HHS Rejects Indiana Law to Defund Planned Parenthood
Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified Indiana state officials that an Indiana law prohibiting state agencies from contracting with clinics offering abortions violates federal law. Governor Mitch Daniels (R) signed the law on May 10, and in April, the state Senate and House voted to cut about $2 million in federal money that goes to Planned Parenthood, much of which is for Medicaid services. HHS Medical Administrator Don Berwick clarified, "Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider's scope of practice."
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated, "By issuing a letter to the state of Indiana rejecting its proposal to bar Planned Parenthood from providing preventive health care through Medicaid, HHS is sending a clear message that states cannot play politics with women's health and prevent Medicaid patients form choosing their preferred health care providers. The new law in Indiana prevents nearly 10,000 women from accessing preventive health care, such as contraception, cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment, from Planned Parenthood health centers."
Last week, US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and twenty-nine other Senate Democrats issued a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting that HHS officials advise Medicaid directors not to implement measures to prevent Medicaid or Title X funding from going to clinics that offer abortion service.
Following the HHS decision to block the Indiana law to defund Planned Parenthood, Senator Blumenthal stated, "This step is a powerful, prompt rebuke to Indiana- and a strong warning to other states considering similar ill-advised and illegal action denying essential health care to women... I hope other state legislatures considering similarly misguided attempts to block women, teens, and families from the health care and family planning services they need and deserve will reconsider these dangerous proposals, and I remain committed to standing up for women's health."
Media Resources: Associated Press 6/1/11; Statement of Richard Blumenthal 6/1/11; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/31/11
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .