Roundup: Spanish Panel Recommends Liberalization of Abortion Law

Emily Douglas

Spanish panel recommends liberalization of abortion law; "fetal pain" bill moves forward in Utah; Houston Chronicle calls for comprehensive sex ed; what the Vitter amendment would do; "confusing patchwork of regulation" in wake of octuplet birth; budget "undermines parental control"?

Spanish Panel Recommends Liberalization of Abortion Law
A Spanish "government-appointed" panel has recommended that the country liberalize its abortion laws, the AP reports.  "The current law allows abortion up to 12 weeks in cases of rape and 22 weeks in cases of fetal malformation. It allows abortion at any stage if a doctor certifies a woman’s physical or mental health is at risk.  Abortion
would be allowed on demand up to 14 weeks, and up to 22 weeks if a
doctor certifies a serious threat to the health of the mother or
malformation of the fetus."

"Fetal Pain" Bill Moves Forward in Utah
A bill to require doctors to tell women having late-term abortions the
fetus will feel pain has passed a preliminary vote in the Utah Senate, KCPW reports.  "The bill is based on research indicating fetuses can feel pain, but the
finding is not universally accepted by the medical community. In fact,
several medical groups oppose the bill, saying that administering
anesthesia to a fetus can increase the risk of life-threatening
complications for the mother."  KCPW adds, "Two other abortion bills have already been approved by the Utah
Legislature this year. They include an increased penalty for physicians
who perform illegal late-term abortions, and the creation of a fund to
pay for litigation costs of future challenges to Roe v. Wade."

Houston Chronicle Calls for Comprehensive Sex Ed

A Houston Chronicle editorial
points out that "Texas receives far more federal funding for abstinence
education than
any other state, yet in the latest government survey, it ranks third
highest in the nation in teen birth rates."  As such, the Chronicle
supports the efforts of two Texas lawmakers to pass legislation that
would offer students access to medically-accurate sexuality education. 
"The proposed measure
will not require public schools to teach sex education. (It is not
currently mandated.) But it will require those districts that do so to
provide complete and medically accurate information.  Parents can opt out of
the course, and the measure would require schools teaching sex
education to stress that abstinence is the only absolutely effective
way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, while also
giving instruction on contraception and disease prevention."

What the Vitter Amendment Would Do

What happens when you
defund the largest provider of family planning services, just because
they provide comprehensive reproductive health care?  Access to
services goes down — and if there aren’t competent clinics who can use
the funds, there’s a de facto decrease in funding.  The Weekly Standard claims that Sen. David Vitter’s amendment to the omnibus to prevent family planning funding going to Planned Parenthood wouldn’t actually decrease funding for family planning.  Effectively, there’s wrong.  And let’s
take a step back.  What possible justification could there be for
Vitter’s amendment?  Planned Parenthood provides legal services, and
does so competently.  He wants to defund them just because he doesn’t like them?

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"Confusing Patchwork of Regulations" in Wake of Octuplet Birth
The LA Times reports
that state legislature are showing interest in regulating IVF in the
wake of the octuplets’ birth to California mother Nadya Suleman, which
could result in a "confusing patchwork of regulations."  A Georgia bill
"called ‘The Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act,’
defines an embryo as a "biological human being" and prohibits the
destruction of frozen embryos — wading into a loaded debate over
abortion rights and embryonic stem cells."  The Times points out that states can use IVF regulation as cover to enact conservative, anti-choice state law.

Budget "Undermines Parental Control"?
The GOP has ten talking points on Obama’s budget for you.  Here’s number 7: The budget "Undermines Parental Control. 
A proposed expansion of family planning programs through Medicaid would
permit children of any income level to qualify for family planning
services without parental approval."  With help from the Constitutional Law Professors Blog, we just debunked this talking point yesterday!  I quote again:

Legislators on these topics (and parents) may wish to believe that a
person’s constitutional rights begin when that person reaches the age
of majority.  This is simply not true.  Minors have a First Amendment right to engage in free speech.  Minors have a Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches
on school grounds.  The Supreme Court decided that since minors do
possess Constitutional rights in these areas, it would be unfair and
inconsistent to hold that minors do not have a right to privacy under
the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

"Much Work to Be Done" on Rescinding of Conscience Rule
On the Hill’s Congress Blog,
National Reproductive Health and Family Planning Association’s Mary
Jane Gallagher applauds the administration’s move to rescind the HHS
provider conscience expansion, but notes that "there is still much more
work to be done."  "Already conservative ideologues – who claim to
oppose abortion but who
refuse to support common-sense, common-ground solutions like family
planning, which helps prevent unintended pregnancy and thus reduces the
need for abortion – are in an uproar about the move to rescind this
The White House’s next step is to publish a new notice of proposed
rulemaking rescinding the Bush rule in the Federal Register, and to
accept comments from ‘people across the ideological spectrum’ during a
30-day public comment period."  That means family planning advocates need to stay vocal, Gallagher says.

Physician Education on EC Needed
A Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study
finds that when physicians are better educated about emergency
contraception, the frequency with which they offer it to patients
increases.  For example, "Almost 20 percent of the doctors surveyed
incorrectly answered that
ECPs had to be administered within 24 hours of unprotected sex, when in
fact the drug is effective for up to five days. This misinformation may
lead to fewer prescriptions, the authors said…The five biggest concerns cited by the doctors
participating in the internet-based survey were lack of patient
follow-up after receiving the first dose; time constraints during the
hospital visit to properly discuss ECP use; lack of clinical resources;
a belief ECP discourages regular contraceptive use, and concerns about
birth defects, according to the study."

Other News to Note
March 5: KETV: Abortion Bill Sparks Heated Debate: Measure Requires Doctors To Show Ultrasound Images

March 5: Boston Globe: State urged to delay decision on Caritas: Similar program in N.Y. has flaws, rights groups say

March 5: WaPo: Finding Peace in the Culture Wars

March 5: CNA: Obama’s pro-life backers risk usurping bishops, critic says

March 5: CNA: Pro-life experts ask Obama not to push abortion in Latin America

March 5: Birth-control shot linked to weight gain

March 5: Petition site:Don’t Let the Senate Block Family-Planning Programs!

March 4: 40 Days for Choice: Why is Affordable Birth Control important

March 5: Opposing Views: OPINION: Pro-Choice Catholics are ‘Contaminated,’ Harm Church (Judie Brown)

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.