Roundup: Louisiana and Virginia Make it Harder to Get Coverage of Abortion

Rachel Larris

The Louisiana House passes a bill that will ban all insurance coverage of abortions while Virginia passes amendment that potentially removes insurance coverage of abortion for state workers and outlaws abortion procedures in a state-run hospitals.

The Louisiana House just passed a bill that will ban all insurance coverage of abortions. The Republican lawmakers didn’t even want to include exemptions for abortions performed for rape, incest or in cases where the pregnancy is doomed and baby would not survive. To their thinking allowing any exemptions will give the pro-choice forces the ability to kill the whole point of banning insurance coverage of abortion. The Advocate reports:

State Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, tried to amend the bill to allow coverage to abort nonviable fetuses.

He said a mother should not have to carry a baby who is unlikely to ever take his first step because of health challenges.

State Rep. Reed Henderson, D-Violet, questioned what LaFonta meant by viability. He wanted to know if that would include quality of life issues.

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LaFonta said he was targeting fetuses that cannot live outside the womb.

[Bill sponsor Rep. Frank Hoffmann] said LaFonta’s amendment would gut his bill.

He said insurance companies still would be allowed to cover procedures dealing with fetuses who die in the womb.

The House overwhelmingly voted to reject LaFonta’s amendment.

What about exemptions for victims of rape who wanted to use their own private health insurance to cover the cost of an abortion? The Daily Comet reports Hoffmann pulled out this old trope.

Hoffmann said, “Rape and incest are horrendous crimes. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law … But the baby is not the one who committed the crime.”

The Louisiana bill does allow for abortions to save the life of the mother, but not without some provisions for doctors. The Daily Comet reports:

Hoffmann’s proposal would require any doctor who bills an insurer for an abortion that is necessary to save the mother’s life to certify that in writing and keep it on file for at least seven years. Opponents argued that could scare some doctors from performing abortions, even in life-threatening situations, because of concerns those decisions could be challenged.

Louisiana also wants to be at-the-ready to ban abortion the moment the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

Louisiana has enacted a series of restrictions on abortions over the years, many of which have been overturned in courts. Lawmakers also placed language in the statute that explains the state only allows abortion procedures because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they are legal. Hoffmann’s bill reinforces that stance.

“If those decisions of the United States Supreme Court are ever reversed or modified or the United States Constitution is amended to allow protection of the unborn, then the former policy of this state to prohibit abortions shall be enforced,” Hoffmann’s bill says.

In Other News: Virginia just passed a budget amendment proposed by Governor Bob McDonnell that potentially will outlaw abortions being performed in a state-run hospitals and remove insurance coverage of abortion for state workers. The Washington Post reports:

On a 20 to 19 vote, the Democratic-led Senate agreed to an amendment proposed by McDonnell (R) that would limit state funding for abortions to those performed in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. Nothing in state law previously prohibited Medicaid-funded abortions in instances when the health of the mother was in jeopardy.

Three Democratic Senators crossed party lines and voted for McDonnell’s amendment, which he says will merely make state code correspond with the federal Hyde amendment to ban public funds from being used on abortions. There is confusion, however, on what the impact of the bill will be. WTVR reports:

But some lawmakers, including Senator John Edwards, D-21, feel the amended version comes with additional burdens- like preventing elective procedures at any state-run hospital or facility, and making it more difficult for women to obtain abortions for health reasons.

“Given the language of the governor’s amendment, state hospitals would not be available at all,” said Edwards in a phone conversation Thursday. “That’s why it’s so far-reaching- I don’t know of any other state that goes this far; there may be others, but I’m not aware of them.”

Edwards also objected to wording that stripped use of all government funding for abortions, whether the money comes directly from taxes (general fund money), or from other sources like college tuition and hospital fees (non-general fund money).

The Roanoke lawmaker said the end result would be no more abortions at state hospitals and state workers would not receive any insurance coverage for health-related procedures.

