This blog post is part of a series provides information about what President Trump – and the GOP – have done in an effort to restrict and remove access to health care from the American people. The series could be described as “reciepts”.
The series also highlights everything that the Democrats have done in an effort to protect American’s access to health care – of all types. This includes protections for DACA recipients and people who are LGBTQ+
You may want to take a look at the previous blogs in this series. Doing so will give you an overall picture of what the Trump Administration and the GOP have done to harm American’s health starting in 2017.
July 1, 2020: NPR posted an article titled: “Oklahoma Votes For Medicaid Expansion Over Objections of Republican State Leaders”. It was written by Jackie Fortier. From the article:
Voters in Oklahoma narrowly approved a ballot measure Tuesday night to expand Medicaid to eligible adults who need health insurance. Oklahoma is now the 37th state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act; coverage will begin a year from now, on July 1, 2021.
Based on the final unofficial count, the measure passed with just over a 6,000-vote margin — less than one full percentage point…
…In Oklahoma, Medicaid expansion will likely help drive down the state’s 14% uninsured rate, the second highest in the nation after Texas. It’s estimated that at least 200,000 Oklahomans will be newly eligible for Medicaid, with enrollment potentially climbing even higher as millions lose their jobs amid the pandemic.
Under 2020 poverty guidelines, expanded Medicaid coverage would provide health insurance to a single adult making less than $17,608 annually, or adults in a family of four making less than $36,156 annually….
…The language used in the ballot measure ensures that Medicaid expansion is enshrined in the state’s constitution, which would make it extremely difficult for Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt or the Republican-controlled legislature to dismantle the expansion in the future…
July 1, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris posted a press release titled: “Harris, Murray, Colleagues to Barr: Reverse Anti-LGBTQ Position, Protect Transgender Workers from Discrimination”. From the press release:
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., which held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr demanding the Department of Justice (DOJ) reverse its anti-LGBTQ position that federal law does not shield transgender workers. The senators called on Barr to immediately rescind a 2017 memorandum issued by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions articulating the Justice Department’s current anti-transgender stance. In 2017, Senators Harris and Murray led their colleagues in a letter condemning then Attorney General Sessions’s discriminatory memorandum.
“We strongly urge you to rescind a 2017 U.S. Department of Justice memorandum in which former Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered DOJ to take the position that transgender workers are not protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The senators wrote that the Supreme Court’s decision “compels DOJ to rescind the Sessions memorandum,” which “misstates the law, poses an ongoing threat to the well-being of transgender workers, and invites liability for employers that misguidedly rely upon it.”
The senators continued, “In light of the landmark Bostock decision, there can remain no justification for leaving in place an enforcement policy that flatly contradicts Supreme Court precedent. Accordingly, we call on you to rescind the Sessions memorandum immediately.”
Joining Harris and Murray on the letter are Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), and Tom Carper (D-DE).
A full copy of the letter can be found HERE
July 1, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Passage of H.R. 2, The Moving Forward Act”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the passage of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, House Democrats’ transformative infrastructure package For The People:
“Today, House Democrats have taken a bold step to move America forward, as we deliver on our For The People promise to increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green, resilient, modern and job-creating infrastructure by passing H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. I salute Chairman Peter DeFazio and all the Chairs of the Committees of Jurisdiction, and especially our Freshmen who have invigorated Democrats’ mission to revitalize America’s infrastructure.
“H.R. 2 takes bold, broad and transformational action to rebuild our infrastructure, while addressing key injustices in America, which have been laid bare by the COVID-19 crisis. We are proud that this legislation addresses environmental justice, including by investing boldly in affordable housing, expanding affordable high-speed Internet to underserved rural and urban communities, and ensuring that all have access to clean water. H.R. 2 makes a strong down payment in a clean energy future and solving the climate crisis, as we create millions of good-paying jobs and rebuild our highways, bridges, transit, rail, airports, ports and harbors to improve safety, reduce gridlock and put America on a path to zero pollution.
“We urge Leader McConnell and the GOP Senate to join the House in supporting this transformative legislation For The People. As Americans across the country come together to peacefully demand justice, equality and progress, the Congress must meet this moment by moving our country forward with real action.”
July 2, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a joint statement titled: “Joint Statement from Women’s Health Groups, Medical Groups on June Medical”. From the joint statement:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists joins the American Academy of Nursing, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association, North American Society for Adolescent and Pediatric Gynecology, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists in issuing this statement.
The medical community celebrates the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of June Medical Services v. Russo. This decision confirms once again that our justice system will not tolerate restrictions on our patients.
However, we recognize that the law overturned in this case was just one example of a litany of restrictive policies that seek to interfere with the patient-clinician relationship. We also know that access to care continues to be delayed or denied for many women due to systemic inequities and inequalities.
With the Supreme Court once again protecting the right to access safe, legal abortion, we now call on lawmakers to stop passing harmful, burdensome laws that target our patients. Policymakers must refrain from attempting to mandate if, when, and how we can provide them with the care they need.
It is time to stop legislating medical practice and it is time for all lawmakers to recognize that reproductive health care is a critical part of comprehensive health care for all patients.
As clinicians and public health practitioners, we advocate for patients every day and in many ways. The decision in June Medical Services encourages us to continue to do so, and we will remain vigilant in our demand for patient-focused policies that will help us achieve health equity.
July 2, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted: “As groups supporting the healthcare repeal lawsuit submit amicus briefs about why they think “the #ACA must fall”, remember what’s at stake: #ProtectOurCare”
July 2, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted: “Protections for 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions,”
July 2, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted: “Coverage for 12 million Americans receiving insurance through Medicaid expansion”
July 2, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted: “$900 million in grants to improve public health through the Prevention and Public Health Fund,”
July 2, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted: “Essential health benefits like prescription drug coverage and hospital stays, and other patient protections.”
July 2, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted: “The Trump Administration is fighting to rip away our healthcare during a global pandemic that has infected millions of Americans with no signs of stopping. Our coalition of 20 States + DC is ready to go to the Supreme Court to #ProtectOurCare. Lives are at stake.”
July 2, 2020: New Times SLO posted an article titled: “Continued care: In the face of Trump’s rollback of LGBTQ-plus health care protections, Planned Parenthood isn’t going anywhere”. It was written by Malea Martin. From the article:
Between a landmark Supreme Court ruling for the LGBTQ-plus community and a Trump administration rule that goes in the opposite direction, this year’s Pride Month has been one for both victory and distress for members of the queer community.
But no matter what the federal government decrees, Planned Parenthood Central Coast wants residents to know that they will continue to get the services they need.
“Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity, where you’re from, the language you speak, or whether you’ve had an abortion, every person deserves access to health care, free from judgement and discrmination,” Planned Parenthood Central Coast CEO and President Jenna Tosh said. “I think especially during a public health crisis, any rule that makes it harder for marginalized people to access health care is unconscionable.”
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) echoed this sentiment, saying that the Trump administration “is looking at every way to continue to undermine [protections], in this case health benefits, to members of the LGBTQ community.”
Tosh explained that the Trump administration’s June 12 ruling, which rolls back nondiscrimination protections for sex and gender identity put in place by the Affordable Care Act, will allow “health care providers, hospitals, and insurance companies that recieve federal funding to refuse to provide or cover services such as LGBTQ health care.”
But, she said, this will not have any immediate impact on Planned Parenthood patients’ ability to get access to care…
…In addition to welcoming folks regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, Planned Parenthood Central Coast started providing general affirming care about a year ago, Tosh said…
July 2, 2020: ABC 27 News posted an article titled: “High court won’t hear abortion clinic ‘buffer zone’ cases”. It was written by Jessica Gresko. From the article:
The Supreme Court on Thursday turned away pleas from anti-abortion activists to make it easier for them to protest outside clinics, declining to wade back into the abortion debate just days after striking down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics.
The justices said in a written order that they would not hear cases from Chicago and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where anti-abortion activists had challenged ordinances that restrict their behavior outside clinics.
As is usual, the justices did not comment in turning away the cases. The order from the court noted Justice Clarence Thomas would have heard the Chicago case…
…On Thursday, one of the two cases the court declined to take up involved an ordinance passed by the city counsel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital, in 2012 that made it illegal to “congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate” in a zone 20 feet from a health care facility. Anti-abortion activists sued, arguing that the ordinance violates their free speech rights. Lower courts have upheld the ordinance, however, ruling it doesn’t apply to “sidewalk counseling,” where individuals who oppose abortion offer assistance and information about alternatives to abortion to those entering a clinic.
The second case the court turned away on Thursday involved a Chicago ordinance that regulates the space 50 feet from the entrance of any abortion clinic or other medical facility. In that space, a person cannot come within 8 feet of another person without their consent to hand them information or engage in “oral protest, education, or counseling.” The ordinance was modeled on a statute upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000…
…The court’s announcement that it would not hear the cases comes on the heels of its decision Monday that a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates abortion rights the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The decision divided the court’s conservatives and liberals 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts joining his four more liberal colleagues to strike down the law.
It was the first big abortion case of the Trump era and a surprising defeat for abortion opponents, who thought that the court’s new conservative majority with two members appointed by President Donald Trump would start chipping away at abortion access.
As a result of the decision, the justices also on Thursday ordered lower courts to revisit cases involving Indiana abortion laws previously blocked by courts. One required a woman to have an ultrasound 18 hours before having an abortion and the other would have made it tougher for girls under age 18 to get an abortion without their parents’ knowledge.
In their decision earlier this week, the justices told lower courts how to determine whether a restriction is permissible or puts an unconstitutional obstacle in the way of women who want an abortion.
July 6, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release on her official website titled: “Rep. Pressley Statement on Inclusion of Hyde Amendment in Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill”. From the press release:
Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) released the below statement following release of the proposed FY 2021 Appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies.
“For generations, the Hyde Amendment has restricted the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion care for millions– disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable, low-income, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.
When I say it is time to legislate our values and write budgets that affirm the dignity and worth of Black and Brown lives, I mean it.
Let me be clear, discriminatory abortion bans like the Hyde Amendment are blatantly racist and perpetuate systems of oppression and white supremacy that target people of color–especially Black people–and their bodily autonomy.
This first ever pro-choice majority in the House of Representatives has a mandate and a responsibility to stand up for reproductive rights and justice for all, not just those who can afford it. This is a racial justice issue.
We know that Black women are statistically denied access to medical care across the board. Their pain is delegitimized and their lives devalued by a broken for profit health care system.
I am deeply disappointed to see that the Hyde Amendment was included in the House LHHS funding bill. Black and Brown people should not have to continue to wait to have their humanity and freedoms recognized. I intend to work with my colleagues to finally repeal Hyde when the bill comes to the House floor and I will file an amendment to do just that.”
July 7, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled:” Attorney General James Continues to Take on Trump Administration’s Anti-Abortion Rule as Coronavirus Pandemic Rages On”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her leadership in the national fight to ensure women’s reproductive health care is not stifled or infringed upon in any way during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) public health crisis. Attorney General James co-led a multistate coalition of nine attorneys general in asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withdraw a new interim final rule or delay implementation of it as the nation continues to battle COVID-19. In response to the pandemic, the interim rule only delays for 60 days a previously-implemented HHS rule that threatens to potentially kick millions of women across New York and the rest of the nation off their health plans if they fail to comply with a technical billing issue related to abortion coverage. The coalition argues that the final rule is not only unlawful, but that it would harm states and insurers, as well as consumers seeking reliable health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the coalition highlights that a 60-day delay is not a sufficient remedy to the problems posed by the final rule.
“As the number of confirmed coronavirus infections continue to rise exponentially across the nation, it is unconscionable that President Trump and his administration continue to move forward with plans that risk stripping women of their health coverage at this time — something that endangers us all,” Attorney General James said. “Instead of repeatedly focusing on cutting off women’s access to reproductive health care, the Trump Administration should be expanding health coverage for all Americans, so that no one is left without the coverage they need as we continue to battle COVID-19. But the origin of this rule is no doubt rooted in the president’s anti-choice ideology that aims to take us backwards almost half a century, which is why our coalition will never stop fighting against this burdensome and controlling regulation that strips women of their constitutional right to an abortion.”
Issued by HHS in December 2019, the final rule reinterprets Section 1303 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) by requiring qualified health plans that participate in the state exchanges, like the New York State of Health, to send two separate monthly bills for payments of a health insurance premium — even if no abortion service is provided — and collect separate monthly payments for abortion services to all consumers. One bill would be for the premium amount attributable to abortion coverage (and would need to be at least one dollar) and a second bill would compromise the premium amount attributable to the remaining covered services, which may include services like primary doctor appointments, hospital visits, and other services covered by insurance. If a consumer misses even a single one-dollar payment, that individual could lose all health coverage on the exchange. HHS itself has conceded that requiring separate bills and separate payments will inevitably lead to confusion, putting more than 160,000 New Yorkers who have already enrolled in a qualified health plan this year alone at risk of losing coverage if they inadvertently fail to make full premium payments on time. Additionally, the new rule places unreasonable burdens on health insurers by requiring them to make onerous administrative changes in the middle of the plan year, instead of at the end of the plan year — when all other benefit and rate changes are made.
In January, Attorney General James and the coalition filed a multistate lawsuit arguing that HHS’s onerous and confusing requirement threatens women’s access to abortion and puts millions at risk of accidentally losing their health insurance coverage. In late March, the coalition filed a motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit, calling for the courts to immediately vacate the rule because it violates federal law and is inconsistent with the Affordable Care Act. And in early April, the coalition sent a separate letter to HHS arguing against final implementation of the rule, as the nation was first responding to the COVID-19 public health crisis that required every resource of the federal government to be focused on the pandemic. Following the onset of COVID-19, HHS issued the interim final rule that is the focus of today’s letter — delaying enforcement of the separate abortion billing rule by a mere 60 days — purportedly to allow insurers additional time to address immediate challenges posed by the pandemic.
In today’s comment letter, the coalition argues that the interim final rule:
- Forces states and insurers to make onerous changes in the middle of the plan year, because the 60-day delay is insufficient;
- Burdens states, state agencies, and insurers, and hampers their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- Endangers the gains recently made through several exchanges’ special enrollment periods…
July 7, 2020: EMILY’s List posted a press release titled: “EMILY’s List Puts Five More House Republicans “On Notice” For Targeting Women’s Rights”. From the press release:
Today, EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, expanded its “On Notice” opposition program to include five more House Republicans. EMILY’s List is calling out incumbent Republicans for their anti-women and anti-family records and is working to flip governorships, congressional seats, and legislative chambers from red to blue by electing pro-choice Democratic women in the upcoming 2020 election.
“With just over four months until the general election, EMILY’s List is expanding its On Notice program to include five House Republicans who have actively worked to impede progress and strip women of their fundamental rights. These members have cosponsored dangerous legislation, including the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a desperate attempt by Republicans to instill fear and spread misinformation about abortion. From supporting a party pushing to repeal health care in the midst of a global pandemic to pandemic to prioritizing big corporations over the small business owners they were elected to represent, it is clear that these Republicans must be voted out. EMILY’s List is actively targeting these flippable districts. We look forward to replacing these members with pro-choice Democratic women who will serve as true champions for women and working families.”
The following Republicans are included in EMILY’s List’s of House targets. The full “On Notice” list, including Senate, statewide, and state legislative targets, can be found online here.
- Rep. French Hill (AR-02)
- Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)
- Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04)
- Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02)
- Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX-02)
July 7, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra: Separate Abortion Billing Rule Threatens Health Coverage During the Pandemic, A 60-Day Delay Won’t Fix What’s Broken”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of nine attorneys general in filing a comment letter opposing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) new interim final rule relating to their unlawful 2019 rule for health Exchanges under Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Separate Abortion Billing Rule requires consumers to make two separate payments for healthcare – one for their insurance premium and a separate one-dollar payment for abortion coverage – or risk losing their coverage altogether. The interim final rule would delay implementation of the new Separate Abortion Billing Rule by 60 days – despite states and the healthcare industry asking for more time or to halt the rule altogether. The coalition argues that the final rule is unlawful, would harm states, insurers, and consumers seeking reliable health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlights that a 60-day delay is not sufficient remedy to the problems posed by the final rule.
“The Trump Administration’s unlawful Separate Abortion Billing Rule puts Americans’ healthcare at risk in the midst of a pandemic, just as they need it most. A 60-day delay won’t fix what’s broken,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Issuing a rule halfway through the plan year that burdens our health system and risks consumers’ healthcare is simply irresponsible. It’s our duty to protect Americans’ healthcare, including women’s access to safe and legal abortion care.”
On December 27, 2019, HHS issued a final rule requiring qualified health plans participating in health Exchanges to send and collect separate bills—one for a health insurance premium and one of at least one dollar for abortion coverage. If a consumer misses the one-dollar payment, they could lose all coverage. This onerous and confusing requirement threatens women’s access to abortion and puts health insurance coverage at risk for millions of individuals. HHS itself has conceded that requiring separate bills and separate payments will inevitably lead to confusion, putting more than 1.4 million enrollees in California alone at risk of losing coverage if they inadvertently fail to make full premium payments on time. Furthermore, the rule places unreasonable burdens on health insurers by requiring them to make onerous administrative changes in the middle of the plan year, instead of the end of the plan year, when all other benefit and rate changes are made.
On January 30, 2020, Attorneys General Becerra and James filed a lawsuit contesting the final rule. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, HHS issued an interim final rule, delaying enforcement of the Separate Abortion Billing Rule by 60 days, purportedly to allow insurers time to address immediate challenges posed by the pandemic.
In the comment letter, the coalition argues that the interim final rule:
- Forces states and insurers to make onerous changes in the middle of the plan year, because the 60-day delay is insufficient;
- Imposes significant burdens given that insurers and state agencies must work through the summer months to establish and adjust new premium rates for the following open enrollment period;
- Burdens states, state agencies, and insurers and hampers their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- Endangers the gains recently made through several Exchanges’ special enrollment periods.
Attorney General Becerra was joined in filing today’s comment letter by the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
July 7, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Responds to Inclusion of Discriminatory Anti-Choice Amendment in House Democrats’ Spending Bill”. From the press release:
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement in response to Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives including the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, an anti-choice policy restricting coverage for abortion care for those who receive their health insurance through the federal government, in the FY’ 21 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill:
“Every day that the Hyde Amendment remains in place, it hurts women of color and women with low incomes just as it was intended to from the day Henry Hyde introduced it in 1976. It’s disappointing that, despite having a majority and the most pro-choice slate of elected officials ever serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic leadership has chosen to include a discriminatory abortion coverage ban in this year’s appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment restricts access to abortion for those already facing the greatest hurdles to getting the time-sensitive and essential care they need. While we appreciate the spending bill’s inclusion of other pro-choice priorities, such as blocking the Trump administration’s dangerous refusal of care rule and its attempt to roll back nondiscrimination protections under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, it isn’t enough.
As our country faces a public health crisis and a long-overdue uprising against entrenched white supremacy and structural racism, we must be more committed than ever to ending barriers to care like Hyde, which disproportionately affects communities of color and people with low incomes, so that every body is free to make their own personal decisions about pregnancy free from political interference.”
Restrictions on abortion care like the anti-choice Hyde Amendment endanger women and families already facing enormous hurdles to accessing care, especially Black and Brown women and those with low incomes. At a time when the freedoms enshrined by Roe v. Wade face unprecedented attack, the 2020 Democratic presidential field coalesced around the party’s core values—including ending the Hyde Amendment’s ban on abortion coverage once and for all.
We know that abortion is front and center for Democrats: Support for abortion rights is at an all-time high and polling confirms reproductive freedom is a major issue for Democratic voters in particular. These values are non-negotiable to the 77% of Americans who support the legal right to abortion in the United States.
July 8, 2020: Bloomberg Law posted an article titled: “Top Court Backs Religious Rights in Contraceptive, School Cases”. It was written by Greg Stohr. From the article:
The U.S. Supreme Court struck two blows for religious rights, including a decision that upholds Trump administration rules giving employers a broad right to refuse to offer birth control through their health plans.
The justices also gave religious organizations a bigger exemption from discrimination suits, throwing out bias claims filed by two teachers who were fired by Roman Catholic grade schools in California. Both decisions Wednesday were 7-2 as Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined the court’s five conservatives in the majority.
The decisions came as the court said it will issue the last opinions of its term on Thursday. Those will include rulings on subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s financial records from Congress and a New York grand jury.
The contraceptive ruling, which stems from an Obamacare guideline requiring health plans to include free coverage, lets Trump’s administration expand a narrower religious exemption offered under President Barack Obama. Critics say the new exemption could leave tens of thousands of women without ready access to birth control.
The ruling focused more on federal administrative law than religion. Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Affordable Care Act gives administrators “broad discretion” to carve out religious and moral exemptions. The law itself doesn’t explicitly mention birth control, instead requiring cost-free “preventive care and screenings” and leaving it to a federal agency to determine what’s included.
Dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed to a government estimate that between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to free contraception.
“This court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets,” Ginsburg wrote.
The ruling leaves open the possibility the exemption could be narrowed if Democrat Joe Biden wins the presidential election and revises the policy.
The Trump administration issued its rules in November 2018. The new policy expands the types of employers who can claim religious exemptions to include publicly traded companies for the first time, and also applies it to universities in their student health plans. The rules also permit opt-outs on moral grounds.
In a concurring opinion, Kagan said lower courts could still consider arguments that the administration didn’t engage in “reasoned decisionmaking,” as required under federal law. She pointed to a “mismatch between the scope of the religious exemption and the problem the agencies set out to address.”…
July 8, 2020: NPR posted an article titled: “Supreme Court Undercuts Access to Birth Control Under Obamacare”. It was written by Nina Totenberg. From the article:
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it more difficult for women to get access to birth control as part of their health plans if their employer has religious or moral objections to contraceptives.
The opinion upheld a Trump administration rule that significantly cut back on the Affordable Care Act requirement that insurers provide free birth control coverage as part of almost all health care plans.
“We hold that the [Trump Administration] had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and concientious objections,” Justice Clarance Thomas wrote for the majority.
He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh…
…Dissenting from the opinion were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
“Today, for the first time, the Court casts aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” Ginsburg wrote.
The Supreme Court ruling on Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter And Paul Home v Pennsylvania can be found here.
July 8, 2020: The Associated Press tweeted: “BREAKING: Supreme Court sides with Trump effort to let more employers out of health care law’s no-cost birth control requirement.” The tweet included a link to the Associated Press website.
July 8, 2020: The Associated Press tweeted: “The high court said 7-2 the administration acted properly when it allowed more employers who cite a religious or moral objection to opt out of covering birth control”. The tweet included a link to an Associated Press article titled: “Court: Some employers can refuse to offer free birth control”.
July 8, 2020: EMILY’s List posted a statement titled: “EMILY’s List Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Trump V. Pennsylvania”. From the statement:
Today, Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, released the following statement on the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. Pennsylvania, which weakens the “contraceptive mandate” of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Trump-Pence rule is an assault on reproductive freedom for all women, and it disproportionately targets low-income women and women of color. The ruling will allow employers and universities to dismantle no-cost birth control coverage, denying their employers vital health care during the height of a global pandemic. This decision greenlights discrimination in our health care system, but despite today’s ruling, the ability to get birth control should be a universal right, not a privilege. At EMILY’s List, we are proud to stand with the majority of Americans who support reproductive freedom and help elect women who will support those rights.”
July 8, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a press release titled: “Supreme Court Gives Green Light for Employers to Deny Birth Control Coverage to Employees”. From the press release:
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the Trump-Pence rules allowing nearly any employer and university to deny birth control coverage to their employees and students. The Court held that the Trump-Pence administration had the authority to issue these harmful contraceptive coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This decision leaves the rules in place, putting contraceptive coverage at risk for hundreds of thousands of people, especially low-income workers and students, people of color and LGBTQ people.
Said Lourdes Rivera, Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Contraception should not be singled out from the rest of health insurance coverage. Today’s ruling has given bosses the power to dictate how their employees can and cannot use their health insurance—allowing them to intrude into their employees’ private decisions based on whatever personal beliefs their employers happen to hold.
“Refusing women the health care they are guaranteed by law is an act of discrimination. This fundamentally wrong-headed ruling is a critical misinterpretation of the Affordable Care Act and what Congress intended. We now look to Congress to act swiftly to ensure that only workers and students, not their bosses or universities, have the authority to decide what health care choices are appropriate for them and their families. Congress should take action to ensure the Administration is prevented from enforcing these discriminatory rules.”
This is the third time the high court has addressed the issue of the ACA’s contraceptive coverage benefit. The no-cost birth control guarantee remained intact for most people in the U.S. until 2017, when the Trump Administration introduced new rules that would expand the exemption so broadly that it could render the birth control guarantee meaningless for hundreds of thousands of people. Under the rules, any entity of any size, whether non-profit or for-profit, could deny birth control coverage for its workers or students as long as it claimed to have religious or in many cases even moral objections.
Earlier this year, the Center for Reproductive Rights joined 20 other organizations, led by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, in filing a “friend of the court” brief in the case, telling the Supreme Court, “Through the rulemaking challenged here, the government has sought to…[establish] religious and moral exemptions that effectively nullify the contraceptive-coverage requirement’s protections for hundreds of thousands of women…”. The amicus brief filed by religious and civil-rights organizations, including the Center, notes, “The rights to believe and practice one’s faith, or not, are sacrosanct. But they do not extend to imposing on others by operation of law the costs and burdens of one’s beliefs. Government should not, and under the Establishment Clause cannot, favor the religious beliefs of some at the expense of the rights, beliefs, and health of others.”
July 8, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a statment titled: “ACOG Statement on Contraceptive Coverage Under the ACA”. From the article:
The following is a statement from Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, chief executive officer of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, regarding today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision about contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act:
“Contraception is an integral part of comprehensive health care. Insurance coverage of birth control is essential for patients to be able to access this needed preventive service. ACOG is still reviewing the Supreme Court’s decision, but it is clear that once again the health of our patients has been subject to regulatory and legal scrutiny that is not medically or scientifically grounded.
“Evidence has repeatedly shown that the freedom to choose if and when to become pregnant can improve health outcomes and quality of life for patients, their families, and their communities. In addition, the Affordable Care Act’s birth control provisions have provided our patients with the ability to control their own reproductive health. These gains are now in jeopardy after today’s ruling.
“Denying our patients unimpeded, affordable access to the care they need, including all safe and effective methods of contraception, will exacerbate health inequities in the United States.”
ACOG’s amicus brief can be found here.
July 8, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release on her official website titled: “Pelosi Statement on Supreme Court Ruling on ACA Contraceptive Coverage Case”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to weaken the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive-coverage requirement by allowing private employers to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage for their employees:
“The Supreme Court’s decision to enable the Trump Administration’s brutal assault on women’s health, financial security and independence is a fundamental misreading of the statute. The Affordable Care Act was explicitly designed to prevent discrimination against women and to ensure that women have access to preventive care, including contraception.
“It is unconscionable that, in the middle of the worst global pandemic in modern history, the Administration is focusing on denying basic health care to women that is essential for their health and financial security, instead of protecting lives and livelihoods.
“The Democratic House will continue to fight to uphold and strengthen the ACA and just last week, passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act to further lower health care costs and strengthen coverage. Access to affordable health care is a matter of life-or-death, and Democrats will never stop fighting For The People at this devastating time.”
July 8, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris Statement on Supreme Court Decision Restricting Access to Birth Control”. From the press release:
U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday released the following statement in response to the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case that considered the Trump administration’s rules that would allow virtually any employer or university to declare itself exempt from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that health plans cover birth control without out-of-pocket costs:
“Today’s ruling is a setback for reproductive health. As our country continues to face an unprecedented public health crisis, we should be building upon the success of the ACA and expanding access to affordable health care for everyone in America. Instead, the Trump administration has relentlessly attempted to rip health care away from millions of people across the country, including the 61.4 million people whose contraception has been covered without out-of-pocket costs thanks to the ACA.
“For scores of workers, the Court ruled that whether their health insurance covers birth control is up to their boss. This decision is dangerous, particularly for people of color, low-wage workers, and LGBTQ+ people who are more likely to face financial and other barriers to care. Now, more than ever, Congress must take action to protect and expand access to contraception and other reproductive health care.”
July 8, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Responds to Supreme Court’s Reckless Decision to Green Light Trump’s Attacks on Birth Control Access”. From the press release:
The U.S. Supreme Court today issued its decision in Trump v. Pennsylvania, allowing the Trump administration to implement its rule allowing virtually any employer or university to declare itself exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s landmark requirement that health insurers cover birth control without co-pays. In response, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement:
“The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Trump administration to put control over people’s birth control in the hands of the whims of their bosses and employers is deplorable. This decision just further exposes that ultimately, the Radical Right is really about controlling women and our lives with no eye towards equality or public health and well being.
It’s clear that our reproductive freedom is in immediate peril. That’s why we’re more determined than ever to make sure Trump is a one-term president come November and to hold to account all of the politicians who have greenlit his agenda by voting to confirm his nominees to the Court.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in the birth control case comes just after its narrow decision in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo striking down a medically unnecessary clinic shutdown law in Louisiana as unconstitutional. The law threatened to decimate abortion access in Louisiana, where access is already extremely restricted. The clinic shutdown law at issue in the case was identical to one blocked in another case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, decided by the Supreme Court in 2016 before Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch joined the Court. Though the Court’s ruling in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo will allow people in Louisiana to maintain access to abortion care through the three clinics in the state, what we really won was the chance to fight another day—and the Court’s anti-choice, anti-freedom majority means our reproductive freedom is still on the line.
The threat to reproductive freedom presented by both of these Supreme Court cases is part of a coordinated effort by the anti-choice movement and the Radical Right to attack our fundamental rights in order to advance their unpopular ideological agenda and gain power and control. Leading voices in the anti-choice movement oppose birth control and have repeatedly pushed disinformation about it in order to restrict access to it, even though the public overwhelmingly supports access to contraception. Most voters (75%) consider birth control part of preventive care for women and 77% of women voters want to keep the Affordable Care Act (ACA) birth control benefit.
As the Trump administration and anti-choice politicians across the country target reproductive rights in their quest to maintain white patriarchy and control women, NARAL has embarked on its multi-faceted, largest-ever electoral program for the 2020 election. Key to NARAL’s strategy is reaching, persuading, and mobilizing key voter segments including soft-partisan persuadable women voters, and low-propensity, pro-choice voters who are motivated by Trump and Republicans’ commitment to ending Roe v. Wade, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women. These critical voting blocs value reproductive freedom and align with the 77% of Americans who support Roe v. Wade.
Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have waged a sustained war on the ACA, including its landmark birth control benefit requiring that contraception be covered without copays. When Republicans fought to repeal the ACA in 2017, NARAL and its members mobilized to let members of Congress know we wouldn’t stand by and allow them to jeopardize the healthcare coverage of millions of Americans. Our members made thousands of phone calls and sent 50,000 messages to Congress opposing the repeal efforts, ultimately helping to stop these dangerous efforts in their tracks.
July 8, 2020: The Texas Tribune posted an article titled: “Texas is going to end Obamacare. It hasn’t produced a plan to replace it.” It was written by Emma Platoff and Edgar Walters. From the article:
Last year, after a federal judge in Texas declared the entirety of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, throwing into question millions of Americans’ health coverage, the state’s Republican leaders promised they would come up with a plan to replace it.
But on Tuesday, after a legislative session that seemed to have no room for issues other than property tax reform and school finance, Texas will ask a federal appeals court in New Orleans to end the law in its entirety — without offering a replacement plan.
The conservative crusade against portions of the act, known as Obamacare, has spanned a decade. But Texas’ latest lawsuit, filed in February 2018, became an existential threat to the law after U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in December that it is unconstitutional in its entirety. At stake: the subsidized health coverage of roughly 1 million Texans, sweeping protections for patients with preexisting conditions, young adults staying on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26 and a host of low-cost benefits available to all people with health insurance, including those covered through their employers.
Texas already has the highest uninsured rate in the nation.
In a highly unusual — if not entirely surprising — move, the U.S. Department of Justice has declined to defend the federal law, leaving a California-led coalition of blue states to protect it. As the case proceeds, Obamacare has remained in place, and likely will until the litigation is finally resolved.
Attorneys for the state of Texas argue the health law cannot stand since the Republican-led Congress in 2017 zeroed out Obamacare’s individual mandate — a penalty imposed on people who chose to remain uninsured. Democrats had favored the penalty as a way to induce more people to purchase health insurance, with the goal of reaching near-universal coverage. Without it, Texas argues, the whole law must fall.
But the state’s Republican leaders have offered few ideas about what should replace Obamacare, a law that touches practically every aspect of health care regulations and includes several popular protections for patients. Gov. Greg Abbott — a vocal critic of the law — pledged in December that if the law remained struck down on appeal, “Texas will be ready with replacement health care insurance that includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.”
Since then, he’s been quiet on the issue, including during this year’s 140-day Texas legislative session. Abbott did not respond to questions for this story.
A three-judge panel on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the case Tuesday afternoon and then rule in the coming weeks on whether the law should stand.
One bill that did emerge from the legislative session would allow the Texas Department of Insurance to reestablish a high-risk health insurance pool for individuals with severe health problems. That pool, an expensive option for sick patients that was phased out under Obamacare, only insured about 28,000 people at its peak, experts said — a tiny fraction of the Texans poised to lose coverage if Obamacare is struck down…
…It would be up to the governor to call a special legislative session to pass a more robust plan. If he does not, the Legislature next meets in January 2021.
Reestablishing the high-risk pool in the absence of Obamacare would be like applying “a tiny Band-Aid” to a gaping wound, said Stacey Pogue, a health policy expert with the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities…
…Total abolition of the law is one possible outcome from this week’s litigation. But legal experts across the ideological spectrum agree that Texas has a high bar to clear before Obamacare would be struck down.
For the lawsuit to proceed at all, both sides will have to convince a three-judge panel that they have standing to sue. That’s not a given; the court recently asked for additional information on that issue…
July 9, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “House Appropriations Committee Affirms and Protects Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Around the World”. From the press release:
Today, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations passed a budget bill that increases funding and protections for reproductive health and rights across the globe. The FY 2021 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill would increase U.S. funding for international family planning programs, restore and increase assistance to the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), and fully repeal the expanded and harmful global gag rule.
Opponents of reproductive health offered an amendment to try and strip these important provisions from the bill, which was soundly rejected along party lines 29-21. Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), Brenda Lawerence (D-MI-14), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-14), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12) offered powerful remarks about the urgent need to repeal the global gag rule, restore our partnership with UNFPA, and expand access to family planning globally.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“As the administration doubles down on efforts to withhold funding from UNFPA and expand the global gag rule, Chairwoman Lowey and other health care champions in the House offer a welcome alternative vision of what U.S. leadership and engagement on sexual and reproductive health could look like. This bill would end the global gag rule once and for all and invest in UNFPA and other family planning partners, expanding access to life-saving services and sending a resounding message that reproductive health services are essential. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged health systems around the world, we need policies like these that help build and strengthen health care access instead of undermining it.”
The SFOPs bill includes:
- $750 million for family planning — an increase of $175 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $513 million above the president’s budget request.
- $55.5 million for the United Nations Population Fund — an increase of $23 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $55.5 million above the president’s budget request.
- The Global HER Act, which would permanently repeal the global gag rule and it also includes a prohibition on current and prior funds from being used to implement the Mexico City Policy.
- Other smaller, but meaningful policy changes to ensure family planning is treated the same as other global health programs when it comes to aid exemptions and the use of the HIV/AIDS Working Capital Fund to effectively purchase family planning products.
The bill continues to reiterate additional abortion restrictions for foreign assistance, which we hope to see repealed in the future to remove barriers to legal abortion for people around the world.
July 10, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Breaking: Court Blocks Trump Administration Rule That Threatened Insurance Coverage for Abortion”. From the press release:
In a major victory for abortion access, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland today blocked a Trump administration rule designed to make insurance companies stop offering coverage for abortion.
This ruling comes after Planned Parenthood of Maryland, Inc., and several individual consumers, on behalf of a nationwide class, filed a lawsuit in February challenging the rule.
In December 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new rule that, if implemented, would have forced insurance companies that sell plans in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual marketplaces to send two separate bills to customers – one for the coverage of abortion, and another for coverage of other health care. Insurers would have had to instruct their customers to pay the bills using two checks, two money orders, or two electronic transactions every month.
The court found today that this separate-billing requirement creates an unreasonable barrier for patients seeking medical care and is at odds with the ACA. It also held that the rule was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. It explained that the rule did nothing to “ensur[e] government funds are not spent on unauthorized purposes,” and that the rule ignored the ACA’s purpose to “increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care.”
Had the rule been implemented, more than 3 million consumers would have been affected by the rule’s onerous restrictions, including the individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit from Maryland, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and Maine. The rule would also have affected one-third of the individual-market exchange plans nationwide, including every individual plan offered on the marketplace in Maryland.
“Abortion opponents are waging everything they’ve got as part of their massive war on our access to health care,” said Karen Nelson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Maryland, Inc. “The attacks and deceptions continue, but here’s the truth: abortion care is health care, and it should not be separated, ‘carved out,’ or treated differently from any other medical service. We will always fight to eliminate barriers and protect access to safe, legal abortion and we will continue to provide people with the health care they need.”
