NC House Advances Anti-Abortion Bill Amid Protests
The North Carolina state House passed an anti-abortion measure seeking to restrict state insurance coverage for abortion last night amid protests from pro-choice activists.
The bill, HB 730 [PDF], allows any health care provider to refuse to participate in an abortion because of moral objections and allows hospitals to refuse to perform abortion services, even if the mother's life is in danger. It would also prohibit any insurance plan under the state health insurance exchange from including abortion coverage.
One of the most controversial sections of the bill allows for any employer to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage on the basis of moral grounds in direct violation of the Affordable Care Act. HB 730 would rewrite the description [PDF] of a religious employer to "include any employer, including, but not limited to, a corporation, LLC, partnership, or sole proprietorship, whether on a for-profit or nonprofit basis, that has a religious, moral, or ethical objection to arranging for, paying for, facilitating, or providing health benefits plan coverage for contraceptive drugs or methods, including, but not limited to, any and all contraceptive drugs and methods approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration."
Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina (PPCNC) staged a costumed protest during the morning committee hearing opposing the birth control provision. Women dressed as if they were in the 1960's filled the committee room and spoke on how the contraceptive provision would set back women's reproductive rights. Paige Johnson, Vice President of Public Affairs for PPCNC, said in a statement, "We're here to say to state legislators who want to turn the clock back to the 1950s: We like watching Mad Men - but we don't want to live in it. Women's preventive care - including birth control - is basic health care. Politicians and bosses have no business denying women access to this basic health care. This shouldn't be a revolutionary idea, but unfortunately it is to some."
State House Republicans are divided on the contraception provision. While the bill currently includes the birth control provision, late Wednesday night Republican leaders met behind-the-scenes to discuss removing the provision to ensure the bill passes the second House vote on Thursday. Even self-described "hard core" abortion opponent Bob Steinburg (R-Edenton) had reservations. He said, "It's almost like we're stepping back in time. To suggest in the 21st century that women would be prevented from having access to birth control - even as far to the right as I am - is going off the cliff. This is going too far."
Media Resources: Huffington Post 5/15/2013; Charlotte Observer 5/15/2013; NC House Bill 730
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
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. . . .