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38 Anniversaries Too Many: Time to End the Hyde Amendment

Anniversaries. I love celebrating anniversaries. Yay to Roe v. Wade, yay to Title IX, yay to 12 years with my husband. Bring on the flowers, cake, and happy dances.

But there is one anniversary where a dark cloud comes over the day. And that’s the anniversary of the Hyde Amendment.

What’s Hyde you say? It’s the restriction that’s passed every year for the past THIRTY-EIGHT years denying women with Medicaid health insurance coverage of abortion except in a few limited circumstances. Every year Congress decides that some women don’t deserve to decide for themselves what’s best for them and their families. Every year some members of Congress who don’t like abortion personally are withholding Medicaid coverage from qualified women, just to make it harder or even impossible for them to have an abortion. Read more »

Reflecting on Poverty Day, Take a Moment to Support Reproductive Justice

The Supreme Court once recognized that, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Most Americans get this connection. As we think about Poverty Day, it is particularly important that we remember this critical connection.

So what happens when the government blocks women’s access to reproductive care, particularly abortion? Just taking a wild guess here that it’s not equal participation in the economic and social life of the nation.   Read more »

Alabama Admitting Privileges Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Yesterday, a federal judge in Alabama held that the state’s law requiring abortion providers to obtain hospital admitting privileges was unconstitutional as applied to the clinics that brought the suit. Enforcement of the law would have closed three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics.

Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued his 172-page opinion [PDF] after a ten-day trial in the case, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Strange. It details the history of violence, harassment, and hostility in Alabama towards abortion providers and the significant obstacles the law would have imposed on women seeking abortions. Read more »

The Women's Health Protection Act: Protecting Women's Right to Choose

What do mandatory delays, biased counseling requirements, stringent physical building standards, and restrictions on the use of telemedicine all have in common?

They are all examples of the kinds of medically unnecessary laws passed by state politicians that target abortion clinics, providers, and patients with the goal of eliminating access to abortion. Between 2011 and 2013, states have enacted over 200 restrictions on abortion, and they just keep coming. These restrictions mean that women and providers have to fight in court just to keep abortion clinics open. These restrictions mean that the entire Rio Grande Valley is without a single provider. That’s over 1 million people without access. These restrictions mean that a woman’s constitutional right depends on her zip code.

But women and members of Congress are fighting back. The Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin, would undo many of the dizzying number of restrictions passed in recent years. This bill would nullify laws that purport to protect women’s health but, in reality and intent, restrict women’s access to the reproductive health care they need and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. Read more »

Diary of a Former Clinic Intern: What McCullen Means to Me

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in McCullen v. Coakley, striking a Massachusetts law that protects patient access to abortion clinics by prohibiting anyone, regardless of their position on abortion, to come within 35 feet of a facility. I was an intern, clinic volunteer, and patient at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Rhode Island from 2012-2013 and had my own share of experiences passing protestors as I made my way to the clinic’s doors.

Many mornings as I walked to my internship at the clinic in Providence,  a man wielding  pamphlets plastered with pictures of aborted fetuses would hiss things like “reconsider your decision” or “two beating hearts go in but one is coming out” or “you’re killing your baby.” He positioned himself in a way that in order to get from the parking lot to the clinic entrance, I had to walk right by him. He never touched me, but both his tone and his actions were clearly meant to intimidate me and anyone else going into the clinic. Read more »

The Massachusetts Buffer Zone Protected Me

I started volunteering at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts in 2011 and was hired in 2012. When I worked there, I would always have the same routine. Every morning, I would grab a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts for my fifteen-minute walk. I would talk to a friend on the phone, until I would turn the corner right before the health center. Read more »

Not Letting Religion Trump Facts or the Court in the Contraceptive Coverage Cases

Last week, the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in two challenges to the contraceptive coverage benefit brought by non-profit organizations with religious objections to contraceptives. And, on Tuesday, a Wyoming district court ruled that a group of non-profit organizations raising the same challenge can’t take the benefit away from their employees while the case moves forward. The argument at the D.C. Circuit and the decision by the Wyoming district court show how the courts are responding to employers’ attempts to let religion trump facts and legal responsibilities of the court.

In each of these cases, the non-profits state objections to contraceptives, sterilization, “abortion-inducing drugs” or “abortifacients,” and any related education and counseling. Wait—what? Despite assertions to the contrary, the ACA does not require any health plan to include coverage for abortion. The birth control benefit requires coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives. By definition, contraceptives prevent pregnancy. That means that none of the FDA-approved contraceptives health plans must cover are abortifacients. In fact, physicians and other health care professionals submitted a brief to the Supreme Court that explains these facts [PDF]. But don’t let facts get in the way of a good story. The media, and even courts, are picking up this inaccurate conflation between contraceptives and abortion—adding to misinformation and deception that is already common when it comes to women’s reproductive health. Read more »

Some Cause for Optimism in the 2014 Legislative Session

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. Read more »

A New Georgia Law Will Make Abortion Unaffordable for Many Women

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. Read more »

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

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.  Read more »