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« Despite attacks, ACA and abortion supporters move forward | Main | Trump’s religious refusal rule faces legal challenge »
Thursday
May162019

Wins in Texas & Losses in Alabama

The Texas House passes 12 month postpartum Medicaid bill!

The Afiya Centerour Dallas-based regional coordinator, has been a leader on maternal mortality work, and now has another policy win under their belt. On Monday, the Texas House passed HB 744, which extends Medicaid coverage for women from 60 days to 12 months postpartum. This is the first bill recommended by the Texas Maternal Mortality Task Force to successfully pass one chamber of the state legislature. The Afiya Center provided bill sponsor State Rep. Toni Rose with education on this this issue, helping her and others understand how expanding Medicaid coverage after childbirth can help reduce maternal mortality.

“We believe this legislation will not only go far towards ending Maternal Mortality but also Maternal Morbidity,” said Marsha Jones, executive director of The Afiya Center.  “We are truly excited … that HB744 has passed out of the House.” HB 744 would help reduce maternal deaths and serious complications by extending health care coverage to a full year after birth, in order to detect and treat health conditions before they become damaging or even fatal.
 
The Afiya Center set the stage for this victory by successfully advocating for the passage ofThe Texas Moms Matter Act in 2017.  The act created a Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force within the Department of State Health Services to review cases of pregnancy-related deaths and trends in severe maternal morbidity and to make recommendations about how the state can reduce the unacceptably high rate in Black women. Expanding coverage to women for a full year after childbirth is one of the steps recommended by the Task Force.  The postpartum coverage bill goes to the Senate next, where it must pass before the session is scheduled to end on May 27th

Title X Gag Rule Blocked

We were relieved that the Title X gag rule – which was finalized by the Trump administration in early March – was recently blocked in court. On April 25, Judge Stanley Bastian in the Eastern District of Washington issued a nationwide injunction blocking the Title X gag rule in its entirety, effective immediately. As a reminder, the final rule governing eligibility for Title X planning funds included a number of provisions that would be devastating to the more than 4 million low-income people who use the federal Title X family planning program. If allowed to go into effect, the final rule would:

  • permit Title X funded clinics to give biased and misleading counseling and to withhold information about all reproductive health care options, including medically approved contraceptive methods (such as birth control pills or IUDs)
  • Forbid clinic staff from providing patients with full and accurate information or a referral to an abortion provider
  • prohibit clinics that also offer abortion care from serving Title X patients without creating a whole new clinic first. (Family planning providers are already prohibited from using Title X federal funds to provide abortions.)
  • potentially transfer millions of taxpayer dollars away from real reproductive health clinics and give that money to religiously-affiliated fake clinics.

The April 25 ruling stems from a challenge brought by the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) along with co-plaintiff Cedar River Clinics and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The preliminary injunction is the first step in the legal process to permanently block the Title X rule. There are currently eight lawsuits against the Title X gag rule, which was set to take effect on May 3. In addition, Judge Michael McShane of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon recently announced from the bench that he would also issue a preliminary injunction in a case brought by Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association.
 
A new Kaiser poll on the public’s views on reproductive health shows a majority of the public (58%) oppose the Trump administrations changes to restrict Title X funds from clinics that also provide or refer for abortion. The poll also finds that in light of the Trump administration’s actions, 68% of Americans, including three-fourths (76%) of women of reproductive age and nearly half of Republicans (49%), are concerned that the new regulations would limit access to women’s reproductive health and preventive care services.

House of Representatives Votes to Protect Patients with
Pre-existing Conditions

What a difference an election makes!  After Republican-led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act succeeded in the House of Representatives only to fail by the narrowest of margins in the Senate, the House has taken a stand in support of the ACA.  Last week, a majority of the House, including four Republications, voted in favor of HR 986, the Protecting Preexisting Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act.  The bill would do away with Trump-era guidelines that allow states to use ACA subsidies for skimpy health plans that do not provide full coverage.  RWV and its regional coordinators have warned women and LGBTQ folks against skimpy plans.  They may seem attractive because of lower premiums, but they will leave many people without coverage for crucial services, such as childbirth and cancer screening.  If HR 986 were to pass both chambers and be signed into law, the original intent of the ACA would be restored and all insurance plans would again cover essential services.  However, the bill moves next to the Senate, where it is likely to face stiff opposition.

Alabama Passes Near-Total Abortion Ban

While there’s much to celebrate – from votes to expand postpartum pregnancy related Medicaid coverage to protecting patients with pre-existing conditions – we share the deep concern and outrage over the recent passage of the most extreme abortion ban since Roe v. Wade. This week, the Alabama governor signed into law a bill that bans abortion at every stage of pregnancy, with an exception only to save the life of the patient. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, and doctors who perform abortions could be sent to prison for up to 99 years. This comes on the heels of the passage last week of another draconian law in Georgia that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and before a woman would even realize she is pregnant (see more in last week’s RWV newsletter). We know the real goal of these new laws is to create a court challenge that will give the Supreme Court the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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