08.31.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) A Louisiana state law specifically designed to shutter abortion clinics across the state will not be enforced on September 1, according to a federal district court ruling issued late this evening.
Louisiana health care providers filed a suit in federal district court in Baton Rouge last week seeking an immediate injunction against House Bill 388, a measure signed into law that forces any doctor who provides abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. With today’s decision, physicians providing abortion services will not be forced to comply with the law if they are in the process of applying for hospital admitting privileges.
Admitting privileges requirements are designed by anti-choice politicians to devastate women’s access to abortion services—with numerous clinics already been forced to closed in Texas, and abortion providers in Mississippi and Alabama hanging on by the thread of a court order. Yet, admitting privileges provide no increased benefits for the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications. Furthermore, privileges can often be impossible to obtain due to individual hospital policies or biases toward abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today’s ruling ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights. Politicians cannot be given free rein to lie about their motives without recourse, and expect women and their families to pay the consequences.
“As the flimsy façade of these laws grows thinner by the day, we continue to look to the courts to uphold the Constitution and protect access to safe and legal abortion for all women regardless of where they happen to live.”
Ilene Jaroslaw of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Demme Doufekias of Morrison & Foerster, and William E. Rittenberg of Rittenberg, Samuel, and Phillips, LLC represent Hope Medical Group for Women, Causeway Medical Clinic, and Bossier City Medical Suite in this challenge. If the law were enforced, at least three of the state’s five clinics would have been forced to stop providing abortion services or close altogether, leaving thousands of women—especially those in the central part of the state—hundreds of miles from a safe and legal abortion provider.
With this law, Louisiana joined the ranks of other states that have attempted to use admitting privileges requirements as an underhanded way to shutter high-quality clinics and severely limit women’s access to abortion services. Women’s health care providers and advocates are currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement which has already closed health centers across the state while the last clinic in Mississippi is fighting to keep its doors open. A similar law in Alabama was found unconstitutional earlier this month and Wisconsin’s admitting privileges requirement has been preliminarily blocked; nevertheless, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a similar measure into law earlier this summer.
Major medical groups oppose laws like Louisiana’s that require hospital admitting privileges for physicians providing abortion services. In an amicus brief filed in the challenge to Texas’ admitting privileges requirement, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that the law “jeopardizes women’s health in Texas,” doing “nothing to protect the health of women.”
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Louisiana from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.File Upload: LA Order.pdf Louisiana Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Care Louisiana Governor Jindal Signs Law Designed to Shutter Reproductive Health Clinics Trial Begins in Second Challenge to Texas’ Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer Fifth Circuit Court Continues to Block Mississippi Anti-Abortion Regulation, State’s Only Clinic to Remain Open While Legal Battle Continues Oklahoma Governor Fallin Signs Law Designed to Shutter Reproductive Health Clinics Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access
A federal judge blocked part of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2, late on Friday, ruling that its restrictions on Texas abortion providers—requiring them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers—are unconstitutional.
Without the court’s injunction, HB 2 could have reduced the number of Texas abortion providers to eight.
“The act’s ambulatory surgical center requirement places an unconstitutional undue burden on women throughout Texas,” ruled Judge Lee Yeakel, who also determined that the portion of the law that requires abortion-providing doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges is unconstitutional as it applies to doctors in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley; those doctors also brought claims against the state in a lawsuit filed this summer.
One abortion provider said that she had already begun the process of reopening her shuttered clinic in McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, following Yeakel’s ruling. Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Woman’s Health said her group is “trying to reopen McAllen within as early as 48 hours from now,” as abortion-providing doctors in the Valley no longer must obtain hospital admitting privileges in order to provide legal abortion care.
“The evidence has been stacking up against the state and agianst the politicians who so cynically passed these laws in the name of safety,” said Hagstrom Miller on a press call Friday evening. She said she was at her Fort Worth clinic—a licensed abortion clinic, but not an ambulatory surgical center—when they received the news that Yeakel had declared the ASC provision unconstitutional. Her staff, she said, “just let out a giant cheer.”
