HR7 now heading to the Senate

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This week House passed HR7 to permanently authorize the Hyde Amendment. The final vote was 238-183, largely along party lines. See how your representative voted:

  • NV-CD1, Dina Titus ………………………………. NAY
  • NV-CD2, Mark Amodei …………………………… AYE
  • NV-CD3, Jacky Rosen ……………………………. NAY
  • NV-CD4, Ruben Kihuen ………………………….. NAY

Heard of the Hyde Amendment? It prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion or health plans that cover abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger. Currently, it’s not a permanent law but rather a “rider” that’s been included in annual appropriations bills since 1976. This version, however, takes Hyde one step further by prohibiting “employer plans” from being able to carry coverage for abortions, because employers receive a tax break for the healthcare plans they offer to their employees.

What happens now?  HR7 heads to the Senate. Let Senator Heller and Senator Cortez Masto know what you think!

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What the GOP’s Supreme Obstruction Means for Women

Senate Republicans are leaving women in limbo on several crucial issues.

— by Martha Burk, OtherWords.org author
Martha BurkSenators, constitutional scholars may tell you, must “advise and consent” on the president’s Supreme Court nominees. But apparently the official GOP policy is to “refuse and obstruct.” They’ve vowed not even to give President Obama’s nominees a vote.

These Republicans claim that leaving the Supreme Court understaffed is no big deal. Well, it’s certainly a big deal for women. Pending cases on abortion, birth control, education, and public employee unions are all sitting before a divided court.

The scariest case is Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.

It’s a challenge to a Texas law that would close all but about 10 abortion clinics in the state — down from more than 40 — by requiring them to essentially become mini-hospitals. They’d have to employ only doctors with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a regulation almost unheard of for safe and common procedures like abortion.

LaDawna Howard / Flickr
LaDawna Howard / Flickr

Since an appeals court upheld the requirements, a 4-4 deadlock on the Supreme Court would give Texas the green light to enforce them. And it would almost certainly encourage other states to enact similar laws.

On the birth control front, the court will consider Zubik v. Burwell. A successor to the Hobby Lobby case, it’s an argument over whether religiously affiliated institutions have to observe the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer-provided health plans cover birth control.

These groups are allowed to avoid the requirement by filling out a form, in which case the government will arrange with their insurer to cover their employees. A few of these groups are claiming that still makes them complicit in sinful conduct.

A 4-4 tie at the Supreme Court would be a mixed bag, since most — but not all — appeals court decisions have upheld the accommodation as not burdensome to religious practice.

Meanwhile, established labor law is on the line in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, where the court will consider whether public employees who choose not to join unions can still be required to pay fees for collective bargaining activities. A decision against the unions could mortally wound them.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, women are the majority of the public sector workforce, and the wage gap with their male counterparts is smaller for public union women than non-union women. The lower court favored the unions, so a tie would stave off a major blow to their viability. But that’s still a lot to risk.

Women are now also the majority of college students, and women of color could be greatly affected by a decision in Fisher v. University of Texas. In that case, the court will decide whether the school’s race‑conscious admissions program violates the Constitution’s equal protection principles.

Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself. So if the Senate leaves Scalia’s seat unfilled, the case will be decided by seven justices — which means there can be no tie. Three judges — John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — oppose affirmative action, and a fourth, Anthony Kennedy, has previously expressed doubts about the University of Texas policy.

So what’s the score?

In four cases affecting women the most, two could go in women’s favor with tie votes. A third tie vote would go against women, and a 4-3 conservative majority would hurt them in the final case as well.

However you score it, Senate Republicans are leaving women in limbo until a new justice is chosen and new cases can be brought. That could take years. Women — and the country — deserve better.


Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics, and the Change We Need. Follow Martha on Twitter @MarthaBurk.

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The Abortion Case That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade Has A Lot Of Opponents

— by Alex Zielinski, a health reporter at Think Progress

CREDIT: AP PHOTO, PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

US Capitol police officers line-up in front of pro-abortion rights demonstrators on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, at the Supreme Court in Washington.

A looming Supreme Court case that could severely undermine the right to an abortion has attracted an unprecedented amount of opposition from across the country.

A slew of organizations and individuals filed 45 legal briefs in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, each brief examining the case through a unique lens and each coming to the same conclusion: State laws that restrict abortion access are unconstitutional.

The case will examine the validity of a Texas law, known as HB2, that places burdensome, unnecessary guidelines on the state’s dwindling abortion clinics. These regulations, while framed as improvements to safeguard “women’s health,” ultimately have nothing to do with patient safety — and were instead created by anti-abortion legislators to impose additional, costly red tape on clinic staff. So far, it’s been successful. HB2 has already forced half of the state’s clinics to close, thus cutting Texas’ abortion providers in half.

The Supreme Court case, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, won’t only decide if Texas’ law is constitutional. Depending how the court rules, the decision could also give legal cover to all states seeking to enact laws that appear to function as health regulations, but that actually exist to restrict access to abortion. The oral arguments for the case begin in March.

