Hundreds of thousands of Californians who applied for Medicaid have had their applications illegally delayed, and many have experienced “substantial and irreparable harm” as a result of living without health insurance, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled last week.
Health-care access advocates in September filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), alleging that the state’s backlog of applications for Medi-Cal, the state version of Medicaid, was in violation of the law and caused Californians to suffer by forcing them to forgo health-care coverage.
Twelve million Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal, including some 2.7 million new enrollees following the program’s expansion in 2013.
California law requires the DHCS to review and respond to a Medi-Cal application within 45 days of its submission. But due to the deluge of applications following the expansion of Medicaid and the roll-out of Covered California, the state insurance exchange formed under the Affordable Care Act, the DHCS was unable to review and notify applicants of their status in time.
Last spring, more than 900,000 applications had yet to go through the review process, leaving residents without coverage.
Some applicants waited as long as a year to hear back about whether they qualify, according to the lawsuit.
In some cases, like that of Robert Rivera, the effects of the delay were fatal. Rivera, whose experience is detailed in the suit, submitted his Medi-Cal application in early January 2014. The agency granted him Medi-Cal benefits half a year later, but Rivera, who suffered from a number of chronic health conditions, had died from a pulmonary embolism two months earlier.
Judge Evelio M. Grillo agreed with the advocates who filed the suit, writing in his decision that the DHCS delay caused “irreparable harm” to low-income Californians.
Grillo ordered the state to no longer delay Medi-Cal applications past the 45 days provided by law. Pointing out that, despite the state’s reduction of the backlog from 900,000 in May to some 44,150 in December, the state may still not be able to comply with the 45-day rule.
Grillo also said that the state should grant provisional benefits to applicants who are “likely eligible,” pending final approval from the state.
Provisional benefits would allow residents to get coverage for health-care services while their applications are pending.
Department officials have said that they have begun providing provisional benefits for “likely eligible” applicants who are stuck in the backlog, and will continue doing so based on the judge’s findings.
Judge Grillo also ordered the state to provide written notice to people whose applications are backlogged, outlining their right to request a hearing to prevent further delay of their eligibility determination.
“I am just thrilled that the people who need Medi-Cal will be able to get it in a timely manner,” said Robert Rivera’s mother, Frances Rivera, in a statement. “Hopefully somebody’s life will be saved because of this decision.”
When I was 14 years old, my mother saw my best friend necking with an unidentified boy. By the time Mom arrived home, she was apoplectic, and barred me from socializing with “that slut” ever again.
Growing up is always hard, as is parsing truth from fiction. In this case, my mother had provided a hands-on lesson in slut-shaming, using a single word to malign and denigrate a young woman I’d befriended in kindergarten. And although the incident happened more than 40 years ago, I’ve never forgotten the sting of the word or the panic I felt when she uttered it.
The sickening thing is that, despite the passage of time, little has changed. Today, thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, slurs about one’s alleged behavior can spread like wildfire among one’s peers, friends, or even family members with just a flick of a finger or click of a mouse. This can be devastating for those who shoulder public condemnation—especially teens. The results, sadly, are sometimes deadly.
SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence, forthcoming in February from the Feminist Press, positions itself as a counter to that stigma by focusing on adolescents as well as those who teach and parent them. The book opens with 20 first-person narratives by people between the ages of 13 and 20 who explore the bombardment of conflicting messages about sexuality that continually besiege them. Later in the text, the play mentioned in the anthology’s title—also called “SLUT”—provides something of a case study about the ways slut-shaming impacts those on the receiving end of it. It also spotlights the perpetrators, since they are central to any discussion of this heinous behavior.
The play was originally created two years ago by the New York City-based Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company in collaboration with high school students from four states. It centers on the experience of one young woman, 16-year-old Joey Del Marco, who was sexually assaulted by two boys she’s known since childhood. SLUT not only examines what happened to this fictional character; it also touches on victim blaming, the role of passive bystanders, and the ways the legal system reinforces sexism and further traumatizes the complainant. It’s a highly charged piece and has been performed numerous times since its 2013 debut.
Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney, founders of the Arts Effect and editors of SLUT, note the urgency that underscored the play’s development: “Reputable studies concur that between one in four and one in five women and girls will experience sexual assault,” they write in a chapter entitled “Why Slut? Theater as Activism.” “Eighty-one percent of kids and teens experience sexual harassment during their middle school or high school years. Clearly, it’s time we talk about this.”
Yes, it’s high time, indeed, which is why the Arts Effect has joined with numerous organizations to launch StopSlut, an organizing campaign that, among other things, will bring the play “SLUT” to college campuses throughout the country beginning this spring. The goal? To raise consciousness and ignite conversations about the deleterious impact of sexually loaded hate speech on others, zeroing in on the impact of language castigating them as sluts, whores, hos, or thots, an acronym for That Ho Over There.
The timely release of the book SLUT is not a coincidence; it is intended to help parents, teachers, counselors, therapists, peers, friends, and social workers better aid this growing contingency.
First and foremost, SLUT takes direct aim at slut-shaming. As writer Jennifer Baumgardner explains in the book’s introduction, “Slut-shaming means to degrade women and girl’s sexuality and use it to justify harassment and rape. With slut-shaming, girls are made to feel guilty for their sexuality and punished for their sexual power or their desire for sexual attention … Being called a slut [or doing what they can to avoid being labeled that way] is often a girl’s first experience of being second class.”
