US’s Role Responding to New Afghan Law

Michelle Goldberg

Since we've been discussing the role of the United States in fostering women's sexual and reproductive rights worldwide, I'm curious as to what others think the US should do about the new Shia Personal Status law in Afghanistan.

Since we’ve been discussing the role of the United States in fostering
women’s sexual and reproductive rights worldwide, I’m curious as to
what others think the US should do about the new Shia Personal Status
law in Afghanistan. As most of you no doubt know, the new law appears
to legalize spousal rape, to require women to get their husband’s
permission to leave the house, work or visit the doctor, and to grant
child custody to fathers and grandfathers, a provision that will
further entrap women in abusive situations. On Thursday the Associated
Press quoted one provision stating that a woman is “bound to preen for
her husband as and when he desires,” and that a husband has the right
to sex with his wife every four nights. “Unless the wife is ill or has
any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound
to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

Canada, the government has pledged to exert direct pressure on
Afghanistan to jettison it, but the US seems to be approaching it with
more circumspection. Which, of course, is not surprising — I spoke to
someone in Kabul early this morning who told me that Shia leaders are
outraged over the international condemnation. The US, needing allies
against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, surely doesn’t want to be seen as
meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Still, Hillary Clinton
promised to put women’s rights at the center of American foreign
policy, and it seems to me that if our government is serious, it can’t
just uphold them when it’s convenient or uncontroversial.

News Contraception

New Hawaii Law Requires Insurers to Cover a Year’s Supply of Birth Control

Nicole Knight Shine

Insurance companies typically cover only a 30-to-90-day supply of birth control, posing a logistical hurdle for individuals who may live miles away from the nearest pharmacy, and potentially causing some using oral contraceptives to skip pills.

Private and public health insurance must cover up to a year’s supply of birth control under a new Hawaii law that advocates called the nation’s “strongest.”

The measuresigned by state Gov. David Ige (D) on Tuesday, applies to all FDA-approved contraceptive medications and devices.

Hawaii joins Washington, D.C., which also requires public and private insurers to cover up to 12 months of birth control at a time.

Oregon passed a similar measure in 2015, but that law requires patients to obtain an initial three-month supply of contraception before individuals can receive the full 12-month supply—which the Hawaii policy does not.

“At a time when politicians nationwide are chipping away at reproductive health care access, Hawaii is bucking the trend and setting a confident example of what states can do to actually improve access,” Laurie Field, Hawaii legislative director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in a statement.

Insurance companies typically cover only a 30-to-90-day supply of birth control, posing a logistical hurdle for individuals who may live miles away from the nearest pharmacy, and potentially causing some using oral contraceptives to skip pills. Both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend supplying up to one year of oral contraceptives at a time, as the Hawaii Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health noted in a 2016 conference report.

Fifty-sex percent of pregnancies in Hawaii are unintended, compared to the national average of 45 percent, according to figures from the Guttmacher Institute.

Women who received a year’s supply of birth control were about a third less likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy and were 46 percent less likely to have an abortion, compared to those receiving a one- or three-month supply, according to a 2011 study of 84,401 California women published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Reproductive rights advocates had championed the legislation, which was also backed by ACOG–Hawaii Section, the Hawaii Medical Association, and the Hawaii Public Health Association, among other medical groups.

“Everyone deserves affordable and accessible birth control that works for us, regardless of income or type of insurance,” Planned Parenthood’s Field said in her statement.

Analysis Politics

Louisiana’s Race to the Bottom: State Gubernatorial Candidates Both Oppose Abortion

Ally Boguhn

Louisiana's highly anticipated gubernatorial runoff election is making waves as a Democrat in the Deep South threatens Republicans’ hold on the governor’s seat. But whatever his politics, should he win, Rep. Edwards would still be no friend to reproductive health in the state.

Louisiana’s highly anticipated gubernatorial runoff election is making waves as a Democrat in the Deep South, Rep. John Bel Edwards, threatens a Republican’s hold on the seat. Much ado has been made about the possibility of a more liberal candidate taking over the office. But whatever his politics, should he win, Rep. Edwards would still be no friend to reproductive health in the state.

