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: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

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

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

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