June 30, 2015
"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).
"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).
"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).