Abortion Centers


WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is poised to issue a rule unwinding an Obama -era requirement that employee health benefits include contraception, which will spark a fresh round of litigation over an issue that has been before courts for six years.

Federal health officials are expected to finalize a regulation that would allow employers with religious or moral objections to birth control to omit coverage for contraception from their workers’ plans, according to two people familiar with its contents. The regulation closely mirrors an earlier, leaked draft, they said.

The Supreme Court has ruled, in a case brought by the arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby, that “closely held” private companies can invoke religious objections to avoid covering contraception.

The Trump administration rule would allow a much broader set of employers to opt out of offering coverage for birth control, making moot a “workaround’’ designed by the Obama administration that allowed women in some cases to obtain coverage even if their employers had declined to offer it directly.

The rule would fulfill a promise by President Donald Trump to social conservatives, who backed his candidacy but have been frustrated by the pace of his administration has moved to address one of their most significant grievances.

Based on early indications, the expected rule “would go a very long way to restoring religious freedom and conscience rights,” said Hillary Byrnes, assistant general counsel at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

She said the rule couldn’t come soon enough. “We’ve been dealing with this mandate for over six years now,” she said. “A lot of people thought the administration would do something pretty quickly, yet here we are in August.”

Reproductive-rights activists say they will sue the Trump administration if it moves ahead with the rule, arguing that the change would unfairly impose employers’ beliefs on their workers and that the administration has cut regulatory corners in writing the policy.

“We are preparing various different legal theories to fight the rule very quickly,” said Mara Gandal-Powers, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group. “We think we have a really strong claim.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Trump pledged support for Catholics and evangelical Christians who sued President Barack Obama and his top officials over the contraception requirement, contending that it forced them to violate their religious beliefs.

They also opposed a process, which the Obama administration dubbed an accommodation, in which an employer notifies the government of its unwillingness to cover contraceptives. That prompts the insurer administering the employer’s health benefits to assume the cost and administration of providing contraceptives, effectively cutting out the employer.

Religious employers challenged the policy in court, saying it made them complicit in a sin. The Supreme Court last year sent the case back to lower courts.

The Trump administration plans to offer the plaintiffs precisely what they sought: an exemption from the contraception requirement for all employers who want one, according to people familiar with the plan, ending the need for litigation.

Others regard the expected rule as a step back in a decadeslong fight to secure women’s access to contraceptive care.

Lawyers preparing potential legal cases for opponents of the change say that if the rule resembles the leaked draft, the policy could qualify as sex discrimination, since it would disproportionately affect women’s health care. They also plan to argue that leaving a decision on contraceptive coverage to employers could amount to religious discrimination by subjecting workers to the beliefs of their employers.

“If the rule says any employer can withhold this benefit from employees, then you have a whole set of questions about whether the government is enabling employers to impose their beliefs on others,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

People familiar with the proposed rule say the Trump administration plans for it to take effect as it is published. Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor who has analyzed much of the health-law litigation of the last six years, has said that could open the administration to lawsuits for implementing the rule without time for public comment and consideration.

“The argument they make is, ‘We’ve thoroughly vetted this issue, and we’re only making a minor change,’” he said. “If that was true, that argument would hold water. But that’s not true in this case.”

Write to Michelle Hackman at Michelle.Hackman@wsj.com and Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 17, 2017, print edition as ‘Contraceptive Rule to Be Reversed.’

Do any of the Presidential candidates give a crapola about abortion?

I watch a lot of television coverage of the campaigns (CNN and Fox) and I have yet to hear either Hillary or Trump even say the word “abortion.”  Remember in years past it was a pretty hot issue?   Well, this year you don’t hear a peep about it.

Well, maybe every once in a while one of them mentions the Supreme Court and I think I heard Trump say he will appoint pro-life judges but it clearly was not the main message of his speech.  Actually, I’m never sure what his main message is, come to think of it.

