Wonkblog: Reproductive Health

The abortion rate is at a 30-year low

The abortion rate is at a 30-year low

The abortion rate in the United States hit a three-decade low in 2011 -- and a new wave of abortion restrictions aren't necessarily the reason why.

New data published Sunday by the Guttmacher Institute shows that, in 2011, there were 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women between 15 and 44, which is a drop of 13 percent since 2008 -- and the lowest rate the nonprofit has recorded since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The abortion ratio -- the percent of pregnancies that end in abortion -- has also declined steadily over the same time period, which you can see below.

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States passed 205 abortion restrictions in three years. That’s totally unprecedented.

States passed 205 abortion restrictions in three years. That’s totally unprecedented.

This comparison comes from the Guttmacher Institute, which finds that states passed 205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013, more than the 189 laws passed between 2001 and 2010. Nearly half of the laws - 45 percent - fell into three categories: targeted regulations of abortion providers, bans on abortions after 20 weeks and restrictions on medical abortions. "States enacted 93 measures in these four categories from 2011 through 2013, compared with 22 during the previous decade," the Guttmacher analysis finds.

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Under Obamacare, nearly three times as many women are getting free birth control pills

Under Obamacare, nearly three times as many women are getting free birth control pills

A new study from the Guttmacher Institute shows a big increase in privately-insured women obtaining contraceptives without any co-payment over the past year.

The health-care law, among its many provisions, requires insurance companies to cover the complete cost of FDA-approved contraceptives at no cost to the patient. The point of the Guttmacher study was to know if insurers were complying with the new requirement.

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Five startling facts about pregnancy and abortion in America

Fewer women are getting pregnant.

The pregnancy rate for American women between 15 and 44 dropped 12 percent between 1990 and 2009, according to a new Center for Disease Control report out today on pregnancy and abortion. In 2009, there were 102.1 pregnancies per 1,000 women, a drop from 115.8 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 1990.

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Catholic hospitals are growing. What will that mean for reproductive health?

Catholic hospitals are growing. What will that mean for reproductive health?

Tamesha Means was 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke. Means, then 27 and the mother of two, knew something was wrong. So she called a friend to take her to the one hospital within a half-hour's drive, Mercy Health Partners.

During that trip to the hospital--and two return trips, one later that night and then again the next morning--Means says she was discharged with medication and instructions to wait for her pain to subside. According to her account, she was not offered the option to induce labor or terminate the pregnancy, options that could have ended her pain, nor was she told that the fetus was unlikely to survive.

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Obamacare’s birth control mandate is headed to the Supreme Court

Obamacare’s birth control mandate is headed to the Supreme Court

With dozens of lawsuits on the issue already filed, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it would take up two private companies' challenges to the health law's birth control mandate.

Obamacare, in other words, is headed back to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will hear two challenges to the requirement that all employers provide birth control coverage to their workers. One comes from craft store chain Hobby Lobby and the other from Conestoga Wood Specialties, a custom cabinet-making company in Pennsylvania.

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Wendy Davis couldn’t stop a Texas abortion law. But a federal court just did.

Wendy Davis couldn’t stop a Texas abortion law. But a federal court just did.

Moments ago, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an opinion striking down two key parts of an abortion restriction the state passed earlier this year.

The decision halts two key provisions of House Bill 2: A requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital and another barring medical abortions.

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California just passed America's first law expanding abortion access since 2006

California just passed America's first law expanding abortion access since 2006

The general trend in abortion policy has been a wave of state-level legislation that restricts access to the procedure. The Guttmacher Institute counts 43 such laws passed this year and, going back to 2007, more than 100 such restrictions.

That makes new legislation in California all the more significant: A law signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown allows more medical practitioners to perform first-trimester abortions. It also may be the first state law to expand or maintain access to the procedure since Hawaii did so in 2006 (their law keeps abortion legal in the state if the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade were to be overturned).

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Seventy percent of D.C.’s pregnancies are unintended

That comes from a new Guttmacher Institute report, which looks at rates of unintended pregnancies across the country. It finds that, in 2008, most pregnancies in 31 states were unintended, meaning they were either mistimed or unwanted.

The Guttmacher report shows that, generally, states in the South, Southwest and with larger urban areas tend to have higher rates of unintended pregnancies. More unintended pregnancies were mistimed than unwanted.

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Seventeen states made it harder to get an abortion this year

The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks these things, on Monday released its regular look at the state of abortion regulations.

Taken together, these 17 states (full list here) have passed 43 abortion restrictions. That pales in comparison to the 80 such laws that had passed by this time in 2011 and is just slightly higher than restrictions enacted last year. It's also a huge jump over the dozen or so laws that states would typically pass just a few years ago.

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The abortion ban Texas is debating? It already exists in 12 other states.

The Texas Senate will reconvene Monday afternoon to once again take up Senate Bill 5. The measure would, among other things, ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation. While the bill has received nationwide media attention, Texas would not be setting a precedent with its passage. Since 2010, a dozen states have passed similar legislation. You can see them below, in this map:

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Getting contraceptives under Obamacare is getting complicated

The Obama administration wants to require all employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover contraceptives without co-payments. Some employers, largely on religious grounds, do not want to cover contraceptives in any form.

Finding a middle ground between the two position is no easy task. It has become a vexing one for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fraught with political and legal landmines. Final regulations published Friday demonstrate just how complex the process will be to deliver contraceptive coverage to the employees of religious nonprofits that oppose such medications.

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Wait, how did Texas Republicans pause Wendy Davis' filibuster?

Texas Democratic Senator Wendy Davis' nine-hour filibuster may be coming to a quick end -- and not due to the senator's lack of effort.

Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst ruled that Davis has three times violated the Texas Senate's procedural rules for a filibuster, which requires a senator to stand continually without assistance and remain on topic.

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WATCH: Wendy Davis' very long filibuster of Texas abortion restrictions

At 11:18 a.m. this morning, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis began talking. She has not stopped since.

Davis is in the midst of filibustering Senate Bill 5, legislation that would significantly restrict abortion access in Texas. The bill would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals and only allow the procedure in surgical facilities.

Davis is now in her ninth hour of filibuster. She must continue speaking until 11:59 p.m. Central time to run out the clock on the special session of the Texas Senate.

You can watch the Texas Tribune's live stream of the filibuster here, and definitely check out their liveblog, which has the play-by-pay on all things Davis-related.

Obama didn't change his mind on Plan B, Justice changed its legal strategy

Obama didn't change his mind on Plan B, Justice changed its legal strategy

The Obama administration announced Monday it would no longer defend age limits on over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives. That does not, however, mean that President Obama has reversed his position on the issue.

As Brady Dennis and I report in today's paper, the president still opposes allowing girls as young as 12 access to pills like Plan B One-Step without a prescription. So why did his administration drop its bid to enforce age limits?

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Breaking: Feds to allow over-the-counter Plan B sales

The Obama administration will comply with a court order to allow over-the-counter emergency contraceptive sales to women and girls of all ages, according to documents filed late Monday.

While the Department of Justice initially appealed this policy, it has now asked a judge with the Eastern District Court of New York to withdraw that challenge, provided he approves the federal government's plan for compliance.

