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Anti-Choicers Can’t Get Around It: Their Arguments Have No Standing

1:06 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Birth Control Pills

Arguments against mandated access to birth control have no legal (or ethical) standing.

As part of the struggle to prevent women from using the health-care benefits they earn, six state attorneys general—who clearly need something better to do with their time—launched a suit to give employers the right to deny employees coverage of birth control as part of their health policies. Now, those attorneys general are giving up the lawsuit, for now at least, in no small part because a federal judge earlier ruled they have no standing to sue. What other people do with their own insurance coverage does not, it turns out, cause any actual damage to strangers, making it really hard for these conservative attorneys to argue that they have standing. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress explains:

“Standing” is the requirement that a plaintiff show that they have actually been injured by a law before they are allowed to sue to challenge it in federal court. No one, not even a state attorney general acting on behalf of his or her state, is allowed to bring a case to federal court simply because they do not like the law, or because they are able to offer some speculative reason why the law might somehow injure them at some point in the future.

This problem that these attorneys general were facing is a fundamental problem for the anti-choice movement generally: All their beliefs go back to the conviction that what other people, even perfect strangers, are doing in bed somehow affects them and so needs to be stopped by any means necessary. (Sadly, as family planning clinics and abortion clinics can tell you, this sometimes means that criminal and even violent behavior is often a part of the arsenal that anti-choicers use in attacking other people for having sex without their permission.) The problem with this belief is self-evident. What other people are doing with their bodies does not actually affect anti-choicers, and so their standing—not just legally, but morally—is always hard to impossible to establish. Thus, the never-ending parade of bad faith arguments and outright lies that come from anti-choicers.

With their support of abortion bans, there’s at least a mild plausibility to their claim to be concerned over fetal life, though of course it crumbles the second you start looking more deeply at the evidence, particularly when it comes to the fact that anti-choicers consistently resist every realistic policy known to reduce the abortion rate because those policies don’t actually satisfy their real desire to punish women for having sex. Beyond that, though, they lose the ability to come up with arguments that don’t nakedly expose their belief that they are the proper owners of your body.

The contraception mandate battle is a perfect example of this. Unable to come right out and say that they don’t want it to be too easy for women to have non-procreative sex, anti-choicers have instead latched onto this “religious freedom for employers” argument. Unfortunately, the argument doesn’t work without the assumption that your employer has some ownership over his employee’s private life, including her own religious beliefs. The argument rests on the assumption that because your employer has a right to control your compensation after he’s released it to you, that even though the insurance plan actually belongs to you and not your employer—because you earned it, alongside your paycheck—he has a right to dictate how you use it. It really is no different than trying to control how you spend your paycheck, but anti-choicers hope the public, confused by the heavily bureaucratic insurance system, won’t see that. But if you spend even a few moments thinking about it, it becomes clear that the objection to the contraception mandate is rooted in the belief that your employer has a right to try to impose his religious views on you in the bedroom.

Another favored tactic is to focus excessively on young women under the age of 18, exaggerating how much control parents have over the bodies of teenage girls and appointing themselves substitute parents in order to gain control. But inevitably, these kinds of arguments always end up giving them the control over adult women they quietly believe they are entitled to. Laws requiring Plan B to be put behind the pharmacy counter were justified as ways to keep teenagers from defying their parents’ supposed right to force them to ovulate, but the result was that adult women also had incredibly restricted access.

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Julian Assange Says Being Anti-Choice Represents ‘Non-Violence.’ Non-Violent for Whom?

11:12 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lauren Rankin for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Drawing of Julian Assange

Assange claims his anti-abortion views are “nonviolent.”

During a recent online Q&A session with Campus Reform, Julian Assange, founder of the government secret-leaking group WikiLeaks, admitted he’s a “big admirer” of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for what he called “their very principled positions.” Specifically, he praised them and their libertarian Republican brethren for, among other things, their fervent opposition to abortion rights, characterizing their position on abortion as a reflection of their commitment to non-violence.

