News Abortion

House GOP to Pregnant Women: Drop Dead

Jodi Jacobson

In the eyes of virulent anti-choice Congressmen like Joe Pitts (R-PA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), all life is "sacred"... except that which is a) female or b) actually born. How else to explain the facts? 

In the eyes of virulent anti-choice Congressmen like Joe Pitts (R-PA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), all life is “sacred”… except that which is a) female or b) actually born.

How else to explain H.R. 358, the so-called “Protect Life” Act, a bill to be voted on tomorrow (Thursday, October 13th) that would:

  • Allow hospitals receiving federal funds to deny emergency abortions to women whose lives are in danger due to a pregnancy gone horribly wrong.
  • Forbid state health care exchanges from providing abortion coverage even under policies paid for entirely with your own money. Exchanges are the public marketplaces for health insurance policies that will be rolled out by 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. Eventually, most people are expected to get their insurance through the exchanges. Exchanges were concieved as a means of expanding health care services, but under this and other legal restrictions they would in fact eliminate coverage most women already have.  If H.R. 358 is successful, getting insurance that includes coverage for abortion will be nearly impossible – putting abortion out of reach of even more women. 
  • Place a gag order on insurers, preventing them from even giving women information about how to get abortion coverage.

Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) said in reaction to the bill:

“This radical legislation would make it so onerous for an insurance company to offer women abortion care that it would likely decline to, and so prohibitively expensive to provide or purchase abortion care coverage few employers or individuals could afford to.  The message from the opponents of a woman’s reproductive rights is clear: they want to stop women from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to control their own reproductive health care choices made with their own money, even if it puts their health at risk.”

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H.R. 358 comes on top of votes by the GOP-led House to:

  • eliminate all federal funding for Title X, the national family planning program;
  • eliminate funding for all other reproductive health programs offering breast and cervical cancer exams, well-woman and primary health care and family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion.
  • eliminate requirements in health care reform covering maternal health care, mammograms, breastfeeding support and other essential health services.
  • make it impossible for women to speak to their doctors about abortion using internet based tele-medicine.

And I am only providing a few examples.

Put this together with GOP- and Tea Party-led efforts to gut Environmental Protection Agency rules that keep the air we breathe, water we drink, and environment in which we live safe(r): to virtually eliminate child nutrition and Head Start programs; to eliminate programs to help the unemployed to survive; to slash Medicaid and Medicare; to effectively abrogate any social contract and tear to shreds any social safety net… and I have to ask: Exactly whose lives are we protecting here?

Anne Davis, MD, MPH, the medical director of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health is urging members of Congress to vote no on H.R. 358 because she knows firsthand how dangerous this legislation is.

“How can we allow hospitals to turn away pregnant women in crisis? The Pitts bill can’t become the law of the land,” Davis warned. “My colleagues across the country and I treat pregnant women who need emergency abortions to save their lives. Many of these patients wanted to become mothers, yet found themselves in the emergency room at risk of dying.”

“I think of Margaret [not her real name], who arrived at our hospital bleeding heavily and with an infection. She was pregnant with twins, and her water had broken five months prematurely. Her twins could not be saved. Margaret needed an abortion immediately to prevent serious infection, hemorrhage, shock, and death. We provided the abortion, and Margaret survived.

“But the Pitts bill would let hospitals refuse to help women like Margaret, no matter how dire her medical condition. No law should force a gravely ill pregnant woman to shop for emergency rooms. What if the next hospital wasn’t downtown but hundreds of miles away? What if there were no time and no way to transport her safely?”

“Even worse,” says Congresswoman Capps, “the passage of this bill will not create a single job and serves as yet the latest example of a House leadership more focused on reigniting the culture wars than restarting our economy.  As I meet with small businesses, families, and local officials up and down the Central Coast, they tell me getting our economy fully back on track is what we should be completely focused on.   But that clearly is not on the agenda of the House leadership and all Americans are paying the price.”

Ask yourself: Is it the job of Congressmen anywhere to determine what personal choices you make as to when and how many children you are able to bear and under what circumstances?

Are you willing to see women literally die on the sword of some old white guy’s ideology? 

Thankfully, the President has said he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk, but that won’t stop the GOP from trying to insert pieces of it into every bill and budget negotiation they can find.

Organizations are asking for your support in contacting members of Congress. One of them is the National Network of Abortion Funds.   

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Follow Jodi on Twitter: @jljacobson

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Republicans Can’t Help But Play Politics With the Judiciary

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Republicans have a good grip on the courts and are fighting hard to keep it that way.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Linda Greenhouse has another don’t-miss column in the New York Times on how the GOP outsourced the judicial nomination process to the National Rifle Association.

Meanwhile, Dahlia Lithwick has this smart piece on how we know the U.S. Supreme Court is the biggest election issue this year: The Republicans refuse to talk about it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to fill in the blanks left by “abstinence-centric” sex education and talk to their young patients about issues including sexual consent and gender identity.

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Good news from Alaska, where the state’s supreme court struck down its parental notification law.

Bad news from Virginia, though, where the supreme court struck down Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 felons.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will leave behind one of the most politicized state supreme courts in modern history.

Turns out all those health gadgets and apps leave their users vulnerable to inadvertently disclosing private health data.

Julie Rovner breaks down the strategies anti-choice advocates are considering after their Supreme Court loss in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.   

Finally, Becca Andrews at Mother Jones writes that Texas intends to keep passing abortion restrictions based on junk science, despite its loss in Whole Woman’s Health.

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.”