New ‘Pro-Life’ Law Could Literally Kill Utah Women Who Attempt To Obtain An Abortion

— by Ian Millhiser  

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALEX WASHBURN
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALEX WASHBURN

A new Utah law will subject women to medically unnecessary risk in order to ward off a problem that almost certainly does not exist. It makes a significant new incursion on what remains of Roe v. Wade — at a time when the Supreme Court is signaling that anti-abortion state lawmakers have moved too far. And it will likely either drive up the cost of abortions or cause many clinics to stop performing certain kinds of abortion because they will need to recruit new specialist physicians in order to continue serving all women.

The law, colorfully labeled the “Protecting Unborn Children Amendments,” requires abortion providers who perform “an abortion of an unborn child who is at least 20 weeks gestational age” to administer an anesthetic or analgesic to eliminate or alleviate organic pain to the unborn child.” The law’s supporters claim that human fetuses are capable of feeling pain around the twentieth week of pregnancy, and that this bill will help eliminate that pain.

This claim about fetal pain, however, is scientifically dubious at best. According to a paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, scans for electrical activity in fetal brains suggest that “the capacity for functional pain perception in preterm neonates probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks.” As the same paper explains, fetal pain awareness “requires functional thalamocortical connections,” yet the brain fibers necessary to allow such connections do not start appearing until “23 to 30 weeks’ gestational age.”

Nevertheless, anti-abortion lawmakers frequently cite the idea that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks to justify restrictions on reproductive choice.

Utah law typically prohibits abortions around 22 weeks into a pregnancy, when the fetus is deemed viable. Thus, that state’s new law will primarily impact women who seek abortions during a narrow two-week period.

Yet the new law will subject those women to considerable risk. According to the Associated Press, the law will require doctors to either administer general anesthesia or “a heavy does of narcotics”to women impacted by the law. In rare cases, that could lead to a woman’s death. Though anesthesia-related deaths are in decline, approximately 34 patients per million died from anesthetics in the 1990s and 2000s.

And, while deaths are rare, serious complications ranging from nerve damage to “malignant hyperthermia” can result from anesthesia. Anesthesia can also cause long-lasting mental defects. According to Scientific American, studies “suggest that a high enough dose of anesthesia can in fact raise the risk of delirium after surgery,” and that “even if the confusion dissipates, attention and memory can languish for months and, in some cases, years.” (Though it should be noted that these mental side effects are especially likely to occur in elderly patients that are past childbearing age.)

As one doctor told the AP, “you never give those medicines if you don’t have to.” Now, however, thanks to this Utah law, doctors will have to.

That is, of course, unless the courts strike down the Utah law. Under Roe, states gain greater authority to regulate — or even ban — abortions as a pregnancy progresses. Yet, even in the latest stages of pregnancy, the health of a woman seeking an abortion has primacy. Abortion is always permitted “where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

Since Roe, however, the Supreme Court has carved away much of the right protected by that decision. Most notably, in Gonzales v. Carhardt, the Court upheld a ban on a method of abortion that was viewed by many doctors and medical associations as the safest method “for women with certain pregnancy-related conditions, such as placenta previa and accreta, and for women carrying fetuses with certain abnormalities, such as severe hydrocephalus.” Thus, in effect, the Court held that lawmakers could potentially make abortion less safe for many women who seek it.

Even after Gonzales, however, the Utah law is a significant escalation in the war against Roe. AfterGonzales, a woman who sought an abortion was still likely to receive a procedure that, in their doctor’s medical opinion, was the safest legal option — even if the single safest procedure was no longer legal. The majority opinion in Gonzales also claimed that “there is medical and scientific uncertainty” regarding whether to procedure at issue in that case was ever the safest medical option.