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Obama administration plans to appeal Plan B ruling

Obama administration plans to appeal Plan B ruling

The Justice Department filed notice late Wednesday that it will challenge a federal court decision requiring the government to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter to women of all ages.

The move came hours after the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives to women 15 and older. Previously, Plan B was available to teenagers younger than 17 only with a prescription. Older women had to request it from a pharmacist.

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Plan B will be available to 15-year-olds, but they might need a passport to get it

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that pharmacies may now sell the emergency contraceptive Plan B over the counter to girls as young as 15 years old. (Read the full story by Zachary Goldfarb and me here.)

The overall age regulation could become moot within days: A federal judge ruled last month that the Food and Drug Administration needs to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter with no age restrictions.

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FDA: Plan B will be over the counter for women over 15

The Food and Drug Administration announced late Tuesday afternoon that it had approved a drugmaker's application to sell the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step over-the-counter to women 15 and older.

This is not, as the FDA points out in a statement, a response to the recent court decision on emergency contraceptives. In that April 5 case, a federal judge ordered the Obama administration to make Plan B available over the counter to women of all ages — not just those who are 15 and older.

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The Gosnell case: Here's what you need to know

The Gosnell case: Here's what you need to know



When I described the case of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell on Twitter last week as a local crime story, I was clearly wrong. The egregious and horrifying crimes committed in the physician's West Philadelphia abortion clinic have become a matter of national attention.

The Gosnell case stretches back decades. Here's what you need to know.

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Is the Plan B battle over? Former FDA official Susan Wood hopes so.

Is the Plan B battle over? Former FDA official Susan Wood hopes so.

Susan Wood resigned as director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Women's Health in 2005, when the George W. Bush administration chose to delay indefinitely a decision on whether emergency contraceptives should be sold over the counter. She is now an associate professor of health policy at George Washington University and still follows the debate over the morning-after pill closely.

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Federal court rules emergency contraceptives needs to be sold over the counter

Federal court rules emergency contraceptives needs to be sold over the counter

A federal district court overturned Friday the Obama administration's ban against women under 17 purchasing over-the-counter emergency contraception without a prescription.

Describing the restriction as "a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence" Judge Edward Korman of the District Court of Eastern New York directed the Food and Drug Administration to lift it within 30 days.

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North Dakota's only abortion clinic isn't going anywhere

Tammi Kromenaker directs the Red River Women's Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota. With three full-time staffers, it serves women in North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Minnesota. The clinic, in Fargo, N.D., has been open for 15 years now, since 1998.

It's Kromenaker's clinic that would be directly affected by North Dakota's new ban on abortions after six weeks, the most restrictive in the nation. We spoke Monday afternoon about that law, other restrictions she finds even more threatening and why she has no plans to close anytime soon.

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Most Americans think teen pregnancy is getting worse. Most Americans are wrong.

Teen births and pregnancies have plummeted over the past two decades, down 42 percent from 1990. Most Americans, it turns out, have no idea that we're actually in the midst of a big public health success story.

In a new survey from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 50 percent thought the teen pregnancy rate had gone up over that period. Eighteen percent correctly answered that it has declined.



Young Americans were, perhaps surprisingly, the most likely to to believe the teen pregnancy rate had risen; 68 percent of those surveyed between 18 and 34 years old agreed with this.

CDC data, meanwhile, show that the teen birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since the 1 940s. Researchers did see a small uptick in 2006 and 2007, but have seen rates falling steadily since then.

The landscape of abortion bans, in one must-see map

What a difference three years makes.

In 2010, Nebraska passed the country's most restrictive abortion law that barred abortions after 20 weeks. By March 2013, 12 states have done so — or passed restrictions even earlier in the pregnancy, like North Dakota's six-week ban.

These are the states you see in orange, in this graphic below, which uses data from the Guttmacher Institute to map all the laws that ban later-term abortion in the United States. The slightly lighter states represent those where a ban exists but is not in effect, due to a pending legal challenge.

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What North Dakota's six-week abortion ban says about the antiabortion movement

Last week Arkansas made headlines for banning abortions after 12 weeks, the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. North Dakota may soon snatch away that title: It's legislature has just passed a bill that would ban all abortions after six weeks.

The bill, which now goes to Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, would also be the first in the country to outlaw abortions based on a fetal defect.

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Arkansas vs. Roe v. Wade

Arkansas vs. Roe v. Wade



Today, the Arkansas legislature did something unprecedented: It overrode a governor's veto to ban all abortions after 12 weeks' gestation.

The ACLU of Arkansas has promised to challenge the restriction in court, setting up a potentially interesting battle over what right to abortion Roe v. Wade actually protects.

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Arkansas bill would outlaw one in 10 abortions

The Arkansas legislature has the votes to override a governor's veto, and become the first state to ban abortions after as early as 12 weeks of pregnancy.

This comes after the state passed a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy a mere five days ago, also overriding a veto from Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe

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Chart: New Mexico has the highest teen pregnancy rate

The Guttmacher Institute is out with a look at teen pregnancy rates in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. It shows that, of all 50 states, New Mexico has the highest rate of teen pregnancy (hat tip: Kay Steiger).



In New Mexico, 93 of 1,000 teenage girls between 15 and 19 became pregnant in 2008. Mississippi and Texas follow New Mexico with the second- and third-highest rates of teen pregnancy, respectively.

Is there anything in particular that would make New Mexico a stand-out in reproductive health policy? The state's teens have lower levels of contraceptive use than those elsewhere. One report from the New Mexico Race Matters Coalition found that 60.5 percent of New Mexico high school students used contraceptives, compared to 75 percent nationally.

New Mexico does not mandate a sexual education curriculum for high school students, although it does require a portion of a health class to be devoted to HIV education.

Birth control rules: The Catholic bishops are not impressed

Birth control rules: The Catholic bishops are not impressed

When the Obama administration published new rules Friday on insurance coverage for contraceptive health, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said they would take time to "study the proposed regulations closely." They have now finished their study and have come to a verdict: The new set of rules, like the old set of rules, are a non-starter. You can read the full statement here, and it essentially boils down to three objections.

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The White House's contraceptives compromise

The White House's contraceptives compromise

The Obama administration proposed broader latitude Friday for religious nonprofits that object to the mandated coverage of contraceptives, one that will allow large faith-based hospitals and universities to issue plans that do not directly provide birth control coverage.

Their employees would instead receive a stand-alone, private insurance policy that would provide contraceptive coverage at no cost.

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All states except Oregon now limit abortion access

Roe v. Wade guaranteed abortion as a legal right across the country. A separate decision two decades later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, guaranteed states' rights to limit access to abortion, so long as it did not pose an "undue burden" on the woman.

States have, over the past four decades, made no short use of that latter right. Only one state, Oregon, has not layered additional restrictions on top of the Roe decision. At the other end of the spectrum is Oklahoma: With 22 abortion restrictions, it has more than any other state. The chart below, courtesy of Remapping the Debate, has the full list. You can also go here for an interactive version of the graphic, which will let you look at what type of restrictions each state has set.



Roe at 40: 'I don't want my children to have 40 more years of this.'

Roe at 40: 'I don't want my children to have 40 more years of this.'

Georgette Forney remembers when she first turned up at March for Life in 2002 with a homemade sign. On red cardboard, she had written, "I regret choosing my abortion."

