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The Waiting Game

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 15:17
The Waiting Game Mandatory delays for abortion care hurt women. Yet they’ve become a popular weapon in the anti-choice assault on reproductive rights.

07.01.15 - Faith is a nurse from San Antonio, Texas. She has a full life—a challenging job, a fiancé, two daughters, a house, a couple of dogs. She also has a seizure condition that makes pregnancy especially risky and requires her to be under the care of an obstetrician for three to six months before conception.

A few years ago she became pregnant despite being on birth control. At the time, doctors told her that she had a 40 percent chance of suffering a life-threatening grand mal seizure if she did not end the pregnancy. She could lose consciousness at any time, she says, “while I’m driving to work, or while I’m at home by myself.”

“I want my two daughters to have a mother,” she says of her decision to have an abortion. “I’m just not willing to take that risk.”

However, Texas law required Faith to not only have an ultrasound before being permitted to have the abortion, but then wait 24 hours to return to the clinic to have the procedure.

In tears, Faith describes this process as nothing short of torture.

“You are made to feel like a criminal,” she says. “To go home and just sit there and ponder on this. You’re being tortured for that whole 24 hours.”

Waiting periods have become an increasingly popular restriction among anti-choice proponents around the country, with a number of states now looking to expand the mandated period of delay to up to 72 hours.

In 2015 alone, 23 pieces of legislation to create or worsen existing waiting periods were introduced in 16 states.

“Waiting periods are part of a web specifically designed to ensnare women and undermine their ability to make non-coerced decisions about their reproductive health,” says Kelly Baden, director of state advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “At bottom, these kinds of restrictions are about not trusting women. There is of course no medical reason to require a waiting period before an abortion.”

Comments from waiting-period proponents offer a telling view of the presumptions underlying this trend in anti-choice legislation. “We owe women the time to control their fear and emotion and make an informed decision,” said one supporter of the North Carolina legislation—as though women are incapable of making thoughtful decisions about their health and lives without government-mandated delays.

Last year, a Missouri state legislator underscored the demeaning and offensive attitudes behind that state’s 72-hour law by comparing the procedure to buying a car: “Even when I buy a new vehicle . . . I don’t go right in there and say, I want to buy that vehicle, and, you know, leave with it.”

“In some cases,” Baden points out, “states have simply run out of abortion restrictions to enact so they’ve turned their attention to making existing restrictions even harsher. We always see trends in abortion restrictions, and as laws aiming to force clinics to shut down are tied up in the courts, lawmakers are back to targeting women’s decision-making.”

Due to the shame and stigma that such restrictions create around abortion care, Faith felt that she could not be straightforward with her employer or family about what she was doing.

“I didn’t want to be made to feel like a bad person any more than I already do—and you have to go through that just to get through the process,” she recalls.

In order to navigate the increasingly complex web of requirements—finding a provider in a state where anti-choice laws and funding cuts have shut down more than half of the state’s clinics, taking time off work to make two trips to the clinic, as well as recovering from the procedure—Faith, who is the only nurse at the private practice where she works, had to wait until she was 17 weeks pregnant to be able to take the full week off work she needed.

“If I take time off, the clinic where I work shuts down,” she says. “Finding the time—because of what a lengthy process it is—is very hard.”

Although this delay increased health risk and created a logistical challenge, Faith was fortunate to be able to receive the care she needed. For some women—particularly those with little or no income—mandatory delays and two-trip requirements can be even more dangerous. The burden of additional child care, lost wages (or lost jobs), transportation, and a possible overnight stay can quickly turn a waiting period into an absolute barrier to obtaining an abortion at all.

“These medically unnecessary bills make it clear that these are simply thinly veiled political attempts to get women to try to change their minds,” Baden notes.

Earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights, together with the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida, filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to block a recently passed Florida measure forcing a woman to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional trip before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion care. The state is appealing the decision.

Center for Reproductive Rights and ACLU Challenge Unconstitutional Florida Law That Forces Mandatory Delay, Additional Visits for Women Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion Oklahoma Governor Signs Measure Tripling State’s Waiting Period for Women Seeking Safe and Legal Abortion Services Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto, Triples Waiting Period for Women Seeking Safe and Legal Abortion Services

City of Manila Health Official Apologizes for the Denial of Reproductive Health Services and Violations Against Women

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 23:00
City of Manila Health Official Apologizes for the Denial of Reproductive Health Services and Violations Against Women 06.30.15 - 

(PRESS RELEASE) This week, a Manila City Health Office official has apologized for the barriers facing women with unplanned pregnancies when seeking reproductive health services after hearing from community activists.

Dr. Benjamin Yson, acting City Health Officer of Manila, made the remarks during a convening with Philippine government officials and civil society organizations—including the Center for Reproductive Rights and EnGendeRights—to address the U.N. recommendations that the Philippines ensure universal and affordable modern contraceptives, decriminalize abortion, and implement the country’s Reproductive Health Law.

Although Dr. Yson recognized the grave and systematic rights violations suffered by women seeking reproductive health services in Manila City, he stated the government sees no need to revoke prior local policies that restricted access to modern contraceptives. Despite passing the Reproductive Health Law in 2012, other local government units have continued to introduce and implement restrictive reproductive health ordinances, including recently in Sorsogon City where a local ordinance has been relied upon to provide trainings stigmatizing contraceptives.

Said Payal Shah, senior legal adviser for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“While the health official’s apology is a welcome first step, much more needs to be done to address the injustices and harms suffered by countless women and families under Manila’s contraceptive ban.

The promise of the Reproductive Health Law must be made real for the women throughout Manila City who still face significant ongoing misinformation about contraceptive access and barriers to reproductive health care.

“The passage of the Reproductive Health Law was a victory for millions of Filipino women. The city of Manila must immediately address these strong U.N. recommendations and take action to implement the law and undo the years of suffering caused by the contraceptive ban.”

Said Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights:

“The City of Manila should allocate funds, source contraceptive supplies, and designate medical providers to address the prevailing reproductive rights needs of its residents particularly poor women and adolescent girls who are unaware of contraceptive methods, many of them ended up giving birth at early age even as young as 15 years old.

“Although the EOs have already been declared moot, a new EO or ordinance providing universal access to contraceptives including allocation of funds is a definitive action that clearly manifests its commitment to implement programs to implement the RH Law and the recommendations of U.N. Committee on the inquiry.”

Government representatives from the Departments of Health, Justice and Foreign Affairs, alongside the Philippine Commissions on Women, Human Rights and Population and the National Anti-Poverty Commission sat down with reproductive health groups to discuss reproductive health violations and systemic human rights violations women have faced in the Philippines for decades. These groups included Catholics for Reproductive Health, Women’s Health Care Foundation, KAKAMMPI, SAMAKANA, ZOTO, Philippine Center for Population and Development, The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Population Services Pilipinas, Inc., and PROCESS.

The reproductive health groups called for the government to implement recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (U.N. CEDAW), including by clarifying the revocation of the Manila City executive orders, introducing a mechanism for oversight of local government policies on contraceptives, establishing a local complaints mechanism where women can seek remedies for violations of their right to reproductive health care, and creating awareness and education campaigns to address misinformation and misconceptions about contraceptives as guaranteed under the Reproductive Health Law.

The Filipino government’s long-standing hostility towards modern contraception contributed to an estimated 610,000 illegal abortions in 2012, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In May 2015, U.N. CEDAW released a report criticizing the government for failing to prioritize women’s human rights over religious ideology and cultural stereotypes, which has led to widespread discrimination against women and hindered access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. For the report, designated members from U.N. CEDAW traveled to the Philippines in November 2012 to conduct the inquiry after the Center for Reproductive Rights and other NGOs raised concerns over the human rights violations women in the country were facing mainly due to Executive Order 003, which effectively banned women’s access to modern contraceptives inManila City.

The Center has worked on reproductive health issues throughout Asia, with major initiatives addressing issues ranging from maternal mortality in India to access to modern contraception in the Philippines. Residents of Manila City filed a case against the government in 2008 challenging the constitutionality of Executive Order 003 and demanding its revocation. It was quietly dismissed in 2014 after a judge determined that the case is “a moot point,” given the passage of the 2012 Reproductive Health Law. To date, women in Manila City do not have access to a full range of modern contraceptives and related information and services.

