Roundup: Kagan Debate, and New Jersey Republicans Flip-Flop On Family Planning

Robin Marty

The debate over Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination begins, and New Jersey Republicans who voted for family planning funding are now refusing to override the governor's veto.

Even though the results seem almost inevitable, it’s hard to resist a good debate, and senators are giving it their best shot this week when it comes to laying out the merits and pitfalls of Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan. 

The Associated Press reports:

Democrats and Republicans presented dueling portraits yesterday of Elena Kagan and the Supreme Court she’s seeking to join at the start of a politically charged debate over her fitness to be a justice, making what amounted to closing arguments before a near-certain confirmation vote by week’s end.

Democrats praised President Obama’s nominee as a highly qualified legal scholar who would add a note of fairness and common sense to a court they described as dominated by a conservative majority run amok.

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“She’ll base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not on politics, not on an ideological agenda,’’ said Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He said today’s Supreme Court is populated by “activist conservative members’’ who substitute their own judgment for that of lawmakers.

Republicans countered that Kagan is an inexperienced, disingenuous nominee who would abuse her post by bending the law to suit a liberal agenda.

“I don’t think it’s a secret. I think this is pretty well known that this is not a judge committed to restraint, [or] objectivity,’’ said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Her past actions and testimony indicate she would be “an activist, liberal, progressive, politically minded judge who will not be happy simply to decide cases but will seek to advance her causes under the guise of judging.’’

Sen. Sessions has been working hard on his objections, even sending a letter to his fellow senators in an attempt to woo some nay voters his way.  From the LA Times:

Dear Colleague,

The Senate soon will consider the nomination of Elena Kagan to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I have fulfilled my commitment to participate in a fair and rigorous committee process. I now write to share my objections to this nominee and to encourage you to carefully review Ms. Kagan’s record. In my view, Ms. Kagan fails to meet the high standard for a Supreme Court appointment: an impartial commitment to the rule of law. Not only does Ms. Kagan have a troubling lack of legal experience as either a judge or a practicing lawyer, but her most extensive experience was as a policy maker or political lawyer.

Ms. Kagan’s lack of legal experience should be of significant concern to any Senator. She has less real legal experience than any Supreme Court nominee in 50 years. Ms. Kagan’s legal experience consists of only two years as a young lawyer in a large law firm, and roughly 14 months as Solicitor General. In light of this dramatic deficit, it is important to examine the actions she has taken during her career and to determine what that says about her possible career on the Court.

Kagan’s confirmation is expected to be easy sailing, with almost unanimous support from the senate’s Democrats and a few Republicans as well.  Then, like always, there is Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, who never met a party platform he didn’t feel the need to buck.  Roll Call reports on some of the pressure Nelson is getting after announcing he will be the only Democratic senator to vote down his own party’s president’s nomimee.

Sen. Ben Nelson is catching a lot of grief from within his party for being the first Democratic Senator in decades to oppose his president’s pick for the Supreme Court. But the Nebraskan is hearing none of it.

“Are they from Nebraska? Then I don’t care,” a defiant Nelson said Tuesday.

Nelson, who for months has broken with his party on a variety of high-profile issues, on Friday became the first Democratic Senator to oppose Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination. Nelson has said Kagan is unfit to serve on the high court, noting her lack of judicial experience and his constituents’ concerns about the installment.

Nelson, who supported Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation last year, argued that Kagan’s previous comments and political positions simply raise too many unanswered questions for him to support her. There are “enough comments made to raise doubts, [and] I’m not in the position to quell those fears. Including my own,” Nelson said.

Sen. Nelson, it should be pointed out, voted to confirm Justices Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

In the meantime, Justice Ruth Bader Guinsberg is looking forward to the nearly inevitable confirmation, when she will then get to serve on a historic, three-woman court.

Mini Roundup: It looks like the family planning money in the New Jersey state budget may be permanently lost, as Republicans who voted for adding the funds are now refusing to override the governor’s veto.

Note: Due to a problem with our feed reader, we are unable to compile our usual list of comprehensive links.  We hope that we will have the issue resolved shortly.  Thanks for your patience.

August 3, 2010

A ‘sham’ executive order and ‘unenforceable’ abortion restrictions – Washington Post

No apologies for being consistently pro-life – Washington Post

With Senate set to consider Kagan, Sen. Sessions blasts her ‘expansive view … – Los Angeles Times

Kitzhaber wins backing of abortion rights groups – OregonLive.com

Kenya sends 18K police to hotspot ahead of vote – The Associated Press

1000 UK Girls Under 12 Prescribed Hormonal Contraceptives Last Year – Lifesite

Herbal Contraceptives Under the Radar – Inter Press Service

The Record: Funding life – NorthJersey.com

NJ Democrats to launch campaign to override Christie’s veto of $7.5M family … – The Star-Ledger – NJ.com

LOCAL COMMENT Kids suffer as Michigan slips deeper into poverty – Detroit Free Press

Texas State Sen. Asks AG To Clarify 2005 Law On Family Planning Funding – Medical News Today

Planning right – The Hindu

NJ GOP lawmakers who voted to restore family planning funds refuse to override … – The Star-Ledger – NJ.com

