Reproductive Health Crisis

From The Guttmacher Institute’s Reproductive Health In Crisis:

“Social conservatives now control the White House, Congress and most state governments, and their actions could put sexual and reproductive health and rights at grave risk, both in the United States and across the globe. The Guttmacher Institute is examining the dangers ahead and the potentially devastating consequences for women and their families.”

More on the Institute’s blog and policy analysis here.

Paul Ryan: GOP Will Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood

Paul Ryan Says the GOP Will Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood

Paul Ryan Democrats plan to “stand against this with every fiber of our beings.”

By Becca Andrews January 5, 2017   MotherJones

During a news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the process to dismantle Obamacare will include stripping all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but he did not provide much further detail.

His remarks come two days after a Republican-led House investigative panel released a report that recommended the health care provider be defunded.  The investigative panel—created to examine allegations that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit—was then disbanded, because it was not reauthorized for a new Congress. Planned Parenthood was never found guilty of any wrongdoing at the state or federal level, despite multiple GOP-led investigations.

Democrats immediately denounced the move. “I just would like to speak individually to women across America: This is about respect for you, for your judgment about your personal decisions in terms of your reproductive needs, the size and timing of your family or the rest, not to be determined by the insurance company or by the Republican ideological right-wing caucus in the House of Representatives,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “So this is a very important occasion where we’re pointing out very specifically what repeal of the [Affordable Care Act] will mean to women.” Read More

Dark Day in Abortion Rights History

Anniversary of a Dark Day in Abortion Rights History

Forty years later, the Hyde Amendment still won’t go away. This Supreme Court case explains why.

By Nina Liss-Schultz and Hannah Levintova

09/30/16  Mother Jones

For decades, millions of low-income women have been prevented from getting Medicaid coverage for their abortions—a reality that disproportionately affects abortion access for women of color. The reason? The Hyde Amendment, an appropriations rider preventing the use of federal funding for most abortions. It was first passed in the House 40 years ago today.

Even in 1976, abortion rights advocates recognized that this amendment would prove detrimental to women’s reproductive health care access. Soon after its passage, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups launched a movement to circumvent Hyde by restoring Medicaid coverage for abortions through state constitutions. Today, 15 states provide public funds for abortion coverage. But efforts to repeal the federal funding ban have gained new momentum over the last year, beginning with the introduction of the EACH Woman Act in Congress in July 2015. The bill has been stuck in committee, but this summer another proposal to repeal Hyde cropped up, this time in the Democratic Party platform, a first. Hillary Clinton also announced her support for a repeal. Now, Democrats are trying to use this momentum—as well as the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down two abortion regulations in Texas—to rejuvenate debate about the country’s ban on public funding for abortions.

Read full article

Finally Official: Limiting Abortion in the Guise of Helping Women is a Sham

It’s Finally Official: Limiting Abortion in the Guise of Helping Women is a Sham

The supreme court ruled Monday against abortion restrictions that effectively prevent women from being able to secure the procedure

By Jessica Valenti, The Guardian  June 27, 2016

Amy Hagstrom-Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, and Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, wave in celebration as they walk down the steps of the supreme court. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Amy Hagstrom-Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, and Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, wave in celebration as they walk down the steps of the supreme court. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

 

In a major victory for American women, the US supreme court sent a powerful message on Monday in its Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt decision: that laws purporting to protect women’s health while limiting access to abortion are an unconstitutional sham.

In a 5-3 decision, the court struck down a Texas law, called House Bill 2, responsible for shuttering more than half of the state’s clinics. The restrictions mandated that clinics become ambulatory surgical centers, adhering to wholly unnecessary hospital-like standards, and that doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital even though hospitalization is almost never necessary after ending a pregnancy. The goal wasn’t to make abortion safer, of course, just impossible to obtain.

Ending a pregnancy is such a safe procedure that doctors would never be able to admit enough patients to a hospital in order to keep admitting privileges, and because abortions are so safe and common, maintaining the standards for a surgical center simply drained clinics of their resources. And anti-choice legislators know as much.

The court’s decision made clear the justices were not fooled, noting in the majority decision that “when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

And in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurring opinion, she wrote it was “beyond rational belief that HB 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.’”

Lead plaintiff in the case, Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, released a statement saying that her clinics “treat our patients with compassion, respect and dignity – and today the supreme court did the same.”

