Video: Next Generation of FL Planned Parenthood Activists Protect Access to Women’s Health Care in DC

AmandaM

In July 2009, 12 young leaders from Florida joined over 200 of their peers from across the nation at the Planned Parenthood Youth Organizing and Policy Summit. A sea of bright pink health care T-shirts took over Capitol Hill, as Planned Parenthood young activists visited members of Congress to ensure that access to women's health care is included in health care reform. Watch the video here...

In July 2009, 12 young leaders from Florida joined over 200 of
their peers from across the nation at the Planned Parenthood Youth
Organizing and Policy Summit.


A sea of bright pink health care
T-shirts took over Capitol Hill, as Planned Parenthood young activists
visited members of Congress to ensure that access to women’s health
care is included in health care reform.

You can watch the below video to see Team Florida in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0YqByDdg4U
To find out more, visit the website below:
http://www.floridaplannedparenthood.org

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Analysis Law and Policy

Following Well-Worn Scripts, State Lawmakers Renew Assault on Access to Abortion Care

Sofia Resnick & Imani Gandy

As state legislative sessions gear up for what could be one of the worst years on record for reproductive rights, anti-choice lawmakers across the country have in recent weeks filed barrages of laws that would restrict access to safe and legal abortion. Many of these laws are identical, or nearly so, to laws that have repeatedly failed in the same states where they are being reintroduced.

Last year, a band of Missouri lawmakers tried to ban public funds going to abortion and human cloning. It was a quixotic act, given that such bans are already found in both state and federal law. Nonetheless, these legislators failed to ferry their redundant laws through the state house, and the bill died.

One might think, then, that anti-choice lawmakers in that state would avoid wasting further time and taxpayer dollars trying again to pass duplicative laws that have already failed.

One would be wrong. Indeed, in Missouri, a new group of lawmakers has now proposed a bill identical to the ban that failed last year.

As state legislative sessions gear up for what could be one of the worst years on record for reproductive rights, anti-choice lawmakers across the country have in recent weeks filed barrages of laws that would restrict access to safe and legal abortion, all while duplicitously claiming that these measures are needed to “protect” women. Many of these laws are identical, or nearly so, to laws that have repeatedly failed in the same states where they are being reintroduced, an analysis by Rewire shows. Our research shows that all of the 22 anti-choice bills that were pre-filed in six states this year—Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Texas—are identical or substantially similar to bills proposed in prior years.

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Many of these bills originate with one of four main organizations, our research has found. Based on analysis presented in Rewire Data, those organizations are: Americans United for Life, the National Right to Life Committee, and, to a lesser extent, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Susan B. Anthony List. (Search for more model bills, and the lawmakers who sponsor them, here.)

With hundreds of pre-written bills at the ready, the underlying strategy is to throw every bill into the mix, hoping that one might pass. Anti-choice lawmakers are also fighting a war of attrition, reintroducing failed bills until they gather the numbers to pass.

After years of failure, these strategies are now garnering considerable and growing success, best demonstrated by the passage in 2013 of Texas’s regressive anti-choice omnibus law, HB 2. As we have previously reported, that law passed only after years of unsuccessful attempts by anti-choice legislators, who were undeterred by their prior failures, and with the help of Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who called two special sessions of the legislature to ensure passage.

In the aftermath of GOP gains last November, reproductive rights advocates anticipate that this year will see an intensification of the anti-choice legislative frenzy.

“[T]he midterm election results provide good reason to be concerned about a renewed focus on restricting abortion in the upcoming 2015 legislative sessions,” write analysts for the Guttmacher Institute in a recent report.

It’s not just the last elections that are creating this push. Another reason this year is shaping up to be particularly harrowing for reproductive rights is that some state lawmakers already have their eyes set on races in 2016, according to South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg), who has been the most active lawmaker when it comes to pre-filing anti-choice bills in that state. (See below for details of each bill.)

“A lot of legislators—you know, 2016 is an election year, and they’ll want something to put on the pro-life card,” Bright told Rewire. “I think something will pass, but I don’t know what.”

Bright predicts that more legislators will push for state-based 20-week bans, a measure heavily backed by the National Right to Life Committee, which scores state lawmakers on their “pro-life” credentials leading up to an election. Focus on the 20-week ban could explain why three different state senators in South Carolina separately introduced the same 20-week ban bill.

As a preview for the year to come, Rewire has assessed many of the state bills that were pre-filed before the beginning of states’ legislative sessions and identified some of the proposals that have similarities to model bills and previously enacted laws in other states.

What emerges is a picture of how the legal architects of the anti-choice movement are succeeding in building a state-based framework that is making abortion increasingly inaccessible, if not illegal.

Here’s a selection of some bills to watch.

Florida

In Florida, Rep. Walter Bryan “Mike” Hill (R-Pensacola) introduced a bill that would require an abortion provider to have admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the clinic where he or she performs procedures; it is similar to an AUL model bill.

Iowa

In Iowa, Sen. David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan) pre-filed a bill that would require a woman to wait 72 hours after her first visit to a provider before having an abortion and would require providers to have admitting privileges. He also introduced a bill that would forbid telemedicine abortion, a method for administering an early abortion that is widely recognized as safe and effective and that lowers the costs of abortion care.

Telemedicine is widely used to serve rural communities, for example, where access to abortion and other forms of health care is limited. In an interview with Rewire, Johnson said he does not oppose telemedicine in general—which inherently involves telecommunication to allow a health provider to provide health care remotely—but said he considers the practice in this case to be “dangerous” because “a physician is not present physically.”

In contrast to Johnson’s claims, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has stated that medical abortion can be provided “safely and effectively via telemedicine with a high level of patient satisfaction” and has been shown to reduce the instance of second-trimester abortions.

Johnson’s waiting period bill is similar to other “Women’s Right to Know” bills in Missouri (passed last year) and Oklahoma (also passed last year). He said he worked on the bill with state groups, such as Iowans for Life, Iowa Right to Life, and the Iowa Catholic Conference. Though Johnson said he did not work with Americans United for Life on this bill, he said he has worked with AUL on other legislation in the past. Johnson said he believes this waiting period will “reduce the number of abortions” in Iowa.

“I’ve seen data from other states that show that there are women who, given the time to further consider options like adoption or the option—and I want to emphasize option—of seeing an ultrasound, that that woman might carry that unborn child to term,” Johnson said, though he was unable to recall where that data came from, adding, “I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of that.”

Previous studies contradict Johnson’s unsupported claim. According to a study published last year in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 98.4 percent of women seeking abortions still opted to terminate their pregnancies after viewing a sonogram. And in 2012, the Guttmacher Institute’s Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health published a report showing that 87 percent of women seeking abortions were not deterred in their decisions by mandatory waiting periods or laws requiring counseling.

Missouri

In addition to the bill to ban public funding for abortion or human cloning, Missouri lawmakers have re-introduced a spate of anti-choice laws that failed last session.

The proposed restrictions include a bill that would require a minor to obtain parental consent before she can have an abortion. HB 81 appears to be partially based on model legislation crafted by AUL and is identical to last year’s unsuccessful HB 1845. On its Facebook page, AUL praised the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sonya Anderson (R-Springfield), for testifying in favor of HB 1845, which AUL noted “is based on AUL’s model legislation.”

Neither AUL nor these Missouri lawmakers responded to requests to confirm the influence of AUL models on these bills. View more of Missouri’s anti-choice proposals here.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester) pre-filed a bill that would prohibit public funds for abortion services, which he said is based on an AUL model.

Groen makes no attempt to hide his disdain for the constitutionally protected right to abortion care.

“[W]e have a state full of private clinics, public health clinics, community health clinics,” Groen said in an interview with Rewire. “We have clinics operating out of motor homes. We have all kinds of health-care delivery systems. … But you have to be pretty poverty stricken intellectually to want to turn to a quote-unquote health organization whose specialty is killing babies.”

