; and "will save $40 million in Medicaid funds" if continued, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment (Salzman, RH Reality Check, 1/26).
ABORTION PROVIDERS: "What's Stopping New Orleans From Getting a Brand New Planned Parenthood Clinic," Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor": Attempts by abortion-rights opponents to block a new Planned Parenthood clinic in New Orleans is representative of "a nationwide trend of conservatives invoking the word 'abortion' to justify what are actually attacks on reproductive health care, or an attempt to limit general health care access for low income Americans," Marcotte writes. She outlines several factors contributing to the city's "desperate need of a new Planned Parenthood clinic," including how the current clinic "operates at mass capacity"; how the state has "some of the highest [sexually transmitted infections] and unintended pregnancy rates in the country"; and how Hurricane Katrina has exacerbated the city's "need for quality, low cost care." However, an investigation by Cosmopolitan's Jill Filipovic into why the clinic has not yet been built found that, among other issues, abortion-rights opponents "'sa[y] the clinic is unnecessary, pointing to 22 other facilities in the greater New Orleans area that provide at least some of those services.'" Marcotte points out that "if those clinics were enough, then Planned Parenthood wouldn't be currently overrun with demand." She adds that abortion-rights opponents have talked "about 'abortion,' but when you look at the details, the result is that low income people are being forced to accept a lower quality of medical care" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 1/26).