HHS Ends Grant to Catholic Church for Failure to Make Reproductive Health Referrals
The Catholic Church is at odds with the Obama Administration over a recent decision to end Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because of its stance on birth control and reproductive rights. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was previously awarded grants from HHS to help victims of human trafficking. In September, HHS awarded the grants to other organizations because the Catholic Bishops refused to provide referrals for reproductive services to human trafficking victims.
Last spring, as the contract between HHS and the Catholic Bishops was set to expire, HHS issued new guidelines for the awarding of the funds which included a "strong preference" for a contractor who would refer victims to family planning and reproductive health services. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit in 2009 because many victims of human trafficking are raped and need access to a wide range of services, including abortions and birth control. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Bishops, told the Washington Post, "The principle of church teaching is that all sexual encounters be open to life. It's not a minor matter; this is intrinsic to our Catholic beliefs."
Ms. Magazine previously exposed this issue of the Catholic Church refusing to provide reproductive health services as early as 2006 and it appeared as a cover story in the Winter 2010 magazine. The Catholic Church is now claiming discrimination and calling the decision politically-motivated. The Church was already angered with the Obama Administration's recent mandate that private insurers not charge co-pays for contraceptive services for women. The HHS funds for the victims of Human Trafficking, $4.5 million, will now be split between three nonprofits- Heartland Human Care Services, Tapestri and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
Media Resources: The Washington Post, 11/1/11; Ms. Magazine, Winter 2010
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. . . .