“Today is a huge victory for the people who need and deserve access to safe, legal abortion,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Abortion is essential health care, and this rule was an obvious attempt by the Trump administration to put it out of reach for millions of people in the country. Planned Parenthood Federation of America was proud to stand with Planned Parenthood of Maryland, the ACLU and these brave consumers to fight back against this harmful rule. As always, we will never stop fighting for our patients, or for the right of all people to access sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, without shame or needless hurdles.”…
…As the administration acknowledged in finalizing the rule, the extensive administrative burdens would have led to higher premiums for consumers and would have caused some insurers to drop insruance coverage for abortion altogether. As the administration also acknowledged, confusion about these new requirements would have caused some people to miss payments and risk losing their health insurance coverage entirely. A fact sheet on the impact of the rule can be found here….
July 10, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a statement titled: “STATEMENT: Center for Reproductive Rights Condems the United States’ Withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO)”. From the statement:
Statement of Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO):
“The Center for Reproductive Rights condemns the Trump administration’s unjustified and harmful withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). The United States’ termination of its relationship with WHO will exacerbate the devastating impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, further disrupting and restricting essential sexual and reproductive health services precisely at the time when they are needed the most. It is undermining of global efforts to respond to the pandemic, with real harm to those who are already at risk, and especially marginalized populations, threatening their rights to life, health, and gender equality in fundamental ways.
“WHO provides important human rights-based guidance for reproductive healthcare, which can be life-saving. This guidance is relied upon by governments and health care institutions across the globe, including in the United States, to develop and implement policies and practices that are central to ensuring women’s health and guaranteeing their human rights.
“WHO has issued critical guidance during the pandemic on caring for pregnant women, infants, and mothers with COVID-19, as well as information on intrapartum care and breastfeeding, and on access to abortion and contraception during the COVID-19 response. Years of evidence and direct experience have clearly demonstrated the acute need for sexual and reproductive health services in times of crisis and conflict.
“The United States’ withdrawal of support for WHO will harm us all at this time, when the need has never been greater for a coordinated global response to a global pandemic.”
July 13, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Federal Court Blocks Medically Unnecessary Barriers to Abortion During COVID-19”. From the press release:
Today, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administation (FDA) must temporarily suspend enforcement of the in-person requirements on the medication mifepristone, which unnecessarily subject patients to COVID-19 risks in order to access abortion during the pandemic. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the American College of Obstetricions and Gynecologists. (ACOG), SisterSong WOmen of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and other leading medical organizations and reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates.
The Court issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking part of the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) restrictions on mifepristone when it is used for medication abortion, yet failed to suspend the restrictions when the medication is used for managing an early miscarriage. The temporary easing of the in-person requirements allow mifepristone to be mailed from the health center to the patient where state law permits. The injunction will last for the duration of the litigation, or until the Trump administration end the federal public emergency declaration…
…Mifepristone is safe, effective, and has been used by more than four million people since the FDA approved it twenty years ago. Leading medical associations have maintained that the FDA’s REMS restrictions on the distribution of mifepristone are not based on evidence and do not benefit patients. Research has repeatedly shown that mifepristone is safe and effective when prescribed through telehealth and self-administered at home.
July 13, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a statement titled: “ACOG Statement on Court’s Order Lifting Burdensome FDA Restriction”. From the statement:
The following is a statement from Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, on today’s decision from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland:
Today’s ruling represents a victory for patients, who should not have to face the additional burden of increased COVID-19 exposure as a condition of receiving their prescribed mifepristone. It also represents a victory for the dedicated clinicians who are working to provide needed care without unnecessary exposure of patients, their families and the members of the healthcare team, to the novel coronavirus.
“ACOG undertook this legal challenge because we believe strongly in our position, which is founded on clear science and the consensus of the medical community. Mifepristone is a safe medication and FDA’s in-person dispensing requirements provide no medical benefit to patients. There is no basis for FDA’s decision to treat mifepristone differently than other medications. During the COVID-19 pandemic – which is likely to impact the U.S. for many months to come – requiring in-person dispensing of mifepristone needlessly threatens both patients and clinicians, and we are relieved to see that our members and their patients will no longer face this additional burden when it comes to abortion care.
“Nonetheless, we are disappointed that the injunction issued by the Court does not apply to women experiencing miscarriage and the clinicians treating them, putting these individuals at risk for needless COVID-19 exposure and increased potential harm during what is already a painful time for these patients. This decision particularly adversely affects women in states with rising rates of COVID-19 infection with resulting limitation of access to surgical procedures, which may be required to complete the miscarriage in the absence of access to mifepristone. As always, ACOG feels strongly that access to women’s health care should not be singled out and burdened with regulation that renders patient care less accessible or, in this case, potentially dangerous, and we will continue our advocacy to seek removal of these restrictions during the pandemic.
“The FDA’s burdensome in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone has had a disproportionate effect on communities hit hardest by the pandemic, including communities of color who already face existing inequities and structural barriers to care. Suspending the REMS requirement for mifepristone for early pregnancy termination represents a necessary step forward in our collective work toward health equity during this unprecedented time of pandemic.”
July 13, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted an article titled: “BREAKING: Tennessee Abortion Ban Blocked by Federal Court Minutes After Being Signed into Law”. From the press release:
Today, a federal district court in Tennessee issued a temporary restraining order, blocking a law signed by Gov. Bill Lee earlier today that bans abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy and for reasons related to race, gender, or fetal diagnosis. The emergency restraining order was granted at the request of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Tennessee; they filed a lawsuit to block the law immediately after it passed the state legislature on June 19. The ban was in effect for less than an hour today before being blocked by the court.
Part of the law blocked today prohibits patients from obtaining an abortion based on their reason for seeking the procedure, including the potential for a Down syndrome diagnosis or the sex or race of the fetus. These “reason bans” inflict harm by peddling stigma around abortions and stereotypes of Black and Brown communities, Asian Americans, and people with disabilities. Abortion patients – like all patients – should have the right to make private medical decisions with their families and their doctors, without interference from politicians.
The restraining order comes just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law in June Medical Services v. Russo, which would have devastated abortion access in that state and could have affected abortion across the country.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Today’s ruling ensures that for now, people in Tennessee can continue accessing safe, legal abortion in their home state. But while we can enjoy a moment of relief today, we can’t forget that legislators passed this dangerous abortion ban in the dead of night without public input. While the country rises up against racism, it’s important to recognize that these laws are inherently discriminatory. Abortion bans are part of a larger public health care system that targets people of color through barriers to care, and systematically erases their freedoms and bodily autonomy. Enough is enough. Banning abortion is illegal, full stop. Planned Parenthood won’t back down in the face of any attacks on our rights and freedoms. Not today, not ever.”
Statement from Ashley Coffield, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Tennessee and Mississippi:
“This is a victory for patients in Tennessee, but the fight is far from over. This sweeping abortion ban is part of a multi-layered effort to target people who already face systemic barriers to care because of racist and discriminatory policies. If the law sounds familiar, its because Gov. Lee already tried banning abortion earlier this year using fear around the pandemic as an excuse to carry out his dangerous political agenda. As we continue to fight for all of our patients, we’re glad that today’s ruling will allow Tennesseans to continue to seek the health care they choose in their home state…
July 13, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Federal Court Strikes Down Georgia’s 2019 Abortion Ban”. From the press release:
A federal court permanently struck down Georgia’s 2019 six-week abortion ban in SisterSong v. Kemp. It is the second federal ruling today blocking a state abortion ban, coming just hours after a Tennessee ban was blocked.
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Georgia, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America in June 2019, after Georgia was one of nine states last year to pass six-week abortion bans, banning abortion from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, before many even know they are pregnant. In October 2019, the federal district court issued a preliminary injunction blocking the ban from taking effect.
The bill, which passed by two votes, sparked widespread opposition from business leaders, the film and entertainment industry, and activists across all parts of Georgia. Nearly 200 Georgia business leaders spoke out publicly against the ban. The $9 billion Georgia film and entertainment industry published letters, threatening to stop working in Atlanta if the ban was enacted.
The law was in clear violation of Roe v. Wade and nearly a half century of Supreme Court precedent. Every ban passed in 2019 remains blocked, despite continued attacks – including efforts from several states across the South and Midwest to restrict access to abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, abortion is still legal in all 50 states; though politically motivated, medically unnecessary restrictions still make access a challenge for too many.
Statement by Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Georgia politicians and Governor Kemp, our message to you is clear: Banning abortion is illegal and unconstitutional. Not only that, the reality is that abortion bans are another barrier in a health care infrastructure built on systemic racism, putting basic rights out of reach for Black and Brown Georgians and pushing their freedoms out of reach. While today is a victory for Georgia patients, we are committed to fighting back against all policies – overt or subtle, that make access to basic health care dependent on who you are or where you live.”
Statement by Staci Fox, president and CEO Planned Parenthood Southeast:
“We said it from the start: Abortion bans like Georgia’s are blatantly unconstitutional, and the courts reaffirmed that fact today. While people across this state and around the country are literally dying from COVID-19 and systemic racism, our leaders should be focused on expanding access to health care – not restricting it. We celebrate this victory, but we know the fight is far from over. We will not back down until access to health care – including safe, legal abortion – is recognized as a basic human right.”…
July 13, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Condemns Tennessee Abortion Ban that Effectively Bans All Abortion in the State”. From the press release:
Today anti-choice, anti-freedom Governor Bill Lee signed into law a cruel and sweeping measure (SB 2196/HB 2263) that effectively outlaws abortion in the state of Tennessee.
In addition to banning abortion before many people even know they’re pregnant, the law includes an exhaustive list of provisions meant to chip away at and ultimately end the right to abortion. The ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have filed litigation and abortion bans found in the new law have already been temporarily blocked in federal court.
Among the law’s provisions are bans on abortion at almost every stage of pregnancy; a forced ultrasound mandate; a ban that requires interrogating women about why they’re ending a pregnancy; and criminalizing doctors who provide abortion care. The law carries no exceptions for rape or incest.
The timing of the legislation serves as a stunning display of Lee’s misplaced priorities — and his commitment to an extreme ideological agenda — in the midst of a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases that may force the state’s largest county to roll back reopening efforts. Lee’s signing of the bill follows anti-choice politicians’ efforts to ram this legislation through overnight on the eve of Juneteenth.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue release the following statement in response:
“Anti-choice, anti-freedom lawmakers in Tennessee’s state legislature pushed a bill effectively banning abortion under the cover of darkness, while the entire country grapples with an unprecedented pandemic and overdue uprising against entrenched white supremacy. And now, Governor Lee is joining these extremist lawmakers in ignoring the cries of constituents in order to prioritize banning the right to access abortion. In a time of crisis, they remained laser-focused on removing the right of Tennesseans to make decisions about their own health, lives, and families.
The hypocrisy and cruelty could not be more clear. But it’s not surprising: Governor Lee and his fellow anti-choice extremists have proven time and again that they’re more than willing to trade our fundamental freedoms in furtherance of their out-of-touch ideological agenda. NARAL’s members in Tennessee will never stop fighting to protect these freedoms. NARAL stands in solidarity with the litigating organizations fighting this legislation in the courtroom and will continue to work to expose the true agenda of the anti-choice movement, whose priorities stand in stark contrast with the values of the 77% of Americans who support the legal right to abortion.”
NARAL recently released a new report, “Accurate and Unbiased? A deep dive into how the media covers abortion in the US,” conducted by Global Strategy Group, that includes key findings on how major US news outlets cover abortion and illuminates best practices when covering abortion (such as avoiding using medically inaccurate or inflammatory language such as “heartbeat” bill without context or explanation.)
Anti-choice, anti-freedom politicians who introduced this legislation specifically said their goal was to give the state “multiple shots” at ending Roe v. Wade. Their objectives are clear: control women and restrict their freedom to make their own decisions about pregnancy, effectively outlawing abortion and threatening doctors who provide abortion care with criminal punishment.
Tennessee legislators jammed through this extreme bill late at night in June, with the hastily-scheduled vote taking place after midnight. Anti-choice lawmakers in the state have a track record of going out of their way to attack reproductive freedom — last summer they called a special hearing on a bill that would ban abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Reproductive freedom is under attack in the United States like never before. While the recent Supreme Court decision in the June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo case was a reprieve for now, the threats to reproductive freedom loom large. Anti-choice extremists have shown time and again that they will stop at nothing to advance their dangerous ideological agenda, and in the June v. Russo ruling, Roberts has made it clear that the Court is still looking for ways to help them get their way.
The anti-choice movement has spent decades working overtime to decimate access to abortion, state by state, law by law. Since 2011, anti-choice politicians have pushed nearly 450 laws restricting reproductive freedom through state legislatures, despite the fact that American public overwhelmingly believes decisions about pregnancy should be made by women rather than politicians — including 94% of Democrats, 79% of Independents, and 59% of Republicans.
July 14, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Durbin Lead 33 Senators Demanding Administration Comply With Supreme Court Decision on DACA”. From the press release:
U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), member of the United States Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee and author of the Dream Act, on Tuesday led a letter from 33 Senators to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf calling on the Trump Administration to immediately comply with the Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the Administration’s rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and requiring the Administration to reopen DACA for new applicants.
The Supreme Court announced its decision on June 18, with Chief Justice John Roberts calling the Administration’s effort to repeal deportation protections for Dreamers—young immigrants who came to the United States as children—“arbitrary and capricious.” Yesterday, 25 days after the Court’s decision, was the deadline for the Administration to file a petition for rehearing.
“There is no indication that your agency has taken any steps to fully reinstate DACA protections, as the Court’s decision unequivocally requires,” the senators wrote. “We have not located a single statement by you or any other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official notifying the public that your agency is complying with the Supreme Court’s decision. To the contrary, on June 19, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its website to falsely claim that the Supreme Court’s decision has ‘no basis in law’ and attack DACA recipients.”
They continued, “Congress and the American people have not received any information regarding your agency’s compliance with the Court’s holding. It is unclear what steps, if any, USCIS has taken to implement the Supreme Court decision, including receiving and processing initial DACA applications, DACA renewal applications, and requests for advance parole as well as publication of information regarding DACA for new applicants and current recipients.”
“The Roberts decision requires your immediate compliance. We await your prompt assurance that you will respect the Court’s decision and reopen DACA for all eligible applicants,” the senators concluded.
More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA. Dreamers have contributed to our country as soldiers, nurses, teachers, and small business owners. Even as their own fates remained uncertain due to the Trump Administration’s rescission of DACA, more than 200,000 DACA recipients have served as essential workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by teaching children; growing, packaging, cooking, and shipping food; stocking the shelves at grocery stores; and providing healthcare services to those who fall sick.
The letter was also signed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
Full text of the letter is available HERE
July 14, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Pressley, Warren, Question Trump Administration’s Failure to Follow the Law and Publicly Release Plans to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care”. From the press release:
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking for HHS’s report on the Administration’s efforts to address racial disparities in health care access and outcomes, as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The lawmakers requested answers on why the Trump Administration has failed to provide Congress and the public with this legally required information. In the letter, the lawmakers highlighted the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and the need to address systemic racism and racial disparities in health care to mitigate and control the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The unjust reality that Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities have been disproportionately infected and killed by COVID-19 underscores that racism, discrimination, and bias are public health problems that the federal government must prioritize,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Department of Health and Human Services is required by law to report biannually to Congress on its progress to address health disparities, but these reports appear to have stopped under the Trump Administration. Without successfully addressing these racial disparities in health outcomes and health care access, we will not be able to mitigate and fully control the COVID-19 pandemic. You have, to date, failed to do so, with tragic consequences.”
In 2010, Congress recognized racial disparities as an urgent health crisis and as part of the ACA, elevated the HHS Office of Minority Health to “lead and coordinate activities that improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations and reduce health disparities.” The ACA also required the Office of Minority Health to report to Congress on its activities every two years. However, the Trump Administration has not publicly produced reports as mandated by Congress for 2017 and 2019.
Recent data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color. The data reveals that Black and Latinx individuals are at higher risk of contracting the virus because of systemic injustices that create in disparities in chronic health conditions and impede access to quality health care.
The lawmakers asked HHS to respond to their inquiry by no later than July 28, 2020.
The letter is part of the lawmakers’ efforts to press the Trump Administration to respond effectively to this crisis and address existing racial disparities in the United States. Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Warren have introduced bicameral legislation to require the federal government to collect and report coronavirus demographic data–including race and ethnicity. In March, the lawmakers urged HHS to collect racial and ethnic demographic data on testing and treatment for COVID-19 to identify and address racial disparities. The lawmakers also sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calling on the agency to immediately release racial and ethnic data of Medicare beneficiaries who are tested or hospitalized for COVID-19.
July 15, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a news release titled: “Women’s Health Organizations Urge Continued U.S. Leadership in WHO”. From the news release:
The following is a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), joined by AAGL, the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOOG), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the American Urogynecologic Society (AUGS), the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics and Gynecology (CUCOG), the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (NASPAG), the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), the Society of Family Planning (SFP), and the Society for Maternal–Fetal Medicine (SMFM):
“The recent actions of the administration to withdraw from the WHO require adamant opposition from leaders and health care professionals worldwide. We are in the midst of a historic global health crisis, and now is not the time for the United States to relinquish our role as a steadfast leader in global health by terminating our partnership with this essential organization.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only crisis facing the world, or the United States. The WHO works to eliminate gender-based disparities that leave women around the world subject to disproportionate illness, violence, and suffering. Our country’s participation as a member state in the WHO can help maintain advances in the efforts to improve lives of women around the world.
“We strongly urge the administration to rescind the effort to terminate the United States’ relationship with the WHO and to work to reestablish the United States’ constructive participation by in the effort to find worldwide solutions to the grave global health problems of our times.”
July 15, 2020: Senator Cory Booker (Democrat – New Jersey) posted a press release titled: “Booker, Menendez Urge DHS to Comply with Supreme Court Decision on DACA”. From the press release:
U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-N.J.) joined a group of colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to immediately comply with the Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the Administration’s rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and requiring the Administration to reopen DACA for new applicants. The Supreme Court announced its decision on June 18, with Chief Justice John Roberts calling the Administration’s effort to repeal deportation protections for Dreamers—young immigrants who came to the United States as children—“arbitrary and capricious.” Almost a month after the Court’s decision the Trump Administration has not reinstated DACA protections.
“There is no indication that your agency has taken any steps to fully reinstate DACA protections, as the Court’s decision unequivocally requires,” the Senators wrote to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. “We have not located a single statement by you or any other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official notifying the public that your agency is complying with the Supreme Court’s decision. To the contrary, on June 19, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its website to falsely claim that the Supreme Court’s decision has ‘no basis in law’ and attack DACA recipients.”
“Congress and the American people have not received any information regarding your agency’s compliance with the Court’s holding. It is unclear what steps, if any, USCIS has taken to implement the Supreme Court decision, including receiving and processing initial DACA applications, DACA renewal applications, and requests for advance parole as well as publication of information regarding DACA for new applicants and current recipients,” the senators added. “The Roberts decision requires your immediate compliance. We await your prompt assurance that you will respect the Court’s decision and reopen DACA for all eligible applicants.”
More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA. Dreamers have contributed to our country as soldiers, nurses, teachers, and small business owners. Even as their own fates remained uncertain due to the Trump Administration’s rescission of DACA, more than 200,000 DACA recipients have served as essential workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by teaching children; growing, packaging, cooking, and shipping food; stocking the shelves at grocery stores; and providing healthcare services to those who fall sick.
As New Jersey battled the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the nation earlier this year, 5,000 DACA recipients in the state were working in health care, education, and food-related occupations.
The letter was also signed by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Penn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).
A full copy of the letter can be found … below.
Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:
We call on you to immediately comply with the Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the Trump Administration’s rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and requiring the Administration to reopen DACA for new applicants.
On June 18, in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court held that the Administration’s effort to repeal deportation protections for Dreamers, young immigrants who came to the United States as children, was “arbitrary and capricious.” Yesterday, 25 days after the Court’s decision, was the deadline for the Administration to file a petition for rehearing. And last Friday, President Trump said, “I’m going to do a big executive order. I have the power to do it as president and I’m going to make DACA a part of it.”
However, there is no indication that your agency has taken any steps to fully reinstate DACA protections, as the Court’s decision unequivocally requires. We have not located a single statement by you or any other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official notifying the public that your agency is complying with the Supreme Court’s decision. To the contrary, on June 19, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its website to falsely claim that the Supreme Court’s decision has “no basis in law” and attack DACA recipients. As of today, the USCIS webpage titled “Consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)” appears to have last been updated on February 14, 2018, and the USCIS “Frequently Asked Questions” page regarding DACA appears to have last been updated on March 8, 2018.
Your agency has had ample opportunity to prepare for the recent Supreme Court decision. On March 4, 2020, at a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) hearing, you committed to provide Congress with your agency’s plans in preparation for the Supreme Court decision. On March 20, 2020, 36 Senators and 87 Representatives sent you a letter requesting those plans.
However, to date, Congress and the American people have not received any information regarding your agency’s compliance with the Court’s holding. It is unclear what steps, if any, USCIS has taken to implement the Supreme Court decision, including receiving and processing initial DACA applications, DACA renewal applications, and requests for advance parole as well as publication of information regarding DACA for new applicants and current recipients.
The stakes are high. More than 800,000 Dreamers have come forward and received DACA. DACA has allowed Dreamers to contribute to our country as soldiers, nurses, teachers, and small business owners. Even as their own fates remained uncertain due to the Trump Administration’s rescission of DACA, over 200,000 DACA recipients have served as essential workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by teaching children; growing, packaging, cooking, and shipping food; stocking the shelves at grocery stores; and providing healthcare services to those who fall sick.
Since the Trump Administration rescinded DACA on September 5, 2017, USCIS has not accepted initial DACA applications from Dreamers who are eligible for DACA but have never received this protection. For example, children who have turned 15, the youngest age at which someone can receive DACA, have been blocked from applying since the DACA rescission. The Center for American Progress estimates that approximately 300,000 Dreamers who have never received DACA are now eligible to apply for the program, including 55,500 young people who have turned 15 since September 5, 2017.
Now that 25 days have passed, the Roberts decision requires your immediate compliance. We await your prompt assurance that you will respect the Court’s decision and reopen DACA for all eligible applicants.
July 15, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Amicus Brief in District Court LGBTQ Health Care Discrimination Case”.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the House of Representatives filed an amicus brief in the case of Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS in the District of Columbia, opposing the Trump Administration’s rule undermining the Affordable Care Act’s protections for LGBTQ patients:
“The Affordable Care Act is a pillar of health and financial security for millions of Americans, designed to ensure that all Americans, regardless of who you are or whom you love, can access the quality, affordable health care they and their families need. In the midst of the unprecedented coronavirus crisis, this landmark law is more vital than ever. Yet, President Trump and Republicans continue their relentless campaign to eliminate Americans’ health care, fan the flames of hatred and division and undermine the rule of law.
“Despite last month’s Supreme Court decision unequivocally affirming that discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’ applied to sexual orientation and gender identity, the Administration blatantly ignored the law to continue advancing its shameful, politically-motivated assault on the LGBTQ community. The Administration’s rule is a gross violation of the rights of LGBTQ Americans and fails to honor the Administration’s responsibility to faithfully execute the law. LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender Americans, have suffered a long history of fear and inequality in accessing health care, leaving them and their families open to discrimination and potentially dangerous health risks. Bigotry is not a permissible excuse to prohibit any American from accessing the health care that is their right.
“House Democrats remain committed to upholding the rights and dignity of all Americans and will continue to oppose the Administration’s outrageous efforts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and its life-saving protections. In the courts and in Congress, we will never stop fighting to ensure that health care remains a right, not a privilege for all.”
July 16, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a statement titled: “STATEMENT: Trump Administration Releases Draft Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights”. From the statement:
Statement from Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today, the Trump Administration rolled out a draft report by the Commission on Unalienable Rights, seeking once again to erase reproductive rights from the global discourse. Rather than reaffirming our nation’s commitment to advancing the full spectrum of human rights protections, including reproductive rights, the Commission’s report reveals how the Administration plans to pick and choose which rights the United States will recognize and prioritize, and which it will abandon.
“Contrary to well-established human rights principles, the report suggests that abortion is a ‘contestable political preference’ and not a basic right, and ominously warns against any so-called ‘prodigious expansion of human rights.’
“This report is yet another attempt by this Administration to roll back human rights protections for women, LGBTQI people, and other vulnerable, marginalized communities in the U.S. and around the world by manufacturing confusion and stoking controversy, while simultaneously and hypocritically claiming the mantle of global exemplar.”
July 16, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Reps. Pressley, Garcia Introduce Lead Abatement for Families Act to Remove Lead Pipes from Public and Subsidized Housing”. From the press release:
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) introduced the Lead Abatement for Families Act, a bill to require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to identify and remove lead pipes in public and subsidized housing and provide grants to public housing authorities and property owners to remove them.
As many as ten million homes in the U.S. get their water from lead pipes, and residents of federally assisted housing are disproportionately impacted. Lead poisoning is especially serious for children: A 2015 study determined that by the third grade, children in Chicago with even small amounts of lead in their blood were more than 32% more likely to fail standardized tests.
“We must center racial and economic justice in all of our policymaking, and housing is no exception,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “For far too long, our government has allowed families living in public and federally-assisted housing to be exposed to lead poisoning—resulting in disproportionately worse health, economic and educational outcomes for Black, brown, and low-income communities. This legislation would correct these historic injustices and ensure that public housing in the Massachusetts 7th and beyond is safe, healthy and lead pipe-free. Our families do not deserve less, simply because they cannot afford more.”
“It is a national scandal that millions of homes across the country still get water from lead pipes, and unfortunately lead poisoning is especially prevalent in black and brown communities like the ones I represent in Chicago’s 4th District. I’m proud to introduce the Lead Abatement for Families Act with Representative Pressley to get lead pipes out of public and federally subsidized housing,” said Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. “Affordable housing should never jeopardize the health of its residents, and Congress must act immediately to prevent our children and communities from exposure to lead in their drinking water.”
July 17, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Conditionally Approves Sale of St. Francis Medical Center”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a letter conditionally approving the sale of St. Francis Medical Center, a Verity Health System (Verity) medical facility in Los Angeles County, to Prime Healthcare, Inc (Prime). Under California law (Corporations Code section 5914 et seq., and California Code of Regulations, title 11, section 999.5), any proposed sale of a non-profit health facility to a for-profit corporation must secure the approval of the state Attorney General, whose statutory charge is to consider the factors set forth in the law, including whether the transaction is in the public interest and whether the transaction affects the availability or accessibility of healthcare services to the affected community. The Attorney General’s conditional consent represented in today’s letter seeks to protect access to care for the Los Angeles communities served by the hospital. If Verity and Prime close on the sale with the conditions outlined in the letter, they are consenting to comply with the conditions. The transaction must still be approved in Court where Verity has filed for bankruptcy.
“The California Department of Justice has a responsibility to the families who live around and rely on St Francis Medical Center. The COVID-19 public health crisis has brought home the importance of having access to lifesaving hospital care nearby in our communities,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The conditions we have attached to the proposed sale of St. Francis focus on maintaining or improving care and services at the hospital – from treatment for COVID-19 to cancer and emergency care. No change in ownership, no bankruptcy filing can be allowed to diminish that priority. St. Francis Medical Center is not just an asset, it is an indispensable neighbor, it is the workers who serve the patients, and the doctors who save lives. We conditionally approve this sale to keep it that way.”
The Attorney General’s conditions are based on an independent health expert’s in-depth analysis of the health and medical needs in the surrounding communities. Among other things, these conditions call for Prime, the prospective purchaser, to:
- Maintain Operations at the Hospital:
- Requires that Prime keep St. Francis open for at least ten years after sale and continue operating as a Trauma II Center. St. Francis will continue to provide cancer services, cardiac services, women’s health services, neonatal intensive care, perinatal and pediatric services, psychiatric and other critical services recommended by the health expert;
- Strengthen Charity Care Policy:
- Requires that Prime increase of its reach of charity care policy at St. Francis by covering care in full, serving those who earn at the 400 percent of federal poverty level ($51,040 for an individual and $86,880 for a family of three) and up to 600 percent of federal poverty for the discount payment policy;
- Requires that Prime commit $10,186,173 in charity care for patients in the surrounding community, and Prime has agreed to improve its charity care policies to cover significantly more patients;
- Increase Community Benefits:
- Requires that Prime increase the community benefit of St. Francis to $1,597,077 for six years exclusive of any grants received, to support the Southern California Crossroads Program, the Health Benefit Resource Center, Welcome Baby Program, Healthy Community Initiatives, American Career College access for onsite training, Paramedic Training and Education, and Patient Transportation Support;
- Maintain Hospital Staff and Medical Providers:
- Prime is required to maintain admitting privileges for staff in good standing, maintain on-call coverage contracts and comparable arrangements with physicians at fair market value to maintain Level II trauma care at St. Francis;
- Maintain Safety in Hospitals:
- Requires that Prime commit the necessary investments required to maintain seismic compliance at St. Francis. Prime will be required to expend at least $35 million for capital improvements, excluding seismic retrofit costs, at St. Francis Medical Center over the five-year period from the closing date, including but not limited to upgrading its electronic medical records system. The expert report identified seismic issues at St. Francis; and
- Maintain Access to Care for Women and LGBTQ individuals:
- Prime is required to maintain access to women’s healthcare services for ten years, and no limitations on LGBTQ healthcare services offered at St. Francis.
A copy of the conditional approval letter is available here.
July 17, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on D.C. Circuit Ruling on Trump’s Junk Health Insurance Plans”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released this statement after a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 to allow the Trump Administration to continue its expansion of short-term, limited duration health insurance plans that are not required to provide essential health benefits and can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions:
“Even in the middle of the devastation of the coronavirus epidemic, President Trump has continued his all-out assault on the protections of the Affordable Care Act and dependable, affordable health care. It is disappointing that this court ruling will enable the Trump Administration to keep railroading vulnerable families into shoddy junk health insurance plans.
“After an accident or an illness, those pushed into President Trump’s junk plans will find they’ve been paying for coverage that doesn’t cover much at all. An investigation by the Energy & Commerce Committee uncovered widespread evidence of the abusive tactics and tragic consequences of the Trump Administration’s junk plans.
“Instead of protecting people with pre-existing conditions, President Trump is in court defending his abusive junk plans while demanding that every last protection and benefit of the Affordable Care Act be struck down. Democrats will continue to fight to protect families from junk insurance plans while lowering health costs and prescription drug prices for all Americans.”
July 20, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Celebrates District Court Win Protecting Access to Abortion”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra applauded today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which found the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) rule reinterpreting Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unlawful. The Trump Administration’s Separate Abortion Billing Rule would require consumers to make two separate payment transactions for healthcare – one of at least $1 for abortion coverage and one for the remaining health benefits – or risk losing coverage altogether. In today’s decision, the District Court held that the Separate Abortion Payment Rule is arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
“Today’s ruling by the district court affirmed what we already knew – the Trump Administration’s Separate Abortion Billing Rule is not only foolish, it’s illegal,” said Attorney General Becerra. “At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for access to equitable healthcare and reproductive rights for all. As our nation continues to wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that we fight so that every American can access the healthcare they need.”
On March 30, 2020, Attorney General Becerra and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of eight attorneys general in filing a motion for summary judgment in their case opposing the HHS rule. The coalition argued that the new rule violates federal law, disproportionately affects states committed to ensuring comprehensive reproductive healthcare, places excessive burdens on consumers seeking reliable health coverage, and is inconsistent with the ACA’s requirement of equitable access to healthcare.
The Attorney General has been a leader in fighting for women’s reproductive freedom: he led a multistate coalition in filing amicus briefs in support of lawsuits challenging a series of restrictive abortion laws in Missouri and Arkansas; joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting a constitutional challenge to a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to maintain hospital admitting privileges; led a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief challenging Mississippi’s near-total ban on abortion in Jackson Women’s Health Organization, et al. v. State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, et al; led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s House Bill 1510; and secured injunctions against the Trump Administration’s harmful rules that would do away with the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement.
Attorney General Becerra was joined in defending today’s lawsuit by the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the court order is available here.
July 20, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Sues Trump Administration for Allowing Health Care Discrimination”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit to stop a new Trump Administration rule that makes it easier for health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate against certain vulnerable and protected classes of Americans. In a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and the head of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights, Roger Severino, Attorney General James and the coalition argue that the new rule emboldens providers and insurers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and women, among others, by stripping express protections for these groups in HHS regulations that implement the nondiscrimination provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The provision of the ACA prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age by health programs or facilities that receive federal funds, but the Trump Administration is seeking to undermine many of those protections.
“Despite failing to repeal the ACA again and again, President Trump and his administration continue to unlawfully chip away at health care for Americans,” said Attorney General James. “By rolling back rules that ensure the ACA protects all Americans, the president is unlawfully giving health care providers and insurers license to deny care to LGBTQ+ individuals, those who do not speak English, and women. It is never acceptable to deny health care to Americans who need it, but it is especially egregious to do so in the middle of a pandemic. For more than a decade, the ACA has provided tens of millions of Americans with quality, affordable health coverage, which is why we will use every tool at our disposal to stop the Trump Administration from taking us backwards.”
The Obama Administration’s HHS issued regulations implementing Section 1557 of the ACA in 2016 — making clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity, nonconformity to sex stereotypes, and pregnancy status are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by the statute. Specifically, Section 1557 prohibits discrimination by any health care program — including providers and insurers — against individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. Federal courts have also held that the statute’s prohibitions on sex discrimination protect transgender and other LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination, which was confirmed in last month’s Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by federal civil rights law.
But, despite numerous failed legislative and legal battles to repeal and dismantle the ACA, the Trump Administration’s new rule would now eliminate many of the express protections contained in the Section 1557 regulations, unlawfully exclude many health insurers from Section 1557’s scope, and would embolden health care providers and health insurers to deny care and insurance coverage. The new rule would also impose unreasonable barriers and impede timely access to health care for Americans, in violation of Section 1554 of the ACA.
Before the rule was finalized, Attorney General James and the coalition previously called on the Trump Administration to withdraw the rule by submitting a comment letter to HHS last August, as well as by sending a letter to HHS this past April, at the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis, in an effort to stop the further exacerbation of the nation’s health care system.
In the lawsuit filed today — in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York — Attorney General James and the coalition argue that HHS has unlawfully ignored the harms that the new rule will impose on vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ+ individuals, individuals with limited English proficiency, and women, as well as other protected classes. The coalition additionally contends that HHS has failed to justify why it abandoned its prior policy, which, among other things, explicitly prohibited discrimination in health care and required health entities to provide meaningful language assistance services to individuals with limited English proficiency, including notifying them of their rights to translation and interpretation services. The lawsuit finally alleges that the Trump Administration was motivated by animus toward the transgender community in issuing this rule.
The coalition specifically argues that the new rule is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and that it violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.
Attorney General James led today’s lawsuit with the assistance of the attorneys general of California and Massachusetts. Additionally, the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia joined Attorney General James in filing today’s lawsuit…
July 20, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Files Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s Rule Rolling Back ACA Healthcare Anti-Discrimination Protections”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and New York Attorney General Leticia James, today, leading a coalition of 23 attorneys general, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s final rule undermining “Nondiscrimination in Health and Health Education Programs or Activities” (Section 1557) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits discrimination in healthcare based on gender, race, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The Trump Administration’s final rule undermines Section 1557’s critical anti-discrimination protections for marginalized populations including the LGBTQ community, women, communities of color, and individuals with disabilities, at a time when they are most needed to help address the coronavirus pandemic. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the Section 1557 rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“Hard to believe any President would willingly expose Americans to discrimination in healthcare. But that’s what President Trump’s latest rule would do,” said Attorney General Becerra. “In the midst of a global pandemic, it is critical that our leaders open doors to care and push back against existing biases in our healthcare system. Too many Americans already struggle to access essential care. We don’t need discrimination to make it worse. But this guy won’t stop, so neither will we. We’re taking President Trump to court to stop discrimination.”
The ACA prohibits discrimination in federal healthcare — from Medicaid, Medicare, and the healthcare exchanges, to federal healthcare grant programs providing safeguards against discrimination. Further, the ACA expressly seeks to provide equity in healthcare and prohibits any regulation that creates unreasonable barriers for individuals to obtain healthcare. The Trump Administration’s final rule contradicts this and other federal civil rights laws by rolling back anti-discrimination protections for communities of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities, effectively sanctioning discrimination in our healthcare system. Data shows that the coronavirus pandemic is already exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare that the ACA attempted to address, particularly in states that have not expanded Medicaid.
In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the Trump Administration’s final rule undermining Section 1557’s anti-discrimination protections is unlawful because it:
- Conflicts with the ACA and the APA;
- Misconstrues federal civil rights laws including Title IX;
- Exceeds HHS’s authority by redefining which communities are subject to Section 1557’s anti-discrimination protections; and
- Violates the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On April 30, 2020, Attorneys General Becerra, Healey and James led a multistate coalition in filing a comment letter urging HHS not to finalize its proposed regulation undermining the ACA’s critical Section 1557 anti-discrimination protections.
Attorneys General Becerra, Healey and James, are joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
July 21, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Wins Suit, Stops Trump Administration from Raising Costs of Abortion Coverage”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced a nationwide victory for women’s reproductive freedoms after a federal court threw out, late last night, a Trump Administration rule that would have made it more difficult for women in New York and across the nation to access abortion services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In January, Attorney General James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra co-led a coalition of eight attorneys general in filing a lawsuit to stop the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from implementing the rule, which threatened to potentially kick millions of women off their health plans if they failed to comply with a technical billing issue related to abortion coverage. In March, Attorney General James and Attorney General Becerra co-led the coalition in asking a federal court to provide today’s expedited decision when she filed a motion for summary judgment in the case.