Philippine Supreme Court Upholds Historic Reproductive Health Law U.N. Committee Finds Women in the Philippines Face Reproductive Rights Violations and Discrimination Download Report: Imposing Misery (Updated Edition)

State Court Blocks Florida Law That Forces Mandatory Delay, Additional Visits for Women Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 23:00
State Court Blocks Florida Law That Forces Mandatory Delay, Additional Visits for Women Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion

06.30.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) A state court judge today blocked a recently passed Florida measure forcing a woman to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional trip before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion care.  The law—which was slated to take effect on July 1, 2015 and will remain blocked while the case proceeds--  fails to include any protections for a woman whose pregnancy threatens her health or a meaningful exception for survivors of rape, incest, or intimate partner violence.

“Women are fully capable of making thoughtful decisions about their lives, families, and health care, and this ruling will keep them from being second-guessed or delayed by politicians who presume to know better,” said Autumn Katz, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We will continue to fight this demeaning law until the courts permanently strike it down and ensure no Florida woman is ever forced to wait for purely political reasons to get the health care she needs.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Florida, and Richard Johnson of Tallahassee challenged the unconstitutional measure earlier this month on behalf of Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center—a Gainesville reproductive health care provider—and Medical Students for Choice—an organization dedicated to making reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.

“The court has recognized that this law serves only to demean women and the choices they and their families make about their own medical care,” said Renée Paradis, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “This decision ensures that the right to privacy guaranteed to women by the Florida Constitution will be protected and allows women to receive the care they need while the courts hear our legal challenge to this unconstitutional law.”

“This decision supports the right of all women patients to make the healthcare decisions they feel are most appropriate for them and enables their physicians to support their decisions,” said Lois Backus, Executive Director of Medical Students for Choice.  “We are grateful for the court’s decision today.”

Waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on a woman who needs safe and legal abortion care—from stigmatizing women and abortion providers, to requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work.  Women of color, low-income women, rural women, and women in abusive relationships already face challenges when they seek health care services, and waiting periods only increase these barriers.  Additionally, mandatory waiting periods can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later in pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure.

In a region devastated by similarly underhanded restrictions, Florida’s strong state constitutional protections have ensured the state serves as a safe haven for women from neighboring states seeking safe and legal abortion services.  From clinic shutdown laws—which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in LouisianaOklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama—to outright bans on abortion, women in the South often face innumerable hurdles when trying to exercise their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services. 

Harmful restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like Florida 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.​

Center for Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Call on Florida Governor to Veto Bill Forcing Women to Delay Abortion Center for Reproductive Rights and ACLU Challenge Unconstitutional Florida Law That Forces Mandatory Delay, Additional Visits for Women Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Law Threatening Women’s Access to Safe and Legal Abortion Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Two Unconstitutional Measures Designed to Severely Restrict Access to Abortion Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Clinic Shutdown Law Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban as Unconstitutional

European Committee of Social Rights Protects Swedish Women’s Rights to Access Reproductive Health Services

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 08:21
European Committee of Social Rights Protects Swedish Women’s Rights to Access Reproductive Health Services

06.29.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The European Social Charter does not entitle health professionals in Sweden to invoke personal or moral objections as an excuse to deny women reproductive health services, according to a recent decision by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), the body that oversees states’ adherence to the Charter. 

In its decision, ECSR rejected claims made by the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE) that health care providers in Sweden should be able to claim a “right to conscientious objection” and refuse to provide abortion services under the Charter. The Committee unambiguously confirmed that states are not obligated to recognize or protect any right of health professionals to refuse care on grounds of personal conscience under the right to health of the Charter. It firmly rejected FAFCE’s attempt to limit and restrict international legal protection of women’s reproductive rights and found that Sweden’s abortion laws and practices are wholly in compliance with the Charter.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) submitted joint observations to ECSR concerning FAFCE’s complaint, urging the Committee to reject the complaint and to safeguard Sweden’s strong commitment to provide women with reproductive health services and information, including abortion services.

“States must ensure that health care professionals’ religious or moral objections do not jeopardize women’s access to quality reproductive health services,” said Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We commend the Committee for rejecting this attempt to limit women’s right to reproductive health care.”

ECSR also rejected attempts to interpret the Charter as providing protection to fetal life. Instead, the Committee affirmed that Sweden’s abortion laws and policies, which offer strong protection to women’s reproductive rights, are fully in compliance with the Charter. The Committee’s decision was adopted in March 2015, and published on June 17, 2015, per standard procedure.

Sweden’s abortion laws and policies are strongly protective of women’s reproductive rights,” said Kristina Ljungros, President of RFSU. “We are delighted that, in refusing to recognize an entitlement of health care professionals to refuse care on the basis of personal conscience, the Committee has rejected an attempt to weaken these protections and threaten women’s access to abortion services.”

Irish Woman Forced to Travel Abroad for Abortion Brings Case to United Nations Center for Reproductive Rights Brings Second Case Against Ireland Abortion Laws to United Nations

Supreme Court Steps In to Protect Abortion Access in Texas

Sun, 06/28/2015 - 23:00
Supreme Court Steps In to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Nation’s highest court blocks 5th Circuit ruling that would have shuttered all but 9 clinics in the state

06.29.15 - (PRESS RELEASE)  In a 5-4 order, the U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to suspend a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which threatened to shutter all but nine abortion clinics in the state—ensuring harmful provisions of Texas’ clinic shutdown law will remain blocked while Texas health care providers ask the nation’s highest court to review the case. 

Today’s order comes ten days after Texas health care providers—represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights—asked the Supreme Court to block the June 9 ruling after the Fifth Circuit refused to do so late in the day on June 19.  This is the second time in eight months that the nation’s highest court has stepped in to block Texas’ clinic shutdown law from taking effect.

“The justices have preserved Texas women’s few remaining options for safe and legal abortion care for the moment. Now it’s time to put a stop to these clinic shutdown laws once and for all,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Our Constitution rightly protects women from laws that would create barriers to safe and legal abortion care, but Texas politicians have tried to sneak around the Constitution with sham regulations designed to close clinics’ doors.  The Supreme Court has affirmed time and again that a woman has a constitutionally protected right to decide whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and we are confident the justices will make clear once again that the constitutional protections for safe and legal abortion are real.”

“We’re relieved that the high court has, once again, prevented anti-choice politicians from pushing safe and affordable abortion care entirely out of reach for Texas women.  We at Whole Woman’s Health know that reproductive care is not some political bargaining chip—that’s part of why we’re fighting this. With today’s ruling, we remain hopeful that the justice system too will stand with Texas woman and Whole Woman’s Health," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder, president, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health.”

Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ clinic shutdown law.  The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) submitted a joint amicus brief opposing the law, stating that “H.B. 2 does not serve the health of women in Texas but instead jeopardizes women’s health by restricting access to abortion providers.”  Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, and that laws like Texas’ would do nothing to make it safer.  Meanwhile, real problems concerning women’s health in Texas, especially the state’s skyrocketing death rate for women in pregnancy and childbirth, continue to go unaddressed by Texas politicians.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to access abortion. More than 20 years ago today, the Supreme Court made this clear in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which it ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution limits a state's right to interfere with a person’s “most basic decisions about family and parenthood”--including the decision to obtain an abortion.  On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in the U.S., finding that state bans on same-sex marriage and refusing to recognize legal marriages obtained in other states was a clear violation of both the due process and equal protection rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.  

Clinic shutdown laws have swept the South in recent years, threatening to further devastate abortion access in a region already facing limited availability of reproductive health care services.  The last abortion clinic in Mississippi is awaiting a decision on whether the U.S. Supreme Court will review its state’s clinic shutdown law and trial concluded in the challenge to Louisiana’s clinic shutdown law today.

June 9th Ruling 

The Fifth Circuit’s June 9 decision allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same hospital-like building standards as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) to go into effect on July 1 for nearly all clinics in the state—a measure that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and would close all but nine abortion providers in the state.  While the court partially enjoined the ASC requirement as applied to the last clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, its injunction is narrow and may be of limited benefit to the clinic and the women it serves.

The ruling also reverses the lower court’s injunction blocking the state’s admitting privileges requirement except as applied to a single doctor.  This provision has already forced approximately half the state’s abortion clinics to close their doors. 

