Abortion

Roundup: More Debate Over Public Employees’ Health Insurance Coverage of Abortions

Rachel Larris

It seems like every day there’s more news about the sudden wave of thought that public employees’ health insurance plans that include coverage of abortion services are equivalent to “taxpayer-funded abortions.”

It seems like every day there’s more news about the sudden wave of thought that public employees’ health insurance plans that include coverage of abortion services are equivalent to “taxpayer-funded abortions.” This is despite the fact that public employees pay for their health insurance with their own money, just as most employees do with employer-provided insurance. Even when there is a fight about such coverage most politicians at least agree such plans should include coverage for women seeking abortions in cases of rape, incest or to save their own lives.

In South Carolina, however, even in those rare, troubling cases some Republicans want to make sure abortion isn’t covered by the state’s health insurance plan. Yesterday a budget fight in South Carolina suddenly turned to whether the state’s insurance plan should cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. For some Republican legislators, the only time abortion should be covered by insurance should be to save the life of the mother.

The Associated Press reports:

State Rep. Greg Delleney, a Chester Republican, said the change would only affect people covered by the state health insurance plan and he’d offer a measure that would allow for abortions when a mother’s health was threatened. But that’s as far as he would go. “We live in a civilized society,” Delleney said. “We do not kill children for what their fathers do. We don’t execute victims. That’s all we’re saying: The state insurance plan shouldn’t pay to execute victims.”

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The ban on abortion coverage had been passed by the House Ways and Means committee but failed on the full floor vote 57 to 54 after a heated debate.

“When you are that person that is pinned down in the back alley and raped; when you are that person that is actually assaulted sexually by your father – this is not a time for us to play political games. This is not the time for me to say my God is better than yours. This is a time to do what is right,” [Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg] said.

Speaking of budget fights and state insurance plans, men who work for the state government in Virginia will be pleased to know the state will not be eliminating coverage for Viagra.

Overall Tuesday seemed to have been a good day for female public employees everywhere because in Kalamazoo, Michigan their board of commissioners also rejected a resolution to ban abortion coverage from public employees’ insurance plans. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports:

Kalamazoo County employees and their families will still be able to get abortions paid for under the county’s health insurance plan.

In front of a packed crowd that was passionately divided on the issue, the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners voted 10-7 Tuesday to reject a resolution banning publicly funded abortions.

The 17-member board, which has nine Democrats and eight Republicans, voted largely along party lines. All Democrats voted against the measure, except for [Michael] Quinn.

All of the Republicans supported the resolution, except for David Maturen and Ann Nieuwenhuis.

“I want to apologize to the county employees,” said Nieuwenhuis, of Comstock Township. “I can’t believe we are having this conversation.”

Meanwhile while yesterday the Wake County, N.C board of commissioners voted to restore abortion coverage in their employees’ health insurance plans Republican House Representative Paul Stam said to expect a lawsuit. The Lincoln Tribune reports:

Republican House Leader Paul “Skip” Stam has a message for local governments that plan to keep funding elective abortions with taxpayer dollars: a lawsuit is coming.

Stam made the pledge minutes after the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted Monday along party lines to restore the county’s policy of covering medically unnecessary abortions in health care plans. Democrats on the board managed to reinstate the coverage after Commissioner Harold Webb, at home recovering from a stroke, phoned in his vote.

Of course when and where that lawsuit will be filed is a “tactical question” for the lawyers Stam said.

In other news: a feminist organization has started a campaign to let Polish women know they can come to the UK for free abortions. The Telegraph reports:

Posters and flyers picture a woman in her underwear with the words “My Choice” scrawled across her stomach in English. Around her is the information “plane ticket to England: special offer 300 zloty”, and “abortion in a public clinic: 0 zloty”.

At the foot of the poster is the slogan: “For everything you pay less than an underground abortion in Poland”.

SROM, a feminist organization, hopes the campaign will draw attention to so-called “abortion tourism”, a practice that pro-choice groups claim has flourished since Poland introduced some of the most stringent laws governing abortion in Europe 17 years ago. With the UK now possessing a huge Polish population that can provide a support network the country is now seen as a prime destination for pregnant women seeking a termination.

Bonus item: A bill in the Tennessee House would require clinics that provide abortions to post huge signs saying it’s illegal to coerce someone into having an abortion.

Here is the full text of what would be required on the sign:

“Notice: It is against the law for anyone, regardless of the person’s relationship to you, to coerce you to have an abortion. By law, we cannot perform an abortion on you unless we have your freely given and voluntary consent. It is against the law to perform an abortion on you against your will. You have the right to contact any local or state law enforcement agency to receive protection from any actual or threatened criminal offense to coerce an abortion.”

