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Featured Blog: Montana House Moves to Preemptively Ban Telemedical Abortion, But There is Good News

Maggie MoranBy Maggie Moran, Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Montana

In Montana, we are two-thirds of the way through our 64th Legislature and there is no doubt that 2015 is a tough year for reproductive rights. From bans on telemedicine for early abortion care to fetal anesthesia requirements for later term abortions, politicians seem bent on making abortion, at any stage, as difficult to access as possible in our state. However, upon some much-needed reflection, my optimism allows me to see bright spots to appreciate.

Montana does not, yet, provide early abortion care via telemedicine (through which a woman, in the presence of a licensed health care practitioner, consults with a physician through telecommunications technology). That didn’t stop the House from passing a bill to ban the option. Politics trumped science in a committee stacked along party lines. On the House floor, there were several common sense Republican detractors after a passionate and lively debate. Sadly, we needed more members of the GOP to kill the bill, so it now moves on to the Senate. More »


April 24, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Colorado Pro-Choice Advocates: Giving Legal Rights to Fetuses Doesn’t Protect Pregnant Wom[e]n," Jason Salzman, RH Reality Check: "Colorado pro-choice activists on Wednesday decried a bill (SB 15-268) introduced ... in response to a grotesque crime against a pregnant woman that would give 'personhood' rights to fetuses," Salzman writes. He notes that during a news conference before a hearing on the measure, "pro-choice advocates urged lawmakers to focus on measures to protect women from violence instead of giving fetuses legal rights that could be used to arrest pregnant women." For example, Salzman notes that Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, asked, '"Why are we having a conversation about how many years is long enough (to incarcerate someone for destroying a fetus), rather than asking whether these laws do anything to deter violence against pregnant women, to protect pregnancies, embryos, and fetuses?"' Meanwhile, Salzman notes that other abortion-rights supporters said the state's current law against such crimes -- which "does not give legal rights to fetuses" -- already imposes "severe penalties" on individuals who illegally terminate pregnancies while simultaneously protecting pregnant women and medical professionals from prosecution (Salzman, RH Reality Check, 4/23).

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"A 'New Low'? GOP Tries To Block D.C.'s New Reproductive Health Law," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday voted 20-16 to advance a measure that aims "to overturn a new law [Act 20-593] that would protect women in Washington, D.C., from being fired due to their reproductive health-care choices," Crockett writes. Supporters of the law, D.C.'s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, cite "cases of non-Catholic women who become pregnant out of wedlock being fired from Catholic schools as an example of why the law is needed," Crockett notes, explaining that "[l]aws against gender discrimination or pregnancy discrimination don't always cover cases in which a woman's reproductive health choices run afoul of her employer's ideology." Meanwhile, the law's opponents, "which include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops," have "claim[ed] that it would restrict religious freedom," Crockett writes. She notes that because the effort to halt the law is "unlikely to succeed," opponents have "urged House budget leaders to stop the new law by blocking funds to implement it" (Crockett, RH Reality Check, 4/22).

What others are saying about the D.C. antidiscrimination measure:

~ "It Won't Surprise You, But the House Wants To Allow Bosses To Fire Women for Their Personal Reproductive Health Decisions," Leila Abolfazli, National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake."

April 17, 2015

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"California Bill Would Require Crisis Pregnancy Centers To Discuss Abortion Options," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: The California Assembly Committee on Health on Tuesday approved a bill (AB 775) aimed at "regulat[ing] the information anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) provide to clients," Liss-Schultz writes. She explains that CPCs "have the either explicit or unstated goal of preventing clients from obtaining abortions," a goal they aim to accomplish by "regularly dol[ing] out misinformation about the procedure" and "disguising themselves as abortions clinics, advertising their services as unbiased counseling and buying up or leasing space near abortion clinics." According to Liss-Schultz, some cities in the state, such as San Francisco, "have taken steps to curb the influence of CPCs." She writes that the new, statewide bill would require licensed facilities that "'provide family planning and pregnancy-related services to inform patients about available assistance for affordable contraception, abortion, and prenatal care, including how to obtain that assistance.'" In addition, it would mandate that "facilities without medical licenses that offer similar services to post a notice saying they have neither a license nor licensed providers on staff" (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 4/16).

