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A judge in Pennsylvania put a temporary, nationwide block on Trump’s rules creating exceptions for no-cost contraception coverage, saying that they could potentially cause women “enormous and irreversible” harm.

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s new rules allowing employers and universities to opt out of covering contraception for their employees due religious or moral reasons.

The Trump administration rules, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services in early October, allowed entities with “religious or moral” opposition to contraception to stop providing coverage, or participating in an Obama-era federal program that separately provided contraception coverage.

US District Judge Wendy Beetlestone heard arguments in Philadelphia Thursday in the case brought by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The following day, she agreed to grant Shapiro’s motion for a preliminary injunction, saying that the Trump administration’s rules could potentially cause the women of Pennsylvania “enormous and irreversible” harm. The injunction applies nationwide.

The injunction will stay in place as the trials continue, keeping the Obamacare requirement that employers provide no-cost contraception, while the arguments for and against the Trump administration’s rules are heard in Pennsylvania.

Department of Justice spokesperson Lauren Ehrsam told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the administration “disagrees with the court’s ruling and are evaluating next steps.”

“This administration is committed to defending the religious liberty of all Americans and we look forward to doing so in court,” she added.

The Pennsylvania case is one of many lawsuits filed by states and organizations, more than dozen of which were filed in the days following HHS’s ruling. California’s lawsuit had its first hearing earlier this week.

“This is just the first step, but today is a critical victory for millions of women and families and for the rule of law,” Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General, said In a press conference following the ruling.

“We’re pleased we’ve won the first battle in our fight today and look forward to the next steps.”

Judge Beetlestone explained in her written opinion that a preliminary injunction can only be granted if it is determined that the plaintiff, in this case the state of Pennsylvania, is likely to “suffer irreparable harm.” Beetlestone said she believes that it is likely Pennsylvania would suffer two kinds of harm: financial harm to the state, and “harm to the health, safety, and wellness of the Commonwealth’s female residents,” she wrote.

Based on the testimony of doctors that Pennsylvania brought before the court, Beetlestone wrote she was convinced that women who could no longer receive cost-free birth control from their employers or schools were likely to either turn to “state and local programs” that provide free contraceptives, thereby costing the state money, or to forgo contraception altogether, thereby increasing the likelihood of unintended pregnancies and imposing “additional costs on Pennsylvania’s state funded health programs.”

The judge summarized the Trump administration’s arguments against Pennsylvania’s assertions — that the state could not identify any woman who lost contraceptive coverage since the new rules were rolled out in October.

Following the release of the rules, BuzzFeed News reached out to more than twenty Catholic colleges and universities and around a dozen small businesses that had previously expressed interest in dropping contraception coverage, to ask if they had done so. While many did not respond, and several of the colleges said they do not provide any health insurance to their students, none of the entities told BuzzFeed News that they planned to take advantage of the new rules.

Notre Dame University initially announced it they would stop participating in the Obama-era federal program that enabled their insurance company to provide separate contraception coverage for their students and employees, but following uproar from students and faculty, the school reversed its decision.

Despite the lack of evidence of harm caused by the rules so far, Beetlestone wrote, “there is no need to wait for the axe to fall before an injunction is appropriate.” Especially, she added, since January 1 is the deadline for many insurance plans to change benefits enrollment.

California had also sought a nationwide temporary injunction to block to the contraception rules, but U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. has not yet ruled. Gilliam said in the hearing this week that he was also likely to grant the preliminary injunction because the Trump administration bypassed normal protocol for agency rules; instead of waiting for the designated public comment period before enacting the rules, they went into effect instantly.

The comment period went forward, however, ending in early December. HHS is required to review the comments and consider making changes to the rules, leaving employers who wanted to take advantage of them uncertain about the policies’ future. HHS has not announced how long it will take for them to review the comments, or whether they plan on making any changes the rules.

A Justice Department lawyer argued in the California hearing earlier this week that the rules needed to be implemented quickly, due to legal uncertainty over who Obamacare’s contraception mandate applies to. But Gilliam questioned that reasoning, Reuters reportedTuesday.

“I don’t know why that could not be done consistent with the standard notice and comment period,” the judge said.

The Catholic organization Little Sisters of the Poor, filed motions to join in on the lawsuits in California and Pennsylvania to help defend the Trump administration’s decision. The California judge granted Little Sisters’ request to join the suit, and heard their arguments. But the Pennsylvania judge denied Little Sisters’ motion to join the case. Mark Rienzi, a lawyer for The Becket Fund, which has helped defend Little Sisters of the Poor, told BuzzFeed News that they appealed this decision and expect their appeal to go to the Supreme Court.

“It doesn’t make sense to have these two secular governments fighting over the rights of religious parties,” Rienzi said. “This directly affects the Little Sisters.”