In response to a question about his thoughts on Rand Paul, Assange heralded him as the “only hope” for U.S. electoral politics. He lauded both men for their commitment to “non-violence,” highlighting the various ways in which he sees that commitment reflected in their political stances. “So, non-violence, well, don’t go and invade a foreign country,” said Assange. “Non-violence, don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. army. Non-violence, don’t extort taxes from people to the federal government. Similarly, other aspects of non-violence in relation to abortion that they hold.”

According to Assange, opposition to abortion is grounded in a commitment to non-violence. But non-violent for whom?

According to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 6,461 reported incidents of violence against abortion providers since 1977, including eight murders and 17 attempted murders. Abortion providers and clinics have faced numerous bombings, cases of arson, butyric acid attacks, death threats, kidnappings, and more, all from opponents of abortion rights. In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed while at church with his family. His convicted killer, Scott Roeder, is heralded as a “hero” in some anti-choice circles.

In 1965, eight years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States, illegal abortion accounted for 17 percent of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth. And today, around the globe—mostly in the developing world—at least 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year (roughly 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide) and many times that number suffer serious and sometimes lifelong health consequences.

It is impossible to quantify how many people in the United States avoid accessing safe and legal abortion care because of fear of harassment and intimidation, but with 5,165 abortion clinics reporting some form of disruption or harassment in 2011 alone, it’s safe to assume that it plays at least a small role; people often avoid accessing the basic reproductive health care to which they have a constitutional right because of virulent hostility from abortion opponents.

What’s that about anti-abortion views being non-violent again?

In a political climate so openly hostile and threatening to abortion rights, one in which states have enacted 43 abortion restrictions in the first six months of 2013 alone, where 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas will be forced to close because of an omnibus anti-abortion bill, where serious legal threats to Roe v. Wade abound every day, women’s lives are literally at risk.

So why are men like Assange essentially telling women to get over the abortion issue and praise Ron and Rand Paul anyway? It’s simple: privilege.

While these white, cisgender men may be able to pick and choose which political positions they like from the Pauls, marginalized groups do not have that luxury. They are essentially asking women and people of color to praise politicians who disdain and combat their very existence. This is not petty partisanship; it is a fundamental lack of respect for who we are as people. A simple look at their political records proves this.

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Texas Health and Human Services Says Women Don’t Want to Change Providers—Actually, Many Can’t

12:58 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Doctor with stethoscope

Texas women struggle to see doctors they trust after changes to health care programs.

Without Planned Parenthood, the new Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP) has seen a 23 percent reduction in medical claims and thousands fewer Texans enrolled in the program in the first half of 2013 as compared to the same period last year, when the program was still the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. The state’s explanation? Women just don’t want to change doctors.

“We expected to see a drop off in the number of claims when we moved to the state program because we knew some women wouldn’t want to change doctors,” said Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) spokesperson Stephanie Goodman in a statement this week.

Goodman’s statement is at best glib and at worst a kind of victim-blaming that puts the responsibility for the state’s failure to provide low-cost reproductive health care squarely on the shoulders of the very people it is supposed to be serving.

The TWHP provides contraceptives and well-woman exams to low-income Texans. From 2007 to 2012, it operated as part of Medicaid, receiving a 90 percent federal match in funds and, at peak enrollment, saw almost 130,000 clients. But in 2012, the state kicked Planned Parenthood out of participating in the program because it considers the organization to be an abortion “affiliate” and thereby ineligible to provide health care using public funds in Texas. At that time, the federal government dropped its support of the program because the arbitrary exclusion of any qualified health provider from a Medicaid program is a violation of the Social Security Act, which dictates that Medicaid enrollees have a right to receive care from the physician of their choosing. To fund a program that denies Texans the ability to see the qualified doctor of their choice would, according to the Center for Medicaid Services, be a violation of its own law.

