National Partnership for Women & Families

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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 »


March 6, 2015

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"Reproductive Rights Shouldn't Be Just for the Rich," Brigitte Amiri, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights": Amiri discusses her recent efforts as "part of the team that is fighting" a law in Alaska that, if allowed to take effect, would "withhol[d] almost all Medicaid coverage for abortion from qualified women." She writes that if her team does not win a lawsuit challenging the law, "the consequences will be devastating," noting that "[w]ithout Medicaid coverage for abortion, some women will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, despite the consequences to their families and their physical and mental health." Amiri cites several abortion patients who testified at the trial about how "even the smallest unexpected expense can send a family into financial chaos, and patients routinely delay or forgo health care because they can't afford it." She discusses other state abortion restrictions and an investigation from Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress" into "the consequences [of such] restrictions" on low-income women, concluding, "What was true before Roe v. Wade is true today: Rich women will always have access to abortion, while low-income women may not" (Amiri, "Blog of Rights," ACLU, 3/3).

February 20, 2015

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"Teenagers Push Their School To Really Support Safe Sex," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler highlights the efforts of high school students in New Hampshire "to expand access to contraception among sexually active teens" in their push for "a new policy that would make free condoms available in their nurse's office." According to Culp-Ressler, "[m]embers of Hanover High School's student government are preparing to present recent research they conducted on teens' access to condoms -- including a survey of local parents that found more than 80 percent of them support providing free condoms in school -- at an upcoming meeting of district officials." Culp-Ressler notes that "[t]he American Academy of Pediatrics ... officially endorsed the policy" of providing condoms in some schools in 2013. Further, Culp-Ressler notes that the push also comes amid "compelling evidence that giving high schoolers access to contraception really works," such as a 27% decrease over the past decade in New York City's teen pregnancy rate and a 40% drop in Colorado's teen pregnancy rate over the last five years amid programs to expand teenagers' access to contraceptives (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 2/17).

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"Mississippi Asks Roberts Court To Help Close Its Only Abortion Clinic," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "Despite all the reasons the [Supreme] Court should not step into the fight over hospital admitting privileges in Mississippi," the state's appeal of a lower court ruling blocking the law (HB 1390) "might be too much for the Court to resist," Mason Pieklo writes. She explains that Mississippi's appeal essentially asks whether "states are required to keep at least one clinic open ... if the right to an abortion is a federal right" by framing the issue as a "'bright line test' where states 'lose' the power to regulate abortion clinics." According to Mason Pieklo, "[a]nti-choice activists have turned to this kind of through-the-looking glass thinking, in which a hyper-regulatory environment for abortion providers that results in clinic closures like Mississippi is, in their reality, a regulatory environment that is 'dangerously close' to public financing of abortions." She writes that abortion-rights supporters cannot let the situation "stand unchallenged," noting that the Mississippi case ultimately "is not just a constitutional fight between the rights of patients and the power of the state," but "a case that, if anti-abortion activists get their way, will drive reproductive health care in Mississippi back into the shadows" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 2/19).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Is a Mississippi 'Wrongful Death' Bill a Backdoor Abortion Ban?" Robin Marty, Care2.

~ "Michigan Lawmaker Introduces Bills To Restrict Abortion, Fund Anti-Choice Nonprofits," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.

February 10, 2015

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"New Texas Plan Would Assign Lawyers to Fetuses," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler writes that a Republican lawmaker in Texas "is preparing to introduce ... legislation that would appoint legal representation for fetuses" in cases where there are "disputes over whether pregnant women should remain hooked up to [mechanical] support." She explains that such a case "sparked considerable controversy" in the state last year, when the family of a pregnant woman was "prohibited from removing" her from mechanical support because of a state law that "stipulates 'a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment' from a patient who is carrying a fetus." While the family sued and won on the grounds that the woman "was legally deceased," the issue could "return to the forefront" with the "impending legislation," Culp-Ressler writes. She cites a 2012 report from the Center for Women Policy Studies, noting that "Texas is one of 12 states that allows doctors to disregard pregnant women's end-of-life wishes" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 2/9).