The Utah law, by contrast, imposes additional risk on women seeking abortions, despite the fact that there does not appear to be any medical benefits to subjecting a woman to unnecessary
anesthesia or narcotics. It is as if Utah required women to consume a small dose of strychnine before they can receive an abortion. If the dose is small enough, it probably won’t kill the woman, but the state would still be exposing women to a very dangerous chemical without any health-related reason to do so.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

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The Supreme Court Shamed The Most Anti-Abortion Court In The Country With Just 14 Words

— by Ian Millhiser

Credit: AP photo/Michael Dwyer

Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court handed down a very brief order allowing several Louisiana abortion clinics to reopen after a conservative federal appeals court forced them to shut down. Yet, while the Supreme Court’s order was very short — only slightly more than a paragraph long — it contained 14 more words than such an order normally would. And those 14 words appear to be a direct swipe at the appeals court that shut down Louisiana’s clinics in the first place.

To explain, the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has handed down a series of decisions that appear calculated to dismantle nearly all of Roe v. Wade within the three states (Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) overseen by that court. In 2015, for example, the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole gave states sweeping power to restrict abortion, so long as the restriction is dressed up as a health regulation. Among other things, this opinion blessed a provision of Texas law requiring abortion clinics to undergo expensive renovations in order to comply with regulations governing “ambulatory surgical centers,” even if the clinic does not actually perform any surgeries. Many Texas abortion clinics only offer medication abortions, which are induced by pills the woman takes orally.

An appeal of this Whole Woman’s Health decision is currently pending before the justices, and a majority of the Court appeared skeptical of the Fifth Circuit’s decision at oral arguments last Wednesday.

Just one week before the Supreme Court heard these arguments, however, the Fifth Circuit handed down another anti-abortion decision. In June Medical Services v. Gee, the Fifth Circuit granted an “emergency” motion reinstating a Louisiana law that was expected to shut down all but one of that state’s abortion clinics. The Louisiana law at issue in June Medical Services closely resembles a provision of the Texas law at issue in Whole Woman’s Health.

The Fifth Circuit’s order in June Medical Services was surprising, largely because the Supreme Court had already dropped some pretty big clues that a majority of the justices disapprove of the Fifth Circuit’s decisions forcing abortion clinics to close. Among other things, the justices stayed the Fifth Circuit’s Whole Woman’s Health decision pending the Supreme Court’s own resolution of the case — effectively enabling many Texas abortion clinics to remain open that would be closed if the Fifth Circuit’s order were still in effect.

Nevertheless, the Fifth Circuit decided not to take the hint that Texas-style attempts to shut down clinics should be placed on hold. Instead, the Fifth Circuit claimed in June Medical Services that it was free ignore this hint because, when the Supreme Court stayed Whole Woman’s Health, it did so in a brief order without explaining its reasoning. “No guidance can be gleaned from the Supreme Court’s vacating portions of the stay without explanation,” according to the lower court, “as we cannot discern the underlying reasoning from the one-paragraph order.”

Which brings us back to the 14 significant words in the Supreme Court’s most recent order. “Consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole,” that order begins, the Fifth Circuit’s order reinstating the Louisiana law is vacated.

These 14 words are a subtle spanking, but they are a spanking nonetheless. They directly contradict the Fifth Circuit’s claim that it can ignore the Supreme Court’s previous stay orders if the lower court “cannot discern the underlying reasoning” behind those orders. And they rebut the Fifth Circuit’s logic on its own terms. Why shouldn’t lower courts allow Texas-style abortion restrictions to go into effect in the future? Because halting these laws is “consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.”

To be clear, it is normally a dangerous practice to read too much into a one-paragraph order like the one the Supreme Court handed down Friday. This order provides only a limited window into the Court’s thinking, and it deals only with a preliminary issue facing the Fifth Circuit in June Medical Services. The conservative appeals court will have another opportunity to hear this case, and that will give it another opportunity to make mischief for abortion providers.

But the Supreme Court is now signalling very loudly that a majority of the Court is not pleased with the Fifth Circuit’s efforts to pare Roe v. Wade down to near nothingness. If the lower court’s judges do decide to make more mischief, they will probably wind up on the receiving end of yet another judicial spanking.


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An Historic Attempt To Kill Roe v. Wade May Backfire Spectacularly On The Anti-Choice Right

CREDIT: DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES VIA AP, POOL

It was supposed to be an epic battle over the fate of Roe v. Wade.