Undeterred, Texas launched a new, entirely state-funded Women’s Health Program in January of this year, and so far it has seen its service numbers plummet without the involvement of Planned Parenthood, which historically saw about half of all Women’s Health Program patients.

According to preliminary data provided by the Texas HHSC, current enrollment in TWHP is estimated to be about 97,000 clients, the lowest number of enrollees since September 2009, when the program was just two-and-a-half years old. This July, the TWHP counted over 10,000 fewer enrollees than it did in the same month last year. Add this to the fact that, according to the University of Texas’ Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TPEP), more than 60 family planning clinics in Texas—most of which were not Planned Parenthood facilities—have closed since 2011 due to family planning funding cuts, and it’s clear that there’s a serious, and growing, hole in Texas’ reproductive health safety net.

And yet the state says that if fewer and fewer low-income Texans are receiving publicly funded reproductive health care, it must be because women don’t want to change doctors. Considering the very real logistical, physical, and emotional challenges women face now that they have been forced by the state government to find new reproductive health providers, the HHSC’s statement seems an egregious simplification of a deeply complex and personal issue.

Amanda Stevenson, a TPEP researcher who studies the impact of family planning budget cuts on low-income Texans, told RH Reality Check that research shows changing doctors is not simply about personal preferences, but rather about the complex ways Texans choose their providers and the many factors that influence their decisions.

“There’s lots of other complexities that are hidden by [Goodman's] statement,” Stevenson said, citing spatial distribution and capacity of providers as just two factors that affect whether someone is able to switch to a new doctor. “Maybe you don’t want to go to a doctor who is 50 miles from you, but you also sort of can’t,” she said. “Preference is not the right framework for this.”

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20-Week Abortion Bans and the Pathway to the Supreme Court

12:47 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Imani Gandy for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Supreme Court

Anti-Abortion laws are part of a complex strategy to retest Roe V Wade at the Supreme Court.

In the “war on women,” 20-week abortion bans have become a rallying point for both pro- and anti-choice camps alike. While Texas’ recently-enacted law, which among other things bans abortions after 20 weeks, may have garnered most of the media attention in recent weeks, so far 13 states have passed similar bans, and three states have passed even more restrictive laws, prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks’ gestation. Nevertheless, these 20-week abortion bans have been gaining traction.

Much has been written about the politics behind these laws—especially the false claims that they are designed to protect women—but so far, there has been relatively little coverage of the anti-choice litigation strategy in relation to these bans. For instance, how do anti-choice campaigners intend to persuade the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade? Of all the various state anti-abortion laws, which one is most likely to be used as the test case at the national level?

The Supreme Court won’t review its long-standing abortion jurisprudence unless it has to. Given the controversial nature of abortion, a simple appeal from a state to clarify abortion law probably won’t prompt the Court to act. (The Oklahoma supreme court recently tried this tactic when it struck down Oklahoma’s ultrasound law and practically begged the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case; the Court didn’t bite.) What will prompt the Supreme Court to act is a conflict between the laws that apply in one circuit and the laws that apply in another.

“Circuit” is a fancy legal term for a group of states. The country is split into eleven circuits, plus the D.C. Circuit, with one federal appeals court in charge of setting the law for each of the circuits. If one circuit court sets law that is different than the law that applies in another circuit, then a legal mess—or, as it is sometimes called, a “circuit split”—results. And since the Supreme Court likes to have laws that bind the entire country, it will intervene to resolve the circuit split.

The push for 20-week abortion bans is part of a national strategy implemented by anti-choice advocates to create exactly the sort of legal mess that will force the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and to revisit the viability standard that has served as the constitutional foundation for abortion rights for 40 years.

An analysis by RH Reality Check suggests that the strategy deployed by anti-choicers is deeply subversive. It capitalizes on personal feelings and anti-abortion hostilities by enticing judges and legislatures to abandon empirical science in favor of biased, agenda-driven science or, as it is sometimes called, “junk science.” Proponents of junk science, which has become a cottage industry among anti-abortion advocates, confuse the issue of fetal viability, invent claims about fetuses feeling pain (or masturbating in utero), and call into question established medical standards.