February 6, 2015

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"Indiana Woman Found Guilty of Feticide and Neglect for Having a Miscarriage," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: Dusenbery describes a recent trial involving an Indiana woman's miscarriage as an example of how "giving 'personhood' rights to fetuses" through laws that hold women "accountable" for pregnancy outcomes "means that every miscarriage must be treated as a potential crime." According to Dusenbery, the woman, Purvi Patel, faces a maximum sentence of 70 years after a jury found her guilty of "two mutually contradictory charges -- feticide and felony neglect," even though the prosecution "was unable to prove that Patel took" pills to induce abortion and "the only evidence that the fetus had been born alive ... was weak." Further, Dusenbery writes that if Patel did take medication abortion drugs, "it's likely because Indiana has made getting a legal abortion very difficult." She notes that "only four cities in Indiana have abortion clinics" and that "women must submit" to mandatory delays and biased counseling before they can obtain the procedure (Dusenberry, Feministing, 2/5).

February 3, 2015

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"Lawyers for Fetuses? Yes, It's Absurd, But It's Worse Than You Realize," Sara Ainsworth, RH Reality Check: Ainsworth writes about how laws giving legal rights to fetuses, such as a newly enacted law in Alabama (HB 494), "have been used for decades in state and judicial efforts to strip pregnant women of their civil and human rights." For example, she notes that several women in Wisconsin have been put on trial under a state law that (Act 292) assigns a lawyer as a guardian ad litem to defend a fetus or embryo "from 'the time of fertilization' when anyone alleges that a pregnant woman has used any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance," while the pregnant woman herself "has no right to a lawyer until very late in these proceedings, long after she's been detained." Further, she notes that "[s]ince at least the 1980s, courts around the country have been appointing lawyers to represent fetuses -- if not under statutes like Alabama's and Wisconsin's, then through judicial action," such as in cases in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. (Ainsworth, RH Reality Check, 1/30).

January 20, 2015

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"Virginia Lawmakers Roll Out Pro-Choice Legislative Agenda," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: Liss-Schultz notes that "Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday filed a handful of bills related to reproductive and sexual health -- and they are almost all pro-choice, and could roll back anti-choice policies pushed through by Virginia Republicans in recent years." Specifically, she writes that state legislators "introduced at least eight bills [SB 733, SB 769, SB 920, SB 1277, HB 1524, HB 1541] related to reproductive health care," four of which "would repeal state regulations on abortion, while the others provide further access." However, "not every bill introduced so far in the 2015 [state legislative] session has been good for reproductive health," she writes. According to Liss-Schultz, the Virginia Legislature also on Wednesday "introduced HB 1456, which would allow child-protective services to investigate private property in response to a complaint that a pregnant person is using certain controlled substances that would 'render the woman's unborn child abused or neglected'" (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 1/19).

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"Fetus Lawyers, Baby Daddies and 'Legitimate Rape': America's Craziest Abortion Bills," Brandy Zadrozny, Daily Beast: "[A]rmed with hundreds of pre-written bills -- drawn up by" antiabortion-rights groups, "state lawmakers are finding new ways to make an abortion even harder to get in the new year," despite ongoing legal challenges to abortion restrictions in Texas, Alabama and other states, Zadrozny writes. Zadrozny highlights several "states that have gotten an early start at" attempting to "rol[l] back Roe v. Wade, which she says are "almost guaranteed" to be challenged in court if passed: Missouri, where "Republicans have already introduced eight abortion bills," including a measure (HB 131) "that would require permission from a fetus's father before a woman could have an abortion"; Indiana, where a lawmaker has "introduced legislation [SB 334] that would make it a felony for providers to perform an abortion because of the sex of the fetus or a potential disability"; Tennessee, where lawmakers have "rall[ied] behind three different abortion bills that include a mandatory waiting period, new inspection requirements for clinics, and an 'informed consent' bill," in addition to a proposed ultrasound requirement (HB 2); and South Carolina, where lawmakers have "filed nine anti-abortion bills before the legislative session even began, four of which were proposals to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks." Zadrozny notes that "this state list is only partial, as some states haven't yet begun their legislative sessions" (Zadrozny, Daily Beast, 1/20).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Anti-Choice Legislators Try To Force Wedge Between Reproductive, Disability Rights Activists," David Perry, RH Reality Check.