Next week, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to Texas’s ambitious anti-abortion law HB2. If this law is upheld — a very real possibility in a conservative Supreme Court — Roe v. Wade would have most likely remained alive in name only. States would gain sweeping new power to shut down abortion clinics, so long as they dressed up the laws they enacted to end access to abortion as health regulations.

Except that opponents of abortion no longer have the fifth vote they need to gut Roe. Justice Antonin Scalia’s death means that Roe shall live at least another year. Whether it survives past next year, however, could very well be decided by whoever gets to fill Scalia’s seat.

The Masterminds

HB2 is the brainchild of the sophisticated anti-abortion group Americans United for Life (AUL). The law imposes expensive architectural and other requirements on abortion clinics, as well as often-difficult-to-obtain credentialing requirements on abortion providers. If the Supreme Court allows the law to take full effect, at least 32 of the 40 abortion clinics that existed in Texas before it was enacted are expected to shut down.

AUL, moreover, does not hide its goal in pushing such legislation — as ThinkProgress’ Erica Hellerstein reported, AUL functions as a “legislation mill” producing anti-abortion bills that can be copied and enacted in many states. The anti-abortion group brags on their website that they work “through the law and legislative process to one end: Achieving comprehensive legal protection for human life from conception to natural death.” Overruling Roe v. Wade, according to AUL, “can be accomplished through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life.”

Just over one week ago, Whole Woman’s Health appeared poised to become AUL’s crowning achievement. Under the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states may not enact laws that place an “undue burden” a woman’s right to choose abortion — a vague standard that’s proved quite malleable in the hands of abortion opponents. At the same time, states may legitimately regulate all medical clinics, including those that provide abortions, to protect the health of individuals who seek treatment from those clinics. Whole Woman’s Health asks what happens when a state enacts abortion restrictions disguised as health regulations.

The clinic regulations and credentialing requirements at issue in this case will do little, if anything, to advance women’s health. But they make it a whole lot harder to obtain an abortion. Thus, a decision upholding HB2 could potentially return women to a world much like the one that existed prior to Roe. States may not actually be allowed to openly ban abortion after such a decision, but they’d have broad authority to restrict abortion just so long as they are clever enough to devise anti-abortion laws that look like health laws. And if state lawmakers proved inept at this task, groups like AUL would be more than happy to give them a hand.

Now, however, with Scalia’s seat vacant and the Court evenly divided between Democratic and Republican appointees, the likelihood HB2 will be upheld outright is vanishingly small.

No Longer The Man in the Middle

Before Scalia’s unexpected death, all eyes were on Justice Anthony Kennedy, the closest thing the Roberts Court has to a swing vote on abortion. As a general rule, if your plan of attack against an abortion restriction depends on winning Kennedy’s approval, you need a better plan. Prior to HB2, Justice Kennedy considered 21 abortion restrictions as a member of the Supreme Court andallowed 20 of them to take effect. In one case, Kennedy justified an abortion restriction in part because he thought that “it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.”

(It also seems unexceptionable to conclude that some people come to regret their choice to bring a dangerous firearm into their home, yet this insight has not animated Kennedy’s votes in Second Amendment cases.)

Yet, while Kennedy’s opinions reveal an almost visceral revulsion towards abortion, he’s also proved unwilling to overrule Roe outright. Kennedy co-authored the Casey opinion, which limited abortion rights, but which also purported to hold that “the essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retained and once again reaffirmed.”

Thus, before conservatives lost their majority on the Supreme Court, the most important question in Whole Woman’s Health was likely to be which Justice Kennedy shows up to work next week — the one that consistently upholds abortion restrictions or the one that is unwilling to invalidate Roe in its entirety. Kennedy, moreover, gave hope to Team Choice when he cast the fifth vote to stay a lower court order upholding nearly all of HB2.

Uncertain Process

Now that the Court is evenly divided between liberals and conservatives, Kennedy no longer has the power to drive a nail in Roe‘s coffin, but he could still have the power to do considerable damage to the right to choose. The ordinary rule when the Court splits 4-4 is that the lower court’s decision is affirmed and the justices’ decision does not have any precedential value. Because the court of appeals largely upheld HB2, a 4-4 decision in Whole Woman’s Health would allow the Texas law to almost entirely remain in effect — at least until a fifth justice is confirmed to the Court and another abortion case reaches the justices.

