News Contraception

Does New Hampshire Right to Life Think Low Income Women Should Get Birth Control From Hospitals?

Robin Marty

The anti-choice group is demanding to know why a federal grant for family planning went to Planned Parenthood, rather than...hospitals?

New Hampshire’s leading anti-choice group is suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, demanding communication regarding a $1 million family planning grant given to local Planned Parenthoods.

But their reasoning for being angry about the funding is a little…well, odd.

Via Boston.com:

Right to Life wants a federal judge to order the department to produce records related to the grant. The lawsuit also accuses the department of withholding communications it had with Planned Parenthood in violation of the Freedom of Information Act and questions whether the department violated any laws or regulations by awarding a grant to Planned Parenthood without putting the funds out to be bid.

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“With the recent cuts in subsidies to hospitals, the full service hospitals located in each of the communities where Planned Parenthood operates an abortion clinic would be better able to provide a variety of health care services to people in need,’’ the lawsuit states.

Yes, because I can think of no better idea than asking low income residents to come to a hospital in order to get free or subsidized birth control and STI screenings.  It’s not like hospitals are busy with anything else at the moment.

Analysis Law and Policy

The Right’s Ongoing Battle Against the Birth Control Benefit

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Supreme Court will hear arguments this week in the second direct challenge to the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act. It's a fight that's been years in the making.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in Zubik v. Burwell regarding the requirement in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for certain employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover contraception as preventive care with no additional co-pay—also known as the birth control benefit.

Before the Court are seven cases that have been consolidated for one hearing: (1) Zubik v. Burwell; (2) Priests for Life v. Department of Health and Human Services; (3) Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Burwell; (4) East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell; (5) Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell; (6) Geneva College v. Burwell; and (7) The Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell

These challengers are various Catholic and evangelical schools, charities, and affiliated associations such as nursing homes and hospitals. They all oppose contraception on religious grounds, and they all want the Supreme Court to absolve them of the birth control benefit. In effect, they want the same deal that churches and other houses of worship got: a full exemption from compliance with the law.

But giving those organizations that exemption would result in thousands of people being blocked, because of their employers’ objections, to the full range of benefits guaranteed to them under the ACA. So instead, the Obama administration crafted an accommodation process that allows for religious nonprofits to self-certify, either to their insurer or the Department of Health and Human Services directly, that they oppose contraception on religious grounds. From there, their obligations end with regard to coordinating or otherwise being involved in contraception coverage.

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Still, religious nonprofits believe that the self-certification process itself—filling out paperwork and notifying the government of their eligibility for the accommodation—acts as a “trigger” for coverage.

Below is a timeline that explains how we got from the passage of one of the most important pieces of legislation of Obama’s presidency to a deluge of suits challenging an innocuous provision of the law that has become a touchstone for the raging culture war being played out on women’s bodies.

News Abortion

Missouri’s ‘Committee on the Sanctity of Life’ Threatens a State Official

Teddy Wilson

A Republican lawmaker in Missouri said during a committee hearing last week that the state health department director could be held in contempt if she refuses to name a hospital that grants admitting privileges to abortion providers.

A Republican lawmaker in Missouri said during a committee hearing last week that the state health department director could be held in contempt if she refuses to name a hospital that grants admitting privileges to abortion providers.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), chairman of the Committee on the Sanctity of Life, made the threat while questioning Gail Vasterling, director of the state’s Health and Senior Services Department.

The formation of the committee was announced in July in response to a series of videos published by an anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress. The videos feature heavily edited footage of secretly taped conversations with Planned Parenthood officials.

“Missourians deserve to know the truth behind this potentially atrocious violation of our state laws and humane values,” Schaefer said in a statement. “Over the next few months this committee will conduct a rigorous investigation into the monstrous and inconceivable acts carried out by Planned Parenthood.”

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Schaefer is a candidate for attorney general. Attorney General Chris Koster (D), who is a candidate for governor, is also conducting an investigation.

Republican lawmakers in states around the country have called for investigations and hearings, but to date no investigation has found any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. The Missouri committee is expected to issue a full report to the state senate later this year.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) said he would not investigate Planned Parenthood, despite calls to do so from Republican state lawmakers, including Schaefer, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Sen. Mike Parson (R-Bolivar).

“We’ve got to focus on what matters in this state—creating a good job environment, moving the economy forward, not taking the story of the day and trying to sensationalize it,” Nixon said, reported KOLR.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said in a statement that the committee meetings are “about political grandstanding, not facts,” reported the Associated Press.

“This is yet another orchestrated attempt to restrict access to safe, legal abortion in Missouri and to the needed services Planned Parenthood has provided for nearly 100 years,” McQuade said.

Along with investigating whether Planned Parenthood violated any laws concerning fetal tissue, the committee is investigating the re-opening of the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility. The facility stopped providing abortions services in 2012. A new physician began providing abortion care at the facility this month.

Prior to last week’s hearing, Schaefer sent a letter to Vasterling taking issue with the fact that DHSS had not sent a representative “with knowledge of the license issuance” to a committee hearing in July. In the letter, Schaefer requested that DHSS suspend the Columbia Planned Parenthood’s license “pending sufficient investigation” by the committee to “determine whether the facility is in compliance” with Missouri law.

Members spent several hours during a committee hearing last week questioning Vasterling about abortion clinic regulations and oversight provided by DHSS.

Vasterling told the state senate committee investigating Planned Parenthood that the Columbia center or a doctor at the center has admitting privileges at an area hospital, but declined to identify the hospital because she said it is not a matter of public record.

“I don’t know that I can legally talk about what’s in the closed records,” Vasterling said.

Schaefer demanded that Vasterling name the hospital and gave her until August 21 to meet his demand, or face contempt charges. The Missouri Constitution allows the Senate to punish those who demonstrate “contemptuous behavior in its presence during its sessions” with a $300 fine, ten days in jail, or both.

“There’s no assurance that what was admitted in those videos isn’t occurring,” Schaefer said, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Schaefer has been accused of using intimidation tactics while campaigning for attorney general.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative think tank, filed an open records request with the University of Missouri to obtain any records they suspect might show Schaefer put pressure on the university to prevent associate professor Josh Hawley from entering the Republican primary campaign for attorney general.

Schaefer claims that the university may have given Hawley preferential treatment when it granted him an unpaid leave of absence to campaign for attorney general. “Everything I can see is they are giving him a sweetheart deal to run,” Schaefer told the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Schaefer is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees the budgets of state agencies, including the Department of Higher Education.

The University of Missouri has once again found itself in Schaefer’s crosshairs, as he is now questioning whether or not there is an agreement between the abortion provider at Planned Parenthood’s Columbia clinic and the University of Missouri Hospital. Schaefer claims this would be a violation of Missouri law.

“It is against the law for the use of public funds to in any way promote or assist in the performance of abortions, and so I think that raises a real question if in fact it is the University that enabled this license to be issued by giving that agreement, I think there are some potential issues there with that law as well as others,” Schaefer told Missourinet.

Schaefer sent a letter to University Chancellor Bowen Loftin Monday requesting documentation regarding any agreement between the University of Missouri and the Columbia Planned Parenthood affiliate, reported the Missouri Times.

The next hearing of the Committee on the Sanctity of Life will take place on August 25.