After Republicans secured a majority in the New Mexico house during the 2014 midterm elections, reproductive rights advocates feared that the new political landscape would threaten abortion access not just in the state, but throughout the Southwest.
Those fears are being realized, as a pair of bills to restrict reproductive rights is moving through the state legislature and appear to be headed for a full vote.
HB 390, introduced by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo), would amend existing state law to include a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, unless the life and the health of the mother is at risk, or the pregnancy was a result of sexual abuse, rape, or incest.
HB 390 would also impose civil penalties on any physician who violates the act, with a minimum one-year suspension of the physician’s license and a fine of at least $5,000.
Introduced by House Majority Whip Alonzo Baldonado (R-Los Lunas), HB 391 would require physicians to provide notice of a planned abortion procedure of a non-emancipated minor to one parent or guardian at least 48 hours prior to the procedure.
HB 391 would also require that the notice be delivered in a sealed envelope addressed to the parent or guardian and delivered by courier or similar service. Physicians would be required to keep records of all notifications.
There is a limited amount of research on the effect of so-called parental notification laws. Some research indicates that these laws have led to an increased number of minors traveling to states with less restrictive laws or to states that do not mandate parental involvement to access abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Anti-choice activists last year in Albuquerque campaigned for a city-wide ban on abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. Residents voted down the measure by an overwhelming 55-45 margin after activists secured enough petition signatures to force the city council to place the issue on the ballot.
After that defeat, anti-choice activists set their sights on the state legislature as a possible vehicle for banning later abortion care in the state.
The house regulatory and public affairs committee on February 20 held a hearing on HB 390 for several hours, hearing testimony from dozens of witnesses both in favor and opposed to the bill.
The committee heard testimony from Rachael Riley, who was among activists who campaigned against the Albuquerque ballot measure that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. During that campaign, Riley said she became pregnant, and later needed an abortion in an emergency.
The anti-choice proposal provides an exemption for anyone with a religious objection to abortion to not participate in the procedure. This exemption has been pushed by New Mexico’s Roman Catholic bishops, among others in the state’s anti-choice movement.
“I nearly bled to death in front of my partner and my daughter. If there was a religious exemption, I would have died and my daughter would have no mother,” Riley said, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Supporters of HB 390 claim the legislation would bring the state in line with 42 other states that have similar bans. “We have an opportunity to speak for the unborn. To me, this is not a choice,” said Rep. Herrell, reported the Albuquerque Journal.
Forty-two states prohibit some abortions after a certain point in pregnancy. Among those states, there are 18 that impose bans after a certain number of weeks, and ten that ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
After the hearing, HB 390 was passed by the committee in a 4-3 vote along party lines. House Democrats said in a statement after the vote that the bill would take away complex and personal decisions to have an abortion later in pregnancy from a woman, her family, and her doctor.
“I am disappointed that House Republicans voted to insert the government into a very personal decision,” Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque) said in the statement. “Politicians and the government cannot have a say in this deeply personal decision.”
After being referred to the house judiciary committee, the bill was passed Friday by a 7-6 vote, again along party lines.
Recent legislative sessions have seen Democrats prevent anti-choice legislation from moving beyond the committee level. That is no longer an option with Republicans in control of the house.
“We know that if there’s a big shift that we would be facing a whole new committee—which is where we have usually been able to defend women’s reproductive health and get any harmful bills off the table,” Adriann Barboa, field director for Strong Families New Mexico, told RH Reality Check in the run-up to November’s election.
If passed, HB 390 would not just affect access to later abortion care in New Mexico, but also throughout the region. There are significant restrictions on both access and the amount of reproductive health care available in neighboring states. Texas and Oklahoma both have bans on abortion after 20 weeks.
New Mexico has become the only option for some women in the Southwest, where they can receive a full range of reproductive health-care options. In order to accommodate that need after serveral abortion restrictions took effect in Texas, Whole Woman’s Health opened a clinic in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Both HB 309 and HB 391 were placed on the house calendar Tuesday and await a vote by the full house, where the GOP has a 37-33 advantage.
Democrats enjoy a comfortable 25-17 edge in the state senate.
The post New Mexico Republicans Push Anti-Choice Bills Through House Committees appeared first on RH Reality Check.
West Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have outlawed abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. The bill, HB 2568, was passed yesterday by the GOP-dominated state senate and sent to the governor’s desk for approval.
