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Featured Blog: Protecting Access to Medication Abortion: A Good Option for Women

Bryan HowardBy Bryan Howard, President, Planned Parenthood Arizona

Women's health care opponents have targeted medication abortion since it became available in the United States more than a decade-and-a-half ago. As I think about this aggression, at least three tragic results come to mind.

First, these barriers are incredibly mean-spirited because many, many women managing unintended pregnancy truly appreciate medication abortion. They have told me how they feel more in control of their own care, and that medication abortion feels more “organic.” More »

October 17, 2014


"Polling Confirms That Voters See Abortion Access as an Economic Issue for Women," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": A majority of voters see abortion "as a mainstream policy that's inextricably linked to women's financial stability," according to a new poll released by the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Culp-Ressler writes. The poll surveyed "voters in New York and Pennsylvania, both states where lawmakers have proposed broad legislative agendas with several policies intended to advance women's rights." The findings suggest that the "legislative agendas were very popular with voters in both" states, with many of them saying "they see abortion as one piece of the larger push to help women lead fuller lives," Culp-Ressler notes. According to NIRH President Andrea Miller, the results also "should be a 'wake up call for elected officials' who insist on separating abortion issues from financial issues, even though that's out of step with their constituents' views on the subject," Culp-Ressler writes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/16).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions and access:

~ "The Hidden Costs of Abortion Restrictions," Carole Joffe, RH Reality Check.

~ "This Year's Most Outrageous Anti-Abortion Strategy," Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's "Jurisprudence."

~ "Supreme Court Surprises Everyone, Allows Texas Abortion Clinics To Reopen. For Now." Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "XX Factor."


"Pregnant Texans are Being Charged With Crimes That Don't Exist," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Despite Texas' "fetal homicide" law clearly stating that a "pregnant person cannot be charged with injury to [her] own fetus," prosecutors in West Texas have not stopped "charging women with reckless child endangerment for ingesting controlled substances while pregnant," Grimes writes. Grimes notes that while "these erroneous [child] endangerment charges don't stick," women "are nearly always persuaded to plead guilty to possession or other drug-related offenses, which often carry heftier penalties of incarceration" and that "judges may take the child endangerment charges into consideration as well." Grimes writes that these "attempts to criminalize pregnancy in Texas could not only break up families by forcing pregnant women into prisons and children into foster care; they could be the starting point for a new strike on reproductive rights across the state" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 10/16).

October 14, 2014


"Tennessee Sentenced a Woman to Six Extra Years in Jail Simply Because She Was Pregnant," Amanda Marcotte, Slate 's "XX Factor": "Once you can get six extra years in prison because you made an unhealthy but not illegal choice while pregnant, it seems that the door is open to all sorts of policing of pregnant women's behavior," Marcotte writes, discussing a recent case in which a Tennessee woman was given "enhanced sentencing" for methamphetamine manufacturing because she was involved in the process while pregnant. According to a Vice report on the case, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women led a coalition of reproductive-rights organizations to urge the Department of Justice to protest the woman's sentencing, noting that drug use is not a crime under Tennessee or federal law, Marcotte writes. Marcotte adds, "[W]ith enhanced sentencing, the legal groundwork is being laid for criminalizing things that otherwise are not crimes because they are being performed while pregnant" (Marcotte, "XX Factor," Slate, 10/13).


"Pittsburgh Passes 'Reasonable Accommodations' for Pregnant Workers," Tara Murtha, Women's Law Project blog: The "Pittsburgh City Council passed legislation [Ordinance 2014-0809] that calls for 'reasonable accommodations' for pregnant women who work for the city or city contracts, and bans discrimination against pregnant employees," Murtha writes. She adds that the ordinance "cites examples of discrimination from around the state [of Pennsylvania], including a supermarket cashier ... who lost her job because she followed her doctor's orders to carry a water bottle and a pregnant security guard denied a request to sit down part of her shift in downtown Pittsburgh." Murtha writes that while "the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 [PL 95-555] banned discrimination against pregnant workers, it does not address reasonable accommodations under all circumstances," noting that state and federal lawmakers have proposed bills (S 942, HR 1975) to combat such discrimination (Murtha, Women's Law Project blog, 10/13).

What others are saying about supporting working families/pregnant workers' rights:

~ "Microsoft CEO Apologizes for Ridiculous Comments About Women," Sarah Gray, Salon.

October 10, 2014


TEXAS: "More Bad News About Abortion in Texas," Stephanie Hallett, Ms. Magazine blog: Issues surrounding abortion and Texas' "omnibus anti-abortion bill" (HB 2) have "heated up in the last few weeks -- and not in a good way," Hallett writes. Hallett provides a "rundown of what's happening right now," noting that the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals "declined to re-hear a case first brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights in September 2013" that challenged the law's provisions on admitting privileges and medication abortion. She adds that a "request with the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the 5th Circuit's ruling" is "currently before" the high court. Meanwhile, many clinics have been forced to close because of the law, and the "limitations on abortion have left nearly a million Texas women -- primarily middle- and lower-income -- without access to care," she writes (Hallett, Ms. Magazine blog, 10/9).

