July 24, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at RH Reality Check, Women's Law Project blog and more.
ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: "Federal Court Blocks North Dakota Heartbeat Ban, Calls on the Supreme Court To Overturn 'Roe,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "The decision on Wednesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit permanently blocking North Dakota's so-called heartbeat ban [HB 1456], a law that would ban abortion as early as six weeks post-fertilization, is a win," Mason Pieklo writes. However, she notes that "Wednesday's decision is the second from the Eighth Circuit to ... urge the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and re-empower states to ban abortions outright." Specifically, the 8th Circuit in its latest ruling incorporated state lawmakers' "willing[ness] to manipulate biomedical science" to restrict abortion, concluding "that states need more power to regulate pregnancies -- and even ban abortions pre-viability -- while also critiquing [Planned Parenthood v. Casey's] re-affirmation of fetal viability as a point the Supreme Court must re-evaluate," Mason Pieklo writes. Yet Mason Pieklo points out that "as problematic as Roe and Casey both are in terms of not clearly and firmly articulating a patient's right to terminate pregnancies as they need, they do fundamentally underscore that science, especially obstetrics, should drive any state regulation of pregnancy. In other words, the decisions set a distinctive point obstetrically at which the state's interest should never override the interest of the pregnant patient." Mason Pieklo calls out how the 8th Circuit "use[s] advances in medicine as a grounds for denying pregnant patients medical care" and asks whether the appeals court's "willing[ness] to get in on the attacks on patients and their access to health care" will "prod the [Supreme] Court to jump in, or if, for now at least, Roe and Casey still provide some level of protection for abortion rights that patients and providers can rely on" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 7/22).
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Lawmakers Ask Attorney General To Investigate Sham Group Attacking Planned Parenthood," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: "Four House Democrats are calling for an investigation into the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as the group's deceptively edited video attacking Planned Parenthood continues to fall apart under public scrutiny," Crockett writes. According to Crockett, "Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) sent a letter on Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch [D] and California Attorney General Kamala Harris [D] asking them to investigate whether any laws were broken in what they called an 'elaborate, multi-year scheme to impersonate corporate officials from a fake biologics company' ... to secretly film and attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood employees." According to Crockett, "The lawmakers expressed concern about several issues ... including how anti-choice activist David Daleiden may have violated the law by misrepresenting the purpose of his fake corporate entity, and the likelihood that CMP violated California's two-party consent law by secretly recording a private conversation." She also cites a press release from the lawmakers, which stated that they had "'other questions about possible coordination between [CMP] and Members of Congress who knew about the video weeks in advance of its release'" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 7/22).
What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:
~ "Is GOP Leadership Coordinating Harassment of Planned Parenthood With Anti-Choice Radicals?" Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check.
~ "How the Right's 'Abortion Industry' Lie Led to the Latest Planned Parenthood Smear," Miranda Blue, Huffington Post blogs.
~ "Crusade Against Planned Parenthood Stalls Bill Helping Wounded Veterans," Crockett, RH Reality Check.
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "Meet the New Left Flank of the Reproductive Rights Movement," Crockett, RH Reality Check: An abortion-rights group called Reproaction "aims to be the new 'left flank' on reproductive rights and hold pro-choice politicians and advocates accountable to their views," Crockett writes. According to Crockett, Reproaction's "founding theory ... is that the pro-choice movement is losing" -- despite widespread support for abortion rights -- "because pro-choicers have been on defense for decades," while antiabortion-rights advocates "and politicians have chipped away at reproductive rights so severely that some states may actually have worse abortion access today than before Roe v. Wade." Crockett writes that Erin Matson and Pamela Meritt, who lead the new group, "hope to create a 'culture of direct action' in the pro-choice movement that will spread beyond what they do with Reproaction, although they acknowledge that this will be easier for some in the pro-choice sphere than others." The group, which will officially launch on Aug. 19, is "tight-lipped about the specifics on future actions or next steps," but Matson and Meritt "can say that they won't be concerned about either popularity or partisanship, and that they will name names," Crockett writes (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 7/22).