The court ruled that women in El Paso—who will face a round-trip of over a thousand miles to obtain an abortion in Texas—could travel to neighboring state New Mexico – where there are no ASC or admitting privileges requirements – to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion.

Case History:  Whole Woman’s Health v Cole (formerly Whole Woman’s Health v Lakey)

On August 29, 2014 a federal district blocked two of the most harmful restriction of Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2):  the ambulatory surgical center requirement and the admitting privileges requirement.  On October 2, 2014, the Fifth Circuit allowed the ASC requirement to immediately take effect by staying the lower court’s injunction.  For 12 days, all but seven reproductive health care facilities in the state were prevented from offering safe and legal abortion services—until October 14, 2014, when the United State Supreme Court responded to an emergency application by Texas health care providers and reinstated the injunction in large part, allowing many of the previously closed clinics to reopen their doors.

The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti 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.

 

TX Gov Signs Package of Harmful, Unconstitutional Measures to Make Abortion Practically Non-Existent Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Clinic Shutdown Law, All But 8 Abortion Clinics At Risk of Closure New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health and Safety in Passing Abortion Restrictions Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Clinic Shutdown Law Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Law Threatening Women’s Access to Safe and Legal Abortion Center for Reproductive Rights Statement on Supreme Court Marriage Equality Rulings Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Law Threatening Women’s Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

Kenyan Women Denied Safe, Legal Abortion Services

Sun, 06/28/2015 - 23:00
Kenyan Women Denied Safe, Legal Abortion Services

06.29.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Kenya’s Ministry of Health is undermining women’s constitutional rights and contributing to cases of maternal death by denying countless women, including rape survivors, access to safe, legal abortion--even under circumstances permitted by the Kenyan constitution—according to a new petition filed today in the High Court of Kenya by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Kenya’s 2010 constitution eased the country’s severe restrictions on abortion, legalizing safe abortion services when the life or health of a woman is in danger and in cases of emergency—a measure aimed at decreasing the country’s high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity resulting from unsafe abortion. Five years later, however, Kenyan women continue to be deprived of essential reproductive health services—including quality maternal health care and safe and legal abortion services. This is largely due to the Director of Medical Services’ arbitrary withdrawal of the government’s guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion and a ban on safe abortion trainings for health care professionals, which has led to great confusion as to when legal abortions can be provided.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the case against the Attorney General, the Ministry of Health and the Director of Medical Services on behalf of The Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya, two community human rights mobilizers, an adolescent rape survivor suffering from kidney failure and other health complications due to an unsafe abortion and on behalf of all Kenyan women of reproductive age.

Said Evelyne Opondo, regional director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The Kenyan government is allowing thousands of women in Kenya to needlessly die or suffer severe complications every year due to unsafe abortion, and it must be held accountable.

“The deaths and injuries of these women can be prevented and must be prevented. Medical professionals in Kenya must be trained and given clear standards and guidelines on providing women who qualify for services and need to end a pregnancy with safe, legal care.

“Denying a woman access to the critical health care she needs can lead to devastating consequences in her life, her family, her community, and Kenyan society as a whole.

“It is time for the Ministry of Health to take decisive action to protect the health, lives, families, and future of Kenyan women before more women are needlessly harmed by its policies.”

In the petition, the Center argues that the letter from the Director of Medical Services revoking the standards and guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion and the Memo prohibiting safe abortion trainings for health care professionals violate a number of human rights for both women and health workers, including the rights to health, information, and the enjoyment of the benefits of scientific progress, among others. The petition also claims that although rape is one of the legal grounds for termination of pregnancy in Kenya per the Ministry of Health National Guidelines on the Management of Sexual Violence, rape survivors are still unable to access legal abortion services.

The Center is urging the High Court to protect women’s health and lives by restoring safe abortion trainings and calling on the Ministry of Health to introduce standards and guidelines that appropriately clarify when legal abortion can be provided based on the grounds set forth in the Constitution. The Center is also calling for both the Ministry of Health and the Director of Medical Services to adopt effective administrative measures so women and health professional are aware of the sexual violence guidelines and that survivors of sexual violence can access safe and legal abortion.

As part of implementing the 2010 constitution and its abortion provisions, the Ministry of Health spearheaded the development of the “Standards and Guidelines for reducing morbidity and mortality for unsafe abortion in Kenya,” adopted in September 2012. The Director of Medical Services arbitrarily withdrew the standards and guidelines on December 3, 2013 under unclear circumstances and without involving the stakeholders who participated in their development.

Unlike doctors who receive some instruction on safe abortion practices in medical school, other health professionals, such as nurses and clinical officers who often work in rural and low-income areas, rely on trainings led by medical associations and private institutions since the Ministry of Health has failed to offer such trainings. Given that nurses and clinical officers are the only medical professionals widely based in these areas, the removal of the standards and guidelines and ban on safe abortion trainings expose the women from these communities to severe complications, even death, due to unsafe abortions.

“The prevailing stigma around abortion and the lack of service delivery policies and guidelines from National Government have left health professionals afraid of attending to women asking for abortion services,” said Dr. Joachim Osur, a reproductive health specialist. “Most of these women are seeking care from quacks and face serious risks of damage to their health.”

One of the petitioners in this case is “PKM,” the legal guardian of a 15-year-old girl known as “JMM” who became pregnant after being raped and sought an unsafe abortion. In December 2014, PKM received a call from a relative JMM was staying with, informing her that JMM was vomiting and bleeding heavily at a local clinic where she was seeking treatment. After JMM admitted to clinic staff she obtained an unsafe abortion, she was sent to various hospitals for post-abortion care.

JMM was able to receive some care, but she now has chronic kidney disease and will have to receive dialysis regularly until she can get a kidney transplant. PKM and JMM cannot afford this continued care and local organization TICAH Kenya started a petition with AVAAZ to help JMM get the medical care she needs.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has worked for more than a decade across the continent of Africa to advance women’s access to reproductive health care through law and policy reform. The Center filed cases against Pumwani Maternity Hospital and Bungoma District Hospital for the ill-treatment of women seeking quality maternal health care. In 2007, the Center and the Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya released the report Failure to Deliver: Violations of Women's Human Rights in Kenyan Health Facilities, documenting how Kenya’s health care sector suffers from systemic and widespread problems that deny women quality reproductive health care. In 2010, the Center published the report In Harm’s Way, which documented the devastating effects of the criminalization of abortion in Kenya before the law was reformed, and demonstrated how the weaknesses in Kenya’s health care system are further exacerbated when it comes to a reproductive health that is perceived as illegal and highly stigmatized.

CRR Case on Unlawful Detention of Women in Maternity Hospitals in the High Court of Kenya Case Of Pregnant Woman Beaten And Denied Care At Local Hospital Brought To Kenyan High Court Failure to Deliver: Violations of Women's Human Rights in Kenyan Health Facilities In Harm's Way: Download the Report

Federal Court Blocks Tennessee’s Clinic Shutdown Law

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 17:06
Federal Court Blocks Tennessee’s Clinic Shutdown Law Measure would have forced two more clinics in the state to close

06.26.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) A federal district court judge today blocked a Tennessee measure which forces reproductive health care facilities that provide more than 50 surgical abortions per year to meet the same building requirements as a hospital-like ambulatory surgical treatment center (ASTC)—a Texas-style provision that could amount to an expensive tax on abortion services and threatens to shutter two of the remaining six clinics providing surgical abortion in the state. 

Chief Judge Kevin H. Sharp ruled from the bench during a temporary injunction hearing this afternoon—agreeing to block the measure while the case proceeds—following a new lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights yesterday. 

The lawsuit also challenges another clinic shutdown law which took effect in 2012—and has already forced two clinics in the state to close—as well as the newly enacted requirement that would force women to delay care by 48 hours and make two trips to their health care provider in order to obtain safe and legal abortion services.  The plaintiffs asked the court to immediately block the ASTC requirement to ensure all existing clinics can continue to offer safe and legal care as the legal challenge to all three restrictions proceeds.

“Tennessee women have been granted a temporary reprieve from the tidal wave of clinic shutdown laws sweeping the South,” said Stephanie Toti, Senior Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We will continue to stand with the women of Tennessee, and their health care providers, to ensure no clinic is forced to shut its doors due these sham regulations.” 

