Posted by on August 20, 2014 - 2:19pm

It’s been over a year since the controversial Texas law (House Bill 2) leading to abortion clinic restrictions passed, and the repercussions are starting to be felt throughout the state. The law, which was passed on July 18, 2013, created several new requirements, which abortion clinics need to meet to remain in operation. One requirement, which came into effect November 2013, called for clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a certain radius of the clinic. Since then, not all doctors could comply, and the number of clinics in Texas decreased by half from 41 to 20. The last restriction comes into effect on September 1 and requires that all clinics upgrade their facilities to make them ambulatory surgical centers. This will likely to lead to the closure of several more clinics.

This final requirement calls for clinics that do not currently meet its standards to renovate facilities to have a specific hallway width, establish full male and female locker rooms and include a janitor’s closet, among other things. Proponents of the law claim that these changes protect the health of women undergoing an abortion. However, Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, states that abortions are among the safest office-based procedures performed, with a low complication rate of under 0.05%. Therefore, she points out that the requirements are not linked to the safety of the procedure and are unnecessary.

According to Busby, since the number of clinics in Texas has dropped, women are having to wait longer in their pregnancy before they are able to have an abortion, and are having to travel greater distances, or even leave the state. Unfortunately, watchdogs are predicting that when the last requirement comes into effect in September, even more clinics will close, potentially bringing the number down to around 6 or 8 clinics in the state. Busby points out there are already no clinics in East Texas or in the Rio Grande Valley, and the one clinic left in El Paso is at risk of closure. Texas clinics have filed a lawsuit to stop the last requirement from going into effect, but if it fails, women in Texas may find it increasingly difficult to receive safe abortions. Other states across the country are trying to pass similar laws in an effort to restrict women’s access to healthcare.

Feibel, Carrie. “Half of Texas Abortion Clinics Close After Restrictions Enacted.” NPR. 18 July 2014.

Posted by on June 19, 2013 - 2:53pm

The pro-life v. pro-choice debate continued on the House floor yesterday as party representatives grappled with sustaining women’s reproductive rights in a surfacing abortion bill.  On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved a bill banning a woman’s right to pursue an abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy, subtracting two weeks off the current cut-off of abortions at 24 weeks in utero.  The majority-Republican party passed this bill shaving off the extra two weeks based off the medically disputed theory that a fetus is capable of feeling pain 20 weeks after conception (which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy).  Democrats in the House and the White House fought against the bill, saying the legislation is an “assault on a woman’s right to choose” and is an attempt to undermine the precedent set in the 1973 Roe v. Wade trial.

The argument quickly split down party lines (only six party members from each side voting against their party) and escalated into a debate on women’s reproductive rights.  In this heated bipartisan debate, representatives from both sides evoked emotional appeals.  Though different in message, consistent across both lines is the lack of the female voice.  While the House attempted to integrate more women in this debate, only 19 of the 222 Republican House members who voted for this bill are women.  In total, the House of Representatives only has 78 women, accounting for a meager 18% voice in the House.  Furthermore, there are no Republican women on the Judiciary Committee panel that has jurisdiction over this particular legislation.

While this bill certainly made headlines, the threat of it obtaining further approval is low.  Sources agree that the bill will not find support in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama has also already voiced his opposition.  Although no abortion laws are changing today, it is important to keep abreast on the dialogue surrounding this controversial and emotional topic.  Most importantly, government representatives must do a better job of allowing women’s voices and opinions to be heard.  Female reproductive rights issues have been considered taboo for too long, and an open dialogue in the government may help bridge the gap between women and policy.

Sources: ABC News, USA Today, and The New York Times.


Posted by on December 14, 2012 - 4:57pm

On Monday, former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell and dozens of other military leaders urged Congress to support abortion coverage for servicewomen in cases of rape and incest, ABC News' "The Note" reports.

The Senate last week unanimously passed a Department of Defense authorization bill (S 3254) that includes an amendment by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) that would allow the military's health plan to cover abortion in those cases (Miller, "The Note," ABC News, 12/10).

In a letter addressed to the heads and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the military leaders wrote, "Unlike other current federal restrictions on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape and incest," adding that the current policy is "unfair and must be changed."