Effectiveness of birth control – KYTX

Female Birth Control: Once a week patch being tested – 33 KDAF-TV

Time to panic? More preteens are on birth control – Salon

GPs ‘should have bigger role in maternity care’ – WebMD.Boots.com

Tabloids editors need educating in basic medical reporting – The Guardian

Sec. Sebelius Takes On Health Care Challenges – NPR

Federal government announces $42 million in HIV prevention grants – The Hill

Violence, Condom Negotiation, and HIV/STI Risk Among Sex Workers – Journal of American Medical Association

Chinese sex workers protest against crackdown  – The Guardian

Female condoms range from ‘strange’ to ‘natural’ – CNN

Obama to Young African Leaders: ‘Yes, Youth Can’ – ABC News

Victory for midwives: The Midwifery Modernization Act passed – Examiner.com

Planning a home birth? Read this first. – Washington Post

News Law and Policy

California Lawmakers Take Action Against Rampant Wage Theft

Nicole Knight

A survey of people who work for low wages found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the "wage theft capital of the country."

Los Angeles has earned the distinction as the country’s wage theft capital, but a new California law is tackling the rampant problem of wage theft with new enforcement tools.

The law, SB 1342, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), gives city and county authorities subpoena powers when investigating wage violations. Until now, the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement was the primary agency charged with investigating wage theft cases.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) authored the legislation to “ensure that our low-wage workers, who already face many challenges, receive the pay that they have earned,” Mendoza wrote in an Orange County Breeze op-ed.

Wage theft is the illegal practice of failing to pay overtime and minimum wages, denying lunch breaks, or forcing employees to work off the clock. A survey of people who work for low wages by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the “wage theft capital of the country.”

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Some 654,914 workers in L.A. County are subjected to at least one pay-based violation in any given week, researchers noted.

Most people who work low-wage jobs in L.A. were born outside the United States, and the majority are Latino (73.4 percent), Asian (17.9 percent), or Black (6.3 percent), researchers found.

Wage theft is not only illegal, it contributes to food insecurity and housing instability in low-income families, Mendoza noted.

“This bill protects hard-working Californians by clarifying the ability of cities and counties to investigate non-compliance with local wage laws,” Mendoza said.

A legislative analysis of SB 1342 cited research noting that minimum wage violations are rampant in industries such as garment manufacturing, domestic service, building services, and department stores, where wages are low.

The measure comes as states and cities are increasing minimum wages as lawmakers in Congress have refused to consider raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Brown in April signed a law lifting the statewide minimum pay rate to $15 per hour by 2022. More than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have proposed or enacted $15 minimum wage rates, according to the National Employment Law Project.

News Abortion

Study: Telemedicine Abortion Care a Boon for Rural Patients

Nicole Knight

Despite the benefits of abortion care via telemedicine, 18 states have effectively banned the practice by requiring a doctor to be physically present.

Patients are seen sooner and closer to home in clinics where medication abortion is offered through a videoconferencing system, according to a new survey of Alaskan providers.

The results, which will be published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, suggest that the secure and private technology, known as telemedicine, gives patients—including those in rural areas with limited access—greater choices in abortion care.

The qualitative survey builds on research that found administering medication abortion via telemedicine was as safe and effective as when a doctor administers the abortion-inducing medicine in person, study researchers said.

“This study reinforces that medication abortion provided via telemedicine is an important option for women, particularly in rural areas,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, one of the authors of the study and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). “In Iowa, its introduction was associated with a reduction in second-trimester abortion.”

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Maine and Minnesota also provide medication abortion via telemedicine. Clinics in four states—New York, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington—are running pilot studies, as the Guardian reported. Despite the benefits of abortion care via telemedicine, 18 states have effectively banned the practice by requiring a doctor to be physically present.

The researchers noted that even “greater gains could be made by providing [medication abortion] directly to women in their homes,” which U.S. product labeling doesn’t allow.

In late 2013, researchers with Ibis Reproductive Health and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health interviewed providers, such as doctors, nurses, and counselors, in clinics run by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands that were using telemedicine to provide medication abortion. Providers reported telemedicine’s greatest benefit was to pregnant people. Clinics could schedule more appointments and at better hours for patients, allowing more to be seen earlier in pregnancy.

Nearly twenty-one percent of patients nationwide end their pregnancies with medication abortion, a safe and effective two-pill regime, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alaska began offering the abortion-inducing drugs through telemedicine in 2011. Patients arrive at a clinic, where they go through a health screening, have an ultrasound, and undergo informed consent procedures. A doctor then remotely reviews the patients records and answers questions via a videoconferencing link, before instructing the patient on how to take the medication.

Before 2011, patients wanting abortion care had to fly to Anchorage or Seattle, or wait for a doctor who flew into Fairbanks twice a month, according to the study’s authors.

Beyond a shortage of doctors, patients in Alaska must contend with vast geography and extreme weather, as one physician told researchers:

“It’s negative seven outside right now. So in a setting like that, [telemedicine is] just absolutely the best possible thing that you could do for a patient. … Access to providers is just so limited. And … just because you’re in a state like that doesn’t mean that women aren’t still as much needing access to these services.”

“Our results were in line with other research that has shown that this service can be easily integrated into other health care offered at a clinic, can help women access the services they want and need closer to home, and allows providers to offer high-level care to women from a distance,” Kate Grindlay, lead author on the study and associate at Ibis Reproductive Health, said in a statement.

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