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Trump

Trump does intrigue me, however.   Billion dollar “playboy,” three wives, the Big Apple.  Are you telling me that he’s never been personally involved someway in the procurement of an abortion?  Now that would be a story, wouldn’t it?  Indeed, out of curiosity I called a doctor friend of mine at a large clinic in Manhattan and I asked him if he ever saw Trump come through his doors.  To his credit, however, he said “well, if I did, I could never tell you.”   Oh yeah, I forgot about that confidentiality thing.

The pro-choice folks know Hillary is clearly on their side and has, in fact, come out in favor of taxpayer funded abortions.  But as for Trump, I know a number of pro-lifers are skeptical of his position on abortion.  Like me, they look at this high-flying jet setter and it spells “I knocked someone up and I took care of it.”

But the pro-lifers have nothing to worry about.   Even if he has some pro-choice in him personally, if he became President here’s what will happen.  First of all, if he becomes President that means the U.S. Senate will remain in Republican hands.  So, he would right off the top have Justice Scalia’s seat to fill – and who do you think he would nominate?  Well, he is going to have to nominate a pro-lifer.  If he doesn’t, if he tries to play games, that person will not be confirmed.  Simple as that.  The Senate Republicans will be in no mood to accept any kind of moderate.  And you know what?  Trump will go along with them because he honestly could give a shit about the Supreme Court.  That’s not his thing.  It takes too much thought to consider the ramifications.  He’ll be busy trying to build his wall and would rather not be spending any time talking about Supreme Court cases.

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Trump

Now, when Hillary wins, the Senate might go back to the Democrats.  But she will not have 60 or more Democrats needed to stop a filibuster of her nomination.  Indeed, the MINUTE she nominates a pro-choice justice, the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and other would be candidates will be lining up for the microphone to lead the “historic filibuster” against the nominee.  So she is going to have to be very clever – nominate someone who is pro-choice but whose position on the issue is unknown.  And how she does that is anyone’s guess.

 

Fetal parts are for sale. Yep, the terrible Planned Parenthood abortionists found and tapped into a profitable market for fetal parts, especially intact forms.

This is the basic narrative inserted into the talking points of anti-abortion politicians these days after edited videos between Planned Parenthood representatives and imposter biomedical tissue brokers surfaced. Ignored was the benefit fetal tissue provides to medical research. Disregarded was the selectivity used to decide what was fit for public consumption. Much has been made of interactions that might be suspicious to outsiders of medical and scientific research environments or appeal to the emotions of the uninformed.AR headline

Planned Parenthood can sufficiently respond to the “undercover sting videos” of its medical staff discussing fetal tissue donation. The rest of us need to respond to this attempt by anti-abortion dogmatists to impose their view of the world into public policy.  The states that have initiated investigations based on the videos found Planned Parenthood in compliance with regulations. Even if one state, or several states, unsuccessfully takes action for political value or reject continued contracts with Planned Parenthood for health services, it would be a measurement of success for this false narrative. Planned Parenthood will remain open to provide important health services, but there are other issues of which we should all have concern.

Deception and Ethics

The videos were created by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which claims to be “…citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”  Their website appears to be focused only on promoting anti-abortion viewpoints, no other medical ethics issues. End-of-life treatment, organ donation processes, and equality in accessing medical care are among the top ethical issues one would expect to see mentioned.ethics

Why the deception when it would have been perfectly acceptable for CMP to identify itself as abortion opponents with specific, legitimate ethical questions pertaining to abortion and fetal tissue?

