Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baltimore City Council passes CPC bill

Baltimore City Council passed the CPC bill (LSPC Disclaimers bill) last night with a vote of 12-3. The bill still must be signed into law by the Mayor of Baltimore.

From our
press release:

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Applauds Passage of the Limited-Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimers Bill

Commonsense provision will require limited service pregnancy centers to disclose the limitations of their services.

Baltimore, MD – Wendy Royalty, Board Chair of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, praised the 12-3 vote by the Baltimore City Council to approve the Limited-Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimers bill. Introduced by Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and co-sponsored by ten other council members, this bill is a common-sense measure that will ensure that women visiting a Baltimore limited service pregnancy center in Baltimore were informed that they will not receive comprehensive birth control or abortion services or referrals.

“These facilities can give the illusion of offering comprehensive services and information about abortion and birth control when in fact they do not provide or refer for these options. It is unfair when these facilities are not up front about the limitations of their services,” stated Royalty.

Limited service pregnancy centers are also known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). CPCs are anti-choice organizations that advertise free services to women, the most common being free pregnancy testing, options counseling, and short-term material assistance for women with an unplanned pregnancy. CPCs do not offer or provide abortion or comprehensive birth control services, and often give out false and misleading information in an effort to discourage women from seeking abortion or using contraception.

A broad coalition of health care providers and women's groups supported this measure including Planned Parenthood of Maryland, the Women's Law Center of Maryland, Baltimore NOW, the Maryland Chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, Healthcare for the Homeless, Baltimore Healthy Start, Inc., University of Baltimore School of Law Center on Applied Feminism, and numerous physicians, nurses and social workers in the Baltimore community.

“We should all be able to agree with the bill's goals of truth in advertising. Lines are crossed when a CPC is not up front about its services, or when a center uses misinformation,” continued Royalty. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland investigated three centers in Baltimore, all of which gave misinformation about abortion or birth control and none of which would provide a referral, even for birth control. “Enactment of this bill will empower women by giving them full information up front about what to expect from a limited service pregnancy center. This provision does not ask a facility do provide any services they find objectionable, but only asks them to tell the truth about the nature of their services. We look forward to Mayor Dixon signing this important bill.”

Baltimore City is the first local jurisdiction in the United States to introduce a bill regulating limited service pregnancy centers and the first legislative body in the country to pass a bill.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grassroots organizing to fight Stupak language

Where they were laying low before, pro-choice organizations are now speaking up. For a few months, they backed off health care reform so that abortion politics would not stall a movement that is so important for millions of Americans. But women across the nation were betrayed by the late-night vote for the Stupak-Pitts amendment, and now these organizations
are fighting back.

As part of their “Stop the Abortion-Coverage Ban” campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America rallied supporters to sign a petition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calling on him to keep the anti-choice language out of the Senate bill. Their goal was 72,000 signatures in 72 hours, but they far exceeded it, delivering a petition on Monday of over 97,000 signatures!

Other national organizations are mobilizing supporters online. National Organization for Women is asking the Senate to oppose “Hyde on Steroids.” Planned Parenthood Federation of America is sending letters to Obama, Reid, and Pelosi. The National Women’s Law Center says we need health care reform “that works for women”. The Feminist Majority Foundation is saying, “Women won’t go back!”

The Center of Reproductive Rights is even launching a commercial on cable television, reminding viewers that women losing their insurance coverage for abortion is “no joke”:

The movements against Stupak are not only from national organizations; local organizations across the country are mobilizing their most powerful force: constituents. It is important that the 64 House Democrats (especially the 20 “pro-choice” ones) who voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment remember that it was the pro-choice community, women, and progressives that put them in office, NOT the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who pushed for the strict language.

"All politics are local. They've got to hear from their constituency at home," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Those are the folks that elect them and re-elect them."

Speaking of local politics-Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin, are both great pro-choice supporters. They are expected to stand with all Maryland Democrats in the House of Representatives, who voted against the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

Maryland constituents have done a great job electing pro-choice officials! However, the need for activism is greater now than ever. Please continue to support women’s access to reproductive options by joining NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland at the National Day of Action in D.C. on December 2nd. Pro-choice activists from across the country are coming together to rally against the abortion coverage ban. Find more information at our website.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Senate Unveils Health Care Reform Bill

The Senate unveiled their version of the health care reform bill yesterday. In the press release below, Nancy Keenan reacts to the language regarding abortion coverage.

