Tag Archives: abortion

The (Supreme Court) Case Against “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”

2018 could mark a turning point in the fight against so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs), those fake clinics that lie to women in order to deter them from getting an abortion.

CPCs have been in the news lately, and we’ll be hearing a lot more about them in the coming months—especially with the Supreme Court set to take a closer look at CPCs during its current term.

There are at least seven CPCs spread throughout Maine. For the most part, they operate as the roughly 3,000 CPCs nationwide do: by spreading misinformation, sowing unnecessary fear, and perpetuating stigmas around abortion, birth control, and sex. Furthermore, as Hannah Ruhlin recently wrote at the Maine Beacon, “CPCs often lie about the realities of abortion clinics, painting them as cold places where abortion is the only option.”

What we know, of course, is that abortion care providers like Maine Family Planning offer a wide range of comprehensive reproductive health care services, and that our expert clinicians are anything but cold; they offer compassionate and non-judgmental care to anyone who walks through the door.

Several states and municipalities have attempted to regulate CPCs by requiring them to disclose what they are (and what they are not, namely: medical facilities) and to fully inform women about their options regarding abortion, birth control, and prenatal care.

One of those states is California, with its Reproductive FACT Act—and that’s what the US Supreme Court will be looking at this spring.

As SCOTUSblog explained in November:

[T]he justices agreed to weigh in on a challenge by “crisis pregnancy centers” – nonprofits that try to steer pregnant women away from having abortions – to a California law that requires the centers to convey specific messages. The law mandates that nonprofits that are licensed to provide medical services post notices to inform their patients that free or low-cost abortions are available and to provide the telephone number of the state agency that can put the patients in touch with providers of those abortions. The groups that are not licensed to provide medical services – but try to support pregnant women by supplying them with diapers and formula, for example – must include disclaimers in their advertisements to make clear – in up to 13 languages – that their services do not include medical help.

The nonprofits went to court, arguing that California’s law violates the First Amendment, both by requiring them to convey the messages and, because the requirements do not apply to clinics that perform abortions, by targeting them because they discourage women from seeking abortions. A federal district court rejected their arguments, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed. The nonprofits went to the Supreme Court last spring, hoping that it would agree to rule on their case. After asking the lower court to send the record in the case – a sure sign that at least one justice is looking at the case closely — today the court granted review to decide whether the disclosures required by the California law violate the First Amendment’s free speech clause; it declined to decide whether the disclosures run afoul of another part of the First Amendment that bars the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. This will be the first abortion-related case with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench.

Back in November,  Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the decision (likely to come down at the end of June) “could set the stage for how courts treat abortion rights for decades to come. As right-wing groups increasingly spread lies about abortion and basic reproductive health care, this case is an early test of whether the Supreme Court can guarantee our rights in the Trump era, including access to abortion care.”

Indeed, Media Matters abortion rights and reproductive health researcher Julie Tulbert warned at the end of December that we can expect a right-wing PR campaign on behalf of CPCs to “ramp up” in 2018.

“As the Supreme Court debates and decides NIFLA v. Becerra in 2018, the media should call out CPCs when they use deceptive tactics, and resist promoting the inevitable right-wing spin that free speech of such organizations is being unduly impeded,” Tulbert wrote.

Constitutional law scholar Robert A. Sedler explained in an op-ed just this week why, “[i]n my opinion, the California law does not violate the First Amendment. It doesn’t compel the clinics to say or not say anything, only to post truthful information provided by the state.”

“The Constitution enables the state to require that pregnant women seeking medical advice and assistance with their pregnancy have complete and accurate information so that they can make a fully informed choice,” wrote Sedler. “That is what this case is all about.”

Maine Family Planning will be watching and we’ll keep you updated as arguments are scheduled.

What Does Net Neutrality Have to do with Reproductive Rights?

Congress can save Net Neutrality

Via BattleForTheNet.com

You may have heard that earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)—helmed by Trump appointee Ajit Pai—voted to gut the open internet principle known as Net Neutrality. This move is direct threat to women’s health, reproductive justice, and all movements that use the Internet to educate, organize, and fight back. But there’s still a chance to save the Internet as we know it.