Groen introduced a similar bill in 2011, which he said was based on a model crafted by the Susan B. Anthony List and the Alliance Defending Freedom, national nonprofits that advocate against abortion rights and access to contraception at the legislative and legal levels. Groen said he has been working with AUL for years.

Groen told Rewire this bill has good chances of passing in the GOP-controlled house and senate, but he expects Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, whom he described as a “radical pro-abortion governor,” would veto it.

South Carolina

A handful of lawmakers from the Palmetto State pre-filed a slew of anti-abortion bills, ranging from a total ban in the form of a “personhood” bill to a bill that would require abortion providers to have medically unnecessary admitting privileges at hospitals, a tactic that has tempered the ability of providers to perform abortions in other states.

State Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) sponsored the majority of the bills pre-filed in his state legislature this year.

“I wish abortion wasn’t legal,” he said in an interview with Rewire.

Bright, who last year failed in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, has sponsored and co-sponsored a “personhood” bill that would “[establish] that the right to life for each born and preborn human being vests at fertilization.”

He also filed a bill that would outlaw abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat; a bill that would ban abortion at 20 weeks and is similar to other state 20-week bans that are based on the National Right to Life Committee’s model; and a bill that would prohibit employer contributions to the State Health Insurance Plan from being used to reimburse the expenses of an abortion.

Bright said he didn’t work directly with organizations in the development of these bills but has worked in the past with AUL on a budget measure dealing with Planned Parenthood funding.

However, Sens. Lawrence Grooms (R-Berkeley) and Kevin Bryant’s (R-Anderson) bill restricting medication abortion appears to be based on an AUL model. Neither lawmaker responded to requests for comment.

Texas

Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) has sponsored a ban on so-called sex-selective abortions that is similar to an AUL model. He was quoted in a March 2014 amicus brief arguing that the United States “has become a safe haven for those seeking legal sex-selective abortions.” In reality, however, actual sex-selection abortions are not commonplace in the United States.

Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Spring) has sponsored a bill that would require abortion clinic staff to complete training on human trafficking. Riddle is outspoken in her opposition to abortion. In a video defending Texas’ controversial HB 2—which is back on trial at the Fifth Circuit Court and was based in part on AUL model legislation—Riddle explained her opposition, in part citing that God “knitted us together in our mother’s womb.”

Follow Rewire Data to track new anti-choice bills, and their origins of influence.

Analysis Health Systems

We Deserve Better: Reproductive Health Care in Crisis in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley [Video]

Andrea Grimes

Over the past several months, Rewire Senior Political Reporter Andrea Grimes traveled to Texas' Rio Grande Valley to meet some of the Texans who are most affected by HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion law that is expected to shutter all but six abortion clinics in the state. Watch Grimes' video dispatch from the Valley.

Over the past several months, Rewire Senior Political Reporter Andrea Grimes traveled to Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to meet some of the Texans who are most affected by HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion law that is expected to shutter all but six abortion clinics in the state. Today, the Valley has no legal abortion providers, in an area where some of the most marginalized Texans do not have the means to travel hundreds of miles round-trip to obtain legal abortions. Watch Grimes’ video dispatch below.

Transcript

Slide: Rewire logo in orange, black and grey

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Slide: We Deserve Better: Reproductive Health Care in Crisis in the Rio Grande Valley

Andrea Grimes (narrator): Welcome to the Rio Grande Valley, a four-county region in South Texas, home to about 1.3 million people who live sandwiched between the US-Mexican border and a series of interior border control checkpoints where agents monitor travellers making their way into central Texas.

In the Valley, access to safe, legal abortion care disappeared in November 2013, after conservative lawmakers passed HB 2, the anti-abortion bill famously filibustered by Wendy Davis.