“From the beginning, this rule was an egregious attempt by President Trump and his administration to control women, and make it harder for those struggling financially to exercise their constitutional right to access an abortion,” said Attorney General James. “This decision will immediately stop the Trump Administration’s anti-choice assault on women’s reproductive choices and will allow millions of women across New York and the rest of the nation to retain control over their bodies. While we celebrate this victory, we remain vigilant against the president’s continued attacks on women’s reproductive freedoms, and we will stand ready to fight to ensure every woman is able to make her own reproductive choices.”
The rule in question illegally reinterpreted Section 1303 of the ACA by requiring qualified health plans that participated in the state exchanges, like the New York State of Health, to send two separate monthly bills for payments of a health insurance premium — even if no abortion service was provided — and to have collected separate monthly payments for abortion services from all consumers. One bill would have been for the premium amount attributable to abortion coverage (and would have needed to be at least one dollar), and a second bill would have compromised the premium amount attributable to the remaining coverage, which may have included services like primary doctor appointments, hospital visits, and other services covered by insurance. If a consumer missed even a single one-dollar payment, that individual could have lost all health coverage on the exchange. HHS itself had conceded that requiring separate bills and separate payments would have inevitably led to confusion, putting more than 160,000 New Yorkers who already enrolled in a qualified health plan this year alone at risk of losing coverage if they inadvertently failed to make full premium payments on time.
Late last night, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted Attorney General James’s motion for a summary judgment, ruling that the Trump Administration’s rule departed from prior HHS policy without “provid[ing] a reasoned explanation” or any “context for why [HHS’s] belief advances Congress’s intent.” The court went on to state that the new rule would have “increased costs, created enrollee confusion, and risked reduced health care coverage (which contravenes [with] the ACA’s purpose)” — concluding that the rule “is arbitrary and capricious.”…
…Joining Attorney General James in filing this lawsuit were the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia…
July 21, 2020: Senator Cory Booker (Democrat – New Jersey) posted a press release titled: “Booker Leads 33 Democratic Senators Colleagues in Urging Trump to Reverse his Decision to Withdraw from the World Health Organization”. From the press release:
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) today led 33 of his Senate colleagues in urging President Trump to reverse his decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO). The Senators warned that an American withdrawal from WHO will upend efforts to implement a collective international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, inevitably put American lives and economic interests at risk, and undermines American leadership within the international community, while empowering China.
“As it is now grimly clear, diseases do not respect borders. This is a crisis of global proportions, one that has painfully exposed the vulnerabilities and deficiencies of even the strongest economies and most competently governed societies,” the senators wrote in their letter to President Donald Trump. “This means in part continuing to collaborate and support the World Health Organization (WHO), which is coordinating the global response to COVID-19. Currently, for example, the WHO is using its convening power to undertake an unprecedented effort to identify effective treatments and vaccines. The organization’s “Solidarity Trial,” which includes more than 100 countries, enables research on potential therapeutics to be collected much faster and more efficiently than individual country efforts, dramatically reducing the amount of time to determine effectiveness.”
“As it stands, a decision to end our engagement and funding of the WHO may be interpreted as abandoning vulnerable countries in their hour of need, further weakening their ability to identify and stop diseases at their source, before they become difficult and costly to contain. It also plays into the hands of countries, like China, who would seek to distract from their role in the outbreak and could be used to portray the United States as uninterested in helping other countries deal with COVID-19. In short, withdrawing from the WHO makes our country less safe and empowers China within the organization,” the senators continued.
“The fact remains that we are currently in the midst of a global health emergency that is unprecedented in our lifetimes; now is not the time to take our eyes off the ball and engage in attacks on the one global institution that is working day-in and day-out to counter the threat posed by this disease. We therefore urge you to reverse this short-sighted and dangerous decision, and to commit to reengagement with the WHO – and Congress – on collective efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators concluded.
This letter was also signed by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Van Hollen (D-MD), Durbin (D-IL), Coons (D-DE), Brown (D-OH), Jones (D-AL), Markey (D-MA), King (D-ME), Warren (D-MA), Wyden (D-OR), Warner (D-VA), Merkley (D-OR), Hirono (D-HI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Reed (D-RI), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA),Bernard Sanders (D-VT), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Cantwell (D-WA), Bennet (D-CO), Heinrich (D-NM), Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Murphy (D-CT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Whitehouse (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Cardin (D-MD), Hassan (D-NH).
Full text of the letter is available here.
July 23, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release on her official website titled: “Reps. Pressley, Lee, Schakowsky and Ocasio-Cortez Introduce Amendment to Strip Discriminatory Hyde Amendment from Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill”. From the press release:
Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Barbara Lee (CA-13), Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Providers and Clinics Taskforce and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) filed an amendment to finally repeal the Hyde Amendment, language that prohibits federal Medicaid funds from being used to cover abortion care, from the FY2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill.
First introduced 43 years ago by anti-choice, Republican lawmaker Rep. Henry Hyde in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been included in federal funding bills every year since. This abortion coverage ban disproportionately harms low-income people and people of color, and targets those who receive Medicaid coverage. Currently, an estimated 30 percent of Black women and 24 percent of Latina women of reproductive age are covered by Medicaid — in comparison to just 14 percent of white women. Additionally, research has found that the abortion coverage bans like the Hyde Amendment have a devastating economic impact.
“The Hyde Amendment is a racist, discriminatory policy that has perpetuated inequity and injustice in our nation for far too long,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Since its introduction more than four decades ago, Hyde has punished low income people and blocked countless individuals from exercising their constitutional right to comprehensive reproductive health care—including abortion care. Abortion care is critical health care, period. Our nation is in the midst of connected crises, an unprecedented public health crisis exacerbated by systemic racism and the plague of police brutality disproportionately robbing us of Black and brown lives, and we must actively dismantle all racist and discriminatory policies—including those that deny us the ability to make our own healthcare decisions. As a firm believer in reproductive justice and as Chair of the Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to finally repeal the Hyde Amendment and affirm reproductive justice for all.”
“For years I’ve been fighting to end the harmful and discriminatory Hyde amendment,” said Congresswoman Lee. “In 2015 I introduced the EACH Woman Act with my colleagues, including Congresswoman Schakowsky, to do exactly that, and I will keep working with them move this fight forward until we repeal it once and for all. Reproductive care is a human right, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.”
“In 2015, my friend Barbara Lee and I introduced the EACH Woman Act to allow every woman to make her own reproductive health care decisions regardless of her income, her race, where she works, or how she gets her insurance. In 2019, the first-ever Pro-Choice Majority was sworn into the United States House of Representatives,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “We are honoring that history today by introducing an amendment to finally end the Hyde Amendment and affirming that comprehensive reproductive health care is a human right.”
“The Hyde Amendment has blocked federal funding for abortion services since 1976,” said Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. “Since then, Congress has voted to include the Hyde Amendment in our appropriations packages every year- including this year in a Democrat controlled House. The Hyde Amendment is a back-end attempt to outlaw abortion that disproportionately denies the right of choice to low-income women and women of color. It is critical that we put an end to this inhumane policy now.”
July 23, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Brown, Booker Introduce Senate Resolution Declaring Racism A Public Health Crisis”. From the press release:
U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Wednesday introduced a Senate Resolution to declare racism a public health crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has been the great revealer – underscoring the racial disparities that continue to pervade public health as a direct result of systemic racism. Barriers to quality health care access, housing, jobs, wages and so much else contribute to stark health disparities for communities of color. This virus has proven especially lethal for those communities – the infection, hospitalization, and mortality rates are disproportionately high among Black, Latino, and AI/AN populations. Data show 22 percent of COVID-19 patients are Black, when Black people make up 13 percent of the entire population, and 33 percent of COVID-19 patients are Latino, when they make up just 18 percent of the entire population. Representative Jahana Hayes (D-CT-5) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“COVID-19 has caused a public health crisis that is disproportionately impacting people of color. In fact, available data shows that African American and Latinx people are three times as likely to get sick with the virus; and nearly twice as likely to die,” said Senator Harris. “This is, in part, due to long-standing barriers to care that are rooted in generations of systemic racism. This resolution affirms Congress’ commitment to fully acknowledge and address racial inequities and injustice across all sectors.”
“We will not make progress until we acknowledge and address all of the ways that centuries of racism and oppression have harmed Black and brown Americans,” said Senator Brown. “This resolution is an important step toward recognizing the racial disparities in healthcare that have existed for far too long while also outlining concrete action we can take now to help reverse them. Though this resolution is not a solution in and of itself, it will help to lay the foundation for change that is continually subverted by and for the status quo. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important resolution.”
“For too long, communities of color have suffered disproportionately from countless illnesses and conditions, from maternal and infant mortality to now COVID-19,” said Senator Booker. “These health inequities are the direct result of centuries of racist policy that have disenfranchised, disinvested, and disrespected Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. Declaring racism a public health crisis is a small, but necessary, step toward addressing the deep-rooted and systemic inequities that have created and continue to exacerbate unfair and unjust health outcomes and enabling us to finally move forward in creating a truly equitable health care system for all.”
The resolution acknowledges the history of racism and discrimination within health care and the systemic barriers that people of color continue to face when seeking care. The resolution also highlights the effects of systemic racism on the health and wellness of communities of color, resulting in shorter life expectancy, worsened health outcomes, and enhanced exposure to harmful or dangerous environments. This resolution encourages concrete action to address health disparities and inequity across all sectors in society.
Along with Harris, Brown, and Booker the resolution was cosponsored by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Tom Carper (D-DE), Edward Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Robert Casey (D-PA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Angus King (I-ME).
Full text of the resolution is available HERE.
July 23, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Applauds Submission of Amendment to End Discriminatory Abortion Coverage Ban in House Spending Bill”. From the press release:
U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) today submitted an amendment to the House Rules Committee which would strike the racist and discriminatory Hyde Amendment from the FY’21 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. The Hyde Amendment is an anti-choice policy banning coverage for abortion care for those who receive their health insurance through the federal government. The move comes after the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives introduced a federal funding bill that included the abortion coverage ban earlier this month. NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement in response:
“We are grateful for the fearless leadership and work of Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to end the Hyde Amendment. Reproductive freedom must be for every body, and to make that a reality we have to end discriminatory bans on abortion coverage. We urge House Democrats to support this effort to remove abortion coverage restrictions from the spending bill and speak out against any provisions that would limit access to reproductive healthcare, including coverage for abortion care. We remain deeply disappointed that Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives elected to include this anti-choice abortion coverage ban in their funding bill in the first place, despite voters electing a majority that supports reproductive freedom. The Hyde Amendment hurts women and families, especially BIPOC communities and those with lower incomes, and all Democrats must be unwavering in their commitment to putting an end to this policy once and for all.”
Bans on abortion coverage like the anti-choice Hyde Amendment disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. These bans create additional barriers to care for those already facing enormous hurdles to access. During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, candidates coalesced around the party’s core values by voicing their support for ending the Hyde Amendment’s ban on abortion coverage once and for all. Democrats included ending this discriminatory anti-choice policy in their 2016 party platform. Earlier this month, NARAL Pro-Choice America joined a national coalition of progressive groups in urging the the Democratic Party to deepen its advocacy for reproductive freedom by reaffirming key proposals included in the 2016 platform, including ending the Hyde Amendment.
Abortion is front and center for Democrats in 2020: Support for abortion rights is at an all-time high and polling confirms reproductive freedom is a major issue for Democratic and Independent voters. These values are non-negotiable to the 77% of Americans who support the legal right to abortion in the United States.
July 24, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a press release titled: “Federal Court Blocks Tennessee Abortion Bans”. From the press release:
Today, a federal district court in Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction blocking parts of a new Tennessee law, including a series of gestational age bans that would ban abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy, starting as early as six weeks. The court also blocked a part of the law that bans abortion based on a patient’s reason for seeking abortion, including reasons related to race, sex, or a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Abortion bans, especially those that ban the procedure before many people even know they are pregnant, threaten the health, rights, and lives of people of color disproportionately. Additionally, “reason bans” inflict further harm by perpetuating stigma around abortions and stereotypes of Black and Brown communities, Asian Americans, and people with disabilities. Abortion patients — like all patients — should have the right to make private medical decisions with their families and their doctors, without interference from politicians.
The court granted today’s preliminary injunction at the request of numerous abortion providers in the state represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the ACLU of Tennessee. Moments after Gov. Bill Lee signed the law on July 13, the court issued a restraining order blocking the abortion bans temporarily. Today’s injunction provides longer-term relief, blocking the bans until the lawsuit is resolved.
In the decision, Judge William L. Campbell wrote, “Applying binding Supreme Court precedent and the factors required for the extraordinary remedy of an injunction… the Court concludes that an injunction should issue.”
While we welcome today’s ruling, it is outrageous that Tennessee’s anti-abortion lawmakers chose this path,” said Jessica Sklarsky, lead attorney on this case and senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “As the deep roots and tragedies of white supremacy are laid bare, and the pandemic exposes long-ignored health inequities, these anti-abortion lawmakers chose to utilize the state’s limited resources to defend clearly unconstitutional abortion bans that prey on stereotypes, disproportionately harm communities of color, and further entrench systemic racism. Rather than perpetuate these injustices, Tennessee lawmakers should focus their time and resources on policies that address them.”…
…Just three months ago, Gov. Lee attempted to ban abortion procedures during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by labeling abortion care as non-essential despite opposition from leading national medical groups. In April, that attempt was blocked in court after a lawsuit was filed by the same organizations litigating today’s case.
Last year alone, 25 abortion bans were enacted in 12 states, including: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations responded by filing litigation to ensure abortion remains legal in all 50 states. To date, the groups’ lawsuits have stopped these illegal bans from depriving pregnant people of their constitutional right to abortion.
Tennessee has numerous additional abortion restrictions on the books, including a ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion; a mandatory 48-hour waiting period (which includes a requirement that forces patients to delay care by adding a medically unnecessary trip to the clinic to receive state-mandated information); limits on when state and public insurance can cover abortion services; and a requirement that minors obtain parental consent. The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood are litigating another case in the state challenging the 48-hour waiting period.
The case was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Tennessee on behalf of CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Tennessee and North Mississippi, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, carafem, and two abortion providers in Tennessee.
July 24, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerray Applauds Ninth Circuit Ruling Denying Challenge to California’s Landmark Pay-for-Delay Law”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra applauded today’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, rejecting a challenge by a group of generic drug manufacturers, the Association for Accessible Medicine (AAM), against California’s landmark law tackling pay-for-delay agreements. In the decision, the Court held that AAM lacks standing to challenge the law.
“Today’s victory is a win for every family who has unfairly shouldered higher prices for life-saving medicine, simply because pharmaceutical companies staved off competition to pocket higher profits,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Californians shouldn’t have to pay an arm and leg to afford a prescription, particularly amidst a public health crisis of historic proportions. This Ninth Circuit ruling should serve as a reminder that the well-being of loved ones must come first.”
The California law, AB 824, combats illegal, secretive deals between pharmaceutical companies in which one drug company pays its competitor to delay the competitor’s research, production, or sale of a competing version of its drug. These collusive agreements, known as “pay-for-delay” agreements, stifle competition and hike the price patients and employers pay for prescription medicines. AB 824 is the first state law in the nation to tackle pay-for-delay agreements.
A copy of the ruling is available here.
July 24, 2020: President Trump signed an “Executive Order on Access to Affordable Life-saving Medications”. From the executive order:
By the authority vested on me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1: Purpose. Insulin is a critical and life-saving medication that approximately 8 million Americans rely on to manage diabetes. Likewise, injectible epinephrine is a life-saving medication used to stop severe allergic reactions.
The price of insulin in the United States has risen dramatically over the past decade. The list price for a single vial of insulin today is often more than $250 and most patients use at least two vials per month. As for injectable epinephrine, recent increased competition is helping to drive prices down. Nevertheless, the price for some types of injectable epinephrine remains more than $600 per kit. While Americans with diabetes and severe allergic reactions may have access to affordable insulin and injectable epinephrine through commercial insurance or Federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, many Americans still struggle to purchase these products.
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs),.. receive discounted prices through the 340B Prescription Drug Program on prescription drugs. Due to the sharp increases in list prices for many insulins and some types of injectable epinephrine in recent years, many of these products may be subject to the “penny pricing” policy when distributed to FQHCs, meaning FQHCs may purchase the drug at a price of one penny per unit of measure. These steep discounts, however, are not always passed through to low-income Americans at the point of sale. Those with low-incomes can be exposed to high insulin and injectable epinephrine prices, as they often do not benefit from discounts negotiated by insurers or the Federal or State governments.
Section 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to enable Americans without access to affordable insulin and injectable epinephrine through commercial insurance or Federal programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, to purchase these pharmaceuticals from an FQHC at a price that aligns with the cost at which the FQHC acquired the medication.
Section 3. Improving the Availability of Insulin and Injectable Ephinephrine for the Uninsured. To the extent permitted by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall take action to ensure future grants available under… the Public Health Service Act, as amended… are conditioned upon FQHCs’ having established practices to make insulin and injectible epinephrine available at the discounted price paid by the FQHC grantee or sub-grantee under the 304B Prescription Drug Program (plus a minimal administration fee) to individuals with low incomes, as determined by the Secretary, who:
a have a high cost sharing requirement for either insulin or injectible epinephrine;
b have a high unmet deductible; or
c have no health care insurance…
July 24, 2020: ABC 7 posted an article titled: “With no deal to curb drug costs, Trump tries his own changes”. It was written by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. From the article:
Unable to land the big deal with Congress to curb drug costs, President Donald Trump is moving on his own to allow imports of prescription medicines, along with other limited steps that might have some election-year appeal.
At a White House ceremony, Trump is set to sign four executive orders. One is about importation. The others would direct drugmaker rebates to go straight to patients, provide insulin and EpiPens at steep discounts to low-income people, and use lower international prices to pay for some Medicare drugs…
…consumers may not notice many immediate changes from the new orders, which must be carried out by the federal bureaucracy and could face court challenges…
…A drive to pass major legislation this year stalled in Congress. Although Trump told Republican senators that lowering prescription prices is “something you have to do,” many remain reluctant to use federal authority to force drugmakers to charge less…
…Last year the House passed Pelosi’s Medicare negotiations bill, which would have capped out-of-pocket drug costs for older people and expanded program benefits as well. It had no path forward in the Senate, and the White House calls it unworkable.
But there was an alternative. A bipartisan Senate bill backed by Trump stopped short of giving Medicare bargaining power, but would have limited annual price increases and capped costs for older people. The bill passed out of a Senate committee but was never brought to the full body…
…The pharmaceutical industry is adamently opposed to government efforts to curb prices, and pushed back strongly against earlier versions of the proposals in Trump’s new orders. Broadcast ads from groups aligned with the industry are already airing, dubbing the plan to use international prices for certain Medicare drugs as “socialist,” without mentioning Trump by name…
July 24, 2020: President Trump signed: “Executive Order on Lowering Prices for Patients by Eliminating Kickbacks to Middlemen”. From the executive order:
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. One of the reasons pharmaceutical drug prices in the United States are so high is because of the complex mix of payers and negotiators that often separates the consumer from the manufacturer in the drug-purchasing process. The result is that the prices patients see at the point-of-sale do not reflect the prices that the patient’s insurance companies, middlemen hired by the insurance companies, actually pay for drugs. Instead, these middlemen – health plan sponsors and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) – negotiate significant discounts off the list prices, sometimes up to 50 percent of the cost of the drug. Medicare patients, whose cost sharing is typically based on list prices, pay more than they should for drugs while the middlemen collect lare “rebate” checks. These rebates are the functional equivalent of kickbacks, and erode savings that could otherwise go to the Medicare patients taking those drugs. Yet currently, Federal regulations create a safe harbor for such discounts and preclude treating them as kickbacks under the law.
Fixing this problem could save Medicare patients billions of dollars. The Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services has found that patients in the catastrophic phase of the Medicare Part D program saw their out-of-pocket costs for high-price drugs increase by 47 percent from 2010 to 2015, from $175 per month to $257 per month. Narrowing the safe harbor for these discounts under the anti-kickback statute will allow tens of billions of dollars of rebates on prescription drugs in the Medicare Part D program to go directly to the patients, saving many patients hundreds or thousands of dollars per year at the pharmacy counter.
Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States that discounts offered on prescription drugs should be passed on to patients.
Sec. 3. Directing Drug Rebates to Patients Instead of Middlemen. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall complete the rulemaking process he commenced seeking to:
(a) exclude from safe harbor protections under the anti-kickback statute, section 1128B(b) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 1320a–7b, certain retrospective reductions in price that are not applied at the point-of-sale or other remuneration that drug manufacturers provide to health plan sponsors, pharmacies, or PBMs in operating the Medicare Part D program; and
(b) establish new safe harbors that would permit health plan sponsors, pharmacies, and PBMs to apply discounts at the patient’s point-of-sale in order to lower the patient’s out-of-pocket costs, and that would permit the use of certain bona fide PBM service fees.
Sec. 4. Protecting Low Premiums. Prior to taking action under section 3 of this order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall confirm — and make public such confirmation — that the action is not projected to increase Federal spending, Medicare beneficiary premiums, or patients’ total out-of-pocket costs…
July 24, 2020: President Trump signed “Executive Order on Increasing Drug importation to Lower Prices for American Patients”. From the executive order:
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. Americans spend more per capita on pharmaceutical drugs than residents of any other developed country. Americans often pay more for the exact same drugs, even when they are produced and shipped from the exact same facilities.
One way to minimize international disparities in price is to increase the trade of prescription drugs between nations with lower prices and those with persistently higher ones. Over time, reducing trade barriers and increasing the exchange of drugs will likely result in lower prices for the country that is paying more for drugs. For example, in the European Union, a market characterized by price controls and significant barriers to entry, the parallel trade of drugs has existed for decades and has been estimated to reduce the price of certain drugs by up to 20 percent. Accordingly, my Administration supports the goal of safe importation of prescription drugs.
Sec. 2. Permitting the Importation of Safe Prescription Drugs from Other Countries. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, take action to expand safe access to lower-cost imported prescription drugs by:
(a) facilitating grants to individuals of waivers of the prohibition of importation of prescription drugs, provided such importation poses no additional risk to public safety and results in lower costs to American patients, pursuant to section 804(j)(2) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. 384(j)(2);
(b) authorizing the re-importation of insulin products upon a finding by the Secretary that it is required for emergency medical care pursuant to section 801(d) of the FDCA, 21 U.S.C. 381(d); and
(c) completing the rulemaking process regarding the proposed rule to implement section 804(b) through (h) of the FDCA, 21 U.S.C. 384(b) through (h), to allow importation of certain prescription drugs from Canada…
July 24, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Trump’s Latest Empty Promises on Prescription Drug Prices”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released this statement after President Trump signed executive orders on prescription drugs, once again failing to advance any rules to lower Americans’ prescription drug prices:
“Once again, President Trump has pulled his punch on reducing prescription drug prices, this time with empty Executive Orders that take no real action to lower Americans’ skyrocketing drug costs. After promising that he would ‘negotiate like crazy’ for lower prescription drug prices, it is clear that President Trump meant not negotiate at all.
“Instead of meaningfully lowering drug prices, President Trump’s Executive Orders would hand billions of dollars to Big Pharma. The last version of the Trump Administration’s rebate proposal would put Medicare beneficiaries at risk of higher premiums and total out-of-pocket costs and puts the American taxpayer on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars. Thanks to President Trump, the pharmaceutical industry could see even bigger profits and even less restraint on what they charge seniors.
“While President Trump continues to cave to Big Pharma, Democrats have acted to advance real drug price negotiation with the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. If President Trump was serious about stopping drug companies from charging Americans more than they charge for the same medicines overseas, he would tell Leader McConnell to pass the Lower Drug Costs Now Act immediately. Sadly, Big Pharma calls the shots in the Trump White House.”
July 26, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law on July 26, 1990:
“Thirty years ago, our nation came together in a bipartisan way to honor our founding principle that all are equal under the law. For three decades, the Americans with Disabilities Act has stood as a landmark civil rights victory, rooted in the belief that every American has the right to live with dignity and respect.
“For the 55 million Americans living with a disability, the ADA has been transformative. Yet, despite this progress, the Trump Administration continues to advance dangerous policies that undermine the rights of those living with a disability. We must oppose these outrageous actions while ensuring that our laws keep pace with the rapidly evolving technology that is opening new doors of opportunity for all people. We must make sure that vulnerable communities have access to the quality health care, long-term support and skills and tools needed to grow and thrive. And we must continue to remove enduring barriers to people with disabilities so that they are able to vote and fully participate in the economic, educational, social and cultural opportunities of our nation.
“We must respect people for what they can do and not judge people for what they cannot. On this historic anniversary, House Democrats are committed to fighting to uphold and expand the promise of the ADA as we work to empower people with disabilities and build a more just and equal future for all Americans.”
July 27, 2020: EMILY’s List posted a press release titled: “EMILY’s List Puts Vice President Mike Pence “On Notice”. From the press release:
Today, EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, puts Vice President Mike Pence “On Notice.” EMILY’s List is calling out incumbent Republicans for their anti-women and anti-family records and is working to flip governorships, congressional seats, and legislative chambers from red to blue by electing pro-choice Democratic women in the upcoming 2020 election.
“Mike Pence has built his career on extremist policies that legalize discrimination and target the rights of women and working families,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “Pence attempted to defund Planned Parenthood six times while in Congress, including by threatening a government shutdown. He has built a long record of attacking women’s rights and punishing women who choose to exercise reproductive freedom and he has taken those views into the administration.
“Beyond stripping women of their fundamental rights, Mike Pence’s negligence and disregard for the facts during the HIV crisis in Indiana shows just how dangerous it is for him to lead the handling of a global health pandemic. His dangerous far-right views are further proof he lacks the skill and wherewithal to lead this country out of crisis,” Schriock continued. “Time and time again, Mike Pence has proven that he will pursue extreme policies regardless of the cost to America’s working families. We look forward to making history in November by replacing the vice president with a strong pro-choice Democratic woman.”
- In Congress, Pence sponsored the first bill to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007. He repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthood until it passed the U.S. House in 2011. (Vox, 1/12/17).
- Pence signed one of the country’s most extreme anti-choice bills into law. Pence signed Indiana House Bill 1337 (HB1337) into law. Among other things, the bill required a doctor to describe a woman’s embryo to her in graphic detail at least 18 hours before having an abortion. HB1337 also mandated the burying or cremating of a fetus, even in cases of early miscarriage, and required women to justify their abortion to a doctor. The bill stated that the doctor must possess admitting privileges to their local hospital. (Indy Star, 3/24/16).
- As Indiana governor, Pence signed the discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law’s broad language allowed “any individual or corporation to cite religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party,” disproportionately targeting LGBTQ+ individuals. (Huffington Post, 04/02/15).
- Pence’s crusade against Planned Parenthood led to an HIV outbreak in Indiana. Pence’s policies forced the closure of several Planned Parenthoods, including a clinic that served as the sole testing stie for HIV. (Huffington Post, 3/31/15).
- Pence cosponsored several appalling anti-choice bills in Congress. As a member of Congress, Pence cosponsored the discriminatory Ultrasound Informed Consent Act, Protect Life Act, Life at Conception Act, and No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Respectively, these bills would force doctors to show women their ultrasounds before an abortion, allow hospitals to deny life-saving abortion procedures, and limit the definition of rape to prevent abortions.
- Pence penned a letter against working mothers. In an anti-family letter to the Indianapolis Star, Pence claimed that working mothers stunt childrens’ emotional growth. (Indianapolis Star, 1997).
July 27, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Pressley, Warren, Sanders, Colleagues Urge HHS to Fund Community Health Centers as the U.S. Undergoes Another Surge of COVID-19 Cases”. From the press release:
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) led a letter with 54 other lawmakers to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agency to provide additional funding to community health centers (CHCs) as they continue to work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concern that CHCs were largely excluded from funding disbursements under the Provider Relief Fund and urged HHS to immediately reverse this decision and provide CHCs with the support they need as they provide services and relief to vulnerable communities during this public health crisis. The lawmakers also expressed their belief that Congress should allocate additional funds to health care providers, including CHCs, to help them stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the United States experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases and as the economic toll of the pandemic continues to grow, it is imperative these crucial health care providers who treat many of the most vulnerable Americans are provided funds to keep their doors open,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to immediately reverse your decision to exclude CHCs from the PRF and provide these institutions with additional financial support as you continue to distribute these funds.”
As CHCs continue to play an outsized role in the COVID-19 pandemic, they have suffered a serious financial toll. To date, CHCs have received almost $2 billion from Congress targeted toward pandemic-related testing and treatment, but nothing has been specifically directed to CHCs from the Provider Relief Fund. Substantial declines in inpatient visits have caused significant decreases in revenue for CHCs, threatening their ability to continue to provide care. Each week, 1,500-2,000 CHC sites must close at least temporarily as a result of financial pressures related to the pandemic.
CHCs are lynchpins of the nation’s health care system and provide a wide array of services to chronically underserved areas of the country. They serve nearly 30 million patients, including over 385,000 veterans, over 8.5 million children, and 1.4 million individuals experiencing homelessness, in thousands of rural, urban, and frontier communities across the United States. Of the almost 30 million patients they treat each year, nearly 90% are low-income and 63% are racial or ethnic minorities. CHCs provide easily-accessible and affordable services, such as dental and behavioral health care to some of the most vulnerable Americans, and also help patients access healthy and affordable foods, housing support, and transportation assistance.
The letter was also signed by Representatives, Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Susan Wild (D-Penn.), John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), Gregory W. Meeks (N.Y.) Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-Mass.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Steven Cohen (D-Tenn.), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Cedrick L. Richmond (D-La.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-Mo.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), William R. Keating (D-Mass.), Lori Trahan (D- Mass.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D- N.J.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-Ga.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine.), and Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-Ga.). Also signing the letter were Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Richard J. Blumenthal (D-CT)…
July 27, 2020: Idaho Press posted an article titled: “Idaho transgender inmate becomes 2nd in country to receive gender confirmation surgery”. It was written by Tommy Simmons. From the article:
After a yearslong court battle, an Idaho prisoner has become only the second incarcerated person in the country to receive gender confirmation surgery while in prison.
Adree Edmo, 32, a transgender woman, received the surgery on July 10, according to Deborah Ferguson, Edmo’s lawyer. Jeff Ray, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Correction, confirmed Edmo is currently at the Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino to facilitate follow-up medical care, but she will be transferred to the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center in Pocatello, “once it is medically appropriate to do so.”
Edmo, 32, was born male but identifies as female. In 2012 prison doctors diagnosed her with gender dysphoria — a condition in which the dissonance between a person’s birth gender and the gender with which they identify is significant and hurtful. Not all transgender people have gender dysphoria, and not everyone who has gender dysphoria requires gender confirmation surgery, but in severe cases — such as Edmo’s — it can be a treatment option. At the core of the case was a disagreement between medical experts about whether Edmo needed the surgery or not…
…In 2017, Edmo filed a lawsuit against the state of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Correction’s health care partner, Corizon Health, saying they had violated her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by not providing the surgery as treatment.
Both a federal district court and an appellate court ruled in Edmo’s favor, but Gov. Brad Little vowed repeatedly to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, a promise he followed through on. The state had been ordered to provide surgery for Edmo by July, and as that deadline loomed, state attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to pause that timeline so the case could be argued. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do so — all but guaranteeing the surgery would take place.
The state exhausted a number of attempts at recourse in fighting the order to provide surgery for Edmo. The first order came in December 2018, from a U.S. District Court judge. Idaho appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; a panel of judges there ruled in August that Idaho and Corizon must provide the surgery for Edmo. After that, Idaho asked for another hearing at the circuit court level, this one including a larger panel of judges. The circuit court in February rejected that request. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to step in the way of the surgery followed…
July 28, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release on her official website titled: “Congresswoman Pressley’s Statement on Senate GOP HEALS Act”. From the press release:
Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) released the following statement on the HEALS Act unveiled by Senate Republicans earlier this week:
“In the Massachusetts 7th and around the country, workers and families are hurting due to the dual public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19. This past weekend, the last unemployment checks went out and the limited eviction moratorium expired. Next weekend, the rent will be due and 30 percent of Americans have little to no confidence they will make it. People need real relief now, but the Occupant of the White House and Republicans in Congress continue to play games with people’s lives as they work to cut unemployment benefits and force students and teachers back to school before it’s safe to do so. It is shameful, it is callous, and it is reckless.
“Our response must match the scale, scope, and urgency of the hurt so many are experiencing—that means extending unemployment benefits, providing a second stimulus payment and expanding eligibility to our immigrant neighbors, and extending the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for the duration of this crisis. I’ll continue fighting to ensure that working people in my district and across America get the relief they need and deserve in the face of this unprecedented pandemic.”
July 29, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Stops Trump Administration from Continuing to Implement Public Charge Rule During Coronavirus Pandemic”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today secured a major victory for immigrants across New York and the rest of the nation by blocking the Trump Administration from continuing to implement its Public Charge Rule while the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis rages on. Attorney General James led a coalition — that includes three states and New York City — in winning a motion for a preliminary injunction, in federal court, that immediately halts implementation of the rule that changed the established meaning of public charge.
“This victory will immediately halt the Trump Administration’s discriminatory rule from continuing to hurt every person across the nation,” said Attorney General James. “For nearly five months, the Public Charge Rule has further exacerbated the public health crisis the country faces by punishing New York and other immigrant-rich states — stripping families of their ability to access basic services. Immigrants have been on the front lines fighting this pandemic from the start, and today’s injunction will ensure they are not targeted for obtaining health coverage or other vital services, as they continue to battle COVID-19. This order is vital to our national health, as every person who doesn’t get the health coverage they need today risks infecting another person with the coronavirus tomorrow.”
Federal law allows lawful immigrants to apply for certain supplemental health and nutritional public benefits if they have been in the country for at least five years. But, last August, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a Public Charge Rule that changed the established meaning of public charge, which had long been that immigrants who use basic, non-cash benefits are not considered public charges because they are not primarily dependent on the government for survival. This “bait-and-switch” consequently jeopardized immigrants’ chances of becoming legal permanent residents or renewing their visas if they used these supplemental benefits to which they are legally entitled.
Last August, days after the Trump Administration initially issued the Public Charge Rule, Attorney General James and a coalition of states and New York City filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration rule in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, noting that the rule specifically targets immigrants of color, immigrants with disabilities, and low-income immigrants, while putting these communities at risk, and would have short- and long-term impacts on public health and the economy.
In October 2019, after Attorney General James and the coalition filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, the district court issued an order that stopped the rule from going into effect during the litigation. The Trump Administration then filed a motion to stay the order, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the request. The Administration finally filed a motion in the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction, pending the Second Circuit’s decision in the case and any subsequent petition to the Supreme Court.
Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in January, in April, Attorney General James led a coalition in asking the Supreme Court to take emergency measures to temporarily halt its earlier order on the Public Charge Rule until the end of the COVID-19 national pandemic. While the Supreme Court did not halt its own order, the court gave Attorney General James and the coalition permission to take the request back to the district court.
At the end of April, Attorney General James and the coalition filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which the court granted today, ordering that DHS is “enjoined from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the Rule for any period during which there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The attorneys general of Connecticut and Vermont, as well as corporation counsel for New York City all joined Attorney General James in filing the motion for a preliminary injunction that was won today.
July 29, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Health Care Champions in House Announce Legislation To Repeal Harmful Helms Amendment”. From the press release:
Today, Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL), Lowey (D-NY), Lee (D-CA), DeGette (D-CO), Speier (D-CA), Torres (D-CA) ,and Pressley (D-MA), introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, legislation that would recognize abortion as essential health care and stop the egregious U.S. policy of creating barriers for those who need abortion access across the globe. Planned Parenthood applauds this overdue legislation and urges others to join the effort to end the Helms Amendment by cosponsoring the bill.
For nearly 50 years, the Helms Amendment has blocked the use of U.S. foreign assistance to expand access to abortion services. By creating significant barriers to safe and legal health care globally, this policy endangers lives, stigmatizes abortion, and undermines our ability to advance health, human rights, and gender equality. The Helms Amendment hurts millions of people around the world by restricting the ability of individuals to make their own personal medical decisions, and denying access to comprehensive reproductive health care. This harm is focused on women and young people in low income countries around the world, including in humanitarian crises where sexual violence occurs at high rates and where displaced communities are particularly disconnected from health care…
…Unsafe abortion is a global health crisis. Annually, there are more than 25 million unsafe abortions worldwide and they contribute to as many as 13.2% of maternal deaths each year. The Helms Amendment exacerbates this crisis by putting safe abortion care out of reach for those served by U.S. global health programs. U.S. policy should explicitly support access to safe and legal abortion throughout the world, as part of U.S. efforts to advance health, human rights, and gender equality.
July 29, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release on her official website titled: “Reps. Pressley, Schakowsky, Colleagues Introduce First-Ever Bill to Repeal the Helms Amendment, a 47-Year-Old, Anti-Choice Policy Restricting Abortion Access Around the Globe”. From the press release:
Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus Providers and Clinics Task Force, today introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020, the first-ever legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment and expand abortion access globally. Representatives Nita Lowey (NY-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Diana DeGette (CO-01), and Norma Torres (CA-35) joined Congresswomen Pressley and Schakowsky as original cosponsors.
“Abortion care is health care and health care is a fundamental human right. For too long, anti-choice policy, including the Helms Amendment and the Hyde Amendment, has dictated who has access to critical healthcare, economic opportunity and bodily autonomy. We must be consistent in our calls to dismantle racist policies that perpetuate inequities and exacerbate health disparities for Black and brown people here in the United States and around the globe,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “I am proud to join Congresswoman Schakowsky in this fight to affirm abortion rights and reproductive justice for all.”
