Louisiana House Passes Health Care "Conscience" Bill
Legislation that would allow health care providers to withhold certain services and medications, including abortion and emergency contraception, on the basis of religious or moral objections was approved by the Louisiana state House this week in a 65 to 33 vote. The bill (see PDF) also includes conscience clauses on stem cell research, cloning of human embryos, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia and now moves to the state Senate, reported the Associated Press.
A previous version of the bill said that it would protect health care providers "from liability, discrimination and employment action for refusing to provide certain health care services," but did not specify which "certain health care services" the law would include, according to the News Star.
The current Louisiana bill is similar to a Bush-era regulation released in December 2008 that established new protections for health care providers who refuse to provide certain services based on moral or religious bases. The provisions of the regulation placed the burden on women to seek out individual providers who will provide certain kinds of treatment, including birth control, abortion and sterilization. The regulations drew widespread protest. During a month-long public commenting period, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received tens of thousands of comments against the regulations, including letters opposing it from at least thirteen state attorney generals and six medical groups. The Obama Administration moved to rescind these HHS regulations in March.
Media Resources: Associated Press 5/20/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/9/09; News Star 5/20/09
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. . . .