Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

Stop restricting access: Prevent the “Rape Insurance” bill from going into law.

August 20, 2017

On August 15, 2017 Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 214 (HB 214). HB 214 is a bill by Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) that bars standard coverage of elective abortions by private, state-offered and Affordable Care Act insurance plans. While it has a very narrowly defined exception for medical emergencies, it makes no exception for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities. To obtain coverage for abortions due to rape, women would have to have previously purchased supplemental coverage which has led critics to dub this the “Rape Insurance” bill.


Mandel NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

The authors of the bill claim this legislation is about not requiring those who philosophically and fundamentally disagree with abortion to have to subsidize the procedure. Governor Abbott states this bill only limits insurance coverage for abortion procedures, not abortions themselves. But he himself cites this bill as part of his pro-life agenda stating “I am grateful to the Texas legislature for getting this bill to my desk, and working to protect innocent life this special session.”  In truth what SB 214 really does is limit a woman’s access to appropriate and timely health and abortion care. This legislation also unfairly and disproportionately targets low-income women. Abortion is concentrated among low income women.  Low-income women also shoulder a higher financial burden in terms of healthcare in general.

Under the bill, insurance companies would not be required to carry this supplemental “rape insurance”. This adds additional burden to women of all income levels. Ultimately, insurance companies may simply stop covering abortion altogether as the profitability of an “abortion-only” add-on would be questionable at best, further limiting access to care. Lastly, rape is an unpredictable life event, as is pregnancy as the result of rape. Under SB 214 women are expected to somehow anticipate the need for abortion care and purchase supplemental coverage, defying the point of insurance.

What’s missing from this photo? The women this law impacts.

What can you do?  SB 214 goes into law on December 1, 2017. Support Texas pro-choice groups in their prevention efforts. Reach out to Governor Abbott and remind him that “Texas Values” are not synonymous with his personal values. Get informed about women’s healthcare law in Texas.


via Trust.Respect.Access

Don’t live in Texas? There are 25 states with restrictions on abortion coverage in plans set up by state exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act. There are 10 states (now 11) which have laws restricting insurance coverage of abortion in all private insurance plans written in the state. Find out what the laws are in your state. Contact your elected officials and tell them how you feel about laws limiting women’s access to healthcare.


The Global Gag Rule, a harmful human rights violation

March 12, 2017

The Global Gag Rule (GGR) is harmful to women and families and violates human rights. Originally known as the “Mexico City Policy” because it was enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984 at a conference in Mexico City, the policy is more commonly known as the Global Gag Rule because of how it silences NGOs and health care workers. Specifically, the original policy dictated that no USAID family planning funds could be awarded to organizations that performed or promoted abortion and therefore prohibited them from even speaking about abortion.

The GGR is highly partisan- every Democrat president since Reagan has rescinded the policy and every Republican has reinstated it. The current administration, however, has not only reinstated the GGR but has dramatically expanded the funds that are affected.

Reagan’s version applied to USAID family planning funds; G.W. Bush’s version limited the GGR by exempting USAID HIV/AIDs related work. The latest iteration, however, greatly expands the affected funds to cover all foreign aid arising from any agency or department. The current version restricts up to $9.5 billion in aid, or 16x the amount of funds that would have been affected by previous versions.

Worse yet, beyond being a clear example of religious overreach in US politics and a violation of human rights, evidence suggests that the policy reduces sex education and contraception use while increasing both abortions and the proportion of abortions that result in health complications- maternal, family, and child health all suffer. There is a large coalition of organizations that oppose the GGR. You can take action today by learning more information about the GGR and volunteering or donating to organizations like IPPF, PAI, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who, together with UN member countries, are attempting to counteract the extreme funding deficit.

Devolution of Women’s Rights: Access to abortion services in PEI

August 15, 2014

The Supreme Court of Canada recognized abortions as a medically necessary service in 1988. It is therefore harrowing that the last legal surgical abortion performed on Prince Edward Island was in 1982.

Recently, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) proposed a program that would allow for safe, timely, and cost-neutral pregnancy terminations in the only remaining Canadian province that does not offer this service. This proposal was stonewalled by the provincial government last May.