Honesty and integrity are critical to discussions about ethical issues.  Would abortion clinic representatives talk openly with abortion opponents? I and many others certainly have on many occasions in our roles as reproductive healthcare professionals. Did the CMP even attempt to arrange a discussion? If the intent of the “undercover” effort was to learn about the involvement of some Planned Parenthood affiliates with fetal tissue procurement, it was not necessary for CMP to engage people by misrepresenting themselves as biomedical professionals. Why just Planned Parenthood and no other providers of elective, therapeutic, and emergency abortions? Hospitals and other medical facilities play a significant role in tissue procurement, which can seem quite unsavory to outsiders.

abortion safeApparently deception and fabrication are a preferred method of operation within anti-abortion activism. Deception and fabrication are the hallmarks of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, also known as fake abortion clinics because of the their strategy to appear as if they are abortion clinics and use misinformation to dissuade women from abortion once they arrive for their “abortion appointment.”  Anti-abortion literature distributed to Congress, the media, and the public also contains incorrect, distorted, and often manufactured information. This is how the public at times believes that most abortions are late term. Or have murky ideas about parental consent for abortion in which it is compared to unrelated issues that are often guided by business policies, not laws.

It is no surprise that deceptive tactics were used to generate the storyline about fetal tissue procurement. It is nonetheless striking that there is not outrage about the deception, especially when ethics is the alleged target. Clearly, acquiring and providing information about fetal tissue procurement would not generate outrage if done without the theatrics of imposter biomedical professionals and video editing skills. Do we really want topics of importance to be introduced to public discourse in this manner? Of course not. The media would serve the public well to fully investigate the “investigators” and bring political balance to that part of the story. The notion that an organization like CMP, with a Postal Annex rented address no record of prior work as a nonprofit in the medical ethics arena, and leadership comprised of people connected to anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue, can have traction in promoting political ideology as if it was credible news or journalism is frightening. The media failed by not scrutinizing the source before doing the reporting, especially since another group, Life Dynamics, attempted to do the same in the late nineties.

For the record, pro-choice people resorted to deception to “out” the Crisis Pregnancy Center’s fake abortion clinic charades. Why? Because CPCs claimed that they informed women that they did not perform abortions, provided factual information, and other practices did not square with what women had shared with actual medical professionals.  A hidden camera sent in by the media with a young woman proved that the experiences of other women were accurately presented.

Using the Mistruths as Truths to Further the Mistruths

Talk radio stars Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh all regularly speak of the CMP as if it is a credible nonprofit out there doing good work.  Politicians, including U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and those running for president, refer to the videos time and again as if they were part of a documentary. Absolutely nothing revealed in the videos is evidence of anything sinister. At worst, the videos illustrate the seeming insensitivities that can develop when people work in medical settings. wd

Right wing websites are having a great time exaggerating the video content and piling on more false or misleading information. Red State claims that Planned Parenthood was “…caught…appearing to haggle over the sale of aborted baby parts.” Haggling? Not hardly. The videos revealed explanations, in clinical and business tones, about how tissues and parts are procured. Bear in mind that CMP presented themselves as biomedical professionals interested in obtaining fetal tissue. Would it have somehow been acceptable for responses to exclude information about quality of parts and associated costs?

Comments made by elected officials can be perceived as the truth. Thus, when Senate newcomer Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) states, “Planned Parenthood is harvesting the body parts of unborn babies,” to explain her sponsorship of a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, perceptions are broadly formed and shared throughout every possible medium. The tone of Ernst’s statement can conjure so many images that only perpetuate incorrect information. When Breitbart News quotes a Ted Cruz comment that the videos show Planned Parenthood representatives “confessing to multiple felonies,” it misleads, misinforms, and further polarizes people on the basis of ideology as opposed to facts. Shame on all who have made, and are continuing to make, comments implying that the videos exposed evidence of crime. Shame on all who are giving the CMP credibility, so much credibility that there are threats to shut down the government if Planned Parenthood is not defunded.

