NEWS: Chaos and confusion a year after Dobbs and the end of Roe v. Wade

by | Jun 29, 2023 | Repro Health Watch

A Year After Dobbs and the End of Roe v. Wade, There’s Chaos and Confusion

NPR, June 24, 2023

One year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, putting an end to the constitutionally protected right to access abortion, the health care landscape has become increasingly fragmented and complex to navigate, spawning widespread confusion. So far, more than a dozen states have enacted extremely restrictive abortion bans, with the majority making no exceptions for rape or incest. And many more are waiting on legal challenges to make their way through the courts. In Texas, private citizens can sue abortion providers and those who assist patients seeking an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. That has left approximately 22 million women, girls and other people of reproductive age now living in states where abortion access is heavily restricted or totally inaccessible. In the nine months following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, abortions with providers fell by a monthly average of 2,849 compared to April 2022, new data collected by the Society of Family Planning shows. With individual states empowered to ban abortion, some health care professionals say they are trapped by poorly drafted laws that criminalize care and fail to consider how women and other pregnant people might inadvertently be affected, including those who had not planned to terminate their pregnancies. Doctors feel trapped by vaguely written bans: “States that have banned abortion are also threatening the health and well-being of people with wanted pregnancies who face obstetric emergency,” Kelly Baden, vice president for public policy at the Guttmacher Institute, told NPR. “Doctors and hospitals do not know how to operate, or [they’re] operating under a really dark cloud of suspicion and hostility,” Baden added. Half of the doctors in states with abortion bans say that they have patients who have been unable to obtain an abortion, according to a national KFF survey of OBGYNs released Wednesday. About 40% reported facing constraints on their care for miscarriages and pregnancy-related emergencies. Meanwhile, 61% of those practicing in states with abortion bans express concerns about legal risks when making decisions about patient care. And a majority of OBGYNs say they believe that the Dobbs decision has also exacerbated pregnancy-related mortality, racial and ethnic inequities in maternal health and made it harder to attract new OBGYNs to the field.

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Abortion Rights Advocates Hope New Bill Sparks Action

Axios, June 27, 2023

Reproductive rights advocates know a new federal bill seeking to expand abortion access will face an uphill fight in Congress, but they hope it will spring communities of color to action. Driving the news: The Abortion Justice Act, which calls for increased investments in reproductive care with the aim to better serve immigrants, people of color, and people who identify as LGBTQ+, was introduced Thursday by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), would also require health insurers to cover abortion and miscarriage care. What they’re saying: Lupe M. Rodríguez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, tells Axios Latino that the groups championing the bill know it will face a big challenge. “We’re not under any sort of delusion that the votes are there right now, but we see this as a vehicle to continue to organize and to make a statement in Congress about what our communities really need and want.” Rodríguez hopes the bill and other actions from abortion rights advocates, such as pushing the White House to sign an executive order expanding birth control access, will motivate people to vote on the issue. “This groundbreaking legislation creates a roadmap to ensure that abortion care is available without hurdles or stigma for people of color working to make ends meet, young people, LGBTQ, and gender nonconforming people – and is accessible in the communities where we live,” the group Advocates for Youth said in a statement. Why it matters: Among women of color in the U.S., Latinas are most impacted by state abortion bans and a lack of reproductive care access, according to a November study by the National Partnership for Women & Families and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. 42% of U.S. Latinas ages 15 through 49 (around 6.5 million) live in 26 U.S. states that banned or are likely to ban abortion, according to the study, which also found that many Latinas are already mothers or live in impoverished conditions that would be exacerbated if they were denied an abortion.

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In Post-Roe Era, House Republicans Begin Quiet Push for New Restrictions on Abortion Access