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"'Marlise's Law' Could Give End-of-Life Rights to Pregnant Texans," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: The family of a pregnant woman, Marlise Muñoz, "whose body was kept on mechanical support against her wishes for months," on Wednesday testified in favor of a measure [HB 3183] "that would give end-of-life decision-making rights to pregnant Texans," Grimes writes. Grimes explains that under current Texas law, pregnant women are prevented "from being able to issue advance directives about their end-of-life care, requiring doctors and hospitals to keep pregnant Texans on mechanical support against their consent and regardless of their, or their families' instructions." According to Grimes, the new bill, proposed by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, would enable pregnant women in Texas to have more control over their end-of-life care by "strik[ing] a line in the state's advance directives code that bars the code from applying in cases where a patient is pregnant." She notes that the bill "was left pending in committee," while a separate bill (HB 1901) that "directly counters the intention of" HB 3183 has "not yet been assigned a hearing" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/15).

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"Anti-Choicers Are Going To Take Away Second-Trimester Abortion Without Much Notice," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: "Kansas and Oklahoma, both of which have passed laws [SB 95, HB 1721] banning the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure that is used in most abortions after 13 weeks, have graduated to a new level in their efforts to stamp out reproductive rights," Marcotte writes. She notes that if the Supreme Court were "to agree with the anti-choice side about these bans," it "would open the door to just banning abortion outright." While similar legislation is "being considered in Missouri [HB 920], South Carolina [SB 531], and South Dakota," the mainstream media has made limited mention of the issue, and there has "been little outrage or fear," Marcotte writes. According to Marcotte, the strategy behind such laws is twofold, with abortion-rights opponents aiming to "[o]verwhelm the news cycle with restrictions on abortion so that the public starts to tune the stories out" and make the regulations seem "minor" so that people "shrug" off the news. Marcotte questions whether "a weary public is going to shrug off [these laws] as no big deal," adding, "by the time we're all panicked enough to stop shrugging, it will be too late" (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 4/16).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Senate Passes Medicare 'Doc Fix' Bill, Including Anti-Choice Language," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.


April 14, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Why This Longtime Abortion Provider May Never Reopen Her Practice," Robin Marty/Susan Cahill, Cosmopolitan: Cahill, who was "the only physician's assistant in Montana to provide abortions," discusses last year's vandalization of her clinic, which "had been systematically destroyed by Zachary Klundt, the son of a local anti-abortion activist." Cahill says Klundt "destroyed every possible thing you can imagine," adding that she believes Klundt, who was armed, "would have killed [her]" had she walked in while he was there. Cahill adds that while she is "not saying that [she is] not reopening" her practice, she has had "a really, really, really hard year" and is currently "on a sabbatical." She continues, "[A]s the time goes by, I feel more like, if I could get a little medical community around me so I wasn't alone and so I could teach people even medication abortion, I would do it in a millisecond, because it's needed" (Marty/Cahill, Cosmopolitan, 4/10).

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"Alaska Bill Restricts Sexual Health Education in Schools," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: "Alaska lawmakers are moving forward with a bill [SB 89]that would bar Planned Parenthood outreach programs from teaching sex education in public schools and allow parents to opt their children out of sex education classes and standardized testing," Liss-Schultz writes. Specifically, she notes that the original bill would "allow parents to withdraw their children from any portion of school ... that the 'parent believes is harmful to the child,'" which the original bill defined as "[a]ny activity that might question 'beliefs involving human reproduction, health, or sex education.'" According to Liss-Schultz, a state Senate committee advanced the measure on April 9, approving additional language that while "not specifically mention[ing]" Planned Parenthood," effectively bars the organization "from participating in sex education in schools" (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 4/13).


April 7, 2015

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"When It Comes to Abstinence-Only Education Battles, Let's Fight Anecdotes With Anecdotes," Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check: A Texas lawmaker's recent comments about his personal experience with abstinence until marriage "perfectly encapsulates why exactly it's so hard to kill ... abstinence-only ideology off completely: Because the argument that it could work somehow gets confused with the idea that it will work or even that it should work," Marcotte writes. She explains that Texas Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R) -- during debate over a plan to divert funding from an HIV-prevention program to abstinence-only sexuality education -- said his goal is "for everybody to be abstinent until they're married," adding, "What's good for me is good for a lot of people." Marcotte writes that although research has shown that abstinence-only sex ed is not effective, "[t]he problem is that anecdotes are often more persuasive than data." Therefore, "the best way to kill off abstinence-only education -- and similar movements trying to ban abortion and restrict contraception -- is to really embrace the power of the anecdote," she argues (Marcotte, RH Reality Check, 4/3).