In his ruling, Yeakel questioned the credibility of witnesses for the State of Texas, which defended the law as constitutional and whose experts testified that HB 2′s ASC requirements were medically necessary. He also expressed dismay at the involvement of a North Carolina anti-choice activist, Vincent Rue, who assisted state experts in crafting their testimony.
The State of Texas immediately appealed Yeakel’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has overruled Yeakel in past rulings pertaining to HB 2. Until the Fifth Circuit stays Yeakel’s ruling, however, existing Texas abortion clinics may continue providing care without making hospital-like upgrades to their facilities.
The post Breaking: Federal Court Blocks Part of Texas Abortion Law Preceding Immediate State Appeal appeared first on RH Reality Check.
08.29.14 - Following a trial earlier this month, today a federal district court judge struck down two components of an anti-abortion Texas omnibus law that has already closed approximately half the state’s abortion clinics and threatened to restrict access to safe and legal abortion across the state even further.
The ruling issued today by U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel (PDF attached) blocks the state’s requirement that every existing licensed abortion facility meet the same building requirements as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC)—a provision that would have amounted to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services, leaving the state with as few as seven abortion providers as of September 1.
Today’s ruling also found that law’s admitting privileges requirement was unconstitutional as it applies to two clinics in the state’s hardest-hit communities: the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas. Further, the court ruled that the ASC and admitting privileges requirements together “create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion.”
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This trial and today’s decision have stripped away the pretexts of the politicians who passed this law and revealed their true intention to deny Texas women access to safe, legal abortion care.
“The court has made clear that women’s well-being is not advanced by laws attacking access to essential health care, and that rights protected by the U.S. Constitution may not be denied through laws that make them impossible to exercise.
“Texas women still face serious threats to their rights, health, and ability to obtain safe, high-quality reproductive health care from reputable doctors in their communities. But at least for the moment, today’s victory is vital in preventing politicians’ scorched-earth assaults on women’s health care from causing even more harm than they already have.”
Today’s decision is the third time a federal court has blocked anti-choice efforts to shutter clinics in recent weeks, joining a recent district court decision permanently blocking admitting privileges requirements in Alabama and a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a preliminary injunction against a similar law in Mississippi.
The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a team of attorneys from the law firm Morrison & Foerster led by J. Alexander Lawrence, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell & Soifer.
This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer. The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the plaintiffs await a decision on whether the full appeals court will rehear the case.
Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2. Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with fewer than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital. ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services. Elected officials in two Texas cities— Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.File Upload: Louisiana Admitting Privileges Complaint One-Third of Texas Women Will Soon Lack Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Following Appellate Court Ruling Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Texas Abortion Providers’ Admitting Privileges Reinstated in Lawsuit Settlement
Effective Friday, a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, will no longer offer surgical abortions, bringing the number of providers in the state to fewer than ten.
Though a spokesperson for Complete Healthcare for Women declined to comment, the Columbus Dispatch, as well as NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and an anti-abortion group have reported that the clinic has stopped providing surgical abortions.
The clinic, which opened in 1974, will remain open and continue to provide other health services.
Governor Kasich, during his time in office, has lead a targeted dismantling of abortion providers in Ohio, not only passing anti-abortion laws but also appointing political allies and abortion opponents to positions of regulatory power designed for medical professionals. A Cincinnati clinic announced last week that it would stop providing abortions due to a state law requiring ambulatory surgical facilities have written transfer agreements with local public hospitals.
Complete Healthcare for Women voluntarily decided to halt abortion services, according to the Columbus Dispatch. It’s unclear whether there is a legal impetus for halting services similar to other clinics in the state.
Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement that the clinic may have closed in part due to harassment from abortion opponents.
“These doctors have been harassed at their practice, leaflets calling them ‘killers’ have been distributed in their neighborhood and protesters have picketed a hospital where they have admitting privileges,” Copeland said. “I would not be surprised if this campaign of harassment played a role in their decision to stop providing abortion care to their patients.”
The post Ohio Clinic to Stop Surgical Abortion as State’s Options Dwindle appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The California legislature on Thursday passed a first-of-its-kind bill that would change the standards of sexual consent on college campus from “no means no” to the affirmative “yes means yes.”
