News Abortion

Minnesota House Votes to End Coverage of Safe Abortion Care for Low-Income Women

Robin Marty

Anti-choice activists are trying to eliminate the right to choose, and are willing to destroy the state health care exchange in the process.

Among states, Minnesota has been notable for its longstanding policies to care for the health of the least advantaged. Even after Republicans took over both arms of the legislature in 2010, the administration worked to defend as much of the state support for insurance program for low-income women and children as possible, despite GOP attempts to gut it in favor of tax cuts.

When the Affordable Care Act allowed states to begin preparation for their own insurance exchanges, the Dayton administration responded eagerly to accept funds and begin to craft their own exchange. Now, anti-choice politicians are using Gov. Mark Dayton’s enthusiasm for the program as a means to try to codify abortion restrictions that they have failed for years to get through the legislature and into law.

Democratic Representative Patti Fritz, a long-time anti-choice legislator, has offered a new amendment to the health exchange bill which will not only dismantle the rights of low-income women to funding for  safe abortion care, but will also restrict abortion coverage in the state’s insurance exchange. Her amendment, which remained in the bill that passed the House, would forbid any plan in the exchange from covering abortions unless the procedure was necessary to save the recipient’s life, or if she was a victim of a sexual assault reported immediately to the police.

(2) when the pregnancy is the result of criminal sexual conduct as defined in section
1.9609.342, clauses (c), (d), (e), item (i), and (f), and the incident is reported within 48
1.10hours after the incident occurs to a valid law enforcement agency for investigation, unless
1.11the victim is physically unable to report the criminal sexual conduct, in which case the
1.12report shall be made within 48 hours after the victim becomes physically able to report
1.13the criminal sexual conduct; or
1.14(3) when the pregnancy is the result of incest, but only if the incident and relative are
1.15reported to a valid law enforcement agency for investigation prior to the abortion.

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The amendment would create a stark turn in access to abortion in a state, where a woman’s right to choose has not only been long-acknowledged, but as a result of the 1996 Doe v. Gomez ruling, has been a protected right enjoyed by all women, regardless of income.

The House bill will go to committee with a Senate version which has yet to pass, and any differences between the two will be negotiated for a final time. In that committee the amendment could be stripped. But should the Senate add the same amendment to their final bill, Governor Mark Dayton will be stuck with a decision that is essentially a win-win for anti-choice factions. He would have to either veto the full bill, which would destroy and exchange that they never wanted in the first place, or allow the exchange to go into effect with the new restrictions. If that happens, abortion opponents have the challenge to Doe v. Gomez that they have been maneuvering to get for years.

“The outcome of this would be that we would treat—for purposes of a medical procedure—poor women differently from rich women. And regardless of how you feel about abortion, I don’t think anybody in the body feels that poor women ought to be treated different from rich folks when it comes to any sort of medical care,” said Rep. Joe Atkins, the author of the health care exchange bill. But sadly, Akins is wrong to believe that anti-choice activists wouldn’t be happy to enforce their agenda on the poor even if they can’t ban abortion for the rest.

Alaska is a prime example of this: Sen. John Coghill has desperately tried to limit Medicaid coverage of abortions. Coghill also put a limit on which rape victims could have their abortions covered by insurance, although his bill offered an unspecific “prompt reporting” requirement rather than a tight, immediate 48-hour timeframe. Coghill’s vague reporting requirement was eliminated, but the debate over whether poor women should be allowed to use Medicaid to pay for abortions continues, with one bill supporter, Sen. John Dyson, even comparing allowing abortions to be covered to be equivalent to forcing taxpayers to pay for slaves to be returned to their owners under the Runaway Slave Act prior to the Civil War. “It’s morally repugnant,” Dyson stated in a recent hearing on the ban.

Of course, many would find it morally repugnant to force low-income women to give birth because they cannot afford abortions, especially if a pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault that wasn’t reported within two days, as would be the case under the Minnesota bill. “We are deeply disappointed in the Representatives who chose to vote in favor of this restrictive and damaging amendment. It is both degrading and heart wrenching to force a survivor of rape to report her traumatizing experience to the government in order to cover a legal medical procedure,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota in a statement. “It is our sincere hope that this amendment—which repeals existing healthcare coverage of abortion—will be eliminated from the final version of Minnesota’s healthcare insurance exchange.”

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life is calling the ban a reflection of the will of Minnesota residents. “The health care exchange bill in the House now reflects the will of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the will of the people of Minnesota, the majority of whom oppose abortion and abortion coverage,” MCCL Legislative Associate Andrea Rau told Lifenews.  It’s unclear which “majority” Rau believes the bill represents, but as a Minnesotan I feel safe in saying that the true majority of the state is not in favor of forcing victims of rape to carry to term and give birth to their rapist’s baby against their will for the “crime” of not reporting her attack within 48 hours and not having the financial means to pay for an abortion.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”

News Abortion

Louisiana Legislators Force Three-Day Wait on Patients Seeking Abortion Care

Teddy Wilson

Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the bill is “insulting” for pregnant people seeking abortion care.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Thursday signed a bill that tripled the state’s forced waiting period for people seeking abortion care, reported the Associated Press

Edwards made no public statement upon signing the bill. 

HB 386, sponsored by Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe), would extend the waiting period for a patient seeking an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.

Pregnant people would continue to be exempt from the mandatory waiting period and forced counseling—instituted in 2014—in the case of a medical emergency. Under state law, a medical emergency is defined as when the “continuation of the pregnancy poses an immediate threat and grave risk to the life or permanent physical health of the pregnant woman.”

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The bill includes an exception for pregnant people who certify in writing that they live at least 150 miles from the nearest licensed clinic that provides abortion services. They would be forced to comply with a 24-hour waiting period, not a 72-hour waiting period.

The house passed the bill in April in a 89-5 vote. The measure breezed through the state senate Wednesday with a 34-4 vote. The bill received bipartisan support in both chambers.

Louisiana joins five other states that force pregnant people to wait three days to receive abortion care. Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah all have 72-hour waiting periods.

Utah’s 72-hour forced waiting period doesn’t dissuade the vast majority of those seeking abortion care, according to a study published in March. The research concluded that the waiting period just makes the procedure more difficult and expensive to obtain.

A pregnant person should be provided with abortion care as soon as possible once the decision is made to terminate a pregnancy, according to recommendations by the World Health Organization.

Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the bill is “insulting” for pregnant people seeking abortion care.

“Anti-choice politicians in the state have methodically restricted access to abortion and neglected to advance policies that truly address the challenges women and families face every day,” Allen said.

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