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Oklahoma Judge Greenlights Unconstitutional Clinic Shutdown Law

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 23:00
Oklahoma Judge Greenlights Unconstitutional Clinic Shutdown Law State court fails to block unconstitutional restrictions targeting abortion providers, Center for Reproductive Rights plans immediate appeal to state Supreme Court

10.24.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) A state district court judge failed today to block an unconstitutional Oklahoma abortion clinic shutdown law similar to others that have devastated access to safe, legal abortion services across the region. The Center for Reproductive Rights—who filed a legal challenge against the measure earlier this month—is planning an emergency appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to ensure that the physician providing nearly half of the abortion services in the state can continue providing safe and legal care.

Senate Bill 1848—which is scheduled to take effect on November 1— was signed by Governor Mary Fallin in May and forces reproductive health care clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital on-site when abortion procedures are performed.

Admitting privileges requirements like Oklahoma’s are opposed by national and state medical groups and have devastated access to abortion services throughout the South.  Scores of clinics have been forced to close in Texas, with clinics in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama hanging on by a court order.  Admitting privileges are not necessary for the treatment of the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications requiring hospital treatment and they can also be impossible to satisfy because some hospitals deny admitting privileges to abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.

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

“Today’s ruling rubberstamps the false pretenses of Oklahoma politicians attempting to insert themselves into women’s personal, private decisions in which they have no business.

 “If allowed to take effect, access to safe legal abortion in Oklahoma will be drastically reduced on November 1.

“This copycat clinic shutdown law would put Oklahoma among the ranks of several states in the region that have endangered women’s health and safety by eliminating critical services for those who have made the decision to end a pregnancy.

 “We will take every legal step necessary to ensure this law never takes effect, and now look to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to step in and immediately protect women’s rights and access to safe, legal abortion.”

Ilene Jaroslaw, Janet Crepps, and Genevieve Scott of the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Blake Patton of Walding & Patton and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office, represent Larry A. Burns, D.O. in this challenge—a physician with over 41 years of experience providing safe abortion care in Norman, Oklahoma.  To date, Dr. Burns has been unable to obtain privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of his office, with many hospitals even refusing to process his application.  Dr. Burns provides abortions at one of only three clinics in the state and provides nearly half of abortion services for Oklahoma women.

With this law, Oklahoma joined the ranks of other states that have attempted to use admitting privileges requirements as an underhanded way to shutter high-quality clinics and severely limit women’s access to abortion services.  Women’s health care providers and advocates are currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement which has already closed health centers across the state while the last clinic in Mississippi is fighting to keep its doors open.  Louisiana clinics are also challenging a similar law which could shutter the majority of their clinics.  A similar law in Alabama was recently found unconstitutional and Wisconsin’s admitting privileges requirement has been preliminarily blocked.

Major medical groups oppose laws like Oklahoma’s that require hospital admitting privileges for physicians providing abortion services.  In an amicus brief filed in the challenge to Texas’ admitting privileges requirement, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that the law “jeopardizes women’s health,” and does “nothing to protect the health of women.”  Medical experts confirm that legal abortion in the U.S. is extremely safe, with fewer than 1% of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  The Oklahoma State Medical Association opposed Senate Bill 1848 because it “would result in the Legislature and unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Health interfering in the physician/patient relationship and crafting more burdensome regulations that . . . may not reflect medical science or the best interest of the patient.”

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma 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.

New Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Oklahoma Abortion Restrictions Oklahoma Governor Fallin Signs Law Designed to Shutter Reproductive Health Clinics Full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Consider Texas Law Shuttering Abortion Clinics Statewide, Leaving Women without Safe, Legal Health Care Options Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer Fifth Circuit Court Continues to Block Mississippi Anti-Abortion Regulation, State’s Only Clinic to Remain Open While Legal Battle Continues

We Can Be Moved

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 10:08
We Can Be Moved From Ferguson to Geneva in search of reproductive justice.

10.22.14 - Mid-August 2014: the town of Ferguson, Missouri—along with much of the country—reels in the aftermath of the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has just convened to assess U.S. progress in addressing discrimination in policy and practice.

Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, and Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, are part of the delegation from civil society. Both have come to testify about the role of race in the shooting deaths of their unarmed black teenage sons.

As the news out of Ferguson filters into Geneva’s staid UN buildings, the mood grows increasingly emotional, increasingly intense. The importance of CERD has rarely been clearer.

“Sometimes our system in the United States can feel unmovable,” says Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, who joined the Center for Reproductive Rights at this year’s CERD meeting to discuss how racial discrimination interferes with women’s fundamental human right to health.

“Watching our government being held accountable dramatically shifted my perspective. We—our system—can be moved,” says Simpson. “I had a really different reaction to Ferguson than I’d had at home to the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. With those, I was ready to march, to get on the ground. But being in Geneva, I found myself thinking more strategically, asking how to move this crucial conversation to the international stage.”

Black women are nearly four times more likely to die from childbirth complications than are their white counterparts, according to a report the Center submitted to CERD. For black women living in the American South—where poverty rates are high and many are uninsured—the disparity is even greater. In some rural, predominantly black counties, maternal mortality rates are higher than rates in sub-Saharan Africa.  

Weeks after the meeting, CERD issued concluding observations of their review of the United States. The Committee expressed concern about the widening racial disparities in reproductive health, citing the high maternal mortality rates among black women.

CERD recommended that, in addition to ensuring adequate coverage and affordable care for all, the U.S. take concrete steps to “eliminate racial disparities in the field of sexual and reproductive health.” These steps include standardizing data collection on maternal and infant mortality across states in order to effectively identify the causes of disparities, and improving monitoring and accountability mechanisms for preventable maternal mortality.

“It is an extraordinary thing for a respected international human rights body to say to the U.S. government: ‘The sky-high rate of maternal mortality in black women is not only disgraceful, it is discrimination, and we are going to hold you accountable for this human rights violation.’ In essence, CERD echoed what reproductive justice advocates have been saying for years—barriers to access are important but are only part of the problem,” says the Center’s senior human rights counsel Katrina Anderson, who represented the Center at the review.

