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Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel

Leila Abolfazli is Counsel in the Health and Reproductive Rights Program at NWLC. She works on a range of issues involving the protection and expansion of reproductive rights at the federal level. Prior to joining the NWLC, Ms. Abolfazli was a Senior Associate at WilmerHale in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of Emory University and Georgetown University Law Center.

My Take

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.”


Today, Supreme Court Considers Law That Protects Abortion Clinic Employees and Patients

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: January 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an important case for protecting women’s access to reproductive health services. The case is McCullen v. Coakley, a case challenging a Massachusetts “buffer zone” law. The Massachusetts law simply regulates the conduct of the public by ensuring reproductive health care facilities have a 35-foot radius to keep their doors and driveways unobstructed for patient access.


The Hyde Amendment Hurts Women

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: September 30, 2013 at 09:52 am

Just because something has been policy for many years doesn’t make it a good policy. I’ve got a whole list I could go through (not letting women vote, not letting gay people marry, the whole “separate but equal” thing). Add to that list the Hyde Amendment.

What’s the Hyde Amendment? It is an amendment added to the yearly federal funding bill that bans Medicaid from covering abortions with federal money except in the narrow cases where a woman is a survivor of rape or incest or when her life is endangered. Added 37 years ago by Representative Henry Hyde, this harmful rider has been hurting low income women ever since.


6th Circuit Says Your Boss Can’t Say No to Your Birth Control

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: September 18, 2013 at 01:22 pm

In a unanimous decision in Autocam v. Sebelius, the 6th Circuit held that a for-profit, secular company is not a ‘“person’ capable of ‘religious exercise’” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (RFRA is a federal law that protects an individual’s exercise of religious freedom from substantially burdensome laws where the government did not have a compelling interest in passing the law). Based on this holding, the Autocam companies – Michigan-based manufacturers of auto and medical supplies – can’t bring a RFRA challenge to the Obamacare rule requiring health insurance plans to cover the full range of birth control methods. Oh, and the 6th Circuit held that Autocam’s owners also can’t challenge the rule under RFRA because the birth control requirement is on the company, not the owners.

This means that Autocam’s female employees and dependents will not have access to coverage for the birth control method that’s appropriate for them, without cost sharing. In other words, they finally get to take advantage of this fabulous Obamacare benefit that many of us have been enjoying for a year now.


The Hastily Added Sexual Assault Exception to H.R. 1797 Proves How Much Its Sponsors Just Don’t Get It

Posted by Leila Abolfazli, Senior Counsel | Posted on: June 17, 2013 at 01:22 pm

H.R. 1797 is still a really really bad bill. It imposes a federal ban on almost all abortions after 20 weeks. It has no exception for when a woman’s health is threatened, or when there is a severe fetal anomaly. The one exception in the original introduction only applied to when a woman was on her deathbed from a physical illness (suicidal? sorry not good enough). The bill is an unconstitutional whopper – a paternalistic piece of legislation that cruelly ignores the lives of women it will affect. But don’t just take my word for it, see it for yourself. Just see how the bill’s sponsors view sexual assault, and its victims…

This is last week: House Judiciary Committee holds mark-up of H.R. 1797. During said hearing, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks, makes now infamous comment that pregnancy does not often result from rape. Franks makes this comment just before every Republican committee member votes against an amendment that would have included an exception for rape or incest. Committee members complain that the exception doesn’t include a reporting requirement.

Next up – huge fallout from Franks’ comments, Washington Post gives him four pinocchios for his statement. House leadership scrambles. Bill is taken out of Franks’ hands, and given to a female Republican to manage on the floor. But what else can be done to get bill back on track? That’s right -- add that pesky rape/incest exception on a late Friday afternoon.

But the exception itself shows how bill sponsors really don’t get it. And think we really are stupid. That the public won’t see through this crass political calculation. Should we feel good about this bill now that it includes an exception for rape and incest THAT REQUIRES FIRST THE SEXUAL ASSAULT TO BE REPORTED?