Tomblin vetoed a similar 20-week ban during the 2014 legislative session, saying in a statement at the time that the bill was both unconstitutional and “problematic because it unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship.”
“All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options,” he said.
This year, Tomblin’s statement regarding his veto was toned down, even going so far as to suggest he would be open to other anti-choice measures pushed by Republicans in the state house and senate.
“I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life,” he said, adding that he has to “take into consideration a number of factors when reviewing legislation, including its constitutionality.”
“At the start of the regular session, I urged members of the Legislature to consider a compromise that would help us establish legislation that would pass constitutional muster.”
The 20-week mark is four weeks before a fetus is widely recognized as “viable,” the standard under which access to abortion is legal in the United States.
West Virgina lawmakers this session will also consider bills that would outlaw the use of public funds for abortion services.
The post West Virginia Governor Vetoes 20-Week Abortion Ban appeared first on RH Reality Check.
03.03.15 - The notorious Texas law known as HB2 has closed more than half of the health clinics that provide abortion care in that state. Jodie Laubenberg, the state representative who authored the bill, celebrated its passage in 2013 by saying she was “proud of the step we've taken to protect both babies and women.”
Texas has one of the highest numbers of abortion restrictions in the U.S. Given the sentiments of politicians like Laubenberg, you might expect women’s health to be extremely well-protected in that state.
But when it comes to indicators of the well-being of women and children, Texas has some of the most abysmal scores in the nation.
In Louisiana last year, Senator David Vitter called for an unwarranted investigation of abortion clinics “to protect the health and safety of children.” Meanwhile, his state has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. Despite this, legislators in 2014 advanced a medically unnecessary admitting privileges requirement claiming that it was “about the safety of women.”
Abortion is already a very safe procedure: less than a quarter of one percent of abortions result in a major complication. It’s safer than many other common procedures such as wisdom tooth removal and tonsillectomy.
Nevertheless, anti-choice state legislators proclaim their commitment to women’s and children’s health loudly and often. But that concern fails to translate into real improvements in the lives of families, according to a new report.
Evaluating Priorities markedly shows that states with the most abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes for women and children.
The study calculated the number of abortion restrictions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and ranked them from the least restrictive to the most restrictive state. This ranking was assessed against an array of indicators of women’s and children’s health and well-being in those same states.
The report’s authors found a “consistently negative relationship” between the number of abortion restrictions in a state and the indicators of women’s and children’s health.
States with the most numerous abortion restrictions have also failed to enact policies that genuinely promote the health and well-being of women and children. Such proactive measures include improving the quality of prenatal care, access to cervical cancer screenings, asthma treatment for women and children, and dental care for children, as well as decreasing domestic violence.
“The report makes it clear that enacting abortion restrictions is not genuinely about protecting women’s health; it’s just about politics,” says the Center’s director of state advocacy, Kelly Baden. “There are a number of evidence-based policies that have been shown to improve women’s and children’s health and lives, but restricting abortion is not one of them.”
Instead of imposing restrictions that only intensify the hardship and risk that women face, leaders need to craft policies that respect women’s decision making, improve access to health care, and foster families’ financial health.
To this end, the Center has compiled a guide to pro-women policies that are being proposed and enacted around the country. Released this month, Moving in a New Direction: A Proactive State Policy Resource for Promoting Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice was created in an unprecedented partnership with more than 60 national and state organizations.Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health and Safety in Passing Abortion Restrictions
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the longest serving woman in Congress, announced Monday that she will not seek re-election in 2016.
At a press conference announcing her decision, Mikulski said she had asked herself, “Do I spend time my raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?”
Elected to the House in 1976 and the Senate in 1986, she was the first female Democratic senator elected in her own right, not preceded by a husband or a father.
“Barbara Mikulski is among the fiercest advocates for women and families that Washington has ever seen,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, in a statement. The then newly formed EMILY’s List, which supports pro-choice women candidates for office, helped get Mikulski elected in 1986.
As the first female chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski worked to pass a continuing resolution at the end of 2013 that avoided a government shutdown. In December, she helped broker an omnibus spending bill that fended off Republican attacks on reproductive health care and included some improvements like abortion coverage equity for Peace Corps volunteers.