“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism. It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions Black and brown people around the world. Just like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment puts reproductive and economic freedom out of reach for women of color. But enough is enough, and both amendments must fall if we want to realize true health equity and reproductive justice,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “I am proud that my sisters Representatives Lowey, Lee, Speier, Pressley, DeGette, and Torres are joining me to introduce the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which will finally repeal the Helms Amendment. Comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal, and accessible abortion, is a human right.”
Enacted in 1973, the Helms Amendment bars U.S. foreign assistance funding for abortion and has been passed as part of Congressional appropriations bills every year for nearly five decades. The legislation was first introduced by then Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), who was known for racist legislative efforts throughout his career. As the United States grapples with systemic inequities and engages in a national conversation about racial injustice, the Helms Amendment is yet another example of a systemic, racist policy that has become commonplace in society. In the case of the Helms Amendment, the U.S. uses foreign policy and promises of foreign aid to control the health care and bodily autonomy of Black and brown people around the world.
“The Helms Amendment is a shameful policy. It is long past time to repeal it and ensure that women everywhere, in particular women of color who are disproportionately harmed by this restriction, have access to a full range of safe, legal reproductive health services,” said Appropriation Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. “As a longtime advocate of women’s health, I know the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act will make a huge difference in advancing women’s rights. With this bill, we can enable and empower women around the world to make fully-informed decisions about their own health and that of their families.”
“While many countries have made inroads toward increased reproductive freedoms over the past two decades, the U.S. continues to restrict aid through the Helms Amendment, making safe abortions out of reach and putting millions of lives at risk,” said Rep. Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. “Each year, millions of people around the world have unsafe abortions, leading to debilitating injuries. As co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, I strongly support ending this discriminatory and dangerous policy.
“The Helms Amendment not only denies women around the world the right to control their own bodies and lives, it disproportionately harms women of color in developing countries. It’s a throwback to Republicans’ cruelest calculations and instincts in light of the 1973 landmark Roe v Wade decision and red meat to the President’s base. These people would rather see women die from botched and unsafe procedures than provide basic health care to avoid 25 million unsafe abortions worldwide that lead to millions of injuries and at least 22,800 preventable maternal deaths. Where is the humanity, or even the logic, in this policy?,” said Rep. Speier, Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “I applaud Congresswoman Schakowsky’s courage in taking on this longstanding issue, and I’m proud to join her and our colleagues in introducing the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020 to finally repeal the blatantly misogynistic and racist Helms Amendment.”
“Abortion is health care, period,” said Rep. DeGette, Co-Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. “Every year, the lives of millions of women around the world are needlessly put at risk by the performance of unsafe abortions. This legislation will remove the barriers that have prevented the U.S. from helping to provide these women access to safe and comprehensive reproductive care.”
“The Helms Amendment uses vital U.S. foreign assistance as a tool to deny women, especially Black and brown women around the world of autonomy over their own medical decisions,” said Rep. Torres, Vice Chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. “It creates barriers to receiving a safe abortion for some of the most vulnerable people around the world. I’m proud to stand with Rep. Schakowsky to demand an end to the Helms Amendment with the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, and I urge my colleagues to support it.”
“While U.S. foreign aid has been critical for communities across Kenya, restricting funds for abortion has been harmful to the health and autonomy of people across the country. Because of these restrictions, too often, an unsafe abortion from someone without training becomes the only option,” said Dr. Ernest Nyamato, a Kenyan doctor who leads Ipas’s Quality of Care global team and is former director of the Ipas Africa Alliance in Kenya. “As someone who has worked in multiple roles in health and human rights, I see just how critical comprehensive health care, including abortion is, for people, their families, and their communities. Unfortunately, we are already seeing health inequities grow due to COVID-19 and people using the crisis to try to eliminate abortion access. Global support must help prioritize women’s health care, not perpetuate barriers that make it harder for people to get the health care they need.”
Health systems worldwide are already overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a reduction in access to sexual and reproductive health care in many countries, despite the fact that abortion care is time sensitive. The Helms Amendment is poised to further exacerbate these disparities and put critical health care out of reach for millions across the globe.
“Having lived through other health crises, I know that women and girls often suffer disproportionately. COVID-19 has devastated many of the communities where I work, and now is not the time to further limit people’s options,” said Monica Oguttu, an international women’s rights advocate, Kenyan midwife with decades of experience, founder of Kisumu Medical and Education Trust in Kenya, and an Ipas board member. “My patients can’t afford more red tape right now, and I ask that the U.S. government help, not harm Kenyan people.”
The Helms amendment is related to, but distinct from, the global gag rule (also known as the ‘Mexico City policy’), an executive order that prohibits foreign organizations that receive U.S. global health assistance from using non-U.S. funding to provide abortion services, information, counseling, or referrals and from engaging in advocacy to expand abortion access. Both policies are discriminatory and deeply unjust.
The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020 is endorsed by more than 115 organizations, including Advocates for Youth, American Jewish World Service, Catholics for Choice, Center for Reproductive Rights, CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity), Guttmacher, International Center for Research on Women, Ipas, International Women’s Health Coalition, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Open Society Policy Center, PAI, Population Connection Action Fund, Population Institute, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. More information can be found at repealhelms.org …
July 29, 2020: The Hill posted an article titled: “Federal judge blocks Trump immigration ‘public charge’ rule due to pandemic”. It was written by Nathaniel Weixel. From the article:
The Trump administration’s controversial “public charge” rule linking immigrants’ legal status to their use of public benefits on Wednesday was blocked by a federal judge.
Judge George Daniels of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a nationwide injunction stopping the administration from enforcing the requirements, citing the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic.
The rule, from the Department of Homeland Security, would make it easier for immigration officials to deny entry or legal status to people likely to rely on government assistance.
The matter is now likely to head to the Supreme Court, which has previously acted on it…
…In his opinion, Daniels wrote that since the ruling in April, the pandemic has gotten worse and “the irreparable harm and public interests that warrant an injunction have come into sharper focus.”
“We no longer need to imagine the worst-case scenario; we are experiencing its dramatic effects in real time,” Daniels wrote.
Under the rule, any immigrant who receives at least one designated public benefit — including Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or public housing vouchers — for more than 12 months within any three-year period will be considered a “public charge” and will be more likely to be denied a green card…
…The plaintiffs argued that the rule makes it more difficult for immigrants to seek COVID-19 testing and care.
Despite a notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that medical treatment for COVID symptoms will not count toward a public charge analysis, Daniels said the rule is a deterrent for immigrants to seek medical help.
“Any policy that deters residents from seeking testing and treatment for COVID-19 increases the risk of infection for such residents and the public. Adverse government action that targets immigrants, however, is particularly dangerous during a pandemic,” Daniels wrote.
July 29, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Leads Multistate Reply Brief in Supreme Court Fight to Save the ACA”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of 20 states and D.C., today filed a reply brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) against a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas and the Trump Administration that would dismantle the entire ACA, putting the healthcare of tens of millions of Americans at risk. The Court agreed to review a Fifth Circuit decision that held the ACA’s individual mandate unconstitutional and called into question whether the remaining provisions of the law could still stand—jeopardizing Medicaid expansion, critical public health programs that help fight COVID-19, and subsidies that help working families access care, among countless others. If successful, this lawsuit would rescind criticalhealthcare coverage protections for 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, including by allowing health insurance companies to deny individuals care or charge more based on their health status. In today’s reply brief, the coalition argues that the ACA is not only legal, but a crucial resource for Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession…
…In today’s filing, California’s coalition pushes back against the arguments made by the Trump Administration and the Texas coalition. The reply brief makes clear that patients, doctors, hospitals, employers, workers,and States will be negatively impacted by this litigation and an adverse ruling. If the Trump Administration and Texas get their way, they would put at risk important advancements in healthcare access made under the ACA, including:
- More than 12 million Americans receiving coverage through Medicaid expansion;
- Nearly 9 million individuals nationwide receiving tax credits to help afford health insurance coverage through individual marketplaces;
- Millions of working families relying on high-quality, employer-sponsored insurance plans;
- Important protections prohibiting insurers from denying health insurance to the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions (like diabetes, cancer, or pregnancy) or from charging individuals higher premiums because of their health status;
- The refined way Medicare payments are made to improve health outcomes and access to medical services for seniors and people with disabilities;
- Nearly $1.3 trillion in federal funding dedicated to keeping Americans healthy and covered, including Medicaid expansion and public health dollars; and
- The expansion of health insurance and services that have been critical in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joining Attorney General Becerra in defending the ACA are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota (by and through its Department of Commerce), Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Governor of Kentucky.
A copy of the brief is available here.
July 29, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on House Reply Brief to Supreme Court on GOP’s Anti-ACA Lawsuit”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement as the House of Representatives filed a reply brief in the case of California v. Texas, to support the Affordable Care Act:
“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, with over 150,000 Americans tragically dead, millions of Americans infected, and millions more losing their jobs and their health care coverage, the Affordable Care Act’s life-saving protections are more important than ever. Yet Republicans continue their shameful, unjustifiable legal campaign to tear away protections for people with pre-existing conditions along with every other benefit and protection of the ACA.
“As our House brief argues, ‘That respondents persist in such a meritless challenge—in the midst of a public-health emergency that continues to claim thousands of lives each week, ravage the economy, and make normal life impossible—is difficult to comprehend. […] The debilitating uncertainty that respondents’ lawsuit has inflicted on the nation’s health care system—and the fear and insecurity it has inflicted on millions of Americans—should be brought to an end now.’
“Republicans must abandon their relentless efforts to rip away health care from the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and every other family who depends on the Affordable Care Act’s life-saving protections. In the depths of this ferocious pandemic, when the health of countless Americans is at risk, Democrats will never stop our work in the courts and in the Congress to defend and strengthen affordable health care for all Americans.”
July 29, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Health Care Champions in House Announce Legislation To Repeal Harmful Helms Amendment”. From the press release:
Today, Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL), Lowey (D-NY), Lee (D-CA), DeGette (D-CO), Speier (D-CA), Torres (D-CA), and Pressley (D-MA), introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, legislation that would recognize abortion as essential health care and stop the egregious U.S. policy of creating barriers for those who need abortion access across the globe. Planned Parenthood applauds this overdue legislation and urges others to join the effort to end the Helms Amendment by cosponsoring the bill.
For nearly 50 years, the Helms Amendment has blocked the use of U.S. foreign assistance to expand access to abortion services. By creating significant barriers to safe and legal health care globally, this policy endangers lives, stigmatizes abortion, and undermines our ability to advance health, human rights, and gender equality. The Helms Amendment hurts millions of people around the world by restricting the ability of individuals to make their own personal medical decisions, and denying access to comprehensive reproductive health care. This harm is focused on women and young people in low income countries around the world, including in humanitarian crises where sexual violence occurs at high rates and where displaced communities are particularly disconnected from health care.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Abortion is essential health care — period. Politicians in the U.S. should not be able to deny anyone’s access to health services, here in the U.S., or abroad. The Helms Amendment has always been a coercive policy, pushing the extreme ideology of a vocal minority in the U.S. on people in many of the lowest income countries in the world — people in need of health care. The policy is a stark example of neocolonialism, taking advantage of the uneven relationship between the U.S. and the countries that receive aid. Planned Parenthood thanks Reps. Schakowsky, Lowey, Lee, DeGette, Speier, Torres, and Pressley for being champions for sexual and reproductive health care. And we’re calling on others in Congress to support their efforts to repeal the Helms Amendment.”
Unsafe abortion is a global health crisis. Annually, there are more than 25 million unsafe abortions worldwide and they contribute to as many as 13.2% of maternal deaths each year. The Helms Amendment exacerbates this crisis by putting safe abortion care out of reach for those served by U.S. global health programs. U.S. policy should explicitly support access to safe and legal abortion throughout the world, as part of U.S. efforts to advance health, human rights, and gender equity.
July 30, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris Introduces Legislation to Support Uterine Fibroids Research and Education”. From the press release:
U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday introduced the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act, legislation to initiate crucial research and education in relation to uterine fibroids and ensure women get the information and care they need. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (NY-11) introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives…
…Uterine fibroids affect an estimated 26 million women between the ages of 15 and 50, across all racial backgrounds and socioeconomic levels in the United States. While this issue affects women across all racial backgrounds, Black women develop uterine fibroids earlier, have larger and a greater number of fibroids, and are three times more likely than white women to be hospitalized for uterine fibroids. Also, more than 80% of Black women and about 70% of white women develop fibroids by the time they reach menopause. Further, they are the leading cause for hysterectomy: 22% of Black women and 7% of white women with uterine fibroids have hysterectomies as a result of the condition.
Despite being the most common gynecological condition, there is a lack of awareness and prioritization about uterine fibroids as an important health issue. Some women who experience uterine fibroids have no symptoms; however, those that do experience: severe pelvic pain, iron-deficiency, anemia, miscarriages, infertility, and heavy bleeding. Building awareness around uterine fibroids is not only a health equity issue, but an economic imperative. Uterine fibroids cost our health care system an estimated $9.4 billion annually.
The Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act would:
- Provide $30 million annually for FY21-FY25 to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand research on uterine fibroids.
- Direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the Chronic Conditions Warehouse research database to include data on the services provided to women who experience symptoms of uterine fibroids.
- Create a uterine fibroids public education program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to disseminate information on the incidence and prevalence of uterine fibroids among women—including the elevated risk for women of color—and the available treatment options.
- Direct the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), in consultation with medical societies, to develop and disseminate information regarding uterine fibroids to health care providers, including the elevated risk for women of color to develop uterine fibroids and the available treatment options.
In addition to Harris and Clarke, this legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Van Hollen (D-MD) and Booker (D-NJ) .
This bill is supported by: Black Women’s Health Imperative, The Fibroid Foundation, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Sexual Health Association, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, CARE About Fibroids, HealthyWomen, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, National Black Nurses Association, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Organization of Black Elected Women (NOBEL Women), Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, Society for Women’s Health Research, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and The White Dress Project…
…The Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act can be read HERE.
July 30, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on 55th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released this statement marking the 55th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid being signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, on July 30, 1965:
“For 55 years, Medicare and Medicaid have stood as pillars of health and economic security for millions of seniors and families. These landmark achievements fundamentally transformed our nation and have ensured that all Americans receive the support they need and the dignity they deserve.
“Yet, for decades, Republicans have worked to make Medicare ‘wither on the vine’ and to cut and cap Medicaid into oblivion. Now, as we confront the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, Republicans are doubling down on their dangerous, anti-health care agenda, rolling back vital health care protections for seniors, families and all Americans, and arguing in court to dismantle the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. House Democrats believe in honoring our responsibility to hard-working Americans. That is why we are fighting these callous Republican attacks, and why we passed urgently-needed legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, help generics move more quickly to market and improve Medicare’s lifesaving benefits.
“As we celebrate this important day, House Democrats remain firmly committed to Medicare and Medicaid’s bedrock promises. We will continue strengthening Medicare and Medicaid’s vital lifeline for seniors and families as we work to build a healthier, more secure and equal future for generations to come.”
July 30, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Bennet, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Bolster Medicaid Coverage for COVID-19 -Related Treatment”. From the press release:
U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday joined Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), along with Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), in introducing legislation to increase coverage for uninsured Americans receiving Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related treatment and vaccines through Medicaid. The Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Act directly responds to the increased need for health care resulting from the public health and economic crisis. The legislation builds on The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provided Medicaid coverage for COVID-19 testing, and would allow Medicaid programs to pay for treatment, hospitalization, drugs, and vaccines for individuals with COVID-19 who are uninsured. In April, Harris, together with Sen. Hirono, announced the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, criticallegislation to ensure everyone has access health care and other vital resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let’s be clear: no one should be prevented from COVID-19 treatment simply because they are uninsured,” said Harris. “This virus impacts everyone and it does not care about your race, your gender, your age, your immigration status, or your health insurance status. I’m proud join my colleagues in introducing the Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Act– this critical legislation will allow Medicaid to provide coverage for COVID-19-related treatment to any uninsured individuals.”
“For many Americans, losing a job also means losing their health insurance. We cannot let millions of Americans lose access to care during the worst public health crisis in a century due to job loss or other circumstances that are out of their control,” said Bennet. “Our legislation would ensure these families and individuals who have experienced a job loss during the pandemic are able to receive the COVID-19 treatment they need by bolstering Medicaid coverage for the uninsured.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented health and financial crisis, which has exacerbated existing problems impacting Americans’ ability to access affordable health care services. This is especially true for those who are currently uninsured,” said Shaheen. “This bill would allow Medicaid to cover COVID-19 treatment costs for the uninsured and ensure that cost is not a barrier to care for those who are fighting this devastating virus. The bill gives states an incentive to take up this option by providing federal funding to reimburse states for the cost of this COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured. Combating this crisis requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, which is precisely why this legislation is urgently needed. No one should be denied lifesaving care because they cannot afford it.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has caused catastrophic damage to our nation’s public health and economy,” said Hirono. “This legislation will make sure that everyone in America—regardless of their immigration status, employment status, or insurance status—has access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, because we all benefit when our community is healthy.”
“Every American deserves a vaccine or treatment against COVID-19, regardless of cost,” said Blumenthal. “As more Americans are unemployed, and therefore uninsured, we must assure that no one is left behind. It’s vital to all of our health.”
Over 71 million individuals are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, providing essential coverage of health care services, like primary and preventive care, mental and behavioral health, and chronic illness treatment. Researchers estimate that more than 10 million people will lose employer-sponsored health insurance as a result of pandemic-related job loss in their household between April and December 2020. Just in the first three months of the pandemic, 5.4 million laid-off workers became uninsured.
The Stronger Medicaid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Act is supported by The Arc of the United States, Epilepsy Foundation, National Hispanic Medical Association, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Families USA, Colorado Safety Net Collaborative, The Arc of Colorado, National Immigration Law Center, National Health Law Program, and People’s Health Clinic.
The bill text is available HERE.
A one-pager is available HERE.
July 31, 2020: Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar posted a statement titled: “HHS Secretary Azar Statement on Court Victory for President Trump’s Drug-Pricing Agenda”. From the statement:
On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Trump Administration and HHS had the legal authority to reduce payments by 28.5 percent for drugs purchased under the 340B discount program by hospital outpatient departments, reversing a decision by the lower court on HHS’s 2017 action on this issue. HHS Secretary Alex Azar issued the following statement:
“Today’s court decision is another major victory for President Trump’s agenda of lower drug prices and better healthcare for all Americans. Since HHS took the action that the court affirmed today, we have saved more than $4.8 billion in lower drug costs and reinvested these savings in the Medicare program. Thanks to President Trump’s actions, Medicare patients, and especially those who live in more vulnerable areas, are now paying less out-of-pocket for the drugs they need.”
August 3, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Leads Multistate Amicus Brief Supporting Challenge to Trump Administration’s Healthcare Refusal Rule”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit supporting a multistate challenge led by New York, opposing the Trump Administration’s illegal Healthcare Refusal Rule. The Healthcare Refusal Rule jeopardizes the health and safety of state residents by creating a broad exemption that would allow anyone remotely involved in a healthcare transaction to deny care based on their religious or moral beliefs. This exemption would open the door to discrimination, particularly against women and LGBTQ individuals, and endanger the timely delivery of critical lifesaving care. In the brief, the coalition urges the Court of Appeals to uphold the district court ruling, which found the Rule to be unlawful…
…In the brief, the attorneys general argue that the Amici States have already tailored their laws and regulations to balance the need to protect access to healthcare while respecting providers’ right to lodge “conscience” objections, in accordance with numerous existing federal conscience provisions Congress has enacted. However, the Healthcare Refusal Rule issued by the Trump Administration’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) goes far beyond existing provisions, creating a broad exemption that risks access to care. The new rule would allow anyone remotely involved in a healthcare transaction – from front desk staff to emergency personnel to private entities – to object not just for religious reasons, but for “moral, ethical, or other” reasons as well.
The coalition argues that the Rule would compromise patient access to care, and encourage discrimination against vulnerable patient populations, including women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and rural and low-income communities. In the New York district court, HHS’ counsel even conceded that the Rule would permit an ambulance driver to cease driving in the middle of Central Park “en route to hospital…upon learning that the patient sought emergency care for ectopic pregnancy,” and that an employer’s failure to accommodate that ambulance driver could “result in a loss of federal funding.” These harsh outcomes not only conflict with federal law, but would greatly undermine Amici States’ longstanding efforts to ensure access to emergency care in their own states.
In addition to impeding access to basic healthcare, including reproductive and emergency care, the Rule has substantial material costs. It threatens hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding for healthcare programs and services using unlawful, draconian penalties for non-compliance. For Amici States alone, the Rule puts at risk some $100 billion in federal funds. The Rule, quite simply, puts a “gun to the head” of Amici States, and many others.
In the brief, the coalition asserts that the district court correctly concluded that HHS’s new conscience regulation exceeds the agency’s authority, is arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to federal law and the United States Constitution. The amici urge the Court of Appeals to uphold the district court’s ruling.
Attorney General Becerra has fought against the Trump Administration’s Healthcare Refusal Rule at every turn. On May 21, 2019, he filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the rule. On September 12, 2019, he filed a motion for summary judgment, to swiftly resolve the case and stop the rule from taking effect in California. On November 19, 2019, the district court granted California’s motion, finding the Rule illegal.
In filing the brief, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of North Carolina, Maine, and Washington.
A copy of the brief is available here.
August 4, 2020: Business Wire posted a press release titled: “Congress Must Act to Prevent Further Damage to the Health Care System”. From the press release:
The proposed 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on August 3, 2020 failed to address a significant shift in physician and nonphysician payments. Due to the agency’s inaction, organizations representing more than 350,000 physicians and 764,000 nonphysician health care providers across the United States, are urging Congress to pass legislation to stop arbitrary Medicare cuts to specialty physicians and nonphysician providers — including audiologists, physical and occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists — to protect patient access to medically necessary services.
n late 2019, CMS announced new Medicare payment policies for office and outpatient visits — also known as evaluation and management (E/M) services — billed by physicians and some nonphysician providers. These changes go into effect beginning on January 1, 2021 and will result in cuts of up to 10 percent or more for certain specialties. Due to Medicare’s budget-neutrality requirements, physician, nonphysician, and institutional providers billing under the PFS will experience substantial payment reductions to offset payment increases to physicians and other providers who primarily deliver office-based services. These cuts will be devastating to a health care system that is already struggling and may lead to reduced access to care for older Americans and Americans with disabilities.
Our groups are calling on Congress and CMS to collaborate on developing a solution that will allow the changes to the E/M services to proceed, while at the same time preventing cuts to our health care professionals. Waiving budget neutrality requirements for the E/M policy is the most straightforward solution. It will provide a critical reprieve for a broad array of physicians and nonphysician health care providers facing substantial payment reductions in the coming months, while also allowing payment increases to go forward for those who provide E/M services to Medicare beneficiaries in a stand-alone office visit or outpatient setting.
As practices plan for 2021, they must anticipate and account for these cuts to their Medicare payment at a time when they are struggling with the devastating financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. If Congress fails to mitigate these cuts, decreases in Medicare payments will further exacerbate the problems occurring across the country with practices furloughing or cutting staff and an increasing number closing their doors. Of great concern is the impact that this will have on access to needed health care services, especially for beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas. Because, in the end, if these detrimental cuts are implemented, those who suffer the most will be patients.
The letter was signed by:
- American Academy of Audiology
- American Academy of Dermatology Association
- American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
- American Academy of Ophthalmology
- Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation
- American Association of Neurological Surgeons
- American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
- American Chiropractic Association
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- American College of Osteopathic Surgeons
- American College of Radiation Oncology
- American College of Radiology
- American College of Surgeons
- American Occupational Therapy Association
- American Physical Therapy Association
- American Psychological Association
- Association for Quality Imaging
- American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery
- American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
- American Society of Hand Therapists
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- American Society for Radiation Oncology
- American Society of Retina Specialists
- American Society for Surgery of the Hand
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- American Urological Association
- CardioVascular Coalition
- College of American Pathologists
- Congress of Neurological Surgeons
- Dialysis Vascular Access Coalition
- Institute for Critical Care Foundation
- National Association for the Support of Long Term Care
- National Association of Rehabilitation Providers and Agencies
- Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association
- Society of Interventional Radiology
- Society of Thoracic Surgeons
August 4, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a statement titled: “ACOG Commends CMS for Recognizing the Importance of Maternity Care, Pledges Continued Advocacy for Gynecologic Care”. From the statement:
The following statement was released by Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, FACOG, chief executive officer of ACOG, on the proposed rule announced yesterday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule:
“ACOG commends CMS for protecting the availability of quality medical care for pregnant and postpartum women by proposing to increase the relative value of the global obstetric packages commensurate with the increases for other types of office visits in 2021.
“We thank CMS for directly responding to input provided by ACOG regarding the methodology and valuation used to determine payment rates for maternity care. By listening to ACOG and the concerns of our 60,000 members, CMS will help to ensure the sustainability of high-quality obstetric practices across the country, improving health care for women.
“CMS previously finalized a policy to increase Medicare payment rates for outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) services, but because CMS did not apply those increases to the global obstetric packages, this policy would have resulted in payment cuts for obstetric services in 2021. Those cuts would have reduced reimbursement rates across payers, including Medicaid, TRICARE, and commercial insurers, increasing barriers to care and potentially worsening inequities in maternal health outcomes.
“We also thank CMS for recognizing the increased expense incurred by obstetrician-gynecologists when performing many gynecologic procedures by adjusting their relative values for practice expense and professional liability costs.
“For the last year, ACOG has advocated for CMS to value women’s health services equitably and to ensure that their value is on par with other E/M value increases.
“These proposals, along with proposals to improve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services, demonstrate CMS’ commitment to advancing our common goal of improving women’s health. While we are still reviewing the proposal, ACOG urges CMS to finalize the increased values for obstetric and gynecologic services in the 2021 final rule.
“Although we appreciate the agency’s actions, ACOG is deeply concerned that CMS is moving forward with payment cuts for surgical services. This will further jeopardize access to gynecologic surgery and the ongoing stability of obstetrics and gynecology practices that were struggling financially even before the COVID-19 pandemic. We strongly oppose these unfair cuts and pledge to continue our advocacy to ensure that all women’s health services are equitably and fairly valued.”
August 4, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Massachusetts Congressional Delegation Requests Additional Funding for Massachusetts Hospitals in Next Relief Package”. From the press release:
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), William Keating (MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Lori Trahan (MA-03), today urged Congressional Leadership to provide additional funding for Massachusetts hospitals in the next coronavirus relief package as they continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In Massachusetts, our hospitals continue to be on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, treating patients, protecting their staff, and ensuring that the pandemic does not disrupt other essential care,” the lawmakers wrote. “In return, they continue to need our support. The recently released proposal from Senate Republicans, which includes a mere $25 billion in additional funding for the Provider Relief Fund, is insufficient.”
As hospitals continue to play an outsized role in the COVID-19 pandemic, they have suffered a serious financial toll. Hospitals continue to face higher operating costs as they take precautions to protect their patients and staff from infection, and while most hospitals have resumed preventative and elective procedures, the suspension of these procedures earlier this year cost hospitals millions of dollars per day, creating losses that will take years to recoup. The delegation called for an additional $100 billion for the Provider Relief Fund to alleviate this financial pressure and ensure that hospitals can continue to provide care to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hospitals and their staff have made heroic efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, including by putting themselves at risk of infection in order to care for their patients,” the lawmakers continue. “We owe it to them, and to our constituents who rely on these health care providers for exceptional medical care, to support their ongoing financial needs.”
August 5, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Files Amicus Brief Opposing FDA’s Unnecessary Barriers to Abortion Medication During COVID-19 Pandemic”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a multistate amicus brief supporting the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and Honor MacNaughton, M.D. These healthcare providers oppose the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) motion for stay of the district court ruling halting the federal government’s restrictions imposed on Mifepristone, the medication abortion prescription drug. Currently, due to FDA restrictions, Mifepristone can only be dispensed by certified providers at a hospital, clinic, or medical office — and not via pharmacy or mail — requiring women to go in person for a prescription. Evidence shows these restrictions are dated and not medically based. In the brief filed in the Fourth Circuit, the attorneys general argue that allowing enforcement of the FDA requirements during the current public health crisis will harm patient safety and the public interest by conditioning access to constitutionally protected abortion on an increased risk of virus infection and transmission. They also argue that allowing enforcement will undermine the amici’s ongoing efforts to manage the crisis through measures limiting unnecessary in-person contacts…
…In the brief, the coalition argues that the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) designation impedes women’s access to the medication abortion prescription drug despite the fact that it has been proven safe and effective. Mifepristone has been approved by the FDA since 2000, and it remains the only drug approved in the United States for pregnancy termination. Since its approval, about three million women in the United States have used the medication to terminate a pregnancy. Indeed, according to the FDA, this medication “has been increasingly used as its efficacy and safety have become well-established by both research and experience.” However, under REMS, the FDA imposed several unnecessary requirements:
- Healthcare providers must be registered with the drug manufacturer;
- Patients must sign a “Patient Agreement” form confirming that they received counseling on the risks associated with the medication; and
- Patients must be handed the medication at a clinic, medical office, or hospital under the supervision of a healthcare provider if the medication is prescribed for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy – yet the drug can be dispensed by mail in higher doses if prescribed for other purposes, such as ulcer relief.
During this unprecedented crisis, it is essential that women across the country have access to critical healthcare services. Many states have already taken steps to increase telehealth care at the federal government’s request. Yet, the current FDA REMS creates unnecessary barriers for women to access abortion care. In the brief, the coalition argues that these onerous and medically unnecessary requirements limit healthcare providers’ ability to assist their female patients, particularly during this global healthcare crisis. Furthermore, these requirements impose significant burdens on women in rural and medically underserved communities who would be required to travel long distances — sometimes up to 200 miles — for time-sensitive, in-person care. Forcing women to travel at a time when many states and the federal government are urging people to stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19 puts women across the country in harm’s way.
In June, Attorney General Becerra joined a coalition filing an amicus brief supporting ACOG’s challenge to the FDA’s REMS. In March, Attorney General Becerra led a multistate coalition in sending a letter to the FDA, asking them to remove REMS restrictions or waive enforcement of these requirements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide stay-at-home orders.
In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the brief is available here.
August 5, 2020: Vox posted an article titled: “Missouri approves Medicaid expansion ballot initiative, extending coverage to 200,000 people”. It was written by Dylan Scott. From the article:
Missouri voters approved an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in Tuesday’s election, according to Vox’s partners at Decision Desk – making another success story at the ballot box for the program in a state where it had been stifled by Republican opposition.
The ballot initiative expands Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $17,500 for an individual or $30,000 for a family of three) as authorized under the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 230,000 low-income Missourians will become eligible for Medicaid, though that number could end up being even higher given the recent job losses in the Covid-19 crisis. The federal government will cover 90 percent of the expansion costs; the state will be responsible for the other 10 percent.
The vote passed over the objections of Missouri’s Republican governor, Mike Parson, and conservative interest groups. Bills had been introduced in previous legislative sessions that would have expanded Medicaid, but they were ignored by the GOP majority.
This makes Missouri the 39th state to expand Medicaid through Obamacare; all the holdouts have been driven by GOP opposition to the 2010 health care law. About 2.3 million people nationwide are estimated to be uninsured because their state has refused to extend Medicaid eligibility and they make too little money to qualify for tax subsidies to buy private coverage. (Eligibility for the ACA subsidies starts at 100 percent of the poverty level.)…
…Republican officials have sometimes tried to undo the results at the ballot box — in Utah, for example, GOP lawmakers sought to add restrictions on eligibility — but the Missouri initiative was specifically written to prevent tampering by the state legislature or the governor. Medicaid expansion would be written into the state constitution, and the state cannot introduce work requirements or any other limits on benefits.
Conservative groups had sued to try to stop the Medicaid expansion initiative from appearing on the ballot, arguing it violated the Missouri Constitution, but the language was upheld by state courts. Republicans argued that the state could not afford the expansion, in spite of the 90 percent federal funding match…
August 5, 2020: NPR posted an article titled: “Missouri Voters Approve Medicaid Expansion Despite Resistance From Republican Leaders”. It was written by Alex Smith. From the article:
Despite strong opposition from Republicans and rural voters, Missouri on Tuesday joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in expanding its Medicaid program.
Voters in Missouri approved creating a state constitutional amendment that will open Medicaid eligibility to include healthy adults starting on July 1, 2021.
Voters approved expansion by a vote of 53.25% to 46.75%. A total of 1,263,776 voters weighed in on the measure.
Missouri joins five other mostly conservative states that have passed Medicaid expansion via ballot initiatives, most recently Oklahoma, which voted in the measure on June 30. Most of the remaining 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid are Republican-leaning states in the South…
…Medicaid expansion, which states have the option of adopting as part of the Affordable Care Act, opens eligibility in the program to individuals and families with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal government covers 90% of expansion costs. A family of three, like Nika’s, could make up to $29,974 to qualify.
Researchers from Washington University in Saint Louis estimated in 2019 that around 230,000 people in Missouri would enroll for Medicaid if it were expanded. As of 2018, 9.3% of Missourians were uninsured. The study also showed expansion would save the state an estimated $39 million a year, largely by eliminating the need for other state health spending…
…Support for expansion came largely from voters in and around the urban centers of Kansas City, Saint Louis, Springfield and Columbia. Voters in Kansas City, Mo., for example, approved the measure by 87.6%.
Amendment 2 was rejected overwhelmingly by conservative voters in the mostly rural parts of the state that have the highest uninsured and poverty rates.
Voters in McDonald, Morgan and Scotland counties, which have the three highest uninsured rates in the state, rejected the measure by margins of nearly 2 to 1 or greater…
August 5, 2020: Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (Democrat) posted a press release titled: “Governor Kelly Statement on Medicaid Expansion in Missouri”. From the press release:
The following statement is from Governor Laura Kelly regarding the passage of Medicaid expansion in Missouri:
“Last night, Missourians voted to join our neighbors in Colorado, Nebraska, and Oklahoma to become the 39th state to expand Medicaid. Every single Kansas voter must ask themselves why, year after year, Republican leadership in the Legislature has blocked expansion.
“Their obstruction has left 150,000 Kansans without access to healthcare during a global health crisis. They have forfeited $4 billion Kansas taxpayer dollars. They have rejected 13,000 new jobs that we could bring to Kansas.
“Republican leadership in the Legislature must stop playing politics with Kansans’ lives and support Medicaid expansion.”
August 5, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Wins Another Victory Against Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James yesterday secured another major victory for immigrants across New York and the rest of the nation in her lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule. Attorney General James led a coalition — that includes three states and New York City — that today obtained a ruling from the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upholding a preliminary injunction against the rule that changed the established meaning of public charge.
“The Second Circuit has now recognized that the Trump Administration acted unlawfully in issuing its Public Charge Rule,” said Attorney General James. “The federal government’s change to this rule was wrong when it was first issued, long before the public health crisis that now plagues the nation. Unfortunately, the realities of the current pandemic underscore the importance of this fight, and we remain committed to delivering justice for New Yorkers and for our immigrant neighbors seeking to make a better life for themselves here.”
Today’s decision enjoined the Public Charge Rule in its entirety in the plaintiff states and localities (New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and New York City), upholding a decision issued by a trial court many months ago. Because the original injunction had been stayed by the Supreme Court, last week the trial court issued a second preliminary injunction against the Public Charge Rule, just for the duration of the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), finding that the rule was exacerbating the spread of the disease by deterring people from seeking needed health care.
Federal law allows lawful immigrants to apply for certain supplemental health and nutritional public benefits if they have been in the country for at least five years. But, last August, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Public Charge Rule that changed the established meaning of public charge, which had long been that immigrants who use basic, non-cash benefits are not considered public charges because they are not primarily dependent on the government for survival. This “bait-and-switch” consequently jeopardized immigrants’ chances of becoming legal permanent residents or renewing their visas if they used the supplemental benefits to which they are legally entitled.
In today’s order, the court held that the Public Charge Rule is likely contrary to the immigration law set by Congress and arbitrary and capricious. As the court noted: “Accepting help that is offered to elevate one to a higher standard of living, help that was created by Congress for that precise purpose, does not mean a person is not self-sufficient — particularly when such programs are available not just to persons living in abject poverty but to a broad swath of low- and moderate-income Americans, including those who are productively employed. DHS goes too far in assuming that all those who participate in non-cash benefits programs would be otherwise unable to meet their needs and that they can thus be categorically considered ‘public charges.’ Its unsupported and conclusory claim that receipt of such benefits indicates an inability to support oneself does not satisfy DHS’s obligation to explain its actions.”
Last August, days after the Trump Administration initially issued the Public Charge Rule, Attorney General James and a coalition of states and New York City filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration rule in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, noting that the rule specifically targets immigrants of color, immigrants with disabilities, and low-income immigrants, while putting these communities at risk, and would have short- and long-term impacts on public health and the economy.
The attorneys general of Connecticut and Vermont, as well as corporation counsel for New York City all joined Attorney General James in filing the motion for a preliminary injunction that was affirmed today.
This appeal was handled by Senior Assistant Solicitor General Judith N. Vale, Deputy Solicitor General Steven C. Wu, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood. The public charge matter is being handled by Deputy Bureau Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau Elena Goldstein, Civil Enforcement Section Chief of the Labor Bureau Ming-Qi Chu, and Assistant Attorneys General Abigail Rosner and Amanda Meyer, all under the supervision of Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo. The Division for Federal Initiatives is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
August 7, 2020: CNBC posted an article titled: “Trump says he’s working on health insurance executive order on pre-existing conditions”. From the article:
President Donald Trump said on Friday he would be working over the next couple of weeks on an executive order to require health insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.