"I spent weeks thinking about what it should say," Forney, who had an abortion at 16, recalls. "I was shocked how many other people at the march came up next to me and said, ‘Me, too.' "

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Most Americans under 30 don't know Roe was about abortion

Most Americans under 30 don't know Roe was about abortion

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. As my colleague Michelle Boorstein reports, most young Americans cannot say what the landmark ruling was about.

The new data comes from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which looked at Americans' awareness of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Overall, 62 percent of Americans knew that the ruling dealt with abortion in some way.

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Roe at 40: 'It's never been this frightening before.'

PITTSBURGH — On a cold morning before dawn, one of the nation's oldest abortion clinics is getting ready for its newest patients.

Nurses lay out sterilized equipment. An assistant pulls warm blankets from the dryer. A counselor gives directions to a woman who is lost. By sunrise, patients begin arriving. One gets off a city bus with her brother. A 36-year-old mother comes with a friend.

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Chart of the day: States passed second-most abortion restrictions ever in 2012

Chart of the day: States passed second-most abortion restrictions ever in 2012

States passed 43 abortion restrictions in 2012. That's the second-highest number of abortion restrictions in one year since the Guttmacher Institute began counting in 1985.



The only year with more abortion restrictions was 2011, when states passed a record-breaking 92 laws that restricted abortion access.

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Inside Planned Parenthood's campaign strategy

Inside Planned Parenthood's campaign strategy

Planned Parenthood Action Fund earned an honor this campaign cycle that had nothing to do with women's health: It was the most effective political group in the 2012 election.

Over 98 percent of its spending was in races that ended with the desired result, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.

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Surprise! The abortion rate just hit an all-time low.

Surprise! The abortion rate just hit an all-time low.

After years of holding steady, new Center for Disease Control data shows that the United States abortion rate has fallen to an all-time low. It dropped 5 percent between 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which data is available, the largest decline in the past decade.



The big question for public health researchers is: Why? What was different in 2008, that might have lead to this downtick in abortions?

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So you want to defund Planned Parenthood? Texas gives other states a roadmap.

So you want to defund Planned Parenthood? Texas gives other states a roadmap.

A handful of states have passed laws that cut Planned Parenthood out of their Medicaid program. Most have been held up in legal wrangling, with numerous court decisions that disallow such regulations.

Thats not the case in Texas: After 15 months of court battles, it appears to have received the final go-ahead to cutoff Planned Parenthood. Its success in the courts where others have failed gives a sense of the trade-off states must make if they want to successfully cut off the health-care providers funding.

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Why pro-life groups still stand by Mourdock

Why pro-life groups still stand by Mourdock

Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock is under fire for comments made in a Tuesday night debate, in which he describes pregnancies resulting from rape as “something God intended to happen.”

Republican politicians quickly distanced themselves from Mourdock. Pro-life advocates have had the opposite reaction: They have doubled down on their support for the candidate and the strong anti-abortion position he’s articulated.

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Missouri court: Yes, the feds can mandate contraceptive coverage

Missouri court: Yes, the feds can mandate contraceptive coverage

A number of lawsuits, challenging the health law’s required coverage of contraceptives, are winding their way up through the federal court system. A few have seen preliminary rulings on ripeness (whether the case can even be brought yet) and standing (whether the people bringing the suit have actually suffered damage).

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With ad spending tilted against them, anti-abortion group launches 2012 push

With ad spending tilted against them, anti-abortion group launches 2012 push

Campaigns and outside groups have spent $16.7 million on abortion-related advertising during the 2012 cycle, two-thirds of that coming from abortion-rights supporters.

Americans United for Life is quietly launching a voter mobilization initiative meant to tip the scales in the other direction, and generate activism among anti-abortion voters.

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Romney v. Roe v. Wade

Mitt Romney’s Obamacare comments on “Meet the Press” on Sunday have received no shortage of attention. There’s another remark he made, though, that also deserves some consideration: his preference that the Supreme Court overturnRoe v. Wade.

“It would be my preference that [the Supreme Court justices] reverse Roe v. Wade and therefore return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue,” he said.

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In 2012 campaign, women’s health plays a role like never before

In 2012 campaign, women’s health plays a role like never before

Democrats made one thing clear Tuesday, on the first night of the Democratic National Convention: In 2012, women’s health issues are taking center stage.

“We believe that a woman considering an abortion should not be forced to have an ultrasound against her will,” NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan told a roaring crowd. “We believe that rape is rape. And we believe that there’s no place in that room for politiciansespecially politicians who don’t know how women’s bodies work.”

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Four ways the president affects abortion rights

Four ways the president affects abortion rights

In an interview with CBS News Monday night, Mitt Romney argued that abortion was not an issue for the presidential election. “This is a matter of the courts,” Romney said. “It’s been settled for some time by the courts.”

The Supreme Court is certainly the only body that can overturnRoe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. But that does not mean the president does not hold sway over what abortion rights look like in a wide variety of ways.

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Abortion access in a post-Roe world

Abortion access in a post-<i>Roe</i> world

The Republican platform spends a lot of time on abortion, calling for extending personhood rights to “unborn children” and arguing that terminating a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health and well-being.

There is one key issue that the platform is silent on: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. While Gov. Mitt Romney calls for the decision to be overturn, the Republican party does not endorse that stance.

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Abortion access in a post-Roe world

Abortion access in a post-<i>Roe</i> world

The Republican platform spends a lot of time on abortion, calling for extending personhood rights to “unborn children” and arguing that terminating a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health and well-being.

There is one key issue that the platform is silent on: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. While Gov. Mitt Romney calls for the decision to be overturn, the Republican party does not endorse that stance.

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Cecile Richards: ‘I’ve never seen a presidential election where women’s access to birth control is practically on the ballot.’

Cecile Richards: ‘I’ve never seen a presidential election where women’s access to birth control is practically on the ballot.’

Cecile Richards has served as president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund since 2006. She says this election is nothing like 2008: Women’s health issues are front and center, from Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks this week to Republicans’ pledge to defund Planned Parenthood. We spoke Wednesday about what the 2012 election means for women’s health, how Akin’s comments fit into that and what role Planned Parenthood will play in the debate. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

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Akin stays in Missouri race, and continues to face very long odds

Akin stays in Missouri race, and continues to face very long odds

Rep. Todd Akin (R) held a news conference this afternoon that had very little news at all: the Missouri Senate candidate plans to stay in his race even after the controversial remarks he made Sunday about “legitimate rape” rarely causing pregnancy.

His Facebook page touts the fundraising milestones that his campaign has recently hit: $125,000 on Thursday and $150,000 today. “Claire McCaskill is rallying her pro-abortion supporters to out-raise us and we can’t let that happen,” he tells his supporters.

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Did Republicans actually endorse a full abortion ban? Maybe not.



James Bopp says that the Republican platform does not endorse an abortion ban without any exceptions, as many media outlets (including this one) have reported. And Bopp should know he drafted it.

The Republican platform endorses two strategies to “affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life.” The first is a constitutional “human life amendment” to protect the rights of the unborn. The second is legislation to “make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to the unborn.”

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Who rejects abortion in the case of rape?

Who rejects abortion in the case of rape?