Reproductive rights advocates have been outspoken since HB2 passed in 2013, but since the Supreme Court’s  November decision to hear the case, the diversity of opponents has grown. The 45 briefs were filed by a variety of petitioners, including physicians, historians, religious leaders, military officers, scientists, members of Congress, civil rights advocates, law scholars, entire cities, and the United States federal government itself.

“Never before has such a diverse array of organizations and leaders…stepped forward to condemn abortion restrictions at the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Among the briefs were voices of actual women who’ve been affected by the lack of abortion access in the past — a voice some say is forgotten in the high-level case.

“The Supreme Court justices need to hear the real effects of restrictive abortion laws on women like this one in Texas,” said Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, a group helping young people access comprehensive sexual health education. Hauser shared her personal experience with abortion in her organization’s brief.

“What is missing from this issue are our personal stories. The reality is that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.”

Many of those women shared their stories in another brief submitted Tuesday, representing 110 law professionals who’ve had abortions. Some noted how they would have never had the chance to become a lawyer if they hadn’t had an abortion when they did.

“[Our] experiences demonstrate the real world effects of abortion access on the lives and careers of women attorneys, and underscore the truth of the court’s observation that reproductive choice facilitates women’s ability ‘to participate in the economic and social life of the nation,’” the brief reads.

According to Northup, the briefs represent the largest coalition of faith leaders and faith organizations ever to oppose anti-choice laws at the Supreme Court level. In the legal brief filed by a large collection of different religious leaders, the petitioners stress their support of abortion access — despite efforts from more radical religious organizations to say otherwise.

“As religious leaders and pastoral counselors, [we] provide spiritual guidance to women facing this decision and believe that this complex decision is ultimately a moral one,” the brief reads. “While various religious groups in this country hold differing views on abortion, there is substantial agreement that women have a moral right to make their own decisions on the issue.”

A group of 40 prominent scientists also submitted a brief Tuesday, hoping to overrule the “flawed pseudoscience” that will be used in testimony to support the case.

“We hope the court is able to put abortion politics aside and focus on the illegitimacy of the medical claims propping up the restrictions,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. “When science claims are used to infringe a constitutional right they had better be valid, but that’s not the case here.”

A Tuesday press call drew a variety of opponents together, including Wendy Davis, the former Texas state senator who led an 11-hour filibuster in an attempt to defeat HB2, and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, to further illustrate the severity of this case. Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, also spoke on the call, representing the women already harmed the most by the current Texas law.

“For immigrants, mothers, low-wage workers, and Latinas who are all three, securing an abortion means navigating a state-created obstacle course,” she said. “Those unable to jump through these hoops will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or take matters into their own hands.”

Since HB2 was enacted, at least 100,000 Texan women have tried to induce their own abortion, due to the cost driving to a distant abortion clinic, taking time off work to do so, and other frustrating roadblocks to make it difficult for them to legally end a pregnancy.

The legal briefs filed, which represent more than 1,000 opponents in total, may shine more light on the broader impact the pending case could have on women across the country — an impact that has already left Texas in a health crisis.

“These briefs present a thorough record of the undeniable damage Texas’ sham law has,” concluded Northup. “It will continue to cause, and an indisputable legal argument for why it must be struck down.”


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ them on Twitter

Playing Doctor with Americans’ Lives

3Doctors400Republicans, in both the House and the Senate, are currently colluding to gut Healthcare Reform and deny actual healthcare to millions of women across our nation using a process called Reconciliation.  Reconciliation is an expedited budgetary process that offers some procedural advantages: it needs only the support of a simple majority in the Senate, and cannot be filibustered. The bill they intend pass via reconciliation is HR3762, inappropriately named, “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act” … it should be named “Butchering All Hope of Being Able to Afford Effective Healthcare Act.”

This reconciliation bill includes language to repeal key parts of Obamacare: the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the medical device tax and the ‘Cadillac tax.’ There are press posts saying that it will also end the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), but I can’t find such a provision in the bill.In addition, it would defund Planned Parenthood for one year

Defunding Planned Parenthood for a Year—

Here’s the section which specifically codifies the vilification of Planned Parenthood as a “Prohibited Entity” that just happens to provide “essential” healthcare for millions of women across our nation:

SEC. 202. FEDERAL PAYMENT TO STATES.
(a) In General.—Notwithstanding section 504(a), 1902(a)(23), 2002, 2005(a)(4), 2102(a)(7), or 2105(a)(1) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 704(a), 1396b(a)(23), 1397a, 1397d(a)(4), 1397bb(a)(2), 1397ee(a)(1)), or the terms of any Medicaid waiver in effect on the date of enactment of this Act that is approved under section 1115 or 1915 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1315, 1396n), for the 1-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act no Federal funds may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity, whether made directly to the prohibited entity or through a managed care organization under contract with the State.

(b) Definition Of Prohibited Entity.—In this section, the term “prohibited entity” means an entity, including its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, and clinics—

(1) that, as of the date of enactment of this Act—

(A) is an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and exempt from tax under section 501(a) of such Code;

(B) is an essential community provider described in section 156.235 of title 45, Code of Federal Regulations, that is primarily engaged in family planning services, reproductive health, and related medical care; and

(C) provides for abortions, other than an abortion—

(i) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or

(ii) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself; and

(2) for which the total amount of Federal and State expenditures under the Medicaid program under title XIX of the Social Security Act in fiscal year 2014 made directly to the entity and to any affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics of the entity, or made to the entity and to any affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics of the entity as part of a nationwide health care provider network, exceeded $350,000,000.