She continued, “I want everyone to understand: you don’t mess with Texas, you don’t mess with Whole Woman’s Health and you don’t mess with this beautiful, powerful movement of people dedicated to reproductive health, rights, and justice.”

The ruling represents a significant loss for anti-abortion groups, who have been pushing Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (Trap laws) over the last decade: as of this year, 24 states have some sort of law or policy that restricts abortion access through targeting the way providers work.

But the Whole Woman’s Health decision – which laid bare the way that these mandates constitute an undue burden on women seeking abortion – stands to put that years-long strategy in jeopardy. It will be that much harder for anti-choice legislators to shroud their policies in rhetoric about protecting women when the highest court in the country has essentially called the tactic nonsense.

For pro-choicers, the decision isn’t just a win, but a sticking point in the upcoming presidential election. Pro-choice organizations wasted no time releasing statements that tied the decision to how a Donald Trump presidency would be disastrous for women. Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, says that Trump “is committed to appointing justices who will once again make abortion illegal across the country”. Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, noted that “extremist Republicans like Donald Trump should take note… women are paying attention and you’ll be hearing our voices loud and clear come November.”

Before November comes, though, American women can do some much-deserved celebrating in the wake of Monday’s decision. A strategy that aimed to limit our rights while invoking our protection has been proven impotent. A law that put tens of thousands of us in danger has been overturned. It is, finally, a good day.

Supreme Court decides a pro choice victory

From MSN  June 27, 2016

Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion clinic regulations

"We're thrilled that justice was served and our clinics stay open," said lead plaintiff Amy Hagstrom Miller. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

“We’re thrilled that justice was served and our clinics stay open,” said lead plaintiff Amy Hagstrom Miller. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court struck down Texas’ widely replicated regulation of abortion clinics Monday in the court’s biggest abortion case in nearly a quarter century.

The justices voted 5-3 in favor of Texas clinics that had argued the regulations were a thinly veiled attempt to make it harder for women to get an abortion in the nation’s second-most populous state.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion for the court held that the regulations are medically unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman’s right to an abortion.

Texas had argued that its 2013 law and subsequent regulations were needed to protect women’s health. The rules required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

Breyer wrote that “the surgical-center requirement, like the adm


itting privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Breyer.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Thomas wrote that the decision “exemplifies the court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.'” Thomas was quoting an earlier abortion dissent from Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

Abortion providers said the rules would have cut the number of abortion clinics in the state by three-fourths if they had been allowed to take full effect.

When then-Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2013, there were about 40 clinics throughout the state. That number dropped to under 20 and would have been cut in half again if the law had taken full effect, the clinics said.

Texas is among 10 states with similar admitting privileges requirements, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. The requirement is in effect in most of Texas, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee. It is on hold in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

The hospital-like outpatient surgery standards are in place in Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and it is blocked in Tennessee and Texas, according to the center, which represented the clinics in the Texas case.

Texas passed a broad bill imposing several abortion restrictions in 2013. Texas clinics sued immediately to block it claiming it impermissibly interfered with a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The clinics won several favorable rulings in a federal district court in Texas. But each time, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state, at first allowing challenged provisions to take effect and then upholding the law with only slight exceptions.

The Supreme Court allowed the admitting privileges requirement to take effect in most of the state, but put the surgical center provision on hold pending the court’s resolution of the case.

The justices split largely along liberal-conservative lines in their emergency orders, with the court’s conservative justices voting repeatedly to let the law be enforced.

Planned Parenthood Trains Pro-choice advocates

As It Prepares For War, Planned Parenthood Is Training A Political Army

by Emily Atkin  May 17, 2016  ThinkProgress

ppanthem PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA — For Planned Parenthood, this election season means war. And you can’t win a war without an army.

So Planned Parenthood is building one: An army of pro-choice advocates trained in how to win political campaigns. On Friday, the women’s health organization held its biggest-ever volunteer training event in Pittsburgh, where nearly 1,000 activists from 48 states were taught how to build grassroots political support for reproductive health and abortion rights.

The training is just one part of what Planned Parenthood says will be the most expensive electoral effort in its 100-year history. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards told ThinkProgress that her organization plans to spend at least $20 million to help win key Senate races and the presidency this November. While some of that money will go toward paid media like radio and television ads, a large portion is going toward building a grassroots army that can help elect Hillary Clinton to the White House. (Planned Parenthood endorsed Clinton in January.)