While about half of American voters identify themselves as as antiabortion,a full 75 percentthought abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, according to a 2011 Gallup poll. Only 20 percent of Americans believed abortion should be illegal in all situations, that poll showed.

In certain demographics, however, the number stands much higher. Razib Khan at Discover Magazine uses the General Society Survey to dig into data on what populations do not support legal abortion in the case of rape. He charts the results here (keep in mind the scale goes from zero to 50 percent, not zero to 100 percent).

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Five thoughts on why Todd Akin matters

Five thoughts on why Todd Akin matters

1. It’s important to understand Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) comments in terms of the policy they’re defending. Akin believes that there should be no exceptions in abortion laws. But nearly all Americans believe there should be exceptions for rape. For truly consistent antiabortion advocates, that’s a real problem. But if you narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” and if you convince yourself that forcible rape doesn’t result in pregnancies, then you can have an antiabortion bill that satisfies the public’s desire for exceptions but doesn’t lead to any actual exceptions. It’s magical thinking, but it’s magical thinking with a purpose.

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Missouri set to reprise a familiar role: America’s abortion battleground

Missouri set to reprise a familiar role: America’s abortion battleground

Rep. Todd Akin has vowed to continue his run for Missouri’s Senate seat, despite Republican party demands that he step aside. He also promised, in a radio interview with Mike Huckabee, to stick strong to his antiabortion principles.

I believe there is a cause here, and there is a part of the message thats missing, and a lot of the people feel left out of the parties,” Akin told Huckabee.

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Republicans set to endorse abortion ban, just as they did in 2008. And 2004. And 1976.

Republicans set to endorse abortion ban, just as they did in 2008. And 2004. And 1976.

CNN’s Peter Hamby reports that the Republican Party is set to endorse a ban against all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest. The language is getting some attention, no doubt, coming in the middle of a national debate over abortion rights and how rape victims fit in.

It’s worth noting though, that this language isn’t new. The Republican Party platform first addressed abortion in 1976, offering support for those looking for a full ban. As you can see below, however, the language wasn’t exactly a full-throated endorsement:

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House Republicans haven’t succeeded at redefining rape. But state legislatures have.

House Republicans haven’t succeeded at redefining rape. But state legislatures have.

There’s never been an effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to define the term “legitimate rape.” But earlier this year, there was an effort to establish “forcible rape” as the one area where federal funds could be used for abortion.

That got a lot of attention but, in terms of actually redefining rape, it had little impact. Republicans tossed out that language in the face of public outcry, and redrafted to cover all rape cases. Even then, the law has sat dormant since May 4, 2011 — passed by the House but untouched by the Senate.

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In Akin’s remarks, a clash between pro-life politics and principles

In Akin’s remarks, a clash between pro-life politics and principles

Republican leadership has a not so-subtle-hint for Todd Akin: They would like the Missouri Senate candidate, who remarked that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy, out of the race and sooner rather than later. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled $5 million in ads and multiple senators have demanded he step down.

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Study: Rape victims have a higher pregnancy rates than other women

Study: Rape victims have a higher pregnancy rates than other women



Rep. Todd Akin caused a public outcry Sunday when he suggested that women who were “legitimately raped” would rarely become pregnant. Study after study has proven that theory false. But one provocative study, published in 2003, went even further: It found that a single act of rape was more than twice as likely to result in pregnancy than an act of consensual sex.

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Rep. Todd Akin is wrong about rape and pregnancy, but he’s not alone

Rep. Todd Akin is wrong about rape and pregnancy, but he’s not alone

Rep. Todd Akin, Missouri’s Republican Senate nominee, caused a public outcry Sunday when he told a local television station that “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin, the Republican Senate nominee in Missouri, said. ”If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

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Paul Ryan’s solid antiabortion credentials

Paul Ryan’s solid antiabortion credentials



Paul Ryan is known around Washington as a budget wonk, the Republican legislator with big economic ideas. Antiabortion groups see something else in Romney’s vice presidential pick: a stalwart opponent of abortion rights.

Ryan is hardly the face of the antiabortion movement. He has not introduced a single abortion-related bill during his 12-year tenure in Congress. “You don’t expect him to always be your point person on a particular piece of legislation,” says Americans for Life Action President Charmaine Yoest.

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The Komen Foundation’s very big leadership shake-up

The Komen Foundation’s very big leadership shake-up

Top officials at Susan G. Komen for the Cure stepped down Wednesday, months after the the breast cancer charity found itself embroiled in controversy when it halted grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

The reshuffling of leadership could mark a dramatic reorganization at one of the nation’s largest women’s health organizations. Founder Nancy Brinker announced she would resign from her role as chief executive at the organization she founded 30 years ago, after her sister, Susan G. Komen, passed away from breast cancer at the age of 36.

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Five facts about the health law’s contraceptive mandate

Five facts about the health law’s contraceptive mandate

Remember that part of the health reform law, that requires insurance companies to provide contraceptives at no cost to subscribers? After surviving a heated debate earlier this year, the regulation went into effect today. Here are five things to know about it.

1. It’s not just a contraceptives mandate. The health care law does require health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved forms of contraception. The provision has received lots of attention – but it’s just one of seven gender-specific preventive health services that insurers also have to cover, all of which fall under the Women’s Preventive Health Amendment, that Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) introduced during the Congressional debate. Insurers must now cover domestic violence screening and counseling, breastfeeding supplies and annual preventive care, such as pap smears and pelvic exams.

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Federal court upholds Arizona’s late-term abortion law

Federal court upholds Arizona’s late-term abortion law



A federal court in Arizona has upheld the state’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks, allowing it to come into effect on August 1. The ruling has already set off further legal challenges that are likely to center on one question: Where does the line get drawn between an abortion restriction and an all-out ban?

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A federal court ruled against the contraceptive mandate. Here’s what happens next.

A federal court ruled against the contraceptive mandate. Here’s what happens next.

The U.S. District Court for Colorado on Friday blocked the Obama administration from requiring an air-conditioning company in Colorado to provide no co-pay contraceptives to its employees, as the Affordable Care Act directs.

It was, as Sam Baker points out, the first time a federal court has ruled against that provision of the health-care law.

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Arizona v. Roe v. Wade

Arizona v. Roe v. Wade



A new lawsuit in Arizona challenges the state’s ban on late-term abortion – and has the potential to steer the future of abortion rights in America.

Irin Carmon flags Paul Isaacson, MD v. Tom Horne, Attorney General , a legal challenge jointly filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union. It challenges the Arizona law as unconstitutional for banning abortions prior to viability, when the fetus could survive outside the womb on its own.

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The state of abortion rights, in one chart

The state of abortion rights, in one chart

Last year was a watershed for abortion restrictions: States passed 83 laws restricting access, more than four times the number passed in 2010.

This year, states legislators are introducing just as many bills targeting abortion rights as they did in 2011. But, as this chart from the Guttmacher Institute shows, a lot fewer are becoming laws:

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Why did Kansas have so many abortions in 2008?