“She’s always upheld the values and principles of fairness,” Fred D. Mason Jr., president of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, told RH Reality Check. “She was always equal to the task, always true to her advocacy, particularly for working women and men in the state of Maryland.”
Mikulski has been known to mentor and inspire other female legislators. “I will never forget the encouragement she gave me when I first considered running for Senate,” said Barbara Boxer (D-CA), another long-serving female senator who will not seek re-election in 2016, in a statement. “Every woman in the Senate has stories of Senator Mikulski reaching out to us, mentoring us and helping us along the way.”
Mikulski hosted monthly dinners for female senators, and she became famous for protesting for the right to wear pants on the Senate floor. She fought for equal pay for women, inserted language into the Affordable Care Act addressing preventive care for women, and was known as a tough advocate for liberal and progressive values who also emphasized building consensus with Republican colleagues.
“What’s not to love?” Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, told RH Reality Check in an email. “Sen. Mikulski was on the forefront of the fight to #bringbackourgirls, expand access to early childhood and higher education, and ensure that all pantsuit wearers have a fair shot.”
Image: ABC News/Youtube
The post Barbara Mikulski, Longest Serving Woman in Congress, Will Not Seek Re-Election appeared first on RH Reality Check.
That said, I want to be very clear-headed about how we got here. Contrary to the narratives being pushed by some in the activism community, it wasn’t because liberals and grassroots activists managed to somehow want this win badly enough. This was not a matter of willpower, but one of enormous force, bluntly applied. You could even credibly argue that it was the victory of one business sector over another.
To start, let’s sum up the opposing teams. On one side, there were the well-connected, moneyed telecommunications and cable companies; the powerful business community representatives lobbying for the recording and music industries; and the politicians who get contributions from those industries. Normally, this much support from the private sector would be more than enough to get a law passed.
On the pro-net neutrality side, meanwhile, there was a potential support base of everyone who’s tired of the United States’ slow and expensive Internet service, which ranks behind dozens of other countries. But dislike alone doesn’t necessarily turn into political action. When the first major anti-net neutrality bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), surfaced in early 2012, 115,000 websites featured front-page messaging about the laws on January 8 of that year, including software industry giants like Google, Reddit, Flickr, Tumblr, and Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s blackout, in particular, made a huge impact on youth awareness and participation. Legislators’ offices were overwhelmed with calls and emails. SOPA and PIPA both subsequently fizzled in Congress.
Two years later, when the issue resurfaced, more than 3.4 million public comments were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a record indicating massive grassroots awareness and support. This was helped along by John Oliver’s call for public comments, which crashed the FCC servers. In addition, a broad range of advocates united to form a coalition, including such dramatically varying groups as the Christian Coalition, the AARP, NARAL, Gun Owners of America, MoveOn.org, and almost 100 racial justice organizations. Several dozen individuals also camped out at the FCC headquarters for a week. And finally, we here at RH Reality Check joined in; thanks again to the 1,399 of you who united behind our call for public comments and wrote your own letter to the FCC!
All this, and here’s what we won: An appointed executive board for a Democratic administration voted in favor of doing something that is overwhelmingly popular and good for the majority of businesses who depend on the Internet as a necessary communication utility. Again, that’s worth celebrating. But what if you wanted to replicate that?
I’m mindful, after all, that the Citizens United decision has unleashed a flood of money into politics and elections, with its novel interpretation of funding as the equivalent of free speech. Relatively little of this money is going to support causes I care about.
People who follow politics commonly attribute losses to supporters having too little “backbone,” not “wanting” the outcome enough, being too divided, not reaching certain audiences well enough, failing to select the right goals or candidates, or having the wrong messaging. Sometimes these criticisms are the right ones, but when public interest gets pushed aside in politics, this is the reason the majority of the time: There was neither enough money nor grassroots participation, by several orders of magnitude, to even have a chance.
Most political decisions happen because business community activists hire lobbyists to write laws in their favor, and contribute to politicians who will work to pass those laws. Often, these business-led policies aren’t in the public interest, or even popular. But the challenges in getting enough of the public organized and involved in specific political fights make the bar for changing this process very high.
It’s challenging to raise enough awareness and energy on an issue to get 10,000 names on a petition, or to get 1,000 people to write their representatives; and though that’s still not usually enough to win, you have to start somewhere. It’s about as challenging as that to get 100 people to pick up the phone and call that representative; we’re all very busy. And if you need people to canvass their neighbors, wow, that is harder. A lot of small groups and volunteers fighting righteously against difficult odds face tremendous obstacles in getting their message out, or connecting potential supporters with collective opportunities to make a difference.