Insurance companies were prohibited from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act passed under former President Barack Obama, known as Obamacare, which the Trump administration has tried to scrap.
“Over the next two weeks, I’ll be pursuing a major executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions for all customers,” Trump said at a news conference at his golf property in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The Republican president, who is trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden ahead of the Nov. 3, gave no details about his plan.
Trump criticized the cost and coverage under Obamacare and has been promising since his 2016 campaign to replace it with a better plan.
His administration asked the Supreme Court in June to invalidate the Obamacare law….
August 7, 2020: Lambda Legal posted news titled: “Victory! Court Confirms Idaho’s Anti-Transgender Birth Certificate Law Violates Ruling”.
The federal district court in Idaho today slapped down an effort by the Idaho legislature and Idaho Gov. Brad Little to resuscitate a ban preventing transgender people born in Idaho from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their gender identity. In so doing, the judge held that Idaho state officials’ enforcement of House Bill 509 is currently in violation of the court’s permanent injunction issued in 2018 that declared any such ban unconstitutional and blocked its enforcement.
“It is astonishing that the Idaho legislature and Gov. Little plowed forward with resuscitating this dangerous and archaic ban in direct defiance of multiple court orders that repeatedly ordered the government to stop discriminating against transgender people and placing them in harm’s way,” said Nora Huppert, a Renberg Fellow and attorney with Lambda Legal. “The court could not have been clearer: What was discriminatory in 2018 remains discriminatory today. Idaho officials may not block transgender people from obtaining identity documents that reflect who they are. This law seeks to deny the very existence of transgender people by stripping them of their identity.”
The ruling comes on the heels of an earlier ruling by the court on June 1, 2020, in which it warned Idaho state officials that the court’s permanent injunction continued to apply to HB 509, and cautioned them against “experimentation with disobedience of the law.” Despite that warning, Idaho state officials pushed forward with enforcement of HB 509 on its effective date of July 1, 2020, prompting another round of litigation that resulted in today’s ruling.
“When you treat the federal court like a doormat, there are going to be consequences,” Huppert added. “The rule of law comes to a grinding halt if government officials can act as if they are above the law that the rest of us are expected to follow.”
From the ruling: “The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s enforcement of HB 509 “denies transgender individuals a meaningful process for changing the sex listed on their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity. This violates the Injunction’s directive prohibiting IDHW from categorically rejecting applications from transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates and its mandate that IDHW allow such applications.”
Lambda Legal filed the original lawsuit, F.V. v. Barron, in 2017. The lawsuit argued that denying transgender people born in Idaho the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates discriminates against them and invades their privacy, liberty, and freedom from compelled speech under U.S. Constitution. For example, after one plaintiff, who is a transgender woman, displayed her birth certificate at a social security office, she was subjected to harassment for being transgender. In March, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho ruled that the government unconstitutionally discriminated against transgender people, and it issued a permanent injunction against state officials…
August 7, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley posted a press release titled: “Mass. Congressional Delegation Reiterates Request for Trump Administration to Fully Fund COVID-19 Response for Tribal Nations in Massachusetts”. From the press release:
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Representatives William Keating (MA-09), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Richard E. Neal (MA-01), and Seth Moulton (MA-06), sent a letter to President Trump to reiterate their request to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to waive all of the traditional cost-share requirements for all COVID-19-related assistance for the Commonwealth’s two federally recognized tribal nations, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
In early April, the chairperson of each tribal nation wrote to President Trump to request a waiver from any cost share, citing the financial hardship caused by the pandemic. The Massachusetts congressional delegation then wrote to President Trump to urge him to direct FEMA to increase its federal cost share to 100% for the two tribal nations. Unlike states, the two tribal nations do not have a tax base to help cover the cost of services to their citizens and as a result, they have not been able to implement fully all the emergency measures they would have been able to take if they did not bear a significant share of the cost. In addition, the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations require that tribal nations not be left to suffer severe hardship from an emergency.
“We have not received a reply to our letter, nor have the tribal nations received a response to their requests. Given the emergency faced by the tribal nations, and their nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government, further delays are unacceptable,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Granting the requests of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and waiving the traditional cost share requirements for all COVID-19-related assistance to them, will better empower them to address this pandemic,” the lawmakers continued. They also noted that other funding provided by Congress to tribal nations is not a substitute for this waiver.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate and tragic impact on Native communities. Seven tribal nations have COVID-19 case rates higher than any state in the United States. Indian Country has not received adequate resources for public health and emergency management, either before or during this public health emergency,” the lawmakers wrote.
August 8, 2020: The Hill posted an article titled: “Trump teases order requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions”. It was written by Brett Samuels. From the article:
President Trump on Friday teased an executive order to require health insurers to cover all preexisting conditions, something already established under the Affordable Care Axt, which his administration is suing to dismantle.
“Over the next two weeks, I’ll be pursuing a major executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions for all companies,” Trump said during a news conference at his Bedminister property in New Jersey. “That’s a big thing. I’ve always been very strongly in favor. We have to cover preexisting conditions.”
Trump claimed such a move “has never been done before,” though insurance companies are already required to cover patients with preexisting conditions under the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010.
Despite Trump’s insistance he will protect those with preexisting conditions, the Justice Department argued in a Supreme Court briefing in late June that the entire Affordable Care Act should be invalidated…
…Trump has, throughout his first term, promised to unveil a health care plan of his own, though has yet to do so while seeking reelection. In an interview late last month with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday”, Trump promised a comprehensive health care bill within two weeks. Two weeks later, he said it would likely be out within a month…
August 9, 2020: Times Union posted an article titled: “Uninsured stuck with COVID testing bill”. It was written by Crhis Bragg. From the article:
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress allocated billions of dollars enabling health care providers to give coronavirus tests – for free – to people lacking health insurance.
But the program is voluntary. And health care providers can turn a greater profit by charging the uninsured for the full price of testing, out of pocket, rather than seeking a lesser reimbursement from the government for treating those patients.
In the Capital Region, instead of giving free tests and making less money, several upstate New York-based “urgent care” chains are making the uninsured pay the bill, according to interviews and records reviewed by the Times Union. That has left uninsured patients paying $125 or significantly more to get tested, a potential financial barrier to widespread testing needed to counter the pandemic.
At the same time they’ve shunned the federal dollars that would give the uninsured free testing, urgent care chains — WellNow, Community Care Physicians, and Albany Med EmUrgentCare — have applied for and received millions in federal subsidies benefiting their own bottom lines…
…Any health care provider getting support from the $50 billion federal Provider Relief Fund — the entity that gave the millions to the Capital Region urgent cares to cover their COVID-19 costs — should, as a condition of receiving the funds, be required to refrain from billing the uninsured for services such as testing, the authors wrote.
If the Trump administration fails to adopt such a requirement, then Congress should act, the authors said.
The Trump administration does not appear poised to adopt such a requirement. Asked about these concerns, a spokesman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services said only that the agency “continues to promote the availability” of the uninsured testing program and “encourages” providers to utilize the program in an “effort to support vulnerable uninsured individuals.”…
…The cost for the diagnostic and antibody tests, as well as doctor visits associated with them, could all be covered by the billions in federal funding making uninsured testing free — but only if a provider participates…
August 10, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Files Amicus Brief in Support of Kings County Woman Arrested for Murder After the Loss of Her Pregnancy”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed an amicus brief in support of granting Chelsea Becker’s petition to end the prosecution and all criminal proceedings against her. Ms. Becker was arrested and charged with murder after delivering a stillborn child in Kings County. The Kings County District Attorney alleged that Ms. Becker’s methamphetamine use led to teh death of the fetus and constituted murder. The District Attorney charged Ms. Becker with violating section 187 of the California Penal Code on October 31, 2019, and the superior court denied Ms. Becker’s motion to dismiss the charges on June 4, 2020. She has been in custody since she was charged and is currently awaiting trial.
“Today we filed an amicus brief supporting Chelsea Becker’s appeal, because we believe the law was misapplied and misinterpreted,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Section 187 of the California Penal Code was intended to protect pregnant women from harm, not charge them with murder. Our laws in California do not convict women who suffer the loss of their pregnancy, and in our filing today we are making clear that this law has been misused to the detriment of women, children, and families. We will work to end the prosecution and imprisonment of Ms. Becker so we can focus on applying this law to those who put the lives of pregnant women in danger.”
In the brief, Attorney General Becerra argues that the Kings County District Attorney misinterpreted the law’s intention and the superior court was subsequently incorrect in its judgment of Ms. Becker’s motion to dismiss the charges against her. The brief argues that the text, purpose, and history of the law make it clear that a woman cannot be prosecuted for murder as a result of her pregnancy loss.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to seeing Ms. Becker released from jail with the charges against her dropped and the law applied the way it was intended – to protect women.
A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.
August 10, 2020: Politico posted an article titled: “Trump: Executive order on pre-existing conditions is ‘a signal'”. From the article:
President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged a prospective executive order he’s considering to make insurers cover pre-existing conditions amounted to political messaging — and that Obamacare already offered such protections.
“It’s a signal to people … it’s a second platform,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “Pre-existing conditions will be taken care of 100 percent by Republicans and the Republican party. I actually think it’s a very important statement.”
Trump had teased the executive order Friday night at his private club in Bedminster, N.J., while unveiling other executive actions to address the coronavirus crisis and economic crash.
Background: Trump and Republicans are vulnerable on the issue of pre-existing conditions after waging a lengthy legal battle to strike down Obamacare and its consumer protections without offering a replacement.
Trump’s administration has also increased the availability of cheap, skimpier health plans that don’t meet Obamacare’s coverage requirements and wouldn’t protect some patients with chronic conditions….
August 11, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Leads Coalition of Attorneys General in Opposition to IRS Proposed Rule that Undermines the ACA”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general, submitted a comment letter opposing the Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) proposed rule which seeks to treat payments made to healthcare sharing ministries (HSMs) as deductible medical expenses under Section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code —expanding non-ACA compliant coverage in the market. The letter urges the agencies to withdraw the proposed rule, arguing that allowing tax deductions for payments made to Healthcare Sharing Ministries (HSMs) undermines the ACA and leaves consumers with junk coverage.
“We are in the middle of a global health crisis in which millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their health insurance,” said Attorney General Becerra. “So what does the Trump Administration propose? A rule that would treat junk insurance plans as the real deal. Healthcare sharing ministries are not full coverage health insurance, should not be treated as such, and will only cause confusion and harm as families desperately seek to get covered. We urge the Department of the Treasury and the IRS to withdraw this proposed rule immediately before it leaves even more Americans without robust health coverage.”
Prior to the passage of the ACA, HSMs allowed people to pool their money with others who shared their religious beliefs in order to assist each other in times of medical crisis. When the ACA was passed, millions of uninsured Americans became insured and gained access to quality, affordable health insurance. However, many companies began to capitalize on the exemption of HSMs from many of the coverage mandates in the ACA by marketing them as a less expensive alternative to ACA-compliant health insurance. Unlike ACA-compliant health insurance, HSMs do not guarantee payment for covered services and fail to cover essential health benefits, like birth control, prescriptions, preexisting conditions, and mental health care.
In their letter, the attorneys general argue the proposed rule will:
- Further increase consumer confusion and fraud in the healthcare marketplace: HSMs are not mandated by the ACA to provide the ten essential health benefits required of health plans sold in the individual market, including coverage for preventive care, services for mental health and substance use disorders, and reproductive care. The letter explains that many HSMs have chosen to capitalize on this by mirroring the structure of ACA-compliant insurance plans in order to market themselves as a less expensive healthcare option, while not actually providing full coverage insurance to their members. By treating expenses for HSMs as deductible medical expenses, HSMs will further resemble traditional health insurance companies while continuing to dodge the requirement to provide their consumers with essential health benefits; and
- Worsen market segmentation: If companies are able to use the proposed rule to boost confusing marketing tactics that paint HSMs as a quality health insurance option, market segmentation will occur as younger, healthier people choose them over ACA-compliant coverage. The letter argues that this will increase the cost of premiums for older and less healthy Americans who must remain in ACA-compliant health plans in order to receive full health coverage.
The letter also argues that the proposed rule is in excess of authority and is an example of capricious rulemaking as it does not take into account the consumer confusion, fraud, and risk of market segmentation the rule could cause.
In sending the letter, Attorney General Becerra was joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
A copy of the letter can be found here.
August 11, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release on her official website titled: “Rep. Pressley, Task Force on Aging and Families Release Statement on President Trump’s Executive Action Destabilizing Social Security and Medicare”. From the press release:
In response to President Trump’s executive action destabilizing Social Security and Medicare, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families, and her colleagues on the Task Force released the following statement:
“Americans are facing both a public health crisis and an economic one due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is nothing short of cruel that President Trump has chosen this moment to plunge Social Security and Medicare into chaos, along with the millions of children and older Americans who survive on these earned benefits.
Seniors are already endangered by the coronavirus, as evidenced by its grave toll in our nation’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities. President Trump is further endangering their long-term well-being and financial stability in favor of the wealthy, the well-off and the well-connected with his payroll tax scheme.
President Trump may be calling this a “tax holiday.” In reality, this legally questionable executive action is nothing more than another GOP tax scam that hurts working families. They will still be forced to eventually pay these taxes, while the president’s actions will decimate the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds in the meantime.
This week marks 85 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law, in a different time of economic turmoil and hardship. It is in this spirit that House Democrats are fighting to protect the benefits Americans have earned against this unconscionable attack by the president.”
August 14, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Reaches Settlement with Verity Health on Conditions of Transfer of St. Francis Medical Center”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced a settlement with Verity Health System of California, Inc. (Verity) and Prime Healthcare Services, Inc. (Prime), putting in place additional conditions on Verity’s sale of St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles County to Prime. The settlement requires Prime to provide funding for charity care and community benefit services in the communities surrounding St. Francis over the next six fiscal years.
“The California Department of Justice has a responsibility to the families who live around and rely on St. Francis Medical Center. The COVID-19 public health crisis has brought home the importance of having access to lifesaving hospital care nearby in our communities,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s settlement ensures that St. Francis will continue to deliver services to the community through increased charity care, which helps those who don’t have coverage, and community benefit services to Los Angeles communities.”
Over the course of the six fiscal years of the deal, the settlement requires Prime to provide:
- $9.35 million per year in charity care, an increase of $1.35 million per year beyond what is required by court order, or a total increase of $8.1 million; and
- Approximately $1.6 million per year in community benefit services, an increase of nearly $458,000 per year beyond what is required by court order, or a total increase of nearly $2.75 million.
Under California law (Corporations Code section 5914 et seq., and California Code of Regulations, title 11, section 999.5), any proposed sale of a non-profit health facility to a for-profit corporation must secure the approval of the state Attorney General, whose statutory charge is to consider the factors set forth in the law, including whether the transaction is in the public interest and whether the transaction affects the availability or accessibility of healthcare services to the affected community. Today’s settlement resolves matters pending in bankruptcy court relating to the sale of St. Francis to Prime.
A copy of the settlement is available here.
August 17, 2020: Human Rights Campaign posted a press release titled: “Human Rights Campaign Wins Preliminary Injunction against Trump Health Care Rule”. From the press release:
The injunction comes after the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sued the Trump-Pence administration for advancing a rule that would have eliminated explicit protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity
Today, Federal District Court Judge Frederic Block issued a preliminary injunction against a recently published regulation by the United States Department of Health and Human Services which would illegally strip away critical anti-discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act. The injunction comes after the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sued the Trump-Pence administration for advancing a rule that would have eliminated explicit protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity, thereby sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people, in health care programs and activities. The rule was scheduled to take effect on August 18 but will now be precluded from becoming operative.
…This failed attempt to callously strip away non-discrimination health care protections is merely the latest in a long line of attacks against the transgender community from the Trump-Pence team. Today’s victory is a step in the right direction, and we at the Human Rights Campaign will continue to fight the administration’s attempts to dehumanize and stigmatize the LGBTQ community. This rule should be permanently tossed out and we will fight in court to ensure that it is.”
The lawsuit was filed by the Human Rights Campaign and BakerHostetler on behalf of two plaintiffs, both transgender women of color: Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, an Army veteran, two-time lung cancer survivor and community leader who co-founded a statewide advocacy group for transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers, and Cecilia Gentili, an entrepreneur, activist, writer and storyteller with over a decade of experience as a patient and health care policy advocate…
August 17, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on District Court Victory for LGBTQ Americans”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the Eastern District Court in New York, in the case of Walker v. Azar (EDNY), enjoined the Department of Health and Human Services from implementing its anti-LGBTQ rule, which was slated to take effect tomorrow. The House of Representatives participated in the case as amicus curiae in support of the plaintiffs:
“In the midst of a pandemic, the Trump Administration has executed a relentless assault on the health and well-being of our communities, working tirelessly to dismantle all of the Affordable Care Act’s life-saving protections for millions of Americans. The Trump Administration’s discriminatory HHS rule, denying crucial health care benefits to LGBTQ Americans, is just the latest cruel attack in the Administration’s ongoing anti-health care agenda. Today’s district court decision enjoining this dangerous rule is a victory for the LGBTQ community and the rule of law.
“The Court was unambiguous in its ruling that the Administration’s actions were in blatant violation of the Affordable Care Act’s protections and the Supreme Court’s recent Bostock decision, which affirmed that discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’ included sexual orientation and gender identity. Further, in instituting its shameful, politically-motivated assault on the LGBTQ community, HHS acted ‘arbitrarily and capriciously.’
“LGBTQ Americans, particularly in the transgender community, have faced a long history of discrimination and inequality in access to health care. House Democrats are proud to have fought for this important victory to ensure that all Americans can access the quality, affordable coverage that is their right. We will continue to oppose the Administration’s outrageous attempts to undermine health care and sow fear and hatred in our communities as we work to build a brighter, healthier future for all Americans.”
August 18, 2020: Human Rights Campaign posted a press release titled: “Human Rights Campaign Wins Preliminary Injunction against Trump Administration Health Care Rule, Impacting LGBTQ North Carolinians”. From the press release:
Federal District Court Judge Frederic Block issued a preliminary injunction against a recently published regulation by the United States Department of Health and Human Services which would illegally strip away critical anti-discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act. The injunction comes after the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sued the Trump-Pence administration for advancing a rule that would have eliminated explicit protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity, thereby sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people, in health care programs and activities. The rule was scheduled to take effect on August 18 but will now be precluded from becoming operative.
This preliminary injunction means that 319,000 LGBTQ North Carolinians will be protected from discrimination by health care providers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity until the conclusion of the lawsuit, likely after the upcoming election…
…The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two plaintiffs, both transgender women of color: Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, an Army veteran, two-time lung cancer survivor and community leader who co-founded a statewide advocacy group for transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers, and Cecilia Gentili, an entrepreneur, activist, writer and storyteller with over a decade of experience as a patient and health care policy advocate.
Read the Court decision granting the preliminary injunction here. Read the complaint here and the Plaintiffs’ declarations here and here. HRC’s guide to best practices for creating equal access to quality health care for transgender patients can be found here. …
August 18, 2020: Chair of Texas Women’s Healtcare Coalition Evelyn Delgado wrote a letter to Texas state lawmakers. From the letter:
On behalf of the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition, I am writing to express concerns regarding the proposed Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) funding cuts to the Family Planning Program (FPP) and Healthy Texas Women (HTW) program for the remainder of this biannium. These proposed cuts would undermine the Legislature’s efforts to support healthy moms, healthy pregnancies, and healthy babies. The proposed cuts would end up costing the state more during our next budget cycle, and would harm families who are already hurting during these very difficult times. Considering the global health pandemic and over a million Texans losing employer sponsored health insurance, we cannot afford to cut any health services, including women’s health.
The Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition (TWHC) – composed of 87 healthcare, faith, and community-based member organizations – is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Texas women, babies, and families by ensuring access to preventative health care for all Texas women. HTW and FPP provide essential preventative women’s healthcare screenings, family planning services, and limited screening and treatment for chroinc conditions to those without access to other forms of healthcare coverage. In FY 2029 alone, there were a total of 3,266 HTW and FPP providers that served over 291,000 individuals.
In addition to providing essential services, HTW and FPP save state dollars. The cost savings are realized by helping women avoid unintended pregnancies, which then result in savings from eliminating Medicaid labor and delivery costs and a year of infant healthcare…
…Texas Should Build on Recent Progress Made
Women’s health in Texas has a long history of programmatic and administrative disruptons, and it is the providers and clients bearing the brunt of these changes. The 2011 family planning budget cuts resulted in at least 82 women’s healthcare clinics closing, cutting off preventative care, including well-women examinations, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and contraception for low-income women. As a result, the state saw a rise in Medicaid births in 2014-2015 and in increase in costs of Medicaid by approximately $103 million.
In recent years, the Legislature has shown its committment to rebuilding these programs and ensuring Texas women have access to healthcare. It has taken many years to stitch the safety net back together after the last budget cuts. As the state continues responsive measures to preserve physical and fiscal health during the COVID-19 emergency, Texas cannot afford to cut support to healthcare programs, especially ones that have provem cost-savings…
…Preventative Healthcare Improves Maternal Health
Texas’ efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity is intrinsically linked to women having timely access to preventative and primary care services. Healthy pregnancies begin well before conception. Women who obtain needed preventative care throughout their reproductive life-span are more likely to have better birth outcomes.
HHSC’s reduction plan clearly stated that client services that benefit long-term health care for families and children with disabilities were prioritizd = as were services directly impacting short-term mortality over long-term benefits – so it was surprising to learn that women’s health services were not prioritized. The Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force has repeatedly recommended increasing access to preconception and interconnection health care services – the types of services offered by HTW and FPP – to improve birth outcomes and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, concluding in its most recent report: “increasing access to care for all reproductive aged women is important. The management of acute and chronic health care and preventative care are essential for healthy pregnancies and long-term health. Healthier women are healthier mothers, and healthier mothers lead to healthier infants and families.
For the reasons outlined above, we strongly encourage reevaluating reducing funding for these vital programs that support women and families and urge continued investments in HTW and FPP…
August 19, 2020: SCOTUSblog posted an article titled: “Justices will hear argument in ACA case one week after Election Day”. It was written by Amy Howe. From the article:
The Supreme Court on Wednesday released the calendar for the November argument session, which will include the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act and a clash between religious liberty and LGBTQ rights. Over five days between Nov. 2 and Nov. 10, the justices will hear eight hours of oral argument in nine cases. On the day after the Nov. 3 presidential election, the justices will hear a challenge to Philadelphia’s exclusion of a faith-based agency from its foster-care system because the agency will not work with same-sex couples. One week after the election, the justices will hear the two consolidated ACA cases, which ask whether the law’s individual insurance mandate is unconstitutional without a tax penalty and, if so, whether the rest of the law can remain standing. Notably, the foster-care case and the ACA cases are the only cases scheduled on their respective days, giving the justices some flexibility to extend the argument past the 60 minutes currently allotted to each. In the ACA challenge, the U.S. House and a pair of states (Ohio and Montana) have asked the justices to grant additional time for the oral argument; the court has not yet acted on those requests…
August 19, 2020: U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted a release titled: “HHS Expands Access to Childhood Vaccines during COVID-19 Pandemic”. From the release:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a third amendment – PDF* to the Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to increase access to lifesaving childhood vaccines and decrease the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks as children across the United States return to daycare, preschool and school…
…The amendment authorizes State-licensed pharmacists (and pharmacy interns acting under their supervision to administer vaccines, if the pharmacy intern is licensed or registered by his or her State board of pharmacy) to order and administer vaccines to individuals ages three through 18 years, subject to several requirements:
- The vaccine must be approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The vaccination must be ordered and administered according to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) immunization schedules.
- The licensed pharmacist must complete a practical training program of at least 20 hours that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). This training program must include hands-on injection technique, clinical evaluation of indications and contraindications of vaccines, and the recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines.
- The licensed or registered pharmacy intern must complete a practical training program that is approved by the ACPE. This training program must include hands-on injection technique, clinical evaluation of indications and contraindications of vaccines, and the recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines.
- The licensed pharmacist and licensed or registered pharmacy intern must have a current certificate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
- The licensed pharmacist must complete a minimum of two hours of ACPE-approved, immunization-related continuing pharmacy education during each State licensing period.
- The licensed pharmacist must comply with recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the jurisdiction in which he or she administers vaccines, including informing the patient’s primary-care provider when available, submitting the required immunization information to the State or local immunization information system (vaccine registry), complying with requirements with respect to reporting adverse events, and complying with requirements whereby the person administering a vaccine must review the vaccine registry or other vaccination records prior to administering a vaccine.
- The licensed pharmacist must inform his or her childhood-vaccination patients and the adult caregivers accompanying the children of the importance of a well-child visit with a pediatrician or other licensed primary care provider and refer patients as appropriate.
The above requirements are consistent with many States that already permit licensed pharmacists to order and administer vaccines to children.
A May 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found a troubling drop in routine childhood immunizations as a result of families staying at home. While families followed public health warnings about going out, an unfortunate result was many missed routine vaccinations. This decrease in childhood-vaccination rates is a public health threat and a collateral harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic…
August 19, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Reacts to Supreme Court Setting Oral Arguments in Affordable Care Act Repeal Case”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today issued the following statement in response to the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) case on November 10, 2020:
“Why President Trump and 18 states have decided to go all the way to the Supreme Court to rip away the Affordable Care Act at a time when our nation is suffering the worst pandemic we’ve seen in more than a century makes no sense,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We will be at the Supreme Court to lead the argument to save affordable healthcare, and with it, the lives of countless loved ones. We won’t rest until we stop this harmful attack and every American has access to quality, affordable care.”
California Attorney General Becerra has led a coalition of 20 states, plus D.C., to protect the Affordable Care Act in federal court for more than two and a half years. Most recently in July, the coalition filed a reply brief defending the ACA against efforts by the Trump Administration and 18 anti-ACA states led by Texas to repeal the entire ACA. The Attorney General was joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota (by and through its Department of Commerce), Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as the Governor of Kentucky…
August 19, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “One Year After Being Forced Out of Title X, Planned Parenthood Continues to Fight for Patients”. From the press release:
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration forcing Planned Parenthood grantees out of the Title X program — the nation’s only federal program dedicated to providing affordable birth control and other reproductive health care to people with low incomes. The Trump administration’s abhorrent and unethical domestic gag rule undermined reproductive health care for millions of people across the country, by demanding health care providers in the program withhold information about abortion from their patients. It also imposed cost-prohibitive and unnecessary “physical separation” restrictions on health centers that also separately provide abortion.
Prior to the implementation of the gag rule, Planned Parenthood health centers served about 40% of the 4 million patients who got care through the Title X program each year. The majority of Title X patients identified as people of color, Hispanic, or Latino. In many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only source of reproductive health care. Barring patients from seeking care at Planned Parenthood health centers has left many with nowhere else to go — community health centers themselves said they couldn’t fill the gap. Recent data from the Guttmacher Institute highlights how the gag rule has reduced the Title X family planning system’s capacity to provide contraceptive services by at least 46% — drastically reducing care at the same time the country is facing a global pandemic. The vast majority of people oppose this cruel rule…
…Last week, the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice released First Priorities, a detailed punch list of executive and agency actions for the opening days of an incoming administration. Among other urgent actions named in the First Priorities, the broad coalition called for initiating the process of rescinding the domestic gag rule within 45 days.
August 24, 2020: SCOTUSBlog tweeted: “New: Supreme Court expands the oral argument in the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Each side will get 40 minutes instead of the usual 30. The argument is scheduled for Nov. 10 (one week after Election Day).”
The tweet included a link to a “Orders in Pending Cases” list with the Affordable Care Act case at the top.
August 24, 2020: SCOTUSBlog also tweeted: “The court also denies a request from Ohio and Montana to participate in the ACA oral argument. Those states are pushing a middle-ground position in the case. They say the zeroed-out individual mandate is unconstitutional, but they believe the rest of the ACA should remain intact.”
August 26, 2020: Senator Cory Booker (Democrat – New Jersey) posted a press release titled: “Booker, Menendez Announce $5M to Bolster Community Health Centers”. From the press release:
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today announced $5,319,625 in annual federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the operations of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) across New Jersey and their continued response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
“FQHCs are often the first place families and seniors across the state go to when they need affordable and high quality health care,” said Sen. Menendez. “Community health centers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic since the very beginning and they continue to play a critical role in the state’s response and recovery. This funding will ensure they continue to serve the residents of New Jersey and have the personal protective equipment and medical supplies they need to keep their patients and health care providers safe and healthy.”
“New Jersey health centers have been essential in the fight against COVID-19 by providing critical care to those who need it most,” said Sen. Booker. “This federal funding will help ensure our community health centers can continue to provide critical health care services to some of our most underserved communities in order to protect the health and safety of all New Jerseyans.”
In New Jersey, there are 24 Community Health Centers that operate 137 satellite sites, providing preventive and primary health care services to over a half-million New Jersey residents.
Sen. Menendez authored a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires private insurance plans on the exchange to fully reimburse FQHCs at no less than the same rate as Medicaid in order to ensure the economic vitality of community health centers and properly recognize them for the valuable role they play in the American healthcare system….
Visit the press release to see a list of which Community Health Centers will recieve funding.
August 26, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Praises Court Decision Allowing Transgender Students to Use Bathrooms in Line with Their Gender Identity.” From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today praised a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Gavin Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, issued this morning, that found that a local school board in Gloucester County, VA violated the constitutional rights of a transgender boy by not allowing him to use the common male restroom at his high school when he was a student. The Office of the Attorney General previously led multiple amicus briefs on this matter in various courts, the most recent being led by Attorney General James in November of 2019.
“The court today has upheld what we all already knew: That trans rights are human rights, and human rights are trans rights,” said Attorney General James. “No individual should ever fear discrimination for proudly being their true self, especially when at school. Every individual deserves equal protection under the law, which is why we will continue to lead the fight to ensure no transgender individual or any member of the LGBTQ+ community is discriminated against.”
Grimm not only sued to challenge the Gloucester County School Board’s policy of banning him from using the common male restrooms at his high school, but also the board’s refusal to update his educational records to correspond with his updated birth certificate that reflects his male gender.
The case has made its way through multiple courts, including all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court before being sent back down to the lower courts. The Fourth Circuit today held that the Gloucester County School Board violated both the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by not allowing Grimm to use the restroom in line with his gender identity.
This is the second case this month in which Attorney General James has fought for transgender rights. On August 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor of a transgender student named Drew Adams, who sued the St. Johns County School Board in Florida for discrimination for its policy prohibiting transgender boys and girls from using restrooms that were in line with their gender identities. In March 2019, Attorney General James also led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting Adams and opposing the St. Johns’ School Board.
Nearly 1.5 million people in the United States — including approximately 150,000 teenagers — currently identify as transgender.
August 27, 2020: New Times SLO posted an article titled: “Hospital antitrust bill passes through committees”. It was written by Peter Johnson. From the article:
A state bill that would strengthen the Attorney General’s oversight of for-profit hospital mergers and acquisitions cleared the Assembly’s health and appropriation committees this summer and awaits a final vote on the Assembly and Senate floors.
Those votes are expected to take place before the end of the Legislative session on Sept. 1.
Senate Bill 977, introduced by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) earlier this year, would give the Attorney General’s Office the power to review private hospital deals and reject them if they’re found to hurt consumers and/or cause anticompetitive impacts.
“The data cannot be clearer: Concentrated health care markets immediately result in higher costs in insurance premiums, and hospital and physician services. Patient access to providers and affordable care is more critical than ever,” Monning said in a statement.
Health watchdogs who support the bill say that unfettered hospital consolidation has allowed the cost of health care to go up, while the bill’s opponents, which include hospitals’ and doctors’ associations, say it would hamstring hospitals already struggling with COVID-19.
If made law, SB 977 would also carve out new enforcement mechanisms against anticompetitive hospital behavior, and would establish a Health Policy Advisory Board to analyze California health care markets…
August 28, 2020: American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and others posted a letter they sent to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. From the letter:
…On behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and 44 chapters of the AAP -non-profit organizations representing tens of thousands of pediatricians dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of all children – we write today alarmed and concerned by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to allow pharmacists to provide immunizations to children ages 3 – 18 regardless of state laws. Specifically, HHS recently announced that state-licensed pharmacists and pharmacy interns can administer all Advisory Committe on Immunization Practice (ACIP)-recommended immunizations to children and adolescents. This announcment threatens the medical home, depriving children and families of much needed medical care and clinical guidance, and further exacerbates inequalities in the delivery of childhood immunizations.
We do not need an alternative vaccine delivery infrastructure in this country. Instead, we must invest in the existing one, which is centered around the pediatric medical home.
During this pandemic, families are looking for reassurance and clinical guidance from the doctors they trust most to care for their children: pediatricians. The pediatric medical home is where children’s medical needs are best met; pediatricians assess children’s developmental and mental health, counseling about nutrition and injury-prevention, and chronic disease management in addition to administering vaccines. The pediatric medical home also provides a greater opportunity for parents who may have questions about vaccines to discuss these issues with their pediatrician. AAP and its chapters advocate that immunizations be provided in this context of treating the whole child. The safest place for children to get vaccinated is their medical home.
Pediatric practices are safe, open, and stocked with vaccines, ready to deliver all needed preventative care to our nation’s children. We have taken counteless steps to encourage children and families to return to pediatric practices for both recommended well-child visits and ACIP-recommended immunizations because children need both. Moreover, pediatric practices have worked to ensure that care during the pandemic is provided safely, from offering famlies different sick/well visit times to administering vaccinations in the parking lot, and many other practice modifications.
The August 19 HHS announcement allowing pharmacists to provide childhood immunizations does nothing to encourage all needed preventative care in the medical home and may in fact deter it. Diseases that go undiagnosed, developmental delays not screened for, child abuse and neglect not identified, and mental health issues not addressed will cost the health of our children and our nation dearly.
Moreover, it will only further exacerbate health inequities children have faced during this pandemic. Few pharmacies participate in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, a federal program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, underinsured, or American Indian or Alaska Native. Data show that the VCF program has increased vaccination rates across all races, ethnicities, and income groups, and reduced racial and ethnic disparities. Now is not the time to further excerbate existing disparities by creating an alternative vaccine delivery system.
For all of these reasons, we encourage HHS to rescind its August 19 decision and stand ready to work with you to bolster the existing pediatric immunization delivery system: our nation’s pediatric practices.
Here are the organizations that were part of this letter:
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- California Chapter 1,American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Academy of Pediatrics,Colorado Chapter
- Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Delaware Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- District of Columbia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Hawaii Chapter
- Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Louisiana Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
- Maine Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
- Maryland Chapter,American Academy of Pediatrics
- Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Missouri Chapter,American Academy of Pediatrics
- Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Nevada Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- New Hampshire Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- New Jersey Chapter,American Academy of Pediatrics
- New Mexico Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- New York Chapter 1 of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- New York Chapter 2 of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- New York Chapter 3 of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- North Carolina Pediatric Society, the North Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- North Dakota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Oklahoma Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Puerto Rico Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter
- South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- South Dakota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Chapter of the AAP
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Utah Chapter
- American Academy of Pediatrics,Vermont Chapter
- Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- West Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
August 29, 2020: The New York Times posted an article titled: “Trump Program to Cover Uninsured Covid-19 Patients Falls Short of Promise”. It was written by Abby Goodnough. From the article:
…Ms. Cortez’s care is supposed to be covered under a program Mr. Trump announced this spring as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold — a time when millions of people were losing their health insurance and the administration was doubling down on trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the law that had expanded coverage to more than 20 million people.
“This should alleviate any concern uninsured Americans may have about seeking the coronavirus treatment,” Mr. Trump said in April about the program, which is supposed to cover testing and treatment for uninsured people with Covid-19, using money from the federal coronavirus relief package passed by Congress.
The program has drawn little attention since, but a review by The New York Times of payments made through it, as well as interviews with hospital executives, patients and health policy researchers who have examined the payments, suggest the quickly concocted plan has not lived up to its promise. It has caused confusion at participating hospitals, which in some cases have mistakenly billed patients like Ms. Cortez who should be covered by it. Few patients seem to know the program exists, so they don’t question the charges. And some hospitals and other medical providers have chosen not to participate in the program, which bars them from seeking any payment from patients whose bills they submit to it.
Large numbers of patients have also been disqualified because Covid-19 has to be the primary diagnosis for a case to be covered (unless the patient is pregnant). Since hospitalized Covid patients often have other serious medical conditions, many have other primary diagnoses. At Jackson Health in Miami, for example, only 60 percent of uninsured Covid-19 patients had decisively met the requirements to have their charges covered under the program as of late July, a spokeswoman said…
…The program has clearly paid what, in many cases, would be staggering and unaffordable bills for thousands of Covid-19 patients. In addition to hospital care, it covers outpatient visits, ambulance rides, medical equipment, skilled nursing home care and even future Covid vaccines for the uninsured, “subject to available funding.” It does not cover prescriptions once patients leave the hospital, or treatment of underlying chronic conditions that make many more vulnerable to the virus…
…Nationally, the total average charge for uninsured Covid- patients requiring a hospital stay is $73,300, according to FAIR Health, a health care cost database, although they may be able to negotiate a lower amount…
…Unlike previous administrations during public health emergencies, Mr. Trump’s has not encouraged even temporary expansions of Medicaid — except for limited Covid testing — in states where the program covers few poor adults. It also declined to broadly reopen enrollment for Affordable Care Act plans once the pandemic began, although people who lose job-based coverage can enroll…
…Ms. Cortez still needs an oxygen tank, blood thinners and other medications that cost more than $500 a month. She also needs to start seeing a cardiologist because of all the blood clots she developed during her illness. Oxygen and outpatient visits related to Covid are supposed to be covered by the federal program, but nobody has told her that.