Now, at the Whole Woman’s Health clinic here in downtown McAllen—the poorest city in the United States—a skeleton crew keeps this former abortion clinic open, seeing patients before they travel hundreds of miles roundtrip for safe, legal abortions.

AG: “So, how many patients are you guys going to see today?”

Voice of Lucy, clinic worker at Whole Woman’s Health: “On the schedule we have like six or seven pre-ops. One’s already come in, but she was an IUP, she was too early. And then we just have our second pre-op right now. So we just have follow-ups. Some patients come in for information, but you know, I’ll have, I’ll ask if they want to stay. So we can get a big chunk out of the way. And it does help a lot, because you know, we get their paperwork out of the way, we do everything that they need prior to their abortion. And then we’ll scan and fax everything to the other clinic, so they know by the time they get there, how much they’re going to pay.”

Whole Woman’s also helps patients with gas cards or bus tickets to assist them in making the eight-hour roundtrip journey to San Antonio, or the 10 hour roundtrip journey to Austin. I talked with Andrea Ferrigno, the corporate vice president at Whole Woman’s Health, about the challenges that Valley patients face accessing legal abortion care—and that’s only if the have the documents to get them past the border patrol agents who stand between many Valley residents and legal abortion.

Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president at Whole Woman’s Health: “So, we’re talking about transportation. We’re talking about child care. We’re talking about possibly lodging if you can’t make the trip back on the same day. We’re talking about gas money, bus tickets, the cost of the procedure. That type of logistical planning is some of the things that we are offering right now. and those are the steps that they have to go through. And we’re talking about people that are able to make that plan and are able to have the support that that could happen. It’s not the case for the majority of people.”

AG: This is all happening because of HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had to call two special legislative sessions to pass. It does four things:

It bans abortion after 20 weeks, requires doctors to prescribe medication abortion in higher, less effective doses according to 13-year-old FDA regulations, it requires abortion facilities to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, and it mandates that abortion providing doctors obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform the procedure.

It’s the admitting privileges requirement that ended legal abortion in the Rio Grande Valley in November 2013, when the Valley’s abortion-providing Valley doctors, who have been providing safe abortion care for decades, were forced to stop providing care because they hadn’t yet, and have not yet, been able to secure admitting privileges at local hospitals in this deeply socially conservative area.

The heavily Hispanic Valley is a different shade of blue in this red state; it is a warm, welcoming and complicated place affected by systemic poverty and an increasingly militarized border with Mexico. But the Valley’s people speak of it with a fierce love and loyalty.

Nancy Cárdenas, reproductive justice activist: “My name is Nancy Cárdenas. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. I lived in Mexico for about four years before coming to the Valley. My parents chose to come to the states because they wanted a better life for me and my little brother, and I’ve been raised in the Valley ever since. I recently came to Austin for U.T. and I just graduated with a double major in government and international studies. I think the Valley’s just, it’s home. It’s the where we grew up, it’s the home we were raised in, it’s the home our parents fought so hard to, you know, cross over to. It’s the home where our parents invested all their hopes and dreams into our future and left behind a life in Mexico that, you know, they look back on from time to time.”

Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president at Whole Woman’s Health: “It’s not like any other border. It’s not like any other frontier. It’s very original, and like I said, it’s very rich. I love it. I love how people talk. I love the music. I love the food. It’s very much of that area, right. I find it so, so charming.”

AG: Many thousands of Valley residents live in colonias, which are often unincorporated areas and neighborhoods with little or no access to sewer systems, electricity and waste disposal. They struggle to make ends meet; there is little public transportation, and legislative budget cuts have decimated the safety net that once provided affordable, and sometimes free, cancer screenings and contraception for women in the Valley. Paula Saldaña, a health care educator in Brownsville, has seen the effects of these budget cuts first hand.

Voice of Paula Saldaña, health care educator in Brownsville: “My sister’s a good example. She, I’m going ot use her as an example and one of our patients that I just saw last night. She has an eleven year old, and then she came up pregnant with her, and she was fine. And she was a Planned Parenthood patient. She would get her birth control there, her pap smears. But then the cuts came. And she had to pay and she was like ‘Okay, so it’s my light bill or it’s my birth control.’ And inbetween her deciding? She got another one.”