Make no mistake, building those connections with others who agree with you is every bit as important as contacting the people who ultimately make the decisions. Even the most brilliantly reasoned argument is likely to fail against an opposition that’s effectively mobilized more people or resources. Politics isn’t a best essay contest; it’s a popularity contest. The difference between an effective petition and a crank letter, for instance, is mostly the weight of the signatures at the bottom.
To put things in another light, there exists a currently serving elected official who believes that cancer is a fungus that can be flushed out of the body with salt water. That is real. People voted for this individual to represent them in the Nevada assembly, and in all likelihood they will do so again—because this lawmaker’s opponents will be fighting in an environment that is consistently tilted against them. Think about the decades of work, money, personal and cultural outreach that had to be done to make the election of such a person possible. You aren’t likely to beat that legacy of effort with any single push of a particular emotional quality, character trait, unity, message, or strength of will.
So don’t just give me stories about the perception problems your issue has, or how your activists just aren’t passionate or focused enough. It’s a lot more likely that your issue has a resource gap—perhaps a longstanding one that can’t be resolved in the short term, leading directly to an information and participation gap. While you should absolutely fight like hell for what you believe in no matter what, and self-reflection is a fine, fine virtue, sometimes you’re going to be overwhelmed, and you shouldn’t necessarily berate yourself over it too much.
I bring all this up because I would like to win more things. That won’t happen if more people aren’t aware of the amount of work it really takes to win—which is a lot. Because if you’re on my side in politics, we’re not going to be able to beat the other side on money very often, though some is necessary. We need people. Lots and lots of people getting engaged all year, every year, and doing whatever—writing letters, signing petitions, making phone calls, talking to neighbors, voting, showing up to rallies, raising funds, building alliances, getting educated, contacting representatives—they can think of, and are personally capable of, to make it happen.
Often, multiple tactics over a period of years will be necessary to win through grassroots organizing. Google and Wikipedia are almost certainly not going to be on your side. There’s no secret sauce. There’s just the grind of building support, contacting decision-makers, turning out supporters, and then doing it all over again. It’s always hard.
The belief that it can ever be easy or that victory would be ours with one simple change can be, in my opinion, as big a hindrance as outside obstacles. If we hope to make good decisions about what to do, we should know what we’re up against and fight the urge to let it dishearten us.
As Robert Heinlein wrote once, “Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet you can’t win.”
The post What the Net Neutrality Victory Should Teach Us About Other Progressive Fights appeared first on RH Reality Check.
With their new paper, the Brookings Institution‘s researchers Richard V. Reeves and Joanna Venator set out to explain the dramatic difference in unintended childbearing rates between low-income and middle-class women, and how that discrepancy helps perpetuate inequality. Reeves and Venator certainly succeeded in this regard, showing how single middle-class women’s greater access to contraception and abortion leads them to have an unintended birth rate that is one-fifth as high as that of women living at or below the poverty line. As a side effect, though, the researchers also managed to touch on whether it’s possible to reduce the need for abortion by making it easier for women who choose to have babies. Their paper suggests that the answer is probably not.
For a few years now, it’s been fashionable for “intellectual” anti-choicers and abortion-hostile liberals to argue that beefing up social spending would justify heavy restrictions to abortion access on the grounds that women don’t need abortion if they have a healthy public safety net. Ross Douthat of the New York Times and Emily Matchar of the Atlantic provide good examples, arguing that “Western Europe” can afford to heavily regulate abortion compared to the United States without major pushback because of all that universal health care and maternity leave. The implication is that the default position of a woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant is a glowing eagerness to have a baby, and that it’s only out of economic desperation that people go to abortion clinics. The entire crisis pregnancy center boondoggle, in fact, is based on the notion that most women who are considering abortion would secretly rather have the baby if they could just find a reason to do so.
The idea clearly appeals to those who hold the essentialist view that all women are baby-crazy deep down inside. But the narrative also has traction amongst more pro-choice types, because it is true that lower-income women get more abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, women at the federal poverty line or below constitute 42 percent of those getting an abortion; individuals who make between the federal poverty line and 200 percent of it make up yet another 27 percent. In other words, if you’re a single woman making $23,000, you’re in the top 30 percent of women getting abortions, income-wise. So with statistics like that, it’s easy to buy the argument that women mostly have abortions under economic duress and would choose to have more babies if they could afford it.