“This was, I believe, the largest volunteer training we’ve ever had in the history of Planned Parenthood,” Richards said on Monday. “They represent one slice of what is an enormous volunteer army that Planned Parenthood is building across the country.”

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” added Kelley Robinson, who organized the event for Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This is a defining moment for our organization when it comes to thinking about how to build our power.”

Power is something Planned Parenthood could use. Last year, an anti-abortion sting campaign falsely accused the organization of selling fetal tissue for profit, which led directly to renewed defunding efforts in Congress and, indirectly, to a shooting at one of the organization’s clinics. In the last year, the Republican-led Congress voted to defund Planned Parenthood at least eight times. And while presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump once said the organization did “very good work,” he has since taken a harsher tone against the organization and abortion in general. On Sunday, he said he would nominate pro-life Supreme Court justices, suggesting they might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He also once suggested punishment for women who receive abortions, a position he later recanted.

This combination of anti-abortion rhetoric in state legislatures, Congress, and the presidential race means Planned Parenthood must build a similarly diverse strategy.

In addition to advertising and social media campaigns, it must have people on the ground, spreading the word about the importance of reproductive healthcare. And the organization can’t just focus on winning the presidency — it has to target down-ticket races as well.

“The importance of taking back [the U.S. Senate] is paramount,” said Deirdre Schifeling, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s executive director. “It’s important to take back the presidency, it’s also equally important to flip the Senate. The [House of Representatives], we think is probably two cycles away. But we can flip the Senate.”   [Read whole article]

States Took the War on Uteruses to the Next Level in 2015

This Year, States Took the War on Uteruses to the Next Level

Nearly 400 bills were introduced, and 57 of them became law.

—By     Mother Jones  12.30.15

 Reproductive rights took a beating in 2015. According to a year-end report released by the Center for Reproductive Rights, nearly 400 anti-abortion bills were introduced across the country in 2015, up from 335 provisions introduced in 2014. The bills ranged from regulation of medication abortions to all-out bans on the most common method of second-trimester abortions, and the Guttmacher Institute reports 57 of them were enacted. The few pieces of good news can be found in access to contraceptives: Oregon became the first state this year to expand access to birth control medication by offering it over the counter for up to a year’s supply, and California passed a law that allows women to get birth control directly from a pharmacist.

In the final days of 2015, Gov. Cuomo in New York signed legislation that permits pregnant women to enroll in the state’s health insurance exchange at any point during the year by making pregnancy a “qualifying life event.” For everyone without a qualifying life event, enrollment is only available from October through December. New York is the first state to pass such legislation.

But generally, the good news has been limited. Here are some of the most impactful state restrictions that became law this year—and that are likely to affect millions of women of reproductive age:

Medication abortion restrictions: Arkansas’ HB 1578 requires providers to tell patients that the effects of the “abortion pill“—a drug called mifepristone, or RU-486, which is used in conjunction with another pill that is taken at home—can be reversed. This claim has been refuted by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and in medical studies. In the same measure, abortion counselors are required to include in their sessions inaccurate information about fetal pain during the procedure and women’s mental health problems after it. Multiple studies have debunked the claim that most women regret their abortions after the fact.

The state Legislature in Arkansas, which was ranked the second-worst state for women’s and children’s well-being by the Center for Reproductive Rights for its mass of restrictions this year, also passed laws banning telemedicine when it’s used for medication abortion. The technology—involving video conferencing and an automated drawer that pops out and contains the medication—has allowed physicians to administer mifepristone remotely. This method is particularly beneficial for women who live in rural parts of the state and cannot afford the time or money to drive to a clinic in a metropolitan area.

Arkansas implemented an additional restriction on medication abortion that requires doctors prescribing mifepristone to adhere to the original FDA-approved dosage. This sounds reasonable, but it actually decreases the effectiveness of the drug and increases the likelihood of nasty side effects. (Molly Redden reported on increased restrictions around medication abortion in Mother Jones‘ September/October issue.) Idaho also passed laws banning telemedicine specifically when it’s used for medication abortions by requiring physicians to be physically present while administering mifepristone. Doctors who administer the medication must also have admitting privileges at local hospitals or a written transfer agreement with another doctor who does have those privileges. These requirements often disqualify physicians from being able to offer abortion services.

