Healthcare News

Blogs Comment On Supreme Court Decisions, Obama Administration, Other Topics

May 27, 2017

The following summarizes selected women's health-related blog entries.

~ "Just Released: Gains and Losses for Women in 2008-09 Supreme Court Decisions," National Women's Law Center's "Womenstake": The Supreme Court's 2008-2009 term, which concluded Monday, included "several crucial decisions that demonstrate the impact of the court on women's lives," according to the blog post, which summarizes a new analysis from NWLC on the cases. For example, the blog post says that the rulings in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee and Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., increased employees' protections against discrimination in the workplace. However, the rulings in Ricci v. DeStetano -- which overturned an appellate court's anti-discrimination ruling -- and AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen -- which "permitted AT&T to pay women lower pension benefits for the rest of their lives" -- were "not as positive," the blog entry says. NWLC Co-President Marcia Greenberger said that the Supreme Court "ignored the realities of the workplace and the intent of Congress and ruled against female workers" in AT&T v. Hulteen. Greenberger also said that such cases "underscore why every seat on the Supreme Court is of paramount importance to women," adding that it is "absolutely critical" that Supreme Court nominees have "a strong commitment to upholding and enforcing women's basic legal rights and protections" ("Womenstake," National Women's Law Center, 6/29).

~ "Waldman and Saletan: Oh What a Fine Bromance!" Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check: In a recent bloggingheads.tv chat on "common ground" in the abortion-rights debate, Slate columnist Will Saletan and Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steve Waldman "spent as much time as possible complimenting each other's work" and "as little as possible on any real substance regarding reproductive health and choice issues," Jacobson writes. It is "clear that the Obama administration's stated intention to create 'a common ground platform'" on abortion rights has become "a full employment program for both Waldman and Saletan," she writes. Jacobson continues, "So perhaps the most striking thing about the conversation was that, in the end, they both effectively concluded that the common ground enterprise was a 'just for show' political strategy," and that the "real strategies" necessary to reduce the need for abortion "are the very prevention programs least likely to be supported by the far right. (Revelation!)." She adds, "However, they came to this conclusion through the same faux-expert uninformed arguments that characterize their columns." During the "Will-interviews-Steve format," Saletan "revealed once again that there is no core philosophy or framework underlying his ever-shifting positions on choice and abortion," according to Jacobson. She adds that "Waldman, for his part, several times underscored what is clear from reading his work": that he "just throws things 'out there' without considered thought" about what "might be good versus bad data, not understanding how to read evidence," and "oblivious or uncaring about the effects his free-form moralistic misinformation and opinions might actually have on an already polarized debate." According to Jacobson, "Public policies affecting sexual and reproductive health issues" should be "based first and foremost on public health and on promoting individual rights balanced by individual responsibilities," but "as anyone living on Planet Earth knows, sex and reproduction have become the front in a war waged by ultra-conservative religious and political forces for which Waldman serves as a paid flacky." She continues, "In fact, Waldman himself stated during the program: 'I have a corporate interest in injecting religion into every debate.'" Jacobson states, "Reading and watching this duo is like buying the OK! magazine version of the culture wars at the grocery store; they put whatever sells on the front cover, no matter the truth or consequences." She concludes, "The info and the standards just keep shifting to sell the blogs" (Jacobson, RH Reality Check, 6/28).

~ "As White House Readies Abortion Plan, Packaging Emerges as Major Issue," Dan Gilgoff, U.S. News & World Report's "God & Country": As the White House prepares its "common ground" reproductive health proposals, "a major debate has emerged over how to package the plan's two major components: preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion," Gilgoff writes. He continues, "Many abortion-rights advocates and some Democrats who want to dial down the culture wars want the White House to package the two parts of the plan together, as a single piece of legislation"; however, "more conservative religious groups working with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships say they would be forced to oppose such a plan -- even though they support the abortion reduction part -- because they oppose federal dollars for contraception and comprehensive sex education." Gilgoff adds that although the Obama administration has declined to comment and supporters on both sides say that the White House "has offered no hint about how it will come down on the matter," the administration is "expected to announce its plan on abortion and related issues this summer." In the interim, "advocates on both sides are strenuously lobbying for the plan, arguing that it offers the only true hope for common ground on very thorny issues," he continues. Gilgoff concludes, "For the White House, the decision about which track to take is largely a question of whom it feels more comfortable alienating: religious groups like the Catholic bishops, which it has been trying hard to win over, or abortion-rights groups, a key part of the Democratic base that it doesn't want to lose" (Gilgoff, "God & Country," U.S. News & World Report, 6/29).

~ "Advocates Urge White House, Congress To Broaden Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative," Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check: "After years of funding abstinence-only-until marriage programs, there is virtually unanimous agreement among researchers and advocates about doing far more to address teen sexuality, prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and prevent the violence and coercion by intimate partners among youth that contribute to these problems," Jacobson writes. She discusses an article on RH Reality Check describing work by Elizabeth Miller of the University of California-Davis that "shows that intimate partner violence plays a critical but largely overlooked role in high rates of adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes among teens." Miller recommends that policymakers "stop 'siloing' the issues that affect teen sexual health and relationships," Jacobson writes. She continues that during the presidential campaign, President Obama "appeared to agree." Therefore, it "comes as something of a surprise that a coalition of over 175 state and national organizations representing advocates, service providers and researchers concerned with comprehensive sex ed now finds itself pressing the White House and Congress to get rid of these silos and is pushing back against what they see as the limited scope of the Obama administration's new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative." Under Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget proposal, the initiative would replace Title V abstinence-only funding and the Community-Based Abstinence Education Program. Although advocates "applauded the elimination of abstinence-only programs," they "were deeply disappointed at the narrow scope of the new initiative, in part, they argued, because the programs eligible for funding would address only one outcome (unintended pregnancy), deny funding to programs addressing a wider range of outcomes, and ignore the needs of gay, lesbian and transgender youth, among other concerns," Jacobson writes. Furthermore, these advocates argue, "vague direction given by the administration leaves the program vulnerable to changes in the balance of power in Congress," according to Jacobson. She adds that there also is concern that some HIV and STI prevention programs, which already are underfunded, "will have greater constraints if they are not eligible for funding under the proposed teen initiative" (Jacobson, RH Reality Check, 6/29).

~ "Michigan Lawmakers Seeking To Reduce High Rates of Unintended Pregnancy, STDs," Todd Heywood, RH Reality Check: Michigan state Rep. Rebekah Warren (D) and state Sen. Gilda Jacobs (D) on June 23 introduced a "wide-ranging set of 15 bills" that cover sex education, dispensing of prescriptions and other issues related to women's health, Heywood writes. The lawmakers noted that one in four teens in Michigan have a sexually transmitted infection and that Michigan has an "unacceptable" rate of unplanned pregnancies. One bill (H.B. 2472) would mandate that crisis pregnancy centers provide medically accurate and objective information on options available to women, including abortion, and that they post notice when failing to hire licensed medical professionals or not providing information about abortion or birth control. Clients would be able to sue such centers for violating these rules. Another bill would mandate that schools, which currently are required to teach an abstinence-only curriculum, would emphasize abstinence but also offer information on protecting against STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Under another bill (H.B. 822), emergency facilities treating rape survivors would have to make emergency contraception available. Heywood reports that the most contentious bill (H.B. 2358) would mandate that pharmacists dispense prescriptions, regardless of their religious or moral views. A competing bill that would codify increased rights for health care workers to withhold services or information was introduced earlier this year (Heywood, RH Reality Check, 6/29).

Reprinted with kind permission from nationalpartnership. You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

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