~ "Legal Wrap: New Year, Same Old Anti-Abortion Tricks From the GOP," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.

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"'The Daily Show' Slams Appalling Alabama Law That Appoints Lawyers for Fetuses," Sarah Gray, Salon: Gray writes about a "Daily Show" segment in which Susan Wilson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, describes a "baffling Alabama law" (HB 494) that uses state funds to provide lawyers for fetuses. Gray explains that Alabama requires minors to obtain "parental consent to get an abortion," but that if they cannot obtain such consent, they "can go to the courts." However, she explains that the law permits judges to "appoint the unborn fetus a lawyer, and put the teenager seeking an abortion on trial -- witnesses and all." According to Wilson, the law is "not only 'particularly insulting to women' -- denying a woman's right to choose -- it also takes funds away from people who need public defenders," Gray writes (Gray, Salon, 1/16).


January 9, 2015

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"Five States Allow Women's Health Medicaid Programs To Lapse," Dori Molozanov, Penn Program on Regulation's "RegBlog": Molozanov writes that the expiration of some Medicaid waiver programs at the end of 2014 means that "[w]omen in five states" -- Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon and Pennsylvania -- "may be without affordable access to important health and family planning services, including routine cancer screenings and contraception." She explains that the states "chose not to ask CMS to renew" their Medicaid waiver programs, which allow states to "test new means of delivering health coverage under Medicaid, or to expand coverage to individuals who would not otherwise be eligible under federal law." The states' programs varied but generally had allowed them to offer no- or "low-cost reproductive services" to "women with incomes that do not exceed a certain amount above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but who do not qualify for [traditional] Medicaid." Of the five states, all but Louisiana have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), meaning that some "former beneficiaries of waiver programs in those states will likely receive the same low-cost services under Medicaid." However, they will "not be automatically transferred [to the program] and ... must reapply," and former participants who live in Louisiana or who exceed the income threshold for Medicaid eligibility must find other options. According to Molozanov, women's health advocates have expressed concern that "cancelling waiver programs and requiring women to reapply for health insurance will create gaps in coverage and leave many low-income women without necessary reproductive services" (Molozanov, "RegBlog," Penn Program on Regulation, 1/7).

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"Fifth Circuit Panel Peppers Attorneys With Tough Questions on Texas Abortion Law," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Grimes recaps Wednesday's oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the constitutionality of parts of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that could shutter many of the state's remaining abortion clinics if implemented. She writes, "Three issues appeared time and time again during the arguments," including whether the appeals court "should apply a 'rational basis' standard to evaluating the constitutionality of HB 2"; "whether the state could defend HB 2 as medically necessary while also suggesting that El Pasoans who are unable to travel to the interior of the state should simply drive into nearby New Mexico, where abortion restrictions are much looser"; and "whether established numerical parameters" -- such as driving distance to an abortion facility -- "could or should be established as automatic proof of an undue burden." She notes that the results of the trial "could direct the course of abortion-related law" across the U.S. as the country enacts "ever more onerous restrictions" on providers and as the Supreme Court mulls reviewing cases that "have been winding their way" through the lower courts (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 1/7).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "4 Reasons Why the 5th Circuit Could Change Their Minds on the Texas Abortion Law," Robin Marty, Care2.

