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Reproductive Refusals & Restrictions

Religious Refusals — More Like Discrimination

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized that a woman has a right to make fundamental decisions affecting her health and future, including whether or not to obtain an abortion. In the decades since Roe, women and their families have come to rely on the right to an abortion.

Today, however, the well-established right to an abortion is being attacked under the guise of religious freedom, putting a woman’s ability to obtain a safe, legal abortion in jeopardy. The first refusal law was enacted shortly after Roe, allowing individuals and entities to refuse to provide abortions or sterilizations due to religious beliefs. Since then, nearly every state has adopted a comparable law. Recent years have seen an increase in legislative activity related to refusal laws, as well as an expansion of refusal rights. For example, in some states medical professionals can refuse to provide referrals to women, pharmacists can refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, and hospitals can refuse to offer health care services to which it is opposed. Read more »

NWLC Testifies at D.C. Council Hearing on Proposed Bill to Prevent Bosses from Firing Women for Their Reproductive Decisions

It made for riveting television. No, I’m not talking about the latest World Cup match, although I’m sure that was riveting too. I’m referring to Monday’s public hearing at the D.C. Council on the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 where NWLC’s Senior Counsel and Director of State Reproductive Policy Gretchen Borchelt testified in support of the bill. In case you missed the live-stream, we are here to make sure you’re all caught up and water-cooler ready. 

As we mentioned in an earlier post, women around the country are being fired or threatened with firing for using fertility treatments to get pregnant, having sex while unmarried or using birth control.  In response to this alarming trend, the D.C. Council, along with legislatures in New York, Michigan, and North Carolina, have introduced bills to ensure that no man or woman is discriminated against by their boss based on their personal reproductive health decisions. The New York bill recently passed the State Assembly and is now pending in the New York State Senate. At yesterday’s hearing, the D.C. Council heard from various groups voicing support, and opposition, to the D.C. bill.   Here’s what you need to know from the hearing: Read more »

Pure Michigan: Great Lakes, Lighthouses, and…Rape Insurance?

As a Michigander living in DC, I am a constant, vocal ambassador for my home state. My apartment is decked out in University of Michigan paraphernalia and mitten-state décor. I never fail to get misty-eyed at the Pure Michigan commercials, the Tim Allen-narrated, nostalgia-laden tourism campaign.

But the Michigan legislature’s recent move to ban almost all abortion coverage in all private insurance plans, inside and outside the marketplaces set up by the new health care law—and without exception for rape and incest—is pure BS.

This bill, which, because of a quirky Michigan law, is veto-proof by the Governor (who vetoed a similar measure last year), threatens to do real harm to Michigan women. In her courageous statement on the chamber floor, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer shared her own story of being raped while she was in college, and noted that if she had become pregnant as a result, she would not have had coverage under this measure. Read more »

U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down Opportunity to Stand Up for Texas Women

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling Tuesday in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, refusing to block a law that is forcing one-third of Texas’ abortion clinics to stop offering vital services.

Back in July of 2013, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law H.B. 2, which, among other things, requires abortion providers to obtain unnecessary admitting privileges at local hospitals. Almost immediately, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union joined forces with a local Texas firm and filed a lawsuit on behalf of more than a dozen Texas health care providers and their patients.

The district court judge found the restriction both unconstitutional and unnecessary and prevented the restriction from going into effect. His ruling was a clear victory for Texas families, yet was almost immediately reversed by a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided that decreasing the number of physicians available to perform abortions and increasing the cost of abortions was not an “undue burden” on the women of Texas, and allowed the law to remain in effect while the matter is fully litigated in the courts. Read more »

State Politicians Continue to Play Politics with Women’s Health, Threatening a Woman’s Right to Abortion

This blog post originally appeared on ACSBlog.

Politicians in Ohio have gone to great lengths to end abortion in their state. They’re not taking the blatantly unconstitutional route of North Dakota and Arkansas and just banning abortion outright in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. Rather, politicians in Ohio are doing what they can to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to get an abortion. They are also passing measures with the intent of coercing, shaming, and judging a woman seeking an abortion. Make no mistake: these attempts are just as harmful as an all-out ban on abortion, and are increasingly encroaching upon a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. 

