NEWS: Department of Veterans Affairs sued over decision to offer abortions to veterans

by | Dec 16, 2022 | Repro Health Watch

Department of Veteran Affairs Sued Over Decision to Offer Abortion Counseling and Certain Abortionsto Veterans

CNN, December 14, 2022

A nurse at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility in Texas sued the department Tuesday over its decisionto offer abortions services in certain cases and abortion counseling to veterans, claiming the new rules violateher religious beliefs. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Waco, Texas, comes months after the VA announcedthe new rules, which represented one of the very few policy responses from the Biden administration to the SupremeCourt’s decision in June to eliminate the federal right to an abortion. The plaintiff, Stephanie Carter, an Armyveteran and nurse practitioner working at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple, Texas, claims in the suitthat her “sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit her from offering abortion services and providing counselingrequired by application of the” VA policy. Though the lawsuit is reportedly one of the first challenges to the newrule, it is not seeking to block the department from enforcing the policy nationwide. Instead, it asks the court torule that the policy is illegal and unconstitutional and block the department from enforcing the policy at thefacility in Temple. The suit claims that Carter twice sought a religious accommodation to avoid following the rulebut failed to obtain one because it “makes no mention of a possible exemption or accommodation for religious healthcare professionals.” The VA, however, disputed that claim on Wednesday, saying Secretary Denis McDonough “has madeclear to all employees that their religious beliefs are protected here at VA.” “While we cannot comment on ongoinglitigation, VA does provide accommodation for VA employees who wish to opt out of providing abortion counseling orservices,” said Terrence Hayes, the department’s spokesman, in a statement. The lawsuit says that, among otherthings, the department’s rule “exposes Ms. Carter to termination from her job,” “exposes her to criminal and civilliability under Texas law” and “exposes Ms. Carter to a possible loss of her nurse practitioner license in Texas.”Texas’ abortion ban, which went into effect in August, put in place new criminal penalties for abortion and offeredan exemption only for certain health emergencies…The VA’s new rule, which was announced in September, allows thedepartment to provide abortions when a pregnant veteran’s life or health is at risk if their pregnancy were carriedto term, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. These services are also offered to Civilian Healthand Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs beneficiaries.

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Corporate America Thrives Where Abortion Is Protected

The Washington Post, December 14, 2022

Gina Raimondo doesn’t “know why any woman would want to live in a state that criminalizes full access to healthcare.” The assertion by the 40th US Secretary of Commerce is especially relevant after the Supreme Court’s 6-3ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June that upheld a Mississippi law conceived to overturntwo landmark decisions — Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 — conferring the almost halfcentury constitutional right to obtain an abortion…“Healthy workers are more productive,” Raimondo said during aZoom interview…“They show up every day, on time, ready to work – so I think states that provide better access tohealth care enable a more productive workforce.” Raimondo is the former venture capitalist and first woman electedand re-elected governor of her native state of Rhode Island, where she mended a pension system on the brink ofcollapse, fixed a crumbling transportation infrastructure, forgave student-loan debt, tripled the number ofpre-kindergarten classes and guaranteed that every child can attend all-day kindergarten. She recruited more than30 companies to Rhode Island, where unemployment plummeted to 3.4%, or 3.1 percentage points below its 30-yearaverage and almost half the rate when she took office in 2015. “You have to do more than just deregulate and lowertaxes to drive growth and attract business,” she said. “You also need high quality of life, high quality healthcare, high quality public schools, a well-trained workforce, and a place people want to live.” Raimondo…addedanother bulwark to her state’s competitiveness when she signed into law the Reproductive Privacy Act in 2019,protecting abortion rights by anticipating the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade. She isn’t “at all surprised”to see data showing publicly-traded companies in the 11 states where abortion is illegal — Alabama, Arkansas,Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas — are less diverse,less profitable and less productive than the US average for big and small firms alike and, by these same measures,inferior to companies in the 10 states that expanded access to abortion — Washington, Oregon, California,Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania — since 2020, according to datacompiled by Bloomberg. To be sure, there are many determinants beyond reproductive rights that explain whycompanies in some states outperform their peers in other states. “The best-performing companies are the ones whoare able to attract, recruit, retain and develop the top talent,” Raimondo said.

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Anti-abortion Pregnancy Centers Are Deceiving Patients – and Getting Away With It

