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Around the Blogosphere

The Imperative to Challenge Public Policies that Criminalize Pregnancy Outcomes

FarahDiazTelloRHW5-27By Farah Diaz-Tello, Senior Staff Attorney, National Advocates for Pregnant Women

By now, most reproductive rights, health and justice activists have heard of Purvi Patel, the Indiana woman sentenced to decades behind bars after what she maintains was a miscarriage. Her case is still being fought in the courts, but supporters have recognized it as a wake-up call about what a post-Roe America might look like, with bedside interrogations and trials that pry into emotional responses to pregnancy loss.
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Lawmakers Should Take a Walk in Her Shoes

Chavi6-17.RHWBy Chavi Koneru, Policy Director, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

On June 5th, with the stroke of a pen, Governor Pat McCrory restricted the rights of North Carolina women by signing a bill imposing a 72-hour mandatory delay on abortions.
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July 24, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"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).

FEATURED BLOG

"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).

July 21, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Oregon's Over-the-Counter Birth Control Legislation Is Missing One Critical Component," Josephine Yurcaba, Bustle: Under laws enacted in both California (SB 493) and Oregon (HB 2879), women "can now buy hormonal birth control at the pharmacy without a doctor's prescription, which is a pretty big deal for women's health," Yurcaba writes. However, while "California's law has no age restrictions for who can get birth control, Oregon's over-the-counter birth control legislation has one big problem: Pharmacists can only provide birth control without a prescription to women over 18 years old." According to Yurcaba, the age restriction "is a huge problem for a few reasons," including how "teens are one of the populations with the most barriers standing between them and contraception access"; they "are often the least fit to deal with unplanned pregnancies"; and they "have the most to gain from free, uninhibited access to birth control." Yurcaba cites research that has shown access to contraception helps lower teen abortion rates and notes that "the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has endorsed over-the-counter access to birth control since 2012." She concludes, "To actually help all at-risk populations, Oregon should expand the legislation to include teens" (Yurcaba, Bustle, 7/19).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Why the IUD Could Be Your Perfect Birth Control Method," Vanessa Marin, "Life Hacker After Hours."

FEATURED BLOG

"Feminists Fought Back Against Anti-Abortion Extremists in Alabama Last Week," Ms. Magazine 's "Feminist Wire": Operation Save America last week "organized its annual national event of increased harassment and protesting outside targeted clinics in Alabama," according to Ms. Magazine's "Feminist Wire," but "[t]he Feminist Majority Foundation's Clinic Defense Team spent several weeks on the ground ... providing assistance to clinics throughout the state," with support from students, "feminists and activists." According to "Feminist Wire," OSA routinely "use[s] the summer to travel around the nation and protest abortion," but this year marks the first time "OSA invited an advocate of 'justifiable homicide' to be a featured speaker." The speaker, Matthew Trewhella, is "the leader of Missionaries to the Preborn" and a "signatory of the Defensive Action petition in support of the use of lethal force to stop abortion," "Feminist Wire" reports. OSA's protesters also included John Brockhoeft, another "advocate of justifiable homicide" and a "convicted felon who served time for arson attacks on clinics in Ohio" and for "conspiring to bomb a clinic in Pensacola, FL." However, duVergne Gaines, director of FMF's Clinic Defense Team, noted that despite threats, "'all of the abortion clinics in Alabama ... remained open and all patients were seen,'" "Feminist Wire" reports. According to "Feminist Wire," OSA's protest put the state on "high alert," which "is often necessary during extremist protests" because research has found that certain aggressive tactics by abortion-rights opponents "often preceded serious crimes such as violence, arson, bombings, stalking of clinic staff, patients, and doctors, and murder" ("Feminist Wire," Ms. Magazine, 7/20).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

~ "5 Arguments Against Abortion Every Feminist Has Heard -- And How To Respond to Each One," Madhuri Sathish, Bustle.