The organization, which is comprised mostly of nuns and cares for the elderly, have been at the forefront of the opposition to Obamacare’s contraception mandate since it was implemented. They participated in a lawsuit that went before the Supreme Court in 2016, before it was sent back down the the district courts for The injunction will remain in place as the court continues to hear Pennsylvania’s arguments against the rule.

Source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/emaoconnor/a-federal-judge-just-blocked-trumps-contraception-coverage?utm_term=.gekNxxX52#.rwaPQQDr9

“I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country,” said the father of three.


During a news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan urged American women to have more babies, saying their lack of procreation was stunting economic growth.

“People — this is going to be the new economic challenge for America. People,” Ryan said, in response to a question about entitlement reform.

Alluding to the fact that he’s a father of three, Ryan added, “I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country. Meaning, baby boomers are retiring, and we have fewer people following them in the work force.”

“We have something like a 90 percent increase in the retirement population in America, but only a 19 percent increase in the working population in American,” the Speaker continued. “So what do we have to do? Be smarter, more efficient, more technology — still going to need more people. And when we have tens of millions of people right here in this country falling short of their potential — not working, not looking for a job, or not in school getting a skill to get a job — that’s a problem.”

While it is true that birth rates in the U.S. have been declining, that’s not necessarily bad news — for instance, birth rates for teenagers hit a record low last year. Ryan’s comments also overlook the possibility that people may not share his belief that economic growth is a goal to be pursued at any and all costs.

Furthermore, there’s an obvious solution to the problem that Ryan completely ignores — allowing more immigrants into the country to fill the jobs being vacated by retiring baby boomers. But instead of using his position as House Speaker to pursue immigration reform, Ryan has instead indicated he’s on board with Trump’s hardline anti-immigration positions, including the president’s insistence on spending billions of dollars on a border wall.

Ryan isn’t alone among male Wisconsin Republicans in believing that women should have more babies for the good of the economy. On the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly last month, Wisconsin state Rep. Scott Allen (R) argued on behalf of a bill that would prevent health insurance plans for state employees from covering most abortions, saying more births are needed to spur economic growth.

“Labor force shortages are tied to population declines. Labor force shortages are a limiting factor in economic growth,” Allen said. “And limited economic growth poses a problem when government tries to pay for public services and infrastructure. In spite of this Mr. Speaker, ironically, the Democrats continue their effort to support the abortion industry.”

Source: https://thinkprogress.org/paul-ryan-says-american-women-need-to-have-more-babies-dc45cb1afec2/

Many leaders in the movement to outlaw abortion care in the United States continued to support the Republican Senate candidate in the face of sexual misconduct allegations.

Anti-choice activists are baselessly questioning election results and lamenting a massive blow to their agenda after Democrat Doug Jones’ stunning victoryagainst Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate Tuesday.

Many in the media suggested Jones’ pro-choice views could keep him from winning the race, and Moore attempted to use the issue to distract from allegations that he sexually abused a minor and engaged in inappropriate behavior with other young women. Moore’s radical views on abortion, which include support for so-called personhood legislation that would criminalize abortion and ban some forms of contraception, made him a favorite of anti-choice advocates. Many leaders in the movement to outlaw abortion care continued to support him in the face of the allegations of sexual misconduct.

As Moore refuses to concede the race to Jones, many in the anti-choice community are grappling with the ramifications of losing Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, blamed Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for Moore’s loss in a Wednesday press release, calling on the Senate majority leader to step down and claiming that Congress would no longer be able to pass anti-choice legislation after Moore’s defeat.”It is my opinion that Sen. Mitch McConnell heavily contributed to Moore’s defeat, and because that led to giving a seat away to a pro-abortion Democrat, he should resign immediately,” he said.

“McConnell has ensured that pro-life legislation will never pass, Planned Parenthood will never be defunded, and babies that can feel pain will continue to be aborted after the mid-point of pregnancy,” Newman said in his statement, referring to the GOP’s attempts to pass a 20-week abortion ban based on the unsupported claim that a fetus feels pain at that point in a pregnancy.

Newman, who is notorious for using violent and extreme rhetoric to discuss abortion and for co-founding the discredited anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress, was a vocal supporter of Moore’s campaign. He stood by the Alabama Republican amid allegations that Moore sexually abused a minor and behaved inappropriately with other young women.

Rusty Thomas, national director of Operation Save America—the group that made headlines this year when it spent a week protesting in front of Kentucky’s last abortion clinic—said the race may not be over. “Apparently, Alabama did not count all the votes, like the military vote that is traditionally Republican,” Thomas wrote in a Wednesday post to his Facebook page. “As a result, Roy Moore will not concede until there is a recount. This may not be over brethren.”

Thomas spoke on Moore’s behalf at a November press conference, telling the crowd that he continued to support the Republican “without hesitation” despite the flood of allegations against him.