NARAL Pro-Choice America Statement on Senate Health-Care Bill

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said she is encouraged that the Senate bill does not include the extreme new anti-choice restrictions adopted by the U.S. House. However, the legislation includes a compromise that continues existing laws that unfairly single out abortion care, including a ban on federal funding.

On Monday, Keenan delivered a petition with 97,218 signatures to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling on the Senate to keep the egregious Stupak-Pitts language in the House bill out of the Senate version. Keenan vowed to continue to mobilize her organization's members to fight anti-choice senators' plans to push additional anti-choice attacks as the legislation moves forward.

"America's pro-choice majority is speaking up loudly and clearly," Keenan said. "Our goal is to ensure that women do not lose ground in the new health-care system and that attempts to expand existing restrictions on abortion are defeated. Some anti-choice politicians, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), will follow Rep. Bart Stupak's example and inject anti-abortion politics into health reform. However, we believe that senators understand that the Stupak amendment in the House bill goes far beyond the status quo and prohibits women from using their own money to buy the insurance coverage they want in the new system. Our activists will continue to remind senators that we're expecting cooler heads to prevail at this stage of the process and that means the Stupak language is not an option."

In addition to the petition delivery, the media have reported on NARAL Pro-Choice America's other mobilization efforts, including automated calls and volunteer-led phone banks. As a result of strong member support, the organization now is conducting this mobilization in 20 states.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LSPC Disclaimers Bill sees progress in Baltimore

Related: Baltimore Finds A Common Sense Solution to Crisis Pregnancy Centers

At the Baltimore City Council meeting yesterday, the second reading of the Limited-Service Pregnancy Center (LSPC) Disclaimers bill was held. The City Council voted to pass the bill without any major

amendments! However, the bill must still pass through a third reading on Nov. 23.

As you may know already, the LPSC Disclaimers bill would require LPSCs, also known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), to post a sign in English and Spanish saying they do not provide or refer for abortion or birth control services. According to our research, CPCs in Baltimore and across Maryland have given false and misleading information to women.

The bill has garnered support from a wide range of local and state organizations. The Baltimore Sun also supported the measure in an editorial. In an opinion piece in today’s Sun, two Johns Hopkins health professionals, Dr. Eva Moore and Dr. Robert Bloom, characterize the bill perfectly. In the article, titled “Crisis pregnancy centers operate on moral precepts, not science,” they support the measure because “women in Baltimore deserve science-based health care and should have the right to make their own moral decisions.” Opponents of this measure claim it is harassment that will prevent the centers from providing charity (material assistance) for women. But Dr. Moore and Dr. Bloom are correct in pointing out that this bill “is not about providing maternity clothes and infant formula…this is about protecting the health and well-being of two generations.”

Progress of the bill:

10/5/09- City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake introduced the bill with 10 co-sponsors .

10/23/09- The bill received favorable reports from the Department of Health and the City Solicitor.

10/27/09- A hearing was held on the bill. Concerned parties from both sides of the debate gave testimony to the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee and President Rawlings-Blake. You can read our live tweets from the event for highlights.

11/2/09- The Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee voted 3-1 in favor of the bill, sending it to the whole council with 2 minor amendments to the penalties section.

11/16/09- The Council approves the bill with minor amendments, 12-3.


The third reading is scheduled to occur next Monday, November 23. Stay tuned in to the happenings with this bill and our other campaigns by following our blog, Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter account.

NARAL Pro-Choice America launches efforts to fight Stupak language

Please read the Press Release below about NARAL Pro-Choice America's efforts to fight the Stupak language. If you took action at StopAbortionBan.org, then thank you- you are one of the almost 100,000 signatures! NARAL Pro-Choice America is also having phone banks this Tuesday and Thursday evening. They're calling pro-choice Americans across the country and connecting them to their Senate Representatives. If you want to participate in DC, please email Rebecca Guerra

NARAL Pro-Choice America Delivers Petition with Thousands of Signatures to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Pro-choice group exceeds goal of collecting 72,000 signatures in 72 hours; petition delivery coincides with NARAL’s launch of grassroots mobilization campaign

Washington, DC – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, made a trip to Capitol Hill today to deliver a petition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that calls on him to resist pressure from anti-choice groups to insert the extreme anti-choice Stupak-Pitts language in the Senate’s version of health-reform legislation.

