NEWS: House Republicans approve antiabortion bills after daunting midterm

by | Jan 12, 2023 | Repro Health Watch

House Republicans Approve Antiabortion Bills After Daunting Midterm

The Washington Post, January 11, 2023

House Republicans addressed abortion Wednesday for the first time in their new role controlling the chamber, passing two pieces of legislation with their razor-thin majority. The votes come after the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court last summer, which factored heavily into voter behavior in the November midterms, particularly in states where abortion issues were on the ballot. Voters in several states rejected antiabortion measures, while other states voted to codify abortion protections into law. The House adopted a resolution in a 222-209 vote, which carries no legislative weight, that condemns attacks on “pro-life facilities, groups and churches.” Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Tex.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.) were the only Democrats to support the measure. “This resolution is straightforward,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said on the House floor ahead of the vote. “This is a resolution that says we appreciate the good work that happens at crisis pregnancy centers where they take in women, where they help them and help that unborn child so that unborn child gets to experience the gift of life.” Democrats countered that abortion providers have been under attack for decades, noting specifically the murder of physician George Tiller in Kansas in 2009. In silent protest, a majority of Democratic women wore white before and during the vote, a sign of support for women’s rights stemming from a nod to the suffragette movement. “If you’re going to put a resolution out on violence against churches and fake pregnancy centers, why are we not also addressing violence against abortion providers and violence in general, right?” said Mini Timmaraju, the head of prominent abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. The House also passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in a 220-210 vote, which is aimed at compelling doctors to provide care to infants who survive an attempted abortion, a situation that is rare. Some experts say there were already protections for infants included in a 2002 law and even before that established infants have the rights of a full person. The legislation adds new penalties, including fines or imprisonment of up to five years for health-care providers who do not comply.

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Biden’s Budget Is an Opportunity to Promote and Protect Abortion Access

Ms. Magazine, January 9, 2023

Abortion is healthcare, and access to healthcare is a human right everyone is entitled to, no matter their income, hometown, race or gender—and now more than ever, the American people agree with this. Abortion was one of the defining issues of the midterm elections. It was the number one issue for almost one-third of all voters according to exit polls, and every single ballot initiative addressing abortion was a resounding victory. But this does not change the Dobbs decision and the fall of Roe v. Wade, which has decimated abortion access throughout the U.S., with at least 13 states banning most abortions. Globally, this decision will continue to wreak havoc as anti-rights actors are emboldened, abortion stigma increases, and countries that have relied on U.S. law to liberalize their own laws face increased challenges. We are at a precipice, and global advocates for reproductive freedom must stand united against this erosion of fundamental rights. The Supreme Court has failed not just people living in red states, but millions around the world in countries that rely on U.S. foreign assistance to provide healthcare to their people. Now is the time for President Biden to act—to do everything in this administration’s power to increase access to abortion at home and abroad. That starts today with the president’s 2024 budget being free of all abortion funding and coverage restrictions, including the Hyde, Helms and Weldon Amendments. Hyde Amendment: Since it was first passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been expanded to include coverage bans on many other groups of people, including federal employees and their dependents, military personnel and their dependents, people in federal prisons and immigrant detention centers, and Native Americans, and Peace Corps volunteers. Every year, Congress uses the Hyde Amendment to ban abortion coverage for people working to make ends meet, and the harm falls hardest on people who are already marginalized by our healthcare system, including women of color, young people, transgender and non-binary people…Weldon Amendment: The Weldon Amendment is a harmful rider that works alongside Hyde to interfere with abortion coverage and care. Patient health must always come first, but Weldon—like other refusal of care laws—emboldens policies that prioritize personal and religious beliefs over patient health and interferes with states attempting to protect and expand abortion access.

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Abortion Pills Via Telemedicine: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

MIT Technology Review, January 9, 2023

WHO: Choix, Hey Jane, Aid Access, Just the Pill, Abortion on Demand, Planned Parenthood, Plan C. WHEN: Now. Access to abortion care has narrowed dramatically in the US. But there’s been one big shift in the other direction: the ability to access care without leaving home. In 2021, during the pandemic, the US Food and Drug Administration temporarily allowed health-care providers to mail patients two pills—mifepristone and misoprostol—that, when taken together, can induce an abortion. Years before, the FDA had found the pills to be safe and effective at ending a pregnancy in the first trimester, and by 2020 they accounted for more than half of all abortions in the US. Then, at the end of 2021, the FDA made its decision permanent. Six months later, the US Supreme Court ruled that abortion is not a constitutional right. As state “trigger laws” prohibiting abortion took effect, interest in and demand for abortion pills surged. Nonprofits like Aid Access and startups like Choix, Just the Pill, and Hey Jane were ready to help. Though the process varies by service, eligible patients generally sign up with a photo ID and then consult with a medical provider via video call, text, or app. The provider prescribes the pills, which the service ships to the patient. Access to medication abortion is not a solved problem. Aid Access, with headquarters in Europe, is unique in that it will ship pills to any US state. But most startups offering abortion pills by mail follow state laws, which means people living in the 13 states that ban abortion, or in the additional seven states that require a doctor to prescribe the medications in person, must travel across state lines or set up an alternative mailing address to use these services. Still, the organizations helping people obtain abortion pills remotely have brought care to many at a critical time. Their foresight and tireless efforts meant these solutions were ready when people needed them. Update: In January 2023, the FDA said it would permit online and brick-and-mortar retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills to patients who have a prescription, in a step that could further expand access to these medications in states that allow it.