The strategy is a smart one, to be sure. Anti-choicers understand that once junk science has been incorporated into legislation, courts are not inclined to question those scientific findings—no matter how agenda-driven they are—and will simply apply the law to those “facts.” In cases when junk science is presented to a court, a judge (or justice) hostile to abortion rights requires only the flimsiest reasoning to ground their legal opinion in fact, even if those “facts” are anything but factual.

It is hard to fathom that any court would find these pernicious bans constitutional. After all, the Constitution guarantees a right to choose abortion up until the point of fetal viability, which occurs well after 20 weeks’ gestation. Nevertheless, anti-choice advocates are alarmingly optimistic about their chances in making these bans stick—at least, some are.

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Why Admitting Privileges Laws Have No Medical Benefit

12:55 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Imani Gandy for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Hospital surgery with team

Forced hospital admitting privileges don’t protect women seeking abortions.

Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin extended a temporary restraining order that prevented Wisconsin’s latest legislative attempt to reduce women’s access to safe abortion care—by requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges from a local hospital—from going into effect.

Section 1 of Wisconsin Act 37 (SB 206), which was proposed by the Wisconsin legislature on June 4 and hastily signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker on July 5, requires that physicians who provide abortion services have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the location where the abortion is performed. The law was enacted ostensibly to reduce the risk to patients who suffer serious complications during an abortion, and to prevent abortion providers from abdicating their duty of care and leaving such women to fend for themselves. In reality, however, these laws place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion and contravene the constitutional principles set forth in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

At first blush, these laws may seem sensible enough, especially if you believe that abortion is a dangerous procedure and providers should have hospital admitting privileges in case something goes horribly awry. Such is the concern of anti-choicers pushing for the Wisconsin law, as Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, noted in a July 5 statement. “Apparently, Wisconsin’s abortion clinics don’t believe their abortionists need to have hospital privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of their clinic … or anywhere at all,” she said. “Currently, when a woman experiences hemorrhaging or other life-threatening complications after an abortion in Wisconsin, the clinic puts her in an ambulance and sends her to a hospital ALONE where she is left to her own devices to explain her medical issues to the emergency room staff. The abortionist who performed the abortion is nowhere to be seen. This deplorable situation must change.”

But documents submitted to the federal court in Wisconsin overseeing the case paint a very different picture of the admitting privileges law. According to Dr. Douglas Laube, a board-certified OB-GYN since 1976, the admitting privileges requirement is “medically unjustified and will have serious consequences for women’s health in Wisconsin.”

As Dr. Laube explained to the court, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, alarmist claims to the contrary notwithstanding:

The risk of death associated with childbirth is 14 times higher than that associated with abortion. The risk of death related to abortion overall is less than 0.7 deaths per 100,000 procedures. (As a point of comparison, Dr. Laube states that the risk of death from fatal anaphylactic shock following use of penicillin in the United States is 2.0 deaths per 100,000 uses.) Less than 0.3% of women experiencing a complication from an abortion require hospitalization.

Abortion is an extremely safe procedure that rarely results in serious complications, and despite anti-choicers’ vehement efforts to cloak such laws in feigned concern for maternal health, current medical practices are such that risk to patients won’t be reduced by restrictive rules requiring admitting privileges.

When something goes wrong during a surgical abortion and hospitalization is required, the practical reality is that if a patient is transported by ambulance to a hospital, the EMT will make the decision about which hospital the patient should be taken to. Similarly, in cases of medical abortion, if a pregnant person experiences medical complications at home, she will likely be transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital, and not necessarily to the hospital nearest to the abortion clinic, or to the hospital for which, under the new act, the abortion provider will be required to have admitting privileges.

Moreover, such requirements do not account for modern practices for inpatient hospital care. Currently, typical hospital practices seek dedicated staff physicians to provide inpatient care, and whether an abortion provider has admitting privileges at a particular hospital plays little or no role in determining which hospital may be best suited to care for the patient.