Keenan said the organization worked with its state affiliates and other progressive partners, including People for the American Way, to collect 97,218 signatures in 72 hours. More than 43,000 of the signatures came from stopabortionban.org, a web site NARAL Pro-Choice America established last week after the U.S. House adopted the anti-choice Stupak-Pitts amendment as part of its health-care bill.

"America’s pro-choice majority is speaking up loudly and clearly," Keenan said. "As the fight for health reform moves forward, we are making sure Sen. Reid and his colleagues understand that adding the anti-choice Stupak-Pitts language to the Senate bill is not an option."

The petition delivery marks the next phase of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s grassroots mobilization to fight efforts to put the Stupak-Pitts abortion-coverage ban in the Senate bill. The Associated Press reported over the weekend that the leading pro-choice political organization is "sending out automated calls in 17 states to connect abortion rights supporters at the touch of a button to senators who are seen as potential swing votes on the issue, asking them to oppose the ‘abortion ban.’ Phone banks by nine NARAL state affiliates are pitching in, targeting their calls to states including Nevada, home to Reid."

Keenan cited the Stupak-Pitts amendment, as passed by the U.S. House, which makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. The Stupak-Pitts language would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system—a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.

"This is a critical time for American women," Keenan said. "Since the House passed a bill that included the Stupak-Pitts amendment, our supporters have channeled their outrage into action—and they’re ready to go the distance to defeat the Stupak-Pitts abortion-coverage ban in the Senate."

Photos of the petition delivery may be found at this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/prochoiceamerica/sets/72157622815252976/

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stupak Amendment By the Numbers

An excerpt from “A hard choice on health care” by E.J. Dionne Jr., an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post (Nov 12):

Whatever else is true, Stupak's amendment is unlikely to have a significant effect on the availability of abortion. And most abortions are not paid for through health insurance. The Guttmacher Institute, for example, reported that only 13 percent of abortions in 2001 were directly billed by providers to insurance companies.

Like Dionne, many supporters of the Stupak amendment have been downplaying the impact it will have on women overall. They have an affinity for that particular statistic from the Guttmacher Institute, but there are other numbers that are more important in understanding how the Stupak amendment will affect women:

80% is the percentage of consumers participating in the insurance exchange that will have federal subsidies. That is the percentage of customers an insurance company will not be able to sell to if they keep abortion coverage in their plans. The bottom line: most insurers will drop abortion coverage in order to be available to all consumers.

This is also the number of consumers who will be denied access to plans that cover abortions. So even if individuals who do not receive subsidies do not lose any coverage, 80% of consumers in the exchange will not have that coverage. Unless of course, they plan to have an abortion and purchase the rider before needing it.

80-85% is the percentage of private insurers that currently cover abortion care, but will probably drop it if the Stupak amendment passes.

111,000 women is what 13% actually represents.* That is the number that Dionne and others are claiming as insignificant. In reality, the number of women who currently use private insurance to pay for abortions is probably much higher, because, as Dionne mentioned and the Guttmacher Institute stresses, the 13% does not include women who pay for their abortions out of pocket and request reimbursement from insurance. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that this proportion of women is significant due to the nature of the procedure and providers.

The reality is that the Stupak amendment would cause many women to lose abortion coverage that they already have. It represents a very significant change of the status quo. As Nancy Keenan says, “[supporters of the Stupak Amendment] want Roe v. Wade overturned and they want to derail health care reform. That is the strategy.”

Watch her explain how far-reaching the Stupak amendment is on Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan:

*This figure was calculated- 13% of 853,485- the number of legal induced abortions reported to the
CDC in 2001.

Monday, November 9, 2009

House Votes “Yes” on Health Care Bill, but with Anti-Choice Restrictions

Saturday night, the House of Representatives voted on their health care reform bill and passed it. While this may seem like a victory, women’s health care took a serious blow. The House voted to accept the Stupak Amendment, which would prevent insurance companies participating in the “exchange” from covering abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s sent out a press release about what this decision means for women’s access to abortion care:

House: Yes to Extreme Anti-Choice Politics, No to Women’s Health and Privacy

NARAL Pro-Choice America says fight is not over

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called House passage of a stunning last-minute anti-choice amendment to health reform an outrageous blow to women's freedom and privacy — and she vowed to fight to remove this provision as the process goes to the Senate.

The amendment, offered by anti-choice Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Penn.), was adopted late tonight by a margin of 240-194.

The Stupak-Pitts amendment makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies that participate in the new system to offer abortion coverage to women. This would have the effect of denying women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase an insurance plan with abortion coverage in the new health system — a radical departure from the status quo. Presently, more than 85 percent of private-insurance plans cover abortion services.

