Reproductive Rights

6/10

We’re still waiting to hear just how bad the Senate version of the AHCA will be for women’s health and reproductive justice, so in the meantime, let’s talk about what’s going on in a few other states.

Earlier this year, the Texas legislature passed anti-abortion laws preventing a common second trimester procedure (Dilation and Evacuation) typically used when the health of the mother is in jeopardy, and making it a felony for a doctor to perform those procedures.  Effectively, this results in abortion being restricted after the 13th week of pregnancy. By comparison, most states (including Georgia) restrict abortion after 20 weeks.  What makes these laws even more egregious is that Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, and instead of acting to fix this problem, they’ve doubled down on it.

To learn more about this issue, go here: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/texas-passed-abortion-restrictions-while-maternal-deaths-doubled

Last month, in Alabama, the legislature passed a bill outright outlawing abortion that will ultimately be on the ballot for their voters in 2018. They recognize that even if the bill passes by referendum, it can’t actually be enforced unless Roe v. Wade gets overturned, but it looks like they’re getting their ducks in a row in hopes that will happen.  Regardless, at this point Alabama has so few abortion providers left in the state due to the restrictions they have tried to place on doctors and clinics that even if abortions remain legal, they are pretty hard to obtain.

6/3

This week, federal officials drafted a rule to eliminate the federal health requirement that employer-issued health insurance include coverage for birth control, which is part of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive-care mandate.  Claiming that this rule is a way of protecting “religious freedom” for employers who have religion-based objections to birth control, this rule would effectively do away with the current situation where women only have to pay a co-pay for birth control if they have health insurance.  Obviously, this rule will specifically affect women, and is likely going to result in lawsuits from women’s rights groups.

Learn more here:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/29/us/politics/birth-control-trump-obamacare-religion.html?_r=0

5/27

Trump’s new proposed budget has been released, leading to a deep dive into who will be most affected by this budget. Short answer: women. Analysis is showing that the budget disproportionately impacts women—specifically because women tend to be the bigger recipients of safety net programs, and the budget cuts funding for many of these programs (SNAP, WIC, housing assistance, Medicaid). Conversely, the budget doesn’t have much impact on the funding for services that tend to benefit men more than women (military retirement, unemployment insurance, federal government retirement).  And, where the budget increases funding (infrastructure—road/bridge construction and repair), men will largely reap the benefits since construction jobs tend to be filled by mostly men. Of course, the budget also specifically cuts funding for “entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood.” This ban would result in taking funds from Title X, which provides money for family planning clinics, and Medicaid reimbursement for other services. So even if Title X funding ultimately remains the same, those who can benefit from it would change.

In other news, the CBO score for the AHCA was released on Wednesday, and as expected, predicts a huge increase (we’re talking thousands of dollars) in out-of-pocket costs for maternity care.

Check out the hard numbers and details here about the impacts of the proposed budget: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/24/upshot/how-trumps-budget-affects-women.html

And read more here about the ways the budget specifically attacks health care providers like Planned Parenthood and harms access to care for low-income women: https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/blog/trump-budget-to-women-we-dont-care-about-you

5/14

As you know, on May 4th, the House narrowly passed their terrible health care bill which still guts pre-existing condition coverage as well as essential health benefits, and includes language defunding Planned Parenthood for a year. The bill will now have to pass the Senate before it can start its path of destruction. Since last week, the only movement in the Senate has been to announce the list of senators who will be on the committee to write the Senate version of the bill. Lo and behold, the list is 13 white men—no women or people of color—so you can be sure this bill will not fix some of the major problems with the House bill regarding women’s health. So, while there have been many statements by senators that the current bill will have to undergo major rewrites, we cannot be confident that the Senate bill will be any better for women.
What does this mean? CALL/WRITE/FAX YOUR SENATORS about what needs to be changed about the House bill.