Thus, as Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic notes, Scalia’s death may actually make it more likely that Justice Kennedy votes to uphold HB2. “If Scalia were still alive, Kennedy might be choosing between overturning Roe and invalidating the Texas law,” Filipovic writes. Now, however, he doesn’t have to choose between two options that he’s likely to view as undesirable. Rather, if he sides with the conservatives he will leave lower court’s opinion in place without creating a precedent he may later come to regret. “For this particular justice, who seems to find abortion troubling but may not want to see it outlawed wholesale,” Filipovic notes, “that may be a desirable outcome.”

There is, however, some uncertainty about whether Kennedy will have this option. As SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein notes, the Court’s past practice when a vacancy opened in the middle of a term was to hold cases where the justices split over until the next term, when the open seat presumably would be filled. Given the extraordinary obstructionism Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already planned against anyone President Obama sends up to fill this seat, it remains to be seen whether the justices will decide to hold over split decisions until next term or simply affirm the case by an evenly divided vote and be done with it.

Which process they choose could matter a great deal in Whole Woman’s Health. Recall that Kennedy provided the fifth vote to stay the lower court’s decision upholding HB2. That order provides that the stay shall last until “the issuance of the judgment of this Court.” Thus, if the Court holds the case over for reargument next term, the stay remains in effect until the Court decides the case, and HB2 does not go into effect. If the Court affirms the lower court by an evenly divided vote, by contrast, that counts as a “judgment” of the Supreme Court, so the clinics most impacted by HB2 will close.

The choice whether to hold the case over could also matter for an entirely different reason. If President Obama (or a similarly minded president) manages to fill Justice Scalia’s seat, one of the first matters taken up by the Court’s new liberal majority would be a major abortion case. That would not only give them the opportunity to strike down HB2, it would also give them the chance to expand a right to choose that has been gradually chipped away after decades of conservative decisions. The vague “undue burden” standard that now controls abortion cases was pushed by abortion opponents including the Reagan Justice Department and AUL itself before it was ultimately adopted by the Supreme Court. A more liberal Court could scrap this standard altogether or, at the very least, clarify it in a way that does not permit anti-abortion judges to take advantage of its vagueness.

Rather than becoming AUL’s crowning achievement, in other words, Whole Woman’s Health could be their most demoralizing defeat.

Yet that outcome depends entirely on who gets to fill Justice Scalia’s seat. If the next justice is more like Scalia, Whole Woman’s Health could still become AUL’s greatest triumph.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

The Abortion Case That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade Has A Lot Of Opponents

— by Alex Zielinski, a health reporter at Think Progress

CREDIT: AP PHOTO, PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

US Capitol police officers line-up in front of pro-abortion rights demonstrators on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, at the Supreme Court in Washington.

A looming Supreme Court case that could severely undermine the right to an abortion has attracted an unprecedented amount of opposition from across the country.

A slew of organizations and individuals filed 45 legal briefs in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, each brief examining the case through a unique lens and each coming to the same conclusion: State laws that restrict abortion access are unconstitutional.

The case will examine the validity of a Texas law, known as HB2, that places burdensome, unnecessary guidelines on the state’s dwindling abortion clinics. These regulations, while framed as improvements to safeguard “women’s health,” ultimately have nothing to do with patient safety — and were instead created by anti-abortion legislators to impose additional, costly red tape on clinic staff. So far, it’s been successful. HB2 has already forced half of the state’s clinics to close, thus cutting Texas’ abortion providers in half.

The Supreme Court case, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, won’t only decide if Texas’ law is constitutional. Depending how the court rules, the decision could also give legal cover to all states seeking to enact laws that appear to function as health regulations, but that actually exist to restrict access to abortion. The oral arguments for the case begin in March.