Reproductive justice is a human rights concept that considers reproductive rights through a broader framework than traditional reproductive rights advocacy. It’s not just about a woman’s ability to decide when or if to have a child, but also about the context into which that child is born.

In addition to ensuring access to contraception and safe abortion, reproductive justice also focuses on governments’ obligation to address the social, political, and economic inequalities impacting different communities, particularly women of color. As founding executive director of SisterSong Loretta Ross has articulated, reproductive justice is about ensuring the social supports and conditions that allow all families to thrive.

The right to parent in a safe and healthy environment is integral to this obligation.

Many women of color who choose to have children have no choice but to bring them into a hostile context. The high cost of health care, poor access to providers for women who depend on publicly financed care, a lack of prenatal care, and inadequate maternal and postnatal care all increase the risk of negative health outcomes for the woman and her child. Precarious financial situations and a lack of paid parental leave mean that new mothers are often forced to return to work before they are ready.

Add this to the fear that black parents feel when confronted with discriminatory police practices such as racially biased drug laws and racial profiling. Then, the terror facing the parents of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, and countless other unarmed black youth targeted simply for walking down the street—due to preconceptions of them as “scary.”

It is nearly impossible for a woman to feel control over her reproductive choices when the environment she brings her child into is systemically stacked against her.

It is through this lens that the events of Ferguson melted away the odd disconnect of discussing race in America in a European capital with an Alpine view. Delegates, advocates, and Committee members alike felt the immediacy and complexity of racial discrimination, and the pressing work that remains to be done.

Spotlighting Racial Bias Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care

MSNBC: Northup Responds to “Extraordinary” Supreme Court Ruling

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:02
MSNBC: Northup Responds to “Extraordinary” Supreme Court Ruling

10.15.14 - Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup spoke to Rachel Maddow last night directly after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling granting the Center’s emergency petition to reopen 13 Texas abortion clinics that had been forced to close by court order two weeks ago.

Although this ruling is temporary—the case now will return to the lower court for further review—the decision marks a potentially significant shift in the Court’s attitude toward abortion rights.

“Six members of this court thought it was important to take this unusual step,” noted Northup. “It’s a better day.”

Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 18:18
Texas Clinics Closed by Fifth Circuit Can Reopen in Light of Supreme Court Ruling Nation’s Highest Court Reinstates Injunction Blocking Texas Law that Shuttered Nearly All Abortion Clinics in the State 10.14.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) In a 6-3 order, the U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated an injunction blocking a far-reaching Texas law that had forced all but eight reproductive health care clinics in the state to close their doors.  Today’s ruling allows clinics previously shuttered to reopen their doors and offer abortion services while the case is heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.   Said Nancy Northuppresident and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: “The U.S. Supreme Court gave Texas women a tremendous victory today. Tomorrow, thirteen clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities.   “This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over. HB2 was designed to gut the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade and half of the state’s clinics remain closed. We will continue this legal battle until the rights of Texas women are restored.”   Today’s order from the U.S. Supreme Court is in response to reproductive health care providers' emergency application filed on October 6. A panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit will now hear the case’s appeal.   The Fifth Circuit’s ruling on October 2 immediately allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers to go into effect immediately—a provision that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and has closed more than a dozen of the state’s remaining providers.   The ruling also stayed the district court’s injunction against the admitting privileges requirement as it applied to two of the state’s hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas.   This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer.  The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were ultimately upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and led to the closure of about 20 of the states more than 40 abortion clinics that existed before HB2 was passed last summer. The plaintiffs requested the full appeals court rehear the case, which the Fifth Circuit denied last week.   The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison & Foerster, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell & Soifer.   Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2 Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposehospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.   Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.  Elected officials in two Texas cities—Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act. Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight for Abortion Access to U.S. Supreme Court Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Austin City Council Members Speak Out in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Call for Repeal of Texas HB2 Houston Mayor and City Council Members Call for Passage of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Repeal of Texas HB2 Cases:  Whole Woman's Health v. Lakey

Preventing Maternal Death

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 10:46
Preventing Maternal Death In the vast majority of cases, maternal mortality is completely preventable. Why are 800 women a day still dying from pregnancy complications?

10.10.14 - Maureen, a maternal health advocate in Uganda, remembers losing her cousin—a young woman in her first year of university. During a secret abortion performed in haste, her intestines were accidentally pierced. She later developed diarrhea and intense stomach pain, but so great was her fear of being condemned for having the abortion, she did not tell anyone, even as her condition deteriorated.

Maureen’s cousin died after two unsuccessful surgeries, having informed the medical staff too late that she’d received an unsafe abortion.

Each year, nearly 300,000 women across the world die from pregnancy complications—including hemorrhaging, infections, and unsafe abortions. But it is not simply bad luck or a fact of life. In 90 percent of maternal mortality cases today, death is completely preventable.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and our partners have worked unrelentingly in courts and human rights bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), to promote the view that preventable maternal mortality and morbidity is a human rights violation that governments must take measures to address.

These efforts have drawn global attention to the widespread discrimination and quality disparities in maternal health care and have played an integral role in the worldwide reduction of maternal deaths by 45 percent since 1990.

Since 2009, the UNHRC has passed five resolutions on preventable maternal death, each one moving incrementally toward implementing and enforcing human rights-based policies among member states. As a result of these resolutions, in 2012 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights devised technical guidance on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, which provides law and policymakers with the tools they need to guarantee women quality maternal health care in compliance with their international human rights obligations.  At the end of September, the Council passed it most recent resolution, calling on governments to implement the technical guidance and address the role that discrimination against women plays in the maternal mortalities.

“This latest resolution resoundingly affirms that states must adopt and implement concrete policies to improve maternal health,” says the Center’s global advocacy director, Rebecca Brown.

At the recent UNHRC session, Brown spoke at a side event that explored the role abortion stigma plays in women’s rights violations, including in reinforcing gender based stereotypes around motherhood and reproduction, and endangering women’s health and lives. The World Health Organization has repeatedly recognized the connection between restrictive abortion laws and elevated rates of maternal mortality. The technical guidance firmly recognizes that, in order to reduce maternal mortality rates, states must enable women to exercise their human rights, including by addressing the social determinants of health and guarantee women meaningful participation in the formulation of laws and policies surrounding their reproductive health. 