Stephanie Toti and Ilene Jaroslaw of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Thomas C. Jessee of Jessee & Jessee, and Scott P. Tift and David Garrison of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC filed today’s challenge in federal district court in Nashville on behalf of Bristol Regional Women’s Center, The Women’s Center (Nashville), and Memphis Center for Reproductive Health d/b/a Choices.

Similar clinic shutdown laws have devastated abortion access in the region, particularly in Texas, which also passed an admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirement for physicians providing abortion in 2013.  The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged Texas’ clinic shutdown law and is currently awaiting a decision from the U.S Supreme Court on whether the court will suspend a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which threatens to shutter all but nine abortion clinics in the state.

Mandatory delay requirements for women needing reproductive health care swept the South this legislative session.  On June 11, the Center for Reproductive Rights—along with the American Civil Liberties Union—filed a state challenge to a Florida measure which forces a woman to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional trip before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion. 

Waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on a woman who needs to end a pregnancy—from stigmatizing women and abortion providers, to requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work.  Women of color, low-income women, rural women, and women in abusive relationships already face challenges when they seek health care services, and waiting periods only increase these barriers.  Additionally, mandatory waiting periods can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later in pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure. 

Today’s filing comes less than seven months after a 2014 ballot initiative in which voters narrowly approved a radical constitutional amendment designed to strip Tennessee women’s rights to safe and legal abortion.  Fewer than 12 percent of Tennessee citizens voted in favor of the drastic measure.

New Lawsuit Challenges Three Tennessee Laws that Threaten to Close Abortion Clinics, Force Women to Delay Care Tenn. Women Lose with Clinic Closure Center for Reproductive Rights and ACLU Challenge Unconstitutional Florida Law That Forces Mandatory Delay, Additional Visits for Women Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion

Nation’s Highest Court Rules for Marriage Equality Across U.S.

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 06:25
Nation’s Highest Court Rules for Marriage Equality Across U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage as violation of constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment

06.26.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of marriage equality and equal rights for same-sex couples no matter where they live.  Today’s ruling specifically affirms that states cannot prohibit same-sex couples from marrying or refuse to recognize legal marriages of same-sex couples obtained in other states.  

The Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges—which was consolidated with Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Snyder, and Bourke v. Beshear —found that state bans on same-sex marriage and refusing to recognize legal marriages obtained in other states was a clear violation of both the due process and equal protection rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

In writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy stated:  “The fundamental liberties” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause “extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choic­es that define personal identity and beliefs. … [l]ike choices concerning contraception, family relationships, procrea­tion, and childrearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution, decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make.”

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling marks a truly historic moment for equality, liberty, and personal freedom.

“It is the promise of the U.S. Constitution that we have a fundamental right to build the life, family, and future we choose, free from discrimination and interference, no matter where we live.

“The nation’s highest court ruled today in favor of every American’s right to equal protection and dignity. And we are so proud to stand alongside the LGBT community during this triumph for marriage equality in the U.S.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights joined the National Women’s Law Center’s amicus brief in the case, which argues that laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, such as the marriage bans at issue in these cases, must be subject to heightened scrutiny under the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee, like laws that discriminate on the basis of sex or race. The Court heard arguments in the Obergefell case in April 2015.

Today’s ruling builds on the Court’s previous cases protecting liberty rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, which include Lawrence v. Texas – which put an end to state sodomy laws – and Planned Parenthood v. Casey – which reaffirmed the right to abortion.  The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently awaiting action from the Supreme Court on two laws restricting abortion, which have been challenged as violations of that liberty right:  a decision on whether the court will suspend a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which threatens to shutter all but nine abortion clinics in Texas and whether the court will review  Mississippi’s clinic shutdown law. 

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Landmark Marriage Equality Case Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Clinic Shutdown Law, All But 8 Abortion Clinics At Risk of Closure Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Clinic Shutdown Law

New Directors Join Board of Center for Reproductive Rights

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 06:10
New Directors Join Board of Center for Reproductive Rights

06.26.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization that fights to ensure reproductive rights are guaranteed in law as human rights, announced four new members of the organization’s Board of Directors.

The new board members, including leaders with expertise in business and finance, government affairs, public policy, and nonprofit management, include: Maria Cardona (Washington, DC), Barbara N. Grossman (Boston, MA), Heather Podesta (Washington, DC) and Kathleen Tait (New York, NY).

“We are proud and honored to welcome such distinguished and dedicated individuals to our Board of Directors,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The diversity of their experiences, the breadth of their vision, and the depth of their commitment to the most important social issues of our time will help the Center for Reproductive Rights expand our reach and impact dramatically our mission to advance and defend women’s fundamental human rights.” 

The Center’s game changing litigation and advocacy work, combined with its unparalleled expertise in the use of constitutional, international, and comparative human rights law, have transformed how reproductive rights are understood by courts, governments, and human rights bodies. It has played a key role in securing legal victories in the U.S., Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe on issues including access to life-saving obstetrics care, contraception, safe abortion services, and comprehensive sexuality information, as well as the prevention of forced sterilization, child marriage, and female genital mutilation.  It has brought groundbreaking cases before national courts, U.N. Committees, and regional human rights bodies, and has built the legal capacity of women’s rights advocates in over 55 countries.

Biographical information about the new Board members is below:

Maria Cardona has more than two decades of experience in the government, politics, public relations and community affairs arenas. Recognized among the most influential Latinos in the country, Maria is a Principal at the Dewey Square Group (DSG), the founder of Latinovations, and a CNN/CNN en Español Political Contributor. As the head of DSG’s Public Affairs Practice, she combines public policy, communications, coalition building, constituency outreach, government relations, traditional and new media at this premier national public affairs firm. Prior to signing on exclusively with CNN, Maria was a frequent political commentator on MSNBC, Fox, Univision and Telemundo, appearing as a public policy expert and providing political analysis on all manner of national issues. Cardona was also senior vice president for the New Democrat Network, and before that, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee. During the Clinton administration, Cardona served as chief spokesperson at the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the U.S. Department of Justice after serving as Press Secretary for the Department of Commerce.

Barbara N. Grossman is a Boston-based philanthropist. She is the past Chair of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, the Trinity Hospice, and Goddard House. Other board memberships have included Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, Sherrill House, The Park School, Citizens United for Charter School, and The Squam Lakes Conservation Society.   Barbara is currently an Overseer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Heather Podesta is founder and principal of Heather Podesta + Partners, a cutting-edge government relations firm based in Washington, D.C. Ms. Podesta is a leading legislative and public policy strategist with experience on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. Ms. Podesta has guided clients from Fortune 500 companies to non-profits to success in Congress and the Executive Branch. Providing common-sense advice on issues ranging from education, health care, and technology to tax and trade policy, her work has been highlighted in several major media outlets, with profiles in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Legal Times recognized her as one of the Top 10 “Leading Lawyers in Government Affairs.” Ms. Podesta previously worked for several U.S. Members of Congress on the tax writing committees, including the late Representative Robert Matsui (D-CA), Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), and Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ). She also served as Assistant General Counsel at the Air Transport Association and General Counsel at the Airlines Clearing House. Ms. Podesta is a Trustee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; serves on the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Advisory Board of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection; sits on the National Advisory Council of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley; is a member of the Board of Trustees of Ford’s Theater; and is on the Washington DC Police Foundation Board.

Kathleen Tait previously served on the Executive Board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, during a time of explosive growth for the organization. Ms. Tait is currently a full-time parent; prior to becoming a mother, she was a Vice President and Co-Portfolio Manager of a growth equity fund with over $1 billion in assets under management. While at J.P. Morgan, she worked on the firm-wide Diversity Task Force, which resulted in policies that helped to retain women and minority employees.  Under the Clinton Administration, Ms. Tait was a Special Assistant to Earle G. Graves, a member of the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission. Ms. Tait is a Board Member of the Retreat, a women and children's shelter on the East End of Long Island. She is a fundraiser for Jack and Jill of America, Metropolitan Chapter and Village Community School. 

State Court Blocks Kansas Law Criminalizing Doctors for Providing Safe, Common Abortion Method

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 14:25
State Court Blocks Kansas Law Criminalizing Doctors for Providing Safe, Common Abortion Method

06.25.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Earlier today, a state court judge blocked a Kansas law banning the most commonly used method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester—a law that could force some women to undergo an additional invasive unnecessary medical procedure even against the medical judgment of her physician.

