April 26, 2016
"Legislating medicine: More than 1,000 provisions already introduced in 2016," Women's Law Project blog: A new report from the Guttmacher Institute finds that in the first quarter of 2016, "legislators in 45 states had introduced 1022 provisions related to sexual and reproductive health," according to Women's Law Project blog. According to the blog, "Of the 411 abortion restrictions that have been introduced so far this year, 17 have passed at least one chamber and 21 have been enacted in five states." The blog highlights a "bizarre double abortion ban" under consideration in Pennsylvania that would "be one of the most severe in the country." The Pennsylvania bill (HB 1948) would not only impose a 20-week abortion ban, but also prohibit a medically proven method of abortion. The blog states, "In other words, the bill is clearly designed to punish women, an assertion underscored by the Physician General of Pennsylvania." Nonetheless, Pennsylvania House lawmakers when considering the measure "ignored the Physician General, and explicitly refused to hear testimony from medical experts twice," the blog notes. The blog adds that while the bill was "temporarily taken off the House agenda" following "a huge outcry from constituents," the measure "can come back at any time, as could any of [the] many anti-choice bills flooding state legislatures across the country." At the same time, according to the blog, the Supreme Court will soon issue a ruling in Whole Woman' s Health v. Hellerstedt, an abortion-rights lawsuit "that could determine the landscape of access to reproductive healthcare in every state." The blog adds that despite the proposed abortion ban in Pennsylvania, the state "is one of several states leading the effort to push back against this continuing effort to chisel away our reproductive rights." The blog cites several such efforts, including proposed bills that would "protect physicians and patients from harassment and violence and ... prohibit laws that force doctors to lie to patients" (Women's Law Project blog, 4/22).
"Florida tries to defund Planned Parenthood, quickly learns that doing so is illegal," Mark Stern, Slate's "XX Factor": "In March, Florida's overwhelmingly [conservative] legislature passed a tricky new abortion law [HB 1411] whose practical purpose was to defund Planned Parenthood," Stern writes. Stern explains that the law "prohibits state funding for reproductive health clinics where abortions are performed -- and for clinics that are associated with abortion providers," which effectively means the statute "would shutter women's health clinics where abortions aren't even performed, simply because they are owned and operated by Planned Parenthood." According to Stern, Medicaid is "a major source" of funding for many such clinics because "the program typically covers non-abortion services like birth control and cervical cancer screenings." However, the federal government last week "reminded Florida" that the law "clearly violates ... the Social Security Act's 'free choice provider' provision, which allows Medicaid beneficiaries to see any qualified provider," Stern writes. He cites the federal government's warning letter, which explained that the provision "'limits a state's authority to establish qualification standards, or take certain actions against a provider, unless those standards or actions are related to the fitness of the provider to perform covered medical services ... or the ability of the provider to appropriately bill for those services. Such reasons may not include a desire to target a provider or set of providers for reasons unrelated to their fitness to perform covered services or the adequacy of their billing practices.'" According to Stern, CMS also has reminded nine other states that have targeted Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding "that their abortion extortion plan is illegal." States can withdraw state funding from the organization, Stern writes, "[b]ut with the Medicaid lifeline preserved by federal law, it seems likely that the primary goal of these laws -- to destroy Planned Parenthood's finances, then drive it out of the state altogether -- is destined to fail" (Stern, "XX Factor," Slate, 4/22).