“States must take measures to address the multiple, intersecting causes of maternal mortality by enabling women to seek timely maternal health services, as well as elevating the status of women in society and guaranteeing their reproductive autonomy.”

Tackling maternal mortality means addressing root causes of these deaths which range broadly from inadequate transportation to poor maternal health care to cultural stigmas and racial biases. Too often, maternal mortality rates are directly linked to a woman’s social, economic, and cultural status.    

Generating a shift in international attitudes and perceptions of maternal death has been no small task. To document and highlight this historic shift, the Center has released a publication titled From Risk to Rights: Realizing States’ Obligations to Prevent and Address Maternal Mortality.

The publication, released during the UN Human Rights Council’s September session, examines the process by which maternal mortality and morbidity became recognized as a fundamental human rights violation and details many of the concrete measures implemented to realize the right to safe pregnancy and childbirth. It also provides a timeline of landmark events and recommendations for future action.

“Our efforts over the last 25 years have proven that we are capable of eradicating preventable maternal deaths, but we have a lot more work to do,” notes Brown.

“Maternal deaths still claim the lives of 800 women and girls every day. The only way governments can truly ensure the women in their countries stay healthy and safe during and after pregnancy is to ensure every woman has affordable access to quality maternal care and the full range of their sexual and reproductive rights are recognized in law and policy.”

This involves guaranteeing access to the full range of comprehensive reproductive health information and services, including comprehensive sexuality education, contraception, safe abortion, and post-abortion care on a basis of non-discrimination, without violence or coercion. Such services are particularly critical for women from marginalized communities—even in developed countries such as the United States and Australia—who remain at the greatest risk for pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses.

Spotlighting Racial Bias Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Health Care Women’s Health Advocates Call on United States to Address Widespread Discrimination in Health Care

What Happens Without Legal Abortion?

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 12:06
What Happens Without Legal Abortion?

10.09.14 - Center president and CEO Nancy Northup reflects on the consequences of abortion bans across the world in a thought-provoking MSNBC editorial this week.

Northup contextualizes the importance of the global movement to liberalize abortion policy over the last 20 years. A new map from the Center shows that 35 countries worldwide have expanded or legalized abortion services in that period, creating a safer and healthier environment for women.  In countries where abortion is legal and accessible, pregnancy-related death rates are far lower due to fewer women being forced to resort to unsafe abortions.    

However, in countries such as El Salvador, where abortion restrictions remain harsh, the consequences are terrifyingly clear. “Restrictive abortion laws result in 22 million clandestine, unsafe abortions annually—killing nearly 50,000 women each year,” Northup says.

In addition to the interactive 2014 World Abortion Laws Map, the Center has released a report, Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform, tracking the efforts of advocates, lawyers, public health researchers, and government leaders to reform harmful abortion policies across the globe.  

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

Full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Consider Texas Law Shuttering Abortion Clinics Statewide, Leaving Women without Safe, Legal Health Care Options

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 23:00
Full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Refuses to Consider Texas Law Shuttering Abortion Clinics Statewide Women’s Health Care Providers, Advocates Considering Options as Law Remains in Effect

10.09.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has refused to reconsider the constitutionality of two provisions of Texas’ HB2, a measure that has shuttered abortion providing clinics statewide.

In declining to re-hear the case, the court has let stand the provision of HB2 that forces doctors who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, a requirement that was upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit earlier this year.  In a scathing dissent, Judge James L. Dennis notes “the panel’s sham undue burden test will continue to exert its precedential force in courts’ review of challenges to similar types of recently minted abortion restrictions in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”    He also blasts the court for failing to fulfill “its duty to correct the panel’s perversion of the undue burden standard,” writing that laws like Texas’ “will be given only a modicum of scrutiny, essentially giving states carte blanche with respect to the regulation of the right to an abortion.”

The court also let stand a provision in HB2 that forces physicians providing medication abortion to go against years of research and their professional experience by following an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol— even for those women who are unable to undergo a surgical procedure due to an increased risk to their health.

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

“Texas now stands at the epicenter of a national health care crisis brought on by politicians who have all but eliminated access to safe and legal abortion care for countless women, leaving many with only unsafe and unregulated options that may very well threaten their lives.   

“These politicians have turned the reproductive health care system across huge expanses of the U.S. into a tattered patchwork. Women’s constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care now differ wildly depending on their zip code.

“This is a threat to the well-being of millions of women, and an affront to the promise of equal rights and legal protection for all Americans. It is increasingly clear that either the Supreme Court or Congress needs to step in to protect the rights of women across the nation from this relentless assault on their dignity, health and rights.

More than a dozen women’s health care providers who jointly filed suit in September 2013 on behalf of their patients are currently considering all available options to restore access to safe and legal abortion services to the women of Texas.

This is the first challenge to Texas’ HB2; the second lawsuit—which challenges the admitting privileges requirement as applied to two of the hardest hit communities in the state and HB2’s onerous ambulatory surgical center requirements—is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court on a request to reinstate the district court’s injunction after a ruling from a panel of the Fifth Circuit on October 2 which shuttered all but eight clinics in the state.

Texas’ admitting privileges requirement was initially struck down, but then took effect on October 31, 2013, after a three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit granted the State’s motion to stay the lower court’s injunction.  In March 2014, another three-judge panel of the Court upheld both the admitting privileges requirement and the restrictions on medication abortion.  The providers then requested the full Fifth Circuit review the constitutionality of the admitting privileges requirement and the lack of health exception in the restrictions on medication abortion.