FEATURED BLOG

"The 4 Best States For Reproductive Rights Are Where We Should All Move, Stat," Lauren Holter, Bustle: "Despite the anti-abortion agenda sweeping much of the nation, four states" -- California, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont --"are keeping abortion clinics open and funded, making birth control more easily attainable, and protecting the rights of female minors," Holter writes. Specifically, she notes that Oregon, where 78% of women live in a county where there is an abortion provider, "doesn't have any restrictive abortion laws on the books," has "public funding for abortions," and recently passed legislation (HB 2879) allowing women "to buy birth control over the counter without a doctor's prescription." According to Holter, California, where 99% of women live in a county where there is an abortion provider, has passed similar legislation and only restricts abortion "at the time of fetal viability." Holter adds that 65% of women in Vermont live in a county where there is an abortion provider, and the state has no restrictions on abortion and "publicly funds medically necessary abortions." Meanwhile, 81% of women in Maryland live in a county where there is an abortion provider, Holter writes, adding that although the state "requires that parents of a minor seeking an abortion be notified beforehand," it "protect[s] women's reproductive rights" by "requir[ing] health insurers to cover infertility treatments for women" and restricting abortion only at the point of fetal viability (Holter, Bustle, 7/20).


July 17, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"States Enact 51 Abortion Restrictions in First Half of 2015: Mid-Year Analysis," Elizabeth Nash/Rachel Benson Gold, RH Reality Check: "Through the first six months of 2015, states enacted 51 new abortion restrictions; this brings the number of restrictions enacted since 2010 to 282," Nash and Benson Gold, of the Guttmacher Institute, write, noting that more restrictions could be passed before the year ends by the few state legislatures still in session as of July 1. According to the authors, "states have enacted more restrictions during the first half of this year than all of last year," but the overall number of restrictions is still "below the 70 enacted in 2013, due in part to fewer restrictions being enacted in a handful of states -- including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arizona -- that had adopted multiple restrictions between 2011 and 2014." Meanwhile, Nash and Benson Gold note that "the Supreme Court is poised to hear one, and maybe two, major abortion cases in the coming year ," one involving "a 2013 Texas law [HB 2] that imposes targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) requirements on abortion clinics" and another involving an admitting privileges requirement (HB 1390) in Mississippi. Overall, the authors write that the restrictions imposed this year primarily have "focused on four areas: waiting periods, abortions after the first trimester, medication abortion, and TRAP provisions," with some states "chart[ing] new directions that may well serve as models for" more antiabortion-rights legislation (Nash/Benson Gold, RH Reality Check, 7/14).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Anti-Abortion Doctor Has Unscientific Method for Reversing the Abortion Pill," Kira Lerner, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

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"How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Using Taxpayer Dollars To Lie to Women," Jenny Kutner, Salon: "More often than not, [crisis pregnancy centers] -- which now outnumber abortion clinics by an estimated 3 to 1 -- can be misleading, manipulative or downright coercive, pushing a distinctly antiabortion agenda that relies heavily on lying to clients," Kutner writes, adding, "So why are so many CPCs funded by taxpayer dollars?" According to Kutner, a "yearlong investigative report" by Cosmopolitan found "at least 11 states that directly fund [CPCs], as well as one state -- South Dakota -- that requires women to receive counseling from an antiabortion center in order to terminate a pregnancy." Kutner notes that the investigation found not only that the states "are providing tens of millions in public funding for religiously affiliated organizations" but also "discovered a troubling funding breakdown that indicates some states are actively incentivizing antiabortion counseling." For example, the report found that Real Alternatives -- an antiabortion-rights not-for-profit that operates CPCs in Pennsylvania and consults with other states -- is not incentivized to put state money "toward the things expectant women need," but instead "to spend more time providing ideologically driven counseling" that "often includes misguided and debunked 'scientific' information ... in order to scare women out of terminating pregnancies" (Kutner, Salon, 7/14).

