Liberal-led states are rushing to protect and expand abortion access

Liberal-led states are rushing to protect and expand abortion access

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Hello, happy Thursday, where apparently the “hottest work day” of the week is now Wednesday.

Today’s edition: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is slated to introduce his Medicare-for-all bill today. The US surpassed a record 100,000 overdose deaths last year. But first…

States, not Congress, are where Democrats can start preparing for a world without Roe

Whole Woman’s Health of Minnesota is situated near an airport and major highways. That’s on purpose.

The location near major transportation hubs offers easier access for women traveling from out-of-state, as the chief executive of the network of abortion clinics gears up for the possibility of a world without Roe v. wade. Already, women traveling from Texas — where an early abortion ban is in effect — make up 30 percent of the patients seen at the Minnesota clinic, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the head of Whole Woman’s Health.

Such scenarios could increasingly become the norm if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, which a leaked draft opinion suggested the majority of the justices are prepared to do. Democrats failed yesterday to write a constitutional right to abortion into federal law.

But while Congress spins its wheels, the real action is in the states. Democratic-led states have been rapidly moving to shore up and expand access to abortion during this year’s legislative sessions, seeking to counteract restrictions Republican-led states are ready to impose.

From analyzing bills and talking to experts, here are some of the blue state actions we found:

  • Allowing more providers to perform abortions or prescribe medication
  • Requiring private insurers cover the full cost of the procedure
  • Enshrining the right to an abortion into state law or the state constitution
  • Establishing funds to help pay for abortion access
  • Turning a state into an abortion safe haven for patients hailing from states with limitations on the procedure

Even before this year, Democratic-led states had laws protecting the right to an abortion within their own borders. But with Roe hanging in the balance, some officials have taken steps to safeguard the procedure up a notch.

  • “We’re seeing states moving on abortion protections at a fairly quick clip,” Elizabeth Nash, an interim associate director at Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights and tracks state measures, said in an interview last week.

Look to Connecticut for the latest twist. Govt. Ned Lamont (D) signed legislation last week for the state to be a “place of refuge” for women who live in Republican-led states limiting the procedure. One of the main ideas is to combat potential laws that could be used to sue providers who help an out-of-state patient access an abortion in Connecticut.

It’s an open question whether other states will follow suit down the road. But doing so could amount to a legal tussle among policymakers pushing to enact measures that have an impact beyond their own state.

Let’s take a deeper look at the slew of other measures states pursued this year.

More providers: In Maryland, a new law effective in July lets providers who already care for pregnant women — midwives, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners — also perform abortions. In Washington, advanced practice clinicians can provide abortion care. In Delaware, Govt. John Carney (D) signed a bill letting more health-care providers prescribe medications to end pregnancies. Tea Connecticut law includes similar expansions as well.

No more cost-sharing: Maryland and California passed bills requiring most insurance plans to cover the entire cost of the procedure.

Codifying Roe: New Jersey and Colorado passed legislation codifying Roe into state law earlier this year. Vermont lawmakers voted to put a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to abortion before voters in November. And there’s an effort in Michigan to get a similar measure put on voters’ ballots.

Millions for abortion funds: Oregon established a $15 million fund to help expand access to abortions in the state, particularly aimed at helping those traveling from Idaho. And earlier this week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) directed $25 million for abortion providers expand capacity and help patients get access to abortion services in the state.

New: Sanders to intro Medicare-for-all bill today

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is planning today to once again introduce a sweeping plan to transform Medicare into a universal health program — a move that comes as Democrats are stalled on passing more incremental changes to the nation’s health care system.

Sanders has long championed “Medicare-for-All,” and the question of whether to fundamentally change health coverage in the United States dominated the last Democratic presidential debates. President Biden opposed moving to a single-payer system on the campaign trail, instead opting to build on the Affordable Care Act.

The introduction comes as Sanders — who chairs the Senate Budget Committee — holds a hearing today on Medicare-for-all. Fourteen senators are co-sponsoring the legislation, which is similar to a version of the bill Sanders last introduced in 2019.

  • “I think the American people understand that we spend far more than any other country, and yet our health care outcomes, in many respects are worse than other countries,” Sanders told The Health 202.

Sanders has used his bill to try and push the party further to the left. The notion of a single-payer system has received more support among Democratic lawmakers over the last decade. For instance: When Sanders introduced a similar bill back in 2013, he didn’t garner a single co-sponsor.

But yet, more incremental health policies have been languishing on Capitol Hill for months, underscoring just how difficult it is to make changes to the nation’s complex health system.