Matt Trewhella, whose endorsement was touted on Moore’s campaign site, took to social media to encourage supporters not to give up the cause. “The Democrats and Republicans are all happy by the Potomac – Moore has lost and Bannon suffers a blow in his cause to destroy the GOP Establishment,” he wrote in a post to his Facebook page. “Business as usual in DC. – status quo maintained. Don’t lose your fight however – stay true to Christ and rally the lesser magistrates! Tomorrow’s another day.”

Trewhella signed a statement in the early 1990s saying the murder of an abortion care provider was “justifiable.” Though he later withdrew his name from the statement, a 1994 investigation by Newsweekdescribed Trewhella as “a mentor for potentially violent anti-abortion extremists.”

Cal Zastrow, an anti-choice activist connected to Operation Save America and co-founder of Personhood USA, claimed—without evidence—that voter fraud could have played a role in the results. “Please pray with us that all voter fraud will be exposed during the recount,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Voter fraud has been proven tonot be prevalent in the United States, and it is often used as a baseless excuse to erect barriers to the ballot box.

American Family Association Action and the Family Research Council, both of which supported Moore’s campaign, did not respond to Rewire’s requests for comment.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2017/12/13/abortion-rights-foes-flail-finger-point-mourn-roy-moore-falls-alabama/

Protesters with shirts saying "Stop the Bans" gathered in the Ohio Senate chamber after legislators passed a bill banning abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.

The GOP-led Ohio state Senate on Wednesday passed a ban on abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and Republican Gov. John Kasich has sent signals that he will soon sign the measure into law.

Lawmakers voted 20-12 in favor of the ban, which would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion if doctors know that it is being sought, “in whole or in part,” to avoid a Down syndrome pregnancy.

Doctors who violate the ban would lose their medical license and face a fourth-degree felony charge, including up to a $5,000 fine and 18 months in prison. Mothers would not be punished by the law.

Three Republicans voted against the measure, which was opposed by all of the state Senate’s Democratic lawmakers.

The bill has also divided the disability community in Ohio, with some disability advocates testifying against the proposal because, they said, it prioritizes Down syndrome over other disabilities.

“This bill sends a very clear message, that some disabilities are more worthy of life than others and that one disability — Down syndrome — is the most worthy,” Jane Gerhardt, a woman whose daughter suffers from Down syndrome, testified Tuesday, according to local reports.

The ACLU has characterized the bill as an unconstitutional effort to usurp well-established abortion rights.

A group of abortion-rights activists staged a silent protest in the Senate chamber after the Down syndrome bill’s approval, standing in a row wearing T-shirts that spelled out “Stop the Bans.”

The legality of aborting fetuses with Down syndrome, a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays and other serious medical problems, has recently been debated in other states. Indiana and North Dakota already have passed laws like the one that Ohio is advancing.

The Indiana measure, enacted in 2016, was blocked by a federal judge on constitutional grounds after a lawsuit by the ACLU. An appeal by state officials is pending.

The 2013 North Dakota law has not been challenged, so courts have not yet had the ability to rule on its constitutionality. The state’s sole abortion clinic, in Fargo, says the issue hasn’t arisen under its policy of not performing abortions after 16 weeks into a pregnancy.

The Ohio vote was a key policy victory for Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group.

“Both the House and the Senate sent a loud message that we are a society built on compassion, love, equality,” said president Mike Gonidakis. “We expect Governor Kasich will sign this legislation, as he said he would in 2015. Every Ohioan deserves the right to life, no matter how many chromosomes they have.”

Kasich’s spokesman declined to say what the governor would do. Kasich has said in recent weeks that he thought the measure seemed “appropriate,” but that he would review it when he received it.

Last December, Kasich vetoed the so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which would have banned abortions after a heartbeat is detected — typically about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/12/14/bill-banning-down-syndrome-abortions-passes-in-ohio-heads-to-kasichs-desk.html

Oireachtas committeeImage copyrightRTÉ
Image captionThe cross-party committee was set up to assess abortion law in Ireland

A parliamentary committee in the Republic of Ireland has voted to recommend changes to abortion law.

The committee was set up to consider a report by the Citizens’ Assembly on abortion law in Ireland.

The cross-party group is in favour of repealing the 8th amendment to the Constitution of Ireland.

The 8th amendment acknowledges “the right to life of the unborn and with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”.

Committee members voted 14-6 to recommend to the Oireachtas (parliament) to repeal the 8th amendment, and voted 12-5 to recommend to allow terminations without restrictions up to 12 weeks.

Woman with hand and clipboardImage copyrightKATARZYNABIALASIEWICZ
Image captionThe Republic of Ireland has a near total ban on abortion

The constitutional article reads: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

The committee also voted on numerous scenarios which would provide guidance on parameters for abortion legislation.

This included a vote which supported the decriminalisation of women who seek to procure an abortion, when a termination is carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic.