Several of the book’s teenage contributors bear this out. Fifteen-year-old Darci, for example, recounts an incident that happened when she was in eighth grade. She had just begun dating a classmate named Nick. “A week after we started going out,” she explains, “I was sitting across from Nick and his friend Jack in the hallway. They were messing around on Nick’s phone and laughing. They saw me watching them and yelled out, ‘Hey! Check your phone.’ My phone started vibrating and texts flowed in from Nick, saying things like, ‘You’re such a little whore, get your tampon out of your ass … You’re a fucking slut.’ I was mortified.”
When a school administrator ran into Darci shortly after she received these messages, the teary-eyed middle schooler revealed what had happened. Nick was subsequently ordered to apologize for his “inappropriate language” and mandated to do several hours of community service. Nonetheless, Darci remained hurt and angry. “No one ever told him why calling me a slut and a whore wasn’t okay,” she writes.
SLUT also scrutinizes school dress codes and the arbitrary way they are used to police female appearance and perpetuate the myth of the temptress who lures unsuspecting boys into her lair. Willa, 16, reports that, in her school, shorts, mini-skirts and crop tops are regulated to keep male students and faculty from becoming aroused. India, another 16-year-old at the same school, notes that she has never seen a boy get disciplined for his attire. Instead, when a young woman is determined to be provocatively dressed, Willa writes, she must change into loose, ill-fitting, “punishment pants,” a response that results in what Willa calls “frustrating social and educational repercussions.”
Another schoolmate, Soren, 16, explains how this works. In her case, she was a ninth-grader when she was singled out. It was near the end of the school day and, because she was tired, she says that she lifted her arms over her head to stretch. “This caused my shirt to come a bit above my belly button (I’m guessing),” she explains. “The teacher proceeded to announce that it was a huge distraction to the class. My innocent freshman self was horrified and embarrassed. I couldn’t even look at the teacher for the rest of the class.”
So much for creating an environment conducive to learning.
This and other indignities are clearly elucidated in SLUT, but the book is more than a simple recitation of gripes. It is also an activist tool. In addition to debate over use of the word slut, including attempts to “reclaim” it —Farah Tanis’ “An Open Letter from Black Women to the Slutwalk,” included in the anthology, outlines what she sees as the folly of attempting to re-appropriate the term, especially since “Black women have worked tirelessly since the 19th-century colored women’s clubs to rid society of the sexist and racist vernacular of slut, jezebel, hottentot, mammy, mule, and sapphire; to build our own sense of selves and define what women who look like us represent”—the book is a hands-on manual of tactics and strategies for ending sexual harassment, slut-shaming, and sexual violence.
The protections offered by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 are also laid out in SLUT, so that students, faculty, and administrators can make sure their institutions are in compliance with rules “prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex,” or exclusion because of gender disparities in any program receiving federal money. The channels for lodging complaints are provided. But that’s only the start. A chapter entitled “StopSlut” by editors Cappiello and McInerney urges readers to remove words like slut from our vocabularies altogether and use language that avoids judgment about what people do, or don’t do, with their bodies. At the same time, Cappiello and McInerney condemn attempts to silence survivors of sexual violence, which serve to protect abusers or keep colleagues and family members from speaking out in support of those who have been verbally or physically assaulted. Blogging, they write, can further kick-start discussion and help individuals deconstruct harmful media messaging, including TV news and online porn that adolescents often begin consuming in elementary school. Most importantly, the authors of SLUT urge readers—whether they’re teens or adults who care about them—to “identify offending behavior … Shine a light on the issue even if everyone else is pretending not to see it.”
Obviously, ending slut-shaming and creating a world where everyone is respected poses enormous challenges for educators, parents, and activists. In fact, SLUT makes clear that, to date, efforts to derail sexual violence and increase sexual choice have not done enough to make it easier for kids to talk about bodily autonomy or stay safe. Worse, instances of sexual assault and slut-shaming remain a near-epidemic. On one hand, SLUT exposes how much is left to do; on the other, its concrete suggestions offer valuable help to individuals who have been shamed and suggest a path for the hard work of social transformation.
My mother would have disagreed that any of this is necessary. Her behavior, however, was rife with incidents that prodded me to become a feminist. And lest you were concerned: I did not abandon my friend. To this day we remain close BFFs, no matter whom we chose to kiss or snuggle up to.
Image: The Feminist Press
The post ‘SLUT’ Takes Direct Aim at Stigma About Adolescents’ Sexuality appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Anti-choice lawmakers in Iowa, after a relatively quiet year in 2014, appear to be preparing for an active 2015 legislative session. A collection of anti-choice bills that would restrict reproductive rights in a number of ways have been filed for the current legislative session, including one that would end the practice of telemedicine abortion.
The bill would mandate that a woman seeking abortion care wait 72 hours after her first visit to a provider, have an ultrasound, and undergo forced counseling with state-published materials prior to having the abortion.
Johnson defended the legislation when previously interviewed by RH Reality Check. “I’ve seen data from other states that show that there are women who, given the time to further consider options like adoption or the option—and I want to emphasize option—of seeing an ultrasound, that that woman might carry that unborn child to term,” Johnson said, though he was unable to recall where that data had come from, adding, “I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of that.”
SF 12 also creates more bureaucratic requirements for abortion providers. The bill would require physicians who provide abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the abortions are performed.
The bill includes a provision that says a woman who is more than 22 weeks pregnant must be provided medically inaccurate information on fetal pain before physicians perform an abortion.
Johnson has also introduced SF 11, which would ban the use of telemedicine to provide abortion care. The bill prohibits dispensing abortion-inducing drugs by anyone other than a physician and would require that the physician comply with all federal regulations relating to abortion-inducing drugs.
SF 11 is identical to a bill filed during the 2013 legislative session, HF 173.