But the Brookings numbers upend that entire narrative. If women were generally inclined to keep unintended pregnancies but only abort out of desperation, we should see poor women aborting more of their pregnancies than middle-class women. But instead, we see the opposite: Single, middle-class women (defined as someone making more than $44,700 a year) who get pregnant abort 32 percent of the time, whereas single women who get pregnant while living in poverty abort less than 10 percent of the time. The inescapable conclusion is that even when they can afford to have a baby, a lot of women choose to have abortions anyway. In fact, the women who can afford to have babies turn to abortion more often, because they can afford that too. To be sure, there are some women who are aborting pregnancies they would keep if they could just afford to. But, as data gathered by the Guttmacher in 2004 shows, it’s usually more complicated than that: Relationships, education, job ambitions, and family obligations are all in the mix. Not being able to “afford” a baby is often about more than just money, as important as money is.
The math can get a little confusing, so I explained at Slate how poor women can get more abortions in absolute numbers while middle-class women can abort a higher percentage of their pregnancies. The short version: Lower-income women get pregnant a lot more overall, meaning they have more babies and have more abortions. Reducing the poverty rate would dramatically reduce the abortion rate, sure—but because people would be able to use more and better contraception, not because they want more babies.
This, again, undercuts the recurring argument that people only seek abortions out of economic necessity. Last year, Kristine Kruszelnicki of Secular Pro-Life, playing the part of the “pro-life” feminist, wrote, “If we all work together to come up with real choices for women—better birth control, better maternity leave, subsidized daycare, a living wage, flexible work schedules, better schooling options, more attractive open-adoption and temporary foster care options, etc.—abortion may roll itself into the world of obsolescence, regardless of its legal status.”
It’s hard to take the argument as a good faith one, as Secular Pro-Life wants to ban abortion now, and they aren’t actually interested in waiting until we get all those maternity benefits and fancy schools that will supposedly make us all line up to have more babies. But setting that issue aside, the Brookings numbers expose this line of argumentation for the fantasy that it is. If the women who are more able to afford to have a baby when facing an unexpected pregnancy are still opting for termination one-third of the time, then clearly the demand for abortion is not becoming obsolete. If anything, it suggests a lot more women would be getting abortions if they could just afford the cost to do so.
Which makes sense. Having sex is fun and having babies is hard. Of course people are going to do more of the former than the latter, and of course they’re going to lean on technological advances like contraception and abortion to do so. The real problem here is that the price for having sex without having babies is out of the reach of so many women.
The fantasy that women sitting in abortion clinics are secretly wishing they could be decorating nurseries appeals to both pro- and anti-choicers. Anti-choicers, of course, want to use that fantasy to suggest banning abortion is done for women’s own good. But many pro-choicers like to invoke that fantasy, too, when they talk about how abortion is always a hard and serious decision that involves a lot of reflection and struggle. A lot of pro-choicers think it’s easier to be sympathetic to women who want babies but who are valiantly sacrificing that desire because they don’t believe they can afford to raise one right now. The problem is that image often doesn’t comport with reality.
Social services that make having a baby easier are important, but they are important not because they reduce the abortion rate, but because women should have the right to raise children in safe, healthy environments. By the same token, safe, affordable abortion access isn’t some necessary evil that we can somehow eliminate through public spending. It’s important for the same reason contraception is: because women are full human beings who have a right to conduct our social, sexual, and family lives on our own terms. Affordable, accessible abortion isn’t an alternative to a healthy safety net. On the contrary, it should be part of a social spending system that helps women live their lives with privacy and dignity.
The post Making It More Affordable to Raise a Baby Won’t Make Abortion Demand Obsolete appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in King v. Burwell, the latest attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act. The arguments in King have been a long time coming. Almost before the ink had dried in Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion on Republicans’ first swipe at the ACA, NFIB v. Sebelius, conservatives had begun concocting their next challenge. In 2012, conservative legal scholar Jonathan Adler and political analyst Michael Cannon, of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, published a paper arguing that four words, read in isolation from the hundreds of thousands of other provisions in the ACA, prove that Congress intended to punish low- and middle-income Americans in states run by Republicans ideologically opposed to the law. King v. Burwell has taken Adler and Cannon’s hypothesis and turned it into a full-fledged political and legal campaign to undermine the Obama administration’s historic health-care reform law.