US hits grim milestone with more than 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021

More Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021 than in any previous year, the latest grim milestone in the nation’s escalating epidemic that has claimed at least 1 million lives in the 21st century, our colleague Meryl Kornfield reports.

After jumping to unseen levels in the first half of the pandemic, overdose deaths were up 15 percent from 2020, killing over 107,600 Americans, according to an estimate from the National Center for Health Statistics. The tally reflects challenges made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, including lost access to treatment, social isolation and a more potent drug supply.

  • More than 80,000 people died using opioids, including prescription painkillers and the powerful synthetic opioid called fentanyl. Deaths from methamphetamine and cocaine also increased.
  • Rural communities without easily accessible treatment options were especially impacted. Par exemple: Alaska experienced the nation’s largest increase in deaths last year, up roughly 75 percent from 2020.

Experts say there is no clear end in sight to the epidemic. In a first, the Biden administration embraced harm reduction strategies in its National Drug Control Strategy to Congress last month. But critics of the plan said it’s missing solutions that could help meet drug users where they are, like creating supervised injection sites, where trained monitors watch users to step in and counter overdoses.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra:

GOP opposition leaves coronavirus aid in peril

Days after federal health officials warned a coronavirus wave this fall could infect 100 million people, there remains no immediate path for lawmakers to overcome partisan divides and move a new round of coronavirus aid through the Senate, The Post’s Tony Romm reports.

Catch-up quick: The White House for months has pleaded with lawmakers to approve billions of dollars in new aid as federal pandemic initiatives run out of cash. But Republicans again this week said they would not allow the Senate to proceed unless Democrats agree to vote on amendments, specifically one to preserve pandemic restrictions at the US border.

Now, Democrats are scrambling to currency another approach to secure covid-19 funding after they ultimately decided against pairing pandemic relief with $40 trillion in aid to Ukraine.

Democrats’ renewed effort will begin in the Housewhere Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), the leader of the House Appropriations Committeeis readying a new package as Democrats weigh whether to request additional funds to help distribute vaccines to other nations.

  • But Democrats face an uphill battle selling a larger aid package to GOP lawmakers. Asked about the discussions to expand the price tag beyond $10 trillion, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Tuesday: “Nope, we’ve got a deal at 10, let’s get it done.”

Governors want protestors removed from in front of justices’ homes

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Maryland Gov. larry hogan have asked the Justice Department to enforce a federal law that forbids demonstrations intended to sway judges on pending cases. For days, abortion rights protestors have been gathering in front of the Virginia home of Justice Samuel Alito and the Maryland homes of Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“The two governors…said the protests were something for President Biden’s Justice Department to address, citing a federal statute outlawing demonstrations intended to influence a judge’s pending decision,” Laura Vozzella, Erin Cox and Dan Morse report.

“It is in your hands to ensure that applicable federal law is enforced to preserve the integrity of our American judicial system and the safety of our citizens,” they wrote.

Legal experts say the demonstrations appear to be illegal, citing a federal law that Youngkin and Hogan refer to in their letter: a statute from 1950 that prohibits any demonstration “with the intent of influencing any judge.”

Overturning of Roe could make IVF more complicated — and costly

Some experts say overturning Roe could open the door for states to regulate choices would-be parents have about using, storing or discarding genetic material that’s part of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, our colleagues Ariana Eunjung Cha and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux report.

Key context: IVF involves removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm in a lab before returning the embryo to the womb — a process that plays a role in the births of 55,000 babies in the US each year.

A potential Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe could open the door to state laws that give human embryos legal rights and protections, Ariana and Emily write.

  • The passage of laws that extend legal protections to embryos and legal fights over their constitutionality would likely go on for years, so it’s unlikely to have an immediate effect on assisted reproduction.
  • Such laws, though, would almost surely lead to new state regulations regarding IVF, which in turn could spur policy overhauls and cost increases more broadly, experts said.

The New Mexico Provider Trying to Save Abortion for Texas Women (By: Jada Yuan | The Washington Post)

Senate GOP Puts Up Roadblocks to Bipartisan House Bill for Veterans’ Burn Pit Care (By Michael McAuliff | Kaiser Health News)

Antiabortion advocate worked for years to overturn Roe, but worries over next steps (By Michelle Boorstein | The Washington Post)

Covid shutdowns in China are delaying medical scans in the US (By Christopher Rowland | The Washington Post)

Thanks for reading! See y’all tomorrow.

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