Bills banning the use of telemedicine for abortion care have been introduced by lawmakers in several states over the past few years. Telemedicine is widely used to serve areas where access to abortion and other forms of health care is limited, such as rural communities.
While lawmakers like Johnson say they do not oppose telemedicine in practice, they claim its use for abortion care is “dangerous” because “a physician is not present physically.”
Other lawmakers have made similar statements while defending legislation to ban telemedicine abortion care in states including Arkansas, Iowa, and Louisiana. These statements stand in contrast to the statements and policies of health-care organizations.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has stated that medical abortion can be provided “safely and effectively via telemedicine with a high level of patient satisfaction” and has been shown to reduce instances of second-trimester abortions.
Ibis Reproductive Health has concluded that “restricting telemedicine for medication abortion is not evidence based, and limits women’s access to high-quality abortion care, particularly in rural areas.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Bill Anderson (R-Pierson) introduced SF 44, which bans so-called sex-selective abortions. The bill would require a physician to certify that an abortion is not being performed because of the sex or gender of the fetus.
There is no evidence that sex-selection abortions are a widespread phenomenon in the United States. Proponents of the bans often justify them by using cultural stereotypes that target immigrant women of color.
Under the legislation, civil action could be taken by the patient seeking an abortion and her spouse against the physician who performs the procedure. The bill would also prohibit any criminal penalty from being imposed against the patient receiving the abortion.
The legislation is supported by the Iowa Right to Life Committee, the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, and the Iowa Catholic Conference, according to reporting by the Iowa Statesman.
A report from the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum found that such bans target and “thus [limit] reproductive health access for Asian American and Pacific Islander women.”
SF 55, introduced by state Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), would prohibit health insurance plans, purchased through the state’s health-care exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, from funding plans that include coverage for abortion care. The bill includes an exemption for plans that cover abortion care if a woman’s life is threatened due to pregnancy.
SF 55 is similar to a bill filed during the 2014 legislative session, HF 2096.
Anti-choice legislation has a favorable path through the state house, where Republicans hold a 56-43 majority. However, Democrats maintain a 26-24 majority in the state senate.
The post Iowa’s Wide-Ranging Anti-Choice Bills Include Telemedicine Abortion Ban appeared first on RH Reality Check.
A state program in Colorado that’s reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent over five years and teen abortions by 35 percent is facing opposition from a Republican state lawmaker who is wrongly concerned that intrauterine devices (IUDs), distributed for low or no cost as part of the program, cause abortions.
Private funding for the state-run Colorado Family Planning Initiative ends this year, and state Rep. KC Becker (D-Boulder) is working on a bill providing $5 million to keep the program going.
Becker’s bill is opposed by state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), who told the Ft. Collins Coloradoan that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s arguments for the bill amounted to “poor science,” citing his belief that IUDs work by “stopping a small child from implanting.”
Lundberg was referring to his unfounded concern, reported by the Associated Press in November, that IUDs are abortifacients.
“I have no moral problem with contraceptives. The problem is when you kill the child,” Lundberg told the AP.
In multiple interviews, Colorado’s chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, said Lundberg is “not medically correct,” noting that IUDs work by preventing pregnancy from occurring.
Still, Lundberg told the Coloradoan, “I don’t buy the argument that they’re trying to prevent teenage pregnancy when they’re pushing this.”
“Protecting life is a very big issue,” the Coloradoan also quoted Lundberg as saying. “In my mind, that’s what government is all about, and to protect the life of the most vulnerable and most innocent seems to be the most important.”
Under the Family Planning Initiative, about 30,000 IUDs and other long-lasting contraceptive implants were distributed during a five-year pilot program. Participating clinics in 37 of Colorado’s 64 counties serve 95 percent of the state’s population.
The initiative saved $23 million in Medicaid costs since it started five years ago, and continuing the family planning initiative will save $40 million in Medicaid funds, the Department of Public Health and Environment has estimated.
Republicans hold a one-seat majority in Colorado’s senate, but observers say the teen pregnancy program funds may still clear the chamber, even without the support of Lundberg, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee. Becker, the state house sponsor, has said her bill has a Republican co-sponsor, who has yet to be named.
Becker told the Coloradoan that she is currently trying to dispel the myth that IUDs cause abortions.
But high-ranking Republicans in Colorado, including 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, who lost to pro-choice Gov. John Hickenlooper in November, think otherwise.
In one widely publicized debate with Hickenlooper, who’s a strong supporter of the teen pregnancy initiative, Beauprez announced that he has a “big problem” with IUDs because an “IUD is an abortifacient.”
Scientists once thought that some forms of birth control, including IUDs, worked, in some cases, by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. But scientists now say they work by preventing implantation, with the caveat that science “cannot definitively rule out that a method may inhibit implantation.”
Image: IUD via Shutterstock
The post Lawmaker Opposes Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Because IUDs Stop a ‘Small Child From Implanting’ appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Congressional Republicans last week introduced three new anti-abortion bills in the House and one in the Senate, one of which would force a woman to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound before receiving abortion care.
HR 492, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and has ten male GOP co-sponsors, would require women to “receive an ultrasound and the opportunity to review the ultrasound” as a condition of “informed consent” to have an abortion.
The Senate’s latest anti-choice bill, S.201, introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), would make it a crime to take minors across state lines to have an abortion when their home state requires parental notification. The minor or her parent would not be held legally responsible, but any other family member or friend trying to help her access the procedure could be fined or imprisoned for up to a year.
Another bill in the House, HR 489, would require states to report information on Medicaid payments to abortion providers. Federal Medicaid funds can only be used for abortion care in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, but some states choose to cover abortion in other cases using their own money.