The Guardian, December 15, 2022

Patricia Henderson stood in the parking lot next to the Florida Women’s center in Jacksonville, wearing a white labcoat and greeting patients as they emerged from their cars. Their abortion appointments, she told them, were in theflat-roofed building across the road. Once inside, Henderson handed them three pages of paperwork to fill out –questions about everything from their highest level of education to the date of their last period. Stateinvestigative documents lay out what clients say happened next: she led them to a pink-walled ultrasound room,where she would reveal their pregnancies in grainy images that, according to leading medical groups, only alicensed physician or a specially trained advanced practice nurse should interpret. Henderson told one woman thatabortion causes breast cancer – a claim widely disputed by medical research. She informed another that she was notpregnant and just had a stomach virus. According to the state report, that wasn’t true…Anti-abortion pregnancycenters like the Women’s Help center have proliferated in recent decades, with many aiming to expand their capacitynow that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. By design, an increasing number look and operate much like traditionalOB-GYN providers, offering ultrasounds, tests for sexually transmitted infections and, in some instances, even someprenatal care. Many boast of having medical directors and other licensed staff. Dozens include the word “medical”in their names. But as the newly unearthed Jacksonville case highlights, beneath the veneer of medicalprofessionalism is an industry that state and federal authorities have done almost nothing to regulate. Only a fewstates require pregnancy centers that provide medical services to be formally licensed as clinics, a Revealinvestigation has found. And, because their views are grounded in a particular ideological viewpoint, the centersaren’t subject to many other rules designed to protect patients – rules that would require them to be transparentabout their operations and medical credentials. The lack of significant regulation means that in most of thecountry, for the hundreds of thousands of clients whom pregnancy centers serve every year, there is no one playingan oversight role to make sure that centers are offering high-quality care and accurate information or that staffare licensed and adequately trained. No one protecting clients’ ultra-sensitive personal information or inspectingfacilities and equipment to verify that they’re clean and up to date. No one taking substantive action if clientsare mistreated or deceived.

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Medication Abortion May Be the Next Focal Point Fight Over Abortion Access. Here’s What to Know.

USA Today, December 12, 2022

Medication abortion is expected to be the next major sticking point in the ongoing nationwide fight over abortionaccess, with advocates on both sides of the issue pointing to the pills as central to the debate in 2023. Evenbefore the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down the constitutional right to abortion solidified byRoe v. Wade, medication abortion accounted for more than half of all abortions in the United States,according toanalysis by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights. Whilemedication abortion has always been a vital piece of abortion access, since Roe v. Wade was struck down,“medication abortion has become incredibly important for abortion access as abortion bans that have decimatedabortion care across numerous states,” said Jenny Ma, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Butwe’re not the only ones who recognize the promise of medication abortion in improving access to abortion care, andthat is why it is the target for the anti-abortion movement,” said Lorie Chaiten, senior staff attorney at theACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. Anti-abortion advocates sue FDA over abortion pill: The lawsuit: Theconservative legal advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit Nov. 18 in federal court inAmarillo, Texas, in an attempt to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, a medication that can be used withanother drug called misoprostol to end a pregnancy that is less than 70 days developed. It’s unclear when the casewill be heard. The drug: The FDA approved mifepristone for medication abortion in 2000. The U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services, the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians andGynecologists call mifepristone a safe and effective abortion medication and component of treatment and managementfor early pregnancy loss or miscarriage. What anti-abortion groups say: Many anti-abortion advocates argue the drugcomes with medical risks and should be pulled from the market, said Carol Tobias, president of the anti-abortiongroup National Right to Life. What abortion rights supporters say: Nearly 5 million people nationwide have usedmifepristone in the last 20 years, and their is a large body of research that supports its use, Ma said. “They’reseeking basically to remove this safe and effective drug off the market after it has enjoyed more than 20 years ofmedical proven medical record,” she said. “If they are successful in their lawsuit, it will unleash a public healthcrisis by removing health care options for millions of people.”

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Report: Maternal Mortality Rates Higher in State With Abortion Bans

U.S. News, December 14, 2022

Women who live in states with abortion bans or restrictions are significantly more likely to die during pregnancy orafter giving birth than women in states with abortion access, according to a new analysis. In 2020, the maternaldeath rate was 62% higher in the 26 states that have banned or seriously restricted abortion access than in the 24states with abortion access, according to the report released by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that seeks topromote more equitable health care access. “Making abortion illegal makes pregnancy and childbirth more dangerousand threatens the health and lives of all women of reproductive age,” report coauthor Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, a seniorvice president at the Commonwealth Fund, said in a press release. In the months since Roe v. Wade wasoverturned bythe U.S. Supreme Court, several states have banned and dramatically restricted abortion. Abortion is currentlybanned in at least 13 states, and another 13 significantly restrict access to abortions. According to the report,it’s not just maternal health outcomes that are worse in these 26 states. States that ban or restrict abortionsalso have worse health outcomes for women who are not pregnant or giving birth, according to the report. Between2018 and 2020, death rates for women of reproductive age were 34% higher in states with more abortion restrictions.Women of reproductive age in these states tend to have less access to health insurance and health care, and aremore likely to begin a pregnancy less healthy than women in states with abortion access, the report found. Inaddition to the health risks faced by women, children are also more likely to have adverse health outcomes instates with restrictive abortion policies. In 2019, infant mortality within the first 27 days of life was 30%higher in states that ban or restrict abortion. In the first week of life, infants were 15% percent more likely todie in states with restricted abortion access. States with restrictive abortion policies also tend to have fewermaternal healthcare providers, according to the report. States with more abortion restrictions have a 32% lowerratio of obstetricians to births and a 59% lower ratio of midwives to births than states where abortions areaccessible. According to the report, all of these factors increase risks for people who may become pregnant.

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