By Elisha Brown
Health insurance providers may no longer need to cover prenatal care or other preventive measures required by the Affordable Care Act under a federal judge’s ruling Thursday, according to reporters from the States Newsroom Washington, D.C. bureau.
Millions of Americans covered by Obamacare could be affected by the decision, which could make patients pay out-of-pocket for cancer screenings, HIV prevention medication, pregnancy-related services and more. These preventive health care measures are free under the ACA.
“This ruling is not only misguided, it is outright dangerous and could cost lives,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. The Biden administration will likely appeal the ruling.
Judge Reed O’Connor, a President George W. Bush appointee who presides over the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas, said in his decision that the preventive services are unlawful because they violate the Appointments Clause. O’Connor sided with businesses who argue requiring health insurance coverage of certain care measures, such as the HIV preventive PrEP medication, violates religious beliefs. But in court filings, numerous medical groups argued against rescinding no-cost preventive care. Providers “will see many of their patients, including some of their most vulnerable, turn down medically indicated services because of the very financial barriers that Congress sought to remove,” according to the bureau’s report.
In the states, North Carolina House Republicans introduced anti-abortion legislation, Wisconsin could expand Medicaid coverage for new mothers and Idaho lawmakers clarified vague language in the state’s abortion ban, but a doctor said the tweaks don’t change much.
North Carolina near-total abortion ban bill unlikely to pass, advocates say
On Wednesday, North Carolina Republicans filed the first anti-abortion rights bill in the House since last summer’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. House Bill 533, co-sponsored by Reps. Keith Kidwell, Edward Goodwin and Ben Moss Jr, aims to ban all abortions after conception, save to protect the mother’s life, remove a “spontaneous abortion” – a miscarriage – or terminate ectopic pregnancies when a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, typically in the fallopian tubes. Performing abortions would be a Class B1 felony with a $100,000 fine if the bill becomes law.
“While it is unlikely HB533 has the support needed to move through the North Carolina legislature, it never should have been filed in the first place,” Pro-Choice NC said in a statement Thursday. “The fact that it was, confirms that we must remain vigilant if we are to protect abortion access in North Carolina. Yesterday’s bill was the first anti-abortion bill this session, and it likely won’t be the last.” Carolina Abortion Fund and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic also condemned the bill.
NC Values Coalition, an advocacy nonprofit that opposes abortion, declined to comment on the bill. Last month, Tami Fitzgerald, its executive director, told the Washington Post the group has drafted a six-week abortion bill that they offered to lawmakers. House Speaker Tim Moore has previously indicated support for a six-week ban, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
According to ProPublica, co-sponsor Kidwell, also the House deputy majority whip, is affiliated with the Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist organization that played a main role in orchestrating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A leaked Oath Keepers document listed the representative as an annual member in 2012. Representatives for Kidwell and Moore did not respond to requests for comment.
Wisconsin postpartum Medicaid expansion likely after bipartisan support
Pending federal approval, Wisconsin new mothers will soon be eligible for Medicaid coverage three months postpartum, up from 60 days. Expanding postpartum Medicaid to a year appears likely in the state and received support from Republicans, Democrats, abortion rights opponents and abortion rights advocates, according to Wisconsin Examiner. During a Senate Insurance and Small Business committee hearing this week, Republican senators made the case for their 12-month postpartum Medicaid bill, SB 110, arguing that the proposal will lead to better health outcomes for mothers and infants.
The state Department of Health Services reviews about 50 to 60 maternal deaths each year. While 50% of the deaths were Medicaid patients, about two-thirds of the deaths occur between 34 and 365 days postpartum. Most of the deaths were preventable, according to Dr. Jasmine Zapata, a Wisconsin epidemiologist.
The Wisconsin maternal mortality rate for Black mothers is five times higher than the death rate for white women, according to DHS data. “As a mother who has birthed three children in this state, as a Black mother, I’m terrified sometimes even living here,” Zapata said. “When I think about my daughters, my two daughters, I really contemplate is Wisconsin the place that I want them as young Black women to grow up and have their own children? But we have a historic opportunity to change that all around.”
Idaho lawmakers approve nation's 1st interstate abortion ban bill
Helping a minor obtain abortion care without parental permission outside the state of Idaho could become a crime after lawmakers signed off on legislation Thursday, sending it to Gov. Brad Little for his signature. The bill sets a sentence of two to five years in prison upon conviction and would allow civil lawsuits against providers, even if they are out of state.
States Newsroom National Reproductive Rights Reporter Kelcie Moseley-Morris reported that the legislation also designates Attorney General Raúl Labrador to prosecute cases in jurisdictions where that county’s prosecuting attorney refuses to bring charges. But questions over how state officials will enforce the law remain. And reproductive health care groups have vowed to challenge its constitutionality, citing the right to interstate travel. Abortion is legal in several states bordering Idaho, including Washington, Oregon and Montana.
“I know this is a little facetious, but given the nature of this law, it sounds like you could post somebody at the border and check as you go across and say, ‘Well, I see you have a pregnant woman with you, what’s the purpose of your trip to Oregon?’” said Sen. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello. “This goes way too far.”
“From debates about how Satanism fits in with abortion, to passing laws that attorneys know will likely be unconstitutional, this legislature has continued to reinforce the ideas of old, white, scared men because that is primarily the make-up of the body.” – Darrell Ehrlick, editor-in-chief, Daily Montanan
- Ohio Republicans have forwarded a plan to require a supermajority for constitutional amendments, while abortion rights opponents made spurious claims about the proposed abortion rights ballot measure. (Ohio Capital Journal.)
- During a Pennsylvania House Democratic Committee hearing, health care providers advocated for midwives and advanced practice clinicians to perform abortions. (Pennsylvania Capital-Star.)
- The U.S. is experiencing a stillbirth crisis, but 1 in 4 of these tragedies are preventable, researchers found. (ProPublica.)
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