If Ms. Cortez lived in a different state, all her expenses would likely have been covered by Medicaid. But, like several million poor Americans, she is in the so-called coverage gap: ineligible for Medicaid because Texas is among a handful of states that have resisted expanding the program under the Affordable Care Act. And because of a glitch with the law, she and others are also ineligible for the subsidies that the law provides to help pay for private insurance…
August 26, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Trump Administration Asks SCOTUS to Reinstate Medically Unnecessary Barries to Medication Abortion During Pandemic”. From the press release:
Today, the Trump Administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy that unnecessarily subjects patients to COVID-19 risks in order to access safe and legal medication abortion during the pandemic. The FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) restrictions on mifepristone mandate that patients pick up mifepristone directly from a doctor’s office, hospital, or other health center — rather than from a pharmacy or mail as they could for other equally safe medications.
Mifepristone is safe, effective, and has been used by more than four million people since the FDA approved it twenty years ago. Research has repeatedly shown that mifepristone is safe and effective when prescribed through telehealth and self-administered at home. Since July, the medically unnecessary REMS requirements have been temporarily suspended by a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and other leading medical organizations and reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates…
August 31, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Tennessee’s Medically Unsound ‘Abortion Reversal’ Law Challenged in Court”. From the press release:
Abortion providers in Tennessee filed a lawsuit today challenging a requirement that forces doctors to provide false and misleading information to their patients about the potential to “reverse” a medication abortion — an unproven and politically-motivated claim that has no basis in medical research. The groups are asking a federal court to block the law before it takes effect on October 1, 2020. By forcing doctors to lie to patients and share misinformation that isn’t backed up by credible science, politicians are eroding the trust between patients and their providers.
If this law goes into effect, providers will be forced to share this misinformation with patients at least 48 hours in advance of providing a medication abortion and again after the patient has taken the first medication, as well as post signs with large, bold print throughout their clinics informing patients about abortion “reversal.” Providers who don’t comply will face criminal prosecution for a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. Facilities will face a $10,000 fine per day for failure to display the required signs.
Since 2015, politicians across the country have passed similar laws trying to force providers to promote the medically inaccurate idea that a medication abortion can be “reversed” — a debunked claim based on junk science peddled by anti-abortion researchers. Last year, courts blocked similar laws in North Dakota and Oklahoma. No one benefits from forcing providers to share misinformation with patients, who rely on their providers to help them make informed medical decisions.
The lawsuit is being brought by Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, Memphis Center for Reproductive Health (“CHOICES”), and carafem — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Tennessee.
If the court does not intervene, the law is set to take effect on October 1…
…These “reversal” laws are opposed by medical experts, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). In fact, the AMA is a party to the lawsuit in North Dakota challenging a similar “reversal” law.
Just four months ago, Gov. Lee attempted to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to ban abortion, despite opposition from leading national medical groups. In April, that attempt was blocked in court after a lawsuit was filed by the same organizations litigating today’s case.
Tennessee has numerous additional abortion restrictions on the books, including a ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion; a mandatory 48-hour waiting period (which includes a requirement that forces patients to delay care by adding a medically unnecessary trip to the clinic to receive state-mandated information); limits on when private and public insurance can cover abortion services; and a requirement that minors obtain parental consent.
A copy of the complaint can be found here.
September 1, 2020: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) posted a press release titled: “A Tennessee Law Requires Doctors to Lie to Their Patients. We’re Suing”. From the press release:
It’s a pretty basic premise: When we go to the doctor, we expect that they will tell us the truth. It shouldn’t be controversial to expect the information you receive from a medical professional to be accurate and based in science.
But if you’re looking for abortion care in Tennessee, politicians are doing everything they can to ensure that’s no longer the case. Together with the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Tennessee, and five abortion providers in the state, we sued to challenge a law that requires doctors to lie to their patients.
The law, signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee last month, coerces the speech of abortion providers and mandates that they lie to their patients. Under the law, physicians are required to tell their patients that if they have a medication abortion, it can be “reversed.” Doctors then have to refer their patients to a governmental website encouraging them to partake in experimental treatments that run counter to their patients’ best interest, all in violation of their ethical obligation as medical providers.
To be clear: There is absolutely no medical basis for this law.
The claim that medication abortion can be “reversed” is wholly unsupported by reliable scientific evidence. Leading medical organizations including the American Medical Association have condemned it, saying such laws “undermines [the provider-patient] relationship…with messages that contradict reality and science.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is “no evidence” to support the reversal claim. Still, anti-abortion politicians continue to push ahead.
This law is also plainly unconstitutional. It is a clear violation of the First Amendment for the state to force doctors to personally deliver a government-ordered message that they and the overwhelming majority of the medical profession reject. It’s a direct violation of patients’ privacy rights under the 14th Amendment to be subjected to misleading and inaccurate statements about the constitutionally protected medical care they seek. And, it is a violation of the constitutionally mandated guarantee of equal protection under the 14th Amendment for Tennessee to single out medication abortion providers and patients for state-mandated inaccurate disclosures that aren’t imposed in any other health care context.
And this infuriating treatment isn’t limited to Tennessee. Just last year, North Dakota and Oklahoma passed bills requiring doctors to tell this lie about medication abortion, both of which have been blocked by courts. During the course of that litigation, medical professionals emphasized that the laws forced them to deliver false information to patients in violation of their ethical obligations.
Disturbingly, these “reversal” laws are just one example of “biased counseling” requirements that states have passed in recent years to control and distort the information abortion patients get from their medical providers by inserting anti-abortion talking points into physicians’ mouths.
In four states, doctors have to tell their patients that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, even though that is factually wrong. Eight states insist that physicians include “negative emotional response” among the lists of risks associated with the procedure, even though mainstream medical associations have uniformly determined that this is false. Four states require doctors to lie to their patients about the risk having an abortion could have on their future fertility.
The intent of all these laws is clear: to shame, humiliate, and deceive people who have decided to have an abortion. The laws are designed to make the process so laborious and so confusing that some patients give up and abandon their constitutional right to abortion altogether.
One Kentucky doctor described the scene when she performed a state-mandated ultrasound in which she was forced by the government to narrate the specifics of the scan and show her patient the screen, even over the patients’ objection:
“We have had patients burst into tears when we tell them that they must undergo an unwanted narrated ultrasound and that they must close their eyes and cover their ears if they want to avoid the speech Kentucky politicians insist we force upon them. I’ve had patients sob through the experience, and others pull their shirts up over their faces to cover their eyes.”
The stakes could not be higher. If Tennessee’s law is allowed to take effect, it would damage the trust at the heart of the physician-patient relationship, mislead patients when they are making important medical decisions, and expose patients to a scientifically unsupported and potentially harmful medical practice. Four clinics in Tennessee and an independent provider joined our lawsuit to fight back, because the doctors aren’t taking this sitting down.
And neither is the ACLU. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: abortion is health care, and it is a right. And we will never stop fighting to protect it.
September 2, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Condemns U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Kelly Loeffler for Joining Effort to Ban Medication Abortion Amid Pandemic”. From the press release:
Yesterday Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) joined 18 other anti-choice, anti-freedom Republican senators in a letter asking the FDA to ban mifepristone, which is used in medication abortion care.
Both Ernst and Loeffler have a track record of using health disinformation to manipulate voters and attack reproductive freedom. Mifepristone is an FDA-approved medication used for ending an early pregnancy that has been approved in the United States for 20 years. Medication abortion accounts for nearly 40% of abortion care in the United States.
Earlier this week — amid reports that Iowa officially has the worst COVID-19 rates in the nation — Sen. Ernst amplified a radical conspiracy theory questioning the COVID-19 death toll, downplaying the number of lives lost and dangerously calling into question the motives of healthcare providers. Medical experts have repeatedly confirmed the COVID-19 toll has not been inflated, and evidence suggests the actual number of cases far exceeds current tallies.
In response to news of Sens. Loeffler and Ernst signing onto the letter, NARAL Pro-Choice America National Communications Director Kristin Ford released the following statement:
“This letter is nothing more than a politically motivated attempt to ban abortion, and has absolutely no basis in science and medicine. In the midst of a public health crisis, our leaders should be working to expand, not restrict, access to essential care that women need. Patients’ health and safety must always come first. We cannot stand by as Ernst, Loeffler, and their fellow anti-choice, anti-freedom senators continue to prioritize their dangerous agenda above our collective health and well-being. Now more than ever, medical care should be determined by science and patients’ needs—not extremist ideology.”
Just last week, a new Public Policy Polling survey found that a large majority (70%) of Iowa voters believe that abortion should be legal, and that the government should not prevent a woman from making that decision for herself. Just 14% say they would only consider voting for a candidate who supports banning abortion in the November election.
A 2019 Public Policy Polling survey of Georgia swing House districts also found that a majority (69%) of voters across parties — including 86% of Democrats, 69% of independents, and 52% of Republicans — believe abortion should be legal and that the government should not prevent a woman from making the decision whether or not to have an abortion for herself.
September 3, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Pressley, Warren, Lee Introduce Legislation to Confront the Public Health Impacts of Structural Racism”. From the press release:
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) today announced their bicameral bill to confront the public health impacts of structural racism through two bold new programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“For far too long, our federal government has failed to recognize and address the structural racism that has devastated Black and brown communities and denied access to quality health care,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “With the COVID-19 pandemic unveiling and exacerbating racial disparities in health outcomes, it is time we recognize and treat structural racism and police brutality as the public health crises that they are. This first-of-its-kind bill would expand federal research and investment into the public health impacts of structural racism, require the federal government to proactively develop anti-racist health policy, and take a public health approach to combatting police violence. We must have a coordinated public health response to structural racism, and this bill would do just that.”
“It is time we start treating structural racism like we would treat any other public health problem or disease: investing in research into its symptoms and causes and finding ways to mitigate its effects,” said Senator Warren. “My bill with Representatives Lee and Pressley is a first step to create anti-racist federal health policy that studies and addresses disparities in health outcomes at their roots.”
“COVID-19 has exposed the injustices in health outcomes for Black and Brown people, and it’s no coincidence,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. “In addition to addressing the lasting impacts of systemic racism in criminal justice, economic inequality and the like, we must also commit resources to understanding racially unjust health outcomes. I’m taking steps, alongside Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Warren, toward reversing racism in our health care system with this legislation.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to ignore how centuries of structural racism have created deep disparities in health outcomes for Black and Brown communities: Black and Brown people are nearly three times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19 and one to two times more likely to die from the disease. People of color are also disproportionately affected by chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hepatitis, and hypertension; infant mortality; maternal mortality and morbidity; and police brutality — and also less likely to be insured and have access to health care providers.
The federal government’s failure to adequately collect race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 testing, hospitalization, and deaths has also demonstrated why comprehensive research is needed to study the health impacts of structural racism and to develop race-conscious public health approaches and reverse disparities that have plagued our nation for too long.
To help expand research and investment into the public health impacts of structural racism, as well as to require the federal government to begin actively developing anti-racist health policy, Congresswoman Pressley, Senator Warren, and Congresswoman Lee have introduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, which would:
- Create a “National Center for Anti-Racism” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to declare racism as the public health crisis that it is and further develop the research base and knowledge in the science and practice of anti-racism. The Center would undertake such activities as:
- Conducting research, collecting data, awarding grants, and providing leadership and coordination on the science and practice of anti-racism in the provision of health care, the public health impacts of systemic racism, and the effectiveness of interventions to address these impacts.
- Creating at least three regional centers of excellence in anti-racism.
- Educating the public on the public health impacts of structural racism and anti-racist public health interventions.
- Consulting with other Centers at the CDC to ensure that scientific and programmatic activities initiated by the agency consider structural racism in their designs, conceptualizations, and executions.
- Create a Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program within the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC. Physical and psychological violence perpetuated by law enforcement results in deaths, injuries, trauma, and stress, and disproportionately affects marginalized populations. This bill would take a public health approach to combating police brutality and violence by creating a dedicated law enforcement violence prevention program at the CDC.
The bill is endorsed by the following organizations: Center for Policing Equity; Center for Popular Democracy; Center for Reproductive Rights; Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health at UCLA; Hispanic Federation; The Justice Collaborative; Justice in Aging; The Lawyer’s Committee; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; National Medical Association; National Partnership for Women & Families; NAACP; National Urban League; Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP); PolicyLink; Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC); Public Citizen; Social Security Works; UCLA’s COVID-19 Task Force on Racism and Equity; UnidosUS; Union for Reform Judaism; We Must Count Coalition….
September 3, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “New Ads Expose Anti-Choice Politicians’ “Pro-Life” Hypocrisy”. From the press release:
Today Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Senator Thom Tillis will tour a fake women’s health center in Raleigh, North Carolina as part of a larger campaign tour Pence is headlining with anti-choice extremist organization Susan B. Anthony List. On the same day, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation released a five-figure digital ad buy in North Carolina exposing anti-choice politicians like Vice President Pence and Sen. Tillis who claim to value the “sanctity of life” but expose the depths of their hypocrisy by blatantly ignoring a public health emergency in the name of advancing their unpopular and radical anti-choice agenda.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement in response:
“Mike Pence and Trump-cheerleader Senator Thom Tillis are putting their hypocrisy and recklessness on full display in Raleigh today. In the midst of an ongoing public health crisis, Pence and Tillis are sending a simple message to North Carolinians and Americans across the country: that their extremist ideology takes precedence over science, medical expertise, and people’s health and safety. As countless Americans suffer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Republican leaders’ botched handling of the crisis, these politicians’ blatant ‘pro-life’ hypocrisy is truly something to behold.”
As reported in CNN, the fake women’s health center they plan to visit openly promotes medical disinformation about abortion on its website, including the false claim that abortion causes breast cancer– a claim that has been debunked by medical experts such as the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG.)
These fake clinics (often referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers”) masquerade as legitimate reproductive healthcare centers yet are actually just anti-choice organizations that intentionally lie to, shame, and mislead women seeking an abortion in order to block them from accessing abortion care. They frequently push health disinformation to dissuade women from having an abortion, and have been repeatedly denounced by experts such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Vice President Pence and Sen. Thom Tillis’ unrelenting attempts to advance their extreme anti-choice ideology while turning a blind eye to health, safety, and science is wildly unpopular in North Carolina and across the country. NARAL released new polling from battleground states illustrating that an overwhelming number of North Carolinians and Americans support reproductive freedom, and spotlighting how out-of-touch Trump, Pence, and Tillis are with voters. The poll shows that:
- A large majority (80%) of voters in North Carolina agree that any decision about pregnancy should be made by the woman with the support of the people she loves and trusts — including 83% of independent voters and 63% of Republicans. Among Black voters, 96% agree.
- Even a majority of voters who supported Trump in 2016 support reproductive freedom: 65% agree that decisions about pregnancy should be made by the woman with the support of people she loves and trusts.
- Just 11% of voters in North Carolina say they would only consider voting for a candidate who supports banning abortion in the November election.
September 3, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “North Carolina Abortion Providers And Reproductive Justice Activists File Sweeping Litigation Challenging Multiple Abortion Restrictions”. From the press release:
Abortion providers in North Carolina and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective today filed litigation challenging several medically unnecessary abortion restrictions that have pushed abortion out of reach in the state and stigmatized essential health care.
Decades of attacks on reproductive rights and health care access by state legislators have already led to provider shortages and an inadequate public health infrastructure in the state, with the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating these issues. The discriminatory policies violate civil and reproductive rights, and disproportionately impact North Carolina’s communities of color, particularly Black communities, as well as rural communities.
The restrictions being challenged include:
- A licensing scheme that arbitrarily singles out abortion providers with medically unnecessary and onerous requirements
- A ban on qualified advanced practice clinicians (APCs), such as physician assistants, certified nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners, from providing abortions
- A ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion
- A requirement that providers deliver state-mandated biased counseling with no medical benefit to their patients
- A mandatory delay for patients seeking an abortion of at least 72 hours after they receive state-mandated information.
Access to abortion is limited in North Carolina as a result of decades of political attacks that reached a fever pitch under former Governor Pat McCrory. During the McCrory-Forest administration, 11 abortion facilities were shut down, leaving 91 percent of North Carolina counties without an abortion provider and disproportionately hurting rural communities. And politicians showed they’d stop at nothing to chip away at abortion access even further. Then-Speaker of the House Thom Tillis infamously added numerous abortion restrictions into a motorcycle safety bill as a backdoor attempt to quietly erode reproductive rights on the final day of the 2013 legislative session.
The plaintiffs in the case are Planned Parenthood South Atlantic; SisterSong; A Woman’s Choice of Charlotte, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Greensboro, Inc.; A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh, Inc; three doctors; and one advanced practice clinician. They are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of North Carolina, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
September 4, 2020: AJC posted an article titled: “Kemp’s plan to block the federal ACA insurance exchange under fire”. It was written by Ariel Hart. From the article:
Gov. Brian Kemp wants to block Georgians’ access to the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange, instead directing them to buy insurance on the private market where he says they will have more options. Advocacy groups, though, contend the move could result in perhaps 60,000 people going without health insurance, while others may wind up with policies that won’t cover health needs.
By contrast, on the federal exchange healthcare.gov, the only plans available are those that meet ACA standards for covering pre-existing conditions and “essential health benefits” such as psychiatric care, noted the Brookings Institution, which along with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities this week issued an analysis of Kemp’s plan.
Kemp’s office disputed those findings…
…Georgia currently has nearly the highest rate of uninsured people of any state, tied with Oklahoma for second-worst, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
About 460,000 Georgians have signed up for insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, most of them through the federal exchange. The healthcare.gov website allows people to shop and compare insurance plans, knowing the price they’ll actually be charged after federal subsidies are added for their income level. All the insurance plans available to them and the final premiums for each are presented at once so shoppers can compare.
Kemp’s proposal asks the federal government to waive the ACA requirement that Georgia participate in that website or create its own exchange website. Instead, Georgians would be diverted to contact information for private insurance agents and brokers, health insurance carriers and online broker websites that offer plans.
Kemp’s proposal contends that the change would give Georgians a wider range of health insurance choices. Those who don’t want robust insurance plans could buy skimpier plans. They wouldn’t get subsidized, but with low enough coverage the plans might be cheaper even so. The Kemp administration estimates that the plan would add 25,000 Georgians to the insured rolls.
The problem with that logic, the critics say, is that people already have access to those options. They can even find private brokers and agents by going on healthcare.gov and searching for their zip code. If they can’t go to healthcare.gov at all, the critics say, some people may instead give up on health insurance.
And those that ended up signing up themselves or their children for Medicaid through healthcare.gov may well not have that option with an insurance agent. Brookings says 38,000 Georgians signed up for Medicaid on healthcare.gov on their own last year…
…Psychiatric coverage is a particular concern to critics. The advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, which supports the exchange, said the plan leaves those with mental or behavioral health issues “exposed and in danger” at a time when the pandemic and opioid abuse are increasing the need for coverage…
September 4, 2020: San Francisco Chronicle posted an article titled: “California bill would enhance the role of nurse-midwives”. It was written by Bill Dodd (Democrat – California). From the article:
In California, nurse-midwives really deliver — to the tune of 50,000 babies a year. These unsung women’s health practitioners attend 10% of all births, providing mothers in mostly rural and typically poorer communities with excellent maternity care, all while saving millions on medical costs.
They fill an important role in a women’s health system struggling to keep up across the state. Despite population increases, the arrival of new obstetrician-gynecologists has remained flat since 1980, worsening “maternity deserts” and health provider shortage areas. Now, at least nine counties have no OB/GYN doctors at all and 19 other counties have five or fewer. A critical shortfall of obstetrical care is projected in less than five years.
Fortunately, our state’s cadre of well-trained midwives is ready to step up. A bill I co-wrote with my Los Angeles colleagues, Sen. Holly Mitchell and Assemblymember Autumn Burke, would allow midwives to practice with more independence, freeing them to attend routine cases now requiring the supervision of a sometimes-elusive doctor.
Physician supervision requirements currently force nurse-midwives to concentrate in geographic areas where physicians physically practice, thereby reducing access particularly in rural counties and lower income communities. That extra latitude will lead to greater access, especially for Black and Latino women, who are typically underserved and experience higher infant and maternal morbidity and mortality.
The promise of greater equity has won Senate Bill 1237 the support of many sponsors including the Black Women for Wellness Action Project, the California Nurse-Midwives Association, NARAL Pro-Choice California, United Nurses Association of California and The Women’s Foundation of California, Women’s Policy Institute. It has been approved by both houses of the Legislature with overwhelming, bipartisan support.
What’s clear is that states promoting and integrating midwives into their systems greatly improve women’s health, in part by cutting down on cesarean deliveries, preterm babies and underweight births. By one estimate, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and Black babies are four times more likely to die before their first birthday. That disparity is unacceptable, and greater access to midwives can help correct it.
Consistent with what 46 other states have already done, this bill will remove the “physician permission to practice” law for nurse-midwives. We need to increase access to care for expecting mothers and babies and create a collaborative model of care for certified nurse-midwifery in California. There is a direct link among race, access and maternity outcomes in minority communities. Improving access to nurse-midwifery care has been named by leading organizations, such as the March of Dimes and the World Health Organization, as one of the most important strategies in improving health outcomes and reducing racial disparities…
September 8, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Continues Fight to Maintain Access to Reproductive Health Care at Supreme Court”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a multistate coalition of 23 attorneys general in supporting legal action against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for attempting to increase the risk that women nationwide will contract the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as they seek abortions in their state. In an amicus brief filed in support of the plaintiffs in FDA et al. v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists et al. in the U.S. Supreme Court, Attorney General James leads the coalition in encouraging the court to reject a request from the Trump Administration to halt a preliminary injunction issued by a district court in July and thereby reinstate an FDA requirement that forces women to appear in person in a clinical setting to receive a drug known as mifepristone for an early abortion. The coalition has argued in the past — and continues to argue in today’s amicus brief — that the drug should be readily accessible via telehealth and mail delivery, so as to not potentially expose women to COVID-19 by requiring unnecessary travel.
“Despite multiple courts ruling, again and again, that women should be able to maintain access to reproductive health care even during the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration is still trying to strip women of their rights and control their bodies,” said Attorney General James. “Telehealth can help provide us with the health care we need in so many instances, including helping women maintain their constitutional right to access an abortion without risking a COVID-19 infection. With so many parts of the country still seeing spikes in coronavirus infections, this technology can keep women safe and healthy while protecting their reproductive rights. We won’t allow the Trump Administration to take us backwards, which is why we are fighting this in the Supreme Court.”
Since the widespread onset of COVID-19 across the United States in March, more than 6.3 million Americans have contracted the disease, resulting in more than 189,000 deaths, including more than 440,000 infections in New York and more than 25,000 deaths in the state. In response, legislators, officials, and agencies across the nation have been instituting various emergency measures to slow the spread of the virus by limiting face-to-face contact and reducing in-person social gatherings, such as by closing schools and requiring all nonessential employees to work from home, as limiting interpersonal contact is central to the ability of states to control the spread of the virus.
But the FDA’s requirements — temporarily halted by a lower court, and the subject of today’s amicus brief — force patients to appear in person in a clinical setting to receive mifepristone and heighten the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 for everyone involved, including patients and health care providers. Before the pandemic, patients seeking medication abortions represented nearly 40 percent of all abortion patients in the U.S. in 2017. Forcing these women to travel at a time when many states are urging people to limit in-person contacts to curb the spread of COVID-19 is shortsighted — not only putting women across the country and their close contacts in harm’s way, but also harming the public health more generally. Further, the FDA requirements undermine states’ ability to effectively manage the pandemic.
In today’s brief, Attorney General James and the coalition specifically argue that reinstating and enforcing the FDA requirements during the current public health crisis will harm patient safety and the public interest in at least two ways: 1) by conditioning access to essential reproductive health care on an increased risk of virus infection and transmission and 2) by undermining the states’ ongoing efforts to manage the crisis through measures limiting unnecessary in-person contacts, such as stay-at-home orders, stay-safe orders, and telehealth. The states have already effectively utilized such measures to control the spread of the virus, and these measures remain necessary to safely reopen communities, allow for essential in-person activities, and maintain health care capacity during the upcoming flu season.
Additionally, the coalition argues that many women will need to travel long distances in order to reach a clinic that dispenses mifepristone, especially if they reside in rural and medically underserved locations, therefore increasing the likelihood of coming into contact with an individual who has contracted COVID-19.
But by using measures like telehealth to reduce unnecessary person-to-person contacts, states can decrease their infection rate, as necessary, to safely commence reopening even as the pandemic continues. In fact, the coalition argues that telehealth should be used wherever possible — even as phased reopenings of the states occur — because it maximizes the number of capable health care workers providing necessary medical treatment, while protecting health care staff and patients. And in the context of reproductive care, the counseling required prior to a medication abortion is routinely and safely provided through telehealth in order to reduce in-clinic interactions.
Another division of HHS and one of the FDA’s sister agencies — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has advocated for telehealth, advising health care practitioners to use telemedicine “whenever possible” as “the best way to protect patients and staff from COVID-19.”
The coalition goes on to highlight that their states have already taken numerous steps to expand the use of telehealth during the current public health crisis, including the suspension of existing statutes and regulations that limit the use of telehealth in order to allow the delivery of regulated services through telehealth to additional patient populations, including especially vulnerable ones. These suspension orders expand the types of practitioners who can use telehealth, the settings in which it can be provided, the modalities that can be used to deliver telehealth services, and the circumstances under which telehealth can be initiated. Further, many states have also suspended rules that prohibit telehealth in the absence of an existing patient-provider relationship so that patients can receive care from new providers.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — a plaintiff in this case — has championed telehealth as an effective substitute for in-clinic dispensing of mifepristone that can improve patient safety and outcomes during the COVID-19 public health crisis. And even before the pandemic, in 2018, the American Medical Association passed a resolution urging the FDA to lift the requirement…
September 8, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Files Amicus Brief Opposing FDA’s Attempt to Restrict Safe Access to Abortion Medication During COVID-19 Crisis”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a multistate coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and Honor MacNaughton, M.D. The multistate coalition joins these healthcare providers in opposing the Trump Administration’s petition to stay a federal district court’s ruling that halted enforcement of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirement that Mifepristone, a single-dose oral medication used for early-term abortions, be dispensed in-person. The coalition argues that granting the Administration’s request to stop the district court’s preliminary injunction will be harmful to patients and public health because it will require women to travel to in-person visits with their doctor in order to obtain time-sensitive medication, potentially exposing them to COVID-19.
“We are experiencing an unprecedented global pandemic and instead of making care more accessible by taking precautions to reduce the spread of COVID, the Trump Administration continues to push for anti-choice restrictions that put women in harm’s way,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The federal government should be removing barriers that force women to unnecessarily go in-person to obtain safe and legal abortion medication. We will continue to fight President Trump’s attempts to restrict women’s access to safe healthcare options.”
In the brief, the attorneys general argue no one will be harmed by the preliminary injunction granted by the district court, but granting the federal government’s petition will cause irreparable harm, including to the states’ public health efforts to reduce COVID-19 transmission by limiting unnecessary in-person contact. The preliminary injunction allows women to have telehealth visits with their healthcare providers before being prescribed Mifepristone. These visits only take place when the healthcare provider determines telehealth to be an appropriate option that is consistent with the standards of care. The patient’s prescription may then be mailed to them under the supervision of a certified provider, allowing women to avoid potential COVID-19 transmission from an unnecessary in-person appointment.
If the district court’s preliminary injunction is stayed, the federal government can reinstate restrictive measures in accessing care. These measures include requiring patients to obtain medication from a clinic, medical office, or hospital under the supervision of a healthcare provider if the medication is prescribed for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy. The restrictive measures would be applied even if the healthcare provider believes a telehealth consultation and delivery of the medication by mail or courier would be safe. In contrast, the federal government has approved access to highly controlled substances, like some opioids, by suspending in-person evaluation requirements during the pandemic.
Mifepristone has been approved by the FDA since 2000, and remains the only drug approved in the United States for pregnancy termination. Since its approval, about three million women in the United States have used the medication to terminate a pregnancy.
On August 5, 2020, Attorney General Becerra joined a multistate amicus brief supporting ACOG’s opposition to the FDA’s motion for stay of the district court ruling halting the federal government’s restrictions imposed on Mifepristone. In June, Attorney General Becerra joined a coalition filing an amicus brief supporting ACOG’s challenge to the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). In March, Attorney General Becerra led a multistate coalition in sending a letter to the FDA, asking them to remove REMS restrictions or waive enforcement of these requirements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide stay-at-home orders.
In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the brief is available here.
September 9, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL President Responds to Announcement of Trump’s Supreme Court Shortlist”. From the press release:
Today, just as damning news breaks that Donald Trump knowingly lied to the American public about his knowledge of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump released a new shortlist of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees to fill a future vacancy. Today’s announcement tracks with Trump’s history of trying to distract and deflect from his countless failures in leadership by throwing a bone to his anti-choice, extremist base. Unsurprisingly, Trump’s list is rife with anti-choice extremists and radical ideologues. In 2016, Trump campaigned on his promise to only nominate judges who will work to overturn Roe v. Wade. He delivered on that promise by nominating Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Court, tipping its balance to an anti-choice, anti-freedom majority and paying back his debt to the ideological extremists he has relied on throughout his presidency and bid for reelection.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement in response:
“Donald Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist paints an alarming picture of his dark vision for the future of this country. Make no mistake, this should terrify anyone invested in the integrity of the Court and in the fundamental rights and freedoms that we hold dear. We know that an intent to gut Roe v. Wade is an explicit litmus test for Trump judicial nominees as the administration seeks to halt progress and advance its broader agenda of power and control. Appointing judges with blatant disregard for the precedent of Roe poses an imminent threat to the future of reproductive freedom in this country.
Gaining power over the Court has long been part of the Radical Right’s efforts to enshrine into law their unpopular agenda—which includes eroding reproductive freedom, overturning Roe v. Wade, and decimating access to abortion. This list illustrates the absolute urgency of voting Trump out of office and flipping the Senate to a pro-reproductive freedom majority.”
The stakes for our democracy could not be higher heading into the November election. Given the opportunity, Trump and the Radical Right will wreak havoc on every level of the judicial branch. Just as they have done for the last four years, Trump and Republicans will undoubtedly spend the next four years actualizing their long-term goal of stacking the Supreme Court with regressive, ideological extremists who will turn back the clock on progress and undo generations of hard-fought victories.
September 10, 2020: Senator Cory Booker posted a press release titled: “Booker and Durbin Introduce Bill to Fund the World Health Organization” From the press release:
Today, United States Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill to ensure the United States fulfills its commitments to the World Health Organization. Under the Abiding by U.S. Commitments Act, the United States will continue payments of its dues to the WHO and the other international organizations of which it is a member.
In addition to Booker and Durbin, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Cantwell (D-WA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hirono (D-HI), Merkley (D-OR), Reed (D-RI), and Feinstein (D-CA).
Earlier this year, the White House announced it would begin the process of terminating the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization, isolating the United States in the midst of a global pandemic and endangering access to up to date information about COVID-19 and other diseases. Last week, the Trump Administration announced it would not join 172 countries in an effort to secure a safe vaccine simply because the World Health Organization was involved. These reckless actions severely undermine the global efforts to secure a vaccine and the U.S’s historic leadership in global health diplomacy. The Trump Administration continues to risk millions of American lives simply to divert attention from its own failures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to recent reports, COVID-19 has killed U.S. citizens at six times the global average rate and has recorded eight times the number of infections of other high-income countries.
“COVID-19 is a global pandemic that requires a coordinated global response, but because of the Trump Administration, the United States has not only lost more of our citizens to this virus than our global peers but is almost entirely absent from international efforts to contain and stop the spread of this virus,” said Sen. Booker. “Congress needs to act urgently to ensure that the U.S. keeps its commitments to our international partners like the WHO so a coordinated global response to COVID-19 saves lives both here at home and abroad.”
“With the United States leading in the number of COVID-19 infections, we do not have time to play along with the President’s political stunt to withdraw from vital international organizations like the World Health Organization, which is leading a global effort to find and distribute a vaccine for a disease responsible for the death of more than 190,000 Americans,” said Sen. Durbin. “With this legislation, we are taking steps to reaffirm our commitment to our global allies in fighting this virus. After all, while I hope a vaccine is developed here, we don’t want the American people left out if one is developed abroad.”
Booker and Durbin’s, Abiding by U.S. Commitments Act of 2020:
- Expresses a sense of Congress that the U.S. should participate in global efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, including the COVAX facility.
- Requires the Secretary of State to pay 2020 assessed dues to the International Organizations to which the U.S. belongs.
- Requires that $118.9M (the United States’ annual assessed and treaty-obligated dues) be made available to the WHO.
Today’s bill comes after Booker led a letter with 33 of his Senate colleagues in July urging the President to reverse his decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization.
Full text of the bill is available here.
September 10, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Attorney General James Seeks to Immediately Halt Trump Administration from Allowing Health Care Discrimination to Move Forward”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today filed a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit seeking to immediately stop a new Trump Administration rule that makes it easier for health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate against certain vulnerable and protected classes of Americans.
“The Trump Administration has tried again, again, and again to repeal, dismantle, and chip away at the many protections in the ACA, but we won’t allow President Trump’s desire to strip Americans of these vital health care protections to undo all the years of progress we’ve made,” said Attorney General James. “The president’s lack of concern for so many different groups as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic shows his blatant disregard for the health and well-being of the American people. We’re filing today’s motion to immediately halt and set aside the president’s efforts to rip coverage away from millions, including LGBTQ+ individuals, those who do not speak English, and women. Our coalition will continue to fight and do everything in our power to ensure health care remains a right for every American, and not just a privilege for the rich and powerful.”
In July, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and the head of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights, Roger Severino, arguing that the new Trump Administration rule emboldens providers and insurers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and women, among others, by stripping away express protections for these groups in HHS regulations that implement the nondiscrimination provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 of the ACA — issued by the Obama Administration in 2016 — prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age by health programs or facilities that receive federal funds, but — despite numerous failed legislative and legal battles to repeal and dismantle the ACA by the Trump Administration — HHS is still trying to undermine many of the protections in this provision.
Today’s motion for summary judgment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s motion for summary judgment are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
This matter is being handled by Senior Trial Counsel Joseph Wardenski and Assistant Attorney General Fiona Kaye, both of the Executive Division; Deputy Bureau Chief Elena Goldstein and Assistant Attorney General Travis England, both of the Civil Rights Bureau; and Special Assistant Attorney General Marissa Lieberman-Klein of the Environmental Protection Bureau — all under the supervision of Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo. Both the Civil Rights Bureau and the Environmental Protection Bureau are part of the Division for Social Justice. The Executive Division and the Division for Social Justice are both overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
September 10, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Files Motion to Stop Trump Administration Rule that Would Permit Discrimination in Healthcare”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and New York Attorney General Letitia James, leading a coalition of 23 attorneys general, today filed a motion for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York asking that the Trump Administration’s discriminatory rule undermining Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) be vacated and set aside. Section 1557 is the first federal civil rights law to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in federal health programs. The rule issued by the Administration illegally rolls back these critical protections.
“The game-changing power of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act lies in its simplicity. It guarantees every American the right to be free from discrimination in accessing healthcare under federal programs. There was a time when many of us could not expect that,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Especially during a global pandemic when all of our communities need safe, reliable access to essential care, no American should fear they will be left behind because of their race, color, sex, national origin, disability or age. Yet, the Trump Administration seeks to dismantle Section 1557’s protections. This is 2020, not 1920. We’re taking President Trump to court to prove that this is not 1920.”
In the motion for summary judgment, the coalition argues that the rule should be vacated in its entirety because:
- It is contrary to law, including ACA Section 1557;
- The States will bear new administrative, regulatory, investigative, enforcement, and healthcare burdens and costs because of it;
- The removal of the definition of “on the basis of sex” and weakened protections for language assistance services is arbitrary and capricious; and
- The rule’s addition of broad religious exemptions for abortion are arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, and exceed statutory authority.
On April 30, 2020, Attorneys General Becerra and Healey led a multistate coalition in filing a comment letter urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) not to finalize its proposed regulation which sought to undermine Section 1557’s critical anti-discrimination protections for marginalized populations. In July, the coalition, led by Attorneys General Becerra, Healey and James filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s final rule. Federal judges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and the District of Columbia have recently blocked HHS from enforcing portions of the rule in cases filed by private litigants.
Attorneys General Becerra, Healey and James are joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the motion is available here.
September 13, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Trump’s Latest Prescription Drug Price Sham”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement on President Trump’s continued failure to take real action to lower prescription drug prices:
“Once again, President Trump is making empty promises instead of taking actual action to lower Americans’ drug prices. In fact, Trump’s rebate rule will increase premiums for American’s seniors and people with disabilities.
“Four years of President Trump caving to Big Pharma have culminated in this sham. It is clear that Trump’s promise in the campaign to negotiate drug prices “like crazy” means not negotiate at all.
“President Trump’s latest empty announcement is an insult to all the seniors and families who are still waiting for real action to lower their prescription drug costs.
