Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!
Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched frightening Texas legislation move from the state House, to the state Senate, to the desk of the state’s radical anti-choice governor, who on Tuesday signed off on it. The bill will ban private insurance coverage of abortion for women even in cases of rape, unless women buy a supplement plan in advance, earning the bill the beloved colloquial title “rape insurance.”
The passage of HB 214 is unfortunate, but nothing new; there are 25 states with restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance plans as part of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have spoken out against HB 214, but it remains unclear if a lawsuit will be filed.
In either case, while we should all obviously be keeping an eye on everything going on in Texas (which also just this week saw the death of a transphobic bathroom bill) plenty of other reproductive rights news unfolded this week in other parts of the country, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that—especially because not all of it was bad.
Oregon governor signs bill expanding abortion access
In some very welcome, much-needed good news, on Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, signed off on a bill that will require health insurers to provide birth control and abortion to individuals without cost. The Reproductive Health Equity Act, called the nation’s most progressive reproductive rights policy in recent history, will additionally provide this crucial access to health care to undocumented women, which also bans discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals by health care providers.
At a time when costs and lack of public funding constitute one of the most significant barriers to access abortion, and as trans and undocumented face an escalated amount of threats to their rights and safety, Gov. Brown’s signing of the bill marks a crucial victory, and serves as a reminder of what can be done if we elect more pro-choice state lawmakers and governors.
New study finds lack of abortion clinics is driving up costs
A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco has found that lack of clinics near women who seek and have abortions is driving up the costs of abortion after-care by 76 percent. This is because women who have abortions and want to confirm the end of their pregnancies have no choice but to go to emergency rooms, rather than make the long trip back to the clinic they had their abortion at.
The median cost to Medicaid for the emergency department visit is $941, while the median cost to go back to the clinic is $536.
The study notes that while abortion is objectively a safe medical procedure, women who have abortions understandably want to be sure that nothing went wrong without their knowledge.
Of course, the study is just looking at abortion after-care. The costs of abortion care itself are infinitely driven up by the presence of anti-choice laws that place medically unnecessary and expensive requirements on abortion clinics based on the erroneous idea that the procedure is dangerous and women will need to be rushed to the hospital. These requirements wind up shutting abortion clinics down by the dozen, forcing women to miss work and pay travel and lodging fees, on top of paying for their abortions—either that or put themselves in danger with unsafe DIY abortions.
For-profit corporations are taking advantage of Obamacare birth control exemptions
According to a new report by the Center for American Progress, for-profit corporations are exploiting a piece of the Affordable Care Act allowing religious institutions to be exempt from providing female employees with birth control.
The contraceptive mandate of the ACA provided 67 percent of women with insurance free birth control, and according to the National Women’s Law Center, in 2013, the contraceptive mandate saved women $1.4 billion on birth control pills and gave 55 million women access to low-cost birth control coverage. This latest report suggests that in actuality, the number of women who were able to benefit from the mandate was likely smaller.
Of course, it’s tremendously important to recognize that whether we give all women regardless of socioeconomic status access to crucial health care to control their bodies is a moral issue, but nor should we forget that this is an economic issue, too—one that decides women’s educational and professional futures, that determines their job stability and enables them to compete on an equal playing field with men.
Federal judge rules Arkansas can withhold Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood
As a result of the notorious 2015 sting videos edited to suggest Planned Parenthood “sells baby parts,” a federal judge has ruled that Arkansas can withhold Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood relies on federal funding to provide breast cancer screenings, STI testing, sexual health education, contraception, pap smears, and a number of other services. With limited access to birth control and sex ed, judging from what happened in Texas in the years after Planned Parenthood was defunded, expected unintended pregnancy rates—and with them, abortion rates—to soar.
It’s a shame that illegally obtained and heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood workers explaining fetal tissue donation—a common practice that’s yielded the discovery of a cure for polio and was previously supported by Republicans until placed in the context of women’s health—could soon lead to thousands of low-income people losing access to crucial health care.
Arizona forced to reimburse Planned Parenthood for legal battle over unconstitutional bill
To end things on a (somewhat) positive note, on Monday, the U.S. District Court judge ordered the state of Arizona to reimburse Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers for the costs incurred by fighting the state’s most recent unconstitutional law, which required doctors to lie to female patients that medication abortion is reversible. (It’s not.)
This reportedly cost the state $600,000, which sounds like pretty good news until you remember that this came out of the pockets of Arizona taxpayers. This should all serve as a reminder of how fiscally wasteful the crusade on abortion rights is, on a state and federal level.
Just last year, the House doubled the budget of a committee investigating Planned Parenthood for the great evil of providing abortion services (friendly reminder for all the conservatives sitting in the back that abortion is, in fact, legal) and donating fetal tissue for medical research. Over the course of a year, the committee cost taxpayers $1.6 million.
It’s ironic that abortion opponents who decry seeing their tax dollars go toward the abominable “abortion business” (once again, for all the conservatives sitting in the back—the Hyde amendment already prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortion, a policy that’s done nothing but deny throw poor women and women of color under the bus) but are A-OK with these dollars being wasted on abortion-related witch hunts.
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