AP News, June 25, 2023

When the Supreme Court issued its abortion ruling last June overturning Roe v. Wade, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said “our work is far from done.” He didn’t say what might come next. A year later later, McCarthy is the speaker, Republicans are in the majority and the blanks are beginning to be filled in. In a flurry of little-noticed legislative action, GOP lawmakers are pushing abortion policy changes, trying to build on the work of activists whose strategy successfully elevated their fight to the nation’s highest court. In one government funding bill after another, Republicans are incorporating unrelated policy provisions, known as riders, to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Democrats say the proposals will never become law. “This is not just about an attack on women’s health,” Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Friday. “I view it as an attempt to derail the entire process of funding the federal government by injecting these riders into the appropriations process.” Rep. Kay Granger, the Texas Republican who heads the committee, said during a hearings this past week that the riders that were included continue “long-standing pro-life protections that are important to our side of the aisle.” Using budget bills this way is hardly new, but it points to a broader divide among Republicans about where to go next on abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision cleared the way for state-by-state restrictions on abortion rights. Republicans for years held stand-alone votes in the House on bills to restrict abortion. Now, some in the party — particularly the nearly 20 Republicans running for reelection in swing districts — are hesitant, if not outright opposed, to roll calls on abortion proposals. They say such bills will never see the light of day as long as Democrats control the Senate. The GOP’s new push is taking place line by line in the sprawling legislation drafted each year to fund government agencies and programs. Nearly a dozen anti-abortion measures have been included so far in budget bills.

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Biden Puts HHS on Line for Contraceptive Access After Dobbs

Bloomberg Law, June 23, 2023

Ensuring access to contraceptives as some states enact state reproductive rights bans will be a major focus of the Health and Human Services Department under a Biden administration executive order announced Friday. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will be tasked with considering guidance for private health insurers to fully cover contraceptives without additional costs for consumers, weighing options for Medicaid to broaden the reach of low-cost family planning services, and taking other actions under the new Biden administration order. It’s the third executive order on access to reproductive health services the Biden administration has issued since the Supreme Court’s June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. In Dobbs, the justices removed a long-held federal right to abortion, leaving laws around the practice to the states, many of which have since raised restrictions. Since then, contraception access has “become even more important,” said Jennifer Klein, assistant to the president and director of the White House Gender Policy Council, in a press call. Contraception “cannot replace the need for abortion services,” she said, but is important for women’s ability to make their own health decisions. ‘One Piece of the Puzzle’: Reproductive health experts say executive orders are important vehicles for driving home the administration’s position amid heightening state restrictions on abortion services and with no federal law immediately likely. Biden’s latest executive order calls for the HHS and government agencies to consider guidance and other steps to ensure access to contraceptives across the US. For the HHS, that includes finding ways that would bolster contraception coverage under Medicare, which the administration said in a press document would especially aid “women of reproductive age with disabilities” get contraception “without unnecessary barriers.” The executive order also calls on Becerra to consider guidance or training that would help the Indian Health Service, community health centers, and Title X family planning clinics get better and easier contraception access. Becerra is also being directed to support research and data collection to document disparities in access.

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Pregnant Workers Get Better Protections Under Landmark Discrimination Law

HuffPost, June 27, 2023

A new law that went into effect Tuesday may help prevent discrimination against the millions of pregnant and postpartum workers nationwide who require temporary accommodations to continue working. In December, President Joe Biden signed the long-awaited Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) into law, marking a significant milestone after years of effort to secure its passage in the Senate. Starting Tuesday, the law enables workers to legally seek “reasonable accommodation” for pregnancy, childbirth, and associated medical conditions. According to a report from the National Partnership for Women and Families, this policy reform stands to positively impact approximately 2.8 million workers each year. Under the law, pregnant and postpartum workers could be entitled to rights such as reduced workloads and safer tasks, flexible and shorter hours, extended and additional breaks, closer parking spaces, larger uniforms, bed rest time off and remote work options, as outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employers are also required to engage in good-faith discussions with employees seeking reasonable accommodations, addressing their needs and identifying suitable accommodations, as detailed on the website of Better Balance, a nonprofit organization that has advocated for the law. It is also illegal for an employer to deny a job opportunity based on the need for accommodation; force leave when alternative accommodations are available, retaliate against reports of discrimination, or interfere with PWFA rights, according to EEOC. The law applies to private and public sector employers with a minimum of 15 employees, with one exception: employers may claim an exemption if accommodating a pregnant or postpartum worker would result in an “undue hardship” or “significant difficulty or expense” for the employer. By the end of this year, EEOC will publish guidance on implementing the law and will be open to public input, NBC reports. Prior to the PWFA, workers with medical requirements for pregnancy-related accommodations lacked legal protection and often found themselves compelled to leave their jobs, leading to financial instability, according to Better Balance.

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Note: The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.