Both restrictions are opposed by both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). In an amicus brief filed in the case, the organizations wrote that the law “jeopardizes women’s health in Texas” and does “nothing to protect the health of women.”  Admitting privileges provide no increased benefits for the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications. Furthermore, privileges can often be impossible to obtain due to individual hospital policies or for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was filed on behalf of the Texas reproductive health care providers by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Texas law firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

“The Women’s Health Protection Act would ensure that politicians could not single out reproductive health care providers with a litany of regulations designed purely to drive them out of practice and roll back our constitutional rights,” said Northup.  “We call on elected officials across the U.S. to demonstrate their commitment to women rights, health, and well-being by urging Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Fifth Circuit Ruling Deepens Health Crisis Facing Texas Women by Continuing to Deny Texas Women Safe, Legal Abortion Services Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight Against Unconstitutional Law to U.S. Supreme Court Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer One-Third of Texas Women Will Soon Lack Access to Safe, Legal Abortion Following Appellate Court Ruling Cases:  Planned Parenthood et al. v. Abbott

Denunciando a El Salvador frente al mundo

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 23:00
Denunciando a El Salvador frente al mundo Manuela-new-thumb.jpg

08.10.14 - En el 2010, Manuela, una joven madre de una área rural de El Salvador se murió encarcelada mientras cumplía una codena a 30 años en prisión. Ella fue denunciada por sospechas de haber tenido un aborto, cuando busco asistencia médica por haber sufrido una emergencia obstétrica y perdido a su bebe. Como cientos de mujeres, ella fue víctima de la ley  que criminaliza de forma absoluta el aborto en El Salvador. Conoce su historia.

La Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) afirma que las restricciones del access al aborto es una forma de violencia contra las mujeres; hace un llamado a los Estados Miembros para despenalizar el aborto

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 23:00
La Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) afirma que las restricciones del access al aborto es una forma de violencia

08.10.14 - (COMUNICADO DE PRENSA) Por primera vez, la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) recomendó a todos los Estados Miembros despenalizar el aborto en los casos de violencia sexual e incesto, cuando la salud o vida de la mujer estén en peligro y en los casos en que haya una inviabilidad del feto.

El Comité de la OEA  (MESECVI) que trabaja por la implementación de la Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia contra la Mujer (Convención Belém do Pará), hizo un llamado a los Estados Miembros para reconocer la violencia contra la mujer como una forma de discriminación basada en género. El Comité solicitó a los Estados Miembros condenar todas las formas de violencia contra la mujer, incluyendo las formas relacionadas con el derecho a la salud reproductiva y el acceso gratuito a servicios médicos para las víctimas de violencia sexual.

Nancy Northup, presidenta y Directora Ejecutiva del Centro de Derechos Reproductivos manifestó:

“La negación del acceso al aborto en condiciones seguras y legales para las mujeres que necesitan interrumpir su embarazo constituye un acto de violencia. Por lo tanto, resulta una medida bastante progresista el hecho de que un  órgano parte de la Organización de los Estados Americanos haga este reconocimiento.”

“Las mujeres a quienes se les niega este servicio esencial de salud enfrentan serios riesgos en la vida y la familia, al verse obligadas a acceder a procedimientos abortivos ilegales e inseguros,”

“Es irrefutable que esta denegación constituye una violación de los derechos fundamentales de las mujeres,”

“Felicitamos las voces progresistas dentro de la OEA por reconocer que el aborto no es un delito y que los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las mujeres deben ser respetados y protegidos. Seguiremos trabajando para responsabilizar a los Estados ante organismos de derechos humanos para que cumplan con sus obligaciones internacionales de garantizar y proteger el acceso legal y seguro a los servicios de salud reproductiva, como un asunto de derechos humanos en las Américas.”

La Declaración sobre la Violencia contra las Mujeres, Niñas y Adolescentes y sus Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, aprobada por la OEA esta semana, reconoce específicamente que “la violencia contra las mujeres es una forma de discriminación que inhibe gravemente la capacidad de la mujer de gozar de sus derechos y libertades en pie de igualdad con el hombre.” En la Declaración, el Comité reconoce que la discriminación de género y los estereotipos culturales son obstáculos que impiden el ejercicio de los derechos humanos de las mujeres y niñas, incluyendo el acceso a cuidados médicos y recursos legales cuando son sometidas a distintas formas de violencia sexual.   

El MESECVI parte de la OEA le hace seguimiento a la “Convención Interamericana para Prevenir, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia Contra la Mujer (Convención de Belém do Pará). La Convención de Belém do Pará, la cual entro en vigor en 1995, define la violencia contra las mujeres en términos amplios y establece las obligaciones de los Estados para prevenir, investigar y castigar las violaciones contra la integridad física, sexual y psicológica; al igual que otros derechos relacionados con la finalidad de eliminar la violencia contra las mujeres. La Declaración resulta una amplia herramienta para promover la incidencia y el litigio de casos en cada país.

El Centro de Derechos Reproductivos ha declarado en contra de la violencia derivada de los abusos a los derechos sexuales y reproductivos. En Septiembre de este año, el Centro testificó junto con diversos activistas y defensoras y defensores de la salud reproductiva y los derechos reproductivos ante el Comité durante el proceso de revisión de la Declaración. A su vez, a principios de este año, el Centro realizó una audiencia pública ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), sobre los asuntos relacionados con temas de violencia, discriminación y violaciones a los derechos reproductivos en la República Dominicana. 

De acuerdo con un nuevo informe del Centro, 35 países han cambiado sus leyes para expandir el acceso a servicios de aborto seguro y legal en los últimos 20 años. Una tendencia que ha marcado un amplio progreso para mejorar las vidas y los derechos de las mujeres, y que ha generado una reducción significativa en la mortalidad materna debido a los abortos inseguros. El informe fue publicado en conjunto con el nuevo mapa del Centro de las Leyes sobre Aborto en el Mundo, una de las herramientas más comprensivas sobre la situación legal del aborto alrededor del mundo.

Nancy Northup on MSNBC: Fighting for Abortion Access, All the Way to Supreme Court

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:51
Nancy Northup on MSNBC: Fighting for Abortion Access, All the Way to Supreme Court

10.07.14 - What’s next in the fight against the Texas legislation that has forced a historically unparalleled reduction of abortion services? Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup appeared last night on the Rachel Maddow Show to talk about it.

“What we saw last Thursday with the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is unprecedented,” says Northup. “We have never seen the effect of a law like you see in Texas where you lose 80% of the clinics in a state.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed an emergency petition with the United States Supreme Court asking that the court take immediate action to put the Texas laws on hold.

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Eight Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

CEDAW Committee holds India Accountable for Failure to Prevent and Prosecute Cases of Child Marriage, and Ensure Access to Reproductive Health Services

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:37
CEDAW Committee holds India Accountable for Failure to Prevent and Prosecute Cases of Child Marriage

10.07.14 - The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) recently criticized India for failing to address human rights violations, associated with child marriage and high rates of maternal death resulting from lack of access to modern contraceptives and safe abortion services.  