5/6

On May 4th, the House narrowly passed their terrible health care bill (AHCA) which still guts pre-existing condition coverage as well as essential health benefits—it’s a bill so terrible that Congress specifically included a clause exempting members of Congress and their staff from having to be subject to its terms.  This health care bill is specifically terrible for women, not just because it allows exemption of maternity coverage and birth control, but because it allows sexual assault and domestic violence history to count as pre-existing conditions that can deny insurance coverage.

The bill will now have to pass the Senate before it can start its path of destruction.

Call to Action on the AHCA bill:

CALL/WRITE/FAX YOUR SENATORS.  Although there is a lot of speculation this bill will not pass the Senate, there was a lot of speculation that Donald Trump wouldn’t win the presidency. And we all know how that went.

4/30

I can’t believe we’re still talking about the AHCA:

The newest incarnation of the health care bill still guts pre-existing condition coverage as well as essential health benefits—it’s a bill so terrible that Congress specifically included a clause exempting members of Congress from having to be subject to its terms.  Specifically, it would exclude maternity coverage, birth control coverage, and would allow insurance companies to raise premiums to astronomical levels if an applicant has any pre-existing medical issues.

Ways to take action against new AHCA bill:

https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/blog/3-ways-to-protest-the-gops-latest-obamacare-repeal-proposal

Around the country round-up on Reproductive Justice:

In Iowa, the legislature passed a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, after much-heated debate attempting to ban abortion at an even earlier time (like in the Heartbeat bill).  The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

In Arkansas, the governor signed a bill preventing women from obtaining an abortion until after a complete investigation into her medical background and her potential motives for the abortion.  The claim is that this bill is intended to prevent abortions solely done based on the sex of the fetus, but it ultimately allows an invasion into the woman’s privacy and the physician’s ability to determine whether the woman deserves an abortion if her reason for it “passes muster.”

In Kentucky the last remaining abortion provider won an injunction against government officials who wanted to shut them down claiming the clinic does not meet the medical standards set by the legislature.  Finding that a shut-down would irreparably harm the clinic’s patients, a federal judge blocked the closure, and the officials have suspended their efforts to close the clinic.

In Kansas, the governor officially blocked Medicaid expansion under the ACA, resulting in denial of access to low-income women seeking healthcare.

In Pennsylvania, a state legislator (who is currently running for governor) introduced a bill to block low-income patients access to public health care programs by denying state funds for this purpose, as well as specifically pushing Planned Parenthood to the end of the list of healthcare providers that can receive state family-planning grants.  He also introduced a bill to ban abortion after 20-weeks.

4/16

Federal Legislation:

On April 13th, Trump signed the bill, voted on by the Senate 2 weeks ago, to allow states to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  This law allows states to decide Planned Parenthood cannot receive federal funding, effectively harming women in the most rural parts of our country and preventing them from getting affordable gynecological care and cancer screenings.  The biggest concern from this law it will ultimately embolden states to try to block access to health care through Title X across the board at both Planned Parenthood health centers and independent clinics, preventing funding to cover services like contraception, STD screenings and treatment, and cancer detection.

Events/Action items to support Reproductive Justice:

“Stand Up for Justice” Fundraiser for Feminist Women’s Health Center: this event celebrates local activists, treatment providers and donors who have helped support reproductive rights, health and justice in Georgia.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/stand-up-for-reproductive-justice-2017-tickets-32693612475

4/1

Federal Legislation:

Today the Senate voted to advance legislation that would allow states to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  VP Pence voted to break the 50-50 tie, in favor of allowing funds to be cut off to states, effectively harming women in the most rural parts of our country and preventing them from getting affordable gynecological care and cancer screenings.

This vote means the Senate can now vote to repeal the final rule proposed by the Obama administration in late December that bans states from blocking Title X family planning grants to Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that offer abortion. Title X funding covers services such as contraception, STD screenings and treatments but cannot be used to pay for abortion services.

Georgia Legislation:

HB51- Campus Sexual Assault Bill (Now called HB71)  IT’S OVER

In a bit of legislative shenanigans in the General Assembly, after the Campus Rape bill was unanimously tabled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill sponsor Rep Earl Ehrhart, managed to have the language of the HB51 substituted onto HB71 which had already passed the Senate, allowing him to hurdle over the obstacle to its being eligible for a floor vote.  Ultimately, the Senate rejected this attempt and this case got sent back for a committee conference.  By the time the legislature was ready to adjourn for the session, this bill never made it back for a vote, effectively killing it for the year.

