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Blogs comment on limited access to women's health care at VA facilities, political efforts to undermine Roe and more

Read the week's best commentary from bloggers at Mother Jones, SCOTUSblog and more.


"The VA's woman problem," Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones: "Now that women can serve in combat roles in the US military, the number of female veterans is expected to climb in the coming years -- and most of them will turn to the Department of Veterans Affairs [VA] for health care," but a "new report by the Government Accountability Office [GAO] raises some serious doubts as to whether the VA is fully prepared to handle this influx of female patients," Michaels writes. According to Michaels, the report found that "[a]lmost one-third of VA medical centers and health care systems did not have an on-site gynecologist on staff at the end of the 2015 fiscal year, and about 17 percent of its community-based outpatient centers lacked a primary care doctor trained in women's issues." Further, the report found that while veterans can get approval to seek care at non-VA facilities if "women's care providers aren't available at VA facilities," there are some regions of the United States where "it's hard for women to find gynecologists or obstetricians in a timely manner." Moreover, at six VA facilities, GAO found more than 155 violations of VA's "own standards about privacy for female patients," of which 152 were never reported. Citing VA's pledge to improve care for female veterans in response to the report, Michaels noted that the VA has been working in recent years to shore up its medical services for female vets, in part by creating women's health centers" (Michaels, Mother Jones, 12/6).

What others are saying about access to care:

~ "The House's pointless fetal tissue witch hunt is determined to seem relevant," Christina Cauterucci, Slate's "XX Factor."


"SCOTUS for law students: Roe v. Wade and precedent," Stephen Wermiel, SCOTUSblog: "Next month will mark 44 years since the Supreme Court declared the existence of a constitutional right for women to choose to terminate their pregnancies through abortion," but "unlike any other decision in recent decades, the longevity of Roe v. Wade as precedent remains in doubt, under continual attack in courts, legislatures and political campaigns," Wermiel writes. Wermiel points to the Supreme Court's decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which upheld Roe based on the idea that precedent "should be guided by whether a constitutional rule has proven to be unworkable; whether society has built up reliance on the rule; whether legal doctrines have changed so that a rule has become obsolete; and whether facts have changed so much that a rule has become insignificant or unsupported." Citing a recent interview in which President-elect Donald Trump reiterated his pledge to overturn Roe while also asserting that the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges had "settled" the legal status of same-sex marriage, Wermiel writes that Roe's ongoing compliance with the stare decisis standards established in Casey, "combined with the longevity of the right to abortion, ought, by legal measures, to give Roe a greater claim to stare decisis than Obergefell." Wermiel concludes that the continued uncertainty over Roe's "status as settled precedent must [therefore] lie outside legal reasoning," with antiabortion-rights interest groups politicizing the issue and lawmakers advancing restrictions as part of a larger effort to challenge Roe and limit women's right to abortion (Wermiel, SCOTUSblog, 12/2).


"Legal and still a crime: Abortion laws to watch out for in Trump's America," Eesha Pandit, Salon: Despite Supreme Court precedent upholding abortion rights, "[t]he question of whether abortion is legal or criminal has grown harder and harder to parse as states pass restriction after restriction, increasing the number and kinds of acts associated with abortion that can be punishable as a crime," Pandit writes. She notes that in addition to restrictions on Medicaid coverage for abortion care and "regulatory road blocks," such as targeted regulations of abortion providers, "the question of when and how women have abortions can also render their actions into crimes." She explains, "'Personhood' laws" that "define zygotes, embryos and fetuses as 'persons' separate from the pregnant woman, and possessing full legal rights ... aim to criminalize abortion" as well as "certain forms of birth control that work by preventing the embryo from implanting in the uterus." Moreover, Pandit writes, "Fetal homicide laws and 'child endangerment' laws applied to ... fetuses have also catapulted abortion from being a health issue to being a criminal justice issue." Citing the cases of Purvi Patel and Anna Yocca, Pandit states, "These two cases, alongside many others, shine a light on the dangerous confluence of abortion restrictions and criminalization." According to Pandit, "Hundreds of women have been charged with fetal endangerment, whether as a result of a drug dependency, self-induced abortion or injuring themselves unintentionally." Asserting that abortion care in the United States is "both legal and criminalized," Pandit concludes, "While pro-choice advocates around the country will be paying close attention to [President-elect Donald] Trump's impending Supreme Court appointment and likely challenges to Roe v. Wade, as they well should, there is another, stealthier attack on abortion rights: state and federal legislation aimed at turning pregnant women who exercise control over their own bodies into criminals" (Pandit, Salon, 12/3).

What others are saying about abortion restrictions:

~ "Texas' new anti-abortion law is a chilling snapshot of America's possible anti-choice future," Noor Al-Sibai, Bustle.

~ "The new Texas abortion law is actually increasing the cost of the procedure in a disturbing way," Morgan Brinlee, Bustle.