Anti-Choice Laws Defeated in Oklahoma

This week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two anti-choice laws. One law would have made it mandatory for a woman seeking an abortion to see an ultrasound image and hear a description of the fetus; the other sought to ban “any off-label use of medications for abortion or treatment of ectopic pregnancy,” although it would have still allowed “off-label use of the same medication for other purposes.”

The ultrasound law had been passed by the state legislature in 2010, and the drug law was approved the following year. Following challenges by the Center for Reproductive Rights, both laws had been halted by lower court judges. In its decisions, the state Supreme Court said that both laws violated a 1992 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that it must “follow the mandate of the United State Supreme Court on matters of federal constitutional law.”

 

Draw the Line for Reproductive Rights

The Center for Reproductive Rights has launched the “Draw the Line” campaign, in an effort to deliver a statement to Congress and the president that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights and should be protected as such.

In addition to the “Bill of Reproductive Rights,” which supporters can sign to show their support for women’s health, the Draw the Line website has information about other ways that people can protect reproductive rights. A slew of celebrities, from Kevin Bacon, to Sarah Silverman, to Meryl Streep have also spoken out in support of the campaign – check out their video here, and help spread the word!

Quick Hit: Mississippi at Risk of Losing Only Abortion Clinic

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization – also known as Mississippi’s only abortion clinic – has asked a federal court to block a new law that could force the clinic to close. The law, which is set to go into effect on Sunday, July 1, would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The clinic is also requesting more time to try and comply with the law; clinic representatives say that they began applying for the privileges several months ago, but have been unable to obtain them at any hospital located within a half-hour drive from the clinic. Representative Sam Mims, who sponsored the bill, has asked the state’s Department of Health to deny the clinic a grace period.

Unsurprisingly, the law’s supporters claim that their intent is to protect women. Of course, the fact that all of the OB/GYNs currently working at the clinic – all of whom fly in from out of state – are board-certified hasn’t seemed to made an impression on these politicians, who have not been shy about also stating their opposition to abortion. Mims has said, “My hope is that the women that are making these choices will now choose life, that they will realize that life begins at conception,” and he’s far from the only prominent abortion opponent supporting the law. As the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health, pointed out,

“Supporters of the measure have made it abundantly clear the regulations were intended to shut the clinic down:

  • Governor Phil Bryant, when vowing to sign the bill, said that he would “continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free.”
  • The state’s Lt. Governor Tate Reeves stated that “the measure should effectively close Mississippi’s only abortion clinic” and “end abortion in Mississippi” when the bill passed the state Senate in April.
  • State Senator Merle Flowers told reporters that “There’s only one abortion clinic in Mississippi. I hope this measure shuts that down.”
  • State Representative Bubba Carpenter recently told a group of local county Republicans that “We have literally stopped abortion in the state of Mississippi,” and that “the other side [is] like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over. But hey, you have to have moral values.”

Moral values, Bubba? Like ensuring that no woman living in Mississippi will be able to obtain safe, legal healthcare within state lines? And doing so with such a cavalier disregard for their health and well-being? That’s not moral. That’s not even in the same universe as moral. That’s pushing an agenda designed to interfere in private, protected health decisions – which actually seems pretty darn immoral.

 

Texas Continues War on Women

Brace yourself for more crappy news out of Texas. As both Sarah and I have previously written (see here and here), Texas is moving closer and closer to a restrictive abortion law, which will require doctors to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortions 24 hours prior to the procedure. More specifically, doctors must make the sonogram visible, the heartbeat audible, and describe fetal development. In other words, Texas doctors will be legally required to treat women like unintelligent children incapable of making their own decisions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has been challenging this law from the get-go, but has been met with obstacles every step of the way. Last month, a panel of judges from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a preliminary injunction blocking key provisions of the law. Now, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has decided he can not grant the CRR’s request to permanently halt enforcement. However, it appears that he is as disgruntled with the decision as we are:

[Read more...]

FDA Must Lift Restrictions on Emergency Contraception

Since 2001, the FDA has dicked around with Emergency Contraception (EC), placing baseless restrictions on who can obtain it. But it looks like the walls are closing in on the FDA.

Although EC has been available — behind pharmacy counters with proof of ID — to those 18+ since 2006 and to those 17+ since 2009, it remains inaccessible for many. For example, women must approach the pharmacist and request EC; should the pharmacist’s religious beliefs conflict with providing Plan B, s/he may refuse to hand it over, under the protection of conscience clauses. And let’s not forget those under 17 who will be flat-out denied, and those (of any age) who simply can’t afford its high cost.

[Read more...]

Update on Texas Forced Sonogram Law

Last month I wrote about the new Texas sonogram law and the Center for Reproductive Rights’ lawsuit challenging it. Since then, there have been updates, which brings me to today’s post!

This past Wednesday, the CRR’s lawsuit saw its first hearing at a U.S. District Court in Austin. According to the Houston Chronicle, the State of Texas urged the judge (who was appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush, by the way) not to throw out the entire law, even if he finds parts of it unconstitutional:

“The severability clause cannot be ignored and must be applied,” Assistant Texas Attorney General Erika Kane told the judge.

The legislation states that if any provision in the law is found by a court to be invalid, the remainder may not be affected.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, of Austin, offered little indication how he will rule in a request for an injunction to stop Texas from implementing the new law requiring doctors to provide images of a fetus and sounds of a heartbeat before providing an abortion.

[Read more...]

Texas Ultrasound Law Challenged

The bad news: Texas recently passed a mandatory ultrasound law. The good news: the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has filed a class action lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of Texas medical providers performing abortions and their patients.

Let me backup a minute to explain what the Texas law entails. In a nutshell, it requires doctors to show women seeking abortions a sonogram. Specifically, as the CRR points out:

The doctor must personally place the images where the woman can see them, and describe the images in detail, regardless of her wishes. The woman must then wait at least 24-hours before she can obtain an abortion (the waiting period is two-hours for women who live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider).

In essence, this bill is not about health care or providing medical information to patients. It is about political interference and sends a clear, misogynistic message: that women are too stupid — or untrustworthy — to make decisions regarding their own body and futures. As CRR president Nancy Northup poignantly puts it, “When you go to the doctor, you expect to be given information that is relevant to your particular medical decisions and circumstances, not to be held hostage and subjected to an anti-choice agenda.” [Read more...]

New Report Shows Hyde Amendment Hurts Poor Women

Last Fall, the debate about including abortion in the health care reform package became a lightening rod that threatened to derail the entire movement towards comprehensive health care coverage. The health care reform bill was passed with language that prevented health care dollars from being spent on abortion. But pro-choice advocates are well aware that the Stupak Amendment was just a recycled version of old news. The Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1976, bars federal funding for abortion services.

A new report released from the Center for Reproductive Rights shows that the Hyde Amendment has had a disproportionate impact on poor women. According to the report:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/15141054[/vimeo]

If Stupak wasn’t enough, there is a new piece of legislation pending in Congress called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would make the Hyde Amendment permanent law, and extend bans on coverage for abortion to the private sector. But the bill doesn’t stop there. It reaches even further than Hyde and, amongst other things:

  • Permanently denies low-income women, federal employees, and military women abortion coverage
  • Effectively ends abortion coverage in private employer policies
  • Could undermine women’s access to life-saving emergency abortions at state and local public hospitals

The bill already has over 170 co-sponsors and is picking up traction in the House. Pissed off? Do something about it! Check out the Center for Reproductive Rights’ website for actions you can take today.