The Atlantic Cities has put together an interesting collection of maps that look at the geography of abortion. On the left, you can see the abortion rate for each state (per 1,000 women). On the right is the abortion rate just for residents of that state:

Let’s focus on Kansas. That state, according to Center for Disease Control data, has an abortion rate of 19.2, slightly higher than the national average of 16 per every 1,000 women. Sort the data by state of residence, and Kansas has a much lower abortion rate; 10.1 of every 1,000 Kansas women terminated a pregnancy.. What’s going on here?

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Fewer Americans identify as pro-choice, but support for abortion rights isn’t dropping

The headline out of Gallup’s new abortion poll is that the number of “pro-choice” Americans has hit an all-time low: 41 percent of Americans identify with the label, down from 49 percent in 2009 and an all-time high of 56 percent in 1996.

This, however, seems to say very little about Americans’ support for abortion rights. There, views hold steady: 52 percent believe abortion should be legal under “certain circumstances,” a slight tick up from 50 percent in 2011.

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The contraceptives lawsuits, explained

The contraceptives lawsuits, explained

Forty-three major Catholic institutions on Monday filed a dozen lawsuits, in courts across the country, challenging the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives.

The legal documents are complicated — one suit, from Notre Dame, comes in at 57 pages. But the thing to know is this: Everything hinges on how courts interpret a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA.

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An interview with a late term abortion provider

Congress is currently weighing a law that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia. Willie Parker, a Washington-based obstetrician, is one doctor who has performed late-term abortions here and stands to be directly affected, should that law pass. An obstetrician for two decades, he only began performing abortions eight years ago, largely out of what he says was concern for women’s needs going unmet. Parker is primarily based in Washington and Philadelphia, but also travels monthly to see patients in Alabama.

Many late-term abortion providers do not identify themselves largely due to safety concerns. (One late-term doctor, George Tiller, was murdered by an anti-abortion activist in 2010). But Parker made himself available for an interview on Friday afternoon. Here’s a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity and length:

Sarah Kliff: What would it mean for Washington to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks?

Willie Parker: The reality is that, a small percentage of overall women who have abortions have them beyond 13 weeks. It’s about 1 percent. Those cases do happen in D.C. like they happen everywhere else. There are unplanned pregnancies, people who are in poverty who might delay their diagnosis and might end up in this group of people. Those are the women who could be affected.

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What a late-term abortion ban would mean for D.C.

When Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) introduced a bill to ban late-term abortions in the nation’s capitol, it didn’t get much attention. It was last January, and reproductive health advocates were heading into all-consuming national battles over Komen and contraceptives. Rep. Franks’s bill hardly registered.

Fast-forward five months, and the Arizona Republican is getting a lot
(Andrew Harrer - Bloomberg)
of attention for his proposal to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia. Sparks flew at a hearing on the subject yesterday, largely over Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton — the District’s non-voting representative in Congress — not being allowed to testify.

All of a sudden, Washington became a “battleground.”

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Interview: What Nancy Keenan’s resignation means to pro-choice activists

When NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan announced her impending resignation on Thursday, it was perhaps most keenly felt by young, pro-choice advocates. They were, after all, the women Keenan was talking about when she hoped for a “new and younger leader” to take her place.
(Brendan Hoffman - GETTY IMAGES)

“I could barely sleep,” says Erin Matson, action vice president at the National Organization for Women. “I’m so thankful and grateful that this is the legacy she’s leaving. After so many go-arounds on these issues, it’s hugely important for her to say, ‘I’m going to step aside and fill this position with someone younger.’”

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Exclusive: NARAL President Nancy Keenan to step down

At the end of this year, Nancy Keenan will step down from her post as president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the country’s oldest abortion-rights advocacy group.

The 60-year-old Keenan said she is leaving out of concern for the future of the pro-choice movement — and thinks she could be holding it back.
Nancy Keenan will retire as president of NARAL Pro-Choice America at the end of the year. (Sarah L. Voisin - WASHINGTON POST)
In recent years, Keenan has worried about an “intensity gap” on abortion rights among millennials, which the group considers to be the generation of Americans born between 1980 and 1991. While most young, antiabortion voters see abortion as a crucial political issue, NARAL’s own internal research does not find similar passion among abortion-rights supporters. If the pro-choice movement is to successfully defend abortion rights, Keenan contends, it needs more young people in leadership roles, including hers.

“There’s an opportunity for a new and younger leader,” Keenan said during a Wednesday interview in her downtown Washington office. “Roe v. Wade is 40 in January. It’s time for a new leader to come in and, basically, be the person for for the next 40 years of protecting reproductive choice.”

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Under Obama administration, abstinence-only education finds surprising new foothold

Last month, for the first-time ever, Health and Human Services added an abstinence-only education curriculum to the list of 28 evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs that the Obama administration will fund.
(iStockphoto)

This was something of a surprise. When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, the Obama administration has staked out a decidedly anti-abstinence-only-education stance. The president has, in previous budgets, zeroed out funds for such programs as federal reviews have found such programs to have no impact on sexual abstinence and, in some cases, include inaccurate information on sexuality.

“I do believe that contraception has to be part of [the] education process,” Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008.

Even so, abstinence-only education has hardly disappeared from federally funded teen pregnancy prevention programs. Curriculums that teach abstinence as the singular method of birth control retained a $55 million budget in 2012, a full third of the $176 million available during President George W. Bush’s last year in office.

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Interview: How Planned Parenthood lost its ‘political Teflon’


(Gary Stelzer - AP)

At this time last year, Congress was locked in a fierce battle over Planned Parenthood’s funding. The group received $657 million in federal funds between 2002 and 2009 for women’s health services that do not include abortion. In 2011, that funding became one of the last sticking points in a fight over the nation’s budget. It was the first year that both chambers of Congress voted on legislation that would strip Planned Parenthood of its federal dollars. That bill was ultimately defeated in the Senate on April 15, 2011.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, one of the country’s largest pro-life organizations. She’s worked in pro-life politics for decades, serving as director of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus in the early 1990s, and has never before seen such success in challenging Planned Parenthood. “Not one legislator would touch family planning funding then, no matter how pro-life you were,” she said. “You could never potentially be perceived as taking on family planning.”

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Two years in the life of a Texas Planned Parenthood: ‘We’re figuring this out as we go.’


Local citizens and employees of the Planned Parenthood clinic in San Angelo, Texas gather in front of the clinic last month to participate in the "Don't Mess with Texas Women" rally. (Patrick Dove - AP)
The funds for Planned Parenthood North Texas started drying up in 2011. That was when the state cut $73 million from its family planning budget, and five clinics around the Dallas/Forth-Worth area closed.

This year hasn’t been any easier. In January, a change to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s funding policies threw private dollars into jeopardy. Just two months later, more bad news: Texas would shutter a Medicaid program for low-income women in a dispute. On April 30, another $40 million will disappear.

“We may have to consider more clinic closures, that’s the point we’re at right now,” said Ken Lambrecht, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood North Texas. His affiliate covers Texas’ largest metropolitan area, alongside a handful of more rural locations like Plano and Sherman, near the Texas/Oklahoma border.

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Government funding for family planning is growing fast

One fact that might have gotten lost in last month’s debate over contraceptives and the health reform law: Public funding for family planning has nearly doubled over the past two decades, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute.

Government funding for family planning totaled $2.37 billion in 2010, with 75 percent spent on Medicaid enrollees. Medicaid also drove the growth in contraceptive spending since the mid-1990s.

