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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 »


March 27, 2015

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"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).

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).