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« Raising Women’s Voices in the South! | Main | Women tell DC policy makers to take action on health »

Court puts Georgia abortion ban on hold; Pelosi tackles drug prices

Pelosi announces legislation to curb high prices for many prescription drugs

Prescription drug prices continue to rise despite the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides healthcare access to the most vulnerable in our communities. The inflation of drug prices presents an additional barrier to that access and a catalyst to the emerging debate in Congress around prescription drugs.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats in unveiling drug pricing legislation, The Lower Drug Cost Now Act (H.R. 3).  The legislation was introduced by Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Representatives Richard Neal (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) and would allow the federal government to negotiate the prices of up to 250 brand-name drugs in Medicare. Among other proposed benefits is the creation of a maximum price for any negotiated prescription drugs using the international price index; the creation and enforcing of penalties for pharmaceutical companies that are non-compliant with negotiation proceedings; and the creation of a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. These benefits could create potential savings that could be used to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing care.

Above: Speaker Nancy Pelosi with health activists announcing the introduction of HR 3.

As the drug pricing debate moves to the forefront and takes center stage when Congress returns from recess later in October, RWV co-founder Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) is closely following the legislation and its impact on women and people of color.

H.R. 3 has seemingly been caught in a political tsunami.  The resistance to Speaker Pelosi’s plan has primarily come from House and Senate Republicans. Some Republicans have concerns with what they believe is a rushed process in the roll out of the Speaker’s bill.  Senate Republicans also assert that prior to Speaker Pelosi’s plan there was a bi-partisan effort to develop a drug pricing bill that would now be halted.  House and Senate Republican resistance to the proposed bill coupled with the impeachment inquiry by House may stall any bipartisan work to reconcile the differences on drug pricing legislation. There also appears to be emerging concerns within House Democratic factions. Progressive leader Rep. Lloyd Doggett raised concerns and circulated a letter earlier this week that H.R. 3 could  harm the 340B program and thereby negatively impact hospitals serving the poor.

Moreover, impeachment inquiry proceedings announced last week by House Democrats may potentially create an additional barrier to any work around lower drug pricing.  Some Republicans believe that any chances of legislative progress for the country may be derailed amid impeachment proceedings.

Lastly, while House Democrats acknowledge that it may be difficult to get things done in this political environment, they assert that policy makers must continue to be responsive to the rising cost of prescription drugs.

Although the drug pricing bill measure faces opposition from congressional Republicans, President Trump has indicated a willingness to address prescription drug costs prior to the 2020 elections. The Speaker appears to be optimistic about the Administration’s support on this issue, which offers a possibility of negotiations moving forward. 

Judge temporarily blocks Georgia abortion ban

Yesterday, a federal judge temporarily blocked Georgia’s anti-abortion law from going into effect as scheduled on January 1, 2020. This summer, Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC), our Atlanta-based regional coordinator, and their coalition partners filed for an injunction to prevent the state of Georgia from enforcing the abortion ban. The lawsuit was filed by a wide range of health providers, including SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the lead plaintiff, Feminist Women’s Health Center (Kwajelyn Jackson, Executive Director, second from left in photo), and Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc.

The preliminary injunction of Georgia’s six-week abortion ban is a HUGE victory—it prevents the ban for now. And yet, the fight is not over. The injunction prevents the ban from going into effect while we continue to fight … in court.  But today, let’s celebrate this win and each other, said the FWHC in statement.  The ACLU of Georgia, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union are providing legal representation in the case. 

This is only the first step of the lawsuit, as reproductive justice advocates expect the state’s attorneys to appeal the temporary stay, and press for a full hearing.  "We are coming together in collective resistance as women of color and Indigenous women from the South to say that we will not go backwards. We refuse to go back to the days where our bodies were controlled by the state. We will continue to fight back against any policy that violates our human rights and bodily autonomy, " stated Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong (first from left in photo).

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