At issue in King is one of the cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act: premium tax credits, otherwise known as subsidies, available to low- and middle-income individuals to help offset the cost of their health insurance premium. The challengers in King mimic Adler and Cannon’s arguments, claiming that the ACA allows only states, and not the federal government, to offer subsidies for health insurance purchases. For proof, they claim Congress dictated that the subsidy structure would apply only to exchanges “established by the State.” They argue that this phrase limits the availability of tax benefits solely to state-run exchanges. So far, 14 states have established their own health insurance exchanges, while 36 states run by conservatives ideologically opposed to the health-care law have refused.
This approach, the ACA challengers argue, was designed to work like Medicaid does, by motivating states to buy into the health-care law and establish their own exchanges. The plaintiffs claim Congress set up a simple carrot-and-stick approach with these four words: support the new health-care law and set up a state exchange, or we’ll punish your residents by holding back their tax credits.
Not so, argues the Obama administration. In its brief defending the federal subsidies under the ACA, the administration explains how the only way the challengers win is if the Court ignores the entire rest of the statute. Rather than cut off those 36 states that have failed to establish their own exchanges, which would leave residents either without insurance coverage or stuck with coverage they cannot afford, the ACA mandates that the federal government step in with its own exchange for purchasing insurance. It’s nonsensical, the administration points out, to claim that Congress built a law designed to insure as many people as possible only to restrict subsidies based on where an individual happens to live. Furthermore, the statute defines who qualifies for a tax credit based on income level, not their state residency. If Congress intended to limit the availability of insurance subsidies based on whether a state established its own exchange, the administration maintains, surely the text would reflect that limitation throughout.
But it doesn’t.
As of now, there is no disagreement among the federal appeals courts as to whether the Obama administration can offer the subsidies. The plaintiffs in King and the handful of other copycat lawsuits peppering federal courts across the country argue that the IRS, the administrative agency in charge of dealing with the tax credits under the ACA, abused its discretion when it issued the rule allowing subsidies in the federal exchanges, because that rule is not supported by the statutory language of the ACA. A unanimous panel of judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in King ruled in favor of the administration, while a divided panel of judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the subsidies were invalid. But that decision was vacated after the entire panel of judges agreed to hear the case. And I haven’t even touched on the various procedural hurdles that should kick the plaintiffs in King right out of federal court. Those obstacles, as Adam Liptak points out in this piece for the New York Times, are reasons enough for progressives to take a breath and relax about the fate of the law—even though a loss for the administration would threaten to take away insurance coverage from millions of low- and middle-income individuals by making their coverage unaffordable.
So the Obama administration should have the legal advantage going into Wednesday’s arguments. But, as we learned in last summer’s ACA loss in Hobby Lobby, having the legal advantage before the Roberts Court is only half the battle. The real question is whether the Obama administration has the political advantage going into Wednesday’s argument. And I think they might.
Progressives don’t often look to Chief Justice Roberts to champion their causes, but this time maybe they should. During his time as chief justice, Roberts has proven himself to be both a tremendously skilled litigator and a savvy politician, which is why it is reasonable to see him ruling for the administration in this case. Of the myriad legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act so far, including to the individual mandate and the birth control benefit, King is the most obviously formulated, partisan attack because it essentially cribs from the Cato Institute’s arguments. This may make it a perfect fit for Justice Antonin Scalia, but not so much for Roberts, who must manage the Court’s already shaky reputation for partisanship.
Furthermore, the reality is the business community, despite what Republicans argue, largely supports the ACA. A ruling against the administration threatens to throw the insurance market into chaos, which is ultimately bad for business. And it’s difficult to imagine the Roberts Court issuing a decision that would be bad for business.
Of course, there is always the risk that the partisan temptation will be too great, and the conservative majority will do to the ACA what it did to the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, sending it back to Congress to “fix.” Like we’ve seen in the fight for voting rights, that’s a decision that would be disastrous on numerous fronts. Not only would millions of Americans find themselves without assistance paying for health insurance—they’d be left looking to Republicans in Congress for an answer during a presidential election year. And true to form, Republicans admit they have no plan to help those people, which means a Congressional “fix” is a euphemism for sending the ACA away to wither and die. That possibility has got to be a tempting grab for Roberts, who reportedly switched his vote to support the administration during the first health-care challenge after initially siding with conservatives to strike the individual mandate.