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Planned Parenthood Texas affiliate: ‘We are going to have to figure out ways to cut corners’


(Stephen Brashear - Getty Images)
Rochelle Tafolla is vice president of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the affiliate of the national organization that serves southeast Texas, as well as the greater Houston area. It operates 10 clinics that saw about 110,000 patients in 2010. About 16,000 of those patients were part of Texas Women’s Health Program, a part of Medicaid that provides reproductive health services to low-income women.

After Texas blocked abortion providers’ participation in its Medicaid Women’s Health Program, the White House officially notified the state Thursday afternoon that it will pull all funds from the program, which totalled about $39 million last year. Tafolla and I spoke yesterday afternoon about what this change means for her clinics, what she expects will happen to patients and how she’s preparing. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length:

Sarah Kliff: Now that the White House has determined it won’t fund the Texas Women’s Health Program, what does that mean for your patients?

Rochelle Tafolla: It’s incredibly disappointing news for Planned Parenthood as an affiliate, and as an organization whose goal is for women to have access to affordable health care. It’s terrible news for the women of Texas. A quarter of Texas women don’t have health insurance, and this is their lifeline. To see that Governor Perry would rather score political points than focus on women’s health care, it strikes me as a pretty callous move forward.

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How the Republican party became pro-life

How the Republican party became pro-life

As recently as the early 1970s, abortion was not a party-line issue: When the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973, Democrats actually polled as being less supportive of abortion rights.

But all that changed in 1976, when both political parties adopted official planks on the issue. In a recent paper, University of West Georgia’s Daniel K. Williams recounts the unexpected challenge that the then “pro-choice majority” in the Republican national convention encountered that year:

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An abortion rights blunder in Virginia?


Hundreds protest Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law, signed into law on March 6, at the Virginia State Capitol. (Eva Russo - Associated Press)
Two weeks ago I wrote about the abortion rights movement’s big strategic success in Virginia. Advocates had used emotional, highly charged language to rally supporters against a mandatory ultrasound law that had already passed in seven other states with little backlash or fanfare.

Fast-forward two weeks: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed Wednesday HB642, a law requiring women to obtain an ultrasound prior to terminating a pregnancy. The abortion rights movement’s strategic success could, at this point, also be read as a pretty big blunder.

How did that happen? After such a strong backlash, why did Virginia’s ultrasound law still become law? Most of it has to do with what the abortion rights movement focused its opposition on: A provision of the abortion restriction that could be easily dropped, while allowing the larger bill to go forward.

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2012: Another record year for abortion restrictions?


(Michael Ainsworth - AP)
By any estimate, advocates of reproductive rights have had a pretty successful week here in Washington. Dozens of companies have pulled ads from Rush Limbaugh’s show after the conservative radio host called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute.” Senate Republicans are backing off their push to repeal the health reform law’s contraceptives mandate. Their House colleagues don’t look keen to pick up the fight.

Outside the beltway, though, the landscape is quite different. Despite intense backlash to some of the provisions, states could be on track for another, record-breaking year of passing restrictions on reproductive health.

“We’re looking at about 430 abortion restrictions that have been introduced into state legislatures this year, which is pretty much in the same ballpark as 2011,” says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that focuses on health and reproductive rights. This year, Nash says, “is shaping up to be quite busy.”

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How birth control boosts women’s salaries

How birth control boosts women’s salaries

Much of the birth control debate has focused on what it means for women’s health and well-being to have access to contraceptives. But as Annie Lowrey notes, birth control can also have a significant economic impact on womens’ economic lives. She parses the research on how the pill has influenced women’s earnings:

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What pro-choice advocates learned from the pro-life movement


Protesters in Richmond,Va., demonstrated in opposition to a proposed law requiring ultrasounds prior to abortion. (Bob Brown - AP)
Virgina’s proposed requirement of an ultrasound prior to abortion has been the subject of everything from Saturday Night Live parodies to sizable protests in Richmond. The backlash has been so strong that Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell looks to be walking back his support on the issue. Until this week, the governor had been firm in his commitment to signing the bill. But just this afternoon, McDonnell has put out a statement asking his legislature to rework the measure.

What makes this all slightly surprising is that the Virginia law is not new. Twenty states have ultrasound-related abortion restrictions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, six of which closely resemble the one Virginia is debating. Virginia’s proposal is by no means the most restrictive, either: Texas passed a law last year that goes much further, requiring the doctor to read a verbal description of the ultrasound image to the pregnant woman.

So why is an old abortion restriction suddenly coming under fierce protest this time around? Analysts say that a new political landscape, coupled with a shift in abortion rights rhetoric, have allowed opponents to successfully push back against an abortion restriction that has passed with much less protest in a half-dozen other states.

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In Washington State, requiring health insurers to cover abortion

In Washington State, requiring health insurers to cover abortion

Washington State has tended to be ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to abortion rights. Prior to Roe v. Wade, it was one of four states with sweeping legal protections to terminate a pregnancy. Now, the state is looking to set new precedent: It could soon become the first state to require all health plans to cover abortion.

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The constitutionality of contraceptives

The constitutionality of contraceptives

Scott Lemieux parses the the case law on religious freedom, and doesn’t find much in the way to suggest that the required provision of birth control by religiously affiliated institutions to be unconstitutional:

Republican politicians — led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — and pundits alike have argued that the new regulations violate the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. But these arguments are specious. Nothing like the reading of the First Amendment invented to oppose the contraception coverage requirements has ever been adopted by the Supreme Court, for the obvious reason that it would be completely unworkable.

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The economics of birth control

The economics of birth control

Marginal Revolution flags recent research that sheds light on how pricing effects women’s use of contraceptives. In 2007, changes to pharmaceutical regulations put an end to a common practice of manufacturers selling contraceptives at a discount price to college health centers. Prices for birth control on campuses, as you can see in the chart above, subsequently spiked. Student usage of contraceptives declined slightly, and did not result in an increase in accidental pregnancy:

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Is Virginia’s ultrasound bill the future of abortion regulation?

Is Virginia’s ultrasound bill the future of abortion regulation?

A Virginia law that would mandate ultrasounds prior to an abortion is gaining steam — and coming under intense criticism — as it heads to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk. Virginia’s House of Delegates and Senate have both passed the bill, while the governor has spoken favorably of the provision.

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Insurers not totally sold on contraceptives coverage

Insurers not totally sold on contraceptives coverage

Most coverage of the contraceptives fight (mine included) has focused on Congress and the presidential campaign. But to understand how this battle will play out, there’s one other party worth keeping an eye on: the health insurance companies. They are, after all, the ones expected to foot the bill if a faith-based employer objects to covering contraceptives.

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Meet Sandra Fluke: The woman you didn’t hear at Congress’ contraceptives hearing


Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a hearing Thursday on the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives. (Stephen Morton - BLOOMBERG)
Congress held a lengthy hearing Thursday morning on the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives, probing whether the provision violates religious liberties.

The hearing has gotten a lot of attention not necessarily for what happened there, but what didn’t. Namely, no one testified in favor of the contraceptives mandate. Moreover, no women participated in the first, three-hour panel (two women did testify against the provision in the second panel.)