During its 58th session in July, the CEDAW Committee reviewed India’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and issued Concluding Observations urging stronger action to eliminate child marriage and protect women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights.

Child marriage

The Committee expressed concern around the continued prevalence of early and forced marriage, despite the introduction of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006, and urged the government “to strengthen efforts to raise awareness about the prohibition of child marriage… and to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish cases of forced and early marriage.”

The Committee further expressed concern around the multiple legal systems governing marriage and family relations based on religious norms. These legal systems accommodate the religious and cultural differences in India’s pluralistic society, but are frequently discriminatory against women and girls, and often prevent the government from interfering in cases of child marriage as they establish their own age of marriage, legal status for marriages conducted before the age of 18, and penalties for child marriage. Echoing their Concluding Observations from India’s last review in 2007, the Committee urged the government to ensure “that all laws on marriage and family relations governing the various religious groups… are in full compliance with articles 15 and 16 of the Convention.”

The Center’s new fact sheet on Child Marriage and Personal Laws in South Asia further details how religion-based personal status laws are among the greatest barriers to ending child marriage practices in India.

Maternal health

The Committee noted the persistently high rate of maternal mortality in some states, along with the high rates of death resulting from unsafe abortion and lack of access to safe abortion. The Committee expressed concern specifically around the disparities in maternal health outcomes between urban and rural areas, and the limited availability of modern contraceptive methods. The Committee urged the government to “provide women with access to high-quality and safe abortion services… and to increase access to and use of effective and affordable methods of contraception.”

The Committee’s concerns echo the claims brought against the government of Chhattisgarh in the case of NAMHHR v. State of Chhattisgarh, which was filed in June of 2014 under the Center’s SARJAI initiative. The case argues that women in the state of Chhatisgarh (which has among the highest levels of maternal mortality in India), are effectively denied access to safe and legal abortion by the state’s failure to implement existing laws guaranteeing provision of comprehensive reproductive healthcare, and calls on the state to implement the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, which legalized abortion in India in 1971.

Marital rape

Finally, the Committee urged the government to establish a legal framework to more effectively prevent and respond to violence against women by amending the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act to ensure that marital rape is defined as a criminal offense. Widening the definition or rape would allow the Penal Code to more accurately reflect the realities of sexual abuse experienced by women and girls.

We urge the government of India to take these recommendations seriously and more effectively implement policies that will vastly improve the lives and health of girls and women.

The full Concluding Observations from the CEDAW Committee can be found here.

Fact Sheet: Accountability for Child Marriage Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity

CRC Committee Holds India Accountable for Failing to Eliminate Child Marriage and Ensure Access to Reproductive Health Services and Autonomy for Girls

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 15:34
CRC Committee Holds India Accountable for Failing to Eliminate Child Marriage

10.07.14 - The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) recently criticized India for a wide range of human rights violations, resulting from the persistence of child marriage and girls’ lack of access to contraceptive information and services and autonomy.

During its 66th session in May and June, the CRC Committee reviewed India’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and issued Concluding Observations urging the government to address its discriminatory religion-based personal laws and protect women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights.

Child Marriage

The Committee expressed concern about the high prevalence of child marriage, despite the enactment of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) in 2006. The committee specifically referred to the following as the main barriers to the full implementation of the PCMA: 

  • The prevalence of social norms and traditions over the law;
  • the existence of different personal laws establishing different minimum ages of marriage in different religious communities, and
  • the lack of awareness about the PCMA by enforcement officers. 

To combat these barriers, the Committee recommended that the government “ensure the effective implementation of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act … including by clarifying that the PCMA supersede the different religious-based Personal Status Laws.”  

The Center’s new fact sheet on Child Marriage and Personal Laws in South Asia further details how religion-based personal status laws are among the greatest barriers to ending child marriage practices in India.

The Committee recommended that the state also conduct “awareness-raising programmes and campaigns with a view to changing attitudes, as well as counselling and reproductive education, to prevent and combat child marriages.”

Access to reproductive health services and greater autonomy for adolescents

While the Committee acknowledged the government’s adoption of a strategy on adolescent reproductive and sexual health, it expressed concern around the lack of information with respect to the strategy’s implementation and its demonstrated impact on the health and life of adolescents across the country. The Committee also expressed concern around the lack of access to reproductive health information and services, including modern contraceptives and the consequent rate of teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

The Committee recommended that the government “[t]ake measures to ensure that adolescent girls and boys have effective access to confidential sexual and reproductive health information and services such as modern contraception as well as girls’ access to legal abortions in practice.” Among these measures should be the inclusion of a sexual and reproductive health education as a mandatory school curriculum, “with special attention on preventing early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections…”

The Committee further recommended that the state “guarantee that the views of pregnant teenagers are always heard and respected in abortion decisions.”

Sexual abuse and marital rape

The Committee noted the non-criminalization of sexual abuse if committed against married girls over the age of 15, and recommended that “all forms of sexual abuse of girls under 18 years of age, including marital rape, are fully criminalized.”

The committee further recommended awareness-raising and education programs, mechanisms to ensure mandatory reporting of sexual abuse, and necessary measures to counter reports of “widespread violence, abuse, including sexual abuse, and neglect of children in the State part.”

We urge the government of India to take these recommendations seriously and more effectively implement policies that will vastly improve the lives and health of girls.

The full Concluding Observations from the CRC Committee can be found here.

Fact Sheet: Accountability for Child Marriage Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity

Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 13:46
Nancy Northup Talks Texas with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

10.06.14 - The morning after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction, shuttering all but eight of Texas’s abortion clinics overnight, Nancy Northup appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes to discuss the devastating impact the closures will have on the women of Texas.

Under the pretext of women’s health and safety, Texas HB2 imposes a sweeping array of excessive and medically unnecessary regulations that has led to an 80% reduction of clinics providing abortion services for, as Northup notes, “no good reason.” The closures essentially strip Texas women of the promises of Roe v. Wade through backdoor tactics.

“If you closed 80% of the polling booths in Texas, you would not say you still had the right to vote," noted Northup during the show.