April 23, 2010

Archie Comics To Debut First Gay Character Wall Street Journal

Gloria Steinem sees women’s rights struggle continuing Reading Eagle

Tarkanian goes on the attack in ad Las Vegas Review – Journal 

Division continues about Planned Parenthood focus Sturgis Journal

The Morning After: Reasons I Skip My Period Edition Washington City Paper

Women Engage in Barebacking at Higher Rates Than Gay MenJust Out (blog)

HIV prevention studies for young people in Africa often of poor quality  Aidsmap

Latino Commission on AIDS Reports HIV/AIDS Crisis in NY My Latino Voice

Sex-ed class may go off campus The Tennessean

Texas AG Greg Abbott Fears Divorce Will Lead To Gay Marriage On Top Magazine

HHS Secretary Sebelius sees more combat with insurers Reuters

Death In Childbirth: Rising In US, Falling Abroad Hartford Courant

Ontario’s ‘education premier’ fails on sex education Globe and Mail

Editorial: DA’s sex ed warning is overreaction Appleton Post Crescent

April 22, 2010

Obama’s wink and nod on abortion Washington Post

What Does Abortion Bill Mean for Hospitals? WTVR 

Bill would ban insurance on all elective abortions Daily Comet

Fix found for Utahns who lost health insurance help amid abortion debate Salt Lake Tribune

Pro-Life Democrats Respond to Pro-Life Groups Targeting Them on Abortion Vote

Your morning jolt: Pressure building on abortion bill vote Atlanta Journal Constitution

More about Scott Roeder’s petition Kansas City Star (blog)

Scott Roeder files petition claiming that his rights have been violated Kansas City Star

County starts program to prevent teen pregnancy Fort Morgan Times

Small group of Westboro Baptist anti-gay protesters countered by hundreds Colorado Daily

Central Health board raises medical service payment rates Austin American-Statesman

Miami-Dade County sees surge in STD cases

Health officials warn syphilis can help spread HIV Houston Chronicle

Indian girls not guinea pigs for anti-cervical cancer vaccines: Azad Times of India

Sen. moves to keep HIV predator in jail WIVB

HIV’s link to salmonella offers vaccine clues Reuters

Analysis Human Rights

El Salvador Bill Would Put Those Found Guilty of Abortion Behind Bars for 30 to 50 Years

Kathy Bougher

Under El Salvador’s current law, when women are accused of abortion, prosecutors can—but do not always—increase the charges to aggravated homicide, thereby increasing their prison sentence. This new bill, advocates say, would heighten the likelihood that those charged with abortion will spend decades behind bars.

Abortion has been illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador since 1997, with a penalty of two to eight years in prison. Now, the right-wing ARENA Party has introduced a bill that would increase that penalty to a prison sentence of 30 to 50 years—the same as aggravated homicide.

The bill also lengthens the prison time for physicians who perform abortions to 30 to 50 years and establishes jail terms—of one to three years and six months to two years, respectively—for persons who sell or publicize abortion-causing substances.

The bill’s major sponsor, Rep. Ricardo Andrés Velásquez Parker, explained in a television interview on July 11 that this was simply an administrative matter and “shouldn’t need any further discussion.”

Since the Salvadoran Constitution recognizes “the human being from the moment of conception,” he said, it “is necessary to align the Criminal Code with this principle, and substitute the current penalty for abortion, which is two to eight years in prison, with that of aggravated homicide.”

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The bill has yet to be discussed in the Salvadoran legislature; if it were to pass, it would still have to go to the president for his signature. It could also be referred to committee, and potentially left to die.

Under El Salvador’s current law, when women are accused of abortion, prosecutors can—but do not always—increase the charges to aggravated homicide, thereby increasing their prison sentence. This new bill, advocates say, would worsen the criminalization of women, continue to take away options, and heighten the likelihood that those charged with abortion will spend decades behind bars.

