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Everything Women Need to Know About State Attacks on Reproductive Rights This Week

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Planned Parenthood supporters participate in a rally on Capitol Hill on April 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. Anti-abortion activists also held a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When it comes to women’s health, this week the hits just kept on coming. Not only is Congress going on recess for the 4th of July break without any sort of resolution with regards to what the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act may look like — and whether it’s going to take away women’s access to no-fee contraception, Planned Parenthood, and prenatal care coverage in one fell swoop — but several states are also making moves to restrict women’s reproductive rights, while others are fighting back to protect women’s access to the care they need.

Below, a recap on what’s happening where this week in terms of American women’s reproductive rights — and why you should be paying attention.

Restrictions to Reproductive Health

In Ohio, the State Senate voted yesterday on S.B. 145, a bill that would further restrict abortion access in the state by banning dilation and evacuation (D&E), the procedure most commonly used to perform abortions in the second trimester, after the 13th week of pregnancy.

In attendance in the State Senate chambers were “Ohio Handmaids,” a group of pro-choice activists who have taken to dressing like the handmaids from the seminal Margaret Atwood novel The Handmaid’s Tale (and current popular TV adaptaiato protest the state’s attempts to limit their reproductive autonomy.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio has also come out against S.B. 145, calling the bill unconstitutional because of the undue burden it places on women seeking abortion care, which remains legal and constitutionally guaranteed according to the Supreme Court.

Since becoming governor in 2011, former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich has already signed 18 new laws into effect further restricting abortion access in the state.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Governor Greg Abott has asked State Rep. Drew Springer and State Sen. Charles Schwertner to author legislation that would prohibit all local and state government funding for any healthcare provider that also performs abortion care. The governor has asked for the Legislature to take up this issue during the special session he has called, which begins on July 18.

According to the Texas Tribune, the proposed legislation is largely motivated by lawmakers attempts to ensure that Planned Parenthood health centers in the state have no access to any state dollars. In February, a federal judge blocked Texas’ attempts to block Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood, citing his fear over the disruption of care for the over 12,000 Texans who get their Medicaid-funded health care through a Planned Parenthood health center.

Texas State Rep. Matt Rinaldi — who was involved in the first iteration of this proposed legislation last year — has called the total ban on state and federal funding for all abortion providers in the state “the biggest prohibition Texas has ever passed and certainly the strongest statement against taxpayer-funded abortion.”

In Texas, and every other state in the U.S., the use of federal funding is already barred for the use of abortion care as a result of the Hyde amendment. In 2016, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas received $3.6 million in reimbursement for family planning services rendered under Medicaid — including contraceptive services and pregnancy testing. The reproductive and sexual health care provider also received an estimated $4.4 million for a combination of HIV services, breast and cervical screenings, and preventative care services through Medicaid reimbursements. The group also received additional state grants for its breast and cervical cancer program and for HIV prevention services.

Previous efforts to bar Planned Parenthood from state and federal funding reimbursements in 2011, a quarter of all family planning clinics in Texas were forced to shut their doors, two-thirds of which were not Planned Parenthood clinics. As a result, the state saw not only a reduction in the use of the most effective forms of contraception — IUDs, implants, and injectibles — but an increase in the number of unplanned births among low-income women.

In Missouri, the State Senate will be reconvening after the Fourth of July holiday to consider legislation that would further restrict access to abortion there in response to a special session called by Republican Governor Eric Greitens. Already, there is only one abortion provider in the entire state.

Greitens has asked the state Legislature to not only pass additional regulations on abortion providers and the process of accessing abortion, but has also asked lawmakers to undo the current laws in St. Louis — the location of the state’s sole abortion provider — that ban employment and housing discrimination based on reproductive health decisions made by an individual, including abortion and pregnancy.

Last year, the Missouri State Senate moved to hold the president of the St. Louis-area Planned Parenthood affiliate in contempt of court — and under threat of jail time — for refusing to turn over patients’ private medical records to the state.

Wins for Reproductive Health

On the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Whole Woman’s Health, which found Texas’ HB2 law and its restrictions on abortion providers to be unconstitutional, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the state of Louisiana, saying the laws there are likewise unconstitutional.

Amongst other restrictions to abortion care, Louisiana makes abortion providers seek special licensure, requires providers to submit to the state for review the medical records of all women who have an abortion, requiring vaginal exams for all women seeking abortion care even when such an exam is not medically necessary, and require abortion providers to give their patients “misleading or false information about abortion.”

Counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights represented Whole Woman’s Health in their victory against the state of Texas before the Supreme Court last year.

In New Jersey, the State Senate recently voted in favor of a bill that would let women in the state fill a 12-month supply of birth control pills at one time. The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Chris Christie, who will make the final decision on whether to sign the bill into law. Earlier this month, Colorado’s governor signed a similar bill into law.

A 2011 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that dispensing a one-year supply of birth control at once resulted in a 30 percent drop in the likelihood of conceiving an unintended pregnancy and a 46 percent drop in the likelihood of a woman seeking an abortion when compared to accessing birth control pills in either one-month or three-month supplies.

And in California, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) has passed out of committee in the State Senate, which seeks to accomplish the opposite of what’s up for discussion in Missouri, instead preventing workplace discrimination on the basis of a person’s reproductive health care decisions. The bill has already passed the California Assembly and is headed to the State Senate Judiciary Committee with the support of more than 50 external organizations, including 16 different faith groups.

RHNDA was sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice California and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. Laura Jimenez, Executive Director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, said in a statement this week, “Latinas have the largest pay gap across the U.S., where a Latina working full-time, year-round in California is paid 43 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Latino full-time, year-round male worker. This extraordinary pay gap and over-representation in low-wage industry jobs makes achieving economic security more difficult for Latina workers and their families. The passage of AB 569 out of the Senate Labor Committee is a step toward passing a good policy and a matter of survival for Latinas whose precarious economic stability relies on California strengthening labor workplace protections that don’t hinder our reproductive autonomy.”

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