FEATURED BLOG

"The Battle To Bring Sex Education to the City With the Second Highest STD Rate in the Country," Kira Lerner, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Currently, Louisiana public schools teach abstinence-based sexual[ity] education and are prohibited from teaching students about contraception and [sexually transmitted infections], but one state lawmaker is working to change that," Lerner writes, noting that New Orleans has the second-highest STI rate in the country and a teenage pregnancy rate that "dwarfs most other U.S. cities." According to Lerner, "[s]tate Rep. Wesley Bishop (D) introduced a bill [HB 359] this session that would have mandated comprehensive [sexuality education] in New Orleans middle and high schools." Although the bill "ultimately failed to make it off the [state] House floor" despite support from the New Orleans City Council, School Board and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, "Bishop said he will keep fighting to ensure that teenagers in New Orleans get the sexual[ity] education they deserve," Lerner writes. She explains that Bishop decided to work on sexuality education in New Orleans specifically after "moves to bring comprehensive sex[uality] education to the entire state of Louisiana ... failed" (Lerner, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 7/16).


July 14, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Advocates Fight To Keep Tuscaloosa Abortion Clinic Open," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "Reproductive rights advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday" over an Alabama admitting privileges law (HB 57) "to prevent the sole licensed abortion clinic in Tuscaloosa," the West Alabama Women's Center, "from being forced to shut down," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, "three of Alabama's five licensed abortion clinics ... filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality" of the law after it was passed in 2013, and a court order temporarily blocking the law "remains in effect today." The new lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama, contends that the law is unconstitutional, noting that "[t]he only hospital in Tuscaloosa is unwilling to grant" the clinic's provider, William Parker, admitting privileges, "for reasons unrelated to his competency" and "no OB-GYN in the Tuscaloosa area is willing to serve as the clinic's outside covering physician, due to anti-choice sentiment and fear of being publicly associated with an abortion clinic," Mason Pieklo writes. As a result, the clinic "risks closing," she explains, adding that the clinic "provid[es] about 40 percent of abortions in the state, and is one of only two clinics in Alabama where women who need second-trimester abortions can obtain care" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 7/13).


July 7, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"How Do You Make a Safe Abortion Any Safer?" Dan Grossman, RH Reality Check: "Rather than making abortion safer," the omnibus antiabortion-rights law in Texas (HB 2) "may actually compromise the health of Texas women," Grossman writes. Grossman explains that "[a]bortion as currently practiced in the United States is very safe," with Texas' abortion statistics showing that in 2013 "less than 0.03 percent of procedures reportedly had a serious complication." Further, he cites research showing that, contrary "to the stated objective of HB 2," there is "no evidence that abortion care was intrinsically safer when performed at an [ambulatory surgical center] as compared to a non-[ambulatory surgical center] clinic." In addition, he notes that the closure of clinics under the law "is leading to an increase in second-trimester abortion[s]," which are "still very safe," but "are associated with a higher rate of complications compared to those done in the first trimester." The closures also could increase the rate of women trying "to self-induce their abortion" (Grossman, RH Reality Check, 6/30).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "A Slew of Anti-Choice Laws Take Effect Today," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

June 30, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"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).

FEATURED BLOG

"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).

FEATURED BLOG

"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).

June 23, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Texas Abortion Case Reaches the Court," Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog: "Abortion clinics and doctors in Texas asked the Supreme Court on Friday night to delay enforcement of a 2013 state abortion law [HB 2] while an appeal to the Justices is pursued," Denniston writes. According to Denniston, the request followed a refusal by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday "to delay its June 9 ruling upholding most of the Texas law," although it did grant "one clinic -- in McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley -- more time to adapt to the new restrictions." In the latest request, advocates noted that "[w]ithout a postponement ... more than half of the existing nineteen clinics in Texas will have to close on July 1, and some of them might never reopen," he writes. Denniston notes that the high court is likely to act on the request soon since "the law is now due to go into effect" on July 1. Following that decision, "[t]he clinics and doctors will be filing a formal petition for review," which likely would not be considered by the Supreme Court "until its next Term, starting in October" (Denniston, SCOTUSblog, 6/19).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Court Upholds Planned Parenthood's Telemedicine Abortion Program in Iowa," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing.

~ "Judge: Ohio Anti-Choice Law Unconstitutional, Rules Clinic Can Remain Open," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.