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions

Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight for Abortion Access to U.S. Supreme Court

Sun, 10/05/2014 - 23:00
Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight for Abortion Access to U.S. Supreme Court Texas women facing devastating loss of constitutionally protected health care

10.06.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Following a decision Thursday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed the immediate enforcement of a far-reaching and extreme Texas law that has left no more than eight clinics left standing in the entire state—women’s health care providers have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Today the women’s health care providers—represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights—filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on August 29 permanently blocking the provisions of Texas’s HB2 that that now has nearly one million Texas women facing a minimum of a 300 mile roundtrip to access their constitutional right to an abortion. 

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

“There can be no question that just a handful of clinics left to offer safe, legal abortion care to all women across the vast state of Texas is a dire emergency in need of an immediate response. 

“Every hour that these clinics are closed adds to the number of women, many facing urgent circumstances, who will be denied essential care and their constitutional rights. Every day that passes increases the likelihood that these shuttered clinics will never be able to open again.

“Women’s constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care have been dealt a devastating blow. We look now to the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately reinstate the injunction, allow the clinics to reopen, and put an end to the irreparable and unjustifiable harm to Texas women that is happening right now.”

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling on October 2 immediately allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers to go into effect immediately—a provision that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and has closed more than a dozen of the state’s remaining providers.

The ruling also stayed the district court’s injunction against the admitting privileges requirement as it applies to two of the state’s hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas—a provision that has already closed approximately half the state’s abortion clinics. 

This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer.  The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were ultimately upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and now the plaintiffs await a decision on whether the full appeals court will rehear the case. 

The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison & Foerster, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell & Soifer.

Said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health:

“After just a few days, we have already begun to see the real impact of these onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions. We are being forced to turn women away from safe, compassionate health care simply because of our politicians’ ideological agenda.

“Texas politicians may have closed some of our clinics doors, but Whole Woman’s Health remains committed to the women of this state and we are more determined, bolder, and stronger than ever. And we are proud to stand with the Center for Reproductive Rights and other independent abortion care providers as we take this fight all the way to the U.S Supreme Court.”

Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2 Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.  Elected officials in two Texas cities—Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Austin City Council Members Speak Out in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Call for Repeal of Texas HB2 Houston Mayor and City Council Members Call for Passage of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Repeal of Texas HB2 Cases:  Whole Woman's Health v. Lakey

Organization of American States Links Abortion Restrictions to Violence Against Women; Calls on Governments to Decriminalize Abortion

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 23:00
OAS Links Abortion Restrictions to Violence Against Women; Calls Governments to Decriminalize Abortion

10.03.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) For the first time ever a committee within the Organization of American States (OAS)—considered to be the United Nations for the Americas—is recommending that all governments decriminalize abortion in cases of rape and incest, when the woman’s health or life is at risk and in cases of fetal impairments.

This OAS committee focused on addressing violence against women is calling on governments to recognize violence against women as a form of gender discrimination and to condemn all forms of such violence, including those related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The committee also recommends that governments ensure sexual and reproductive health care, including access to free medical services and care for survivors of sexual violence.

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

“Denying safe, legal care to women who need to end a pregnancy is an act of violence, and it is a tremendous measure of progress that a body within the Organization of American States has recognized this.

“Women denied this essential health care service face serious threats to their lives, families, and future as a result of unsafe and illegal abortions.

“There can be no denying that this is a violation of women’s fundamental human rights.

“We commend the progressive voices within the Organization of American States for recognizing that abortion is not a crime and women’s reproductive and sexual rights must be respected and protected. And we will continue working to hold governments accountable for guaranteeing and protecting women’s access to a full range of safe, legal reproductive health care services as a matter of basic human rights in the Americas.”

The Declaration on Violence Against Women, Girls and Adolescents and their Sexual and Reproductive Rights passed by the OAS committee this week recognizes that “gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedom on a basis of equality with men.” In the declaration, the committee acknowledges that gender discrimination and cultural stereotypes are obstacles that hinder women and girls from exercising their human rights, including seeking medical care and legal recourse when subjected to sexual violence. 

The OAS committee oversees the “Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women” (Convention of Belém do Pará). The Convention, which entered into force in 1995, defines violence against women in broad terms and establishes the obligations of states in preventing, investigating, and punishing violations of women’s physical, sexual and psychological integrity, and other related rights, with the intention of eliminating violence against women. The declaration is a critical advocacy tool that can be used in national and regional litigation and advocacy.  

The Center for Reproductive Rights has spoken out on violence stemming from sexual and reproductive rights abuses. Earlier this month, the Center testified alongside reproductive health and human rights advocates before the OAS committee as they were drafting the declaration. And earlier this year, the Center spoke at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on women’s rights issues, including discrimination, violence and reproductive rights violations in the Dominican Republic.

According to a new Center report, 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.

Abortion Worldwide: 20 Years of Reform

New Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Oklahoma Abortion Restrictions

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 10:40
New Lawsuit Challenges Unconstitutional Oklahoma Abortion Restrictions Law Threatens to Reduce Access to Safe, Legal Abortion in Region Already Devastated by Similar Restrictions

10.02.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a new lawsuit in state court today challenging an Oklahoma law signed by Governor Mary Fallin in May which mimics other laws passed in the region specifically designed to shutter reproductive health clinics.

Filed just two days after another lawsuit challenging the state’s unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion, today’s suit—filed on behalf of a physician who provides nearly half of the abortion services in the state— seeks to block Senate Bill 1848, a measure that would force reproductive health care clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital on-site during days abortion procedures are performed. 

Admitting privileges requirements like Oklahoma’s are opposed by national and state medical groups and have devastated access to abortion services throughout the South.  Scores of clinics have been forced to close in Texas, with clinics in Mississippi and Alabama hanging on by a court order.  Admitting privileges are not necessary for the treatment of the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications requiring hospital treatment and they can also be impossible to satisfy because of hospitals’ inclination to deny admitting privileges to abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.

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

“The relentless attacks by Oklahoma politicians on women’s health care and rights under the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions must be stopped.

“This latest restriction on abortion, like all the others that have been passed by this legislature and subsequently blocked by the courts, reflects nothing more than a single-minded obsession with shutting down the clinics that offer safe, legal care to women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy.