Enacted in 2015, Net Neutrality prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down, or blocking any content, applications, or websites you want to use.

As such, “It preserves our right to communicate freely online,” says the advocacy group Free Press. “Net Neutrality means an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks—and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.”

Experts have pointed out how dismantling Net Neutrality could impact everyone from those involved in the #MeToo movement, to communities of color, to small business owners, to low-income people.

“Particularly damning is what today’s repeal will mean for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate, because traditional outlets do not consider their issues or concerns, worthy of any coverage,” wrote FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn in her dissenting opinion to the December 14 vote.

And doing away with Net Neutrality could really hurt women, the reproductive justice movement, and anyone who needs the kind of reproductive health care services we provide here at Maine Family Planning.

“Without a free and open internet, anti-choice extremists could pay to block access to accurate information about reproductive health,” NARAL Pro-Choice America recently warned. “Imagine a world where a woman searches the internet but can find no information on how to access an abortion.”

Once upon a time, that might have sounded far-fetched. But given the Trump administration’s transparent war on women, it’s a future sadly worth considering…and girding against.

What’s more, the end of Net Neutrality could spell trouble for Maine Family Planning’s groundbreaking telemedicine services, which include abortion care. Loosening the reins on mega-telecom companies and allowing them to engage in something called “paid prioritization”—establishing “fast lanes” for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else—would be bad news for rural patients who access health care services at home.

As Modern Healthcare reported:

Those differing speeds could hurt telemedicine since it requires a “pretty robust connection,” said Mei Kwong, interim executive director and policy adviser for the Center for Connected Health Policy. “The last thing you want is for the interaction to suddenly freeze or the audio to go out or for the picture to be pixelated.”

Similarly, a panel of public health experts wrote in Health Affairs earlier this year:

Increasingly, telemedicine is being used to bring higher-end health care services to remote and rural areas to reduce health disparities. For telemedicine to be scalable and positively impact cost and outcomes, there must be a predictable infrastructure connecting patients, care providers, and technology. A prerequisite for telemedicine is broadband connectivity between telehealth sites. Reliable low cost service for telehealth is potentially threatened by the loss of [Net Neutrality or NN]. What happens to telehealth if Netflix traffic is preferred above medical applications? Could Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer better services for one hospital system than another, helping them take over telehealth in a region? The undoing of NN weakens the infrastructure of reliable low cost connectivity that telehealth systems depend upon.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also declared in a letter to the FCC before the vote:

“AAP is opposed to the implementation of paid prioritization because of its detrimental effects on the elimination of health disparities, efficiency of healthcare, and access to health information by parents and caregiver. If healthcare providers do not have the financial resources necessary to purchase priority Internet access, they may not be able to provide the efficacious, patient-centered, cost effective care recommended as part of the ongoing transformation and reform of our nation’s healthcare system.”

Every day, Maine Family Planning works to increase health care access for rural and low-income women. Undoing Net Neutrality puts that access at risk.

Congress can still step in to restore the open Internet that the general public wants and deserves by overturning the FCC’s order through a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act. Write or call your Member of Congress now.

In Maine, Rep. Bruce Poliquin in particular needs to hear from us.

Learn more at battleforthenet.com.

Trump’s comments aside, we already punish women who seek abortions

This piece originally appeared in the Bangor Daily News on April 4, 2016. 

Last week, Donald Trump stated that there should be some kind of punishment for women who have abortions. We saw a heartening and swift response from friends, colleagues, leaders and the media: Trump’s comments were outrageous and infuriating.

We’re glad people are angry about Trump’s comments about abortion. We hope people will continue to push back against any attempts to punish people who have abortions, provide abortions, or simply consider abortion. It’s important to recognize, however, that Trump simply said out loud what opponents of abortion have believed for years, what Ted Cruz has voted for and what John Kasich has enacted.

Since 2011, states have passed nearly 300 laws restricting abortion, passing 57 in the past year alone. In states like Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, abortion has been so severely restricted it may as well be illegal for a large number of women.

Let’s be clear: Those who exercise their constitutionally protected right to seek, access and provide abortion are already being punished, and any efforts to restrict or ban abortion are attempts — either overt or veiled — to punish women who seek abortion.  Continue reading