Days After Restrictive Abortion Law is Signed, North Carolina Clinic Has License Suspended

Remember how, when  Pat McCrory ran for governor of North Carolina last year, he promised not to pass any new abortion-related restrictions? Don’t worry, neither does he. And barely two days after McCrory signed an anti-choice bill into law, the FemCare clinic–also known as the only abortion provider in Western North Carolina–has had its licensed suspended.

Officials with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services say that the suspension is unrelated to the new law, and cited 23 violations. However, a statement released on behalf of the clinic alluded to the fact that those new regulations may have been a factor in the suspension: [Read more...]

Ross Douthat’s European Vacation

Earlier this week, the New York Times’s Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed about the “Texas abortion experiment.” While the conservative columnist acknowledged that Texas’s new law could make “first-trimester abortions harder to obtain,” he spent much of the piece downplaying the very real threats this law poses to women’s health and talking up similarly restrictive laws in Europe.

Douthat looks to the example of a number of European countries, including Ireland, for how the Texas law could play out. Yet he rejects comparisons between the United States and other certain countries that enact restrictive abortion laws. According to Douthat, concerns that “Women’s lives will be endangered, their health threatened, their economic opportunities substantially foreclosed” in America stem from similar outcomes in poorer and more conservative areas of the world and therefore are not appropriate sources to examine. He also adds that it is difficult to determine if “those bans actually hold back progress and development.”

Actually, it’s not that difficult. Studies have shown that when abortion is illegal, women still terminate their pregnancies—they just do so in unhygienic and dangerous conditions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank whose work Douthat also links to in his column:

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North Dakota’s “Heartbeat Law” Temporarily Blocked

We’ve written before about North Dakota’s attempts to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the nation: a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The law was scheduled to take effect on August 1.

Yesterday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote that:

“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion … (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”

Book Review: The Pill Problem

 

Before I started reading The Pill Problem by Ross Pelton I had just finished Drugs for Life by Joseph Dumit. I was slightly apprehensive about the message of the book, thinking that Pelton would promote solving one problem by perhaps encouraging the use of various drugs, but I was wrong. Pelton acknowledges the fact that the pill plays an important role in the lives of women, but states that the side effects are many and varied. Pelton’s mission with this book is to educate women on the side effects of the pill and hope that they will switch over to safer, healthier forms of contraception.

We often hear about side effects associated with the pill, but we are rarely told why women taking the pill are more likely to have blood clots for example. Pelton states that research has shown that nutrient depletion is common for the majority of women taking the pill, and that nutrient depletion can cause a range of undesirable symptoms and illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, depression, birth defects, cancer, osteoporosis and more.  [Read more...]

Mississippi’s Last Abortion Clinic Remains Open!

A federal judge has blocked part of a state law that could have closed Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the only clinic in Mississippi. Last year, the state passed a law that would have required that physicians at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals. While the physicians at JWHO tried to comply with that mandate, no area hospital would grant the privileges. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has represents the clinic, “the physicians responsible for vast majority of the clinic’s patients were not granted privileges by any of the hospitals in the area-with several hospitals refusing to even process the physicians’ applications, citing hospital policies on abortion care.”

Today’s ruling by District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III blocks the remaining forms of enforcement of this requirement, and prevents the state Department of Health from revoking the clinic’s license for being unable to comply with the admitting regulation. In his opinion, Judge Jordan wrote that “Closing its doors would — as the state seems to concede in this argument — force Mississippi women to leave Mississippi to obtain a legal abortion.” The judge also stated that Mississippi’s position in the case “would result in a patchwork system where constitutional rights are available in some states but not others.”

Kansas Weighs New Anti-Choice Laws

The South Wind Women’s Clinic in Wichita may offer a place for women to receive abortion care, but anti-choice legislators in the state are hoping to impose new restrictions on the procedure. Both the state House and Senate have passed a bill that would define life as beginning at fertilization, and anti-choice Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law.

The bill does more than include language about when life begins. It would also mandate what information clinics must give women about abortion risks—including the medically inaccurate claim of a possible link between breast cancer and abortion—and fetal development; prohibit clinic employees from providing sex education in schools; ban terminations performed solely because of the sex of the fetus; and prohibit the use of tax credits, tax preferences, and public funds for abortion services, as well as prevent public health-care services provided by the state from being used in any way to carry out abortions.

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Hospital Refuses to Accomodate Pregnant Employee, Places Her on Unpaid Leave

Late last month, the National Women’s Law Center filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Amy Crosby, a pregnant hospital cleaner in Florida. Crosby was forced to take unpaid medical leave when her employer, Tallahassee Medical Hospital, refused to accomodate Crosby’s doctor’s request that she not be required to lift anything heavier than 20 pounds. At the time that Crosby was placed on leave, she was 23 weeks pregnant.

Tallahassee Medical Hospital’s response is particularly puzzling because they had previously allowed other employees who had temporary physical disabilities or on-the-job injuries to be transferred to lighter duty. Yet in Crosby’s case, she was told that if she did not return to work by April 11, she will be fired even though the hospital still refuses to follow her doctor’s request.

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Emergency Contraception Restrictions Overturned!

This morning, Judge Edward Korman of the District Court of Eastern New York overturned the Obama administration’s ban on allowing women under age 17 to purchase emergency contraception without a prescription. Judge Korman has ordered the FDA to make Plan B available over the counter to all women “within thirty days.”

In late 2011, the administration overruled a decision by the FDA to allow teenage girls to purchase Plan B without a prescription. The administration’s move came as a surprise and was blasted for being politically motivated. In the decision released today, Judge Korman seemed to agree with that assessment, writing that the restriction was “a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence … The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step…were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.” (The full decision can be read here.)

Plan B has been available to women ages 17 and older without a prescription, and to younger women that have a prescription. But keeping the medication behind pharmacy counters meant that women could only buy the pill when the pharmacy was open, and many pharmacies are closed on evenings and weekends. Since Plan B is most effective if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, such delays matter. Women have also reported encountering pharmacists that refused to sell them Plan B, because the medication violated their own personal beliefs.

Today’s decision is great news, and a great way to start the weekend!

Why South Wind Women’s Center Matters

An abortion clinic opening in any U.S. city would make news these days, but the imminent opening of South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas has garnered a special kind of attention. The clinic, which will provide abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy as well as a wide range of other women’s health care services, will be located in Dr. George Tiller’s former clinic.

South Wind is owned by the Trust Women Organization, a nonprofit that was founded in 2010 by Julie Burkhart, who worked with Dr. Tiller for seven years. “We’re going to provide Pap smears, pelvic exams, well-woman care, contraceptive care, pregnancy confirmation and consultation, and STI (sexually transmitted infection) treatment” Burkhart has said. “We want to work with women who are having trouble getting pregnant and women who have been pregnant — the full range of services.” There are three physicians on staff—one local, two that will travel in from out of state—and a social worker that will offer both miscarriage and post-abortion counseling as well as lactation consultation.

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Update: Michigan Keeping Shaming Wands Out of Women’s Vaginas (For Now)

In a midwinter miracle, the powers that be in the Michigan legislature have decided that maybe it’s not the best idea to require that women who want abortions must undergo transvaginal ultrasounds. House Speaker Rep. Jase Bolger has said that he has “no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound …This House of Representatives will not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds.”

While it’s heartening that rational thought has prevailed in this specific matter, it’s important to note that this doesn’t indicate any great desire to stay out of women’s private health decisions. After all, the state passed an abortion “super bill” late last year that, among other things, banned telemed abortions and introduced structural requirements that could force clinics to close.