“Oklahoma women now face ever-shrinking access to essential health care in a region already devastated by similar restrictions.  With their options rapidly disappearing, women will soon have few places left to turn when they need to end a pregnancy safely and legally. 

“Legal challenges to laws like this have exposed the disingenuousness of the politicians who claim they are about protecting women’s health and safety. We are confident this court will see through the pretense and block this law before it damages the health and rights of Oklahoma women.”

Ilene Jaroslaw, Janet Crepps, and Genevieve Scott of the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Blake Patton of Walding & Patton and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office, filed today’s suit in the District Court of Oklahoma County on behalf of Larry A. Burns, D.O.—a physician with over 41 years of experience providing safe abortion care in Norman, Oklahoma.  Dr. Burns has been unable to obtain privileges at any of the 16 qualifying hospitals within 30 miles of his office, with many hospitals even refusing to process his application.  Dr. Burns is one of only three abortion providers in the state and provides nearly half of abortion services for Oklahoma women.

With this law, Oklahoma joined the ranks of other states that have attempted to use admitting privileges requirements as an underhanded way to shutter high-quality clinics and severely limit women’s access to abortion services.  Women’s health care providers and advocates are currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement which has already closed health centers across the state while the last clinic in Mississippi is fighting to keep its doors open.  A similar law in Alabama was recently found unconstitutional and Wisconsin’s admitting privileges requirement has been preliminarily blocked.

Major medical groups oppose laws like Oklahoma’s that require hospital admitting privileges for physicians providing abortion services.  In an amicus brief filed in the challenge to Texas’ admitting privileges requirement, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that the law “jeopardizes women’s health,” and does “nothing to protect the health of women.”  Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with fewer than 1% of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  The Oklahoma State Medical Association opposed Senate Bill 1848 because it “would result in the Legislature and unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Health interfering in the physician/patient relationship and crafting more burdensome regulations that . . . may not reflect medical science or the best interest of the patient.”

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma 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.

Oklahoma Governor Fallin Signs Law Designed to Shutter Reproductive Health Clinics New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer

Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 23:00
Fifth Circuit Greenlights Texas Law Which Will Immediately Shutter All But Seven Abortion Clinics in the Entire State Nearly One Million Texas Women Now Face Minimum of 300 Mile Roundtrip to Access Constitutionally Protected Health Care

10.02.14 - Following today’s order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit staying a federal district court decision from August 2014 permanently blocking provisions of a far-reaching and extreme Texas law, all but seven reproductive health care facilities offering abortions will be forced to close immediately—meaning nearly one million Texas women will soon face a minimum of a 300 mile roundtrip to access their constitutional right to an abortion. 

Today’s ruling allows the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) to go into effect immediately—a provision which amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and will close all but seven abortion providers in the state.

The ruling also stays the district court’s injunction against the admitting privileges requirement as it applies to two of the state’s hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas—a provision that has already closed approximately half the state’s abortion clinics. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the women's health care providers are currently considering all available options to protect women's health in the face of this ruling.

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

“Today's ruling has gutted Texas women's constitutional rights and access to critical reproductive health care and stands to make safe, legal abortion essentially disappear overnight.

“It is an endorsement of politicians' disingenuous tactic of undermining women's safety under the false pretext of protecting it, and of their unconstitutional intrusions into the personal, private decisions of every woman and family facing an unintended pregnancy.

"All Texas women have been relegated today to a second class of citizens whose constitutional rights are lesser than those in states less hostile to reproductive autonomy, and women facing difficult economic circumstances will be particularly hard hit by this devastating blow.

“Absolutely no woman’s rights or access to essential reproductive health care should be determined by her zip code. We will continue fighting on every front to put a stop to these assaults and defend every woman’s right to the full range of safe, legal reproductive health care.”

This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer.  The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were ultimately upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and now the plaintiffs await a decision on whether the full appeals court will rehear the case. 

The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a team of attorneys from the law firm Morrison & Foerster led by J. Alexander Lawrence, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell & Soifer.

Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with fewer than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.  Elected officials in two Texas cities—Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.

File Upload:  TX-ASC-5th-Cir-Opinion-10-2-14.pdf Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access Federal Court Protects Texas Women from Further Loss of Abortion Access Two More Texas Health Centers Forced to Close in Wake of Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions Passed Last Summer Texas Continues to Fight Back: Center for Reproductive Rights To File Second Lawsuit Against HB2’s Devastating Abortion Restrictions Texas Health Care Providers in Court to Protect Abortion Access in Texas Houston Mayor and City Council Members Call for Passage of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Repeal of Texas HB2 Austin City Council Members Speak Out in Support of Federal Women’s Health Protection Act, Call for Repeal of Texas HB2 Cases:  Whole Woman's Health v. Lakey

New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health and Safety in Passing Abortion Restrictions

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 08:47
New Report Debunks Politicians’ Disingenuous Claims about Protecting Women’s Health, Safety with Abortion Restrictions States with Highest Number of Abortion Restrictions Have Poorest Health Outcomes, Least Supportive Policies for Women and Children

10.01.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) States with the highest number of abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes and least supportive policies for women and children, according to a new report jointly issued today by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health.

The report—titled Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women and Children’s Health and Well-Being Against Abortion Restrictions in the States—evaluates the assertions of anti-choice politicians against real, evidence-based policies that actually advance the well-being of women and families, finding that many of the same states that have passed abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women are severely lacking in policies that would truly address the challenges women and their families face every day.

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

“This report exposes the flimsy claims of politicians who have been shutting down women’s health care providers under the patently false pretext of protecting women’s health.

“It clearly demonstrates how women and families have suffered as politicians put their ideological agenda before the real needs of their constituents.

“The real goal of these restrictions on abortion has never been to protect women, but rather to cut off access to safe, legal care for women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy. 

“Women do not need any more laws that pretend to protect their health and safety while putting both in jeopardy. They need the real thing.  It’s time these politicians check their priorities, and finally be held accountable to the women and children of their states.”

 This analysis comes at a time when women’s access to essential reproductive health care is under siege like never before, with politicians in nearly 30 states enacting more than 200 laws since 2011 in their effort to make it harder, or in some cases impossible, to access abortion services. Despite the fact that abortion is one of the very safest medical procedures, politicians are advancing these laws under the false pretense that it will make abortion safer and improve women’s health.