March 17, 2010

SC legislators reject rape, incest abortion ban Forbes

Catholic Bishops Renew Criticism of Abortion Restrictions New York Times (blog)

Health bill’s abortion fight is much ado about little difference Washington Post

Perriello: Senate bill won’t fund abortions GoDanRiver.com

Atlanta activist says abortion is a racial issue Knoxville News Sentinel

Stam: Lawsuit Coming Over Health Plan Abortions The Lincoln Tribune

Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners reject abortion resolution on Tuesday Kalamazoo Gazette

Birth control won’t be in G8 plan to protect mothers, Tories say Globe and Mail

Catholic charity wins gay adoption ruling Reuters UK

March 16, 2010

Lawmakers expected to push to rewrite Kansas law on late-term abortions Kansas City Star

Polish women encouraged to come to UK for ‘free abortions’ on NHS Telegraph.co.uk

Voter initiative on abortion survives legal challenge Anchorage Daily News

Evidence skirmish could delay end of Prop 8 trial The Associated Press

Bill to require places that perform abortions in Tenn. to post anti-coercion signs WHNT

Surgical abortion hiatus spurs claim Columbia Daily Tribune

Giving women a morning-after pill stash ‘doesn’t work’ BBC News

Abortion is never a right, affirms Spanish bishop Catholic News Agency

Argentina: 15-year-old girl denied abortion after being raped by step father Amnesty International UK

Va. will restore aid for erectile dysfunction Washington Post

Pa. Senate panel tables bill to ban gay marriage Philadelphia Inquirer

HIV/AIDS patients struggle to afford medications without state program WRAL.com

News Law and Policy

Texas Lawmaker’s ‘Coerced Abortion’ Campaign ‘Wildly Divorced From Reality’

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice groups and lawmakers in Texas are charging that coerced abortion has reached epidemic levels, citing bogus research published by researchers who oppose legal abortion care.

A Texas GOP lawmaker has teamed up with an anti-choice organization to raise awareness about the supposed prevalence of forced or coerced abortion, which critics say is “wildly divorced from reality.”

Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) during a press conference at the state capitol on July 13 announced an effort to raise awareness among public officials and law enforcement that forced abortion is illegal in Texas.

White said in a statement that she is proud to work alongside The Justice Foundation (TJF), an anti-choice group, in its efforts to tell law enforcement officers about their role in intervening when a pregnant person is being forced to terminate a pregnancy. 

“Because the law against forced abortions in Texas is not well known, The Justice Foundation is offering free training to police departments and child protective service offices throughout the State on the subject of forced abortion,” White said.

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White was joined at the press conference by Allan Parker, the president of The Justice Foundation, a “Christian faith-based organization” that represents clients in lawsuits related to conservative political causes.

Parker told Rewire that by partnering with White and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), TJF hopes to reach a wider audience.

“We will partner with anyone interested in stopping forced abortions,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re expanding it to police, social workers, and in the fall we’re going to do school counselors.”

White only has a few months remaining in office, after being defeated in a closely contested Republican primary election in March. She leaves office after serving one term in the state GOP-dominated legislature, but her short time there was marked by controversy.

During the Texas Muslim Capitol Day, she directed her staff to “ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in an email to Rewire that White’s education initiative overstates the prevalence of coerced abortion. “Molly White’s so-called ‘forced abortion’ campaign is yet another example that shows she is wildly divorced from reality,” Busby said.

There is limited data on the how often people are forced or coerced to end a pregnancy, but Parker alleges that the majority of those who have abortions may be forced or coerced.

‘Extremely common but hidden’

“I would say that they are extremely common but hidden,” Parker said. “I would would say coerced or forced abortion range from 25 percent to 60 percent. But, it’s a little hard be to accurate at this point with our data.”

Parker said that if “a very conservative 10 percent” of the about 60,000 abortions that occur per year in Texas were due to coercion, that would mean there are about 6,000 women per year in the state that are forced to have an abortion. Parker believes that percentage is much higher.

“I believe the number is closer to 50 percent, in my opinion,” Parker said. 

There were 54,902 abortions in Texas in 2014, according to recently released statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The state does not collect data on the reasons people seek abortion care. 

White and Parker referenced an oft cited study on coerced abortion pushed by the anti-choice movement.

“According to one published study, sixty-four percent of American women who had abortions felt forced or unduly pressured by someone else to have an unwanted abortion,” White said in a statement.

This statistic is found in a 2004 study about abortion and traumatic stress that was co-authored by David Reardon, Vincent Rue, and Priscilla Coleman, all of whom are among the handful of doctors and scientists whose research is often promoted by anti-choice activists.

The study was cited in a report by the Elliot Institute for Social Sciences Research, an anti-choice organization founded by Reardon. 

Other research suggests far fewer pregnant people are coerced into having an abortion.

Less than 2 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 2004 reported that a partner or parent wanting them to abort was the most important reason they sought the abortion, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute.