Reproductive rights advocates have been outspoken since HB2 passed in 2013, but since the Supreme Court’s  November decision to hear the case, the diversity of opponents has grown. The 45 briefs were filed by a variety of petitioners, including physicians, historians, religious leaders, military officers, scientists, members of Congress, civil rights advocates, law scholars, entire cities, and the United States federal government itself.

“Never before has such a diverse array of organizations and leaders…stepped forward to condemn abortion restrictions at the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Among the briefs were voices of actual women who’ve been affected by the lack of abortion access in the past — a voice some say is forgotten in the high-level case.

“The Supreme Court justices need to hear the real effects of restrictive abortion laws on women like this one in Texas,” said Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, a group helping young people access comprehensive sexual health education. Hauser shared her personal experience with abortion in her organization’s brief.

“What is missing from this issue are our personal stories. The reality is that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.”

Many of those women shared their stories in another brief submitted Tuesday, representing 110 law professionals who’ve had abortions. Some noted how they would have never had the chance to become a lawyer if they hadn’t had an abortion when they did.

“[Our] experiences demonstrate the real world effects of abortion access on the lives and careers of women attorneys, and underscore the truth of the court’s observation that reproductive choice facilitates women’s ability ‘to participate in the economic and social life of the nation,’” the brief reads.

According to Northup, the briefs represent the largest coalition of faith leaders and faith organizations ever to oppose anti-choice laws at the Supreme Court level. In the legal brief filed by a large collection of different religious leaders, the petitioners stress their support of abortion access — despite efforts from more radical religious organizations to say otherwise.

“As religious leaders and pastoral counselors, [we] provide spiritual guidance to women facing this decision and believe that this complex decision is ultimately a moral one,” the brief reads. “While various religious groups in this country hold differing views on abortion, there is substantial agreement that women have a moral right to make their own decisions on the issue.”

A group of 40 prominent scientists also submitted a brief Tuesday, hoping to overrule the “flawed pseudoscience” that will be used in testimony to support the case.

“We hope the court is able to put abortion politics aside and focus on the illegitimacy of the medical claims propping up the restrictions,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. “When science claims are used to infringe a constitutional right they had better be valid, but that’s not the case here.”

A Tuesday press call drew a variety of opponents together, including Wendy Davis, the former Texas state senator who led an 11-hour filibuster in an attempt to defeat HB2, and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, to further illustrate the severity of this case. Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, also spoke on the call, representing the women already harmed the most by the current Texas law.

“For immigrants, mothers, low-wage workers, and Latinas who are all three, securing an abortion means navigating a state-created obstacle course,” she said. “Those unable to jump through these hoops will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or take matters into their own hands.”

Since HB2 was enacted, at least 100,000 Texan women have tried to induce their own abortion, due to the cost driving to a distant abortion clinic, taking time off work to do so, and other frustrating roadblocks to make it difficult for them to legally end a pregnancy.

The legal briefs filed, which represent more than 1,000 opponents in total, may shine more light on the broader impact the pending case could have on women across the country — an impact that has already left Texas in a health crisis.

“These briefs present a thorough record of the undeniable damage Texas’ sham law has,” concluded Northup. “It will continue to cause, and an indisputable legal argument for why it must be struck down.”


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ them on Twitter

‘Clear Flouting of Roe v. Wade’: Court Strikes Down Anti-Choice Bill in Wisconsin

Ruling could set important precedent for upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case
by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams staff writer

Had the Wisconsin law taken effect, at least one of the state’s four remaining abortion providers would have been forced to close immediately. (Photo: Joe Gratz/flickr/cc)

Striking down a state effort to “politically interfere” with a woman’s right to choose, a federal appeals court on Monday declared a Wisconsin law unconstitutional in a ruling reproductive rights advocates say is both a “victory” and an important precedent for an upcoming Supreme Court decision.

In his searing rebuke, Judge Richard Posner with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, said the law was a “clear flouting of Roe v. Wade.”

The ruling applied to a measure signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2013, known as a TRAP law—short for “targeted regulation of abortion providers.” It stipulated that an abortion provider must have admitting privileges at a local hospital, mirroring policies passed in 10 other states.

