Reproductive Rights Updates: KS, TX, PA, VA, NB, MS, TN, FL, National

Are you ready for, well, a lot of depressing and infuriating news? Because I have it. A lot of it.

Always leading the pack in taking away autonomy from people, the state of Kansas is up first:
Kansas lawmakers have been given six days to consider one of the most sweeping state anti-abortion bills to be introduced.

A Kansas House committee is scheduled to take up a bill Wednesday that would exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withheld medical information to prevent an abortion. The measure would also take away tax credits for abortion providers, remove tax deductions for the purchase of abortion-related insurance coverage and require women to hear the fetal heartbeat. The bill includes several provisions, which passed in other states and now face federal lawsuits. The bill would also require women be told about potential breast cancer risks from abortions, even though medical experts discount such a connection.


Among the most contested provisions of the bill is the section that would exempt a doctor from a medical malpractice suit if a woman claims the physician withheld information about potential birth defects to prevent her from having an abortion. In addition, a woman would not be able to sue if she suffers health damage from a pregnancy as a result of information withheld from her to prevent an abortion. A wrongful death suit could still be filed, however, if the mother died.
Oh well gee. Small favors and all that. Even for Kansas this is a hideously appalling, outright hateful piece of legislation. Not being able to sue for malpractice when a doctor refused to disclose that a pregnancy could cause damage--and did? WHAT. Just WHAT.


In Texas, Judge Sam Sparks says he "had no choice" but to dismiss a suit against the ultrasound law:
Sparks said his hands were tied by last month's federal appeals court ruling that found the sonogram law to be an appropriate exercise of the state's power to regulate the practice of medicine.

But in his order dismissing the lawsuit by abortion providers, Sparks took issue with the appeals court ruling, saying it "eviscerated" the free speech rights of doctors to support a law that improperly limits a physician's ability to exercise medical judgment.

"The act requires doctors to attempt to discourage their patients from obtaining abortions ... even in cases where the doctors have determined that an abortion is, for any number of reasons, the best medical option," he said in his order.

"This court believes Texas overstepped its legitimate authority when it substituted its medical judgment for that of doctors, and imposed a uniform method of treatment for all patients, rather than allowing physicians to make medically appropriate, case-by-case determinations."


In Monday's order, Sparks said the law seemed designed to make abortions more difficult to provide and receive, not to inform women about the procedure.

"Informed consent requirements exist to protect the rights of patients and to honor their autonomy, not to provide states with an excuse to impose heavy-handed, paternalistic and impractical restrictions on the practice of medicine," Sparks wrote.
Right the fuck on!

The state reportedly informed clinics that the ultrasound law would start being enforced immediately.

In Pennsylvania, the House Health Committee as moved forward Monday with the Orwellian "Women's Right to Know Act", which is a mandatory ultrasound bill:
The Pennsylvania House Health Committee voted yesterday to advance something they’re calling the “Women’s Right to Know Act,” which would allow a woman to take a look at an ultrasound and listen to the fetus’ heartbeat before getting an abortion.


According to the legislation, the doctor performing the procedure is required to “Position the screen so that the patient is able to view the ultrasound test in its entirety, with a view of her unborn child, while that test is being conducted to determine gestational age,” although, “The patient is not required to view the screen.” Then, two prints of the ultrasound are made. The woman seeking the abortion and the doctor providing the procedure both get a copy. The doctor must tell the woman how old the fetus is and if the heartbeat is normal.
The sonogram is required 24 hours before an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, emergency or when the pregnancy is less than eight weeks gestation.


In Virginia, a couple things. One, a few days ago the senate passed a mandatory sonogram bill, which now goes to the House of Delegates.

Second, that House has passed legislation that cuts off Medicaid funding for abortions.
[The legislation] conforms state policy for Medicaid recipients to a longstanding federal law known as the Hyde Amendment, which forbids government funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life.

Virginia is among several states that allow Medicaid to cover abortions, but does so using only state funds.

Democrats said it unfairly singles out low-income women who learn of grossly incapacitating fetal deformities but would have to give birth anyway while wealthier women could terminate their pregnancies under such tragic circumstances.
How much does the GOP hate poor people? SO MUCH. SOOOOOOO MUCH.