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"Montana Abortion Clinic Vandal Sentenced to Prison," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check: "Following three days of hearings, a man with connections to a local anti-choice group was sentenced on Thursday to five years in prison for vandalizing a Kalispell, Montana reproductive health-care facility in 2014," Wilson writes. According to Wilson, "Zachary Klundt broke into and vandalized All Families Healthcare, a family medicine and reproductive health-care facility" in March of last year. In addition to the prison sentence, Klundt has been ordered to pay Susan Cahill -- the clinic's owner and manager, who was "forced to close the clinic indefinitely" following the vandalism -- $669,000 in damages, according to Wilson. Meanwhile, Wilson noted that a new report "this year found that abortion clinics nationwide face significant threats, and that threats of violence against abortion providers have doubled since 2010" (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 6/19).

FEATURED BLOG

"All States Should Offer One-Year Supplies of Birth Control," Chris Sosa, Care2: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has signed a bill (HB 3343) "allowing birth control to be dispensed in [a] full-year supply instead of 30 or 90-day packs," Sosa writes. He explains that 12-month supplies would give women who do not have "local access or [whose] work or family schedules preclude them from being able to easily travel to a pharmacy for their prescriptions on a monthly basis ... much-needed freedom in their already-full schedules." Further, he cites research "from the Institute of Medicine that shows access to birth control limits infant and maternal fatalities" and adds that contraception "is also used to treat a host of medical conditions, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and amenorrhea." Sosa praises Oregon's "positive example," noting that the state also is considering another bill (HB 2879) that would "remove the requirement for doctor visits to access birth control altogether" by authorizing pharmacists "to prescribe birth control themselves." Sosa writes, "It's absolutely critical that women are able to access birth control without barriers, which are political in nature and medically unnecessary" (Sosa, Care2, 6/21).

June 5, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Women Are Being Forced To Wait Longer and Longer To Get an Abortion," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Among the new abortion restrictions being imposed by [conservative] legislatures this session, a clear trend is emerging: New laws that significantly lengthen the period that women must wait before they're allowed to proceed with an abortion," Culp-Ressler writes. She notes that "[d]ozens of states have already enacted" 24-hour mandatory delays, "but now, lawmakers in several states are working to make the requirement even more stringent, lengthening their [mandatory delays] to force patients to wait multiple days." According to Culp-Ressler, state legislators in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah all have moved to impose mandatory delay periods longer than 24 hours. Culp-Ressler quotes Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, who said states are extending mandatory delays because they implemented "a record-breaking number of abortion restrictions" last year and now are trying "'to make them more burdensome'" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 6/4).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Doctors Challenge Unscientific Abortion Laws That Force Them To Practice Bad Medicine," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress."

~ "Why Is Arizona Forcing Doctors To Lie to Women Who Need Abortions?" Andrew Beck, American Civil Liberties Union's "Speak Freely."

June 2, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Ninth Circuit Court Strikes Another 20-Week Abortion Ban," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "[M]arking the latest legal defeat for radical state-level abortion bans," the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday struck down an Idaho law "banning abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, the case involves a woman, Jennie Linn McCormack, "who was charged in 2011 under the state's 'unlawful abortion' statute, a law that required all second-trimester abortions occur in a licensed hospital." Mason Pieklo explains that the 9th Circuit in September 2012 ruled that both the "unlawful abortion statute" and the 20-week abortion ban were unconstitutional but held that McCormack lacked the standing to challenge the 20-week ban because it "had not been in effect when [she] terminated her pregnancy." However, "Dr. Richard Hearn, an abortion provider and McCormack's attorney, intervened to challenge Idaho's 20-week ban on behalf of himself and future patients," which "gave the court the opportunity to affirm its September 2012 ruling that Idaho's 20-week ban is unconstitutional because it bans abortions prior to fetal viability," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, the "decision comes at an important time politically for abortion rights" because, while courts have ruled that "pre-viability bans like Idaho's are unequivocally unconstitutional, [conservative] state legislatures this year have introduced 19 laws banning abortion at or after 20 weeks" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 5/29).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "North Carolina Republicans Advance 72-Hour Waiting Period Bill," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