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"Repro Wrap: It's Not 'Motorcycle Vagina,' But North Carolina's at It Again," Robin Marty, Care2: After enacting a "massive omnibus anti-abortion bill" (SL 2013-366) in 2013, North Carolina lawmakers are "at it [a]gain" with a "plethora of anti-abortion restrictions all bundled up in one tidy package [HB 465] [that] the sponsors claim is necessary for 'protecting women's health,'" including a 72-hour mandatory delay, Marty writes. Meanwhile, Arkansas is adding controversial "[a]bortion reversal" language to a 48-hour mandatory delay bill (HB 1578), mirroring a provision in a new Arizona law (SB 1318) that will require doctors to tell women the medically unproven claim that a medication abortion can be reversed, Marty continues. She also touches on reproductive rights news from other states, as well as a new Guttmacher Institute report that found that "states have introduced literally hundreds of anti-reproductive rights and health bills so far this year" (Marty, Care2, 4/3).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "'They Want the Judges' Heads on a Plate': Texas GOP Wants To Shame Courts Helping Teen Victims of Abuse Access Abortion," Katie McDonough, Salon.

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"Losing My Lege: Transgender Visibility Lobby Day Sparks Surprising Response From Capitol Staffers," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Grimes reports on Equality Texas' Transgender Visibility day of lobbying, during which more than a dozen "trans and queer Texans and allies ... spent the day telling capitol staffers their own deeply personal stories in the hopes of showing who could be affected by proposed legislation." Specifically, they lobbied against four state bills "that would punish trans and queer Texans for using the restrooms that are appropriate for them but that some other people -- very likely total strangers -- feel they shouldn't use," even though "it is trans, queer, and gender non-conforming people who are more likely to be abused or harassed for using a public bathroom, not cis[gender] people." Meanwhile, they also lobbied in support of a bill (HB 2058) that would "codif[y] the process by which trans people can obtain identification documents, a currently undefined and ambiguous process that allows judges -- either arbitrarily, or because they seek to discriminate against trans people -- to refuse to grant the court orders required for updated drivers' licenses and birth certificates" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 4/3).

April 3, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Here's What Happens When Pregnant Women Lose Their Rights," Alex Ronan, New York Magazine 's "The Cut": The sentencing of Indiana woman Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison under Indiana's "feticide" law "sets a dangerous precedent and could scare pregnant women from seeking medical assistance," Ronan writes. Ronan notes that while the 1979 statute "was meant to provide legal recourse when pregnant women are injured or killed by third parties, like abusive partners," and "was never meant to criminalize pregnancy or stigmatize abortion ... it's done both." Ronan adds that while Patel's case and a 2011 Indiana case might be seen "as outliers in an overly zealous and conservative state ... the criminalization of pregnancy ... has ramped up significantly in the past decade" and "[c]riminalizing miscarriages has become a way to punish women suspected of self-abortion." Ronan concludes, "[G]etting pregnant shouldn't mean losing your rights" (Ronan, "The Cut," New York Magazine, 4/2).

What others are saying about pregnant women's rights:

~ "Deprived of Care, Incarcerated Women Suffer Miscarriages, Stillbirths, Ectopic Pregnancies," Sharona Coutts/Zoe Greenberg, RH Reality Check.

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"New York Legislators Move To Strengthen Abortion Rights," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: "New York state lawmakers are moving forward with legislation to codify a person's right to abortion, moving state law in line with the federal standard outlined in Roe v. Wade," Liss-Schultz writes, describing a bill (AB 6221) that "would change state law to allow abortions after 24 weeks in cases of both life endangerment and health." While the federal standard established under Roe "protects abortion in all cases until viability and after viability in cases where the pregnant person's health or life are endangered," New York's existing law -- adopted in 1970, three years before Roe -- "allowed later abortions only to protect a pregnant person's life." AB 6221 has passed in the state Assembly but could face opposition in the conservative-held Senate, according to Liss-Schultz. However, if it becomes law, "New York would become the eighth state in the country to codify abortion in line with federal standards," she adds (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 3/31).