The Democrats did, however, invite one woman to speak: Sandra Fluke, a third-year student at Georgetown Law and past president of the school’s Students for Reproductive Justice group. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chaired the hearing, said the minority party had submitted her name too late to be considered (Democrats contest this). I caught her outside the hearing room, and we spoke about what she would have told the committee.

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Interview: The legal case against the contraceptives mandate

William Thierfelder is president of Belmont Abbey College, a private Catholic college in North Carolina. In November, the college joined with the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty to file the first lawsuit against the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives, a suit that two additional parties have since joined.

Thierfelder will testify at tomorrow’s congressional hearing on whether the contraceptives provision has violated religious institutions’ conscience rights. We spoke this afternoon about the hearing, his university’s pending lawsuit, and why last week’s accommodations from the White House didn’t win him over. What follows is a transcript of our discussion, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Sarah Kliff: You’ll be testifying Thursday in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives, and whether that violates some faith-based institutions’ conscience rights. What’s the point you’ll try to make there?

William Thierfelder: It’s an opportunity to make clear what the issues are for us. What I hope to convey tomorrow is that as much as we’re focused on contraception, that’s just a detail in a fundamental problem, which is about religious liberty. This is about First Amendment rights, rights of conscience. And I think that’s getting a bit lost. This is about religious freedoms that I didn’t see protected in the president’s announcement last week.

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Think there was a contraceptives compromise? Think again.


Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) (Brendan Smialowski - GETTY IMAGES)
When the White House offered up accommodations on the health reform law’s mandated coverage of birth control Friday, it felt like a momentary detente. The new provision — which would have insurance companies pay for an employee’s birth control rather than a religious employer who objected — came with a wave of endorsements. It won over many liberal Catholics who had initially opposed the requirement, such as the Catholic Health Association’s Carole Keehan.

It did not, however, win over Senate Republicans. In interviews this afternoon, they appeared committed to pursuing legislation that would widen exemptions from these provisions — and prolong an already contentious fight over the place of contraceptives and religious liberty under the health reform law.

“I’d like to get it on a must-sign vehicle that this president must sign,” says Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), of a bill he’s introduced on the issue. “If that doesn’t happen, I hope to get the next president to sign it. It’s an important issue, and I’m going to continue to pursue it.”

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Have 98 percent of Catholic women used contraceptives? Not quite.

Have 98 percent of Catholic women used contraceptives? Not quite.

Lydia McGrew questions whether 98 percent of Catholic women have actually used contraceptives, a figure that became ubiquitous in last week’s birth control debate. She parses the research behind the stat, which comes from a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study:

The survey was limited to women between 15-44. Ah, well, that explains how we weren’t including the elderly, but it also means that the silly “percent of all Catholic women” thing should be chucked out right from the beginning. More strikingly...it excluded any women who were a) not sexually active, where that is defined as having had sexual intercourse in the past three months (there go all the nuns), b) postpartum, c) pregnant, or d) trying to get pregnant! In other words, the study was specifically designed to include only women for whom a pregnancy would be unintended and who are “at risk” of becoming pregnant...a statistic based on a study that explicitly excluded those who have no use for contraception is obviously irrelevant to a question about the percentage of Catholic women who have a use for contraception.

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The White House explains its contraceptives compromise


(Pablo Martinez Monsivais - AP)

Earlier today, I wrote about how how the White House’s contraceptives compromise, where insurers will provide no-cost contraceptives to workers whose employers have a religious objection — could come with a catch. Insurers might be able to use revenue from all the premiums it collects — Catholic institutions included — to pay for the birth control pills that it cannot charge to the employees.

A senior administration official reached out shortly after to make the case for why this won’t happen. Here’s the example we walked through.

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The catch in Obama’s contraceptives compromise

The catch in Obama’s contraceptives compromise

The White House has given reporters the rundown on the “accommodations” that President Obama will announce on the health reform law’s requirements for hospitals run by faith-based groups to cover the costs of employees’ contraceptives. Here’s how it works.

As it stands, church-run hospitals are required to cover contraceptives at no cost to employees. A slew of Catholic groups have opposed that requirement. So on Friday, the White House rolled out a new rule, where insurance companies, rather than faith-based agencies, will offer birth-control coverage directly to these employees and foot the bill.

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Q&A: Rep. Diane Black on the White House’s contraceptives mandate

Q&A: Rep. Diane Black on the White House’s contraceptives mandate

The health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives has drawn no shortage of criticism from congressional Republicans, who have derided the provision as an attack on religious freedom. Those attacks reportedly have the White House ready to propose a compromise on the rule as early as today.

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Why the White House invited a contraceptives controversy

Why the White House invited a contraceptives controversy

The fight over health reform’s mandated coverage of contraceptives has gotten very big. Which is somewhat ironic, as the battle hinges on a part of that requirement that is pretty small. It’s all about the fact that the mandate’s conscience clause, which allows churches to opt-out, doesn’t cover Catholic universities and hospitals. President Obama had been warned by senior staff that a narrow conscience clause would provoke backlash. So why’d the administration move forward on it?

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Q&A: Rep. Diana DeGette on the White House’s contraceptives decision


Rep. Diana DeGette

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. The group huddled this afternoon to discuss the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives that has recently come under fire. With the White House standing firm behind the provision, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised legislation that would overturn the rule. DeGette and I spoke this afternoon about where things stand now, what she’s heard from the White House and why she welcomes a controversy over contraceptives:

Sarah Kliff: I understand you had a meeting of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus this afternoon. What did you discuss there?

Rep. Diana DeGette: The White House came out with their announcement on this rule on January 27, and after that we had scheduled today’s meeting. We wanted to put together a panel of people, with some religious speakers, medical organizations and an ethicist talking about church and state separation issues. So it was really designed to be a briefing for members. But with all the attention this has gotten lately, we got record turnout. There were a couple dozen members and a lot of staff.

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What’s behind teen pregnancy hitting a 30-year low?


(SOURCE: THE GUTTMACHER INSTITUTE)
The teen pregnancy rate has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years, according new Guttmacher Institute research out Wednesday morning. In 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, about 6.7 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds became pregnant. About 30 percent of those pregnancies resulted in abortions, while the rest were carried to term.

A drop in teen pregnancy rates is especially welcome this year: after three decades of decline, the number of teens becoming pregnant began creeping up in 2006 and 2007. Researchers puzzled over whether this was a temporary blip or a new trend. Today’s news suggests it could be the latter.

How Komen decided to defund Planned Parenthood

How Komen decided to defund Planned Parenthood

Lena H. Sun and I report in today’s dead-tree edition that, in cutting off Planned Parenthood funding, the Komen board overrode recommendations from two internal committees not to do so:

Last spring, the board formed a three-member subcommittee to look into Planned Parenthood funding, according to a former Komen employee.

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Why White House sees political opportunity in the contraception battle


(Public Religion Research Institute)
The controversy over the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood—and subsequent reversal— continues. Catholic leaders are blasting the health reform requirement that insurance plans to cover contraceptives. Commentator Mark Shields joined other liberals in blasting the provision, saying it could have “cataclysmic” fallout for President Obama come November.

Numerous pundits have predicted that the requirement —and its narrow exemption for churches — will be a political liability for Obama. But where Shields sees “cataclysmic” fallout, the White House sees something quite different: a chance to widen the reproductive health debate beyond abortion to issues like contraceptives, winning over key demographics of independent voters in the process.

