Tag Archives: Women’s Health

All Eyes on Reproductive Rights: Is Tennessee the Next Texas?

On RACblog, we’ve been following the restrictive Texas law that attempted to shut down more than half of the state’s reproductive health clinics. If you’re as appalled as we are by this effort to limit women’s reproductive freedom, I have upsetting news: Tennessee could be next. On November 4, voters in the Volunteer State will decide on Amendment One, which would undo language in the state constitution that defines abortion as a fundamental right. Currently, the Tennessee state legislature does not have the power to enact abortion restrictions, a welcome, if surprising protection in a region with strong opposition to reproductive rights. With the passage of Amendment One, Tennessee lawmakers would have the authority to enforce restrictive policies like those in Texas, like the mandatory 72-hour waiting period in Missouri, or like the 20-week bans that limit abortion access in nine states. Read more…

Yes on Question 4 in Massachusetts; earned sick time now

Double Booked: In Massachusetts, Ballot Question 4 Brings Us Home

By Rabbi Matthew Soffer

When I read the language Question 4 (a ballot question to ensure earned sick time in the Commonwealth), and I contemplate how Jewish values relate, I’m drawn particularly to that fundamental paradigm of home vs. exile, which is so central to Judaism. Obviously, the emergence of the State of Israel gave physical, geographical shape to that exile/home binary, but fundamentally we know that exile vs. home is a metaphysical issue. That our tradition demands that we recognize exile when we see it, that we mourn over it, and that we fight to come home.

From the literal exiles of 586 BCE to 70CE, and in the Rabbinic Period when the bayit (the home), the dinner table to be more specific, according to one Talmudic voice, replaced the altar in the Temple: fighting to come home, in our tradition, is “how we roll.”
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State of Texas

Supreme Court Deals a Major—If Temporary Victory to Texas Women’s Reproductive Rights

Following an emergency application from reproductive health care providers, the Supreme Court has blocked two key parts of the restrictive Texas law that, since 2012, has forced 32 of the state’s 40 clinics to close their doors to women in need of health care services. In a 6-3 order issued yesterday, the justices blocked provisions of House Bill 2 that mandate clinics to meet strict the building standards of an ambulatory surgical center and that require providing physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Though proponents of the bill insist these provisions enforce a higher standard for protecting women’s health, they are both unnecessary for ensuring healthy procedures and unjustified in the burden they place on Texas women. Read more…

Pink Ribbon

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Fight over Breast Cancer-Related Patents Continues

Last year, Angelina Jolie made national news after revealing that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy because she had a BRCA1 gene mutation which dramatically increased her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Last week, Myriad Genetics, Inc., a company well known for its breakthrough research showing the connection between BRCA gene mutations and an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, was at the Federal Circuit defending some of its patents related to the BRCA genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes produce proteins which suppress tumors, and consequently people with BRCA mutations are at a greater risk for certain cancers. This case is especially important to Ashkenazi Jews because Jews of Ashkenazi descent are more likely to have harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations than the general public.

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Supreme Court

Supreme Court Case Young v. UPS Highlights Unique Common Ground Between Advocacy Groups

With our mandate to work on more than 70 social justice issues, we know that our voice is stronger when joined with our partners to make the changes we wish to see. In our work on the upcoming Supreme Court case Young v. United Parcel Service, we’ve done exactly that, this time with an unusual collection of advocacy groups who have come together around an issue on which we all agree.

In Young v. UPS, the Court will decide under what conditions, if any, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the PDA) requires an employer that provides work accommodations to employees who are not pregnant but who have work limitations to provide like accommodations to pregnant employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” The plaintiff is Peggy Young, a UPS delivery driver who became pregnant and whose doctor recommended she refrain from lifting packages heavier than 20 pounds to help ensure a healthy pregnancy. UPS denied Young the accommodation, instead forcing her to take an extended, unpaid leave of absence until she could return to work after her child was born. In addition to her wages, Young lost her medical insurance during her leave, compounding the economic hardship that resulted from UPS’s refusal to accommodate her medical needs. Young sued UPS under the PDA, which clarifies that pregnancy discrimination is, indeed, a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Read more…

Back to the Bench: First Day of the Supreme Court Term

If you’re a Supreme Court fanatic like I am, you’ve been eagerly awaiting the start of this year’s term for months (well, since early July). It’s finally here. I’m excited to begin following the justices again, although I’m a bit nervous for possible case outcomes this year given the Court’s recent decisions. Even if you haven’t been counting down the days, you should consider keeping up with the Court this year exactly because its recent decisions and upcoming cases are so critical. As we saw in cases like Citizens United and Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the Court can shape law and spark national debate in a profound way. The cases the Court will hear this year promise to do the same:

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State of Texas

Reproductive Health Clinics Now ‘Lone Stars’ In Texas

Ebola is not the only important health-related news from Texas this week. Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that all but seven facilities that provide abortion services must close immediately, leaving 900,000 women more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic. The Circuit Court overturned a lower court ruling that sought to strike down the provision requiring all reproductive health care facilities to abide by the building requirements of an ambulatory surgical center (ASC), a category of facilities that provide vastly different services than reproductive health clinics. Now clinics must either stop providing abortion services or undergo significant renovations, the later proving effectively impossible due to cost. The Fifth Circuit’s decision remains final unless advocates appeal to the Supreme Court.

In yesterday’s decision, Judge Jennifer Elrod opined, “In our circuit, we do not balance the wisdom or effectiveness of a law against the burdens the law imposes,” an assertion that blatantly contradicts the established undue burden standard for reviewing abortion rights cases. Even Texas, with its severely restrictive reproductive rights laws, recognizes in some form the importance of the undue burden standard; state law that requires a woman to see a providing physician at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure exempts women who live more than 100 miles from their nearest clinic, acknowledging that traveling that distance twice or making an overnight stay near the clinic imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to access reproductive health care. It is deeply unsettling, then, to see that Texas does not recognize that the ASC provision imposes an undue burden on 900,000 of its residents, and that the Fifth Circuit Court has upheld that burden.

As Reform Jews, we believe firmly in not only a woman’s right to choose, but also the need to ensure that abortions are safe, legal, affordable and accessible for all women. Our tradition teaches that all life is sacred, but that the life and health of the mother are the principle concerns; a law that leaves open seven clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age demonstrates a clear disregard for women’s health and well-being.

medical symbol, stethoscope, white lab coat

Abortion Access: A Matter of Individual Rights and Health Care

On Sunday, September 28 we commemorated the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, encouraging individuals, organizations and governments to take steps to ensure women’s health care access around the world.

Despite seemingly constant attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the United States, the alarming reality is that our laws allow safe and legal access compared to those of other countries around the world. In 138 countries, restrictions on abortion extend beyond the methods by which a woman may fund her procedure, with governments regulating the reasons for which a woman is or is not allowed to terminate her pregnancy. In its annual survey of abortion restrictions across the globe, the Center for Reproductive Rights categorizes these restrictions in three ways: Read more…

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