In the opinion, Judge Posner echoed the concern of medical experts, who argued that the political maneuver both threatened a woman’s constitutional right and endangered her health.

“What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to an abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women’s health,” Posner stated.

Indeed, during the federal trial, an independent, court-appointed medical expert said of the Wisconsin law: “I think it is an unacceptable experiment to see if you decrease access (to abortion) and see if more women die. It is not acceptable. It is not ethical.”

Following Monday’s ruling, Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said, “The federal appeals court in Wisconsin recognized what the medical experts have been saying all along: These laws aren’t about protecting women’s health, they are about shutting down clinics and preventing a woman who has decided to have an abortion from actually getting one.”

Monday’s 2-1 ruling blocks a state effort to revive the law after it was struck down by a lower court in March.

Texas is facing a U.S. Supreme Court battle over its “draconian” version of the TRAP law, in a similar case said to have wide implications for national abortion rights. The Texas law has forced the closure of over half of the state’s women’s health clinics and, according to researchers, driven up to 240,000 women in the state to dangerously attempt to end pregnancies on their own.

Had the Wisconsin law taken effect, at least one of the state’s four remaining abortion providers would have been forced to close immediately. Advocates say the resulting backlog would have “delay[ed] procedures by up to 10 weeks, forcing abortions later in pregnancy, if a woman is able to have one at all.” Earlier this year, Walker signed a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with an extremely narrow exception for medical emergencies.

In a statement Monday, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the Wisconsin ruling was “an important victory for women’s health and rights.”

“Laws restricting abortion hurt women—as we’ve seen in states like Texas, where restrictions are already forcing women to end pregnancies on their own, without medical assistance,” Richards said. “This is what we all feared would happen, and we’re deeply concerned that we’ll see this more and more if the Supreme Court does not intervene.”


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It’s Women’s History Month—So Naturally—Republicans Wage Sneak Attack

By CAP Action War Room

The Latest Ploy in The Ongoing Attack on Women’s Health

PoisonPill08
GOP breaks out their favorite Poison Pill … Again!

Women’s access to basic health care continues to be under attack at both the state and federal level. The most recent threat came this week when Republican lawmakers in the Senate snuck anti-choice provisions into a bipartisan bill aimed at helping victims of human trafficking. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 178), which would establish a fund for victims of human trafficking, wasn’t supposed to be controversial. In fact, it enjoyed wide bipartisan support until Senate Democrats discovered that Republicans added language that would restrict federal funding for abortion–even forcing underage victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term. Democrats have now vowed to hold the entire bill until the anti-choice language is removed.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is just the latest attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights on the national level. Unfortunately, actions on the state level are even worse. Last week, West Virginia Republicans overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed a 20-week abortion ban. With the veto override, West Virginia became the 11th state to prohibit abortions past 20-weeks, despite the fact that over the last few years courts have blocked several 20-week abortion bans for violating protections offered under Roe v. Wade. Montana and New Mexico are among other states considering 20-week bans under the guise of “fetal pain,” which scientists agree does not exist. And earlier this month, Wisconsin Governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker also said he would sign a 20-week ban.

While Democrats have been able to prevent anti-choice language from creeping into federal law thus far, these state-based corrosive efforts are working. A ThinkProgress investigation found that the maze of state abortion restrictions, usually framed as legal regulations, is driving the price of abortion services up so high that lower-income women are effectively priced out of the market. The attack on women’s healthcare has gone so far that a Texas Republican legislator has protested her colleagues’ proposal to cut funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics, saying that without that “provider network, women cannot be served. And they will die.”

BOTTOM LINE: From trying to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, to undermining international agreements with Iran, to voting 56 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Party has proven it is unfit to govern. These recent threats to women’s health are just another example of how out-of-touch and dangerous GOP policies can be.