Politicians in states like Texas and Louisiana have made the claim that restrictions on abortion services protect women’s health and safety, despite the fact that leading medical associations—including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist—oppose such restrictions precisely because they are a threat to women’s health, lives, and well-being.

“It is critical to look closely at what is happening in states where an alarming number of abortion restrictions are either in place or being proposed,” said Kelly Blanchard, president of Ibis Reproductive Health.  “Our analysis shows that many policymakers working to restrict abortion are ignoring the evidence about what policies are well-documented to improve women’s and children’s lives.”

The report examined state-level policies and broad health, social, and economic indicators and outcomes related to the well-being of women and children against state-level restrictions on abortion.  Findings include:

  • The more abortion restrictions a state has on the books, the less likely they are to have evidence-based policies that promote the health and well-being of women and children.
    • For example, Kansas and Mississippi both have the maximum number of abortion restrictions (14 in total), but have only adopted 6 policies (of 18 total) demonstrated to promote the health and well-being of women and children.
  • States that have the most restrictions on abortion consistently have the worst health outcomes for women and children.
    • For example, Oklahoma has the maximum number of abortion restrictions (14 in total) and has some of the country’s worst outcomes for women’s health – including higher maternal mortality rates, higher uninsured rates, and lower rates of cancer screening, among other outcomes – and some of the worst outcomes for children’s health – including higher infant and child mortality rates, lower rates of preventive care, and higher rates of teen alcohol and drug abuse, among other indicators.

Many of the abortion restrictions referenced in today’s report would be addressed by the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

File Upload:  Petition FINAL_OK Med Ab.pdf Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gets It

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 17:41
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gets It

09.30.14 - If she wasn’t your hero already, take a look at the interview Justice Ginsburg gave to Elle magazine for their October issue, and you might reconsider.

Writer Jessica Weisberg asks the 81-year-old Clinton appointee about topics all over the map—from the conservative pendulum swing on abortion issues to work/life balance to the Justice’s own first appearance in front of the Supreme Court. 

On the subject of abortion, Ginsburg cuts to the quick regarding the socio-economic disparity in access to abortion care in the US: 

The impact of all these restrictions is on poor women, because women who have means, if their state doesn’t provide access, another state does. I think that the country will wake up and see that it can never go back to [abortions just] for women who can afford to travel to a neighboring state... It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.

She also notes that she doesn’t think the pendulum can swing any further to the right on abortion issues, and muses that 50 years from now, people will not understand the Hobby Lobby decision.

Weisberg calls out the seasoned Justice as an optimist, and Ginsburg readily agrees—but she’s also a realist. When asked if she will resign while Obama is in office in order to insure continuity in the court’s makeup, she replies, “Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court.”

Ginsburg, despite her age and health setbacks with colon and pancreatic cancer, says she will continue to “do the job full steam” until she no longer can.

The online version of the interview is a powerful excerpt, but Weisberg’s full sit-down with the Supreme Court’s greatest champion for reproductive rights can be found in the hardcopy of Elle’s October issue.

A Guide to the Supreme Court Nomination

New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 12:43
New Lawsuit Seeks to Block Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion in Oklahoma Legal challenge filed less than a year after state courts permanently struck down similar measure as unconstitutional

09.30.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) Women’s health care providers filed a new lawsuit in state court today challenging Oklahoma’s unconstitutional restrictions on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy—restrictions that would force physicians to treat women seeking medication abortion according to a decade-old method that is less safe, less effective, and more expensive than the evidence-based methods most doctors currently use.  The Center for Reproductive Rights represents the providers in today’s suit.

House Bill 2684—which was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin in April and is scheduled to take effect  November 1—would deny women current evidence-based protocols for medication abortion that leading medical groups have found “make medical abortion safer, faster, and less expensive, and that result in fewer complications” as compared to the protocol mandated under the law. In addition, the bill bans all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, forcing women to undergo a surgical procedure when they otherwise would have the option of a safe abortion using medications alone.

Today’s lawsuit comes less than a year after the courts overturned Oklahoma’s last attempt to ban medication abortion in the state. In that case, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concluded that preventing doctors from using evidence-based medicine “is so completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine that it can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those who do.”

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

“Oklahoma politicians are back at it again, playing doctor, intruding upon women’s private decisions, and pretending their actions are good for women’s health even though medical experts and associations nationwide make clear that they are absolutely not.

“Women’s health will never be advanced by laws aimed at foreclosing safe and legal options for those who have made the decision to end a pregnancy, no matter what false pretenses lawmakers use to dress them up.

“The true intent and effect of this law is to deny women an important option for ending a pregnancy safely and legally in the earliest stages. That is plainly unconstitutional, and we are confident that the court, as it has so many times before, will stop it from ever going into effect.”

Autumn Katz and Zoe Levine of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Blake Patton of Walding & Patton, and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office filed today’s suit in the District Court of Oklahoma County on behalf of Nova Health Systems d/b/a Reproductive Services—a non-profit reproductive health care facility in Tulsa—and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice—a non-profit membership organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of the full range of reproductive health care services to women throughout the state.

This is the third time in the past four years Oklahoma politicians have passed legislation restricting women’s access to medication abortion in the state, including a measure that would have effectively banned the method in 2011.  The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge in October 2011 against that provision and the US Supreme Court eventually refused to hear the case, allowing the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision permanently blocking the law from taking effect to stand.

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy in the first nine weeks choosing this method.  Major medical groups oppose laws like Oklahoma’s which severely restrict access to medication abortion.  Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) have submitted amicus briefs opposing similar restrictions in Arizona and Texas.  These types of restrictions ignore years of doctor’s practical experience and scientific advancement, forcing providers to prescribe the medication with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

File Upload:  Petition FINAL_OK Med Ab.pdf CRR Launches Legal Challenge to Oklahoma Law Restricting Abortion-Inducing Medication Nation’s Highest Court Dismisses Case Concerning Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Medication Abortion Ban Oklahoma Supreme Court Confirms Unconstitutional State Law Acts as a Total Ban on All Medication Abortion

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