The legislation was passed unanimously by the state senate and is headed to the governor’s desk.
SB 967, introduced early this year by state Sen. Kevin de León, requires that for public schools in California to receive state funding, they must adopt an “affirmative consent standard” when reviewing cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
“Affirmative consent” is defined as:
Affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
The bill also requires that schools adopt “comprehensive” outreach and education on sexual assault.
State Sen. de León told the San Jose Mercury News that the bill would be a “paradigm shift.” “If the governor signs it, this will lead the entire country, the nation,” he said.
The California legislation, which would be the first in the nation to set a standard affirmative consent, comes amid heightened awareness of both the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and the inadequacy of college protocols for responding to complaints and aiding survivors.
In May, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 colleges and universities that are currently under investigations for Title IX violations related to sexual assault.
The list included several schools in California, such as Occidental, the University of Southern California, and the University of California-Berkeley. More schools have come under investigation since May. About one in five undergraduate women are the victims of sexual assault, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The post California Legislature Passes ‘Yes Means Yes’ Bill appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Federal regulators approved “much of” Healthy PA, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s alternative to Medicaid expansion plan. If implemented, the plan will extend health insurance coverage to as many as 600,000 of the state’s working poor by next year.
Though people stuck in the gap created by Gov. Corbett’s refusal to expand Medicaid would finally gain coverage, Healthy PA slashes current benefits.
The federal government and the state are still negotiating the severity of the cuts. So far, of the 24 waivers submitted by Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare, only four were approved. Some of the rejected provisions include a mandatory work-search requirement and punitive lockout periods for neglecting to pay premiums on time.
“[Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] told advocates yesterday that they have agreed on a framework for the cuts,” attorney Kristen Damas of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia told RH Reality Check.
The basic “framework” for Healthy PA is to divide enrollees into high-risk and low-risk groups. The high-risk group will cover people with disabilities, seniors, and pregnant people. Everyone else will be rolled into the low-risk group.
The exact standards for how to categorize applicants—for example, what constitutes a disability severe enough to qualify for the high-risk group—is still unclear.
While the high-risk group will theoretically be held to higher standards than the low-risk group, new limitations and eliminations of services will affect everyone on Medicaid.
There will be new caps on lab fees and radiology services such as MRIs, CAT scans, and X-rays. The new plan eliminates chiropractic services, podiatry and optometry visits; these cuts will disproportionately affect diabetics.
Nine percent of Pennsylvania’s adult population has been diagnosed with the disease, which is the 7th leading cause of death in the state. There will also be limits on medical equipment. Subsidies for “durable medical equipment,” for example, could be reduced to $1,000 per year for Medicaid recipients rolled into the low-risk group.
“[We’re] really paring back benefits so that people are going to have to wait until they’re very, very sick [to gain services],” says Damas. “What we’re doing is really deviating from the trend of every other state.”
In addition to these cuts, the plan installs new barriers to coverage.
Healthy PA, in its current form, will charge some enrollees the highest Medicaid premiums of any state in the country, despite evidence “premiums and cost sharing can act as barriers to obtaining, maintaining and accessing health coverage and health care services, particularly for individuals with low-incomes and significant health care needs.”
Pennsylvania Health Access Network, a coalition of organizations advocating for health insurance access in the state, was succinct in their response to the news. Yesterday, the network published a blog post calling on citizens to sign a petition: “As a condition of expanding health care for some, Governor Corbett is trying to take it away from others by pushing through drastic and dangerous cuts in benefits for current enrollees.”
It is not clear if Healthy PA will actually be implemented at all.
Gov. Corbett is facing re-election this fall, and his numbers have been “epically bad.” The latest Franklin & Marshall poll shows Corbett capturing just 24 percent of the vote.
During spring’s primary election, Democratic challenger Tom Wolf promised that if elected, he would expand Medicaid which, at the time, meant the straightforward way, like New Jersey and all other surrounding states—an option advocates believe will be better for the working poor.
However, now that Healthy PA is approved, Wolf’s ability to go this route if elected will depend on when the state signs new contracts with providers under the provisions of Healthy PA.