[Emphasis mine]

Please note that the provisions to completely eliminate any funds for Planned Parenthood were proposed and recommended by the Ways and Means Committee currently led by Rep. Paul Ryan, that same Paul Ryan who will is expected to be elected as Speaker of the House next Wednesday — that is, unless the right wing extremists of the Republican Freedom Caucus renege and cast their votes for their beloved Rep. Daniel Webster instead.

Repealing the Individual and Employer Mandates —

Repealing individual mandate provisions are likely to increase, rather than decrease, the number of U.S. residents without health coverage, thus eliminating the progress that has been made in holding people responsible for their healthcare.  If the CBO forecasts are correct, the H.R. 3762 mandate repeal provisions could increase the number of uninsured U.S. residents by 55 percent to 65 percent. But, that’s okay with Republicans because for each person who doesn’t buy health insurance, the government doesn’t have to shell out $760-$815.  But they took it one step further.  To help their corporate benefactors, they also plan on repealing the mandates on employers to provide medical coverage.  Thus, ordinary Americans seeking to access affordable healthcare coverage for themselves and their families are going to rapidly find themselves up the proverbial creak, with no paddle, a leaky boat and no pail with which to bail out their boat.

The house voted on passage of HR3762 on Friday.  The vote was 240-189 with 5 Democrats not voting.  One Democrat (Peterson) voted for passage and ALL THREE of Nevada’s Congressional Republicans voted ‘AYE’ for passage! The bill is now off to the Senate, where it can be considered without a 60-vote cloture requirement (assuming the package passes muster with the Senate “Byrd Rule.”).

The Byrd Rule is a Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to allow Senators, during the Reconciliation Process, to block a piece of legislation if it purports significantly to increase the federal deficit beyond a ten-year term or is otherwise an “extraneous matter” as set forth in the Budget Act.  It is named after West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessed the effects of HR3762 on long-term deficits and direct spending as follows:

  • Including macroeconomic feedback, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would increase net direct spending as well as on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in one or more of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026.
  • Excluding macroeconomic feedback, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending by more than $5 billion in either of the first two consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026; however, the agencies are not able to determine whether enacting the legislation would increase net direct spending by more than $5 billion in the third or fourth 10-year period.
  • Excluding macroeconomic feedback, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would increase on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in one or more of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2026.

And because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending and revenues, ‘pay-as-you-go procedures‘ apply.

The President is then expected to veto, setting up the need for a veto-override vote in Congress.  In a statement promising Obama’s veto, the White House said the GOP measure “would take away critical benefits and health care coverage from hard-working middle-class families.”

However, a conservative revolt could derail the bill’s progress, as some conservative groups are opposing because the bill leaves some parts of ObamaCare intact


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It’s Women’s History Month—So Naturally—Republicans Wage Sneak Attack

By CAP Action War Room

The Latest Ploy in The Ongoing Attack on Women’s Health

PoisonPill08
GOP breaks out their favorite Poison Pill … Again!

Women’s access to basic health care continues to be under attack at both the state and federal level. The most recent threat came this week when Republican lawmakers in the Senate snuck anti-choice provisions into a bipartisan bill aimed at helping victims of human trafficking. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 178), which would establish a fund for victims of human trafficking, wasn’t supposed to be controversial. In fact, it enjoyed wide bipartisan support until Senate Democrats discovered that Republicans added language that would restrict federal funding for abortion–even forcing underage victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term. Democrats have now vowed to hold the entire bill until the anti-choice language is removed.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is just the latest attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights on the national level. Unfortunately, actions on the state level are even worse. Last week, West Virginia Republicans overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed a 20-week abortion ban. With the veto override, West Virginia became the 11th state to prohibit abortions past 20-weeks, despite the fact that over the last few years courts have blocked several 20-week abortion bans for violating protections offered under Roe v. Wade. Montana and New Mexico are among other states considering 20-week bans under the guise of “fetal pain,” which scientists agree does not exist. And earlier this month, Wisconsin Governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker also said he would sign a 20-week ban.

While Democrats have been able to prevent anti-choice language from creeping into federal law thus far, these state-based corrosive efforts are working. A ThinkProgress investigation found that the maze of state abortion restrictions, usually framed as legal regulations, is driving the price of abortion services up so high that lower-income women are effectively priced out of the market. The attack on women’s healthcare has gone so far that a Texas Republican legislator has protested her colleagues’ proposal to cut funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics, saying that without that “provider network, women cannot be served. And they will die.”

BOTTOM LINE: From trying to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, to undermining international agreements with Iran, to voting 56 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Party has proven it is unfit to govern. These recent threats to women’s health are just another example of how out-of-touch and dangerous GOP policies can be.

As an aside:  Senator Heller has submitted an amendment (S.Amdt 283) to this bill, however, the text of his amendment has not yet been posted to Congress.gov.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.