“Again, President Trump should stop making a big deal of hollow executive actions that he knows won’t work.”
September 14, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra posted a press release titled: “Attorney General Becerra Announces $11.8 Million Settlement Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals”. From the press release:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced an $11.8 million settlement against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (Novartis) related to allegations that the company engaged in a kickback scheme from January 2002 through November 2011 that impacted beneficiaries of Medicare and Medi-Cal. Novartis was accused of violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act, as well as the California False Claims Act, by offering payment in the form of cash, meals, and honoraria to healthcare practitioners to encourage them to prescribe certain Novartis drug products, including drugs such as Lotrel, Valturna, Starlix, Tekamlo, Diovan HCT, Tekturna HCT, and Exforge HCT, Diovan, and Exforge, to recipients of Medicare and Medicaid.
“Kickbacks are illegal, they increase prices for consumers — and they cost you dearly once you’re caught. Novartis is the latest company we caught cheating,” said Attorney General Becerra.“In holding Novartis accountable, our state’s Medi-Cal recipients and our taxpayers win to the tune of over $11.8 million.”
The settlement is a result of a whistleblower case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2011. As part of the agreement, Novartis is required to pay California $11.8 million, which will be split between the General Fund and Medi-Cal.
This settlement agreement is a part of the work of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA). Through BMFEA, the Attorney General’s office works to protect Californians by investigating and prosecuting those who perpetuate fraud on the Medi-Cal program. BMFEA also investigates and prosecutes those responsible for abuse, neglect, and fraud committed against elderly and dependent adults in the state. The Bureau regularly works with whistleblowers and law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute.
A copy of the settlement agreement is available here.
September 15, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Trump Administration Seeks to Expand Global Gag Rule It Knows to Be Harmful During a Global Pandemic”. From the press release:
Despite the fact that multiple studies found that the global gag rule disrupts access to critical health care around the world, and as COVID-19 continues to claim lives across the globe, today, the Trump administration published a proposed rule for public comment seeking to expand this devastating policy. The “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” proposed rule would broaden the global gag rule to apply to global health contracts, newly impacting over 250 contracts and as much as 40% of global health assistance. Because of the global gag rule, the communities that already faced the greatest barriers to care — including women and girls, young people, and LGBTQ+ people — have experienced the most devastating constraints on services. They are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They would only be further harmed by this proposed, unprecedented expansion.
Statement from Monica Kerrigan, executive director, Planned Parenthood Global:
“The global gag rule was among the first of many attacks the administration launched against health and human rights. Study after study — including from the State Department — has demonstrated that this neocolonialist policy has inflicted a crushing blow to health care access for people around the world, especially those who already face systemic barriers to care, including women and girls, young people, and LGBTQ+ people. And as COVID-19 continues to claim lives and devastate communities, the administration is knowingly moving to expand this policy. There is no excuse for this brazen disregard for people’s health and rights.”
Since 2017, the global gag rule has prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving any U.S. global health assistance if they provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, even if these activities are supported solely with non-U.S. funds. The Trump administration has already expanded this harmful policy twice, first to apply to all global health assistance and again by extending the gag to any funds from any source that flow through a gagged organization.
Last month, the U.S. Department of State itself released a report on its own global gag rule, confirming that the rule dangerously disrupts access to health care. Despite the State Department’s claims to the contrary, the report outlined a profound impact of the policy on U.S. global health assistance, clearly describing disruptions in care across a range of global health programs, including HIV/AIDS, family planning and reproductive health, tuberculosis, and nutrition. Partners of Planned Parenthood Global — the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the African Population and Health Research Center — also recently released research detailing how the Trump administration’s global gag rule has disrupted health care access in Kenya and harmed individuals and communities. Nearly 170 diverse global health groups explicitly oppose the administration’s global gag rule and there is widespread support in Congress to repeal it entirely.
September 15, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Whistleblower Complaint on Massive Health Care Abuse at ICE Detention Centers”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on a whistleblower complaint filed on behalf of a nurse at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center documenting ‘jarring medical neglect’ within the facility, including a refusal to test detainees for coronavirus and mass hysterectomies being performed on immigrant women:
“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are a staggering abuse of human rights. This profoundly disturbing situation recalls some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, from the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, to the horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, to the forced sterilizations of Black women that Fannie Lou Hamer and so many others underwent and fought.
“The DHS Inspector General must immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint. Congress and the American people need to know why and under what conditions so many women, reportedly without their informed consent, were pushed to undergo this extremely invasive and life-altering procedure.
“It is also essential that we get answers regarding ICE’s egregious handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in light of reports of their refusal to test detainees including those who are symptomatic, the destruction of medical requests submitted by immigrants and the fabrication of medical records.
“Reports such as these point to the urgent need to overhaul our unaccountable detention system and its horrific misuse by the Trump Administration, to ensure that these abuses cannot ever again happen.”
September 15, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release: “Planned Parenthood President Reacts to Reports of Forced Hysterectomies in ICE Detention Center”. From the press release:
Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson and Planned Parenthood Southeast president and CEO Staci Fox released the following statements in response to allegations that women are being forced to undergo hysterectomies at an ICE detention center.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“I am horrified by reports that immigrant women trapped in an ICE detention center are being subjected to forced and coerced hysterectomies, often without their full knowledge or consent. Immigrants are human beings with autonomy and rights, not bodies to be experimented on, and one’s documentation status should not change that. The history of forced sterilization in the United States is long, dark, disturbing, and dehumanizing. Preventing women, particularly Black women and women of color, from having full autonomy over their bodies and reproductive futures is white supremacy in action. We will work with our partners however we can to immediately stop this practice, not just in detention centers, but also in the prison system and globally, where these atrocities continue.”
Statement from Staci Fox, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Southeast:
“I was sickened to learn that a Georgia detention center is performing forced hysterectomies and ignoring COVID safety protocols. It is absolutely despicable and it is part of the ongoing dehumanization of immigrants and people of color in this country. Bodily autonomy and basic human rights do not end at the gates of ICE detention centers. We stand with Project South, the Government Accountability Project, and other partners fighting to end these inhumane practices and hold the people who perpetuate them accountable.”
September 16, 2020: Representative Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) posted a press release titled: “Rep. Pressley, 173 Members of Congress Urge DHS Inspector General to Immediately Open Investigation Into Startling Whistleblower Allegations Regarding High Rates of Hysterectomies Being Performed on Immigrant Women in Irwin County, Georgia”. From the press release:
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) today joined Representatives Judy Chu (CA-27), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Zoe Lofgen (CA-19), and more than 170 members of Congress in urging the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to open an immediate investigation into new whistleblower allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on women detained at the privately-run Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga. The lawmakers demanded an urgent response as well as a briefing on the status of an investigation by next Friday, Sept. 25.
“We are horrified to see reports of mass hysterectomies performed on detained women in the facility without their full, informed consent and request. Everyone—regardless of their immigration status, their language, or their incarceration—deserves to control their own reproductive choices and make informed choices about their bodies,” wrote the lawmakers. “We request that your office immediately open an investigation to thoroughly examine allegations raised.”
The letter follows alarms raised by a whistleblower and numerous immigrants who shared their concerns about the high rates of hysterectomies being performed, calling the facility an, “experimental concentration camp” and the doctor performing the procedures, “the uterus collector.” One immigrant reported that she knew of five women who had hysterectomies within a three month period. The whistleblower complaint also raises questions as to whether there was proper, informed consent by many of the women. It details that several women did not know why they even went to a doctor.
The lawmakers’ letter also notes the abhorrent similarities between the allegations from the Irwin County Detention center and the United States’ shameful history of sterilization. More than 30 states passed eugenic-sterilization laws that disproportionately targeted people of color and incarcerated individuals. By the end of 1963, more than 3,000 individuals had been sterilized in Georgia alone as the state was responsible for the fifth highest number of sterilizations. This cruel practice has unfortunately continued into more recent times for incarcerated individuals.
Today’s letter was signed by United States Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, Judy Chu, Jerrold Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Alma S. Adams, Ph.D., Colin Allred, Karen Bass, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Joyce Beatty, Ami Bera, M.D., Donald S. Beyer Jr., Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Suzanne Bonamici, Brendan F. Boyle, Anthony G. Brown, Julia Brownley, Cheri Bustos, G. K. Butterfield, Salud O. Carbajal, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Matt Cartwright, Sean Casten, Kathy Castor, Joaquin Castro, David Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette D. Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver, Ii, Steve Cohen, Gerald E. Connolly, Jim Cooper, J. Luis Correa, Joe Courtney, Charlie Crist, Jason Crow, Danny K. Davis, Susan A. Davis, Madeleine Dean, Peter A. Defazio, Diana Degette, Rosa L. Delauro, Suzan Delbene, Val Demings, Mark Desaulnier, Ted Deutch, Debbie Dingell, Lloyd Doggett, Mike Doyle, Eliot Engel, Veronica Escobar, Anna G. Eshoo, Dwight Evans, Abby Finkenauer, Bill Foster, Lois Frankel, Marcia Fudge, Ruben Gallego, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Sylvia R. Garcia, Jimmy Gomez, Raul M. Grijalva, Deb Haaland, Alcee L. Hastings, Jahana Hayes, Denny Heck, Brian Higgins, Steven Horsford, Steny Hoyer, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Hakeem Jeffries, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Marcy Kaptur, William R. Keating, Robin L. Kelly, Joseph P. Kennedy, Iii, Ro Khanna, Daniel T. Kildee, Derek Kilmer, Ann Kirkpatrick, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ann Mclane Kuster, Rick Larsen, John B. Larson, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Andy Levin, Mike Levin, Ted W. Lieu, Dave Loebsack, Alan Lowenthal, Nita M. Lowey, Elaine G. Luria, Stephen F. Lynch, Doris Matsui, Betty Mccollum, James P. Mcgovern, Jerry Mcnerney, Gregory W. Meeks, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Joseph D. Morelle, Seth Moulton, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Jimmy Panetta, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Donald M. Payne, Jr., Ed Perlmutter, Scott H. Peters, Dean Phillips, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Katie Porter, David E. Price, Mike Quigley, Jamie Raskin, Cedric L. Richmond, Harley Rouda, Lucille Roybal-Allard, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Bobby L. Rush, Tim Ryan, Linda T. Sánchez, John P. Sarbanes, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Adam B. Schiff, Bradley S. Schneider, Kim Schrier, M.D., Jose Serrano, Terri A. Sewell, Donna E. Shalala, Brad Sherman, Mike Sherrill, Albio Sires, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Abigail D. Spanberger, Jackie Speier, Greg Stanton, Haley M. Stevens, Thomas R. Suozzi, Eric Swalwell, Mark Takano, Bennie G. Thompson, Mike Thompson, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Norma J. Torres, Lori Trahan, David Trone, Lauren Underwood, Juan Vargas, Marc Veasey, Filemon Vela, Nydia M. Velázquez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Maxine Waters, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, Susan Wild, Frederica S. Wilson And John Yarmuth.
The full letter is available here.
September 17, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Praises House Passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act”. From the press release:
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bill that will advance reproductive freedom by promoting economic security and workplace fairness for pregnant working people. The bill passed 329-73 with bipartisan support and with every Democrat present voting in favor.
“Protecting against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is an absolutely non-negotiable facet of reproductive freedom,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “No one should ever have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy, and no one should have to face discrimination or retaliation in the workplace because of a pregnancy, full stop. NARAL applauds the passage of this important legislation and the Members of Congress who fought hard to bring this bill over the finish line including rejecting Republicans’ shameful attempt to hijack progress, attack reproductive freedom, and pursue an agenda of control under the guise of ‘religion.’ The House has delivered an important win for pregnant workers — now it’s time for the Senate to act.”
The bill passed despite efforts led by anti-choice Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), in a blatant attempt to attack reproductive freedom, to incorporate a religious exemption into the bill that was fundamentally at odds with the bill’s purpose and that would have emboldened employers to refuse accommodations to pregnant workers.
NARAL Pro-Choice America, its members, and our coalition partners fought tirelessly in recent years for the passage of H.R. 2694, including placing calls to build support for the bill and joining with over 200 organizations in calling for Congress to pass the bill.
The text of H.R. 2694 can be found here.
September 18, 2020: Senator Cory Booker (Democrat – New Jersey) posted a press release titled: “Senators to DHS IG: Investigate Alleged Forced Hysterectomies at ICE Facility”. From the press release:
Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and 37 senators today called on the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to expeditiously investigate a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga.
“Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy,” the senators wrote. “To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.”
In addition to Senators Booker, Feinstein, Leahy, Murray and Casey, the letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The full letter can be viewed below and downloaded here:
September 18, 2020
Hon. Joseph V. Cuffari
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane SW
Washington, DC 20528-0305
Dear Mr. Cuffari:
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General should expeditiously conduct a thorough investigation into a whistleblower complaint alleging forced hysterectomies and other egregious abuses at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia. LaSalle Corrections operates that facility for the federal government, including for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The alleged abuses detailed in the complaint and in related reports must be thoroughly and swiftly investigated to protect the rights and safety of women and patients in our nation’s care.
The whistleblower expressed alarm about the “rate at which the hysterectomies have occurred” at the facility. Specifically, the complaint alleges that between October and December 2019 at least five women detained at the ICDC received hysterectomies. When asked about the procedures, however, the women “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” The complaint also describes how a gynecologist once removed the wrong ovary on a young woman, causing her “to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy,” leaving her unable to bear children.
Another detained woman who received a hysterectomy recounted that medical personnel “did not properly explain to her what procedure she was going to have done.” Although she asked for more information about why she was receiving a hysterectomy, she was “given three different responses by three different individuals.” When the woman told a nurse that the procedure “isn’t for me,” the nurse “responded by getting angry and agitated.”
Forced sterilizations infringe on reproductive rights and autonomy. To understand whether such violations may have been committed against immigrants in our federal government’s custody, the Inspector General’s Office should immediately investigate the reproductive health policies and practices at the ICDC and at other ICE facilities, including but not limited to, all instances of forced, coerced, or medically unnecessary hysterectomies.
In addition to thoroughly investigating the recent alleged abuses at the ICDC, we urge you to immediately conduct a national review of reproductive health policies and practices at ICE facilities to ensure that the human rights of women in federal immigration custody are assured.
September 18, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a press release titled: “ACOG Calls for Swift Investigation of Reports of High Rates of Hysterectomies in Immigration Detention”. From the press release:
ACOG CEO Dr. Maureen Phipps this week wrote a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security urging a swift and thorough investigation of complaints filed by a whistleblower alleging high rates of hysterectomy procedures on detained persons held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, as well as unsafe and unsanitary conditions and denial of access to medical care.
ACOG opposes the unethical practice of reproductive coercion in any form and acknowledges the history in the United States, including the recent past, of the unethical practice of coerced or forced sterilization procedures performed on individuals without their consent. Communities of color and incarcerated individuals have been disproportionately impacted by these breeches.
In the letter Dr. Phipps quotes directly from Committee Opinion 695, Sterilization of Women: Ethical Issues and Considerations, which clearly states that coercive or forcible sterilization practices are unethical and should never be performed:
“Coercive or forcible sterilization practices are unethical and should never be performed. Ethical sterilization care requires access to sterilization for women who request it, without undue barriers. It simultaneously requires protections from unjust or coercive practices, particularly for low-income women, incarearated women, or any women whose fertility and parenting has historically been devalued or stereotyped as problematic or in need of control or surveillance.”
Dr. Phipps offered ACOG as a resource for evidence-based information about the provision of ethical clinical care, and shared ACOG’s clinical guidance documents, including Committee Opinion 695, to help inform the investigation.
The concerns alleged in the complaint are alarming and ACOG continues to closely monitor this issue.
September 19, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice California Celebrates Major Victory for Reproductive Freedom as Governor Newsom Signs Justice and Maternity Care Act (SB 1237) into Law”. From the press release:
Yesterday Governor Newsom took a critical and long overdue step to expand reproductive freedom and improve pregnancy and birth outcomes in California by signing the Justice and Equity in Maternity Act (SB 1237) into law.
Despite being a leader on reproductive freedom and healthcare innovation, California is an outlier in access to nurse-midwifery care and is one of only four states that still require physician supervision in order for nurse-midwives to practice.
SB 1237 — authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and co-sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice California, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, California Nurse-Midwives Association, and United Nurses Association of California — will remove California’s outdated physician supervision requirement for Certified Nurse-Midwives, improving pregnancy and birth outcomes and expanding access to affordable, high-quality care.
In response, NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Hovis released the following statement:
“NARAL Pro-Choice California and our 295,000 members statewide applaud Governor Newsom for signing the Justice and Equity in Maternity Act (SB 1237) into law. As one of the last states in the nation to still have this outdated requirement on the books — and the state with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country — this law is a long overdue step toward expanding access to midwifery care at a time when Californians need it most. By better integrating and removing unnecessary barriers to care, SB 1237 will reduce racial disparities in pregnancy and birth outcomes which have only been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. We thank Governor Newsom for honoring his commitment to fight for equitable access to high-quality care for pregnant people and families across California.”
The text of SB-1237 is here.
September 19, 2020: CNMA Midwives tweeted: “There are a lot of mixed emotions right now – but we do have something really big to celebrate. Governor @GavinNewsom has signed #SB1237, and The Equality and Justice in Maternity Care Act is now California law! Thank you to everyone who helped make this a reality!”
The tweet included a graphic that said “SB 1237 is officially California law!” CNMA is The California Nurse-Midwives Association.
September 19, 2020: New York Attorney General Letitia James posted a press release titled: “Citing Exposure of Chilfren to Lead Poisoning, Attorney General James Files Suit Against Buffalo Group Over Failure to Address Lead-Based Paint Dangers”. From the press release:
New York Attorney General Letitia James, joined by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, today announced a lawsuit against a group of individuals and companies in the Buffalo region for repeatedly and persistently violating county, city, state, and federal laws by illegally allowing lead paint-related hazards to proliferate in their rental properties. The violations by the group, which has owned and managed more than 150 single- and two-family homes in predominantly low-income communities of color, has led to dozens of reported instances of childhood lead poisoning.
The rental housing operations addressed in the suit are controlled by Angel Elliot Dalfin. In the lawsuit, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) identifies six specific Dalfin properties that serve as examples of the egregious and illegal lead hazard management practices used by the landlords and the poisoning of children in those properties.
“It is as immoral as it is illegal that a landlord would knowingly expose families to lead poisoning, which disproportionately threatens the health and development of Black and brown children,” said Attorney General James. “Our children deserve to live in safe and healthy homes, not dangerous and poisonous ones. This group of landlords and property managers put low-income Buffalo communities at extreme risk, and today we are holding them accountable. As Buffalo continues to have some of the highest rates of childhood lead poisoning in the country, my office will continue to hold bad actors responsible. Every family deserves to live in a home free of lead hazards, and I will work to ensure that happens.”
The lawsuit, filed in Erie County Supreme Court, alleges that since 2013, the Erie County Department of Health has identified dozens of children with elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) in 22 of the Dalfin properties. In addition, since 2013, at least 63 of these houses have been cited by county and city inspectors for housing code violations, either for conditions conducive to lead poisoning, which are prohibited by the Erie County Sanitary Code, or for chipping, peeling, or deteriorating paint, which is prohibited by both the county and city. The landlords frequently allowed paint on their properties to deteriorate to the point of being a lead hazard instead of preventing deterioration of paint, as required by local and state building codes, and only addressed the lead hazard after a lead-poisoned child was discovered. The group also consistently violated federal lead disclosure requirements by providing either no lead disclosure statement to tenants or false disclosures, which stated that the landowner had no reports of lead paint or lead paint hazards, when in fact there were multiple reports of lead paint and lead paint hazards regarding the residences.
The OAG began its investigation into Dalfin and the other individuals and entities in 2017, when upon a painstaking review of county and city violation histories, tax records, deed transfers, and corporate filings, the office identified the interrelated group of landlords and property managers with a record of repeated and persistent lead paint violations and childhood lead poisonings. Since 2017, OAG has found that the group violated the law in other ways, such as:
- Using shell companies to avoid complying with city rental registration requirements;
- Failing to comply with city and state property management and real estate broker licensing requirements;
- Conducting business in New York without authority to do so from the Department of State; and
- Initiating evictions of tenants in lead-poisoned houses in violation of New York law.
The poisoning of children from lead paint in aging rental housing is an ongoing national public health crisis, but is of particular concern within New York, and especially the Buffalo region. Tens of thousands of rental properties in Buffalo that were constructed before 1978 contain lead paint which, if not properly maintained and managed, can cause lead poisoning. If such properties are properly maintained, however, lead poisoning can be prevented.
The health impacts of lead paint in rental housing are particularly acute in the Buffalo region, where children who live in communities of color are 12 times as likely than children who live in predominately white neighborhoods to be diagnosed with an elevated blood lead level. Elevated blood lead levels are also more prevalent in Buffalo’s low-income neighborhoods than high-income neighborhoods…
September 21, 2020: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) posted a press release titled: “ACOG Applauds House Passage of H.R. 4995, the Maternal Health Quality Act”. From the press release:
Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), issued the following statement regarding the passage of H.R. 4995, the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act in the U.S. House of Representatives:
“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists applauds the U.S. House for prioritizing the lives of women and families by passing the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act.
“As we’ve seen over the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed health inequities experienced by women of color in this country and may be worsening the U.S. maternal mortality crisis. This timely, bipartisan legislation will help our nation reverse course on this crisis by implementing evidence-based policies that will improve maternal health outcomes for all women and take steps to eliminate racial inequities.
“ACOG urges the U.S. Senate to build on its commitment to healthy moms and babies by acting expeditiously to ensure this important legislation is passed and signed into law by the end of year.
“While H.R. 4995 will significantly help us move the needle on eliminating preventable maternal deaths, it is also critical that Congress passes H.R. 4996, the Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services Act, so that women who rely on Medicaid have coverage and access to quality health care after childbirth when they are most at risk for experiencing life threatening conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, postpartum depression, and substance use disorder.
“The pandemic has underscored the importance of the Medicaid program, which already plays a critical role in maternity care—covering 43 percent of births nationwide. By also passing H.R. 4996, the House and Senate would support state efforts to extend Medicaid coverage beyond the standard 60 days to one year postpartum and close critical coverage gaps for women after pregnancy.
“These policies can mean the difference between life and death for so many women. The time to act is now.”
September 22, 2020: Senator Tammy Baldwin (Democrat – Wisconsin) tweeted: “During the wore public health crisis in our lifetimes, Trump supports a lawsuit to eliminate the #ACA completely, taking health care away from millions of Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. That is the Republican health care plan – plain and simple.”
September 23, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Harris, Casey, Booker, Durbin Urge Finance Committee Leaders to Adopt Proposals to Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate”. From the press release:
U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote a letter urging the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee to draw on their individually proposed maternal health bills as the committee develops policy recommendations to expand and improve coverage and services for pregnant and post-partum people.
Those bills are:
- Senator Kamala Harris’ Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (S. 3424)
- Senator Kamala Harris’ Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act (S. 1600)
- Senator Bob Casey’s Improving Coverage and Care for Mother’s Act (S. 3443)
- Senator Cory Booker’s Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act (S. 1343)
- Senator Richard Durbin’s Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA’s) Act (S. 916)
“Maternal mortality and morbidity is a problem that plagues America and must be confronted. At 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, the United States ranks last among similarly situated countries. For Black mothers that rate rises to 37.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. American Indian and Alaskan Native mothers also face their own unique challenges that lead to higher than average maternal mortality rates. This is unacceptable,” the senators wrote.
They continued,“If done right, this effort can have a truly positive impact and reduce the United States’ dismal maternal mortality and morbidity rate.”
In their letter to Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Senators highlighted six main areas for improving maternal health rates:
- Access to coverage: Expand Medicaid coverage for at least one year for post-partum care;
- Access to services: Increase access to services so pregnant people can receive the full range of health care services and not just pregnancy-related care;
- Enable non-clinical professionals to provide services: Allow providers including doulas, midwives and lactation consultants to provide services and be reimbursed by Medicaid;
- Reduce racial disparities in maternal health care: Ensure employees in health care settings receive ongoing, evidence-based anti-racism and bias training;
- Ensure continuity of maternal health demonstrations: Allow states and communities to create local maternal health projects that the federal government can learn from; and
- Support telehealth: Provide resources to help states implement telehealth services for maternity care—especially for those living in rural or underserved areas.
The letter is available HERE.
September 23, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America President Responds to News of Trump’s Latest Executive Order”. From the press release:
Today Donald Trump announced his plan to issue a new executive order, coined as a “Born Alive” order, an intentionally inflammatory term that is not grounded in medical science. The move is a clear political calculation aimed at distracting the American public—77% of which supports Roe v. Wade—and a bad-faith attempt to rile up Trump’s anti-choice base in order to ram through the confirmation of a U.S. Supreme Court justice hostile to reproductive freedom to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In response, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement:
“It is downright cruel and a slap in the face to the American public that President Trump is deploying dangerous disinformation in a power grab for the Supreme Court, not to mention using executive powers to impose his own extreme ideology when he can’t jam through his agenda legislatively. Trump is once again eager to interfere with difficult, complicated family decisions that we all hope to never find ourselves facing, while exploiting disinformation about these devastating circumstances in order to score cheap political points.
The U.S. has tragically surpassed 200,000 deaths from COVID-19. If Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Senate Republicans spent half as much time trying to deal with the pandemic as they do pushing lies on the American people, this country would be better for it. But putting people’s health and lives before their draconian agenda is not, and will never be, their priority.”
The term “born alive” is not a term rooted in science or reality. Not only does Trump’s reasoning for this executive order completely mischaracterize abortion care, this disinformation opens the door to allowing politicians to interfere with family decisions about palliative care for an infant who tragically won’t survive for long. These families are making the best decision they can in heartbreaking circumstances.
The myth that Trump peddles is cruel to families facing deeply difficult situations and reveals a desire to tie families’ hands and curb their ability to decide what care or path forward is best. Parents facing these situations often want to spend this very limited time with their infant comforting them. Politicians shouldn’t force medical intervention when families are trying to peacefully say goodbye to a child who cannot survive. The disinformation vilifies families and the doctors who care for them and wildly misleads the public about these rare and complicated scenarios.
In covering this news, it is important to avoid amplifying right-wing disinformation and to include critical context around the inflammatory term “born alive.” Here is a language guide created by NARAL Pro-Choice America and Global Strategy Group to guide accurate reporting on abortion…
September 23, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Planned Parenthood: Supreme Court Vacancy Could Further Impact Family Planning Decisions”.
Following the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is mounting concern about how her vacant seat will affect people’s access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including birth control and abortion, in the months and years ahead.
In late 2016, Planned Parenthood saw an unprecedented surge in questions about access to health care and birth control, both online and in health centers, including a more than 900% increase in appointments for IUDs. Patient after patient shared concerns about losing their birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s birth control rule or their access to health care.
Planned Parenthood providers are already seeing patients make decisions, such as choosing to end pregnancies they otherwise would have continued and delaying their plans to expand their families, due to burdens imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. With 17 cases concerning abortion access one step away from the Supreme Court, and other federal court cases threatening health care access more broadly, more people may be forced to make medical and family planning decisions based on their fears of the unknown.
Statement from Dr. Gillian Dean, Senior Director of Medical Services, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“With the recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a staunch champion of reproductive health care and rights on the Supreme Court — and dozens of cases about reproductive health in the federal courts right now, many people have concerns about the threat to accessing essential sexual and reproductive health services, such as birth control and abortion.
“While it’s too soon to tell what impact Justice Ginsburg’s passing will have on cases before the Supreme Court or what impact those cases will in turn have on people’s family planning decisions, one thing is for certain: People should not be forced to make critical health care decisions based on fear. Politics should not be a factor people must consider when deciding to start using birth control, choosing a method, or switching methods. This is true for people who depend on birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy or manage health conditions, and for those who otherwise would not have access to health care without the ACA.
“It is unconscionable that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our political climate determines people’s access to health care from one day to the next. Patients have already been forced to make tough decisions about their reproductive health during the pandemic. Regardless of who is on the bench or in office, everyone should be able to access the critical, essential care they need, including contraception and abortion. It has always been Planned Parenthood’s mission to make sexual and reproductive health care accessible to as many people as possible — and we will continue to work toward that mission, no matter what.”
Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are appealing options to people concerned about losing their access to health care in uncertain times, because once inserted, they work for years:
- IUDs are more than 99% effective and work to prevent pregnancy for up to three to 12 years, depending on the type. Because it’s a reversible method, IUD users get extremely effective pregnancy prevention, and their ability to get pregnant returns quickly once the IUD is removed. However, cost is a major barrier for people without health insurance coverage for birth control. Out-of-pocket costs for IUDs can range from $500 to $1,000.
- Implants are also more than 99% effective and can prevent pregnancy for up to 5 years. People can get pregnant right away after the implant is removed. The cost of the implant can range from $0 to $1,300 without access to insurance, Medicaid, and other government programs.
IUDs and implants are safe and highly effective birth control options for many people who can become pregnant and desire long-term, highly effective and safe pregnancy prevention, and who may also want to preserve their fertility. IUDs and implants now represent the third most commonly used category of reversible contraceptives in the United States, after the pill and condom.
September 24, 2020: President Trump issued an “Executive Order on An America-First Healthcare Plan“.
It does not sound like he was the one who wrote this executive order. There is absolutely nothing in it that specifically states what pre-existing conditions his “America-First” plan covers.
A large part of this executive order is nothing more than a reiteration of the things that the Trump Administration has done in an attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). If you want to read the entire executive order, you can do so by clicking the link I have provided.
I will not put the President’s long-winded gaslighting attempt into my blog post.
September 24, 2020: The Hill posted an article titled: “Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit”. It was written by Peter Sullivan. From the article:
President Trump on Thursday signed a largely symbolic executive order aimed at protecting people with pre-existing conditions as he takes fire for a lawsuit seeking to overturn ObamaCare, which enacted those protections.
“The historic action I am taking today includes the first-ever executive order to affirm it is the official policy of the United States government to protect patients with pre-existing conditions,” Trump said during a speech in North Carolina, a key swing state. “So, we’re making that official.”…
…The White House did not immediately release the text of the order, but from Trump and other officials’ descriptions it simply states that protecting people with pre-existing conditions is the policy of the government, something that does not have the force of law on its own.
The Trump administration is backing a GOP-led lawsuit seeking to overturn all of ObamaCare, including the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. If the Supreme Court does strike down the health law, a new law would still be required to replace the protections, despite Trump’s executive order.
Trump also did not lay out the details of how he would protect people with pre-existing conditions.
As Trump noted, Democrats have made attacks on the Trump-backed lawsuit a key part of the campaign as Election Day approaches, particularly noting that the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg now increases the odds that the Supreme Court will strike down the law. The Court will hear the case one week after Election Day, on Nov. 10…
Experts noted the lack of details in Trump’s comments and the limits of the legal authority of an executiver order, when legislation would be required if ObamaCare is struck down…
…Trump has proposed a range of potentially far-reaching actions to lower drug prices, from allowing importation of drugs from Canada to lowering Medicare drug prices to match prices paid in other countries, a policy known as “most-favored nation.”
But both of those proposals have not actually gone into effect yet, as they still require further steps in the rulemaking and policy implementation process.
Trump announced he was also planning to mail $200 discount cards to Medicare beneficiaries to use for prescription drugs, a move that could try to boost his support with seniors ahead of the election…
…Trump also pointed to previous actions like expanding skimpier, cheaper health plans called short-term plans. While those plans have lower premiums, they are allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions…
September 24, 2020: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on President Trump’s Bogus Pre-Existing Condition Protection Executive Order”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released this statement after President Trump signed an executive order he claims will protect people with pre-existing conditions, despite three years of working to dismantle their protections, including his lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to tear down the pre-existing condition benefit and every other protection of the Affordable Care Act:
“President Trump’s bogus executive order on pre-existing conditions isn’t worth the paper it’s signed on. It is an insult to every family with someone with a pre-existing condition that President Trump thinks he can get away with this farce while he races a justice onto the Supreme Court to strike down the lifesaving protections enshrined into law by the Affordable Care Act.
“For his entire Administration, President Trump has used every tool and every chance he gets to weaken or rip away protections for people with pre-existing conditions. If President Trump cared at all about people with pre-existing conditions, he would drop his lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic.
“Democrats will continue our fight to defend and strengthen pre-existing condition protections from Congress to the Courts.”
September 24, 2020: NBC News posted an article titled: “Trump signs EO on health care, but does little to change existing legislation”. It was written by Lauren Egan and Caroline Vakil. From the article:
President Donald Trump announced two new health care executive orders Thursday on protecting pre-existing conditions and preventing surprise billing as the president seeks to shore up his support on an issue that remains top of mind to voters amid to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The actions, however, have minimal impact. The surprise billing order requires Congress to pass legislation and pre-existing conditions are already protected under the Affordable Care Act, legislation that Trump is currently fighting to get rid of…
…Trump has been promising a health care overhaul since his 2016 campaign for president. But nearly four years into his administration and as the country suffers from one of the worst health care crises in its history, Trump has struggled to land on a concrete alternative to the Affordable Care Act, which continues to grow in popularity.
In June the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to repeal Obamacare, arguing that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law must be struck down with it. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 10, just a week after Election Day…
…Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar defended the need for an executive order on pre-existing conditions to reporters on Thursday, pointing to the Supreme Court case. Azar said that the White House wanted to ensure that Americans will be protected even if the ACA is struck down by the Supreme Court.
But the executive order appears to fall short of that goal. The order states that protecting pre-existing conditions was “the policy of the United States” but did not provide any legislative guarantees that Americans would not lose such protections if the ACA were nixed by the Supreme Court…
…When pressed by reporters earlier Thursday on why Trump was signing an executive order directing Congress to pass legislation on surprise billing rather than signing an order to fix the problem right away, Azar said “that is the plan the president plans to announce. It is what it is, as described.”..
…Trump has recently used executive actions to address issues important to voters this election cycle, such as coronavirus economic relief. Similar to Thursday’s orders, many of those actions have been largely symbolic and have not led to significant or meaningful policy change.
September 24, 2020: Bloomberg posted an article titled: “Trump says Elderly to Get $200 for Drugs in Bid for Senior Vote”. It was written by Justin Sink and Jordan Fabian. From the article:
President Donald Trump said that Americans in the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled will be sent $200 discount cards for prescription drugs within weeks, potentially putting cash in their pockets ahead of his November re-election…
…Trump didn’t explain in his speech what program or authority would allow the government to provide the cards. Assuming they are sent to 33 million Medicare beneficiaries, the figure Trump used, the cards would cost about $6.6 billion.
Money for the cards will be drawn from a demonstration program Medicare uses to test new payment systems and other projects, and the cost will be offset by future savings generated from new price cuts Trump has ordered for drugs bought by Medicare, according to a White House official. The cards can be used for prescription drugs co-pays, the official said, but didn’t elaborate.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services referred questions about the cards to the White House…
…The White House has been negotiating with drug makers over an order Trump signed in August that would cut the U.S. prices of some medicines by tying them to prices paid in other Western countries with national health-care systems.
But the leading lobby group for the industry, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said last week it had rejected a request from the administration to provide discount cards to Medicare patients as part of the deal.
Trump issued the drug price order last week, after negotiations with the industry broke off, but it hasn’t yet taken effect. It isn’t clear whether it will ever generate savings for the government or whether they would be enough to offset the cost of the drug discount cards.
Drug companies aren’t aware of Trump’s plans or where funding for the cards will come from, according to a person familiar with the industry’s negotiations with the White House.
Trump’s speech was intended to set forth a health care agenda for his second term, addressing a key vulnerability for the president in the election. After his remarks, he signed an executive order that calls on Congress to retain protections for sick people buying insurance — safeguards guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act, a law Trump’s administration is asking the Supreme Court to strike down.
The president has often promised he would produce a replacement for Obamacare, which guarantees insurers can’t deny coverage to sick people or charge them more. Just last week, the president said his plan is “ready.” But the order he signed essentially abandons the issue to Congress, suggesting he won’t offer his own plan before the election…
…Trump’s order purporting to protect people with pre-existing conditions won’t apply to consumers who buy short-term insurance policies that last less than a year, according to the White House official. The Trump administration has promoted the plans as a cheaper alternative to Obamacare plans. But they are cheaper because companies offering them are allowed to exclude sick people and because the plans seldom cover as many services as Obamacare policies.
September 24, 2020: Representative Abigail Spanberger (Democrat – Virginia) posted a press release titled: “As Affordable Healthcare Law Faces Growing Threat, Spanberger Pushes to Protect and Imprive medicare Part D Drug Coverage”. From the press release:
U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today released the following statement to recognize the 10th anniversary since the Affordable Care Act began the work of closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap for seniors’ prescription drug costs.
“A decade ago this week, provisions in the Affordable Care Act took the first step toward closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap that left millions of American seniors struggling to pay for their prescription drugs. Ten years later, drug prices have continued to skyrocket – and the administration’s persistent attempts to destroy the existing healthcare law threaten to turn back the clock and pry open that Medicare coverage gap once again,” said Spanberger. “We have made significant progress since 2010, expanding and improving on the existing healthcare law to provide affordable coverage to millions of Americans – including those with preexisting conditions. Unfortunately, during this ten-year period, we’ve also seen an explosion in the cost of drugs like insulin that our seniors depend on every day. Yet at a time when the need for affordable prescription drug coverage is most acute, we continue to see the administration pursue every avenue to dismantle our healthcare system.”