As an aside:  Senator Heller has submitted an amendment (S.Amdt 283) to this bill, however, the text of his amendment has not yet been posted to Congress.gov.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Seven Terrible State Bills

— by ThinkProgress War Room | Mar 27, 2013

Recently, we discussed some of the terrible bills floating around out there in state legislatures. Here’s another look at some of the worst proposals, including a couple that were signed into law this week:

  • NORTH DAKOTA: The state’s Republican governor signed a trifecta of terrible anti-abortion bills, which are likely to have the effect of banning abortion in the state. One bill unconstitutionally bans abortion after just six weeks, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant. An even more insidious bill takes up the anti-abortion movement’s favorite new tactic: drastic overregulation of abortion clinics to all but guarantee that they will have to close. These so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws are also moving in North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Virginia.
  • KANSAS: A new bill will allow the state to quarantine HIV positive individuals, something Kansas actually banned back in 1988.
  • INDIANA: An anti-abortion bill was going to mandate forced ultrasounds before a woman is provided with the abortion pill. Lawmakers explain that they are dropping the controversial provision in order to focus on their real goal: regulating abortion clinics out of existence.
  • VIRGINIA: Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) signed a bill that will mandate that Virginians present photo identification when they vote, which will disproportionately impact young people, minorities, and the elderly.
  • KENTUCKY: The legislature passed a so-called “religious freedom” bill that allows individuals to ignore laws based on the vague notion of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people, among other problems. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) vetoed the bill, but unfortunately his veto was overridden yesterday.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Top Republicans in the state have yet to abandon a GOP plan to rig steal the White House by rigging the distribution of the state’s Electoral College votes. Republicans in Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states dropped the idea, but Pennsylvania Republicans are keeping it on the table.
  • ARKANSAS: In addition to its race to the bottom on abortion, Arkansas is considering some highly regressive tax changes. As part of an effort meant to stimulate growth, an Arkansas legislative committee passed two tax cuts that will largely benefit the rich and then rejected one that would benefit the working poor. A recent study found that state-level tax cuts don’t promote job growth.

Another week, another set of terrible proposals moving out in state legislatures.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might’ve Missed


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The Morality Brigade

by Robert Reich

Robert ReichWe’re still legislating and regulating private morality, while at the same time ignoring the much larger crisis of public morality in America.

In recent weeks Republican state legislators have decided to thwart the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in “Roe v. Wade,” which gave women the right to have an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy.

Legislators in North Dakota passed a bill banning abortions after six weeks or after a fetal heart beat had been detected, and approved a fall referendum that would ban all abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception. Lawmakers in Arkansas have banned abortions within twelve weeks of conception.

imageThe morality brigade worries about fetuses, but not what happens to children after they’re born. They and other conservatives have been cutting funding for child nutrition, healthcare for infants and their mothers, and schools.

The new House Republican budget gets a big chunk of its savings from programs designed to help poor kids. The budget sequester already in effect takes aim at programs like Head Start, designed to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children.  

Meanwhile, the morality brigade continues to battle same-sex marriage.

Despite the Supreme Court’s willingness to consider the constitutionality of California’s ban, no one should assume a majority of the justices will strike it down. The Court could just as easily decide the issue is up to the states, or strike down California’s law while allowing other states to continue their bans.

Conservative moralists don’t want women to have control over their bodies or same-sex couples to marry, but they don’t give a hoot about billionaires taking over our democracy for personal gain or big bankers taking over our economy.

Yet these violations of public morality are far more dangerous to our society because they undermine the public trust that’s essential to both our democracy and economy.

Three years ago, at the behest of a right-wing group called “Citizen’s United,” the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in politics by deciding corporations were “people” under the First Amendment.

A record $12 billion was spent on election campaigns in 2012, affecting all levels of government. Much of it came from billionaires like the Koch brothers and casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson —seeking fewer regulations, lower taxes, and weaker trade unions.

They didn’t entirely succeed but the billionaires established a beachhead for the midterm elections of 2014 and beyond.

Yet where is the morality brigade when it comes to these moves to take over our democracy?

Among the worst violators of public morality have been executives and traders on Wall Street.

Last week, JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, was found to have misled its shareholders and the public about its $6 billion “London Whale” losses in 2012. 

This is the same JPMorgan that’s lead the charge against the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to protect the public from another Wall Street meltdown and taxpayer-funded bailout.

