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Gretchen Borchelt, Senior Counsel & Director of State Reproductive Health Policy

Gretchen Borchelt is Senior Counsel and Director of State Reproductive Health Policy at the National Women’s Law Center. She oversees the Center’s state-based legal and policy efforts to protect and expand women’s access to reproductive health care. Gretchen also works on a range of issues as part of the Center’s Health and Reproductive Rights Team, including health care law implementation, access to contraception, refusals to provide health care, and judicial nominations. Previously, she worked at Physicians for Human Rights and was a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow at the National Partnership for Women and Families. Gretchen is a graduate of Columbia Law School and the University of Virginia.

My Take

The One Mississippi Abortion Clinic Stays Open, But…

Posted by Gretchen Borchelt, Senior Counsel & Director of State Reproductive Health Policy | Posted on: November 21, 2014 at 09:39 am

Good news - the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit just refused to reconsider a panel’s earlier decision to block a Mississippi law that would have closed the state’s only abortion clinic. The law required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and was meant to — and would have — forced the sole clinic in the state to shut its doors. But the panel said the law went too far and was unconstitutional — the full court’s decision not to rehear the case means that the clinic stays open. This is great news for Mississippi women who will continue to have access to abortion in their state.

But….

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The Hobby Lobby Majority Opinion: It Can't Be Sex Discrimination If Women Aren't in the Picture

Cross-posted from Alliance for Justice

The majority opinion in Hobby Lobby erases women from the picture altogether. In a decision that is squarely about women's health and equality, the male justices in the majority refuse to acknowledge the centrality of women. And in evidencing greater concern for protecting corporations from discrimination than in protecting women from discrimination, the majority opinion creates a hierarchy of discrimination where women are at the bottom (if they even merit consideration at all). 

To begin with, Justice Alito's opinion for the majority barely mentions women. As the Washington Post reported, the opinion uses the word "women" or "woman" a mere 13 times in 49 pages. Closer reading of the majority decision makes clear that seven of those mentions were either because the majority was refuting Justice Ginsburg (and her use of "women"); summarizing the government's position (and its use of "women") or describing the birth control coverage requirement (a simple recitation of fact). 

That leaves precisely six instances in which the majority — on its own — mentioned the word "women." There are two possible explanations. Both are troubling. 

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D.C. Standing Up For Women's Reproductive Health Decisions

My colleague Michelle wrote recently about proactive legislation that state legislators are introducing in order to expand and protect women’s access to reproductive health care services. Here’s one more example: Yesterday, D.C. Council Member Grosso introduced the “Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014.” Like bills introduced in Michigan and New York, this bill will protect employees from discrimination by an employer because of a reproductive health decision, like using birth control or in vitro fertilization.

As Councilmember Grosso explained, “Nationally, there have been a number of disturbing cases of bosses retaliating against employees for their reproductive health care decisions. For example, in Wisconsin, after the state legislature passed a law requiring insurance plans to cover contraception, the Catholic diocese told employees that if they used the benefit, they would be fired. In the past 4 years alone, individuals in California, Texas, Montana, and Indiana have brought discrimination suits against their employers after being fired from their jobs for being pregnant without being married.”

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The Supreme Court Hears Arguments in the Contraceptive Coverage Cases: Are the Employees’ Voices and Health Needs Being Heard?

Cross-posted from Alliance for Justice.

The companies seeking to deny women access to a benefit guaranteed under the health care law—coverage of all FDA-approved methods of birth control and related education and counseling without cost-sharing—made some questionable claims yesterday before the Supreme Court. Two in particular are worth exploring, especially since they’ve gotten short shrift in the post-argument analysis.

The first troubling argument was that the government does not have as compelling an interest in requiring insurance coverage for birth control as compared to other health care services. Paul Clement (the lawyer representing the companies) framed his opening by talking about how “religiously sensitive” it is to require birth control coverage. Justices Sotomayor and Kagan questioned this notion, asking how far an exemption for companies with religious objections would go. What about an owner who has religious objections to vaccinations or blood transfusions? Are those “religiously sensitive”? Should a boss be able to deny employees coverage of those health care services because of a religious belief? Clement responded that this case is “easier than” those cases because birth control is “so religiously sensitive, so fraught with religious controversy” and the government may have a “stronger compelling interest [in those cases] than it does” in this case.

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ABQ, I❤U

Posted by Gretchen Borchelt, Senior Counsel & Director of State Reproductive Health Policy | Posted on: November 20, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Yesterday, voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico took to the polls and voted down an attempt to ban abortion in their city.

The ballot measure was being pushed by opponents of abortion who targeted Albuquerque in a novel attempt to put an abortion ban on a city ballot. They hoped to close the city’s clinics, and also wanted to create a new model of attacks on abortion – going city by city, across the country.

But ABQ voters shut that whole thing down. Voters rejected the attempt to ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, recognizing that women need access to later abortion for a variety of reasons, and that the families in those situations need safe and legal medical care, not government interference.

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