 

SB 193- Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program  PASSED

Text of the bill: www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/SB/193

This is a bill by the anti-abortion lobby to provide grants for Crisis Pregnancy Centers which work to prevent women from having abortions by providing them with discouraging and often inaccurate information.  Unsurprisingly, this bill was sponsored by Renee Unterman (R-Buford) who has a history of opposing good bills and supporting terrible bills.  And also unsurprisingly, it seems pretty clear that many of our legislators don’t realize that Crisis Pregnancy Centers are virtually illegitimate clinics. This bill ultimately passed 44 to 7.

3/25

Trump(Don’t)care

So far, the new GOP Healthcare Bill can’t seem to get enough vote commitments for this legislation to pass, so, as of today, the vote has been delayed.  While some GOP congressmen will not support this bill knowing their constituents will suffer, others believe it does not go far enough to eliminate essential healthcare benefits from insurance coverage.  There has been much discussion about the removal of maternity care, birth control, and mammograms from coverage—virtually all health care services that are unique to women.

Also, the GOP Healthcare Bill includes provisions stripping all federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers that offer abortion services.  Despite federal funds already being prohibited from use for abortion services, the bill would prevent Medicaid reimbursement for all services Planned Parenthood provides, like cancer screenings, birth control, and gynecological exams. Although the president allegedly told Planned Parenthood they would not lose funding if they would end their abortion services, they chose to continue serving their patients and rejected this offer.

Georgia Legislation:

HB51- Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Major success: this bill was unanimously tabled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is unlikely to be addressed again with so little time left in the legislative session.

After a contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, this bill had undergone some major drafting changes, but still included language requiring mandatory reporting to law enforcement by any designated university employee who becomes aware of a sexual assault, regardless of the victim’s consent.  Members of the committee expressed some clear concerns about this bill violating Title IX and violating a rape victim’s autonomy to decide whether he/she wants police involved in the incident.

The latest text of the proposed bill can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8gtN0rxSu7Hd1VVQktjOHNITFE/view

SB 193- Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program

Text of the bill: www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/SB/193

This is a bill by the anti-abortion lobby to provide grants for Crisis Pregnancy Centers which work to prevent women from having abortions by providing them with discouraging and often inaccurate information.  This bill has already passed the Senate and will be heard by the House Health and Human Services Committee.  To voice your opposition to the support of CPCs, contact the members: http://www.house.ga.gov/committees/en-US/Committee.aspx?Committee=115&Session=25

As of March 23, still no committee vote on this bill.

 

3/18 Update

Defunding of Planned Parenthood

The new GOP Healthcare Bill includes provisions stripping all federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers that offer abortion services.  Despite federal funds already being prohibited from use for abortion services, the bill would prevent Medicaid reimbursement for all services Planned Parenthood provides, like cancer screenings, birth control, and gynecological exams. Although the president allegedly told Planned Parenthood they would not lose funding if they would end their abortion services, they chose to continue serving their patients and rejected this offer. The vote on this bill is scheduled for March 23, 2017.

FAMILY Act

Two Democratic Senators (Gillibrand and DeLauro) have reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act that would create a shared fund to make paid leave affordable to all employers. The legislation would guarantee workers receive at least two-thirds pay for up to 12 weeks when they take time off for their own health conditions—including pregnancy and childbirth—or to care for others.  This is the third time this bill has been introduced in Congress.  There is cautious optimism this bill will receive positive response as the president proclaimed support of similar policies during his campaign.