Pennsylvania remains in an inverse situation where those who need the most financial help obtaining health insurance are the least qualified to obtain it. For example, a Pennsylvania family of four earning $45,000 a year qualifies for a tax subsidy toward health insurance, but a family of four earning $9,000 does not.
As of August, 61 percent of voters believe that Pennsylvania is “off on the wrong track.”
The post Feds Approve Pennsylvania’s Medicaid ‘Expansion,’ But Concerns Remain appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took the world by storm, and pro-choice champions are raising the profile of their issue with the Taco and/or Beer Challenge!
Anti-choice politicians have made it harder and harder for women to access abortion care, and nobody has felt the impact more than low-income women. Many of their health-care programs don't include abortion coverage. And anti-choice laws that close clinics or require multiple visits mean that many women have to travel for hours and take days off work to have an abortion. All of this can have a big economic impact. Abortion funds help close the gap so women can afford the care they need.
A ton of pro-choice activists - including members of the NARAL Pro-Choice America family - have already taken part in the #TacoOrBeerChallenge. Check out some of our faves below then grab a taco and join in!
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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed a law Tuesday that creates protections from discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. The law is part of the governor’s agenda to ensure full equality for women in Illinois.
During a press conference announcing the new law, Quinn said that women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job.
“This new law will provide important protections and accommodations for working mothers-to-be so that they can continue to provide for their family without risking their health or the health of their child,” said Quinn. “These common-sense accommodations will provide peace of mind, safety and opportunity for moms-to-be and also help strengthen our workforce across the state.”
The new law requires employers to provide accommodations for workplace activities—for instance, assistance with heavy lifting, access to places to sit, more frequent bathroom breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, and space for breast-feeding.
HB 8, sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) and state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights), passed both the Illinois house and senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. The new law amends the Illinois Human Rights Act.
“Every woman deserves to be respected and protected, and no woman should have to hide her pregnancy for fear of losing her job because she is pregnant,” Rep. Flowers said during the press conference. ”Many of these women are disproportionately low income and single parents in need of their jobs. House Bill 8 creates a broad responsibility for employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees, which is no different than any other accommodations being made for anyone else with a health issue.”
The new law comes as the Supreme Court will be considering a case during its next term in which a part-time delivery driver for UPS has alleged pregnancy discrimination against the company. The new law is similar to legislation authored by a New York lawmaker in June.
The post Illinois Governor Signs Law Combating Pregnancy Discrimination appeared first on RH Reality Check.
08.29.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The United States has failed to make sufficient progress in addressing racial and gender disparities in access to health care, according to new concluding observations (attached) from the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
The Committee undertook its review of the U.S.’s record on eliminating racial discrimination in policy and practice to meet the government’s international human rights commitments on August 13-14 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Today’s recommendations echo recommendations provided in a new report focused on how racial discrimination in law and practice interferes with women’s fundamental human right to health, with a particular focus on the maternal health of Black women in the South and immigrant women’s access to reproductive health care.
The report—titled Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in US Health Care—was issued earlier this month by the Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
Said Katrina Anderson,senior human rights counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today the UN Committee rightfully recognized the wide disparities in sexual and reproductive health that exist in the United States for what it is: racial discrimination and a human rights violation that demands government accountability and swift action.
“The U.S. has more health resources than any other country, yet women of color are dying from preventable causes and failing to get the reproductive health care they need. No woman in the U.S. should endure such poor care because of her immigration status or race.
“It’s time that the United States government take action to address the huge gaps that still persist when it comes to systemic and institutional barriers women of color face when accessing health care.”
The CERD Committee is calling on the United States to immediately implement key policy changes and proactive measures that would address these overlapping forms of discrimination against women of color and immigrant women. Specifically:
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a human rights treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1994. The United States is required to submit periodic reports to the Committee on how its commitments are being implemented, including its obligation to ensure the right to health care is free from all forms of racial discrimination to all within its borders.Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care UN Human Rights Committee: U.S. Should Ensure Health Coverage for Immigrant Women