~ "Texas Lawmakers Further Restrict Access to Legal Abortion Care for Minors, Cancer Screenings," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

"The Supreme Court May Take up a Case That Could Be a Game Changer on Abortion Access," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Looming questions about exactly how far states can go to restrict access to abortion services are inching closer to the Supreme Court, as the nation's most powerful justices are currently deciding whether to take up a case regarding a Mississippi law [HB 1390] that threatens to close the only abortion clinic in the entire state," Culp-Ressler writes. Under the Mississippi law, physicians who perform abortions must "obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals, a complicated bureaucratic arrangement that is difficult for physicians to comply with," Culp-Ressler notes, adding that such measures are part of a "legislative strategy -- known as the 'Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers,'" that "has been very successful on the state level." However, she notes that if the court decides to hear the case, "[t]he majority of Supreme Court justices aren't likely to side with a state law that completely eliminates access to legal abortion within a state's border." She explains that, under Roe v. Wade, the state must "provide a way for its residents to exercise their reproductive rights," an argument that lower courts "have used" to block the law in the past. Meanwhile, she writes that if the Supreme Court opts not to take the case, "legal experts agree that the justices will still be poised to weigh in on the broader issue of admitting privileges sometime soon," as "[t]here are similar legal challenges against TRAP laws in states like Texas [HB 2], Louisiana [Act 620], Oklahoma [SB 1848], and Wisconsin [Act 37]" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 6/1).

May 29, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"One of the Strictest Abortion Bans in the Country Was Just Stopped in its Tracks," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit struck down parts of an Arkansas law (Act 301) that banned abortion "after just 12 weeks of pregnancy, " which is "significantly before the point of viability that serves as the current cut-off point for legal abortion services under Roe v. Wade," Culp-Ressler writes. According to Culp-Ressler, state lawmakers in 2013 "overrode their governor to approve the 12-week ban -- which, at the time, represented the strictest abortion ban that had ever passed on the state level," although it was "quickly surpassed" when North Dakota "approv[ed] a six-week ban [HB 1456] later that year." She adds that the Arkansas law "has never been allowed to take effect" because a federal judge "blocked, and later permanently struck [it] down," but "state lawmakers have continued to appeal those decisions." Meanwhile, she notes that Arkansas officials have "found plenty of other ways to impede residents' access to" abortion. She writes, "This spring, the Arkansas legislature led the nation in the number of abortion restrictions proposed on the state level," advancing legislation "stripping funding from Planned Parenthood, toughening requirements for parental consent ... restricting the use of" medication abortion and "requir[ing] doctors to tell women about an unproven theory regarding 'abortion reversal,' effectively enshrining junk science into law" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 5/27).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Louisiana Lawmakers Clash as GOP Fails To Advance Anti-Choice Measure," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

~ "Texas Republicans Fall Short on Abortion Insurance Ban," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check.

FEATURED BLOG

"Is Anti-Choice Ideology Driving Malpractice Lawsuits?" Byron Calhoun and the Phantom Fetal Skull," Imani Gandy, RH Reality Check: Gandy writes about how Byron Calhoun, an ob-gyn in West Virginia who is "known for promoting junk science ... to undermine access to abortion," helped to spur a malpractice lawsuit based on potentially false claims in an effort to "cast abortion in a negative light." She explains that Calhoun told a former patient, Itai Gravely, about a year after treating her for complications following an abortion that "he had found a 13-week old fetal skull in her uterus." Gandy says the information prompted Gravely to file a lawsuit, but "[t]he pathology report which was conducted after her treatment ... established that there was no fetal skull present in Gravely's uterus" and a judge dismissed all of Gravely's claims. Gandy writes, "Based on the evidence, it's hard to avoid a conclusion that Calhoun ... lied to Gravely, dragging the young woman and her most personal information into a bitter public fight over abortion care, using her as a prop in his own ideological campaign." Further, noting how the discredited lawsuit was timed to capitalize on abortion-rights opponents' reaction to the Kermit Gosnell trial, Gandy also points out how, since Gravely's lawsuit was filed, "anti-choice legislators in West Virginia have stepped up their efforts by introducing more than 30 regressive laws, even overriding Gov. [Earl] Tomblin's [D] veto to pass a 20-week abortion ban [HB 2568] that is flatly unconstitutional" (Gandy, RH Reality Check, 5/26).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

~ "What Was the Worst State for Women This Week?" Amanda Marcotte, Slate's "The XX Factor."