Georgia Legislation:

HB51- Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Text of the bill: www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/51

This bill has already passed the House and is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. As a reminder, this bill requires universities to involve law enforcement in any campus sexual assault allegations, and prevents universities from disciplining those accused of assault unless they are convicted in court, effectively requiring assault victims to participate in the criminal process if they want any protection from their abusers. To voice your opposition, contact the SJ committee members: http://www.senate.ga.gov/committees/en-US/Committee.aspx?Committee=80&Session=25

 

SB 193- Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program

Text of the bill: www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/SB/193

This is a bill by the anti-abortion lobby to provide grants for Crisis Pregnancy Centers which work to prevent women from having abortions by providing them with discouraging and often inaccurate information.  This bill has already passed the Senate and will be heard by the House Health and Human Services Committee.  To voice your opposition to the support of CPCs, contact the members: http://www.house.ga.gov/committees/en-US/Committee.aspx?Committee=115&Session=25

 

Georgia Assembly

HB51 Sexual assault on campus bill – Introduced in the General Assembly January 11, 2017

Our take: This bill is dangerous because it deters sexual assault victims from seeking help in incidents where they don’t want the matter made public. Reporting to the police should be the choice of the victim alone.

Co-sponsored by 5 Republican Representatives, this bill seeks to change the system for reporting sexual assault incidents in the Georgia University system so that colleges are required to notify law enforcements if they are notified of sexual assault allegations by a student, and the university can only investigate allegations of sexual assault if the police are involved.  Further, students accused of sexual abuse would only face final disciplinary action by the college if he/she is convicted of the charges in court.  Under this bill, if a student seeks any type of university counseling after suffering from sexual assault, the university would contact law enforcement regardless of whether the victim sought police involvement or any type of punishment for the perpetrator.

Text of the bill can be found at: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/HB/51

This bill will be considered by the House Committee on Appropriations.  For a list of committee members to contact about this bill, go to:

http://www.house.ga.gov/committees/en-US/Committee.aspx?Committee=88&Session=25

SB: 235 Whole Woman’s Health Act—Introduced in the General Assembly February 22, 2017.

Our take: This is all wonderful!

Co-sponsored by 6 Democratic Senators, this bill seeks to protect a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion prior to the viability of the fetus, or at any time during pregnancy when the health of the woman is at risk.  It also seeks to make unenforceable any law that places a burden on a woman in obtaining an abortion where the burden provides no health benefit to the woman.  This bill updates Georgia law to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt which stated that abortion restrictions must actually protect the health and safety of women, and not just make abortion harder to obtain.

Text of the bill can be found at: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20172018/SB/238

This bill will be considered by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.  For a list of committee members to contact and ask for support for this bill, go to:

http://www.senate.ga.gov/committees/en-US/Committee.aspx?Committee=76&Session=25

Current pending federal legislation:

 

2.17.17 H.R. 586: “Sanctity of Human Life Bill”

Sponsored by 28 Republican members of Congress, this bill seeks to define human life as beginning at the time of fertilization (or cloning) and bestowing all legal rights and privileges of personhood from that point of time.

Text of the bill can be found at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/586/text

Several GA Congressmen are co-sponsors of the bill:

Rep Rick Allen (R-GA-12), Rep Earl Carter (R-GA-1), Rep Doug Collins (R-GA-9), Rep A. Drew Ferguson IV (R-GA-3), Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14), Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA-11), Rep Austin Scott (R-GA-8), Rep Rob Woodall (R-GA-7)

 

2.12.17 H.R. 490: “Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017”

Sponsored by 12 Republican members of Congress, this bill seeks to prohibit abortion where the fetus’s heartbeat can be detected.  It also requires a physician to check for a fetal heartbeat, and charges a physician who performs an abortion after the presence of a fetal heartbeat with a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of 5 years.  The bill does allow for an exception where the mother’s life is at risk due to the pregnancy.

Text of the bill can be found at:  https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/490/text

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA-11) is a co-sponsor of this bill.

 

H.R. 7/ S. 184: “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act”

This bill, which has already passed the House, permanently prevents the use of federal funds for abortion or health coverage which includes abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest or where the mother’s life is at stake. It also prevents the portion of insurance premiums that cover abortion from eligibility for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.  This bill is a codification of the Hyde Amendment.

The Senate Bill has 39 Republican co-sponsors, including Senators Isakson and Perdue of Georgia.

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