The letter continued that "servicewomen commit their lives to defending our freedoms" and urged lawmakers to "respect their service and sacrifice and provide them with the same level of health care coverage it provides civilians."

The legislation is before a bipartisan conference committee, which will determine whether the amendment is included in the final version of the legislation. Three of the four top members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees support the amendment (Bassett, Huffington Post, 12/10).

Posted by on June 2, 2012 - 6:30am

With women’s reproductive health reemerging as a heated issue this year in policy debates and news reports, this month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll assesses women’s perceptions and reactions to that attention and its potential impact on the upcoming presidential election.

Three in ten women (31 percent) overall believe that there is currently a “wide-scale effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services, such as abortion, family planning, and contraception” in the U.S.  A larger share (45 percent) say there are some groups that would like to limit women’s reproductive health choices and services but it is not a wide-scale effort, while others volunteer that no such effort exists (7 percent) or decline to offer an opinion (17 percent).  Women who say they are liberals (49%) are far more likely than women who say they are conservatives (18%) to perceive a wide-scale effort to limit services.

For many women, women’s reproductive health issues resonate on a personal level, with 42 percent reporting that they took some action in the past six months in reaction to something they’ve seen, heard or read.  This includes attempting to influence a friend or family member’s opinion (23 percent), donating money to a non-profit working on reproductive health issues (15 percent), and contacting an elected official (14 percent).  Fewer say they’ve changed their mind about who to vote for, donated to a political candidate or group, or contacted a media outlet.

For now, female voters (like male voters) continue to focus on the economy above all else as an election issue, with several other issues (including health care generally) rising above women’s reproductive health.  Six in ten women voters name the economy and/or jobs as the issue they’d most like to hear about from candidates, compared to just 5 percent who name women’s health or other women’s issues (including abortion).  To the extent this becomes a voting issue, female registered voters give President Barack Obama a clear advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney: more than half say they trust the president more to “look out for the best interests of women” and to make decisions about women’s reproductive health in particular, while closer to a quarter pick Governor Romney.

Other findings from the poll include:

  • The share of the public with a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) dropped 5 percentage points this month, with unfavorable views now outnumbering favorable ones by a small margin (44 percent versus 37 percent).
  • The idea of defunding the law, as discussed by some members of Congress, is as unpopular now as it was a year ago, with roughly six in ten (58 percent) saying they disapprove of cutting off funding as a way to stop some or all of the law from being put into place, and about a third (32 percent) saying they approve of this strategy.

The poll was designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and  was conducted May 8-14, 2012, among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,218 adults living in the United States.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis, health journalism and communication, is dedicated to filling the need for trusted, independent information on the major health issues facing our nation and its people.

Posted by on February 24, 2012 - 11:00am

As predicted, the debate about access to contraception in the U.S.  has entered the political process with the counter attack focusing on freedom of religion.  This blog will look at another side of the issue:   cost.   The cost of contraception is estimated to be between $600 and $1000 per year based on the choice of contraceptive method.   According to a report issue by the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the US Department of Health and Human Services, "evidence from well-documented prior expansions of contraceptive coverage indicates that the cost to issurers of including coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods in insurance offered to an employed population is ZERO."

After a review of actuarial studies, one of the study authors concluded that "....regardless of payment mechanism or contraceptive method, contraception saves money".   When indirect costs are considered, (time away from work, productivity loss, etc.) contraceptive benefits actually save an employer money.

The report found that providing contraception through public programs is also cost-saving.   Public funds for family planning prevents about 1.94 million unintended pregnancies, including almost 400,000 teen pregnancies according to the report.    When some people say contraception is an important health issue, they are right.  Consider this,  preventing 1.94 pregnancies results in 860,000 fewer unintended births, 810,000 fewer abortions and 270,000 fewer miscarriages.   Avoiding significant costs associated with these unintended births saves taxpayers $4 for every $1 spent on family planning.To read the full report summary and references, click HERE.

Not only is contraception access an important women's health issue because it is used to treat several conditions beyond preventing pregnancies, it is much more cost effective than programs like abstinence only and those that support women who remain in poverty due to unintended pregnancy.  It is interesting to note that the majority of proponents of the religious freedom point of view are men!  Wonder if they would feel so strongly if they were the ones to get pregnant!