News Abortion

Nebraska Telemed Bill Makes It Out of Committee

Robin Marty

Now the abortion restriction bill moves to the legislature for a vote.

Nebraska has passed a bill out of committee that would ban the use of telemedicine in early medical abortions, a procedure that would have allowed rural women to have more access to less invasive, less expensive abortions.  LB 521 mandates that a doctor must be physically present during an abortion, restricting the use of webcams as a stand in.

Lifenews reports:

Two weeks ago, the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee failed to move the bill to the Senate floor but, today, lawmakers approved LB 521 after one senator changed from “not voting” to a “yes” vote. Senator Steve Lathrop of Omaha, Senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, Senator Colby Coash of Lincoln and Senator Tyson Larson of O’Neill voted to support the legislation.

The bill will move to legislature for a vote.  Nebraska has a predominately anti-choice unicameral legislature and governor, so the bill is expected to pass easily.

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News Law and Policy

Bill Rooting Out Anti-Choice Misinformation From Nursing Courses Advances in California

Nicole Knight Shine

The reform measure tightens class standards by requiring courses to be "related to the scientific knowledge or technical skills required for the practice of nursing."

A California State Senate panel on Monday approved a bill to subject continuing education providers to greater scrutiny after Rewire revealed that national organizations were teaching classes for state nursing credit based on anti-choice ideology.

SB 1039 promises to shore up the lax oversight of continuing nursing education, by directing the state Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) to audit continuing education providers at least once every five years, and to revoke the approval of violators.

The reform measure tightens class standards by requiring courses to be “related to the scientific knowledge or technical skills required for the practice of nursing.” Passed in a 6-2 vote, the legislation now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who chairs the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee, introduced the reforms after a Rewire investigation in January exposed the BRN’s lax oversight and regulatory loopholes that allowed anti-choice groups to teach questionable medicine.

“The changes make the requirements for standards stronger,” Hill said in an email. The committee and BRN representatives crafted the reform language.

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Rewire’s investigation described how some of the nation’s more prominent abortion rights opponents gained the BRN’s approval to teach continuing education courses on “abortion pill reversal”—a treatment rejected by the medical establishment—and other scientifically baseless topics.

After reviewing the state-approved applications of three organizations—Heartbeat International, Care Net, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates—Rewire found the providers failed to disclose to the board the medically dubious subjects they taught to nurses.

Heartbeat International, for example, taught the class “Abortion Pill Reversal and Your Clinic” for continuing education credit to nurses at a St. Louis conference last year. On its state application, however, the group said it was teaching “Knobology Applications: Or How to Get Better Pictures.”

Care Net is touting its state approval on the brochure for its annual conference, scheduled for September in Orlando, Florida, where it is offering courses for California continuing education nursing credit.

State law requires the BRN to vet the providers, which range from private companies to universities. But the board doesn’t approve the materials that providers teach.

As Christina Sprigg, chief of licensing and administrative services with the state board, previously told Rewire, “We do not approve courses, we only approve the providers.” The board approved 82 percent of the 764 providers vetted between 2012 and 2014.

A legislative analysis prepared for Monday’s hearing on SB 1039 cited Rewire’s reporting on the deficiencies in the BRN’s oversight:

“The Miseducation of California Nurses: Legal Loophole Enables Spread of Anti-Choice Medical Myths,” highlighted a BRN CE Provider, Heartbeat International, offering credits to nurses who take a class about undoing a pill-induced abortion; a procedure unsupported by sufficient evidence. When confronted with the information, the BRN was basically nonresponsive to the reporter and cited code sections that restate that the BRN approves the provider and the provider accepts full responsibility for course content and instructor qualifications. According to the acting EO, the BRN began looking further into the CE provider when the reporter started looking into them for this story. BRN indicated they do not audit CE providers regularly, but do look into them when an issue with one is raised.”

The providers identified in Rewire‘s investigation, Heartbeat International and Care Net, remain in good standing, according to the BRN website.

The BRN between 2001 and 2014 failed to audit a single continuing education provider, according to a 2015 joint oversight report prepared for the state Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee and the California State Assembly Committee on Business and Professions.

The oversight report laid out more than a dozen reforms, telling the board to tighten the standards applied to continuing education (CE) classes and continuing education providers (CEP):

ISSUE #14: (OVERSIGHT OF CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR LICENSEES) The BRN has not provided appropriate oversight of its continuing education program despite admonition to do so in the previous review.

The BRN should review its criteria for CEPs and require content to be science-based and directly related to professionally appropriate practice. The BRN should continue to pursue additional staffing for CE auditors, but should simultaneously rebalance its existing workload and prioritize ongoing CE and CEP audits.

The BRN has said it’s running out of money and, without a fee hike, may need to cut staff. In the past few years, the BRN has loaned the state General Fund $13.3 million, and has been paid back $3 million.

News Health Systems

Virginia Governor Stops ‘Out of Touch’ Effort to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the GOP funding restrictions were likely unconstitutional and noted that federal courts have struck down similar laws in North Carolina and Texas.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Tuesday vetoed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, thwarting the latest GOP-led attempt to gut reproductive health-care services.

HB 1090 would have prevented the Virginia Department of Health from issuing grants or contracts with organizations that provide abortion care, except for licensed hospitals. The bill, sponsored by Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge County) carved out exceptions for providers who perform procedures in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or in cases of life endangerment.

The legislation had cleared the house in a 64-35 vote and the state senate 21 to 19. Republicans dominate the state house and have a two-seat edge in the state senate.

“This bill, aimed at Planned Parenthood, would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers by denying them access to affordable care,” McAuliffe said in a statement issued Tuesday following the veto.

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“They are out of touch with women, with health care providers, and with Virginia families,” McAuliffe said of legislators who supported the Republican bill, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

McAuliffe said the measure would have outlawed contracts between the health department and the nonprofit Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, which conducts at its facilities about 500 annual tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The state health department has two contracts with Planned Parenthood totaling $26,200, as the Virginian-Pilot reported. The contracts are for STI education and testing.

fiscal impact statement prepared by the state Virginia Department of Planning and Budget indicated the measure had the potential to “increase the rates of sexually transmitted disease, increase health care costs resulting from undiagnosed disease, and lead to increased cases of ophthalmic gonorrhea/chlamydia in the newborns of infected women.”

McAuliffe said the GOP funding restrictions were likely unconstitutional and noted that federal courts have struck down similar laws in North Carolina and Texas.

The measure was the latest salvo in a Republican-led campaign to strip Planned Parenthood of funding, after a series of deceptive, covertly recorded videos by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) purported to show the health-care provider illegally trafficking in fetal tissue. Two key figures from the anti-choice front group, which has worked closely with Republican lawmakers, now face charges related to the discredited smear videos.

Twenty states have either cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing or declined to investigate the health-care organization.

Republican lawmakers, however, remain undeterred. An ongoing congressional investigation is now subpoenaing the names of doctors, patients, and clinic staff in what Democratic leaders have called a “dangerous witch hunt.” Congressional Republicans have tried repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood.

In 2015, 11 state legislatures introduced, passed, or enacted measures to gut funding of health-care providers like Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute found.

The Guttmacher analysis shows that defunding Planned Parenthood could seriously curtail health-care access. Planned Parenthood sites are the sole safety-net family planning center in one-fifth of counties in which they are located. Planned Parenthood health centers serve at least half of those obtaining birth control from safety-net health centers in two-thirds of the 491 counties where they are located.