In Nebraska, they're attempting an administrative run-around to providing funds to Planned Parenthood (see: Ohio, Texas, for other examples).
The bill (LB540) would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to apply for a Medicaid waiver or an amendment to an existing waiver to provide medical assistance for family planning services for low-income residents who earn 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level.

An amendment offered by the Health and Human Services Committee would have provided that no state funds be used to pay for abortions.

Then Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton dropped another amendment into the mix. Not only could none of the money be spent for abortions, but it could not go to any entity that performs or promotes elective abortions or that affiliates with one that does.


When asked by Omaha Sen. Brenda Council whether Fulton was targeting Planned Parenthood, he said no, although he understood Planned Parenthood would be the largest organization affected.

"Can you identify any other entity that would fit the description other than Planned Parenthood?" she asked.

"Off the top of my head, I can't," he said.

There could be another one in Omaha, or one that would qualify in the future, he said.

"I think it's problematic that we're singling out an organization, and in many communities, mine included … the only Medicaid providers for low-income women happen to be Planned Parenthood," Council said.
According to Guttmacher, in the state of Nebraska (in 2006) there were this many clinics:
Health department clinics: 0
Community health centers: 1
Planned Parenthood clinics: 5
Hospital outpatient clinics: 8
Other independent clinics: 18
And they provided this many people with contraceptive care (just one--big!--aspect of family planning):
Health department clinics: 0
Community health centers: 1,850
Planned Parenthood clinics: 17,750
Hospital outpatient clinics: 2,500
Other independent clinics: 15,410
Planned Parenthood provided nearly as many clients with care in their five clinics as twenty-seven other clinics combined.


In Mississippi, the House there has approved legislation which is called the "Child Protection Act". Besides addressing issues of sexual abuse in schools, it also deals with abortion and minors:
Additionally, House Bill 16 would reaffirm parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions, and physicians who perform abortions on girls younger than 14 would be required to preserve fetal tissue for DNA to be used in statutory rape or other prosecutorial cases.

"This is a documented problem and this is (another) way to detect abuse," Gipson [Andy, R-Braxton] said.

Gipson said he does not know how much it will cost the state to carry out the effort if it becomes law.
BTW, the state of MS already has pretty much all of these laws on the books.


Tennessee, if you recall, voted to defund Planned Parenthood last summer. Last year Shelby County TN was made the news with the fact that they opted to cut off Planned Parenthood and now force the resident poor and un/under-insured to go to a religious group for health care. Well, Planned Parenthood is suing the state:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Affiliates of Planned Parenthood are suing the state Health Department to have their funding restored.

Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee and Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region filed the lawsuit Thursday to restore preventive care funding under the HIV Prevention Services and the Syphilis Elimination grant programs.

Planned Parenthood, which also provides abortions, said in a news release that no reason was given for the contracts being terminated in December. It also said no provider was identified as a replacement.
Of course no provider was identified! Because how much does the GOP hate poor people? SOOOOOOO MUCH.


In both Florida and national news, today the US House will mark up a bill--that has 78 co-sponsors!--that bans abortion "based on race and sex". Because that's so not a total waste of time and utter bullshit, amirite? How it relates to Florida is that two state congresspeople are attempting to do the same thing:
The United States House of Representatives will today mark up a bill that would outlaw abortions sought because of race or sex.

Late last year, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011, which would “prohibit discrimination against the unborn on the basis of sex or race, and for other purposes.”

Florida legislators are moving forward a bill that mimics Frank’s proposal. So far, sponsors have not been able to justify a need for the bill, but rather claim it is an effort to protect Florida from becoming a “safe haven” for race- or sex-based abortions.
Yes. I'm totally sure that's exactly what will happen, Florida. You'll become a snowbird AND abortion tourist mecca. Sure.

The "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011? WHAT. "Prenatal nondiscrimination"? Really? OFFS. Using Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass as representatives of the sort of people you're "protecting"? I have an idea: how about passing the ERA and not passing onerous voter id laws? Or, here's a wild idea (prepare yourself): how about jobs? Oh, that's right, you have "priorities".

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