And that could explain why the White House, alongside the Obama campaign, has engaged eagerly on the issues. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in USA Today earlier this week, praising the new provision. The Obama campaign meanwhile hasn’t been shy either, drawing up an infographic praising the new regulation. While there are some signs of a potential compromise for religious groups, the White House has made it pretty clear it plans to stand firm behind the current regulation.

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Komen vice president Karen Handel resigns

Komen vice president Karen Handel resigns

A top official of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation who was involved in the controversy over the group’s funding of Planned Parenthood resigned Tuesday.

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Breast cancer charity chases Komen defectors


(Evy Mages - For The Washington Post)
As a prominent breast cancer researcher and activist, Susan Love is no stranger to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Love runs a breast cancer research foundation that bears her name, and she organized the Army of Women, more than 360,000 women to whom breast cancer researchers can blast out requests for subjects. But the Komen Foundation is so entrenched in the world of breast cancer fundraising, Love says, that she often finds a “G” inadvertently inserted as her middle initial. “It’s unfortunate that we’re both named Susan,” she told me in an interview yesterday. “But I can’t change my name.”

But here’s what Susan Love can do: use last week’s Komen controversy to lure donors to her own group, potentially lessening the group’s behemoth status in the breast cancer charity and research world.

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FAQ: The health reform law and contraception

FAQ: The health reform law and contraception

The health reform law’s requirement that health insurance companies cover birth control without co-pay has seen increased media attention last week. The White House has mounted a more aggressive defense of the provision as it sees more blowback to the provision. Here’s some background on how the debate started, where it stands now and where it’s headed:

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On Komen, did the media have ‘abortion blinders’?

On Komen, did the media have ‘abortion blinders’?

Ross Douthat thinks that, in the past week, the media have covered the story of the Susan G. Komen Foundation severing, and then reinstating, its ties to Planned Parenthood with “abortion blinders,” disregarding the fact that half of Americans oppose abortion rights.

“On the abortion issue, the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable,” he wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, later continuing that “if you’ve followed the media frenzy surrounding the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision ... to discontinue about $700,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood, you would think all these millions of anti-abortion Americans simply do not exist.”

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In funding battles, Planned Parenthood’s silver lining

About a month ago, I started working on a long story about the state of abortion politics. It is published in the Outlook section of today’s Washington Post and, given the past week’s events, I hope it makes for a timely read:


(GARY STELZER - AP)
Last spring, Cecile Richards’s BlackBerry buzzed with an unexpected text message. It was from her son Daniel, a college student in Pennsylvania. He was heading off to Toledo, having organized a bus trip of friends to attend a rally supporting Planned Parenthood. The message came as Congress was debating ending the group’s nearly $100 million in federal funding.

Richards was surprised: Despite her five years now as president of Planned Parenthood, her son had never been active in abortion politics. To her, Daniel and his friends represented a wave of young supporters whom groups such as hers had long struggled to engage. All it took was a sustained attack on government funding of family planning, waged at the federal and state level, to get them there.

Threats to private support haven’t hurt, either. When news broke this past week that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation had pulled its funding for cancer-screening programs at Planned Parenthood, the public relations disaster boosted Planned Parenthood fundraising and energized supporters. Komen saw such a strong backlash that, within 72 hours, it reversed its decision. An aggressive assault that took the battle beyond abortion to contraceptives and preventive health care may have been just what the abortion rights movement needed.

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‘Irrevocable’ damage: 24 hours in the life of a Komen executive


(TOM WORNER)
Around 7 a.m. on Friday, a woman in Laura Farmer Sherman’s office started screaming.

“Oh my God,” Farmer Sherman heard from the next office over. “They’ve changed their mind.”

Farmer Sherman is the executive director of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure San Diego. And she knew immediately what the screaming was about: The national Komen Foundation’s new policy that would bar funding Planned Parenthood had been reversed. That would be the policy that San Diego and the six other California Komen affiliates came out in opposition to just 12 hours earlier.

Farmer Sherman did not believe the news. She had gotten up that morning with “no idea what to expect.” “When I got up and put on my suit, it was like putting on armor and war paint,” she told me Friday afternoon. “It’s a little scary when you come out in opposition to a national policy and say, ‘We’re not going to go along with this.’ It’s hard to know what will happen next.”

Farmer Sherman and have spoken multiple times this week, as a national Komen controversy unfolded around us. I found her perspective to be a fascinating one on a story that captivated the country’s attention.

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Is the Susan G. Komen Foundation backing down?

Is the Susan G. Komen Foundation backing down?

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has just released a new statement from CEO Nancy Brinker. The first line is a mea culpa: “We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.”

But what does this mea culpa mean? Brinker goes on to make clear that they will amend their guidelines so only “criminal and conclusive” investigations affect their funding decisions. They will ensure that “politics has no place in our grant process,” and they will “continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”

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Komen speaks on Planned Parenthood

Komen speaks on Planned Parenthood

I just got off a call with Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure CEO Nancy Brinker and President Elizabeth Thompson, in which the two officials spoke at length about the group’s new policies that would bar the funding of Planned Parenthood. A few takeaways:

It’s now less clear why Planned Parenthood lost the Komen funding. Komen had initially told the Associated Press that Planned Parenthood could not receive funding because it was under government investigation. But today, in no uncertain terms, Johnson indicated that the decision actually had very little to do with an ongoing congressional probe.

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University group ends Komen collaboration after Planned Parenthood decision

University group ends Komen collaboration after Planned Parenthood   decision

In the continuing fallout from the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision this week to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, a national women’s advocacy group with 1,000 branches across the country said Thursday it would no longer collaborate with the foundation.

The Washington-based American Association of University Women said it would no longer list Komen among the community service opportunities available to the 600 college women who attend the AAUW’s annual leadership conference in June. The headquarters office will no longer sponsor Washington teams in the Komen-sponsored Race for the Cure and expects its branches to follow suit, said Lisa Maatz, AAUW’s director of public policy and government relations.

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Meet the woman who got Komen to defund Planned Parenthood

Meet the woman who got Komen to defund Planned Parenthood

After the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood, attention has focused on its Vice President for Policy, Karen Handel. She joined the group last January after a failed run for governor in Georgia, where she had advocated defunding Planned Parenthood.

But there’s another woman who deserves equal credit: Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest. It’s her group that issued a report last fall, “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood,” that led to a probe by the Energy and Commerce Committee. And it’s that investigation that puts Planned Parenthood in violation of Komen’s new policy that bars funding of groups under investigation.

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Susan G. Komen chapter: ‘We are absolutely frustrated’ by the decision to defund Planned Parenthood

Susan G. Komen chapter: ‘We are absolutely frustrated’ by the decision to defund Planned Parenthood

Ann Hogan is the board president for Susan G. Komen for the Cure Connecticut. When I gave her a call this afternoon, to discuss the new policy that will bar her group from contracting with Planned Parenthood, she had one word for her reaction: frustrated.

“We are funding [Planned Parenthood] and we are absolutely frustrated by this,” she says. And when I ask her to explain her frustration, she says it mostly has to do with people like me.

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