“If they succeed, thousands of seniors in Virginia’s 7th District could be confronted with Medicare Part D benefits that are significantly less generous, forcing them to spend more out-of-pocket on prescription drugs. Personal budgets are already strained to breaking by the ongoing pandemic, and a sudden loss of assistance with prescription drug costs would be very harmful to the financial security of many Central Virginia seniors. I routinely hear from neighbors in our district who are paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for their necessary medications each year. We should be working to build and improve on the existing law to reduce prescription drug costs across the board – not pursuing reckless lawsuits that would stick seniors with a higher bill.”
“I’ve worked across the aisle in the U.S. House to advance legislation that tackles the prescription drug affordability crisis. In December, I voted to pass landmark legislation that finally empowers Medicare Part D to negotiate directly with big pharmaceutical companies, attacking the problem at the root by fighting for lower prices. Even as we reflect on the progress of the past decade, I know our work on the issue of prescription drug costs is far from over. I’ll continue fighting to lower drug costs; increase competition and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry; expand access to safe, cheaper generics; and protect coverage for seniors and those with preexisting conditions.”
September 25, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Trump Raiding Seniors’ Medicare for One-Time Prescription Drug Gimmick”. From the press release:
Speaker Pelosi released this statement after President Trump said he would mail seniors a one-time $200 discount card for prescription drugs, raiding the Medicare Trust Fund after failing to take real action to lower prescription drug prices:
“After failing to take real action to lower seniors’ prescription drug prices, President Trump wants to steal from the Medicare Trust Fund for a desperately transparent political gimmick. The Administration’s claim to be using imaginary savings from non-existent drug price reforms means that Trump’s coupons come at Medicare’s expense, and that seniors and taxpayers are paying the price for this stunt.
“President Trump has consistently pulled his punch on Big Pharma, after promising to ‘negotiate like crazy’ in the campaign. He vowed to veto the powerful drug price negotiation for seniors and families provided by the House-passed Lower Drug Costs Now Act, after giving big pharmaceutical companies massive tax cuts with his GOP tax scam for the rich.
“Drug companies hiked prices on more than 850 prescription drugs in the first six months of this year alone. Now, the bill is coming due on four years of caving to Big Pharma, and Trump thinks he can trick seniors with a one-time coupon paid for with their own tax dollars.”
September 25, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “70% of Americans Favor Ending the Global Gag Rule, According to Latest Research Released Ahead of World Contraception Day”. From the press release:
New polling released today shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the global gag rule should be overturned. According to the research, 70% of Americans favor ending the global gag rule so that funding for global health can resume without restrictions. Over 60% of respondents expressed fairly major or very major concerns about the policy’s many consequences, including the danger of restricting health care in low-income countries amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, the administration published a proposed rule for public comment seeking to expand the policy.
Statement from Monica Kerrigan, executive director, Planned Parenthood Global:
“Americans strongly agree — the global gag rule is a devastating policy that needs to go. Studies by research institutions, and the State Department itself, have outlined the disastrous impact the global gag rule has had on health care access around the world, including on contraceptive access. And this latest polling confirms that the American people do not support this policy. As COVID-19 continues to claim lives and devastate communities, now is the time to be expanding health care access, not taking it away.”
Since 2017, the global gag rule has prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving any U.S. global health assistance if they provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion, or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, even if these activities are supported solely with non-U.S. funds. The administration has already expanded this harmful policy twice, first to apply to all global health assistance, and again by extending the gag to any funds, from any source, that flow through a gagged organization.
Last month, the U.S. Department of State itself released a report on its own global gag rule, confirming that the rule dangerously disrupts access to health care. Despite the State Department’s claims to the contrary, the report outlined a profound impact of the policy on U.S. global health assistance, clearly describing disruptions in care across a range of global health programs, including HIV/AIDS, family planning and reproductive health, tuberculosis, and nutrition. Partners of Planned Parenthood Global — the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the African Population and Health Research Center — also recently released research detailing how the administration’s global gag rule has disrupted health care access in Kenya and harmed individuals and communities. Nearly 170 diverse global health groups explicitly oppose the administration’s global gag rule and there is widespread support in Congress to repeal it entirely.
September 25, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) tweeted: “The outcome of this election will determine the course of our country for generations. Everything from the Affordable Care Act, racial justice, equal rights, and environmental justice is on the ballot. 39 days. Let’s mobilize and give this everything we’ve got.”
September 25, 2020: National Organization for Women (NOW) posted a press release titled: “Presumptive SCOTUS Nominee Amy Coney Barrett Will Turn Back the Clock on Equality”. From the press release:
Donald Trump has made clear what he wants from the Supreme Court. Like all of his other appointments, Trump wants personal allies who will validate his lawlessness, enable his authoritarianism, and protect him from accountability. Trump has demonstrated time and time again that he does not care about the rights of women, the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, immigrants, or our most marginalized communities.
Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee to fill the seat left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is certain to follow this pattern – and no one will feel the consequences of this more harshly than these communities who have already suffered the most under the Trump Administration.
Amy Coney Barrett is everything Donald Trump could have ever hoped for—and more. A former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, she has been called “Scalia’s ideological heir.” She has compared Roe v. Wade to “abortion on demand” and has been critical of stare decisis, the doctrine that requires judges to follow settled law, which has been the foundation of ensuring women’s access to reproductive care.
She was extremely critical of Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act and fought efforts to ensure that all women have access to contraceptives.
Now, Donald Trump and the Senate Republicans want to steal another seat on the Supreme Court so that Amy Coney Barrett can help repeal Roe and shred the Affordable Care Act—but not before she votes with a new, ultra-conservative majority to validate an election he intends to steal.
NOW members are fired up and ready to mobilize against this dangerous and illegitimate Supreme Court nomination, and a confirmation process that short-circuits democracy to guarantee a corrupt outcome. Donald Trump breaks everything he touches—but we must act now to keep him and the Senate Republicans from causing irreparable damage and turning back the clock on our progress towards equal rights under the Constitution.
September 25, 2020: The Texas Tribune posted an article titled: “After Ginsburg’s death, high stakes for Texas’ legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act”. It was written by Emma Platoff and Edgar Walters. From the article:
As a Texas-led lawsuit to end the Affordable Care Act made its way through the federal courts in 2018, Gov. Greg Abbott pledged that should his state’s legal team succeed, he and his policymakers would have a plan ready to keep Texans — including the millions with preexisting health conditions — insured.
Now that the unlikely lawsuit has perhaps its best odds yet, with a hearing set for Nov. 10 before a U.S. Supreme Court that no longer includes liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Texas Republicans have yet to show any evidence that such a plan exists…
…The lawsuit won early success in a federal court in Texas and then at the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and now it’s before a Supreme Court that appears likely to tilt more conservative if the U.S. Senate quickly confirms President Donald Trump’s third nominee to the high court.
Experts who have long dismissed the lawsuit as a long shot say the Affordable Care Act faces new uncertainty, though they are betting on its survival.
A legal victory for the state in this case would herald an immediate policy emergency for Texas lawmakers. The state has long boasted the nation’s highest uninsured rate, a gulf that has only widened this year as millions of Americans lost employer health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic. And because the Affordable Care Act touches so many facets of health care policy, from insurance benefits to the federal process for approving certain prescription drugs, the effects of its repeal would be felt by virtually everyone.
If the Supreme Court struck down the law, some 1 million Texans would lose subsidized health insurance plans. It would also end popular consumer protections for patients with preexisting health conditions and for young adults who are allowed to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26…
…In the absence of action from a gridlocked U.S. Congress, Texas policymakers would have to weave a replacement for a relatively popular and immensely complicated piece of legislation — while also managing a perilous budget crisis, electing a new speaker of the Texas House, addressing the coronavirus pandemic for the first time through legislation, and drawing new political maps for the state in a high-stakes once-in-a-decade exercise of political will…
…In most other states, the Affordable Care Act also pays for low-income adults to receive free health insurance under Medicaid, but Texas has never opted in to that program’s expansion.
If the federal health law were struck down in its entirety, pressure would likely mount on Congress to come up with a replacement, Pogue said. When Republicans took control of Congress and vowed to repeal the law in 2017, an outpouring of popular support for it put pressure on Senate Republicans, who ultimately could not muster the votes for repeal…
…Legal experts who have followed the case for years still believe it’s unlikely that the high court will strike down Obamacare in its entirety. But they say Ginsburg’s death may help Texas’ side.
“The likeliest outcome is that the justices vote to get rid of the lawsuit, because it’s so galactically stupid, to be totally candid,” said Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor who has followed the case closely. “But I think any confidence you might have had before Justice Ginsburg died that the case would be turned away has surely been shaken. And I think there’s a lot more uncertainty about the future of the ACA.”
The lawsuit hinges on an argument that the law’s original requirement for most Americans to have health insurance is no longer valid — and that because the mandate to purchase insurance is such a core component of the sweeping law, the entire Affordable Care Act falls without it…
…A coalition of states led by California, as well as a slew of legal experts all over the ideological map, dispute almost every facet of Texas’ argument. They say the individual mandate remains constitutional, but also that even if it were not, the rest of the Affordable Care Act would still stand.
The lawsuit turns on that question of “severability,” experts agree…
…The least likely outcome, according to legal scholars of many political persuasions, is the court striking down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. That would leave millions of Americans without insurance coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, and also destabilize practically every piece of the U.S. health care system, from no-cost benefits for certain “essential” health services to annual limits protecting patients from spending massive amounts on expensive treatments…
September 25, 2020: Marianne Williamson tweeted: “If Republicans succeed in putting a justice on SCOTUS who allows them to repeal Roe v. Wade, it will not stop abortions in America. Rich women will continue to have safe ones, and poor women will go back to the days of back alley abortions where many were harmed and many died.”
September 25, 2020: NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a press release titled: “NARAL Pro-Choice America Denounces Trump Following Reports of Amy Coney Barrett Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court”. From the press release:
According to news reports, President Donald Trump plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett, a judge known to stridently oppose reproductive freedom, to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. News of the nomination for the lifetime position on the bench comes just 39 days before Election Day, and as Americans have already begun voting for the presidency. Rather than let the American people decide, Trump and Mitch McConnell are teeing up one of the most rushed confirmation processes in history in a massive power grab and affront to our democracy.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue released the following statement in response:
“This nomination is an attack on our very democracy. Trump and McConnell are pushing this process even though voters are already casting ballots in states around the country. The American people must decide who gets to fill this vacancy on the highest Court in the land. Our lives are on the line. If confirmed, Barrett will cement Trump’s supermajority against keeping abortion legal, protecting healthcare access, safeguarding our right to vote, and so many other questions of fundamental freedom and justice. Make no mistake: Senate Republicans’ willingness to go back on their word and confirm a justice this close to the election is all about cementing their control, riling up their base ahead of the election, and installing one of their own on the bench in case of a contested election. The entire charade is un-American.
Amy Coney Barrett’s record tracks with Trump’s promises in the 2016 election—a nominee who would be a sure vote to end legal abortion in this country. Her positions show she is a clear and present threat to reproductive freedom and the promise of Roe. Every body should have the freedom to make their own decisions about their bodies, their families, and their lives, free from political interference. Hostility to abortion access and antipathy to the idea that we must all be free to make our own decisions is an indicator for hostility towards other crucial forms of social progress including gender justice, racial justice, economic justice, and LGBTQ rights. The Federalist Society knows that and so do Trump and McConnell—Barrett’s record is the case in point of their quest for control. We stand united in doing everything we can to stop this power grab that will hurt so many in a time of great pain.
The fact that the Republican Party is moving this nomination forward while the pandemic continues to ravage American lives and economic well-being—and while evidence has never been more clear that a majority of Americans support the legal right to abortion and will vote that way—shows an appalling lack of focus on the priority of what voters want and need in this moment. Senators who support this move and use the Court as a tool for an undemocratic and oppressive agenda will feel their own pain at the ballot box in November.”
Trump made a promise to the Radical Right to only consider jurists hostile to reproductive freedom—a vow he ran on in 2016 and doubled down on in a recent campaign letter to the anti-choice movement. It’s no surprise that Amy Coney Barrett has an extreme record that falls in line with that commitment. She has suggested that Roe v. Wade is an “erroneous decision, stated that life begins at conception, sided with states trying to restrict abortion access, and joined anti-choice groups in voicing opposition to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. Numerous activists hostile to abortion consulted with Trump on his strategy for this nomination, and have publicly praised Barrett.
This nomination is just the latest effort in the Radical Right’s coordinated campaign to take over our courts, systematically laying the groundwork to halt progress, end Roe, and push ahead their agenda of power and control. Trump rode to power thanks in part to a boost from the Radical Right, and he has diligently worked to pay off that debt by nominating Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Court, tipping its balance to an anti-choice, anti-freedom majority that has put reproductive freedom on the line like never before.
Even amid a pandemic that has taken the lives of over 200,000 Americans, Senate Republicans remain laser-focused on prioritizing the confirmation of Trump’s judicial nominees rather than our health and well-being. Mitch McConnell has even said he would “leave no vacancy behind” and that “the pandemic will not prevent us from achieving that goal.” But they are doing so against a stark backdrop, as support for Roe is the highest it has been in decades: 77% of Americans support the legal right to abortion and do not want to see Roe overturned.
Given the opportunity, Trump and the Radical Right will continue to wreak havoc on every level of the judicial branch—including the Supreme Court. That’s why NARAL Pro-Choice America has embarked on its largest-ever electoral program for the 2020 election, investing $34.7 million toward an integrated organizing, communications, digital, and political program designed to win races up and down the ballot and reach 3.6 million voters in key states. Through this unprecedented investment, NARAL is employing an array of tactics aimed toward reaching, persuading, and mobilizing key voter segments who will be essential to win critical races.
September 26, 2020: Reuters posted an article titled: “Trump picks Barrett as he moves to tilt U.S. Supreme Court rightward”. It was written by Steve Holland, Lawrence Hurley, and Andrew Chung. From the article:
President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and she pledged to become a justice in the mold of the late staunch conservative Antonin Scalia – another milestone in Trump’s rightward shift of the top U.S. judicial body.
Trump’s announcement during a flag-festooned White House Rose Garden ceremony – with Barrett, 48, by his side and her seven children on hand – sets off a scramble by Senate Republicans to confirm her as the president has requested before Election Day in 5-1/2 weeks as he seeks a second term in office.
If confirmed by the Senate to replace liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 on Sept. 18, Barrett would become the fifth woman ever to serve on the court and would push its conservative majority to a commanding 6-3.
Like Trump’s two other appointees, Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, Barrett is young enough that she could serve for decades in the lifetime job, leaving a lasting conservative imprint. Barrett is the youngest Supreme Court nominee since conservative Clarence Thomas was 43 in 1991.
Scalia, who died in 2016, was one of the most influential conservative justices in recent history. Barrett previously served as a clerk for Scalia on the high court and described him as her mentor, citing his “incalculable influence” on her life…
…An emboldened Supreme Court conservative majority could shift the United States to the right on hot-button issues by, among other things, curbing abortion rights, expanding religious rights, striking down gun control laws, halting the expansion of LGBT rights, and endorsing new restrictions on voting rights.
Barrett, a devout Roman Catholic who earned her law degree and taught at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, was appointed by Trump to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 and is a favorite of religious conservatives, a key Trump voter bloc…
…Trump noted that she would be the first mother of school-age children ever on the court. Along with her lawyer husband, her children, two of whom were adopted from Haiti, were in the audience…
September 26, 2020: Joe Biden (Democrat – Former Vice President) tweeted: “Today, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court – a jurist with a written track record of disagreeing with the Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Vote like your health care is on the ballot – because it is”
September 26, 2020: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court”. From the press release:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, to serve as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court:
“For four years, President Trump has tried to crush the Affordable Care Act in the Congress and the Courts. This nomination threatens the destruction of life-saving protections for 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions together with every other benefit and protection of the Affordable Care Act.
“The rules preventing insurance companies from treating being a woman as a pre-existing condition will be gone. Young people’s ability to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 will be gone. The Medicaid expansion bringing health care to millions and Medicare drug savings for seniors from closing the ‘donut hole’ will be gone. The ban stopping insurers from going back to placing annual and lifetime limits on your health care will be gone. And the out-of-pocket cost maximums that prevent families from going bankrupt from endless medical bills will be gone too.
“If this nominee is confirmed, millions of families’ health care will be ripped away in the middle of a pandemic that has infected seven million Americans and killed over 200,000 people in our country.
“Everything hangs in the balance with this nomination: a woman’s constitutional right to make her own medical decisions about her own body, the right of LGBTQ Americans to marry who they love, the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain for fair wages, the future of our planet and environmental protections, voting rights and the right of every American to have a voice in our democracy.
“Trump is exploiting this vacancy against the clear and overwhelming will of the American people, as he dismantles the pillars of health and economic security in America.
“Every vote to confirm this nominee is a vote to dismantle health care. The American people will hold every Senator responsible for their vote at the ballot box.”
September 26, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) tweeted: “Trump’s hand-picked successor to Justice Ginsburg’s seat makes it clear: they intend to destroy the Affordable Care Act & overturn Roe. This selection would move the court further to the right for a generation & harm millions of Americans. I strongly oppose Judge Barrett’s nomination.”
September 26, 2020: Lambda Legal posted a press release titled: “Lambda Legal: Rushed Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Imperils U.S. Democracy”. From the press release:
In response to reports that President Trump intends to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, currently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, to the United States Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings issued the following statement opposing Judge Barrett’s nomination and denouncing the rushed confirmation process proposed by U.S. Senate Republicans:
“The Supreme Court of the United States, the court of last resort for those seeking justice in our country, should not be up for a power grab. We are a democracy, and this unprecedented attempt to confirm a nominee with an election already underway is undemocratic and indefensible.
“It is impossible to overstate how much is at stake, not only for LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV, but for our entire country.
“If confirmed, Judge Amy Coney Barrett will unleash a Supreme Court majority that is hostile to all of our basic civil rights, and the impact will be felt for decades. Judge Barrett’s personal belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, coupled with her unwillingness to affirm that the Supreme Court’s decision making marriage equality the law of the land is settled law, should sound the alarm for anyone who cares about LGBTQ people and their families. However, her cramped so-called “originalist” view of the Constitution threatens the civil rights of not just LGBTQ people but a host of others, including women and people of color, who have relied on the courts to make progress in the fight for equality and justice.
“The fight for this Supreme Court seat is about the fundamental rights that shape our lives. We are in the midst of an election that could reroute the course of our nation’s history. For that reason alone, we oppose the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice until that process has run its course. But on the merits alone, regardless of timing, Judge Barrett is simply not someone who can be trusted to affirm the right of all people, particularly those who are LGBTQ, to equal justice under law. We strongly urge the Senate to reject her nomination.”
Lambda Legal has conducted detailed research on Judge Barrett, an excerpt of which can be found below. We will be providing questions from the LGBT community for Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearing and will release further information about this nomination.
Judge Barrett on the record:
- Judge Barrett joined a letter in 2015 supporting the position that “marriage and family is founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman” and the “significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women.”
- Judge Barrett wrote a law review article promoting a theory that U.S. Supreme Court case law is broken down into decisions that operate as mere precedent and decisions that serve as “superprecedent” (decisions that no Justice would overrule). To a critic, this approach seems to allow the Supreme Court to more easily overturn cases it views as merely “precedent.” Unsurprisingly, Judge Barrett would not respond to questions posed regarding whether she believes Obergefell v. Hodges qualifies as “superprecedent.”
- Judge Barrett was sharply critical of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in NFIB v. Sebellius, which upheld the Affordable Care Act. Judge Barrett characterized the decision as pushing the ACA “beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
- Judge Barrett joined an en banc panel refusing to hear an appeal of a case involving the segregation of Black workers at AutoZone.
- Judge Barrett has given speeches for Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization whose animus towards the LGBTQ community is so great; it earned them a “Hate Group” designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center. When asked if she was aware of their classification, she pushed back, saying that they were only opining on a matter of “public controversy.”
September 26, 2020: Senator Cory Booker (Democrat – New Jersey) tweeted: “Donald Trump’s nominee is a direct threat to the Affordable Care Act, reproductive choice, and so many other liberties we hold sacred. We can’t be silent as he tries to rush a Supreme Court Justice through the Senate. The American people deserve to have their voices heard.”
September 26, 2020: Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat – Minnesota) tweeted: “With Americans already voting in droves, the President wants to jam through a Court nominee who has voiced serious opposition to the legality of the Affordable Care Act. Strip away healthcare in the middle of a pandemic? RBG always fought for what was right – I’ll do the same.”
September 26, 2020: California Governor Gavin Newsom (Democrat, California) tweeted: “We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Over 200,000 lives have been lost. And we are rushing through a nominee to the Supreme Court who is openly hostile toward the Affordable Care Act — willing to take away healthcare for millions of Americans.”
September 26, 2020: Congressman Raja Krishamoorthi (Democrat – Illinois) tweeted: “Even as the President is now pledging his commitment to improving America’s health care, his Administration’s incessant attacks on the Affordable Care Act are primed to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance.” The tweet included a link to an article from CNBC.
September 26, 2020: CNBC posted an article titled: “The Supreme Court may gut the Affordable Care Act. What’s next?” It was written by Greg Iacurci. From the article:
The Supreme Court may soon erase the Affordable Care Act from existence — an outcome that could have far-reaching consequences for American health care.
The high court is expected to hear oral arguments in a case seeking to overturn the law, also known as Obamacare, in November after the presidential election.
It may be easier to secure a vote against the decade-old law if President Donald Trump can quickly install a sixth conservative justice to replace justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last Friday. She was among the liberal ranks of the nine-member court…
…Millions of Americans could lose their health insurance as a result. They would likely face cost and access barriers to regain coverage, especially those with pre-existing conditions, according to experts. Expenses may rise for those who do retain their insurance, as they may lose coverage for some ACA-required services, experts said.
The case, California v. Texas, hinges on a part of the Affordable Care Act known as the “individual mandate.”
That provision requires people to have a minimum level of health insurance coverage or pay a financial penalty. The Supreme Court upheld this part of the law as constitutional in a 2012 case, NFIB v. Sebelius.
However, in 2017, the Republican-majority Congress eliminated the financial penalty associated with the mandate as part of a tax-reform package.
Plaintiffs in the upcoming Supreme Court case (who are primarily Republican state officials) argue the individual mandate is unconstitutional without the tax. They also argue the entire law is invalid without the mandate.
The case, California v. Texas, hinges on a part of the Affordable Care Act known as the “individual mandate.”
That provision requires people to have a minimum level of health insurance coverage or pay a financial penalty. The Supreme Court upheld this part of the law as constitutional in a 2012 case, NFIB v. Sebelius.
However, in 2017, the Republican-majority Congress eliminated the financial penalty associated with the mandate as part of a tax-reform package.
Plaintiffs in the upcoming Supreme Court case (who are primarily Republican state officials) argue the individual mandate is unconstitutional without the tax. They also argue the entire law is invalid without the mandate.
The Trump administration supports these positions.
More than 20 million Americans have gotten health insurance coverage as a result of the ACA.
That includes around 12 million people who became newly eligible through an expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia adopted the expansion.
Another 11 million got insurance through new marketplaces where individuals could buy health plans. More than 2 million gained coverage through a provision extending dependent coverage to adult children up to age 26…
September 26, 2020: Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat – Connecticut) tweeted: “If Republicans push through a Supreme Court nominee, within weeks the Affordable Care Act will be gone (a case is pending). 20 million Americans will lose their health insurance and rates will skyrocket for anyone with a preexisting condition. In the middle of a pandemic.”
September 26, 2020: Senator Tom Udall (Democrat – New Mexico) tweeted: “Let’s be clear: Senate Republicans want to rush a justice onto #SCOTUS in time to destroy the Affordable Care Act – as we battle a pandemic that’s killed 200,000+. The GOP told struggling families to wait on COVID relief. But they’ll confirm a lifetime justice in a few weeks.” This is the start of a short thread.
September 26, 2020: Senator Tom Udall (Democrat – New Mexico) tweeted: “Trump and Senate Republicans are pulling out all the stops to rip away health care from millions in the middle of a pandemic. And they’re even threatening to use this nominee to put their thumb on the scale of the upcoming election – to stop counting votes. It is indefensible.”
September 26, 2020: Senator Tom Udall (Democrat – New Mexico) tweeted:
“On the eve of a presidential election, the GOP assault on precedent & principle – all to destroy the #ACA & advance an extreme right wing agenda they can’t pass in Congres – is unconscionable. I will fight as hard as I can. And I urge all Americans to make their voices heard.” This is the end of the thread.
September 26, 2020: Representative Grace Ming (Democrat – New York) tweeted: “#SCOTUS nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a threat to the Affordable Care Act that gave millions of people health coverage, including those with preexisting conditions. @realDonaldTrump wants to evicerate the ACA & seating Judge Barrett would be one step close to doing this.”
September 26, 2020: Representative David E. Price (Democrat – North Carolina) tweeted: “Instead of racing to combat COVID-19, Trump’s rushing to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. She’ll repeal the Affordable Care Act, during a pandemic, and strip health care away from millions of Americans. Let the American people decide – they’re already voting.”
September 26, 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont) tweeted: “After mismanaging a deadly pandemic, Trump and Senate Republicans want to ram through a Supreme Court nominee who will vote to destroy the Affordable Care Act, kick millions off their health care, and eliminate protections for preexisting conditions. An absolute outrage.” The tweet included a screenshot of Senator Sander’s statement on the SCOTUS Nomimation:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court:
“President Trump and Senate Republicans have badly mismanaged a deadly pandemic for months. Now, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, they are willing to ram through a Supreme Court nominee – within days – who will vote to destroy the Affordable Care Act, kick millions of Americans off their health care, and eliminate protections for millions more who have preexisting conditions. This is an absolute outrage.
“The American people will not stand for this cynical effort to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, just days before an election with someone who will roll back basic protections for women, workers, voters, people of color, the LGBT community, and our environment. I strongly oppose this nomination and we must fight as hard as we can to ensure that this nominee is not confirmed.”
September 26, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board Statement on Donald Trump’s New Executive Order”. From the press release:
Today, the Clergy Advocacy Board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America issued the following statement on Donald Trump’s new executive order, which he announced earlier this week at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and released last night:
“As clergy, people invite us into their lives when the unexpected arises. But in these times of overheated political rhetoric, we must clarify: politicians are creating a false narrative to score political points. We are clergy to people facing real-life health crises and we know this is not how medical care works. The situation this executive order pretends to address simply does not happen, but the cruel stigma it creates for those seeking abortions is very real.
“Our experience teaches, first and foremost, to avoid judging those who would seek an abortion, no matter the reason. When we are called upon to provide prayer, counsel, and support, we see that every pregnancy is different, and that pregnancy must not be taken for granted, especially in those circumstances when something goes horribly wrong.
“We realize that many people’s faith will influence their decisions. We underscore the importance of allowing people to honor their differing faith teachings and personal conscience in these most trying and intimate moments of life. We respect these heartfelt personal decisions.
“Meanwhile, we acknowledge that people disagree about abortion. Yet we underscore the importance of ensuring that everyone has access to high quality health care throughout their pregnancy. Health care providers and their patients need all of their options.
“As religious leaders, we believe that God created human beings with the capacity to make wise decisions that direct their personal, private lives. We believe that each person deserves access to quality health care and must be spared from unwanted interference by politicians and hostile rhetoric.
“We walk in no one’s shoes but our own, and we would all be wise to react with compassion for every pregnant person and their loved ones who face such an exceptional and sorrowful situation.”
September 26, 2020: Center for Reproductive Rights posted a press rlease titled: “Statement: Judge Amy Coney Barrett Nominated to the Supreme Court”. From the press release:
Statement from Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights on President Trump’s Nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court
Just one week ago, the American people lost a champion of equal justice under law with the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She understood how critical legal rights are to unwedge oppressive structures that exacerbate societal inequalities. She fought to dismantle sex discrimination and understood that women must have control over their fertility and receive fair treatment during pregnancy if we are to achieve gender equality. Justice Ginsburg’s passing comes on the cusp of a presidential election, in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis, and a national moral reckoning over the nation’s past and present manifestations of racial oppression.
At this unprecedented time, and while the nation is still mourning and paying tribute to Justice Ginsburg’s tremendous contributions to advancing equality, President Donald Trump has nominated a replacement who would gut Justice Ginsburg’s legacy and turn back five decades of advancement for reproductive rights. The Senate Majority’s attempt to bulldoze this deeply troubling nomination through before the inauguration in January is unconscionable, an insult to the American public, an assault on the integrity of the Supreme Court, and a threat to critical constitutional rights. Americans need to make clear that their fundamental rights for generations to come will not be pawns in a political power grab.
In the three years that Judge Amy Coney Barrett has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, she has ruled against abortion rights both times the issue was before her. The cases involve challenges to Indiana abortion restrictions, including one that bans abortion care if sought because of a fetal diagnosis or for reasons of sex or race. Judge Barrett joined an opinion which argued that “[n]one of the Court’s abortion decisions holds that states are powerless to prevent abortions” on grounds such as those in the Indiana statute. In fact, Roe v. Wade and the cases that follow are very clear that the government does not have the power to interrogate women or scrutinize their decisions to choose to end a pregnancy prior to viability. What is alarming is that Judge Barrett went out of her way to make the argument that states could ban abortion if they don’t like a woman’s reason, even though Indiana had not sought further review of the issue.
In a second case out of Indiana, Judge Barrett again joined an opinion that sought to review long-standing abortion rights law that clinics and doctors may challenge restrictive abortion laws before they go into effect.
President Trump has vowed to nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court only justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade “automatically.” With the nomination of Judge Barrett, the President is presumably making good on his promise. Indeed, both of President Trump’s prior Supreme Court nominees failed to follow clear precedent in the most recent abortion rights case, June Medical Services v. Russo (2020), which the Supreme Court decided in June. Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch would have allowed a Louisiana abortion restriction to go into effect, despite the fact that an identical law from Texas was struck down as unconstitutional just four years before.
Since the election of President Trump, states have accelerated their decades-long campaign to end abortion services. While there have been over 450 abortion restrictions passed at the state level since 2011, recent years saw more extreme bans, including Mississippi’s ban on abortion at 15 weeks, a case which is now pending for review by the Supreme Court. Chillingly, there are dozens of abortion rights cases currently moving through lower federal courts heading towards the Supreme Court. Some are test cases to overturn Roe v. Wade or to render it meaningless by upholding laws that make abortion impossible to access. In the strategy to end abortion access in the U.S., courts are the linchpin.
It is imperative that no nominee be confirmed who would overturn or gut the constitutional protections for abortion access. One in four women in the U.S. will make the decision that ending a pregnancy is the right decision for her. The overwhelming majority of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned or hollowed out into a meaningless shell. They understand, as has been articulated by the Court, that the Constitution guarantees to each person the right to make the “most basic decisions about family and parenthood” because these are “choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.”
The stakes are extraordinarily high for health care at large and the rights of all. The President has also vowed to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has substantial protections for women’s health, including requiring that health insurance plans cover maternity care, provide contraception without a copay, do not charge women more for insurance premiums, and do not exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, such as cesarean sections, domestic violence, or breast cancer. This Supreme Court term, the Court will decide whether it agrees with the Trump Administration that the ACA is unconstitutional, a position that could mean millions of Americans lose their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic.
The Supreme Court has a vital role in protecting and upholding civil rights and liberties – including reproductive rights – for everyone in the United States. We cannot barrel forward with a nomination that will impact people’s lives for generations.
September 29, 2020: Morning Consult posted an article titled: “Obamacare Support Hits Record High as Supreme Court Faces Ideological Shift”. From the article:
…With the survival of the Affordable Care Act in jeopardy following President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, a new Morning Consult poll finds a record-high 62 percent of voters in support of the 2010 health law.
That level of backing, which is up 7 percentage points from a Morning Consult survey conducted in the first quarter of 2020, comes as the ACA, also known as Obamacare, re-emerged as a flashpoint issue in the Nov. 3 elections: The Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments Nov. 10 in a case that could entirely overturn the landmark health law. The lawsuit, brought by Republican-led states and backed by the Trump administration, hinges on the GOP’s 2017 tax law that wiped out the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, an unpopular provision that required all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine. Without it, the lawsuit argues, the entire law is invalid…
…The record-high level of ACA support in the latest poll of 1,991 registered voters was fueled by increases among independents and Republicans: 36 percent of GOP voters said they support Obamacare, up 8 points from earlier this year, and backing from independents increased 9 points, to 59 percent. The vast majority of Democrats support the ACA, at 85 percent, and roughly half of Republicans (49 percent) oppose the law.
Voters were mixed when asked about the health law’s fate, the poll shows, with 42 percent saying they think it’s likely the Supreme Court will strike down the ACA, while 32 percent said they think it’s unlikely.
Yet more than half of voters (56 percent) think Obamacare should be improved and strengthened, while 20 percent said the law should be struck down in the upcoming Supreme Court case California v. Texas and 9 percent said it should be left as is. Republicans were the most divided, with 42 percent saying the ACA should be struck down and 33 percent saying the law should be improved and strengthened.
That compares to 4 percent and 75 percent, respectively, among Democrats. Just 11 percent of Democrats and 8 percent of Republicans said the ACA should be left as is…
…One of the ACA’s key provisions has much broader support than the law itself: 79 percent of voters favor ensuring health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, including 91 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans…
…The president has his work cut out for him in convincing voters that he is the candidate to safeguard those protections, according to the survey: 61 percent of voters said they trusted Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden more to protect insurance coverage for Americans with underlying conditions, compared with 29 percent who said they trusted Trump. Similarly, voters were more likely to trust Democrats in Congress (49 percent) than Republicans in Congress (35 percent) to handle health care for the country.
September 30, 2020: Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat – California) tweeted: “More than 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions could lose their health care protections if Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans put another Trump justice on the Supreme Court. It’s that simple.”
September 30, 2020: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) posted news titled: “Victory: After Three Years of Battling in Court, the Trump Administration Abandons its Policy of Banning Abortion for Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors”. It was written by Brigitte Amiri and Meagan Burrows. From the news:
As a direct result of the immense courage of our clients and three years of litigation, the Trump administration has officially abandoned its policy of preventing young immigrants in its custody from accessing abortion care. Yesterday, the administration adopted a new policy that prohibits Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) staff and staff employed by any ORR-funded shelter from blocking or interfering with unaccompanied pregnant minors’ access to abortion. ORR’s adoption of this new policy was a condition of our agreement to dismiss our case, which we have done today.
It was three years ago that our heroic client Jane Doe — who at the time was 17 and was seeking refuge in the United States on her own — took on the Trump administration. In September 2017, we learned that ORR was trying to stop Ms. Doe from having an abortion through her fierce guardian ad litem, Rochelle Garza, and Texas-based Jane’s Due Process.
Pursuant to the orders of then-ORR Director Scott Lloyd, Ms. Doe was effectively held hostage in the shelter where she was residing for over a month. The federal government prevented her from leaving the shelter to attend any abortion-related appointments; forced her to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound and to receive religious “counseling” from an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center, where they also prayed over her; and she was kept under intensive surveillance. Lloyd also instructed staffers to inform Jane Doe’s parents of her pregnancy and abortion request against Ms. Doe’s express wishes, and despite the fact that she had already obtained a court order permitting her to proceed with her abortion without involving her parents.
We rushed into court on behalf of Ms. Doe, and after weeks of court battles, obtained a court order allowing her to access abortion. Since then, we have fought alongside Ms. Doe and on behalf of our other plaintiffs, Jane Poe, Jane Roe and Jane Moe, who were also subjected to ORR’s coercive, anti-abortion tactics, to stop the federal government from commandeering the reproductive decisions of all young immigrants in its custody. Today, we are able to proudly declare that justice has finally been served.
Our success is especially meaningful for Ms. Doe, who fearlessly represented hundreds of others to ensure that what happened to her would never happen to anyone else. In response to our victory, she said, “I am happy to know that my fight means that other young women like me will be able to make the decision about whether to become a parent for themselves.”…
September 30, 2020: Planned Parenthood posted a press release titled: “Federal Court Temporarily Blocks Tennessee’s Medically Unsound Medication Abortion “Reversal” Law”. From the press release:
Yesterday, a federal district court in Tennessee temporarily blocked from going into effect a law that would have forced providers to share false and misleading information with patients about the potential to “reverse” a medication abortion — an unproven and politically-motivated claim that has no basis in medical research. By passing a law that would force doctors to share misinformation not backed up by credible science, politicians are trying to steer patients to unproven, experimental medical treatments, and erode trust between patients and their providers.
Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, one of the defendant state officials charged with enforcing this harmful law, recently filed a declaration with the court saying that he “will not enforce” the new law because it is “unconstitutional” and “criminal law must not be used by the State to exercise control over a woman’s body.” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery tried to block Funk’s filing.
The law was set to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2020. If it had, providers would have been forced to share this misinformation with patients at least 48 hours in advance of providing a medication abortion, and again after the patient had taken the first medication, as well as post misleading signs with large, bold print informing patients about medication abortion “reversal.” Under the law, providers who did not comply would have faced criminal prosecution for a Class E felony, punishable by one to six years in prison. Facilities also faced a $10,000 fine per day for providing abortions while failing to display the required, misleading signage…
…The lawsuit is being brought by Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, Memphis Center for Reproductive Health (“CHOICES”), and carafem — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Tennessee.
A copy of the original complaint can be found here.
THIS BLOG POST WILL BE UPDATED WHEN ADDITIONAL CREDIBLE INFORMATION IS FOUND.
A Timeline of the GOP’s Attempts to Destroy Obamacare – Part Four: July, August, September is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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