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Blogs Comment on Pittsburgh 'Buffer Zone' Lawsuit, the 'Latest Reach of Feticide Laws,' More

Read the week's best commentary from bloggers at the Women's Law Project blog, RH Reality Check and more.

ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT:

"Anti-Choice Protesters Still Fighting To Knock Down Pittsburgh Buffer Zone," Women's Law Project blog: "On Friday, November 6, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will hear oral arguments in Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh buffer zone case," according to the Women's Law Project blog. The blog explains that a federal judge earlier this year "upheld the constitutionality of a 15-foot buffer zone around healthcare facilities in Pittsburgh," which "represented the first time a statutory buffer zone was upheld by a federal court since the landmark 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling McCullen v. Coakley." According to the blog, the high court in that case "struck down a 35-foot buffer zone" in Massachusetts, essentially "affirm[ing] that buffer zones and other time/place/manner regulations have to be the right degree and type to balance the need to protect protesters' speech and important state interests such as patients' safety." The Alliance Defending Freedom after the Supreme Court ruling filed a lawsuit against the Pittsburgh buffer zone, the blog continues, noting, "The Bruni case served as a litmus test for anti-choice activists adamant about getting as close as physically possible to patients outside of healthcare facilities, and they lost" in district court. The 3rd Circuit on Friday will hear the plaintiffs' appeal, the blog notes. The blog concludes by citing an amicus brief filed by "Women's Law Project attorneys and Thomas E. Zemaitis, a partner at the private law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP ... on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh Pro-Choice Escorts," which states that "the buffer zone in Pittsburgh successfully strikes the balance between protecting protesters' speech and patients' safety" (Women's Law Center blog, 11/5).

CRIMINALIZING PREGNANCY:

"Coerced C-Sections: The Latest Reach of Fetus-First Laws," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: Mason Pieklo touches on several lawsuits involving pregnant women who were coerced by their physicians into undergoing cesarean sections, noting that, "thanks to a recent New York trial court ruling, doctors in some areas may even be able to legally override consent with impunity when it comes to determining patient delivery methods." Mason Pieklo notes that the "American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Ethics 'condemns the use of coercion on a pregnant women'" and recently released "new, relaxed guidelines for attempting a vaginal birth after previous [C-sections], also known as a VBAC," which "emphasize the importance of respecting patient decision making." Mason Pieklo discusses the New York case, in which a woman, Rinat Dray, "claims staff at Staten Island University Hospital pressured her to consent to another c-section despite her express wishes to have a VBAC." According to Mason Pieklo, a trial court ruling in Dray's case demonstrates how "part of the struggle [in these cases] is a result of anti-choice fetal personhood ideology, and the threat that ideology causes to medical care." She explains that the trial court essentially ruled that, because New York state "has a certain interest in protecting a viable fetus, doctors in the state can, for now, override pregnant patient consent with impunity ... effectively mak[ing] doctors agents of the state capable of enforcing the 'rights' of a fetus over the rights of their own patient." Mason Pieklo concludes that if cases in which patient consent is overruled because of their pregnancy are "not an expression of the danger of the fetal-rights movement to patient autonomy, [she] do[esn't] know what is" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 11/4).

CONTRACEPTION:

"Confidentiality Is Key: To Reduce Teen Pregnancy, the U.S. Must Ban Parental Notification Laws for Contraception," Priya Batra, Huffington Post blogs: Citing the success of a Colorado program that helps teenagers access "effective birth control," Batra notes that despite "calls to increase funding for the program and expand it to other states ... many of the places that need it most have state laws that make providing confidential contraception to teens illegal." Batra, a physician and researcher, explains, "States get to decide whether ... teens can independently access contraception, resulting in three scenarios: unconditional access to birth control for teens, access in some special cases only, or mandated parental notification." Currently, "21 states and the District of Columbia have laws specifying that all minors may receive confidential contraceptive services," while teenagers "in the rest of the country are subject to their own state's specific regulations regarding parental notification." She writes, "The lack of federal legislation on this issue reflects a collective refusal to acknowledge that American teens are having sex, even while the U.S. ranks among the highest among developed nations in teen births." Batra notes that research has "shown that when all options are available, teens choose the most effective contraceptive methods" and "disproven the myth that birth control increases sexual risk-taking behaviors among teens." Further, Batra notes that research also has shown "that enforced parental notification ... does not discourage or delay intercourse," adding that such laws push teenagers into "choos[ing] less effective forms of birth control." Based on the scientific evidence, she calls for federal legislation that will "protect the legal rights of all American teens to receive confidential contraceptive services" (Batra, Huffington Post blogs, 11/3).

