Morning Roundup: CPC Signage Law in Maryland County Partially Struck Down

Beth Saunders

Judge rules that Montgomery County, MD, overstepped on signage requirement at crisis pregnancy centers, fetal pain bill struck down in Arkansas, North Dakota bishops make list of charities Catholics shouldn't support, IRS set to become abortion police if H.R. 3 passes.

Judge rules that Montgomery County, MD, overstepped on signage requirement at crisis pregnancy centers, fetal pain bill struck down in Arkansas, North Dakota bishops make list of charities Catholics shouldn’t support, IRS set to become abortion police if H.R. 3 passes.

  • A judge has struck down part of the crisis pregnancy center sign requirement enacted by Maryland’s Montgomery County Council. While signs outside the anti-choice centers will still be permitted to state (in English and Spanish), “the Center does not have a licensed medical professional on staff,” the judge ruled that stating, “the Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider” is not “least restrictive means of achieving a relevant government interest.” The council is meeting to determine how to proceed.
  • A fetal pain measure failed in an Arkansas legislative committee yesterday. It would have banned abortions beyond 20 weeks. The sponsor of the legislation said he will not bring up the bill again this year.
  • Two North Dakota bishops have created a list of organizations that “good” Catholics should not support with money or volunteer work – mostly for abortion or contraception-related reasons. Planned Parenthood is on the list of course, but more surprising may be the March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Crop Walk (a Lutheran organization that raised money for the hungry).  The March of Dimes supports stem cell research, pre-implantation diagnoses, and insurance coverage of birth control. Susan G Komen’s crime is that it “refuses to acknowledge the link between abortion and breast cancer.” (You know, false science.) Crop Walk is part of Church World Services, and some sections of Church World Services provide contraceptives in their work.   
  • If H.R. 3 passes, the IRS would have to become the abortion police, determining that a woman who used pre-tax health care dollars to pay for an abortion did so because of one of the exceptions carved out in the law, according to the testimony of a tax expert at a House hearing on Wednesday. A former IRS agent said that “on audit [she] would have to demonstrate or prove, ideally by contemporaneous written documentation, that it was incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger.”

Mar 17

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

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

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Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.