Unprecedented bans against the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions: In April, Kansas passed legislation that made it the first state to explicitly restrict the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions. The wording of the law is ambiguous and does not use medical language—for example, it refers to the fetus as an “unborn child”—and it bans what is referred to as “dismemberment abortion.” In the law, the procedure is defined as “knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus.” The focus of the law appears to be on the use of the dilation and evacuation method, a method considered by medical professionals to be the safest way to terminate a pregnancy, and which is used in most abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. A Kansas district court judge, Larry Hendricks, blocked the law less than a week before it was to take effect, and the Kansas Court of Appeals heard oral arguments regarding the law’s constitutionality in early December. However, because the case is being presented before all the appeals judges rather than the traditional three-judge panel, the timing for a final ruling is uncertain.

Oklahoma passed a similar law targeting dilation and evacuation abortions, using even more gruesome language. The law defines “dismemberment abortion”—a popular term among “right to life” advocates—as ” purposely dismember[ing] a living unborn child and extract[ing] him or her one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, and/or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off.” A temporary injunction in October was also applied by a judge in this case, and the law is pending a final ruling.

Waiting periods: North Carolina extended the waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours, tripling the time between state-mandated abortion counseling and actually receiving an abortion. All 12 states in the Southeast have state laws that mandate a waiting period, with the exception of Florida, which tried to pass a 24-hour waiting period this year, but the law was blocked by a circuit court judge and is pending a final ruling. Oklahoma also passed a law that expanded the state’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period to 72 hours.

Tennessee Legislature scales back abortion access: Amendment One, which passed in late 2014, amended the Tennessee state constitution to declare that it does not protect a woman’s right to an abortion or funding for abortions (despite the well-known fact that state and federal dollars cannot legally be used to fund abortion, anyway). The amendment, which was one of the most expensive ballot measures in the state’s history, gave state lawmakers more power to control abortion access and opened the door to a number of restrictive measures in 2015. Twelve bills restricting abortion access were presented before the Legislature this year, including a mandatory 48-hour waiting period. Also in Tennessee, a woman who attempted to self-induce a miscarriage in her bathtub after 24 weeks of pregnancy now faces a first-degree attempted murder charge.

Less than six months after Amendment One was approved, Tennessee also passed a law requiring clinics performing more than 50 surgical abortion procedures per year to meet standards of ambulatory surgery center, which basically amount to hospital standards. This is an example of a TRAP law (short for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), which focus not on women seeking abortions but on the practitioners who provide them. The additional construction, infrastructure, and maintenance costs can bankrupt these providers, as Mother Jones has previously reported.

Parental consent: By adding yet another requirement, Arkansas’ lawmakers tightened restrictions for women under the age of 18 who are seeking an abortion without parental consent. In order to waive the state’s parental-consent requirement, these young women must go through a judicial bypass procedure in which they appear before a judge to receive permission to have the procedure. But they now must also undergo an “evaluation and counseling session with a mental health professional” so that a judge can rule whether there is “clear and convincing evidence” that a minor is mature enough for the procedure and that an abortion is in her best interests.  The law does not mandate any kind of time limit on the court proceedings, so it’s possible a slow-moving petition could delay a teen’s pregnancy until it is illegal for her to go through with the abortion. The law also requires that a minor file the petition in a court in the county where she resides, further compromising her privacy.

Ban after 20 weeks: This year, West Virginia became the 15th state to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Although the governor vetoed the legislation, the state Legislature overrode his veto and passed the bill into law. The law is especially restrictive, offering no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and it only provides a highly limited exception for women whose lives are endangered by their pregnancy or for fetal abnormalities. Arkansas lawmakers passed a similar ban on abortions after 12 weeks, but the measure was struck down in the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. “By banning abortions after 12 weeks’ gestation, the act prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy at a point before viability,” the appeals court said.

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, said that even though 2015 was a tough year, it could get worse in 2016. “In 2016, abortion restrictions are again expected to be on the front burner in many state legislatures,” Nash said. “It does not appear that the pending US Supreme Court case is slowing down abortion opponents. We expect to see a host of abortion restrictions in 2016, including restrictions related to medication abortion, bans on abortion in the second trimester and TRAP laws including the disposal of aborted tissue.”

Becca Andrews is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones. Before moving to the Bay Area to attend UC-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, she worked for newspapers in the Nashville area. Follow her at @kbeccaandrews or email her at bandrews@motherjones.com.