Ultimately, as U.S. District Judge William Conley noted in his ruling,

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New Texas Law Unfair, Increases Inequality

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Read all of RH Reality Check‘s coverage of the recent fight for reproductive rights in Texas here.

El Paso downtown

Women in communities like El Paso will find it much harder to receive reproductive health services under #HB2.

There will be many, many pixels spent on the ramifications of the new law in Texas, signed by Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, a law set to close most of the abortion clinics in the state. I’ll spill some myself, and already have. What I want to address is the larger theme of the anti-choice movement that the Texas decision really brings to the forefront: The profound commitment to unfairness and inequality that holds the anti-choice movement together. Not just between men and women, though it’s certainly true that subjecting those with a uterus to state control over their reproductive organs contributes to that inequality. The anti-choice movement and their goals are unfair on every level, and the Texas decision shows that.

1) Inequality by geography. The anti-choice movement’s strategy of attacking abortion rights on a state-by-state basis may have been the expedient choice—it’s much easier to get largely unpopular abortion restrictions passed through state than national politics—but it’s also one that creates massive gulfs in access based on nothing more than geography. Even though all Americans are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law, laws like this mean some Americans can’t easily get to an abortion clinic while some have all the access they need. This was already true for a lot of Texans compared to, say, New Yorkers—the anti-choice climate plus the huge swaths of rural land without much in the way of abortion access made sure of that—but this law will dramatically deepen the disparity between who and who does not have realistic access to their abortion rights.

In other words, Texas politicians just targeted their own people for the removal of rights, or at least realistic access to those rights. It’s not New Yorkers or Californians that will have to scrape together hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get access to a safe, legal abortion. It’s Texans, and for no other reason than the accident of geography. To make it worse, this disparity will happen within the state, too, as people who live in the urban areas around Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas will have clinics relatively close, but those who live in West Texas will have nothing.

2) Inequality by wealth. What that means, of course, is that the already-existing gaps of access between women of means and those without will get much worse. It’s a struggle for working class and low-income women to get any kind of health care; it’s a struggle for them to get an abortion even if there’s a clinic right down the street, because you still have to come up with $300-$600 to pay for the procedure. Now it’s just going to get worse, as many women will have to drive—or fly, because it’s really that far away now—hundreds of miles to get to clinic. Or worse than that, because the five remaining clinics won’t be able to handle the abortion demand, so women will have to look outside of the state, or even halfway around the country.

For women with means, being able to take an “abortion vacation,” perhaps flying to New York City for an abortion and staying in a hotel—maybe go see some sights while you’re there!—will be totally doable. For those who can’t just afford to drop a couple of thousands of dollars and take the time off work, that will be an impossibility. No wonder there’s an already existing black market in abortion pills, one that’s expected to grow after this law goes into action.

3) Unfairness to taxpayers/inequality in movement funding. One of the most under-discussed issues here is that the anti-choice movement is basically redirecting necessary tax revenues needed for things like education and infrastructure to fund their movement. Texas passed a law that is in direct violation of the “undue burden” clause of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That means that the legislators opened up the state to a lawsuit, but it’s going to be an extremely expensive one, almost surely running into the millions of dollars. All the lawyers working to defend this law? Paid for by the taxpayers of the state of Texas.

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How Republicans Are Distorting the Gosnell Case to Push a Federal 20-Week Abortion Ban

12:56 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Tara Murtha for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of HR 1797 here.

Kermit Gosnell mugshot

Gosnell: not a valid excuse to ban abortion.

After apparently having exhausted the distortion and exploitation of the Kermit Gosnell case to push targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws through state legislatures, anti-choice lawmakers are twisting the facts of the case yet again to suit a new purpose.