Finally, HR 463 would pull federal education funding from schools that have abortion providers on campus.
At the same time as these new bills were introduced late last week, the House erupted in abortion-related controversy when a vote on a 20-week abortion ban was canceled and another anti-choice bill was passed in its place.
Anti-choice advocates at the March for Life were displeased with that move, but the new bill, which restricts private insurance coverage of abortion, would have effects just as extreme for abortion access and women’s health.
Meanwhile, pro-choice Democrats in Congress reintroduced the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would forbid a range of medically unnecessary, targeted anti-choice laws that have become commonplace at the state level as anti-choice groups push a range of extreme laws.
The post Mandatory Ultrasound, Other Anti-Choice Bills Introduced in U.S. Congress appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Pennsylvania lawmakers on Tuesday introduced two bills that would make it harder for state residents to access abortions as well as a number of other reproductive health-care services.
SB 292, dubbed the “Conscientious Objection Act,” would allow any health-care provider to opt out of offering a range of services, all related to reproductive health, if that service “violates the health care provider’s conscience.”
Included in the list of services that a provider could refuse to offer are abortion, artificial birth control, artificial insemination, assisted reproduction, emergency contraception, and human embryonic stem-cell research.
The bill specifies not only that providers—which include physicians, nurses’ aides, and pharmacists as well as medical or nursing school faculty, students, employees, and social workers—can choose not to offer those services, but also that they can refuse to refer, counsel, test, or diagnose patients for any of these services.
The second piece of legislation introduced in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, SB 291, would ban the use of public money for abortions, and would preempt any local laws seeking to do so.
That same day, Democrat Tom Wolf was sworn into office as the new governor of Pennsylvania. Wolf, a former clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, identifies as pro-choice.
The post Anti-Choice Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push ‘Conscientious Objection’ Bill appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Last week’s debacle, when House Republicans pulled a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks at the last minute after protests from some GOP congresswomen about the rape exemptions being too narrow, was some darkly hilarious political theater. Instead, since they had to throw some red meat to the anti-choice fanatics amassing at the annual March for Life, right-wing lawmakers passed an apparent attempt to end insurance funding for abortion by prohibiting any plan eligible for subsidies or tax credits from covering it. This bill is certainly different from the ban on abortions after 20 weeks. But it’s just as bad in most ways.
Because the second bill passed without any controversy, many in the press were lulled into thinking it must somehow be less extreme than the first. The Washington Post described it as “watered-down.” In its lead sentence, Reuters also suggested that the new bill is less extreme: “The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill permanently barring federal funding of abortions on Thursday after Republican leaders dropped harsher anti-abortion legislation due to opposition from some of the party’s moderate lawmakers.” And NPR’s headline described the bill as a ban on federal funding of abortion—in fact, it forbids private insurance coverage of abortion, as federal funding has already been prohibited. This choice was not only misleading; it, too, contributed to the sense that this bill is somehow a more moderate alternative, since it’s about “funding” and not an outright ban of the procedure.
All this coverage gets it all wrong.
First of all, the bill is offered in as much bad faith as the 20-week ban, itself justified by junk science that falsely claims fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. Meanwhile, the justification for the anti-insurance bill is that taxpayers shouldn’t have to “participate” in abortion by funding it. This is a dumb argument on its surface, as abortion is quite literally the only occasion in which the moral objections of a minority of taxpayers is considered reason enough to cease funding. Certainly, those of us who actually care about life are not allowed to demand the end of the government funding things like war and the death penalty. It’s only when women are having sex that suddenly “moral” objections become an issue.
It’s also bad faith because the objection to “participating” has been met already. In 2010, Obama signed an executive order disallowing any taxpayer funding or tax credits to be used for abortion in order to appease anti-choice nuts who were blocking the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies are already required by law to pay for abortions out of accounts that don’t have any government money in them. The real purpose of this bill is to block private companies from using their own money, paid in premiums, to pay for abortion services. This is quite literally forbidding a private entity from spending private money on a legal service. Is there any other good or service that is legal to sell but illegal to pay for with private funds?
But this bill is also extreme because it’s about banning abortion for huge numbers of women that don’t have the cash on hand to pay for it outright. Anti-choicers may be fanatics, but they aren’t stupid. They realize that the best way to chip away at abortion access is to take it away from those who are culturally, geographically, or financially separated from the kinds of people who report on these political battles. Most journalists make enough money to be able to fork over the $500 in cash for an abortion, so while having our insurance coverage taken away wouldn’t be awesome, it wouldn’t constitute a real obstacle. And many journalists with mainstream national platforms live in metropolitan areas with plenty of abortion clinics, too, meaning the only cash we have to dig up is to pay for the procedure itself—none of the lengthy travel or child-care expenses facing people who live in states that have regulated most of their abortion providers out of existence.
This bill is just a furtherance of the existing anti-choice strategy of singling out the most vulnerable women for abuse. Which makes sense. Regardless of their bleating about “life,” it’s clear that the real purpose of the anti-choice movement is to cling to outdated and misogynist standards regarding sexuality, particularly the belief that women should be publicly shamed and punished for having sex for pleasure or with people with whom they don’t intend to settle down and make babies. While the sexual rules on women have always been vaguely intended to apply to all women, there’s little doubt that the forces of prudery have always had better luck targeting poor and isolated people. To this day, the possibility that you’re going to be labeled a “slut” and treated like garbage for being a sexual person has more to do with your class status than your actual sexual choices. This is just the legal entrenchment of the idea that poor women’s sexuality is somehow more shameful than that of wealthier women.
