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Some Cause for Optimism in the 2014 Legislative Session

Posted by Michelle Banker, Research Assistant | Posted on: May 05, 2014 at 09:35 am

So far in 2014, state lawmakers across the country have continued their campaign to restrict women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health services. Fortunately, however, the news is not all doom and gloom: One of the most noteworthy trends from the first quarter of 2014 is the record number of state bills introduced to repeal harmful laws and promote women’s reproductive health.

The Guttmacher Institute recently reported that more bills to protect access to abortion have been introduced thus far in 2014 than had been introduced in any year for the past 25 years. Two of those have already become law. The Governor of Vermont signed a law [PDF] repealing the state’s unconstitutional abortion ban, precluding the possibility of future attempts to enforce the archaic ban and relieving doctors of any lingering fear that providing an abortion could result in imprisonment. Five days later, the Governor of Utah signed a provision [PDF] exempting women seeking an abortion in certain emergency situations from the state’s onerous biased counseling and mandatory delay requirements. Although the Utah law is but a small step forward, taken together these victories should send a clear message to legislators nationwide that progressive policies on reproductive health can succeed.

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Women’s Employment Update: Women gain 166,000 jobs in April, but a disproportionate share of jobs are in low-wage sectors

Posted by Lauren Frohlich, Fellow | Posted on: May 02, 2014 at 03:01 pm

Most of the early headlines reporting on today’s jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics celebrated the “surge” in payrolls and the “plummeting” of the unemployment rate. The report does give us some reasons to be optimistic—the economy added 288,000 jobs in April and the overall unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percentage points to 6.3 percent—but a deeper dive into the data shows a more complex picture.

April job gains were disproportionately low-wage for women:

  • Women gained 166,000 of the 288,000 jobs added in April, while men gained 122,000 jobs.
  • Women’s gains – but not men’s – were disproportionately in low-wage sectors (specifically, retail and leisure & hospitality).  These industries accounted for more than three in every ten jobs women gained (31 percent) but only one in every ten jobs that men gained (10 percent).
  • Women accounted for 81 percent of the 63,000 jobs added in the retail and leisure & hospitality sectors.
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A New Georgia Law Will Make Abortion Unaffordable for Many Women

Posted by Michelle Banker, Research Assistant | Posted on: May 02, 2014 at 10:04 am

Georgia is definitely on my mind. Or to be more precise, I’m worried about Georgia women. At every step, Georgia has resisted implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would improve women’s health: The state has refused to expand Medicaid eligibility or establish its own state-run exchange. Georgia has, however, seized on a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows states to prohibit insurance coverage of abortion in exchanges set up in their state.

Last week Governor Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 98 [PDF] — a measure that will severely limit women’s access to safe and affordable abortion by banning abortion coverage in state employee health plans and private plans offered through the federal exchange operating in Georgia.

Women who purchased health plans through the exchange will now be denied the abortion coverage they paid for except in cases of extreme medical emergency. The law prohibits coverage of abortion even in cases where a woman has become pregnant due to rape or incest or where there is a severe fetal anomaly.

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An Open Letter to Tennessee, From One Of Your Own

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: May 02, 2014 at 09:54 am

I love Tennessee. It’s where I grew up; running cross country through amazing forests and watching friends develop amazing musical talents. Life in Tennessee is relaxed, the people are so nice, and I relish each visit back to my home state, whether it is to take my kids to the new park downtown or to go Honky Tonkin with my best friend.

But there are times when I really get sad over Tennessee’s future – like refusing to expand Medicaid and efforts to amend the state Constitution in order to attack abortion access. I am only more troubled by the recent news that Tennessee has become the first state to outright criminalize women who illegally use a narcotic drug and experience a bad pregnancy outcome (if the baby being born is “addicted, is harmed, or dies because of the drug”).

Look, I get why people could support this law – they think it could stop drug using during pregnancy. As one bill co-sponsor explained: “we need to help [pregnant mothers] see the seriousness behind the offense and help them get the help they need.”

