Tennessee Legislators Approve Ban on State-Backed Insurance Abortion Coverage
Both the Tennessee state House and state Senate passed a bill this week that would ban offering abortion coverage in the state's to-be-created health insurance exchange. If Governor Philip Bredesen (D) approves the bill, Tennessee will become the first state to legislate against the inclusion of abortion coverage in the state insurance changes created by the new health care package, reported CBS. The state Senate voted 27 to 3 in favor of the bill in a floor vote on Monday. The state House voted 70 to 23 in favor of the bill earlier this month.
The bill (see PDF), states that "No health care plan required to be established in this state through an exchange pursuant to federal health care reform legislation enacted by the 111th Congress shall offer coverage for abortion services."
State Representative Joe Armstrong (D), who voted against the bill, told CBS that he did so in part because the bill did not include exceptions for the "life and health of the mother [or] for rape and incest."
Tennessee's Attorney General Robert Cooper released on opinion Tuesday clarifying the legislation passed by the legislature. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, his opinion clarified that the bill's definition of abortion would "not impact forms of birth control that may result in the expulsion of a fertilized egg before it is implanted in the uterine lining," thus allowing the insurance plans offered through the state insurance exchange to cover birth control pills, IUDs, and emergency contraception. The opinion also states that "on a case-by-case- basis, administration of mifepristone could constitute an 'abortion' if it were used after implantation of an embryo in the uterine lining."
Media Resources: Tennessee SB 2686; Tennessee State Legislature; CBS 4/21/10; National Partnership for Women and Families 4/21/10
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. . . .