BUFFER ZONE LEGISLATION: "Women's Law Project Files Amicus Brief in Pittsburgh Buffer Zone 3[r]d Circuit Appeal," Tara Murtha, Women's Law Project blog: "After federal courts repeatedly upheld Pittsburgh's 15-foot clinic buffer zone ordinance, opponents of legal abortion are still fighting to knock it down," in a challenge that has "implications for the safety of patients and providers across the country," Murtha writes. She notes that the Pittsburgh ruling was appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been asked to consider whether the Supreme Court's McCullen v. Coakley ruling "prohibits even very small local buffer zones around women's health clinics with a history of obstructive and confrontational protest." According to Murtha, the Women's Law Project and Thomas Zemaitis, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, on Thursday filed an amicus brief defending the Pittsburgh ordinance, stating that it is "'a narrowly-tailored measure that resembles the kinds of alternative measures suggested in McCullen," and "'has achieved its purpose of creating a safer, less hostile environment for patients ... while "leav(ing) open ample alternative channels of communication" for plaintiffs to convey their message.'" Murtha writes that if buffer zone is upheld, "it could become a model for other jurisdictions with similar problems," but if it is struck down, "women's health providers will be deprived of one of the most effective tools for ensuring that patients can access reproductive health care safely and with dignity" (Murtha, Women's Law Project blog, 7/22).
CONTRACEPTION: "Our Take on the Post-Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Coverage Rules," Raising Women's Voices blog: There are "mixed results for women who need birth control coverage" in HHS’ final rules on implementing the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules for closely held for-profit companies whose owners have religious objections to contraception, Raising Women's Voices states, citing the differences between its recommendations on the proposed rules and the finalized regulations. For example, Raising Women's Voices expresses concern that HHS gave up "too much ground" in its final definition of an eligible organization under the accommodation, noting that "[w]hile no publicly traded corporations will be able to qualify for the accommodation," it "include[s] as many entities as possible." Raising Women's Voices lists other concerns, such as how employers' insurers, rather than employers themselves, will have to notify employees that the company will not provide contraceptive coverage, as well as how employers claiming the accommodation do not have to publicly disclose that information. Further, Raising Women's Voices states that the final rules do not establish an "independent body ... to monitor or enforce" the accommodation and do not ensure that women affected by the accommodation only have to carry one insurance card for their contraceptive coverage and other prescriptions, which means some women might have to carry two cards (Raising Women's Voices blog, 7/21).
POLITICS AND ELECTIONS: "Why Are Progressives Ignoring Abortion?" Robin Marty, Care2: While "the percentage of Americans identifying as pro-choice is at its highest level since 2008, and the percentage of Democrats who call themselves pro-choice is at its highest point ever," progressive leaders are "avoiding the word abortion as much as ever," Marty writes, stating that abortion-rights supporters "are demanding to be heard." She notes that activists attending an annual gathering for progressives called Netroots Nation are "demanding more time and attention from key event leaders" after the conference's keynote address excluded "abortion and reproductive rights ... for a second year in a row." According to Marty, "nearly three dozen activists" penned "an open letter to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren -- the [keynote] speaker -- asking her when she will address reproductive health rights." Warren's "lack of mention of reproductive rights was especially grievous ... because of her interest in focusing on the economic issues most important to Americans," Marty explains, noting that reproductive rights "have extreme impact on [a] person's economic prospects" and isolating those rights from "the panoply of economic, environmental and civil rights issues" could "be construed as a stamp of approval in silencing" reproductive rights supporters. Marty writes, "Abortion access shouldn't be a 'tough conversation' for ... a progressive," adding that abortion access and contraception "must be recognized, embraced and, above all else, fought for, not silenced" (Marty, Care2, 7/22).
What others are saying about politics and elections:
~ "GOP Presidential Hopeful John Kasich Has Overseen Closure of Half of Ohio's Abortion Clinics," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.