What others are saying about Texas:

~ "Texas Abortion Providers Head to Supreme Court To Fight Restrictive Anti-Choice Law," Kutner, Salon.

~ "Map Shows Abortion Access in Texas Now Only for Wealthy," Laura Bassett, Huffington Post blogs.

October 7, 2014


"'Students for Life' Tries To Shut Down Sex Week at the University of New Mexico," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: Marcotte recaps the controversy around "what should be an utter non-controversy at the University of New Mexico: The fact that sex was being talked about during Sex Week," She writes that while the week's events had "racy titles and content," the reason for them "is simple enough: It's a way to draw attention to material that actually offers serious lessons about safety and consent." However, she notes, "Anti-choice activists have been at the forefront" of the backlash and "ire -- even though abortions didn't get a single mention in the program schedule," with Students for Life Vice President Sade Patterson instead urging "a workshop on 'how to say no' or how to handle a date-rape situation." Marcotte concludes that comments by such groups are representative of "the anti-choice movement in a nutshell: The belief that sex is 'gross,' and that should be reason enough for you to screw up other people's lives in a futile effort to make them stop doing it" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 10/6).


"The Worst Phone Call of My Career: I’m Sorry Clinics, You Have to Close," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights:" Amiri, of the American Civil Liberties Union's Freedom Project, writes that she "had to make a phone call ... that [she has] been dreading [her] entire career," in which she was forced to tell "amazing abortion clinics" that they had to "close their doors after serving Texas women for more than 30 years." The clinics had to close after an appeals court allowed Texas' sweeping antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) to take effect. A provision of the law "requires abortion clinics to make medically unnecessary and prohibitively costly renovations" that left just "eight abortion clinics" operating in a state that is "home to more than 5.5 million women of childbearing age." Amiri explains that "[a]ll other clinics have been forced to immediately shut down, including two of" the Freedom Project's clients. Amiri concludes that she "can only hope that justice will prevail eventually and that [the clinics] will be able to go back to providing high quality care that women need and deserve" (Amiri, "Blog of Rights," American Civil Liberties Union, 10/3).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Fifth Circuit Allows More Limits on Abortion in Texas," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog.

~ "Closing Down Abortion Clinics, Giving Fetuses Lawyers," Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times' "Taking Note."



"More Than 3,000 People Have Signed Up for the First Online Abortion Class," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": More than 3,000 people have registered for the "first online course on abortion care that's ever been offered by a U.S. school," Culp-Ressler writes, adding that the course's creator -- Jody Steinauer from the University of California-San Francisco -- wants to "dedicate more time to a topic that often gets overlooked in medical school." The online class will include lectures from more than 20 faculty members from different institutions to "'place abortion within the context of public health and fill in the gaps left by its exclusion from mainstream curricula in health professions,'" according to the course description. While it is "possible that Steinauer's course will spark some pushback," it also "could make a big difference for female patients who want to be able to talk to their health providers about the procedure," Culp-Ressler writes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 10/6).

September 19, 2014


"Iowa's Telemedicine Abortions Can Continue -- for Now," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "Telemedicine abortions can continue in Iowa for now, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, blocking a rule by the Iowa Board of Medicine that threatened to shut down the use of video-conferencing technology to help rural Iowans access abortion care," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, abortion-rights supporters have said the rule, if permitted to take effect, would mean that abortion access in the state would be limited "to Des Moines and Iowa City, with some patients in rural and medically under-served areas forced to travel more than 500 miles round-trip, multiple times, to access care." She writes that while opponents of the rule consider the decision a victory for women in the state, the decision only blocks the requirements while an appeal of a lower court's ruling -- which "would have allowed the rule to take effect" -- is reviewed (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 9/17).

What others are saying about abortion access:

~ "'I Feel Like I Was Tricked': New Documentary Uncovers How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie to Women," Jenny Kutner, Salon.

September 16, 2014


"Texas Planned Parenthood Clinics Rebrand in Hopes of Public Funds," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: "[T]his month, the entity formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County," Texas, "is making a major branding switch: from now on, the provider will be known as Access Esperanza Clinics," to better reflect that the center is, in many cases, patients' primary health care provider, Grimes writes. She notes that the changes are in response to a state law that barred Planned Parenthood affiliates from "receiving public funding to provide reproductive health care" and dramatically cut the state's family planning budget, "effectively cutting off tens of thousands of low-income Texans' access to affordable Pap smears and contraception." According to Access Esperanza Clinics Community Services Director Kathryn Hearn, the rebranding will enable the clinic to once again apply for state funding to provide family planning and primary care services to Hidalgo County residents (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 9/15).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Tennessee is the Next Major Abortion Battleground," Callie Beusman, Jezebel.