"This vote is a reminder to America's pro-choice majority that, despite our gains in the last two election cycles, anti-choice members of Congress still outnumber our pro-choice allies," Keenan said. "It is unconscionable that anti-choice lawmakers would use health reform to attack women's health and privacy, but that's exactly what happened on the House floor tonight. Even though the bill already included a ban on federal funding for abortion and a requirement that only women's personal funds could pay for abortion care, Reps. Stupak and Pitts took their obsession with attacking a woman's right to choose to a whole new level. We will hold those lawmakers who sided with the extreme Stupak-Pitts amendment accountable for abandoning women and capitulating to the most extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement. In short, the fight is not over. That's why we will continue to mobilize our activists and work with our allies in Congress to remove this dangerous provision from the health-care bill and stop additional attacks as the process moves to the Senate."

Keenan said anti-choice members of Congress and their allies distorted key elements of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to make the proposal appear less extreme. Here are rebuttals to these distortions, including the myth of an abortion "rider" that they say women could purchase in addition to their insurance plan:

  • The Stupak-Pitts amendment forbids any plan offering abortion coverage in the new system from accepting even one subsidized customer. Since more than 80 percent of the participants in the exchange will be subsidized, it seems certain that all health plans will seek and accept these individuals.  In other words, the Stupak-Pitts amendment forces plans in the exchange to make a difficult choice: either offer their product to 80 percent of consumers in the marketplace or offer abortion services in their benefits package. It seems clear which choice they will make.

  • Stupak-Pitts supporters claim that women who require subsidies to help pay for their insurance plan will have abortion access through the option of purchasing a "rider," but this is a false promise. According to the respected National Women's Law Center, the five states that require a separate rider for abortion coverage, there is no evidence that plans offer these riders. In fact, in North Dakota, which has this policy, the private plan that holds the state's overwhelming share of the health-insurance market (91 percent) does not offer such a rider. Furthermore, the state insurance department has no record of abortion riders from any of the five leading individual insurance plans from at least the past decade. Nothing in this amendment would ensure that rider policies are available or affordable to the more than 80 percent of individuals who will receive federal subsidies in order to help purchase coverage in the new exchange.

The only representative from Maryland to vote for the amendment was Roscoe Bartlett, of the 6th district. He is the sole Republican representing Maryland in Congress.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is asking you to take action to make sure that the Senate doesn’t ignore women’s needs in their bill. Ask President Obama to take a stand to protect women’s health care.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

House Continues to Argue About Abortion

Abortion is still an arguing point in House of Representatives. Even Democrats are asking for tighter restrictions on abortion funding. Read today’s New York Times article, “House Haggles Over Abortion in Health Care Bill.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to push the House bill forward with limited restrictions, but she is faced with the reality that this bill may not pass without major barriers to women’s access to abortion. The House bill as presently drafted defers the decision of whether the public option would cover abortion to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Whatever that decision, federal funds would not be used to pay for abortion services.

The Washington Post reports that the House intends to vote on the health care bill on Saturday, but according to the Los Angeles Times, debate over abortion language could mean that real reform isn’t seen until 2010.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Women Need Health Care Reform

Michelle Obama has said it, and women all over have agreed- health care reform is a woman’s issue. The numbers say so-- 17.8% of women ages 18-64 in America are uninsured. This data come from the US Census Bureau’s data from 2008, but the National Women’s Law Council published charts that break the numbers down into what they mean for women of reproductive age. They even show it state-by-state.

Maryland beats the national average for women, with 14.5% uninsured, but that is not much to be proud of. In Massachusetts, where health insurance plans are partially subsidized by the state and people who opt out of health insurance have tax penalties, the uninsured rate for women is as low at 5.5%. Expanding health insurance coverage is essential for women’s health, so it’s crucial that women keep tabs on the health care proposals working their way through Congress.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid introduced a bill in the Senate that includes a public option, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the House version, which will expand coverage for 36 million Americans. The House bill even prohibits the consideration of being a victim of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, something that is not yet outlawed in 8 states and DC. But Karen Ignagni of America's Health Insurance Plans is already opposing the bill, and so are Republicans.

It will still take work to make sure that the final reform bill is pro-health, pro-women, and pro-choice. To learn about how our current health care system is unfair to women, and to stay updated on how the reform addresses women's issues, Visit the National Women’s Law Center’s website at www.awomanisnotapreexistingcondition.com