At the current time, the PEI government covers the medical costs of the procedure for women to have the procedure in Halifax hospitals. The out-of-province trip and accommodation, however, is not covered, rendering it difficult for lower socioeconomic class women to access this health service. Additionally, two doctor referral letters are also required. For women without family physicians, or for those with physicians that refuse to  refer, there are few options. As Dr. Sethna, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa stated, “abortion doesn’t have to be illegal in order to be inaccessible”.

Desperation is dangerous. It is well-known that when women are deprived of their reproductive rights, they can turn to illegal, unsafe means. And in fact, abortions do continue to take plan on the island. Unsafe abortions are currently one of the biggest contributors to maternal mortality world-wide.

The PEI government’s decision is at odds with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the right to life, liberty, and security of the person. Up until now, the government has attributed the problem to the lack of qualified physicians willing to travel to the island. The rejected NAF proposition, however, identified 3 gynaecologists that had volunteered to provide this service in-province.

Access to safe and timely abortion services is a fundamental component to women’s rights and reproductive health. Help restore women’s freedom of choice by writing to your local media outlet or contacting your elected official (Rona Ambrose – Minister of Health, Kellie Leitch – Minister for the Status of Women, Robert Ghiz– PEI Premier). Join the PEI Reproductive Rights Facebook page and follow them on Twitter. Attend Canada’s Day of Action and show your commitment to Women’s Rights.

A Sound Decision? Virginia passes mandatory ultrasound House Bill 462

March 12, 2012

In what falls under “informed-consent” legislation, there is a proposed Virginia state bill that would require women seeking an abortion in early stages of their pregnancies to undergo an invasive type of ultrasound. This procedure would be mandated in order to receive an abortion. In some states it is even stricter, requiring that the woman listen to the heartbeat and look at the ultrasound (Texas). Opponents of the bill state that the procedure is unnecessarily invasive. Six other states that currently mandate ultrasounds and offer the opportunity for women to view the image include: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana and Missouri (a seventh state, Texas, requires that women receive both receive the ultrasound and view the image, then wait 24 hours).

On February 21, 2012, Governor McDonnell asked lawmakers to revise the bill in order to mandate that “abdominal” ultrasounds, instead of “transvaginal” ultrasounds, be performed before an abortion. This additional requirement must be financially supported by the women seeking abortions and increases the cost of the procedure. Women of lower socio-economic status may be subject to financial discrimination. To date, no professional medical organization recommends such a mandate in order to improve patient health and safety measures.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Flip-Flops


At first, Gov. McDonnell supported the bill that mandated all women seeking abortions to undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound to determine how far along the pregnancy was.
However, that didn’t go over well with his platform base and as it is an election year he withdrew his support. He cited that it was too “intrusive” and that “No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

The Sad Outcome
On Wednesday March 7, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the revised controversial bill into law despite four protests outside the Virginia State Capitol and a petition with 33,000 signatures. Executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Tarina Keene, had this statement: The bill is an unprecedented invasion of privacy and government intrusion into the doctors’ offices and living rooms of Virginia women.”

You Can Still Take Action
Although this amended bill just passed it is never too late to overturn a bill that puts unlawful restrictions on women and their medical rights. In an election year, if a senator gets enough calls citing outrage over an issue that he supported, it could make its way to the top of his priority list.

An Assault on Women’s Health: Virginia Passes Controversial Anti-Abortion Ultrasound Bill

March 11, 2012

(Steve Helber/AP)

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has signed into law a controversial bill that mandates ultrasounds for women seeking abortion in the state of Virginia, except for victims of rape or incest if the crime has been reported. Senator Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), one of only four physicians in the Virginia Senate, has called the law “a tremendous assault on women’s health care and a tremendous insult to physicians.

Not only does this law violate women’s right to control their bodies, but it also infringes upon doctor-patient relations. The law violates guidelines adopted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, which discourage the use of obstetric ultrasounds for non-medical purposes, stating:

“The use of either two-dimensional or three-dimensional ultrasound to only view the fetus, obtain a picture of the fetus or determine fetal gender without a medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice.”

Though the Virginia ultrasound bill has recently dominated national discourse surrounding abortion laws, it only part of a wave of highly contested anti-abortion legislation that seek to limit the right of women to choose.