Neither bill, of course, has a chance of passing the president’s veto pin. But this legislation matters anyway, and not just for symbolic purposes. Passing bills that aren’t expected to go into law is how politicians normalize certain ideas. In this case, with mainstream outlets treating the anti-insurance bill like it’s somehow moderate, the strategy worked like a charm. Now, if Republicans gain hold of all three branches of government, they could very well pass this bill without much of a media blip, because the common wisdom holds that it is “moderate”. But it is anything but moderate. It’s an attempt to make abortion—and on a larger scale, control over your own sexuality—not a right, but a privilege available only to those who can afford to pay a premium for it.
The post The ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’ Is Just as Extreme as the 20-Week Ban appeared first on RH Reality Check.
In the midst of the Republican-controlled Congress’ introduction—and then revocation—of a 20-week abortion ban, along with its introduction of a handful of other anti-choice bills, it can be easy to forget that the fight for abortion access is largely taking place in state legislatures.
At least three states have already introduced 2015 legislation that would ban abortion after 20 weeks: South Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia. As RH Reality Check has reported, lawmakers in the three states have introduced a smattering of choice-related legislation, which include bans on abortion weeks before medical experts have said a fetus can be “viable,” the term laid out by Roe v. Wade as the point after which abortion may not be legally protected.
South Carolina lawmakers last week introduced two bills, SB 130 and SB 25, that would create penalties for physicians who perform abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization. The bills, both deceptively named the “South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” are based on faulty evidence claiming that fetuses can feel pain after about 20 weeks.
SB 130 would create exceptions for medical emergencies or cases in which the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest; any physician who performs an abortion after 20 weeks, unless the case falls under those three exceptions, would have his or her medical license revoked.
SB 25 creates an exception if there is a medical emergency. Physicians who perform abortions after 20 weeks under this bill could be found guilty of a misdemeanor offense.
In West Virginia, state Rep. David Perry (D-Fayette) introduced HB 2153, his second 20-week abortion ban in two years. Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has said he will veto the bill if it gets to his desk, though Republicans may have enough votes this year to overturn the governor’s veto.
In Virginia, lawmakers on Thursday introduced HB 2321, a bill that would make performing an abortion after 20 weeks, except in cases of medical emergency, a felony offense.
The post In Case You Missed It: Three States Have Proposed 20-Week Abortion Bans in First Weeks of 2015 appeared first on RH Reality Check.
Last week, on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul sent an email to anti-choice activists pledging to continue his hard-line commitment to end all abortion in America.
Paul, however, might not be in a rush to push through radical anti-choice policies, if his 2013 comments on anti-choice laws are any indication.
Paul, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, bragged that he’s “led the fight to end abortion on demand in America” by opposing “funding for abortion under Obamacare” and “taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood,” and by introducing the “Life at Conception Act” in the Senate.
The Republican from Kentucky enjoys a national grassroots network of support around his Life at Conception Act, which gives legal rights to a zygote (fertilized egg) as a “person” under the 14th, Amendment, thus banning abortion, as Paul explained in this video, “once and for all.”
But when he trumpets the Life at Conception Act to hardcore anti-choice activists, as he did again last week, Paul fails to mention that he’s in no rush to pass his legislation.
That’s what Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in a 2013 interview that’s been almost completely ignored by pro- or anti-choice groups and the news media, even as Paul’s abortion position is under scrutiny while he gears up for the 2016 presidential race.
Asked by Blitzer if the Life at Conception Act was designed “to overturn in effect, effectively Roe v. Wade,” Paul said:
I think it’s probably designed even more philosophically than that. It’s designed to begin the discussion over when life begins. And it’s not an easy discussion. And we’re divided as a country on it. So, I don’t think we’re in any real rush towards any new legislation to tell you the truth.
And I don’t think we’re ready yet for our society maybe to change any laws, but I think it’s worthwhile having the discussion, if we can keep it from being too much of a flippant discussion over this, that country, this and that, and that it’s an important philosophical foundation to the law of a civilization.” [emphasis added]
Paul’s attempt to cast his legislation more as a springboard for a discussion of when life begins than something he wants to pass right away is nowhere to be found in Paul’s promotional materials for the Life at Conception Act—which Paul’s email cited last week.
“But by passing a Life at Conception Act, you and I can end abortion in America!” Paul writes in a message urging people to lobby for his legislation. “The Supreme Court itself admitted in Roe that once Congress establishes the personhood of unborn children, they must be protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which explicitly says: ‘nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property.’
“Since the Supreme Court is waiting for someone to tell them who the law counts as persons, let’s not wait another minute!”
Pressed by Blitzer in 2013 about whether his anti-choice stance includes exceptions for rape and incest, Paul hedged, saying there are “thousands of extraneous situations where the life of the mother is involved and other things that are involved.”
That statement also conflicts with Paul’s own Life at Conception Act, which, as attorney Lynn Paltrow argues, would ban all abortion with no exceptions, even for rape, and subject pregnant women to criminal prosecution for a variety of crimes—in violation of their basic civil rights.
Paul’s office did not return an email seeking comment.
Paul, in another statement viewed as inconsistent with the Life at Conception Act, said in September that he was not opposed to Plan B, even though it could be banned if Paul’s personhood bill became law.
Paul’s hard-line support of “personhood,” as demonstrated in his backing of the Life at Conception Act, is seen by some, including his former medical partner, as a huge liability in his quest for the presidency, according to a New Yorker article published in October.