This disaster scenario would most heavily affect women of color. In places like Texas, which are already in the midst of a human rights crisis thanks to Republicans playing politics with health care, a decision gutting the ACA subsidies would affect more than a million women, 60 percent of them Latina. Just as it is difficult to imagine the Roberts Court issuing a ruling that would be bad for business, it is almost as difficult to imagine the Roberts Court issuing a decision that is good for women of color.
We likely won’t know until June if Adler and Cannon’s rogue legal theory cooked up in libertarian laboratories is a success. But do we know that no matter the outcome, King v. Burwell is not the end of conservatives’ pushback against the Affordable Care Act. Right now more than 40 legal challenges to the ACA’s accommodation to the birth control benefit post-Hobby Lobby are working their way through the federal courts, as well as challenges to both the employer mandate portion of the law and the administration’s delays in implementing it. In each and every one of these challenges, women—specifically women of color—stand to lose the most should conservatives succeed in rolling back the ACA. That’s a point often overlooked by pundits parsing the costs of the King v. Burwell litigation, but I doubt it’s one overlooked by Republicans enabling these lawsuits.
Right now the only thing standing between Republicans and their efforts to strip millions of individuals of affordable health insurance is Chief Justice Roberts and his concern for the reputation of the Supreme Court. In the balance of harms at issue in King v. Burwell, we’ve got the fate of millions of individuals and their families versus the institutional integrity of the Court. At best, I consider the probable outcome of this case to be a toss-up.
Lets let that sink in a bit.
The post The Fate of the Affordable Care Act Rests in John Roberts’ Hands. Again. appeared first on RH Reality Check.
The West Virginia Senate last week passed a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, four weeks before a fetus is widely recognized as “viable,” the standard for legally-protected abortion in the United States.
HB 2568, passed by the state house earlier this year, was approved by a vote of 29-5 in the senate. It was sent to Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s desk for approval on Monday. The bill, called the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, except in cases of medical emergency or when a lethal fetal anomaly has been diagnosed.
The bill makes no exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.
A 20-week abortion ban was also passed by the state legislature during the 2014 session, but was vetoed by Tomblin, who at the time called the bill “problematic because it unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship. All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options.”
Tomblin told reporters this year that he would veto any new 20-week ban legislation if it came to his desk, according to the Associated Press. But a simple majority is needed to overturn his veto, and Republicans control both state legislative chambers.
The legislation passed last week in West Virginia shares its name with a handful of bills introduced in other states this year, including South Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, and Maryland.
A 20-week ban was also introduced in the U.S. Congress this year but was pulled after GOP lawmakers, mostly women, voiced concern that the bill provided no exception for rape or incest.
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Lawmakers in Minnesota have introduced legislation that would protect women’s access to all forms of birth control—a response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set a precedent for denying employer-insured contraception on religious grounds.
The proposal, however, includes an exemption that would allow religious institutions to forgo offering health insurance plans that include contraception coverage for their employees, ensuring there would still be gaps in birth control coverage even if the bill gets through the Republican-controlled house.
HF 1165, known as the Contraceptive Health Equity and Employee Rights Act, was introduced last week and has 22 co-sponsors. The legislation would require most employers who offer prescription drug coverage to include contraception in their health insurance plans.
Minnesota lawmakers are the latest to respond to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. Lawmakers in Illinois, Michigan, and New York have all introduced similar legislation designed to protect contraception coverage in health plans.
Rep. Erin Murphy (D-Saint Paul) introduced HF 1165, and said in a press release that the bill is needed to address serious gaps in contraception coverage in Minnesota. Murphy said contraception coverage has been put in jeopardy by allowing certain for-profit employers to discriminate against female employees.
“Women hold the right to decide for themselves when and whether to use birth control, without interference from their employer,” Murphy said in the release. “An employer’s personal religious beliefs should not trump an employee’s access to contraception. The Supreme Court’s misguided ruling, and the recent rulings in Minnesota, mean that we need to take action to assure health care equity and access for Minnesota women.”
The bill would mandate that employers’ health insurance plans that provide prescription drug coverage cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related medical services.