Almost 40 years after Roe v. Wade, state and federal restrictions on abortion continue to dominate national discourse and shape national politics. I call upon organizations committed to protecting women’s health to challenge the Virginia anti-abortion legislation and similar state legislation in the courts. It is also up to individual citizens to exercise their right to vote for political candidates who are dedicated to guarding women’s right to make their own health care decisions.

Don’t Low-Income Young Women Deserve the Right to Choose?

August 13, 2011

According to the Guttmacher Institute’s State Data Center, in Florida in 2005, approximately 847 adolescent females became pregnant in Florida every week.  Of those, 264 females terminated their pregnancies each week of that same year.  For those young women in Florida whose families depend upon Medicaid public insurance to cover the costs of ending an unwanted pregnancy, unless there are extreme circumstances surrounding the situation, such as rape, incest or being life-threatening to the woman, they will need to find alternate resources to cover the costs of salvaging their future. Florida is one of thirty-three (33) states in the US that permits abortions to be paid for with public funds only in those extreme situations, under the Hyde Amendment, which was first passed and implemented over thirty years ago.

Since then, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has been involved in the fight to remove what is viewed as a barrier to access to abortion services and forces women of all ages, not just minors, to either carry unwanted pregnancies to term or pursue potentially dangerous illegal abortions without proper medical oversight, simply because they are low-income. NOW has focused its attention on politicians that have targeted further restrictions in state funding for abortions, beyond the terms of the Hyde Amendment. In time for the congressional votes on the 2012 budget, NOW coordinated a protest of Senator Marco Rubio’s office in Tampa, Florida.

Rubio’s proposals to enact legislation targeting female adolescents with the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act greatly restricts the rights of adolescents to obtain abortions across state lines and imposes great penalties for the abortion providers who may attempt to treat them.

The number of Medicaid-eligible women that have had limited choice but to give birth into circumstances under which they would have otherwise chosen termination, has increased over time. What has not been fully studied or well-publicized are the exponentially greater costs incurred by taxpayers to feed and provide medical coverage for the mother throughout the pregnancy and delivery, adding a dependent to the Medicaid rolls, when compared to the costs of exercising choice in an unwanted pregnancy for an adolescent already in need of public assistance.

States such as Florida should supplement federal funding to cover a young woman’s decision in this situation, so that she can create full opportunity to become a contributing member of her community.

Restricting Abortion as a Birth Control Method

August 11, 2011

Repeat abortions are a signal to healthcare professionals and policy makers that these women need enhanced support and education. Modifications in women’s behaviors will likely prevent health issues as a result of an abortion. Policies around repeat abortions will lower public and private healthcare expenditures.

The current prevalence of abortions hovers around 1.1MM according to the CDC, which does not account for all states. Repeat abortions now account for 48% of abortions. After Roe v. Wade, these repeat abortions doubled. These steadily increased to nearly half of all abortions today. Policy increased the number of repeat abortions.

Pregnant again?!

Policy could also reduce these numbers. Few states impose policies to restrict repeat abortions such as parental notifications for minors. According to Congress, federal Medicaid barred reimbursing abortions. However, seventeen states use public funds to pay for abortion programs, and roughly 20% of women surveyed confirmed using Medicaid to pay for their abortions.

Most importantly, who are these women that physically and mentally subject themselves to multiple abortions? Statistics share that repeat abortion victims are less educated and poor, in their early 20’s. Those with one or more children account for 61% of abortions. Most surprising is that 46% of women did not use contraception when they became pregnant.

These women need family planning education, support and resources. Organizations such as PlannedParenthood, CareNet Pregnancy Center of SE CT and ABC Women’s Center support and educate on the psychological and physical health issues involved with abortion. Community outreach also impacts the rate of repeat abortions with groups like 40 Days for Life. These programs, regardless of whether they support abortions or not, should not support repeat abortions.

This is not a question of being pro-choice or pro-life. Policies to deter repeat abortions must be mandatory for every state ie prevention with long-term birth control ie an implantable rod lasting 3 years. Advocate change with your local Senator today.

New Concerns for Women’s Reproductive Rights: Health Care Reform and Abortion Coverage

August 16, 2010

The 2009 U.S. health care reform debate surprised many as it quickly became apparent that abortion issues would be key in determining the legislation’s passage or failure. Final passage of the bill in March 2010 ultimately rested on an executive order from President Barack Obama, which reiterated Hyde Amendment provisions prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions (except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment).

