Roundup: Sen. Nelson Still Wants His Way on Health Care Bill

Rachel Larris

This morning it seems if Senator Ben Nelson doesn't get his way on the issue of abortion coverage in the final health care reform bill he might sandbag the whole effort.

This morning it seems if Senator Ben Nelson doesn’t
get his way on the issue of abortion coverage in the final health care reform
bill he might sandbag the whole effort.

While Senator Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., was first seen
as the Democrats’ biggest obstacle, news reports today put him closer to being
mollified
by a "compromise" bill that does not include either a public
option, or a trigger, or a Medicare buy-in.

Sen. Joseph I.
Lieberman (I-Conn.), once a critic of the legislation, appeared to be warming
to the $848 billion package after Senate leaders said they were ready to
jettison a plan to extend Medicare coverage to uninsured people as young as 55,
an idea Lieberman denounced over the weekend. He said Tuesday that he expects
to support the bill if that provision is dropped.

That potentially leaves the senator from
Nebraska as the sole remaining Democrat who has threatened to join the
Republican filibuster against the final passage of the health care reform bill.
His main objection is the rejected attempt to ensure that any
health insurance purchased in the newly created "exchanges" would not cover
abortion services.

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That would leave Sen.
Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) as the only known holdout among the 60 lawmakers who caucus
with Democrats. Senate leaders and White House officials were working hard
Tuesday to convert the former Nebraska insurance commissioner, who has said he
will not support the measure unless it bars the use of public money for
abortion.

Meanwhile Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who
supported Sen. Nelson’s failed amendment, seems to be signaling he may stand
with the Democratic majority against a Republican filibuster, even if the final
bill does not include the Nelson-Hatch amendment. Or at least, unlike Nelson,
he’s not yet threatening
to join the filibuster
unless he gets his way.

Casey’s office has
released a statement noting that the senator voted for the Nelson amendment and
that he is continuing to work on the issue with Democratic leaders.

"Senator Casey has
been an outspoken advocate for passing health insurance reform to provide
quality coverage for tens of millions of Americans by increasing access to care
and providing more security and stability for Americans worried about paying
health care bills or losing coverage if they lose their job," the
statement read.

"He also believes
that this bill presents a unique opportunity to provide new and critical
support for pregnant women. Too many women face pregnancy frightened and alone.
No woman should have to walk that road alone. That is why he has introduced two
amendments to help ensure that pregnant women have additional support and
assistance to properly care for herself and her child. He believes there is bipartisan
agreement for providing this kind of affirmative assistance to pregnant
women."

In other news the Pew Internet
& American Life Project
released a study that found 1 in 6 teens report
have received a sexually suggestive, nude or nearly nude picture via cell phone,
a phenomenon otherwise known as "sexting."

The 800-person survey,
released Tuesday by the nonprofit research group, found 15 percent of
cell-phone-owning teens ages 12 to 17 had received nude or nearly nude photos
by phone. Four percent of the teens said they had sent out sexually explicit photos
or videos of themselves.

Older teens were more
likely to send sexual images through text messages than younger teens. Four
percent of 12-year-olds reported sending sexually suggestive images by text
message, while 8 percent of 17-year-olds reported texting nude or partially
nude photos.

The act of teens sending or receiving sexual-explicit
pictures by other teens has been causing many states to consider modify child
pornography laws, which otherwise can have states prosecuting teenagers for
child pornography. However the Virginia State Crime Commission refused Tuesday to recommend
legislation concerning sexting
.

This year, lawmakers in
at least 11 states introduced legislation aimed at sexting. Six states passed
laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mini-international roundup: India is considering
changing its adoption rules to allow women
to adopt
if they are living separately from their spouse (but not
divorced). The Gates Foundation is giving $22.9
million
to increase contraceptive use in Kenya.

Bonus item: A woman
writes a letter-to-the-editor on the emotional pain of giving birth to an anencephalic
baby
, in an era before ultrasounds.

12/16

Pro-choice vs.
pro-life: No end in sight
Sioux City Journal

Obama
Has Only 59 Votes for Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill as He Meets
Democrats
LifeNews.com

Lowden’s
evolving views on abortion
Las Vegas Sun

 

12/15

Copenhagen
Agreement = Population control
Auburn Journal

Political
failings and embryo case
Irish Times

Adoption
norms may become easier for women
Times of India

Pro-Life
Activists Warn Senators Casey and Nelson …
Christian News Wire

Pro-life
attorney stymied in attempt to practice his profession
OneNewsNow

Pro-Life
Action League Goes Christmas Caroling at Chicago-Area Abortion Facilities
Christian News Wire

Texas
Governor Hopeful Kay Bailey Hutchison Under Fire for Missing Pro-Life
Vote
LifeNews.com

The
Catholic case against health-care reform
Catholic Culture

Permissive
Abortion
Laws May Be Hazardous To Mothers’ Health
Catholic Exchange

Are
Pro-Abortion-Rights
Catholic Groups Fake?
U.S. News & World Report

The
Health Battles That Won’t Die: Lieberman, Taxes, Abortion

Politics Daily

Obama,
Democrats Threaten Ben Nelson to Back Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill
LifeNews.com

Abortion
report out-dated – Northland Health

Radio New Zealand

Abortion
remains issue in health care debate

USA Today

District
of Columbia Officials Ready to Pay for Abortions Once Obama Signs Bill
LifeNews.com

Today’s
odds and ends on health care
msnbc.com

Baltimore-based
health organization to improve contraceptive use in Kenya
Baltimore Sun

Milwaukee
Archbishop: You Can’t Call Yourself Catholic and Support Contraception
Lifesite

Should
sale of emergency contraceptives be restricted?
Daily News & Analysis

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.