In recent years, local feminist groups have drawn attention to “Las 17 and More,” a group of Salvadoran women who have been incarcerated with prison terms of up to 40 years after obstetrical emergencies. In 2014, the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion) submitted requests for pardons for 17 of the women. Each case wound its way through the legislature and other branches of government; in the end, only one woman received a pardon. Earlier this year, however, a May 2016 court decision overturned the conviction of another one of the women, Maria Teresa Rivera, vacating her 40-year sentence.

Velásquez Parker noted in his July 11 interview that he had not reviewed any of those cases. To do so was not “within his purview” and those cases have been “subjective and philosophical,” he claimed. “I am dealing with Salvadoran constitutional law.”

During a protest outside of the legislature last Thursday, Morena Herrera, president of the Agrupación, addressed Velásquez Parker directly, saying that his bill demonstrated an ignorance of the realities faced by women and girls in El Salvador and demanding its revocation.

“How is it possible that you do not know that last week the United Nations presented a report that shows that in our country a girl or an adolescent gives birth every 20 minutes? You should be obligated to know this. You get paid to know about this,” Herrera told him. Herrera was referring to the United Nations Population Fund and the Salvadoran Ministry of Health’s report, “Map of Pregnancies Among Girls and Adolescents in El Salvador 2015,” which also revealed that 30 percent of all births in the country were by girls ages 10 to 19.

“You say that you know nothing about women unjustly incarcerated, yet we presented to this legislature a group of requests for pardons. With what you earn, you as legislators were obligated to read and know about those,” Herrera continued, speaking about Las 17. “We are not going to discuss this proposal that you have. It is undiscussable. We demand that the ARENA party withdraw this proposed legislation.”

As part of its campaign of resistance to the proposed law, the Agrupación produced and distributed numerous videos with messages such as “They Don’t Represent Me,” which shows the names and faces of the 21 legislators who signed on to the ARENA proposal. Another video, subtitled in English, asks, “30 to 50 Years in Prison?

International groups have also joined in resisting the bill. In a pronouncement shared with legislators, the Agrupación, and the public, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Women (CLADEM) reminded the Salvadoran government of it international commitments and obligations:

[The] United Nations has recognized on repeated occasions that the total criminalization of abortion is a form of torture, that abortion is a human right when carried out with certain assumptions, and it also recommends completely decriminalizing abortion in our region.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights reiterated to the Salvadoran government its concern about the persistence of the total prohibition on abortion … [and] expressly requested that it revise its legislation.

The Committee established in March 2016 that the criminalization of abortion and any obstacles to access to abortion are discriminatory and constitute violations of women’s right to health. Given that El Salvador has ratified [the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights], the country has an obligation to comply with its provisions.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, described the proposal as “scandalous.” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director, emphasized in a statement on the organization’s website, “Parliamentarians in El Salvador are playing a very dangerous game with the lives of millions of women. Banning life-saving abortions in all circumstances is atrocious but seeking to raise jail terms for women who seek an abortion or those who provide support is simply despicable.”

“Instead of continuing to criminalize women, authorities in El Salvador must repeal the outdated anti-abortion law once and for all,” Guevara-Rosas continued.

In the United States, Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) issued a press release on July 19 condemning the proposal in El Salvador. Rep. Torres wrote, “It is terrifying to consider that, if this law passed, a Salvadoran woman who has a miscarriage could go to prison for decades or a woman who is raped and decides to undergo an abortion could be jailed for longer than the man who raped her.”

ARENA’s bill follows a campaign from May orchestrated by the right-wing Fundación Sí a la Vida (Right to Life Foundation) of El Salvador, “El Derecho a la Vida No Se Debate,” or “The Right to Life Is Not Up for Debate,” featuring misleading photos of fetuses and promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion.

The Agrupacion countered with a series of ads and vignettes that have also been applied to the fight against the bill, “The Health and Life of Women Are Well Worth a Debate.”

bien vale un debate-la salud de las mujeres

Mariana Moisa, media coordinator for the Agrupación, told Rewire that the widespread reaction to Velásquez Parker’s proposal indicates some shift in public perception around reproductive rights in the country.