Regressing from the status quo, the order increases restrictions on women’s reproductive rights by:

1. Requiring a separate payment for abortion coverage (“abortion riders”) from policy holders who will participate in the new state insurance exchange system.
2. Reaffirming McCarran-Ferguson Act provisions (granting individual states authority over private insurance, free from federal regulation)– prompting a new wave of state measures that will restrict coverage beyond Hyde Amendment provisions.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, regressive legislation on abortion coverage has been introduced in 18 states, with 5 new laws already enacted (Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee; Missouri was awaiting action by the governor as of July 2010).

This legislation has a negative effect of women’s health, and fails to give a voice to the one in three women who will have an abortion in her lifetime. Women’s reproductive health care needs are multifaceted, and women need private insurance companies to offer comprehensive reproductive health care packages that include abortion care as a core service. Additionally, as two-thirds of private insurers currently offer coverage; new legislation is effectively taking away coverage women likely already have [1].  Finally, “abortion riders” violate women’s privacy (requiring a separate check for the coverage), are discriminatory (no other “elective” procedure requires a rider), and do not actually result in coverage [2].

Professional medical organizations [3] and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners are in an ideal position to educate their members on the new restrictions, offer workshops on lobbying (providing members with talking points), and engage in grassroots organizing in the states introducing new legislation.

Restricting abortion coverage beyond even Hyde Amendment provisions, Idaho, North Dakota, Missouri, and Kentucky have enacted laws that prohibit private insurance plans from covering abortions, unless the woman’s life is in danger. How many more states will be added to this list? (Map is circa 2009, pre-Health Care Reform. Data is from the Guttmacher Institute. Cartographer: Sarah Tedrow-Azizi.)


Additional Resources:
Click here for the latest news on reproductive rights legislation and reports

[1] See Uneven and Unequal: Insurance Coverage and Reproductive Health Services, published by The Alan Guttmacher Institute in 1994.
[2] In North Dakota, which required riders before the Affordable Health Care Act, insurance companies simply did not offer any abortion coverage, rather than have to worry about the additional paperwork required to keep track of two separate payments.
[3] Abortion Care Network, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Abortion Federation, National Coalition of Abortion Providers

Native Americans Swallow Vitter Bill

August 17, 2009

Based on U.S. government and Native American treaties, this country has a legal and moral responsibility to provide health care to American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN). Indian Health Services (IHS) provides care to ~2 million tribal members in 35 states through hospitals, health centers, and clinics located on AI/AN reservations, but they also purchase health care through Contract Health Services.

FY 2000-2001 Regional Difference Report, Indian Health Services

FY 2000-2001 Regional Differences Report, Indian Health Services

Despite federal policy on treaties, the IHS is consistently under-funded. In 1976, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) was approved in an attempt to address health disparity needs. Today, the IHS Federal Disparities Index (FDI) indicates current funding is at only 60 percent of IHS total need. The IHCIA expired in 2000 and despite broad support and intense AI/AN efforts, reauthorization of the bill failed.

Why did it fail? Sen. David Vitter introduced the Vitter Amendment, an anti-abortion rider supported by the National Right to Life Committee. Even though this amendment is redundant to the Hyde Amendment, Vitter is on a political crusade to slog down health care bills with Right to Life anchors. Ironically, the IHS doesn’t even offer abortion services.

During a radio interview, Stacy Bohlen, Executive Director of the National Indian Health Board, stated,

…a letter was sent to every member of the House threatening that a vote on the IHCIA was going to be scored as a National Right to Life vote whether the abortion language is in it or not.

Despite progress by the House Subcommittee on Health, the IHCIA bill remained hostage to abortion politics. Meanwhile, the IHCIA did make it to the Senate floor and the Vitter Amendment was reluctantly accepted in an effort to gain approval. It passed—no thanks to Vitter. He voted no.

For the 5th time since 2000, the IHCIA is once again before Congress. Please call your Congressional Representatives to show your support for the passage of this long-overdue AI/AN health care bill—and ask them to leave abortion politics out of it! Children like Ta’Shon Rain Little Light or Trevor should not be victims to Vitter political grandstanding, as their health care needs remained unmet due to shameful (under)funding policy.