AG: Recently, an independent coalition of reproductive health care providers, including some Planned Parenthood clinics, applied for a federal title ten grant to reopen some clinics in the Valley. Thanks to that grant, this 50-year-old Planned Parenthood clinic in Mission, Texas has reopened its doors. But there is still a long, long way to go.

Patricio Gonzalez, CEO at Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County: “We are, we were affected the most of all the areas in the state, and primarily our affiliate in Planned Parenthood. Because we were doing a lot of preventive work. A lot of prevention, wellness exams, pap smears, cancer screenings, birth control. We were helping many, many women. over 23,000 women, back in 2011. And then just, the snap of a finger, they took away almost all that funding for the women.”

AG: For many in the Valley, it feels as though their lives are not valued by state lawmakers who willfully turn a blind eye to the damage bad policies are doing to some of the most marginalized Texans.

Nancy Cárdenas, reproductive justice activist: “I think we saw that especially during the special sessions, when women from the Valley couldn’t physically be there. I mean we, most of the people there, had the luxury of living fifteen minutes away, even two hours away. And it’s not like there wasn’t some kind of concern coming from Valley residents about this law, because there was. There was protests, there were events there that were being held at the same time as the special sessions. But because legislators didn’t physically see a presence there, that was just kind of enough for them to say, this isn’t a big deal, this isn’t really going to happen. I think it’s just so much disconnect. And I think Valley residents don’t deserve that. I think we deserve more respect. And I think it should be acknowledged that this is an epidemic, and this is a crisis in the Valley. Women are being resorted to dangerous conditions and to kind of dangerous alternative to relieve their pregnancies, and I just think they should open their eyes and realize that this is a bigger issue than they think it is.”

AG: If they cannot travel hundreds of miles for a legal abortion, Valley residents may cross into Mexico, if they can, to obtain abortion pills, or try to find them at local flea markets. In September, all four tenets of HB 2 will go into effect, leaving Texas with just six abortion providers in the entire state, located in five major cities along the state’s main highway corridors. What’s happening in the Valley is about to be happening in smaller metropolitan areas across Texas.

Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president at Whole Woman’s Health: “So we are forcing women and their families to take desperate measures. And the consequences of those actions are going to be things they’re going ot have to deal with in emergency rooms in the Valley. In order for us to regain safe access, it’s going to take a while. And I think there will be casualties, unfortunately. And the saddest thing is that it has to get to that point for people in government to notice and stop trying to practice medicine. It’s definitely not, HB 2 is not addressing any kind of public health crisis, but what is coming, unfortunately, is going to be a huge crisis in the Valley.”

AG: In January 2014, Whole Woman’s McAllen would have celebrated its tenth anniversary providing compassionate, legal abortion care to people in the Valley. Now, they struggle to stay open as their former clients are forced to look elsewhere for health care.

Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president at Whole Woman’s Health: [dabbing eyes after crying] This is how it affects me. This is your question! This is how it affects me. It’s Just sad. It’s very sad. There is such great potential in the Valley. People deserve so much better. Women deserve so much better. People in the Valley are fighters. They face obstacles consistently. In so many levels. And it doesn’t keep them down. People work really hard. People fight for what’s right. And I think we’ve enjoyed so much being part of that fight. And to be at this point, particularly today, right, on our tenth anniversary of offering great services and having great relationships in the community, that we’re not able to do, and offer the services we’re so good at, and that women deserve. You know, places where you can come as you are and we can talk about what really matters most to you. And be able to leave our clinic and go back out in the world and be the person you want to be. And feeling that you don’t have to fear judgment because you’re great as you are. Not being able to do that, in the Valley, is heartbreaking right now.”

Slide: For more coverage on Texas’ reproductive health care crisis, visit RHRealityCheck.org.