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  HOT TOPICS

SENATE VOTE FAVORS MILITARY WOMEN’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO ABORTION

When the Senate voted on June 21 to lift the ban on abortions at military facilities abroad, they voted to give women in the U.S. military stationed overseas the same constitutional right to choose abortion as women living in the U.S. Since 1979, federally funded abortion in military hospitals have been banned, but this amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2003 would allow women to have abortions in military facilities with their own money. Currently, servicewomen must request approval to return to the U.S., violating their right to privacy and delaying the procedure, or must rely on local doctors where they may face language and cultural barriers or receive inferior care. And in many cases these personnel may be stationed in countries where abortion is not legal, in which case no U.S. military hospital would perform the procedure at all. However the Authorization Act is in for an uphill battle as the House voted the amendment down last month. President Bill Clinton lifted the restrictions on privately funded abortions in 1993, which were first imposed on overseas military hospitals in 1988. But the Republican-led Congress reinstated them in 1996. Abortions are only currently permitted in the instances of rape, incest or the life of the woman is endangered.

NEW YORK PASSES CONTRACEPTIVE EQUITY BILL

In June, the New York State legislature passed a bill requiring that prescription drug plans cover prescriptive contraceptives.

New York became the twentieth state to pass such a law.

“As people have become more educated about the issue they’ve realized that this is basic fairness and health care,” Janet Crepps, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, told ABCnews.com.

The New York law also contains one of the narrowest “conscience clauses” - a provision that allows an employer to get out of covering contraceptives - ever passed by a state. In order to qualify for the conscience clause, an employer’s main function must be religious and most of the people it serves and employs must share the same religion. Employees who cannot get birth control through their health plans would be able to buy it through an insurance pool to be set by the State Health Department. The bill would even require church-based plans that come under the conscience clause to cover birth control prescriptions intended to treat medical problems.

New York passed the bill as a congressional subcommittee discussed a bill prohibiting health insurance plans that provide prescription drugs, devices, and outpatient services from excluding coverage of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices.

Women of reproductive age spend 68% more than men on out-of-pocket health care costs, largely on reproductive health care services.

New York Governor George Pataki has stated he will sign the bill once on his desk. Once signed, the law would take effect January 1, 2003.

CRLP RESPONDS TO USA TODAY ARTICLE “ABORTION COULD BE A 'PHONY WAR'”

On June 4, USA Today ran a story theorizing that the right to abortion is not endangered by the various efforts of anti-choice zealots or the current administration. The article proposed that an anti-choice justice has no chance of being appointed to the Supreme Court in the current political climate. CRLP responded with a letter to the editor that reminded readers that Justice Thomas, one of the most conservative justices on the Court and a Bush favorite, was elected by a Democratic Senate. The letter concluded: “[e]ven after 30 years, anti-choice opponents, including those at the highest levels of the federal government, refuse to accept that women have the right to make private decisions about sex, birth control, and childbearing. But the right to make personal, moral decisions is a liberty and responsibility owed to future generations of American women.” Until that changes, women’s right to abortion, and to other fundamental rights, will be at risk.

CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE LAW AND POLICY BOARD MEMBER DR. NAFIS SADIK APPOINTED SPECIAL ENVOY FOR HIV/AIDS IN ASIA.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations announced his appointment of Dr. Nafis Sadik as the Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia. In her new position she will be responsible for promoting the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS throughout Asia. The Declaration is the historic document adopted at the UN General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS in July 2001. The Declaration outlines tangible action governments need to take to combat this global crisis and links the protection of human rights with curtailing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Dr. Sadik has been a member of CRLP’s board since May 2001.

ABORTION OPPONENTS INVADE WOMEN’S PRIVACY

“In the Shadows” (front page, Wall Street Journal, May 28) reports on anti-abortion zealots that photograph women outside of family planning clinics. These so-called advocates then post the photos on a website in an attempt to intimidate women out of accessing their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion. In CRLP’s letter to the editor, Staff Attorney Janet Crepps asks, “Why do these rogue photographers shoot pictures of women indiscriminately, regardless of whether they are seeking abortion services or simply going into a clinic for a gynecological exam or to pick out birth control? Because the truth is that all women are targets of their vengeful tactics intended to scare and strip women of their dignity, safety, and right to make private decisions about sex, birth control, and childbearing.” The similarity to the well-known “Nuremburg Website,” which incites violence against abortion providers by displaying their names and addresses and crossing them off when they’ve been murdered, is obvious. Will the courts, the public, and legislators wait until these women's names are crossed off before such behavior is found illegal and unconstitutional?

LETTER TO THE EDITOR ON EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST

Dear Editor:

Your article on emergency contraception or EC, “Preparing for a Mistake” (Page HE01, May 21) incorrectly explained the difference between EC and RU-486. EC, also known as the "morning after pill," can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. In contrast, RU-486 terminates a pregnancy at an early stage.

RU-486, a medication used between 3 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, blocks hormones necessary to continue an already established pregnancy. EC, by contrast, is used within 72 hours of intercourse and works before the pregnancy is established, i.e., before implantation; if a woman is already pregnant, EC will not disrupt the pregnancy.

The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy petitioned the FDA to make EC available over the counter on behalf of more than 60 medical groups in February, 2001, yet the FDA has failed to make any decision on the petition.

How much longer must women wait for easy access to a safe product that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believes has the potential to reduce by half the 3 million unintended pregnancies occurring each year in the U.S.?

Sincerely,
Priscilla Smith
Acting Director of Domestic Program
Center for Reproductive Law and Policy

Send a Petition to Make EC Over-the-Counter.

APPEALS COURT FINDS WEBSITE TARGETING ABORTION PROVIDERS A "TRUE THREAT"

May 16 - Reversing its decision from last year, the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that an anti-abortion website known as the "Nuremberg Files" is a threat to the lives and safety of abortion providers and not free speech. By doing so, the Court also upheld the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a federal law designed to protect abortion clinic clients and personnel from violence.

"This is a heartening decision for doctors and clinic workers who live with the daily threat of violence from anti-abortion extremists," said Priscilla Smith, acting director of CRLP's domestic program.


According to the Associated Press, the Court in its 6-5 ruling, also ordered a Portland federal judge to reduce the $107 million in damages a jury awarded in 1999 to four abortion doctors and two clinics who sued creators of the website.

In October 1999, abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian of Buffalo, New York, was fatally shot by a sniper. His name subsequently appeared crossed out on the Nuremberg website.










































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