Lobbyists for the giant banks have been systematically taking the teeth out of Dodd-Frank, leaving nothing but the gums.

The so-called “Volcker Rule,” intended to prevent the banks from making risky bets with federally-insured commercial deposits – itself a watered-down version of the old Glass-Steagall Act – still hasn’t seen the light of day.

Last week, Republicans and Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee passed bills to weaken Dodd-Frank – expanding exemptions and allowing banks that do their derivative trading in other countries (i.e., JPMorgan) to avoid the new rules altogether.

Meanwhile, House Republicans voted to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act in its entirety, as part of their budget plan.

And still no major Wall Street executives have been held accountable for the wild betting that led to the near meltdown in 2008. Attorney General Eric Holder says the big banks are too big to prosecute.

Why doesn’t the morality brigade complain about the rampant greed on the Street that’s already brought the economy to its knees, wiping out the savings of millions of Americans and subjecting countless others to joblessness and insecurity — and seems set on doing it again?

What people do in their bedrooms shouldn’t be the public’s business. Women should have rights over their own bodies. Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

But what powerful people do in their boardrooms is the public’s business. Our democracy needs to be protected from the depredations of big money. Our economy needs to be guarded against the excesses of too-big-to-fail banks.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller,Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at http://www.robertreich.org.

Roe v. Wade: Today and for Generations to Come

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade — the landmark Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. As we celebrate this historic anniversary, we must also acknowledge that women face an unprecedented rise of state-level restrictions on reproductive health care that undermine this historic advance for women.

Mark this important anniversary with us by ensuring the rights granted by Roe v. Wade are preserved for generations of women to come. Tell your state policymakers to end the attacks on access to reproductive health care and to ensure that the rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade are around for generations.

State legislators are pulling out all the stops to chip away at access to the reproductive health care made possible by Roe. Whether it’s by passing laws to prevent women from buying health insurance to cover abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood, or requiring those seeking an abortion to undergo an unnecessary and invasive ultrasound, they all have the same purpose: making it more difficult to get and afford the critical reproductive health services we need. In fact, in the last two years we’ve experienced the highest number of state-level attacks on women’s reproductive health ever.

On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it’s up to us to stop politicians from pushing us back to the days before Roe, when abortion was illegal. Help us make sure these rights are around for generations to come.
Thank you for all you do to protect women’s ability to get and afford abortion care.
Sincerely,

 

Judy Waxman

 

Judy Waxman
Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights
National Women’s Law Center

 

P.S. The National Women’s Law Center, as the leader of the This Is Personal campaign, asked people across the country to post pictures of their shoes on Tumblr and tell us how no one knows what it’s like to walk in our shoes — and no one should try to make our reproductive health decisions for us.

Document(s):  application/pdf iconRoe v Wade Right to Abortion Factsheet Jan 2013

Big News on Birth Control

— By Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager on January 22, 2012

Here’s some big news that’s going to affect millions of women.

On Friday, the Obama administration announced that soon women won’t have to pay out of pocket for birth control: starting August 1st, many insurance plans nationwide will be required to fully cover contraception without co-pays or deductibles. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more women can make health care decisions based on what’s best for them—not their insurance company—all while saving hundreds of dollars every year.

Think about how different that is from what the candidates on the other side would do. They’ve all vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Mitt Romney even said he would have signed a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to define life as beginning at conception, similar to the notorious state-level “personhood” amendment that could ban many forms of contraception, and even IVF.

That’s why, right now, we need to show that millions of Americans are standing with President Obama on his commitment to women’s health—add your name today.

This news is just one more way the Affordable Care Act ensures that being a woman will no longer be considered a pre-existing condition. Critical preventive services like mammograms and other cancer screenings are now free, and an estimated 1.1 million young women are now covered by their parents’ health plans.

But at the same time, our opponents have been waging a war on women’s health—attempting to defund Planned Parenthood, overturn Roe v. Wade, and everything in between.

The President has stood firm against these attacks on women’s health, but if we’re going to protect our progress—and have the chance to take even more steps forward—we need to show we have his back now, when the heat is on.

Add your name to show your support for women’s access to health care today.