September 12, 2014


"Doctors Aren't Dummies: Support the Patient Trust Act," Kate Michelman, Huffington Post blogs: The Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee this week discussed a bill (HB 2303), introduced in July, that "says that politicians have no business putting words that are 'not medically accurate and appropriate for the patient' into the mouths of doctors," writes Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and co-chair of WomenVotePA. She writes that the legislation is important because "politicians have made it difficult -- and in some cases even illegal -- for doctors to keep that sacred obligation," such as through measures "proposed by lawmakers trying to disguise their opposition to contraception and abortion by disingenuously claiming that these laws promote women's health and safety." Michelman cites a report that found a majority of states have passed such laws and concludes, "It's time for politicians to stop masquerading as ideological ventriloquists" because "[w]omen need to be able to trust that the voice they're hearing is from their physician" (Michelman, Huffington Post blogs, 9/10).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions and access:

~ "Texas' Radical Anti-Abortion Law Faces Hearing Friday," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

September 5, 2014


"Abortion Rights Aren't Safe in the South," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": While "abortion rights supporters have won several key victories in federal court ... the wins aren't likely to be permanent," Culp-Ressler writes. She notes that while federal judges recently have blocked restrictive abortion legislation in Alabama, Texas and Louisiana, their decisions "aren't the final word on the matter." Texas has already appealed and Louisiana is waiting to see "whether its law will be permanently enjoined," meaning that "there's 'a real risk' looming in subsequent court decisions," Culp-Ressler writes. Further, if the issue goes before the Supreme Court, "the nation's highest court can't necessarily be counted on to protect reproductive rights," given the "current make up of the bench," Culp-Ressler concludes (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 9/2).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "A Huge Abortion Win in Texas," Emily Bazelon, Slate's "Jurisprudence."

~ "National Right to Life President: Texas Abortion Bill Intended To Shutter Clinics," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.


"Montana Charges Woman With 'Criminal Endangerment' at Just 12 Weeks Pregnant," Robin Marty, Care2: The arrest of Montana woman Casey Gloria Allen for child endangerment for testing positive for drugs while just 12 weeks pregnant "has left a lot of questions unanswered," including whether Allen's physician alerted the police, Marty writes. "If we want pregnant women to obtain prenatal care and drug-treatment therapies, they have to trust that a trip to the doctor won't end with the police at her doorstep," she argues. Marty wonders if Allen knew she was pregnant, asking, "How can someone be charged for committing a crime against a 'person' that she either might not have known existed or had no intention of giving birth to?" Marty continues, "By promoting a series of laws that punish a pregnant person by granting legal rights to the embryo or fetus," abortion-rights opponents "are pitting pregnant people against their own pregnancies, and leaving them no option but to terminate that pregnancy in order to avoid stiffer penalties from law enforcement" (Marty, Care2, 9/2).

September 2, 2014


"Illinois Commits To Protect Pregnant Workers," Emily Martin, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": Although "most women continue working throughout their pregnancies with no need for changes in their jobs, some -- particularly those in physically demanding jobs -- will need temporary adjustments to continue working safely," writes Martin, vice president and general counsel at NWLC. These women often "need only a simple accommodation -- like avoiding heavy lifting for a few months, being permitted to sit occasionally during a long workday, or staying off high ladders" -- but many employers refuse to accommodate their requests and "fire pregnant workers or push them onto unpaid leave," Martin writes. Other women continue working without accommodations, putting their health at risk, "because they cannot afford to lose their income," she adds. Martin applauds Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) for signing a new law that "will protect pregnant workers in Illinois" and urges Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 942), which is pending in the House and Senate, to "require employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers who need it so that they can continue working safely through their pregnancies" (Martin, "Womenstake," NWLC, 8/26).


"'Hobby Lobby' Aftermath: Illinois Seeks To Expand Birth Control Access," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check: Wilson reports on new regulations proposed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services that aim to "directly address the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby" by expanding access to contraception for low-income state residents. Wilson writes that the policy changes, scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, "would increase Medicaid funding for health-care providers to provide" contraception, including doubling "[p]ayments for vasectomies and intrauterine devices." The new rules would also "requir[e] health providers that object to contraception to refer patients to providers that will provide contraceptive care," he writes (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 8/26).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "The Awesome Idea That Led to a Huge Drop in Teen Births," Judy Molland, Care2.

~ "Why the Right Will Reject the Administration's Latest Birth Control 'Fix,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

August 19, 2014


 "Abortion Opponents Caught on Tape Explaining How To Violate Patient Privacy," Robin Marty, Care2: "According to the Austin Chronicle's Mary Tuma, anti-abortion action groups in [Texas] have been having training sessions to ensure that patients going to the few remaining clinics in the state don't find the process easy," Marty writes, citing a training session recorded by Progress Texas that encouraged abortion-rights opponents to "make the most intimidating clinic atmosphere they can" and track the license plates of patients and staff members. Marty notes that "anti-abortion activists claim that the license plate tracking is innocuous, since it is simply to note which patients do return after the mandatory 24 hour waiting period, and isn't used to learn their identity or violate their privacy." However, the protesters "admi[t] that they are tracking providers with the information, as well, and that in those cases they are most definitely seeking out the person's identity so that they can determine who they are and if they have the now mandatory hospital privileges," she adds (Marty, Care2, 8/18).