This time, they are disingenuously claiming that rolling back the number of weeks after which it is illegal to have an abortion will “prevent more Gosnells.” HR 1797, the bill that passed the U.S. House Tuesday, would ban abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization, or 22 weeks’ gestation. (Under Roe v. Wade, abortion is legal, with restrictions, until viability, which is considered to be approximately 24 weeks into pregnancy.)

HR 1797

HR 1797 is titled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, even though scientific studies, and meta-analysis of said studies, have found no evidence of fetal pain until the third trimester. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) proposed the legislation, despite the fact that a 20-week abortion ban passed in his state was recently ruled unconstitutional. Grounding the bill in faux science is no surprise, given Franks’ role in founding the Arizona Family Research Institute, a group linked to the notorious Focus on the Family, a devoutly anti-choice (and anti-LGBTQ rights) organization that promotes an anti-science fringe agenda such as teaching “Creationism” and abstinence-only education. As a young politician, Franks reportedly donned a tie tack in the shape of fetal feet.

As the bill was furiously debated in the House Tuesday, hardly a minute went by without a mention of Gosnell. Gosnell, of course, is the infamous Philadelphia doctor recently convicted of the first-degree murder of three babies, voluntary manslaughter of a Bhutanese immigrant named Karnamaya Mongar, and 21 counts of abortion past the legal gestational date (24 weeks in Pennsylvania), among other charges.

“The trial of Kermit Gosnell exposed late abortions for what they really are: relocated infanticide,” Franks in a statement about the bill.

His statement echoes anti-choice rhetoric surrounding the Gosnell case; if Gosnell’s victims had been in a womb, they say, his actions would have been legal—or, as Kirstin Powers put it, it’s “merely a matter of geography.”

But it’s not accurate.

Gosnell was convicted of involuntary manslaughter of Mongar and of first-degree murder of three babies, referred to as Babies A, C, and D in the grand jury report and throughout the trial. From the grand jury report, describing Baby A: “His 17-year old mother was almost 30 weeks pregnant.” Baby C, according to the grand jury report, was “at least 28 weeks of gestational age.” The grand jury did not know the exact gestational age of Baby D, though experts used a review of neonatology charts to conclude that the age was “consistent with viability.” In other words, each of these were third trimester pregnancies.

Gosnell’s “procedures” were illegal under current law. A 20-week post-fertilization ban would not make them any more illegal. If passed into law, HR 1797, or any other 20-week ban, would not prevent another Gosnell.

Meanwhile, abortions performed in weeks 20 through 24 are statistically rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest abortion surveillance report, based on data from 2009, 91.7 percent of abortions were performed at or before 13 weeks gestation. Only 1.3 percent of abortions occurred at or after 21 weeks’ gestation.

“More Gosnells”?

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Pennsylvania Governor Poised to Sign Bill That Would Push Women to Purchase Non-Existent ‘Abortion Riders’

11:49 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Tara Murtha for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Chalk art: Never Going Back (Coat Hanger in NO sign)

Pennsylvania is the another front in the war on women.

As we saw with 2011’s targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) bill, the Republican-dominated Pennsylvania legislature routinely ignores protests from medical associations and professionals in passing bad-faith bills that politicize and endanger women’s health.

Now, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, already suffering low approval ratings in large part because of a significant gender gap, is poised to sign HB 818. The bill intrudes on the free market by prohibiting private insurance companies that plan to sell health-care plans through Pennsylvania’s forthcoming state health insurance exchange from covering abortion, even in cases of medical emergency, health of the mother, and severe fetal anomaly.

Even more troubling, lawmakers supporting HB 818 are attempting to deceive the public by offering a non-solution: allowing Pennsylvania women to purchase abortion-specific riders from private companies not participating in the exchange.

The problem is that such abortion riders do not appear to exist.

HB 818

Even though the state exchange, established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), won’t be set up until next year, Pennsylvania lawmakers have been working on versions of the bill since Corbett’s first week in office back in 2011.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong), insists HB 818 simply underscores existing policy that already prohibits tax dollars from funding abortion. There’s no reason for the “small government” party to propose redundant legislation—except, of course, as cover for something else.