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Their Hospital Didn’t Offer Abortion Pills in the ER. These Doctors Changed That.

Rewire News Group, January 10, 2023

When Dr. Andrea Henkel was training at Stanford Health Care, a patient visited the emergency room twice in one week for vomiting associated with early pregnancy. The patient said she didn’t plan on continuing the pregnancy and had an appointment for an abortion the next week. “She was clearly miserable from a pregnancy that she didn’t want,” Henkel, a complex family planning specialist, said. “I wondered why we couldn’t just initiate her abortion via pills while she was in the emergency department—we already knew her gestational age and medical history, and she was certain on her decision.” Henkel’s experience that day inspired change. Along with Dr. Monica R. Saxena, an emergency medicine physician at Stanford Health Care, Henkel developed a new protocol to offer medication abortions to patients in the emergency department. The two doctors began developing the program in the summer of 2021 and had it up and running by February 2022. Now, if a patient checks into the Stanford ER with a pregnancy they wish to terminate, they receive comprehensive options counseling and are offered the option to initiate a medication abortion in the emergency department if they are less than ten weeks along. This approach cuts down delays, integrates abortion care rather than siloing it away from the rest of medicine, and acknowledges that not all pregnant people want to remain so—something that is often missing in hospital settings, where pregnant patients are frequently referred to prenatal care based on an assumption that they want to continue their pregnancies. Saxena said the response to the change has been overwhelmingly positive. “As emergency physicians, we treat all comers no matter their medical problem or station in life,” Saxena said. “As abortion is health care, it belongs in the [emergency department].” In the United States, clinics provide the overwhelming majority of abortions—95 percent, to be exact. A mere 5 percent take place in hospitals and physicians’ offices. However, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, 14 states have banned all or most abortions. As a result, at least 66 clinics across 15 states have stopped providing abortion care. With overwhelmed clinics reporting wait times as long as six weeks, many advocates are pushing for hospitals to take a page out of Stanford’s book and use their tremendous resources to expand access.

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Planned Parenthood Asks Judge to Rule in Texas Medicaid Fraud Suit

The 19th, January 9, 2023

Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates have asked a judge for a ruling in their favor in a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas that accused Planned Parenthood of Medicaid fraud. The suit was filed in January 2022 by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, but the situation goes back to 2016, when the state of Texas barred Planned Parenthood from participating in its Medicaid program. If the judge does not rule in favor of either party, the case will most likely move to a jury trial this spring. The lawsuit is one of a number of moves made by states that could limit or prevent providers from practicing, even as state legislatures restrict access to abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization leaving legality up to the states. In Indiana, Attorney General Todd Rokita filed a complaint with the state medical board against abortion provider Dr. Caitlin Bernard…“Dobbs now makes abortion providers and reproductive health providers generally more vulnerable, politically and legally. But that also means that people are paying attention,” Elizabeth Sepper, a professor at the University of Texas Law School who specializes in health law and religious liberty, told The 19th. Sepper said that while a number of states have made efforts to exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid programs and individual abortion providers have long found themselves subject to a myriad of intense bureaucratic regulation and compliance requirements, the climate is now “more hostile” — which means that the tone and tenor of actions taken against networks of clinics and individual providers alike is too. A request for comment on the merits of the suit from Paxton’s office had not received a reply by the time of publication. The latest move by Planned Parenthood in the Texas case came late Friday, just before a deadline to respond. In January 2022, the state of Texas and an anonymous plaintiff sued Planned Parenthood’s national office and the three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, alleging that Planned Parenthood was not entitled to keep certain Medicaid reimbursements. When those reimbursements were received, court orders allowed Planned Parenthood to participate in the state program; that ended in 2021. Plaintiffs are suing the three Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates not only for the approximately $17 million they received in Medicaid reimbursements but for over $1 billion in additional penalties and damages.

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