Judge Larry Hendricks ruled from the bench during a temporary injunction hearing today, deciding to block the law as the case proceeds.

“For now, the court has protected Kansas doctors from being thrown behind bars for providing the safe, quality, and individualized care their patients need and deserve,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Women, with their trusted physicians, have a right to make the very personal, private decision to end a pregnancy without political meddling. We will continue fighting this law until it is permanently struck down as a clear violation of women’s rights and the doctor-patient relationship.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the Kansas measure earlier this month on behalf of a father-daughter team of board certified ob-gyns with 40 years of combined experience in comprehensive women’s health care.  Their practice is only one of three providers of abortion in Kansas.   

The measure, which was slated to take effect on July 1, represents an unprecedented attack on women’s health, personal autonomy, and the doctor-patient relationship, potentially forcing physicians to subject women seeking safe and legal abortion services in the second trimester to an additional invasive unnecessary procedure. Kansas Governor Brownback signed SB 95 in April 2015 over the objections of local and national medical experts, including over 20 area physicians.

The Kansas measure is the first of its kind, though one week after Governor Brownback signed SB 95Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a similar restriction into law.

Major medical groups oppose political interference and medically unnecessary procedures similar to what is found in SB 95.  In opposing invasive, forced ultrasound laws, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) noted “[i]n no other area of medicine are physicians required to breach medical ethics by subjecting a patient to a medical procedure that the patient does not want to undergo and which is not medically appropriate or necessary.”

Kansas women already face myriad obstacles when attempting to access basic reproductive health care services, including a 24 hour mandatory delay for women seeking safe and legal abortion and restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion services.  Rather than focusing on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children, politicians in Kansas have spent their time enacting abortion restrictions that do nothing to improve women’s health and safety.

​Center for Reproductive Rights Challenges Kansas Law Criminalizing Doctors for Providing Safe, Common Abortion Method Oklahoma Becomes Second State to Criminalize Doctors for Providing Safe and Common Method of Abortion Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States

New Lawsuit Challenges Three Tennessee Laws that Threaten to Close Abortion Clinics, Force Women to Delay Care

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 23:00
New Lawsuit Challenges Three Tennessee Laws that Threaten to Close Abortion Clinics, Force Women to Delay Care Texas-style clinic shutdown laws would further devastate abortion access in Tennessee, across the South

06.25.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a new lawsuit in federal district court today challenging three unconstitutional Tennessee measures designed to close reproductive health care clinics and make abortion harder to obtain.

Today’s lawsuit challenges two clinic shutdown laws, including one passed in 2012 requiring all doctors providing abortion care in Tennessee to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital—a measure that has already forced two clinics in the state to close.

The new legal challenge also seeks to block a new requirement that would force reproductive health care facilities that provide more than 50 surgical abortions per year to meet the same building requirements as a hospital-like ambulatory surgical treatment center (ASTC)—a Texas-style provision that could amount to an expensive tax on abortion services and threatens to shutter two of the remaining six clinics providing surgical abortion in the state.

Further, Tennessee health care providers today challenged the newly enacted requirement that would force women to delay care by 48 hours and make two trips to their health care provider in order to obtain safe and legal abortion services.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the ASTC requirement and mandatory delay—both slated to take effect on July 1—in May 2015.  The plaintiffs are asking the court to immediately block the ASTC requirement to ensure all existing clinics can continue to offer safe and legal care as the legal challenge to all three restrictions proceeds.

“Tennessee women have already suffered under the laws passed by politicians to choke off access to safe and legal abortion, and it’s time for the court to step in before greater damage is done,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Through sham regulations and efforts to interfere in women’s personal, private decisions, politicians are trying to sneak around the Constitution and deny women the right to safely and legally end a pregnancy. We are asking the court to defend women’s rights and access to safe, legal, essential health care before another clinic is forced to close.”

Stephanie Toti and Ilene Jaroslaw of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Thomas C. Jessee of Jessee & Jessee, and Scott P. Tift and David Garrison of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC filed today’s challenge in federal district court in Nashville today on behalf of Bristol Regional Women’s Center, The Women’s Center (Nashville), and Memphis Center for Reproductive Health d/b/a Choices.

“Tennessee women deserve the same access to abortion as women living in any other state,” said Rebecca Terrell, Executive Director of Choices.  “Whether by forcing a woman to delay health care or advancing measures targeting reproductive health care clinics for closure, Tennessee politicians are fixated on coming between women and their health care providers.  The women of Tennessee deserve better than copycat legislation which has decimated access to safe and legal abortion for millions of women across the country.”

Similar clinic shutdown laws have devastated abortion access in the region, particularly in Texas, which also passed an admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirement for physicians providing abortion in 2013.  The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged Texas’ clinic shutdown law and is currently awaiting a decision from the U.S Supreme Court on whether the court will suspend a recent ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which threatens to shutter all but nine abortion clinics in the state.

Mandatory delay requirements for women needing reproductive health care swept the South this legislative session.  On June 11, the Center for Reproductive Rights—along with the American Civil Liberties Union—filed a state challenge to a Florida measure which forces a woman to wait at least 24 hours and make at least one additional trip before she is able to receive safe, legal abortion.  Waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on a woman who needs to end a pregnancy—from stigmatizing women and abortion providers, to requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, transportation costs, child care, and time off work.  Women of color, low-income women, rural women, and women in abusive relationships already face challenges when they seek health care services, and waiting periods only increase these barriers.  Additionally, mandatory waiting periods can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later in pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise extremely safe procedure. 

Today’s filing comes less than seven months after a 2014 ballot initiative in which voters narrowly approved a radical constitutional amendment designed to strip Tennessee women’s rights to safe and legal abortion.  Fewer than 12% of Tennessee citizens voted in favor of the drastic measure.

Tenn. Women Lose with Clinic Closure Tennessee Governor Signs Texas-Style Clinic Shutdown Law Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Clinic Shutdown Law, All But 8 Abortion Clinics At Risk of Closure Center for Reproductive Rights and ACLU Challenge Unconstitutional Florida Law That Forces Mandatory Delay, Additional Visits for Women Seeking Safe, Legal Abortion Center for Reproductive Rights Statements on 2014 Anti-Choice Ballot Initiative Results

U.S. Supreme Court Preserves Affordable Care Act; Ensures Critical Health Benefits for Millions of Americans

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 23:00
U.S. Supreme Court Preserves Affordable Care Act; Ensures Critical Health Benefits for Millions of Americans In protecting critical tax credits for federal exchanges established under Obamacare, women in 34 states to maintain preventive health coverage

06.25.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a significant decision protecting affordable, quality health care benefits for millions across the U.S. under the Affordable Care Act. 

The Court’s decision in King v. Burwell preserves the Affordable Care Act’s federal tax credits for individuals who need assistance affording mandatory coverage through Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the federal government in the 34 states that have refused to establish state-run Marketplaces. Today’s ruling safeguards those tax credits for individuals obtaining health coverage through these federally-run Marketplaces, in addition to the 16 state-run consumer Marketplaces.

 According to the Court, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The nation’s highest court has once again recognized the plain truth that affordable access to health care represents an immense benefit to millions of Americans, especially women and their families.

“Today’s ruling ensures that women will keep preventive health coverage made possible through the Affordable Care Act, including an affordable contraception benefit that empowers women to plan their families, prevents unintended pregnancy, and saves billions in health care costs every year.

“It should send a strong message to those seeking to undermine this historic expansion of health care benefits that the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights is one of 68 organizations that signed on to an amicus brief in the King v. Burwell case, submitted by the National Women’s Law Center, which argued that the tax credits are critical to ensuring millions of women maintain their affordable health care benefits.

The Affordable Care Act—which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 —vastly expanded women’s access to preventive health care without copayments, including contraception, cancer screenings, HIV and STI testing, well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, and prenatal and post-partum care and counseling.

Ninety-nine percent of all sexually active women in the U.S. use birth control at some point during their reproductive years. The Affordable Care Act’s expanded coverage for contraception vastly increases the accessibility of birth control for women who need it, especially those interested in using long-acting reversible contraception like IUDs, which often had a high upfront cost and co-pay.  Unfortunately, that important expansion of coverage was undercut by the Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which allowed some private companies to limit their employees’ birth control coverage under the ACA’s preventive health provision based on the religious opinions of corporate owners.