March 27, 2015

FEATURED BLOG

"Mississippi Abortion Clinic 'Not Going Anywhere' After Vandalism," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check: "An act of vandalism at Mississippi's last abortion clinic will not intimidate clinic workers from providing reproductive health care to women in need," Wilson writes. According to the facility, Jackson Women's Health Organization, "a 'masked intruder' came onto the ... clinic property and 'proceeded to methodically destroy' the security cameras and attempted to 'destroy the power lines coming into the building,'" he writes. The vandalism follows a report from "earlier this year [that] found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against abortion providers have doubled since 2010," Wilson writes, adding, "Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of legislative attacks on reproductive rights" (Wilson, RH Reality Check, 3/24).

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"Arizona May Force Doctors To Tell Women Their Abortion Can Be Reversed," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Arizona lawmakers have advanced a bill (SB 1318) to Gov. Doug Ducey (R) that would "requir[e] doctors to tell patients that 'it may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind,'" making Arizona "the first state to pass this type of requirement," Culp-Ressler writes. She explains that the "[s]o-called 'abortion reversal' involves injecting the hormone progesterone into a patient after she has taken mifepristone, the first [drug] in the two-part process to terminate a first-trimester pregnancy with medication." She notes that "medical professionals say there's no scientific evidence to suggest the hormonal injection is effectively reversing the effects of mifepristone," adding that Daniel Grossman -- a fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health -- "has repeatedly said that there isn't enough proof to justify this particular hormone treatment and ACOG does not feel comfortable recommending it." Further, Culp-Ressler writes that while research has found that "most women are not unsure about their procedures," physicians "would likely refrain from giving [a patient] the first mifepristone pill" if the patient "appears to be unsure about going through with the procedure" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/26).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "The 'Reach' of Anti-Choice Hyde Amendment May Get Wider," Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check.


March 24, 2015

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"Judge Strikes Down Scott Walker's Anti-Abortion Law," Igor Volsky, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": A judge on Friday struck down a Wisconsin law (Act 37) "that requires doctors performing abortions to secure admission privileges to nearby hospitals, temporarily blocking it," Volsky writes. According to Volsky, the judge ruled that the law violated the 14th Amendment, stating in his decision that "'[t]he marginal benefit to women's health of requiring hospital admitting privileges, if any, is substantially outweighed by the burden this requirement will have on women's health outcomes due to restricted access.'" Volsky explains that the judge's opinion noted "that there is no medical need for doctors to maintain admitting privileges and pointed out that 'less than 0.65% of patients experienced a complication after an abortion and that only 0.06% required hospitalization as a result.'" However, "a spokesperson for [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker [R] promised to appeal the decision," he adds (Volsky, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/21).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Illinois Bill Would Subject Abortion Clinics to Medically Unnecessary Restrictions," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.

~ "Arkansas GOP Makes Obtaining Abortions for Teen Rape Survivors More Burdensome," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

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"Michigan Senate Approves Bill To Fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers," Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check: "Michigan state senators on Wednesday approved a bill [SB 84] to increase state support for so-called crisis pregnancy centers, anti-choice organizations that seek to deter pregnant people from going through with abortions," Liss-Schultz writes. Specifically, she notes that the bill "would create a state-run program in which the money raised from the sale of license plates reading 'Choose Life' would be allocated to nonprofit organizations that promote alternatives to abortion," including CPCs. Liss-Schultz cites a NARAL Pro-Choice California report that found CPCs used "deceptive tactics" to dissuade women from having abortions, adding that "abortion access advocates have noted that the centers, which often intentionally disguise themselves as abortion clinics, do anything but ... support women." Further, Liss-Schultz notes that conservative Michigan lawmakers "shot down amendments to SB 84 that would have mitigated the proposal's effects, including one to create a 'Women's Health' license plate, and another to use the proceeds from the 'Choose Life' plates to fund infant mortality reduction efforts in the state" (Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check, 3/20).