In the October gubernatorial election, neither Edwards nor his Republican rival, Sen. David Vitter, were able to capture the necessary 50 percent of votes it takes to win in the state, prompting a general election runoff slated for November 21. Vitter, once considered a shoo-in for the position after leading a May Southern Media & Opinion Research poll by more than 38 points, is now trailing 22 points behind Edwards, according to a recent University of New Orleans poll.

As part of a seemingly last-ditch attempt to regain ground, the Republican candidate has ramped up efforts to highlight his own extremism on abortion and contrast it with his opponent’s. Speaking at Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge last Thursday, Vitter condemned Edwards for supposedly refusing to defund Planned Parenthood. “Make no mistake about it. Planned Parenthood is an abortion mill,” Vitter said.

Vitter’s assertion that Edwards had opposed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood dismissed the Democratic candidate’s potential plan to do just that. Prior to the runoff, during an October gubernatorial debate that Vitter did not attend, Edwards outlined his support for investigating and possibly defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in the statenone of which currently provide abortion servicesin response to the deceptively edited series of undercover video tapes released by the anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress. Although Edwards also stated that funding shouldn’t be pulled until after another solution is found to deal with the patients who would lose access to care, the future could still be uncertain for the 5,200 patients eligible for Medicaid services who, according to the Times-Picayune, currently use Planned Parenthood of New Orleans and Baton Rouge for “cervical cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection screenings and contraception.” 

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Even before the runoff, however, candidates across the aisle were touting their anti-choice credentials. The previously crowded gubernatorial field included two additional Republican candidates whose extreme positions on reproductive health were also a talking point on the campaign trail, and Vitter himself noted on social media that he was “honored” to receive an endorsement from the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee.

But it wasn’t just Republicans pushing their extreme positions on reproductive health; Edwards has also made his opposition to abortion access a key component of his campaign. In a 30-second television ad, Edwards’ wife appeared to discuss how doctors had advised her to terminate her pregnancy when tests revealed their daughter would have spina bifida, and how the couple decided to go through with the pregnancy anyway. Edwards credited his daughter with coming up with the idea for the ad, explaining that it was meant “to make sure people understood where we are on that issue as it relates to our Catholic Christian faith, being pro-life,” as reported by the Advertiser.

Overall, despite criticism launched by his more conservative opponent, Edwards’ record on abortion speaks for itself. According to Louisiana Right to Life (LARTL), the candidate received a 100 percent rating from the group based off a scorecard he filled out asking questions such as “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade,” and, presumably referring to the Hyde Amendment, “Would you veto a law that would weaken existing law that prohibits the use of federal funds or state funds, facilities, employees, from performing, referring for, recommending, or counseling for abortions?” Edwards’ voting history while in the Louisiana House of Representatives between 2008 and 2015 also earned him a “100% Pro-Life” rating according to LARTL records, finding that he sided with the group in 28 out of 28 anti-choice votes. 

One thing is clear: No matter which party wins the election, an anti-choice governor will remain in Louisiana, where the reproductive health-care situation is already dire. According to anti-choice organization Americans United for Life, Louisiana is the most hostile state to abortion rights in the country. Under Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal’s governorship and a GOP-led legislature, Louisiana has pushed through almost every effort to regulate abortion services out of existence within its borders. Extreme laws in the state include mandated state-directed counseling and an accompanying 24-hour waiting period prior to obtaining an abortion, telemedicine bans, required parental notification for those under 18, forced ultrasounds, and an outright ban on abortion procedures should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned.

These measures meant that there were just five abortion providers left in the state in 2011, leaving people in 92 percent of counties in Louisiana without access to an abortion provider.

Despite the state’s efforts to roll back access to care, the need for reproductive health services in the state is evident. According to a 2010 analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, 60 percent of all pregnancies in the state were unplanned, and almost 80 percent of the resulting births were publicly funded. About 45,000 women in the state relied on publicly funded family planning services for care in 2013.

It would seem that no matter who wins Saturday’s runoff elections, the real losers in the race will be the residents of Louisiana who won’t be able to access the reproductive health care they need.