Victory for Women as Affordable Care Act Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

House Committee Advances Funding Bill Giving Employers, Health Care Personnel Free Rein to Discriminate Against Women Based on Health Care Decisions

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 23:00
House Committee Advances Bill Giving Employers Free Rein to Discriminate Against Women Based on Health Care Decisions Measure also guts nation’s family planning program, renews restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion services

06.24.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The House Appropriations Committee today voted along party lines to approve a funding bill with unrelated riders attached that would allow employers and health care personnel to refuse to offer essential reproductive health services and insurance coverage based solely on their personal beliefs.

In an equally drastic move, the measure also completely eliminates funding for Title X, a national program which ensures access to family planning and other essential health services for millions of uninsured and low-income individuals.

The bill—designed to set funding levels for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education—also renews a harmful restriction on Medicaid coverage for abortion services, known as the Hyde Amendment.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Plain and simple, this is an assault on services essential to the empowerment and well-being of women and families across the U.S., and to reducing unintended pregnancies nationwide.

“Given that more than half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, the total elimination of funding for family planning services is a serious threat to this country’s public and fiscal health alike.

“And while your boss has no place dictating your personal, private decisions about your reproductive health care, the politicians behind this bill are kicking the door wide open to exactly that kind of intrusion.

“Congress must reject these reckless, irresponsible, and extremely harmful riders and funding cuts.”

Today’s measure would completely eliminate the Title X family planning program, a drastic move that would have a profound impact on the nearly 4.6 million women and men served by health centers that receive this funding. Title X is the nation’s only federal program dedicated to providing family-planning services, including preventive care, cancer screenings, testing for infectious diseases, and contraception, for millions of low-income people. An amendment by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) to restore the program was rejected by a party-line vote 21-30.

A new restriction attached to today’s measure would also dramatically expand the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling by allowing any employer or insurance company to opt out of providing any health care coverage to which they have any “moral or religious objection.”  This open-ended language gives employers and insurance companies a free rein to discriminate against employees on virtually any basis, allowing bosses to refuse to cover any health care service they find objectionable—including contraception, abortion, or HIV/AIDS screening and treatment. An amendment by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) to eliminate this rider was rejected 20-31.

The bill would also expand a harmful  policy known as the Weldon Amendment, a rider that has been attached to the funding bill annually since 2005 and which allows health care entities to deny women comprehensive reproductive health services, coverage, and information. This new language would give anyone who would “participate in” the provision of abortion care carte blanche to refuse to comply with laws regarding abortion—and thereby deny women access to safe and legal care. The bill includes no exceptions to safeguard the life or health of the pregnant woman – potentially providing a loophole for hospitals that refuse to provide an emergency, life-saving abortion, despite the fact that such care is required by existing law. The amendment offered by Rep. Wasserman Schultz would also have eliminated this new language.

In addition to these sweeping new attacks on reproductive health care and coverage, the bill would renew the harmful and discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal Medicaid coverage of abortion. Cutting off access to or placing strict limitations on abortion can have a profound impact on public health, particularly for those who already face significant barriers to receiving high-quality health care, such as low-income women, immigrant women, young women, and women of color. Studies show that a woman who seeks an abortion but is denied is three times more likely to fall into poverty than one who is able to get an abortion.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up its version of this spending bill tomorrow morning.

U.S. Supreme Court Lets Private Companies Deny Birth Control Coverage to Employees Download Report: Whose Choice

U.N. Committee Calls for Abortion Law Reform in Chile

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 23:00
U.N. Committee Calls for Abortion Law Reform in Chile

06.23.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Following a review of Chile’s human rights record on economic, social, and cultural rights, a United Nations committee has called for Chile to quickly approve legislation that would reform its long-standing ban on abortion services.

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile introduced the bill in January 2015, which would allow women access to safe and legal abortion services in cases of sexual violence, fatal fetal impairments and life-endangerment. Currently, nearly 200,000 unsafe abortions occur each year in Chile according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Among its findings released yesterday, the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) also urged Chilean officials to redouble its efforts towards preventing adolescent pregnancy by ensuring the accessibility, availability, and affordability of emergency contraception and other critical reproductive health services. Ahead of Chile’s review earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights urged the committee to question Chilean officials specifically on the country’s restrictive abortion laws and the barriers sexual assault survivors face when seeking emergency contraception. 

Said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today, the U.N. Committee has joined a global chorus in the call for Chile to finally put an end to its harsh laws and policies that keep women from the safe, legal abortion services they need and violate their fundamental human right to health.

“For too long, Chile has lagged behind the rest of the world in its efforts to protect women’s health, rights, and equality by continuing to allow this extreme and harmful abortion ban to remain on the books year after year.

“It’s time for Chile to take this important first step toward promoting women’s health and respecting their rights and immediately pass President Bachelet’s historic bill. ”

The U.N. CESCR oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a treaty obligating member states to ensure equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for all individuals. In a report to the U.N. CESCR, the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the restrictive access to emergency contraception and the total criminalization of abortion in Chile violate women’s rights to health, non-discrimination and therefore substantive equality, as well as the right to non-regression, since women previously had access to legal abortion in limited circumstances.

The Center asked the U.N. CESCR to recommend that Chile revise its laws to decriminalize abortion in limited circumstances and to implement policies that prevent sexual violence and ensure survivors get timely access to emergency contraception and other reproductive health services.  

Chile’s 1931 health code legalized abortion in limited circumstances, but this reproductive health service was later banned on all grounds in September 1989. From 2001-2012 close to 400,000 women sought post-abortion care in Chilean public hospitals.

In 2013, the National Prosecutor of Chile reported that there were 24,000 known cases of sex-related violence and 74 percent of these cases involved children under the age of 18.  Although emergency contraception is the most effective contraceptive method in preventing pregnancy in cases of rape or sexual assault, the Constitutional Court of Chile prohibited the sale, distribution and use of emergency contraception in all public health institutions in 2008. In 2010, the Chilean Congress approved a law reversing the court’s decision, however there is still confusion among women and the medical community on the legality of emergency contraception.

According to a 2014 report published by the Center, 35 countries have amended their laws to expand access to safe and legal abortion services in the last 20 years—a trend that has marked incredible progress toward improving women’s rights and lives, including significantly reducing rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. The report was released alongside the Center’s updated World’s Abortion Laws map—one of the most comprehensive resources on abortion laws across the globe.​

 

U.N. Committee Questions Chile on Its Human Rights Record

Fifth Circuit Refuses to Stay Ruling That Could Immediately Shutter All But 9 Abortion Clinics in Texas

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 23:00
Fifth Circuit Refuses to Stay Ruling That Could Immediately Shutter All But 9 Abortion Clinics in Texas Center for Reproductive Rights to ask Supreme Court to block ruling before it takes effect on July 1

06.19.15 - (PRESS RELEASE)  Following an emergency request from Texas women’s health care providers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit today refused to suspend its June 9 ruling—a decision which could force the closure of all but nine abortion clinics in the state on July 1.

The women’s health care providers—represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights—will now submit an emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court later this evening requesting the justices stay the appellate court’s June 9 ruling and ensure the Texas clinics can remain open while the providers ask the nation’s highest court to review the case (filing will be sent to press once available).

While today’s order modified the June 9 ruling as it applies to the last clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, the injunction is still so narrow that it may be of limited benefit to the women served by the clinic.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“As the Fifth Circuit once again turns a blind eye to the devastating consequences of Texas’ clinic shutdown law, it is imperative that the Supreme Court step in.

“No woman should be forced to cross state lines or travel hundreds of miles for essential health care. And millions of Texas women cannot simply wait for months as this legal battle continues, with severely restricted options for safe and legal abortion services in the state.

“Once again, the Supreme Court needs to halt this underhanded, unjustified and extremely harmful law.”

Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ clinic shutdown law The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) submitted a joint amicus brief opposing the law, stating that “H.B. 2 does not serve the health of women in Texas but instead jeopardizes women’s health by restricting access to abortion providers.”  Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, and that laws like Texas’ would do nothing to make it safer.  Meanwhile, real problems concerning women’s health in Texas, especially the state’s skyrocketing death rate for women in pregnancy and childbirth, continue to go unaddressed by Texas politicians.

