Senate Democrats Preserve Preventive Care for Women
Today the US Senate voted down the Blunt Amendment 51 to 48. The Blunt Amendment, which was attached to a transportation bill, would have permitted employers to deny their employees health care coverage based on the employer's "moral" objections. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, who was standing outside the Senate floor during the vote, celebrated the vote but commented, "It is outrageous that so many senators think it is ok to empower employers to take away health coverage from workers, especially women."
Senator Olympia Snowe (ME) was the only Republican who voted to kill the Blunt Amendment by tabling it as three Democrats, Senators Robert Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV) and Ben Nelson (NE) voted with the Republicans to bring the Amendment to the floor for a vote.
The amendment introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) in response to the Obama Administration's ruling that employer insurance plans must cover FDA approved birth control with no co-pays or deductibles starting August 2012. Employers at religious institutions such as hospitals and universities could elect not to cover contraception but private insurance providers would be required to cover it at no additional cost. Houses of worship would be exempt from the requirement.
The Blunt Amendment would have allowed employers to withhold coverage not only for contraception but other health care such as annual well-woman visits and cancer screenings, counseling, such as for domestic and interpersonal violence, and testing for HIV and STIs, breastfeeding support, and lactation services and supplies.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said of today's vote, "it's just the latest ploy in the Republican agenda of disrespecting the health of American women. I thank my colleagues in the Senate who are working to strengthen women's health, rather than diminish it, by tabling this extreme legislation."
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. . . .