That same report found that 24 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 14 percent surveyed in 2004 listed “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion” as one of the reasons that “contributed to their decision to have an abortion.” Eight percent in 1987 and 6 percent in 2004 listed “parents want me to have an abortion” as a contributing factor.

‘Flawed research’ and ‘misinformation’  

Busby said that White used “flawed research” to lobby for legislation aimed at preventing coerced abortions in Texas.

“Since she filed her bogus coerced abortion bill—which did not pass—last year, she has repeatedly cited flawed research and now is partnering with the Justice Foundation, an organization known to disseminate misinformation and shameful materials to crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said.  

White sponsored or co-sponsored dozens of bills during the 2015 legislative session, including several anti-choice bills. The bills she sponsored included proposals to increase requirements for abortion clinics, restrict minors’ access to abortion care, and ban health insurance coverage of abortion services.

White also sponsored HB 1648, which would have required a law enforcement officer to notify the Department of Family and Protective Services if they received information indicating that a person has coerced, forced, or attempted to coerce a pregnant minor to have or seek abortion care.

The bill was met by skepticism by both Republican lawmakers and anti-choice activists.

State affairs committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) told White during a committee hearing the bill needed to be revised, reported the Texas Tribune.

“This committee has passed out a number of landmark pieces of legislation in this area, and the one thing I think we’ve learned is they have to be extremely well-crafted,” Cook said. “My suggestion is that you get some real legal folks to help engage on this, so if you can keep this moving forward you can potentially have the success others have had.”

‘Very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem’

White testified before the state affairs committee that there is a connection between women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and women who are coerced to have an abortion. “Pregnant women are most frequently victims of domestic violence,” White said. “Their partners often threaten violence and abuse if the woman continues her pregnancy.”

There is research that suggests a connection between coerced abortion and domestic and sexual violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, told the American Independent that coerced abortion cannot be removed from the discussion of reproductive coercion.

“Coerced abortion is a very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem, which is violence against women and the impact it has on her health,” Miller said. “To focus on the minutia of coerced abortion really takes away from the really broad problem of domestic violence.”

A 2010 study co-authored by Miller surveyed about 1,300 men and found that 33 percent reported having been involved in a pregnancy that ended in abortion; 8 percent reported having at one point sought to prevent a female partner from seeking abortion care; and 4 percent reported having “sought to compel” a female partner to seek an abortion.

Another study co-authored by Miller in 2010 found that among the 1,300 young women surveyed at reproductive health clinics in Northern California, about one in five said they had experienced pregnancy coercion; 15 percent of the survey respondents said they had experienced birth control sabotage.

‘Tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion’

TJF’s so-called Center Against Forced Abortions claims to provide legal resources to pregnant people who are being forced or coerced into terminating a pregnancy. The website includes several documents available as “resources.”

One of the documents, a letter addressed to “father of your child in the womb,” states that that “you may not force, coerce, or unduly pressure the mother of your child in the womb to have an abortion,” and that you could face “criminal charge of fetal homicide.”

The letter states that any attempt to “force, unduly pressure, or coerce” a women to have an abortion could be subject to civil and criminal charges, including prosecution under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

The document cites the 2007 case Lawrence v. State as an example of how one could be prosecuted under Texas law.

“What anti-choice activists are doing here is really egregious,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of Law and the Courts. “They are using a case where a man intentionally shot his pregnant girlfriend and was charged with murder for both her death and the death of the fetus as an example of reproductive coercion. That’s not reproductive coercion. That is extreme domestic violence.”

“To use a horrific case of domestic violence that resulted in a woman’s murder as cover for yet another anti-abortion restriction is the very definition of callousness,” Mason Pieklo added.

Among the other resources that TJF provides is a document produced by Life Dynamics, a prominent anti-choice organization based in Denton, Texas.

Parker said a patient might go to a “pregnancy resource center,” fill out the document, and staff will “send that to all the abortionists in the area that they can find out about. Often that will stop an abortion. That’s about 98 percent successful, I would say.”

Reproductive rights advocates contend that the document is intended to mislead pregnant people into believing they have signed away their legal rights to abortion care.

Abortion providers around the country who are familiar with the document said it has been used for years to deceive and intimidate patients and providers by threatening them with legal action should they go through with obtaining or providing an abortion.

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, previously told Rewire that abortion providers from across the country have reported receiving the forms.

“It’s just another tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion—tricking women into thinking they have signed this and discouraging them from going through with their initial decision and inclination,” Saporta said.

Busby said that the types of tactics used by TFJ and other anti-choice organizations are a form of coercion.

“Everyone deserves to make decisions about abortion free of coercion, including not being coerced by crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said. “Anyone’s decision to have an abortion should be free of shame and stigma, which crisis pregnancy centers and groups like the Justice Foundation perpetuate.”

“Law enforcement would be well advised to seek their own legal advice, rather than rely on this so-called ‘training,” Busby said.

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.”