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Update on Senate Action on Judges (So Far!) This Week

Posted by Amy K. Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Women and the Courts | Posted on: May 01, 2014 at 02:52 pm

Following the confirmation of Michelle Friedland to the Ninth Circuit on Monday, the Senate voted to move forward on six nominees to district court seats on Tuesday. These nominees — Sheryl Lipman to the Western District of Tennessee, Allen Bastian to the Eastern District of Washington, Manish Shah to the Northern District of Illinois, Daniel Crabtree to the District of Kansas, Cynthia Bashant to the Southern District of California, and Jon Levy to the District of Maine — were confirmed on Wednesday.

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Hats Off to Google for Not Tolerating Deceptive Ads by Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Posted by Michelle Banker, Research Assistant | Posted on: May 01, 2014 at 02:21 pm

Go Google!  Google announced this week that it is taking down deceptive advertisements by crisis pregnancy centers, or “CPCs,” anti-abortion facilities that target pregnant women seeking medical services and information about abortion. These facilities—which do not provide abortions and typically are not licensed medical clinics—frequently make false claims about the services they provide to lure in vulnerable women and shame them out of having an abortion. The Washington Post reports that Google reached its decision after an investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice America found evidence of CPCs blatantly misrepresenting that they provide abortions and other health care services in Google ads.

Women need access to accurate, unbiased medical information in order to make informed decisions about their pregnancies. Although some CPCs provide truthful information to women, many intentionally disseminate false propaganda to keep women from obtaining an abortion or contraceptives. CPCs have been known to tell women a host of untruths, including that birth control is ineffective and that abortion causes breast cancer, permanent psychological damage, and infertility. What’s worse, CPCs often use tactics like offering free ultrasounds and having their employees and volunteers wear medical scrubs to make them seem like legitimate medical providers. These insidious practices impede women’s ability to obtain timely and safe treatment and pose a substantial threat to women’s health. Because many women who think they may be pregnant first turn to the internet for information, search engines like Google are critical to CPCs’ efforts to get women in the door. 

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A Real Support System for Young Mamas and Their Families

Posted by Lauren Khouri, Fellow | Posted on: May 01, 2014 at 11:53 am

Cross-posted from Strong Families.

Contrary to stereotypes and other negative messages that are so popular with mainstream media, parenthood does not have to be the end of the road for young mamas.  Instead, motherhood often motivates and empowers young women to focus on succeeding so they can best provide for themselves and their children.  Unfortunately, too often this sense of drive and determination is halted in the face of discrimination and shame. At the National Women’s Law Center, we frequently hear from young moms who face obstacles to staying in school because of their schools’ rigid policies, many of which are illegal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal civil rights law that bans sex discrimination in education – including pregnancy discrimination.

Moms like Brandi Kostal.

A student at Logan College in St. Louis, Brandi had an emergency C-section towards the end of her spring term.  Her school only excused absences for jury duty or military service, and for many classes, missing only a few sessions would qualify her for “attendance failure.” Faced with ruining her academic record and not being able to graduate on time, Brandi returned to classes just 11 days after her emergency C-section.

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From the Dorm Room to the White House, Sexual Assault Survivors Are Not Alone

Posted by Katie Hegarty, Online Outreach Assistant | Posted on: May 01, 2014 at 09:21 am

Content warning: This piece discusses sexual assault.  

When I graduated college last May, it felt ridiculously important to me that I establish myself as capital-A Adult. I moved to a new city, I got a full-time job and an apartment, and I came shockingly close to adopting a cat (adults have cats, right?). I wanted to make it clear that I had grown beyond my college identity.

But that changed this week, when I realized I will always be connected to my alma mater — especially when headlines like these splash across the homepages of popular news outlets:

U.S., Tufts University at Odds in Handling Sexual Assaults

Tufts University and Federal Government in Standoff Over Sexual Assault Policies

Tufts Found in Violation of Title IX Sexual Assault, Harassment Regulations

Tufts University, the school I called home for four years — where I learned what Title IX even is — was recently found to be out of compliance with federal Title IX regulations for handling sexual assault cases on college campuses. And unfortunately, this news surprised very few students and recent alumni.

Rape culture is pervasive even when administrators wish it weren’t. Survivors wish that, too, but we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the fact that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during college [PDF].

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