HB 818 doesn’t address tax dollars, which are indeed not allowed to be used to fund abortions (except in cases of rape, incest, and endangerment to the life of the mother) under the Hyde Amendment, Pennsylvania state law, and terms set within the ACA. What it will do is require businesses participating in the health-care exchange to offer sub-standard insurance plans to women—which, in turn, means the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania women expected to purchase coverage through the exchange won’t be able to spend their own money to purchase industry-standard medical care through the exchange.

No Health Exceptions

Tinkering with the free market in order to bully insurance companies into economically hijacking working women’s constitutional right to abort an unwanted pregnancy is bad enough, but HB 818 goes even further, restricting physician-advised terminations of wanted pregnancies complicated by unexpected disease or accident.

Pennsylvania lawmakers explicitly rejected an amendment to add health of the woman as an exception to the narrow restrictions, which only allow abortion coverage “where necessary to avert the death of the woman” and in cases of incest and rape, providing the rape victim already reported the assault to the authorities. (The fact that many victims often don’t report aside, protocol of communication between police, insurers, doctors, and patients is unclear.)

When lawmakers voted against a medical emergency amendment offered by state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), they voted against insurers covering the expense of medically advised terminations in cases when a pregnant woman faces, for example, a cancer diagnosis, diabetes, a car accident, or discovers a severe fetal anomaly.

“Let’s say a woman was pregnant [and] her water broke prematurely and the baby would not survive. She would not be able to get an abortion,” Sen. Schwank told RH Reality Check. At least, not without paying out-of-pocket for the procedure, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“These are already tragic situations,” said Schwank. “These are babies that are wanted, and to have to add this anguish on to the situation. … I can’t understand why we couldn’t get this through.”

“Certainly I understand that there are extenuating circumstances,” Oberlander said in a PCN interview defending the bill. “However, [a health exception is a] loophole wide enough you can ride a semi truck through. Women experience a lot of different issues and side effects from a pregnancy.”

Seemingly frustrated with questions about the bill, Oberlander added, “It’s not rocket science.” Well, it’s not medical science, either; it’s religion-based health care influenced by special interests. Specifically, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops, and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania lobbied hard for HB 818 and against the health amendment.

“I hear it in my colleagues,” state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery), who has spoken out against the bill, told RH Reality Check, “the frustration that they continue to get [calls from the Catholic Conference], especially since the Affordable Care Act took care of everything in terms of public funding. No matter where it comes from, no public funding can be utilized for abortion.”

Two Democrats, state Sens. Tim Solobay of Canonsburg and Richard Kasunic of Fayette and Somerset, voted against the health amendment, which lost by two votes.

Rep. Oberlander also insists the bill is “consistent with the will of the people.” But 2011 polling conducted by Susquehanna Polling & Research reveals otherwise. When asked whether or not they support insurance companies participating in the exchange covering abortion “to protect the health of the woman,” 79 percent of respondents said yes.

What Abortion Riders?

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Trent Franks, Abortion Bans, and the Fetal Pain Lie

7:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Trent Franks

Trent Franks & other men, gunning for abortion again.

Wednesday, an all-male panel of House Judiciary Committee members, led by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), passed a 20-week abortion ban. The bill, HR 1797, passed out of the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20 to 12. The vote count fell along party lines, with the exception of Congressman Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR), the only Democrat who voted in favor.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has promised a floor vote on the bill next week.

This is a dangerous piece of legislation. It is based on false and completely disproven assertions about “evidence” of fetal pain; it makes legislators, rather than doctors, the arbiters of gestational age; and it would result in the trial and imprisonment of medical professionals who provide safe abortion care. Yet in what can only be called an irresponsible quest for what they call “balance,” many media outlets are assisting in the perpetuation of lies about a critical aspect of reproductive health care in support of policies that will deeply harm women and criminalize providers.