LGBT:

"Houston, We Have a Problem," Chase Strangio, American Civil Liberties Union's "Speak Freely": Voters this week repealed Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, which would have "protected 15 classes of people from discrimination," Strangio writes. According to Strangio, "The vote not only strips away protections for LGBT Houstonians, veterans, pregnant people, people of color (whom 53 percent of the discrimination claims impacted) and others, it also sends a very clear message to Houston and the country that when it comes to understanding and supporting transgender people, we have a long way to go." Strangio notes that the campaign to repeal the ordinance was based on a "factually dishonest message that HERO would permit men to enter women's restrooms," a claim that "relied on a core belief that transgender women are not women." He adds that opponents of the ordinance "used fear about and misconception of transgender people to spin lies that the ordinance would make it legal for someone to claim to be transgender in order to enter a restroom and commit a crime -- something that has never actually happened in the 17 states and 200 cities that already have protections for trans people." According to Strangio, "all that HERO's repeal actually does with respect to bathrooms is force more men, trans men, into women's restrooms and place all transgender people in less safe and more precarious positions in all aspects of our lives." Contextualizing the anti-HERO campaign amid an "epidemic of anti-transgender murders" this year, Strangio writes, "If we are looking for answers to the epidemic of violence against transgender women this year, we should start in Houston with the campaign that legitimized the lie that transgender people are less than human" (Strangio, "Speak Freely," American Civil Liberities Union, 11/4).

What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:

"Proposed Wisconsin Bill Would Discriminate Against Transgender Youth," Jenn Stanley, RH Reality Check.

"Houston Votes Against Equal Rights Ordinance," Jos Truitt, Feministing.

"It's Legal Again To Discriminate Against Houston's LGBTQ Community," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.

ABORTION ACCESS:

"One Pill the First Day, Four To Follow: The Safe Alternative to Clinic-Based Abortions That Women Aren't Using," Valerie Tarico, Salon: "[M]edical experts believe that the potential of" the medication abortion drug mifepristone "is largely unrealized" and that "many of today's abortion procedures could be replaced by earlier, less intrusive, and less expensive at-home therapeutic miscarriage," Tarico writes. Tarico notes that "a quarter-century of data show that [mifepristone] is highly safe and effective," with only about 2% of women requiring a follow-up aspiration to complete the abortion and a rate of "serious infection or blood loss ... much lower than comparable risk associated with full-term pregnancy." According to Tarico, some women "may always prefer a quick clinic-based [abortion] procedure over an at-home process that takes several days ... [b]ut the main reason many choose clinic-based abortion procedures today is that conservative politicians have erected a barricade of 'health regulations' that have nothing to do with health." She writes that such laws "take what should be a simple prescription -- take one pill this afternoon and four tomorrow and call if you have any concerns -- and turn it into a regimen that is complicated, expensive and difficult to access." Meanwhile, she notes that the abortion-rights opponents "who publicly talk about viability and fetal pain show little interest" in helping women access abortion at an earlier stage of pregnancy or in improving access to contraception. Tarico notes that if women are able to complete medication abortions at home, "the men and women now providing abortion care may find themselves increasingly able to devote their energy to pregnancy planning and prenatal services" (Tarico, Salon, 11/5).