Image: Senator Rand Paul/Youtube
The post Rand Paul Takes Inconsistent Stance on Federal ‘Personhood’ Legislation appeared first on RH Reality Check.
One in five servicewomen is raped, sometimes multiple times, during her military career. One in 100 men also experiences rape during military service. Rape may occur in boot camp, basic training, on board ships, on bases, or in military facilities all over the world. It may involve superior officers, subordinates, or people of the same rank. And, for some survivors, it results in a constellation of mental health symptoms including depression, anxiety, and stress, characterizing what the Veterans Administration refers to as Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
Related to post-traumatic stress disorder, MST can be a debilitating condition that may result in involuntary discharge on the basis of health concerns or a decision not to reenlist after serving. Once veterans return to civilian life, though, those with MST often struggle to get the service-connected disability benefits they need to help them access treatment. In this way, rape survivors are being victimized again—this time, by the very agency tasked with helping them.
Several factors are combining to create this benefits crisis for women who need mental health services and other resources to help them process their traumatic experiences. One is the very ubiquity and nature of military sexual assault, the incidence of which continues to rise. As in the civilian world, members of the military are often reluctant to report because of feelings of shame, fear of being disbelieved, and worry about how they’ll be treated. But for those in the military, reporting can also be a career-ending choice. Reported rapists are not necessarily investigated or prosecuted, although rape is a criminal act under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Bizarrely, in some cases rape investigators are themselves accused rapists, or the officers designated to address reports are known sexual assailants. In one notable case, an officer pardoned a rapist, effectively vacating his punishment. And regardless of whether their attacker is penalized, reporters may still find themselves demoted, discharged, or placed in positions where they have limited opportunities for career advancement; some are driven out of the military while their rapists remain in their previous roles.
Even after events like the Tailhook scandal of 1991, the military cannot come to grips with its relationship to sexual assault. Instead of investigating and punishing the perpetrators, it punishes the survivors, effectively creating a culture where assaults are ignored and women, along with men, are actively encouraged not to report. Then, when those servicemembers leave the military and seek assistance, they face further obstacles. Determinations on disability benefits for those with MST are highly subjective, and they’re approved at much lower rates than those for other service-connected disabilities—including PTSD for factors other than sexual assault. Military women must first be able to process what happened to them as sexual assault, then be able to prove to a doubting administration that they were raped; in a world of rape culture, that can be a challenge. Military women face the same problems their civilian sisters do, with added pressure to show that the aftereffects of their sexual assaults were significant enough to merit benefits to help them recover.
For a veteran with MST to receive VA benefits, she must be able to demonstrate that she was raped by a colleague while serving. If she wasn’t, it doesn’t count as a service-connected disability. Proving this may theoretically be possible through information in her file, but only if she reported the crime—which, again, she may not do, knowing how survivors are often treated. When supporting evidence like this is not available, the VA looks for what are known as “markers,” or signs that the applicant was raped; these can include medical records, testimony from friends and other servicemembers, STI or pregnancy test results, or rape counseling records, released with the servicewoman’s consent. In addition, she must undergo a grueling interview about the specifics of the crime—reminiscent of those victims must endure on the stand in military sexual assault trials—in an environment where a VA adjudicator has an arguably vested interest in disproving her rape, or at least proving that it took place outside a military context.
If the benefits adjudicator appointed by the VA determines that a rape did occur, the VA still needs to determine if she has MST, which the agency defines as “psychological trauma … resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training.” This requires a comprehensive mental health evaluation.
Unlike a hard-and-fast service-connected disability, like the loss of a limb or hearing damage, MST is more elusive, requiring an official to make a decision in each individual case. There are no quick definitions for MST cases, which makes them extremely easy to deny. Should a victim’s case be assigned to an unsympathetic staffer, she might be refused benefits. If she wants to pursue the matter, she could be dragged into an appeals process that could last for months, or even years. As with veterans who have other mental health conditions related to their experience in the service, she may struggle with even basic tasks of daily living, which can make the bureaucratic process bewildering and frustrating.
Overall, around 50 percent of MST claims are approved for benefits, which leaves half of claimants without assistance—and, since many never claim in the first place (it’s estimated that some 26,000 unreported military rapes took place in 2013), it’s difficult to determine how many female veterans overall are struggling with MST and no resources, like mental health services, group counseling, anti-anxiety medications, job placements, housing assistance, and other services offered to disabled veterans. Such tools help veterans manage their MST and rebuild their lives after military rape—and they can make the difference between survival and poverty-level struggle, homelessness, or even suicide.
The inequality in approvals for MST benefits is not just a matter of differing adjudicators and case specifics. It also depends on where the veteran files the request, highlighting a larger problem within the VA, as seemingly standardized processes are actually applied with wildly differing results. A veteran in Los Angeles, for example, is more likely to receive benefits than one in St. Paul, or Detroit. This is a clear miscarriage of justice. The military must apply benefits equally to all wounded veterans, whether their wounds are physical or psychological in nature.
The ACLU and the Service Women’s Action Network released a comprehensive and troubling analysis of the situation for women in the military in 2013, discussing the issue of benefits eligibility for veterans with MST. Furthermore, in a scathing report on the subject issued last summer, the Government Accountability Office identified a very low and inconsistent-by-region benefits approval rate, unprepared adjudicators, and poor quality control. It also made a series of recommendations for the VA, arguing that the agency needs to improve training and outreach as well as conduct more detailed quality reviews and analysis to ensure that veterans are being well-served when they apply for benefits. The VA has pledged to implement those recommendations in coming months and years. Still, both reports, from civilian and government organizations working independently, showed that the Pentagon and VA have been slow to move on military sexual assault and the psychological fallout, despite the fact that sexual assault scandals and calls to action have dogged the military for decades.