A pregnant woman in Ohio who decides on abortion faces multiple, politician-imposed, medically unnecessary steps. She must receive information intended to dissuade her from her decision and shame her for the deeply personal decision she has made. This now includes forcing her to visit the clinic so doctors can test for a fetal heartbeat and offer her the chance to hear it, and forcing her to listen to a description of the odds of carrying the pregnancy to term. She must then wait 24 hours before obtaining the medical care she originally sought. As an Ohio woman seeking an abortion said, “It’s a hard decision for anybody to make. To make it more difficult by passing these laws and making women feel guilty is terrible.” (And these new requirements are only part of the numerous abortion restrictions that became law in Ohio this year).

Unfortunately, these efforts in Ohio are part of a national trend. Abortion opponents have continued to push the boundaries in an attempt to further challenge the core constitutional protections for a woman’s decision to have an abortion. In the last three years, states have passed a record number of abortion restrictions. These include requirements that a woman undergo a medically unnecessary, physically invasive ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, prohibiting a woman from purchasing a comprehensive health insurance plan that includes coverage of abortion, and imposing unnecessary, costly, and burdensome requirements on the clinics and doctors who provide abortions in an effort to shut them down.

Why this uptick in anti-abortion legislation? Read more »

House Singles Out Women’s Health As a Bargaining Chip in the Debate Over the Government Shutdown

While the rest of us were watching the season premiere of Saturday Night Live this weekend, the House passed a bill that holds women’s health hostage as a bargaining chip in the debate over shutting down the government.

It is such a typical move by the far-right politicians in the House that it almost plays out like a skit on SNL. They have become caricatures of themselves.

Specifically, late Saturday night, the House passed a continuing resolution that would exempt bosses from complying with the ACA’s Women’s Health Amendment if they oppose it for “religious or moral” reasons. This means that bosses could impose their religious beliefs on their employees, or even block their employees’ access to needed women’s health care for vague and undefined “moral” reasons. Female employees and dependents – just like men – are capable of making their own health decisions and must be allowed to do so without interference from their bosses. Read more »

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Says Conestoga Wood Specialties Must Comply with Contraceptive Coverage Benefit

Conestoga Wood Specialties is one of the almost 30 plus companies challenging the contraceptive coverage benefit. Conestoga has been arguing that, as a secular, for-profit corporation, it can exercise religious beliefs and that it should be allowed to impose those religious beliefs and the beliefs of its owners on its employees. Today, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said, quite simply, “no way!”  

The court’s decision makes three important points: (1) Conestoga, as a for-profit, secular corporation, cannot exercise religious beliefs; (2) the Hahns, Conestoga’s owners, cannot impose their religious beliefs on their employees through their company; and (3) the decision does not disrespect the Hahns’ religious objections to contraception. Read more »

North Carolina’s Anti-Abortion Bill Take Two

Déjà vu, anyone? Less than two weeks ago, we saw the North Carolina Senate pass HB 695, a sweeping anti-abortion measure that could have left just one clinic in the state. But Governor McCrory threatened to veto the bill after it passed the Senate, citing problems with both the bill’s process and content. So last Thursday, anti-abortion legislators were at it again.

They passed a very similar bill, SB 353, that changed the content only slightly. But the process was still a problem – like the first bill, the new version contains extreme abortion restrictions tacked on to completely unrelated matters. The first one was tacked onto a bill prohibiting the use of sharia law. This one? Tacked onto a bill relating to motorcycle safety. The current bill was introduced in committee on Wednesday without public notice and quickly moved to the floor, where it passed the next day. Now it heads to the state Senate for consideration, where it is expected to pass. Read more »

Texas Abortion Bill Sparks Outrage

On Friday, the Texas Senate passed sweeping anti-abortion restrictions, that unconstitutionally ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and will unnecessary require abortion clinics to meet the standards set for hospital style-surgical centers, among other provisions. The bill now awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s signature. Once signed, it will force most of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics to close. This is certainly a sad day for women’s health. Read more »

Freedom To Make Educated Decisions is a Freedom To Life

At 11 years old, I had the privilege to dream up endless possibilities for my future. At 11 years old, I was nose deep in the Harry Potter series, dreamt of being a teacher one day, a news reporter the next, and an author in my spare time. My dreams were not limited but as expansive as my imagination would allow.

This past week, coverage of an 11 year old girl in Chile being forced to carry a pregnancy to term caused by a rape (by her stepfather) has been inducing criticism globally. Abortion in Chile is absolutely illegal even in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life. What has been even more heart-breaking is the fact that she has been praised for her “depth and maturity” in deciding to go through the pregnancy (not that she was allowed any other option or provided any other choice) by Chilean president Sebastian Pinera. Read more »