It would also prevent health plans from imposing cost sharing for FDA-approved contraceptive methods.
The bill requires religious employers who choose to deny coverage for religious reasons to provide written disclosure to prospective employees. It also provides an exemption for religious institutions and some closely held for-profit corporations from offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans.
Minnesota’s legislature is split. While Democrats hold a 39-28 advantage in the senate, Republicans hold a 72-62 majority in the house.
Murphy told the Minneapolis Fox affiliate that she thinks the issue should be bipartisan. “Contraception has not been controversial, and it has not necessarily been a partisan issue,” Murphy told KMSP. “I would love to earn bipartisan support for it and I’m going to work on it.”
The bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services Reform Committee, where it awaits further action.
The committee is chaired by Rep. Tara Mack (R-Apple Valley), who has compiled an anti-choice voting record during her time in the house. Mack has co-sponsored three anti-choice bills during the 2015 legislative session: HF 1047, HF 787, and HF 788.
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Attendees of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists, might have spotted a man in the exhibit hall wearing a t-shirt featuring the odious phrase “Muhammad Is a H*mo.”
They might not have realized he was a featured speaker at the conference.
Granted, not many saw the speech, and the man, a Los Angeles-area Republican street artist who goes by the name of Sabo, had changed shirts by the time he took the stage on Thursday. He was part of a lineup of “Activist Bootcamp” mainstage speakers who came up while many attendees were at other breakout sessions on immigration or Internet freedom.
Sabo is something of a folk hero on the right, the conservative answer to Shepard Fairey. His more infamous work includes his “Abortion Barbie” posters, mocking former Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, that papered Los Angeles last year, as well as a depiction of Ted Cruz as a shirtless, tattooed rebel. (Quipped Cruz at the time: “Saw this, but noticed an error … I don’t smoke cigarettes.”)
RH Reality Check asked Sabo about the Muhammad shirt he was wearing. The back of it read “We F*ck Goats” (complete with an illustrated silhouette) and, in smaller type, “Je Suis Charlie.”
Was this in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo?
Not really, Sabo said. He acknowledged that the shirt was a bit “heavy handed,” but after the deadly attacks on the satirical French publication, he said, “It just makes it that much easier” to wear it.
“I’m waiting for somebody to punch me in the back of the head though,” he said.
To the contrary, several fans of his work approached Sabo over the course of a few minutes, and if they were taken aback by his shirt, they didn’t show it. One wanted a copy of his Ted Cruz poster. Another got a picture with him and “1776 Man,” the guy holding a giant Gadsden flag and dressed up as a Revolution-era patriot who has been a fixture at conservative conferences over the past few years. 1776 Man, for his part, was excited because he had just gotten Cruz to sign his flag.
Sabo said he came up with the Cruz poster because the Texas senator struck him as “kind of a badass” who “really pisses people off in Washington.”
Sabo is clearly no stranger to pissing people off himself.
“I mean, years ago, I would take pages of the Koran out and stick them in my butt,” Sabo said. “I would try to do a different page every day. Because what I wanted to do was make a collage.”
“And you know, I played Koran football, like you try to kick it over the uprights,” he continued. “I used it as a doorstop.”
Asked whether he believes Islam is an inherently violent religion, he said, “I think when you have a billion people in anything, you’re going to have issues. I mean, if only 1 percent is a problem, but the other 99 percent doesn’t say something about it, they almost might as well be signing off on it.”
Ultimately, it’s all about “the hypocrisy in Hollywood” and his distaste for the artistic establishment, he said.
“It’s like, for decades, they’re bashing Christians [in Hollywood],” he said. “A lot of street artists and rebel artists in the UK that I know of, they’re constantly bashing Christians.”
But if he asked them why they didn’t “say something about the Muslims,” Sabo said, their reply would be, “Every single time, bar none—‘Well, they might kill us!’ And I’m like, wait a minute, you’re supposed to be bad-ass artists. So what you’re telling me is the reason you fuck with Christians is because they’re not gonna hurt you.”
“That’s gay,” he said. “And I don’t mean gay as in queer. I just mean, that’s dumb.”
He added that he doesn’t think Republicans should be characterized as racist, misogynistic, or homophobic.
So what brought him to CPAC?
“They just dug what I do, I guess.”
Image: Emily Crockett
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