“The public image around abortion is changing. These kinds of ideas and proposals don’t go through the system as easily as they once did. It used to be that a person in power made a couple of phone calls and poof—it was taken care of. Now, people see that Velásquez Parker’s insistence that his proposal doesn’t need any debate is undemocratic. People know that women are in prison because of these laws, and the public is asking more questions,” Moisa said.

At this point, it’s not certain whether ARENA, in coalition with other parties, has the votes to pass the bill, but it is clearly within the realm of possibility. As Sara Garcia, coordinator of the Agrupación, told Rewire, “We know this misogynist proposal has generated serious anger and indignation, and we are working with other groups to pressure the legislature. More and more groups are participating with declarations, images, and videos and a clear call to withdraw the proposal. Stopping this proposed law is what is most important at this point. Then we also have to expose what happens in El Salvador with the criminalization of women.”

Even though there has been extensive exposure of what activists see as the grave problems with such a law, Garcia said, “The risk is still very real that it could pass.”

News Economic Justice

Colorado Voters Could Get a Chance to Boost the State’s Minimum Wage

Jason Salzman

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees "far above" the required minimum wage in their location.

Colorado’s minimum wage would increase from $8.31 to $12 by 2020 if Colorado voters approve a ballot initiative that could be headed to the November ballot.

Patty Kupfer, campaign manager for Colorado Families for a Fair Wage told reporters Monday that Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, a coalition of groups, submitted more than 200,000 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state, more than double the number required to make the ballot.

Hundreds of volunteers and dozens of organizations collected signatures, Kupfer said.

“Raising the minimum wage is fair and it’s smart,” Kupfer said. “It’s fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families. It’s smart because when working people have more money in their pockets, they spend it here in Colorado, boosting our economy and helping our community thrive.”

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Speaking at the news conference staged in front of stacked boxes of petitions, Marrisa Guerrero, identified as a certified nursing assistant, said she works seven days a week and still relies on subsidized housing.

“Making $300 a week is not enough to pay rent and buy groceries for a family like mine,” said Guerrero, adding that she’d “really like” to see an increase in the minimum immediately, but “2020 would work wonders.”

After 2020, the state’s minimum wage would be adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases under the initiative.

Tyler Sandberg, a spokesperson for Keep Colorado Working, an organization opposing the initiative, appeared at the news conference and told reporters that he was “especially” worried about the initiative’s impact on small businesses.

“The big corporations, the wealthy areas of Denver and Boulder, might be able to afford [it], but small businesses, rural and poor communities, cannot afford this,” Sandberg told reporters. “So you are going to put people out of work with this. You’re going to harm the same people you’re trying to help.”

“It’s one size that doesn’t fit all. It’s the same for a small business as it is for Pepsi Cola,” said Sandberg, whose organization includes the Colorado Restaurant Association, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, and the National Association of Independent Business.

Asked by Rewire to respond to Sandberg’s argument against a higher wage, Kupfer said, “Research shows small businesses support increasing the minimum wage. The truth is, when workers make more, that means more customers in local Colorado businesses. Both in rural and urban parts of the state, when working people do well, our communities thrive.”

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees “far above” the required minimum wage in their location.

“In my company, we have customer service representatives being paid $15 per hour,” Yoav Lurie, founder of Simple Energy, told reporters at the news conference. “While others might choose to pay customer service reps minimum wage, we have found that higher pay leads to improved performance and better retention and better customer satisfaction.”

Workers who rely on tips would see their minimum hourly wage increase by about 70 percent, from $5.29 to $8.98, while other workers would get a 44 percent increase by 2020. The initiative states that “no more than $3.02 in tip income may be used to offset the minimum wage of employees who regularly receive tips.”

Colorado passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 that bumped the minimum wage to $6.85. It’s been raised according to inflation since then.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and has not been increased since 2009.

Colorado’s Republican legislators killed legislation this year to allow cities to raise the minimum wage.