FEATURED BLOG

"California Lawmakers Vote To Make it Harder for Crisis Pregnancy Centers To Lie to Women," Jenny Kutner, Salon: California's Assembly on Tuesday voted 49-26 to approve a bill (AB 775) that would "require crisis pregnancy centers to stop actively misleading women" by "mak[ing] it more difficult for CPCs to use traditional tactics (such as straight-up lying) to prevent women from terminating their pregnancies," Kutner writes. She explains that the measure would "requir[e] centers that do not have medical licenses to disclose that they do not have medical licenses" and "also requir[e] that licensed medical facilities ... 'notify patients that the state has programs that offer free or affordable abortion services, as well as help with family planning and prenatal care.'" Kutner notes that a NARAL Pro-Choice investigation has found that California's CPCs "routinely and purposely lie to clients about their pregnancy options," adding that the proposed legislation, "which now heads to the California Senate, would require that non-medical facilities make clear they cannot provide medical counseling, and help women learn about all options -- whether they decide to terminate their pregnancies or not" (Kutner, Salon, 5/27).

FEATURED BLOG

"Texas Abortion Provider Launches Program To 'Shift' Abortion Stigma: A Q&A With Amy Hagstrom Miller and Amanda Williams," Grimes, RH Reality Check: Grimes interviews Amy Hagstrom Miller -- founder of a new not-for-profit called Shift and former CEO of the Texas-based Whole Woman's Health, an abortion clinic that closed in the wake of one of the state's antiabortion-rights measures (HB 2) -- and Amanda Williams, Shift's program manager, to learn "about their vision for Shift, why they've chosen to launch in Texas, and what the end of abortion stigma might look like in [conservative] states." In the interview, Hagstrom Miller explains that Shift is an organization "'working to strategically shift the stigma around abortion in our culture'" and that it is "'committed to fostering open and honest conversations, lifting up all communities, and advocating for reproductive freedom.'" According to Hagstrom Miller and Williams, Shift will focus on efforts such as bringing "'advocates, patients, and providers together in a statewide way,'" launching "'billboards or some web campaigns that'" advertise abortion resources and helping to address areas in crisis because of abortion clinic closures in the state, Grimes writes (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 5/27).

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"Colorado Is Shuttering the Birth Control Initiative That Made it A National Leader & Here's What 5 Horrified Health Professionals Have To Say," Lauren Holter, Bustle: "Despite being an obvious success, the ... Colorado Senate voted to end the Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI) in late April, which provided free or reduced long-term birth control, like [intrauterine devices] and implants, to low-income women," Holter writes. She explains that since the program launched "in 2009, Colorado's teen pregnancy rate dropped 40 percent and the teen abortion rate fell 35 percent, which saved the state money in healthcare for teen moms and food programs for low-income parents" and "made Colorado a national leader in family planning." However, "the 68 clinics across the state that used the program's funds to provide birth control for low-income women [now] are scrambling to find other sources of money to sustain the initiative," she writes, noting that if they are unable to do so, "Colorado will take a major step backwards on family planning." Holter cites the dismayed responses of several health care providers and women's health leaders, including Eric Ferrero, vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Susan Levy, executive director of the Boulder Valley Women's Health Center, where the initiative first launched. For example, in one such response, Holter cites Liz Romer, director of Adolescent Family Planning at Children's Hospital Colorado, who criticized the decision, pointing out that lawmakers "'can't be against abortion and contraception at the same time'" (Holter, Bustle, 5/29).

What others are saying about contraception:

~ "Republicans Are Pushing for OTC Birth Control, and That's a Bad Thing," Robin Marty, Care2.