As currently written, Franks’ bill would create an absolute ban on abortions in the United States after 20 weeks post-fertilization, for any reason, under any circumstance, except the imminent risk of death of the pregnant person, which as the cases of Beatriz and Savita Halappanavar have shown is not exactly reassuring. Contrary to misreporting by the Washington Post and the Associated Press, it is not a “reaction” to the trial of Kermit Gosnell, but simply the newest iteration of a bill Franks has been pushing for years — and he is using the Gosnell case as an excuse to expand the bill from a focus “only” on the District of Columbia to a nationwide ban.

It is no secret that the GOP is out to ban all abortions in the United States, no matter the costs to women’s lives and health, nor the costs to families and society writ large. When they are not acting to ban abortions outright, legislatures controlled by the GOP and Tea Party are passing unnecessary and costly regulations intended to close clinics run by legitimate providers of safe abortion care, and creating hoops through which patients must jump to get safe abortion care intended to raise the costs of early abortion and to humiliate and shame women, plain and simple.

The GOP and anti-choice movement’s claims about “caring for women” are belied by the fact that passage of a bill that would create blanket restrictions on safe abortion care, would remove health-care decisions from the hands of doctors and the women who are their patients — and would guarantee that criminal actors such as Kermit Gosnell get plenty of business.

The ostensible premise of HR 1797 — and others like it at the state level — is that a fetus at or past 20 weeks post-fertilization “feels pain.” This is an assertion that has been rejected by every relevant major medical body in the United States and abroad.

In the findings section of the bill, for example, the text asserts the following (condensed here):

After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling…. In the unborn child, application of such painful stimuli is associated with significant increases in stress hormones known as the stress response…. Subjection to such painful stimuli is associated with long-term harmful neurodevelopmental effects, such as altered pain sensitivity and, possibly, emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities later in life.

It further states (emphasis added):

The position, asserted by some medical experts, that the unborn child is incapable of experiencing pain until a point later in pregnancy than 20 weeks after fertilization predominately rests on the assumption that the ability to experience pain depends on the cerebral cortex and requires nerve connections between the thalamus and the cortex. However, recent medical research and analysis, especially since 2007, provides strong evidence for the conclusion that a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain.

The intention here is clearly to deceive.

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Obama Administration Ordered to Make Some Forms of EC Available Without Restrictions

6:38 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Plan B contraceptive wrapper

Judge: Plan B must be available without restrictions.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must immediately comply with an earlier order by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman to make some forms of levonorgestrel-based emergency contraception available without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions.

The ruling came in response to the administration’s request for a stay while it appeals Korman’s order. The Second Circuit’s order, only two pages, is a partial win for women’s health advocates; while it lifts restrictions on two-pill variants of emergency contraception, it grants the Obama administration’s request to stay, or pause, Judge Korman’s order as it applies to one-pill products, such as Plan B One-Step, pending the outcome of the government’s appeal. That appeal will be placed on an expedited schedule as requested by the administration.

In a statement, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said: “Today’s decision from the 2nd Circuit marks a historic day for women’s health. Finally, after more than a decade of politically motivated delays, women will no longer have to endure intrusive, onerous, and medically unnecessary restrictions to get emergency contraception.”

The Obama administration appealed Korman’s decision earlier this month, just one day after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Plan B One-Step to be sold over-the-counter to consumers ages 15 and up. But even that approval was limited, restricting sales to stores that have an on-site pharmacy and only to those with identification. The Plan B approval was in direct conflict with Judge Korman’s April order requiring all emergency contraception be made available over-the-counter and without point-of-sale restrictions.

“Medical experts, the FDA’s own scientists, and a federal court have all agreed: there are no medical grounds to keep emergency contraception behind the counter for any woman” Northrup said. “Expanding access to this safe and effective way of preventing pregnancy after failed birth control or unprotected sex is the among the very best decisions our federal government can make for women’s health.”

A schedule for the full-appeal is not yet available.
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