The committee will publish its final report on December 20.

Speaking in the Dáil Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he intends to hold a referendum on the issue next May.

Presentational grey line

Abortion in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland has a near total ban on abortion.

In 2013, abortion was legislated for under certain conditions – when doctors deem that a woman life’s is at risk due to medical complications, or if she is at risk of suicide.

The law does not allow for terminations in cases of rape or incest, or when there is a fatal foetal abnormality.

The law was introduced in the wake of the case of Savita Halappanavar who died in a Galway hospital in 2012 after she was refused an abortion.

In what was known as the X Case of 1992, a 14-year-old rape victim was prevented from travelling to England to terminate her pregnancy by the High Court.

This ruling was overturned by the Irish Supreme Court and a referendum approved a further update to the constitution, stating that the eighth amendment did not restrict the freedom to travel to another state.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42344858

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) speaks during the Geisinger National Symposium, “From Crisis to Cure: Revitalizing America’s Healthcare System,” on Nov. 9 in Danville, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has reaffirmed his intention to veto a highly controversial bill passed by his state’s Republican-controlled legislature to restrict abortions after 20 weeks.

The ban, known as Senate Bill 3, passed in the state’s House on Tuesday night, 121-70, after passing the state Senate back in February, 32-18.

“This bill is an attack on women, and it should never have reached my desk,” Wolf said in a tweet posted Wednesday. “I will veto it, because all Pennsylvania women deserve to make their own health care decisions.”

Support for the bill in both chambers of the state legislature was just shy of a veto-proof majority.

SB3 represents “the most extreme restrictions” on abortion in the country, according to Planned Parenthood.

Pennsylvania currently allows abortions up to the 24-week mark. SB3 would roll back that limit, allowing abortions after 20 weeks only in rare emergency situations, with no exception for cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.

The measure would also criminalize a certain medically accepted abortion procedure known as “dilation and evacuation,” although SB3 refers to it as “dismemberment abortion.” Were the bill to become law, Pennsylvania would become one of nearly 20 states that have laws banning abortion after 20 weeks ― but experts say the so-called “dismemberment” ban is unprecedented.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the governor called SB3 an “an assault on the doctor-patient relationship by politicians without medical or health expertise.”

“We’ve got to keep politics out of the doctor’s office,” Wolf told HuffPost in March, after holding events with doctors and women who have had the same kind of late-term abortions that would be restricted if the bill became law.

“When people are choosing where to go to school or begin their professional lives or where to start their business or family, Pennsylvania has got to show that it’s open to them,” he continued. “This bill just says the reverse, that you can’t make your own decisions here, this is not a place where we value freedom of conscience.”

Supporters of the bill argue that 20 weeks is the threshold at which a fetus can begin to feel pain, a statement debated by doctors.

The bill’s opponents ― a group that includes the Pennsylvania Medical Society ― argue that some fetal abnormalities are only discovered after the 20-week mark, while others fear that such bans aim to erode Roe v. Wade.

Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pennsylvania-governor-abortion_us_5a317c9be4b091ca2684f0cf


A U.S. judge questioned on Tuesday whether the federal government properly formulated new rules that undermine an Obamacare requirement for employers to provide insurance that covers women’s birth control.

New rules from the Department of Health and Human Services announced in October let businesses or non-profit organizations lodge religious or moral objections to obtain an exemption from the Obamacare law’s mandate that most employers provide contraceptives coverage in health insurance with no co-payment.

The move from President Donald Trump’s administration kept a campaign pledge that pleased the Republican’s conservative Christian supporters.

California and several other states with Democratic attorneys general promptly sued and asked for the policy to be blocked while its legality is decided.

At a hearing in an Oakland, California, federal court on Tuesday, attorneys for California argued the Trump administration acted too quickly and did not follow proper notice procedures when issuing the new rules.

U.S. Justice Department lawyer Ethan Davis responded that the Trump administration had to move quickly, given legal uncertainty over who is covered by the Obamacare mandates.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam questioned that argument.

“I don’t know why that could not be done consistent with the standard notice and comment period,” the judge said.

Gilliam also asked several other questions about the logistics involved with issuing an injunction. He did not announce a ruling at the hearing.

The contraception mandate was implemented as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, popularly known as Obamacare. Republicans, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate and White House, have so far failed to repeal the law, a top presidential campaign promise of Trump.

In its reasoning for the move, the administration said among other things that mandating birth control coverage could foster “risky sexual behavior” among teens and young adults. It overturned the Obama administration’s view that the birth control requirement was necessary to meet the government’s “compelling interest” to protect women’s health.

The state of California said it expected a surge in unwanted pregnancies as more women lose contraception coverage, which it said would affect public services.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-healthcare/u-s-judge-questions-trump-administration-on-birth-control-rules-idUSKBN1E632H