Clinic shutdown laws have swept the South in recent years, threatening to further devastate abortion access in a region already facing limited availability of reproductive health care services.  The last abortion clinic in Mississippi is awaiting a decision on whether the U.S. Supreme Court will review that state’s clinic shutdown law in the next two weeks and trial begins in the challenge to Louisiana’s clinic shutdown law on Monday.

June 9th Ruling

The Fifth Circuit’s June 9 decision allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same hospital-like building standards as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) to go into effect on July 1 for nearly all clinics in the state—a measure that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and would close all but nine abortion providers in the state.  While the court partially enjoined the ASC requirement as applied to the last clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, its injunction is narrow and may be of limited benefit to the clinic and the women it serves.

The ruling also reverses the lower court’s injunction blocking the state’s admitting privileges requirement except as applied to a single doctor.  This provision has already forced approximately half the state’s abortion clinics to close their doors. 

The court ruled that women in El Paso—who will face a round-trip of over a thousand miles to obtain an abortion in Texas—could travel to neighboring state New Mexico – where there are no ASC or admitting privileges requirements – to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion.

Case History:  Whole Woman’s Health v Cole (formerly Whole Woman’s Health v Lakey)

On August 29, 2014 a federal district blocked two of the most harmful restriction of Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2):  the ambulatory surgical center requirement and the admitting privileges requirement.  On October 2, 2014, the Fifth Circuit issued an order staying the lower court’s injunction .  For 12 days, all but seven reproductive health care facilities in the state were prevented from offering safe and legal abortion services—until October 14, 2014, when the United State Supreme Court responded to an emergency application by Texas health care providers and reinstated the injunction in large part, allowing many of the previously closed clinics to reopen their doors.

The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti 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.

 

TX Gov Signs Package of Harmful, Unconstitutional Measures to Make Abortion Practically Non-Existent Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Clinic Shutdown Law, All But 8 Abortion Clinics At Risk of Closure New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health and Safety in Passing Abortion Restrictions Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Clinic Shutdown Law Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Louisiana Law Threatening Women’s Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

African Union Commits to Ending Child, Early and Forced Marriage

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 23:00
African Union Commits to Ending Child, Early and Forced Marriage

06.19.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) African nations this week pledged to eradicate child and forced marriage in the region at the African Union Summit, according to African Union Goodwill Ambassador to End Child Marriage Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda.

Goodwill Ambassador Gumbonzvanda announced this political commitment to eradicate child, early and forced marriages at a panel event at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday hosted by state delegations, UN agencies and NGOs including the African Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, UNFPA, WHO and the governments of Sierra Leone, Italy, Belgium,  and Uruguay. 

In 2013, the U.N. Human Rights Council—principal body at the UN that promotes and protects human rights for all—adopted a procedural resolution dedicated to ending child marriage. The event this week called for the Human Rights Council to adopt a substantive resolution that recognizes the human rights implications of child, early and forced marriage, and encourage states to use their national and regional experience, to influence and promote the strongest possible inclusion of language addressing CEFM within a comprehensive human rights based approach

“The illegal and unconscionable practice of child and forced marriage has been ignored by too many governments for far too long, violating the human rights of countless young girls and women across the globe,” said Rebecca Brown, global advocacy director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s action by the African Union echoes the many U.N. resolutions and regional initiatives developed to end child marriage, and it is an important and positive step toward change. It’s time governments fulfill their promises and take the necessary next steps to ensure these policies are implemented and enforced.”

During the panel event, Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center, discussed how South Asia is making strides to end child marriage. Last year the government of Nepal hosted a convening on using the law to end child marriage, particularly focusing on the need for legal accountability for child marriage. Ms. Upreti also introduced the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC), which has led the development of a regional action plan to end child marriage that reflects the commitment of all eight South Asian states to take steps to end child marriage as a matter of human rights from 2015-2018.

In 2013 the Center issued the report Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity examining the consequences of child marriage, which subject girls to serious crimes, including domestic violence and marital rape, placing their reproductive health and lives at serious risk. The report questions the failure of governments to prevent and prosecute cases of child marriage. Since the launch of the report, the Center has supported the efforts of SAIEVAC, in building a regional commitment to end child marriage and applauds the progress being made under the leadership of SAIEVAC to promote stronger legal accountability to end child marriage in the region.

The Center has played a part in some of the most important advances in reproductive rights worldwide. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured historic financial reparations for the family of a young Brazilian woman who died from preventable pregnancy complications—the first time an international human rights decision named maternal health a human rights. And at the European Court of Human Rights, the Center called upon Poland to ensure adolescents’ reproductive rights after access to a legal abortion for a rape survivor was repeatedly obstructed.

File Upload:  CESCR Submission Brief Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity

North Carolina’s Coercive Ultrasound Law Permanently Blocked as Supreme Court Refuses Review

Sun, 06/14/2015 - 23:00
North Carolina’s Coercive Ultrasound Law Permanently Blocked as Supreme Court Refuses Review Federal district court, appellate court both determined law violates First Amendment, interferes in doctor-patient relationship

06.15.15 - (PRESS RELEASE)—The United States Supreme Court today declined to review a North Carolina law that would have forced a woman to undergo a narrated ultrasound before receiving an abortion—a measure that was blocked by both a district court and federal appeals court as unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found the law unconstitutional in December 2014, affirming that the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians by forcing them to deliver politically motivated communications to a patient even over the patient’s objection.  The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel ruled that “transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes.”

The law was preliminarily blocked in October 2011 following a lawsuit filed on behalf of several North Carolina physicians and medical practices by the Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the firm of O’Melveny & Myers.  The measure was later permanently struck down as unconstitutional by a federal district court in January 2014.  North Carolina asked the Supreme Court to review the measure in March 2015 after the Fourth Circuit found the law unconstitutional in December 2014.

“The Supreme Court has left standing major victories in the lower courts that will keep politicians out of the exam room and the personal decisions of North Carolina women seeking to safely and legally end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Women are fully capable of making thoughtful decisions about their families, future, and health without interference from politicians who presume to know better. And all doctors must be free to give patients their best medical judgment, free from talking points dictated by lawmakers advancing an agenda.”

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court decided not to review the decision striking down this law. Doctors shouldn’t be forced to humiliate a woman and disregard their best medical judgment in order to provide an abortion,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “The purpose of this law was crystal clear: to shame a woman who has decided to have an abortion out of getting one. In this country, its not ok to turn doctors into the mouthpieces of politicians in order to make a woman feel bad about her decision.”

“This dangerous and misguided law should never have passed in the first place. Politicians across the country should take note — these harmful and unconstitutional restrictions won’t be tolerated by the courts or the public,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This misguided law would have inserted politics and bad medicine into every exam room in North Carolina. We are pleased that the courts are recognizing that these unconstitutional laws hurt women and block access to safe medical care.”

The North Carolina coercive ultrasound law, passed in 2011 by the General Assembly over the veto of then-Governor Bev Perdue, is one of the most extreme ultrasound laws in the country. 

While the law would have allowed the woman to “avert her eyes” from the ultrasound screen and to “refuse to hear” the explanation of the images, the provider would still be required to place the images in front of her and describe them in detail over her objection. The North Carolina law applies even if a woman does not want to see the ultrasound, and makes no exception for rape, incest, serious health risks or severe fetal anomalies.

This law is one of hundreds of abortion restrictions that have been introduced by state legislatures with the goal of restricting access to abortion. In the past four years, state lawmakers enacted more than 230 abortion restrictions, and in the first quarter of 2015 alone, more than 330 abortion restrictions were introduced.

New polling shows that most Americans identify as pro-choice and that seven in 10 Americans want a woman who has decided to have an abortion to be able to get it without additional burdens.

Federal Court Blocks Demeaning North Carolina Ultrasound Law Federal Court Permanently Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law as Unconstitutional North Carolina Asks Supreme Court to Review State’s Coercive Ultrasound Law Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Coercive North Carolina Ultrasound Law Supreme Court Declines to Review Oklahoma "Choose Life" License Plates Case

Texas Governor Abbott Signs Bill Blocking Young Women’s Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

Fri, 06/12/2015 - 17:50
Texas Governor Abbott Signs Bill Blocking Young Women’s Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Abbott signs measure four days after devastating appellate court decision which threatens to leave only eight abortion clinics in the state. Measure could ban abortion for women of any age without proof of identity and age.