March 20, 2015

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"Louisiana Women May Have To Travel Even Longer Than You Think for an Abortion," Robin Marty, Care 2: Marty writes about how a contested admitting privileges law (Act 620) in Louisiana, if permitted to take effect, could close down all of the state's abortion clinics, noting that a study found that such a situation could increase the average travel time for Louisiana women to have an abortion from "58 miles each way ... to 208 miles each way." However, Marty explains "that would be the best case scenario." She writes that "[t]he researchers admit that the distances could be worse because of" 24-hour and 48-hour mandatory delay "laws in the nearby states ... which could cause a patient to need multiple trips," but she notes that the researchers did not consider "that because there are so few clinics, many are already at capacity and stretched to their breaking points as is." As a result, what "on paper" might be "a 200 mile drive ... could be over six hours long in just one direction," at which point "abortion is no longer an accessible choice for many of those who would seek it," Marty writes, adding that this "is just what abortion opponents intend" (Marty, Care 2, 3/18).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Wisconsin City Asks Gov. Walker To Remove Abortion Funding Bans," Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.

~ "Tennessee's Amendment 1 May Not Be Enough To Reinstate Unconstitutional Informed Consent Law," Imani Gandy, RH Reality Check.

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"Four States That Are Actually Working To Protect Abortion Rights," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": Culp-Ressler writes that while "it can be hard to see any progress" in advancing abortion rights, given the growing number of state restrictions on the procedure, "[m]ore lawmakers than ever before are standing up to fight for reproductive rights, helping to pioneer a growing state movement to push for proactive legislation to safeguard abortion access." For example, Culp-Ressler notes that Oregon state lawmakers this year introduced "pro-choice legislation that would make the state the first in the country to ensure that every resident has coverage for abortion procedures under every form of insurance." Meanwhile, she writes that "the city of Madison," Wis., this week "unanimously passed a resolution affirming that it's critical to fund reproductive health care" and urging state lawmakers to restore "insurance coverage for abortion ... for public employees" and Medicaid beneficiaries. In addition, Oakland, Calif., lawmakers this week passed a "resolution [14-0614] denouncing sex-selective abortion bans" after San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved a similar resolution last year. Further, Culp-Ressler also praises Washington state lawmakers for re-introducing a bill (HB 1647) this month "that would require insurers to achieve 'reproductive parity' and offer coverage for abortion services alongside other types of common women's health care" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/19).

What others are saying about abortion-rights access and protections:

~ "Cisgender Women Aren't the Only People Who Seek Abortions, and Activists' Language Should Reflect That," Cheryl Chastine, RH Reality Check.

March 17, 2015

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"Repro Wrap: Massive Medication Abortion Attacks and Other News," Robin Marty, Care2: Marty comments on various legislative and legal battles over abortion rights that occurred last week, including a hearing in a case before the Iowa Supreme Court "over whether the state's telemedicine abortion program should be allowed to continue." She writes that in the case, "Planned Parenthood argu[ed] that there have been no complications as a result of telemedicine and that the state medical board was motivated by politics in trying to ban this kind of care." Similarly, Marty notes that medication abortion was also a point of contention last week "in Arizona, where an abortion restriction proposal [SB 1318] had a surprise amendment added that would force doctors to tell patients that a medication abortion could potentially be reversed with a new protocol," even though that information is false. Marty also touches on other abortion restrictions in Arkansas, Minnesota, Montana and Ohio, as well as the federal debate "over a human-trafficking bill [S 178] into which [abortion-rights opponents] sneaked a ban on abortion funding" (Marty, Care2, 3/13).

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"‘Crisis Pregnancy Center' Tells Woman her IUD was a Baby," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "According to a new report released by NARAL Pro-Choice California, [California] is grappling with a rise in 'crisis pregnancy centers,'" Culp-Ressler writes. According to Culp-Ressler, CPCs are "right-wing organizations that masquerade as reproductive health clinics in order to dissuade pregnant women from having an abortion." She writes that the NARAL investigation found that CPCs in California told undercover investigators that "abortion is supposedly linked to breast cancer, depression, and infertility" and that ending a pregnancy could "puncture" a woman's "uterus and close her Fallopian tubes, preventing her from having any more children in the future." In addition, the centers used shaming tactics and offered inaccurate medical information, such as incorrectly telling one investigator who received ultrasounds at several clinics that her intrauterine device was "her 'baby'" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 3/13).

What others are saying about CPCs:

~ "Undercover Investigation Confirms California Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie to Women," Nina Liss-Schultz, RH Reality Check.

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).