Fetal Tissue Research is Ethical and Beneficial

There has always been a market for anatomical and biological goods, including human fetal tissue and parts.  Specific companies respond to the demand for human and animal parts. College psychology departments buy brains to teach students. Medical and scientific researchers need specimens in order to learn more about genetics or real and prospective treatment options for a range of diseases, for example. Fetal tissue/parts obtained from miscarriages and abortions have been used for decades and have led to a number of medical breakthroughs, including rubella and polio vaccines. Kimberly Leonard wrote an excellent article in the August 4, 2015 online issue of US News about the contributions of fetal tissue research. Many of us are grateful for those contributions. In the August 12, 2015 New England Journal of Medicine, lawyer R. Alta Charo stated, “A closer look at the ethics of fetal tissue research…reveals a duty to use this precious resource in the hope of finding new preventive and therapeutic interventions for devastating diseases. Virtually every person in the [United States} has benefited from research using fetal tissue.”  Quite simply, it would be unethical for medical researchers to suddenly discontinue use of fetal tissue due to politically extreme ideology.

research petri dishFetal parts are not allowed to be sold – they can only be donated with consent from pregnant women after they are removed.  If profit for fetal parts is the actual concern of CMP, their time would be better spent honestly working with regulatory agencies to determine with certainty if any inappropriate financial transactions between abortion providers and biomedical tissue businesses exist. It is certain that people of all political views on the issue would abhor such a practice.

As the dribble of videos continues, no evidence of illegal activities will be presented. Instead, ideology will be promoted with the intent to cause some to rethink their views about abortion and try to stop an organization that serves the healthcare needs of so many low-income women. The effort will fail, but in the meantime, we will all have to witness the nonsense and speak up about reality when we can.

texasBy now, any person who reads this blog is aware that the State of Texas has ruled that their very unnecessary anti-abortion law, designed to make it impossible for current abortion providers to comply, can be immediately enforced.  The Facebook page of Abortion.com just posted the link to an essay by Damon Linker in The Week (10-3-14) that raises critical questions that all pro-choice voters must hold their anti-choice elected officials accountable to answering:

If you believe abortion is murder, what specific punishment should be meted out against women who seek abortions, those who assist in the procurement and practice of abortion, and those who provide abortions?

In your view, Ms./Mr. Elected Official, since you think abortion is murder, will you be sponsoring legislation asking for the death penalty if your state has laws restricting abortion?

Damon Linker wrote: “If abortion really is murder, then everyone involved deserves to be punished, and punished severely…If, on the other hand, such punishment sounds wildly, almost absurdly disproportionate, then maybe it’s a sign that abortion really isn’t murder after all.” His point is excellent and one that has been raised here as well as the Abortion.com Facebook page. Politicians have never really been forced to reveal the actual penalties they believe should be imposed on those who participate in an abortion, should it become illegal or severely restricted and prompt women to resort to whatever is feasible and providers to resort to underground practices. At the moment, it is arguable that Texas ought to start expanding their correctional facilities. We know that women have already been obtaining drugs from Mexico and international mail for medical abortions or to cause a miscarriage. Yep, Texas better get their death row lodging in good order, not to mention make sure that all lethal injection protocol training is thorough and an ample inventory of execution drugs.Lethal injection

This ruling will undoubtedly energize the most whacko, zealous of the anti-abortion groups to pattern the Texas laws into initiatives in other states. Therefore, it is sensible and important for pro-choice voters to get their pols to answer the questions raised here.

The organizations that have fervently advocated reproductive rights over the years, specifically Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and National Organization for Women, opposed grassroots efforts to propose legislation to support reproductive justice in states like Arkansas in 1989. Their reasoning was that it was somehow better to work with legislatures to oppose restrictive laws, which, at the time, were focused primarily on parental notification or consent. Creating law is easier than trying to undo law. I sure hope those organizations – that raised a lot of money on the issue – kept the contact information on the many that supported the pro-choice legislation efforts. They will need it now for more than donations.

The one silver lining in this outrageous ruling in Texas is that it may well motivate voters to show up in the upcoming mid-term elections. Texas indeed does things big – that does not mean any other state is interested in Texas sharing any of their “big.” There is not one excuse for a pro-choice person to not vote this November.

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