06.12.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a measure into law today making several changes to the state’s current system for teens seeking abortion services—including a requirement which could serve as a de facto ban on abortion for any woman who does not have valid proof of identify and age.

HB 3994 includes a provision requiring physicians obtain “proof of identity and age” from any woman seeking abortion services.  This requirement could be impossible for many women of any age to meet and essentially serve as a backdoor abortion ban for the most vulnerable communities--including those who may be undocumented, low-income, or survivors of trafficking.

The measure—scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2016—also enacts myriad new restrictions on young women’s access to safe abortion care, specifically teens who are seeking a judicial bypass to abortion services.  HB 3994 would compromise the confidentiality of minors by requiring most teens to file a bypass petition in the county where they reside, while lengthening the time a judge is required to rule on a teen’s request for judicial bypass to five business days.  Additionally, the measure alters current law by prohibiting judges from considering emotional abuse when determining whether a teen obtaining an abortion without involving her parents is in her best interests.

“It’s cruel and callous to deny safe, legal abortion care to young people who have faced abuse, neglect, abandonment, and other threats to their safety and well-being,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Texas women have already seen their health care options devastated by politicians piling on one severe restriction after another, and this will only drive a bigger wedge between them and the high-quality care they need.”

“Texas women are sick of politicians playing games with their health,” said Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “This latest policy would not only deny safe and timely care to young women, it would force every woman in Texas seeking an abortion to produce a specific form of ID or be turned away. The impact on rural, low-income, and immigrant Latinas, many of whom lack these forms of ID, will be devastating.”

Current Texas law already requires both consent and notification from at least one parent before a teen can receive safe and legal abortion services.  Most young women seeking an abortion in the United States a involve a parent--but some teens live in abusive homes, or are in a situation where it would not be safe to disclose a pregnancy.  These types of restrictions only further drive the most vulnerable and abused Texas teens further away from high-quality, safe, and legal reproductive health care.

Today’s measure comes almost two years after then-Governor Rick Perry signed HB2, an infamous package of anti-choice measures which has already decimated abortion access in Texas and at one time left only seven clinics remaining in the state.  On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the most onerous restrictions of HB2:  the requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) and the admitting privileges requirement as it applies to two of the hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas--potentially leaving only eight abortion-providing clinics to serve the second most populous state in the nation.

TX Gov Signs Package of Harmful, Unconstitutional Measures to Make Abortion Practically Non-Existent Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Clinic Shutdown Law, All But 8 Abortion Clinics At Risk of Closure

New House Bill Would Prevent Harmful Federal Restrictions That Deny Safe Abortion Services to Millions Worldwide

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 23:00
New House Bill Would Prevent Harmful Federal Restrictions That Deny Safe Abortion Services to Millions Worldwide Rep. Nita Lowey and more than 100 other Representatives sponsor new legislation that puts an end to future presidents imposing the Global Gag Rule

06.11.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) New federal legislation was introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prevent future U.S. presidents from imposing a harmful policy barring any organization that receives U.S. international family planning assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion, even with their own funds. 

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) along with 119 cosponsors introduced the “Global Democracy Promotion Act,” which would put an end to the harmful Mexico City Policy, more commonly known as the Global Gag Rule, which also bans U.S.-funded family planning groups from advocating for the decriminalization of abortion in the countries they are based.

The Global Gag Rule was first imposed during the Reagan Administration in 1984, and has been alternately rescinded by Democratic presidents and reimposed by Republican presidents.  President Barack Obama rescinded the Global Gag Rule shortly after taking office in 2009.  However, without the Global Democracy Promotion Act, a future president could unilaterally reimpose the Global Gag Rule.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“For over 30 years the United States has tied the hands of international family planning organizations from providing women with the critical reproductive health services they need, including safe abortion services.

 “The United States should support the health and lives of women worldwide, not trample on their reproductive rights and the free speech of organizations from advocating for abortion law reform. 

“We applaud Representative Lowey and her progressive colleagues in the House and Senate for standing up to put an end to the Global Gag Rule.” 

The introduction of Rep. Lowey’s bill coincides with an effort by conservative lawmakers to legislatively reimpose the Global Gag Rule, despite the evidence of its harmful impact on women.  A bipartisan Senate version of the Global Democracy Promotion Act was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in March of this year; the Senate bill (S. 677) has 20 cosponsors.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement on the introduction of the Global Democracy Promotion Act:

“Women around the world deserve the ability to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.  It’s time to permanently put in place responsible policy that makes it easier – not harder – for women to receive full and consistent access to family planning and reproductive health services. 

“That’s why over 100 House colleagues and I have reintroduced the Global Democracy Promotion Act, which would permanently repeal the ill-conceived Global Gag Rule and ensure that foreign NGOs would never again have to choose between free speech or operating U.S.-supported health programs.

“This should not be a partisan issue.  I urge House and Senate leadership to finally do the right thing - pass this critically important legislation and empower women with access to comprehensive health care.”

While supporters of the Global Gag Rule claim that it reduces the number of abortions, the facts demonstrate otherwise.  A 2011 study conducted by Stanford University researchers and published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization concluded that the Global Gag Rule was responsible for an increase in abortion rates; another 2011 study of women in Ghana found that the abortion rate was higher in rural areas when the Global Gag Rule was in effect. A 2003 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights concluded that the Global Gag Rule also “helps perpetuate unsafe abortion” in countries with restrictive abortion laws and limited access to safe abortion services.

Sen. Boxer Introduces Bill to Block Global Gag Rule on Abortion

Senator Lindsay Graham Introduces Unconstitutional Federal Abortion Ban

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 23:00
Senator Lindsay Graham Introduces Unconstitutional Federal Abortion Ban Measure nearly identical to recently passed House measure banning abortion after 20 weeks, includes cruel 48-hour waiting period for rape survivors

06.11.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today Senator Lindsay Graham led a group of anti-choice lawmakers in introducing a bill that would ban abortion in the United States at 20 weeks—a cruel and unconstitutional measure with only narrow exceptions for women with life-threatening conditions, rape survivors who have received medical care or counseling for the sexual assault at least 48-hours prior to receiving care, and minors who have reported rape or incest to law enforcement or child protective services. 

In addition to outright banning these safe and legal services for most women who will need them, this unconstitutional bill also imposes a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for rape survivors, requiring adult patients to obtain medical care or counseling from a state-licensed counselor or victims’ rights advocate for their assault at least two days prior to receiving abortion services. For minors who have become pregnant after rape or incest, they are still required to report the crime to law enforcement or child protective services.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“At a moment when women’s access to essential reproductive health care is in greater peril than at any time since Roe v. Wade, Congress should be acting to alleviate the crisis, not worsen it.

“While anti-choice politicians in Congress work relentlessly to criminalize abortion later in pregnancy, their counterparts in state legislatures are making it increasingly difficult or impossible to get safe, legal care even in the first trimester.

“This has to stop. It’s time to advance legislation such as The Women's Health Protection Act that promotes access to the care and services supports women’s health, safety, and empowerment, not bills like this one that insult women’s dignity and threaten their lives.

“We urge Senator Graham’s fellow Senators to do what he has failed to do: act for women across the U.S. and resoundingly reject this dangerous bill.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act, which was reintroduced in the Senate and House earlier this year, would prohibit politicians from imposing harmful measures such as this abortion ban and other 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also recently blocked similar pre-viability bans.

Bans on abortion at 20 weeks take critical medical decisions out of the hands of women and their trusted health care providers at a time when those services may be the best medical option for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, measures like Senator Graham’s ban on abortion prohibit services at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of life-threatening complications and severe fetal abnormalities.

The devastating impact of these cruel laws are evident in stories like Whitney’s, a woman who has spoken out about her experience needing an abortion after 20 weeks in North Carolina, one of 11 states in the U.S. where the services are currently banned. After receiving a difficult diagnosis, she was forced to travel out of state to get the safe, legal care she needed and had a constitutional right to obtain.

Pro-Choice Champions in Congress Reintroduce Historic Women’s Health Protection Act Supreme Court Refuses to Review Arizona Abortion Ban U.S. House Passes Bill to Deny Millions of Women Reproductive Health Care Coverage

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