December 16, 2014

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"Pregnant Wisconsin Woman Jailed Under State's 'Personhood'-Like Law," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Mason Pieklo compares a Wisconsin substance-misuse law (Act 292) to antiabortion-rights "personhood" laws by discussing the case of Tamara Loerstcher, a woman in Wisconsin who was arrested under Act 292 after disclosing her past substance use to hospital workers during her pregnancy. Mason Pieklo explains that the Wisconsin law effectively "grants 'personhood' rights to fertilized eggs and embryos by granting the state power to initiate child protective actions against the expectant mother anytime the state believes she has substance use issues that will 'seriously affect' the health of the egg, embryo, fetus, or child." Mason Pieklo notes that Loerstcher was "not the first" woman prosecuted under Wisconsin's law and that several other states "have some kind of process in place that allows the state to effectively suspend the civil rights of pregnant people in the name of protecting against fetal harm" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 12/12).

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"California Parents Outraged Their Kids Are Learning About Consent, Gender Identity," Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": In November, a group of parents in the Acalanes Union High School District in Northern California "formed a coalition called NOISE -- which stands for 'No to Irresponsible Sex Education' -- to pressure school officials to drop Planned Parenthood's [sex education] curriculum," Culp-Ressler writes. Culp-Ressler explains that the parent group has accused "Planned Parenthood of trying to pressure their kids into having sex," with specific objections against "a 'genderbread person' tool that teaches kids about the spectrum of sexuality and gender" and "a checklist that helps kids decide whether they're ready for sex" and communicate effectively with potential partners. Culp-Ressler notes that district officials "have defended the sex ed courses," adding that "a recent study confirmed that a sex education curriculum developed by [Planned Parenthood] effectively helps kids delay having sex" and that "[m]ost Americans overwhelmingly support comprehensive sex ed" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/12).


December 12, 2014

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"What's Next? Prosecuting a Pregnant Woman for Working Full Time?" Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights": After Tennessee resident Lacey Weld's prison sentence for committing drug-related crimes was enhanced because she was pregnant, the American Civil Liberties Union joined an amicus "brief filed by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, on behalf of leading constitutional, medical, and public health experts, asking the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision to punish Ms. Weld for her pregnancy," Kolbi-Molinas writes. Kolbi-Molinas notes that ACLU has "also asked Attorney General [Eric] Holder to renounce the federal prosecutor in Tennessee's actions and ensure that no other federal prosecutor takes this position in the future." Criminalizing pregnancy is "flatly unconstitutional [and] it's dangerous for women, families, and babies," she writes, adding, "Those really concerned with the welfare of women and babies would do well to make sure pregnant women struggling with addiction have better access to health care, not use them as examples to further their own private or political gain" (Kolbi-Molinas, "Blog of Rights," American Civil Liberties Union, 12/11).

December 5, 2014

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"Women Protest Ohio's Proposed Six Week Abortion Ban: 'Our Bodies, Our Decisions,'" Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Ohio Republican lawmakers "have been doing everything in their power to advance a six-week abortion ban [HB 248]," but it is "still unclear whether it has enough support to move further," Culp-Ressler writes. The bill's opponents came together Wednesday "under the hashtag #PinkWednesday" and "rallied on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse ... urging their lawmakers to stop pursuing unconstitutional abortion bans," she adds. They "argued that the legislation is bad medicine and bad policy, and will provoke a potentially costly legal fight if it ends up getting approved," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that "unlikely suspects," such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and "[s]ome of the anti-choice groups in the state," have also voiced concerns about the bill's constitutionality (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 12/4).

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"Virginia Board of Health Votes To Amend Anti-Abortion Law," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: "The Virginia Board of Health on Thursday voted to amend some of the state's strict anti-abortion regulations that subject clinics to the same architectural standards as hospitals," Liss-Schultz writes. She notes that the "regulatory process set in motion" by the vote could "take up to two years to complete," but it might "result in the effective reversal of the law, which threatens to close the state's 18 abortion clinics." According to Liss-Schultz, current Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) ordered the state Department of Health to review the regulations after he took office in 2013, noting that the requirements could "'negatively impact women's access to necessary health services.'" The Department of Health's commissioner in October "published recommendations to amend the law," and the board's approval means that the state can "craft and move forward with an amendment," Liss-Schultz explains (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 12/4).