Congress hasn’t, though. Last year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) pushed for a significant overhaul to the way rape cases in the military are handled, though her bill ultimately lost out to that of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who presented less substantial measures for addressing military rape. While arguments between the two senators on the specifics of their plans were sometimes quite barbed, they later collaborated on a campus safety bill aimed at addressing another rape epidemic in the United States: that of the rising number of college students who experience sexual assault on campus. The teamwork suggests that the two women may meet again on the matter of military sexual assault, bringing their experiences with college settings back to the table to do what’s best for survivors.
Meanwhile, the next move belongs to the VA, which must decide how it plans to develop and implement strategies to prevent rape, streamline the reporting process for victims, and promptly act on MST claims. Women who compromise their mental health for their country shouldn’t be left fighting for benefits after they leave the service.
The post Too Often, Military Sexual Assault Survivors Must Fight for Disability Benefits appeared first on RH Reality Check.
“Carrying a child for nine months is no great scourge,” a March for Life attendee who identified himself only as Larry told RH Reality Check. “I have a daughter. If she were raped, I would tell her to have the child.”
It was a blunt expression of a remarkably common viewpoint at this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., the country’s largest anti-choice protest march.
Many attendees of the march were young—too young to vote. They were groups of children and teenagers bused in as part of church or school groups and sporting matching beanies to avoid getting separated.
Children walked around with “Who Would Jesus Execute?” stickers. A few older marchers held signs reading “My biological father was a rapist.” A group of white high school students chanted, “Yo! Obama! Your mama was pro-life!”
“Rape and incest are awful things, and there’s already so much hurt and pain in those situations, but adding more hurt, more pain [from an abortion] isn’t going to help anybody,” said David Held of Purdue Students for Life.
“I personally believe that it’s pretty selfish of them to go and kill that person” by having an abortion after a rape, said a young man from a Catholic high school near Lafayette, Louisiana, whose priest asked that the students not be named. “It’s probably going to hurt the whole time, but it’s a sacrifice that you have to make.”
For some, the idea of “sacrifice” went even further.
Madeline Wadlinger, a young woman attending the rally with her West Brandywine, Pennsylvania, parish, said she doesn’t think there should be any exceptions for abortion, including life endangerment of the pregnant person.
“I think you have to give the baby a chance to live. She [the pregnant woman] has had a chance too.”
Father Andre Melancon of the Houma-Thibodaux diocese in Louisiana spoke of women who have been elevated to sainthood for dying after giving birth after knowing they had risky pregnancies.
“There is heroism in sacrificing life for another,” he said.
As Congressional Republicans once again faced the specter of “legitimate rape” on the day of the march, they also faced a base marching on the Capitol that was unwilling to accept any legitimate need for abortion care.
The day was supposed to be a triumph for the new Republican majority in Congress and the anti-choice movement alike, with the passage in the House of a new national 20-week abortion ban that, while unlikely to become law, would surely rile up the base.
Twenty-week bans are a particular favorite of the anti-choice movement—they help set up direct court challenges to Roe v. Wade since they ban abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, and they tug at heartstrings with fictional tales of “fetal pain,” which no major medical organization agrees is possible at 20 weeks.
But since the House bill’s rape and incest exception only covered the few women who report the crime to the police, it sparked fears of a backlash from women and millennials. Leadership pulled the legislation and replaced it with a different bill that, even though it could have the effect of dismantling the entire private insurance market for abortion coverage, was reported in some mainstream media outlets as a “watered-down” or “less restrictive” consolation prize for the right wing.
Some anti-choice leaders felt like they had gotten the rug pulled out from under them.
Anti-choice activist Jill Stanek led a protest outside the offices of Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) for leading the charge against the narrow rape exemption, even though Ellmers said she still would have voted for the bill.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics in Religious Liberty Commission, told supporters that House Republicans “showed a complete lack of moral conviction and competence” in not passing the 20-week ban.
“The Holy Spirit won’t let me cuss, but I’m tempted at this point,” Moore said. “The House Republicans have done to the nation what Wendy Davis failed to do in Texas.”
Others shrugged and tried to make the best of it. “The devil is in the details” when it comes to politics, said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, although he acknowledged that he was “disappointed” in the non-vote and the GOP women who helped make it happen.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged the anti-choice movement to help “find a way out of this definitional problem with rape” in order to get bills like the 20-week ban passed.
It’s a task much easier asked than answered for the anti-choice base.
The “legitimacy” of any and all rape wasn’t a question for attendees of a Tuesday evening panel called “Rape Conception Myth-Busters,” sponsored by a group called Choices4Life.
“If a woman tells you she was raped—write this down—believe her!” said Choices4Life founder Juda Myers, whose mother became pregnant after a gang-rape. “Very, very few women lie. Why would you lie about something as horrible as that?”
The panelists’ stories were affecting: one woman who had five children as her father’s sex slave, another who was forcibly sterilized after her rape-induced pregnancy at age 13, another whose parents didn’t believe she was raped because she wanted to have the baby.
The panel’s “believe victims” rallying cry and the harsh words for “rapist’s rights” custody laws sounded in many ways feminist.
But Choices4Life, which aims to “promote and restore honor and dignity to women and children of rape conception,” also advocates against abortion with “no exceptions.”
A 15-year-old girl in the audience was asked to stand, and given a standing ovation, for being a “hero mom” who gave birth at age 13 to her rapist’s child.
“Even young women, it’s better for them to have those children,” Myers said.
Myers recalled desperately working to change the mind of a “catatonic” pregnant 15-year-old rape victim who wanted to have an abortion.
“People are like, you’re gonna force a 15-year-old to have a child? Well, I’d force her not to jump off a bridge. I’m gonna force her not to shoot herself in the head. I’m gonna force her not to harm herself. And if I know that killing that baby is gonna harm her, you betcha.”
She also talked about giving $3,000 to a young woman who was raped by her cousin in exchange for not having an abortion.
“I’ll do anything to save a baby,” Myers said. Then she added, “I won’t kill somebody, let’s get that on the record, there are some loonies out there who will take that and run!”
This is what the GOP’s philosophical schism with the anti-choice movement looks like on the ground: The rigidity of abstract ideals meets the raw emotion of personal experience, resulting in the idea that the “pain” of getting an abortion means it’s better to go through the pain of carrying your rapist’s child to term. The pain of thinking about snuffing out an innocent life means it’s better to sacrifice your own, in an act of heroism that lacks the agency of choice.
At the March for Life, Olivia Tautkus of Virginia said the issue of very young girls getting pregnant from rape is “horrific.” But if their physical ability to carry a pregnancy was an issue, she said, “There’s the ability to do a c-section and induce. Children survive so much earlier now.”
Tautkus told RH Reality Check that she was saddened to think of the “hopelessness” and “poverty” of spirit that makes women assume their situations won’t change and that their child will be a burden, not a blessing.
She told the story of a close friend who’d had a child from rape: “Her dedication was to love that child.”
Still, Tautkus said, her friend had to hire a nanny—not just because she worked, but because she always had to leave the room when the child got angry and his face looked like his father’s had during the rape.
The unnamed students and their priest from the Lafayette, Louisiana, Catholic high school had more to say about rape and other extreme circumstances.
Asked 12- or 13-year-old girls who become pregnant from rape, the boy from the school I spoke to earlier said, “That’s hard. I don’t know. I know way back then people would get married at like 13 and have kids.”
“It’s tough,” the priest jumped in. “We’re talking about abstracts, but in reality you’re dealing with real people.”
Asked what the law should say about cases like that, he said the only exceptions Catholics believe in follow the principle of “double effect,” in which both mother and child would die anyway without an abortion to save the mother’s life.
“If I were a woman, and I knew I would die, I wouldn’t care,” said another boy. “I would want my kid to live.”
As for the girls in the group: “I definitely agree,” said one immediately.
“I mean, if I had a lot of kids …” said one, trailing off. “It’s complicated. I came from a family where my mom basically raised me because my stepdad was always offshore. Like, I’m not OK with abortion at all, but I guess if I was in that instance and I would die, I would think: Where are my kids gonna go?”
01.26.15 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health released a new resource today outlining proactive policies that Texas politicians should enact to end the current health care crisis in Texas and restore access to critical reproductive health care services for millions of Latinas.
The resource—a policy agenda titled Nuestro Texas: A Reproductive Justice Agenda for Latinas—has been sent to every member of the Texas legislature as they begin the state’s 84th legislative session. The blueprint outlines concrete action steps the Legislature can take to restore full access to reproductive health services in rural and underserved areas, ensure access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion for all Texas women, expand health care coverage to improve the health and well-being of all Texans, and protect non-citizens’ basic human rights, including the right to health.
The agenda—which contains staggering statistics on Texas Latinas’ high incidence of poverty and low insurance rates—also includes solutions for addressing the state’s significant structural barriers to health care, such as expanding coverage for the uninsured, eliminating transportation barriers, strengthening public health infrastructure, and making reproductive health services available to all regardless of immigration status.
“Latinas in Texas have been particularly hard-hit by the women’s health care crisis that has rocked the state in the wake of politicians’ sweeping attacks on access to essential reproductive care,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Texas lawmakers have a responsibility to advance policies that expand access to the critical services Latina women and families need, and this report provides a robust and detailed blueprint for doing so.”
“Across Texas, Latinas face greater barriers than ever before in getting the healthcare they need. It’s time to end the politically-motivated attacks that have decimated the reproductive health safety net and left many women with nowhere to go for cancer screenings, contraception, abortion care, and other necessary services,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Our plan is clear, comprehensive, and proactive, and we look forward to working with Texas lawmakers to advance a reproductive justice agenda in the state.”
In the face of Texas’ growing health care crisis, the Center and NLIRH will be hosting Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: A Women’s Human Rights Hearing on Monday, March 9, 2015 in the Rio Grande Valley. Human rights experts from around the world will join Texas Latinas as they publicly share their stories about violations of their human rights. The hearing will be preceded by a march commemorating International Women’s Day and a human rights training for community members. All events are free and open to the public. More information about these events is available here.
The Reproductive Justice Agenda was developed in response to the devastating cuts to family planning services in the state, as well as ever-shrinking abortion access as a result of years of coordinated attacks on basic reproductive health care services. Starting in 2011, the 82nd legislature dismantled the reproductive health care safety net by slashing funds for reproductive health care, denying millions of low-income women access to affordable contraception and other preventive health services. The impact of these cuts have been particularly devastating for Latinas living in the Rio Grande Valley, as documented in the groundbreaking 2013 report Nuestra Voz, Nuestra Salud, Nuestro Texas: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Health in the Rio Grande Valley.
Latinas have also been hit particularly hard by Texas’ omnibus bill HB2, legislation that has already shuttered over half of the reproductive health care clinics offering abortion services, including many providers in rural and underserved sections of the state. The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently challenging two components of HB2 and awaiting a ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which will determine the fate of the remaining clinics, including the last abortion provider in the Rio Grande Valley.