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Filtering by Tag: reproductive rights

Calling all teens in NYC! Apply for the TORCH peer education program!


Are you a teen in New York City? Want to get paid to teach your peers about sexual health, reproductive rights, community organizing, advocacy and much more? Apply for NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s TORCH Peer Leadership and Advocacy program!

TORCH is a nationally recognized peer education program that trains high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are interested in reproductive rights and related topics to give presentations to other youth groups throughout New York City.

Participants must be available to attend trainings in our Manhattan office from 4-6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays from December through June.

TORCH provides young people with a community in which to build their self esteem, learn leadership skills, discuss reproductive health issues, and educate themselves and others to make intelligent decisions.

The application deadline is October 18, 2010 so APPLY TODAY!

Thu, 9/16: NYAAF Emergency Fundraiser: Cocktails and Silent Auction!


Dear supporters,

This week the New York Abortion Access Fund dipped below $1000, less than our average weekly grant total. To replenish the fund and keep our services operating, we are calling an emergency fundraiser for next Thursday, September 16th. Please join us from 6-9pm at Destination Bar for an evening of discounted cocktails, a raffle and silent auction in support of the New York Abortion Access Fund. Please spread the word!

Suggested donation: $20 (or more if you can afford it).

Drink specials! Raffle! Silent Auction!

Abortion should be safe, legal and FUNDED! Pass it on!

Can't come but support the cause? Donate anyway! Via Facebook Causes or via our website: http://www.nyaaf.org/.

September 16 · 6:00pm - 9:00pm

Destination Bar: 211 Ave A (and 13th St) New York, NY

Posted by: Amanda

Election 2010: Announcing Online Pro-Choice Primary Voter Guide


In the past decade, states have passed over 200 laws restricting a woman's right to access abortion. Thanks to voters like you, New York is different. New York Primary 2010
The primary election on September 14 is just around the corner, and with critical races across the state, your pro-choice vote is as important as ever!
Check out NARAL Pro-Choice New York's 2010 Primary Voter Guide to get all the info you need to support your local pro-choice candidates! Find out who is running in your district, where your polling place is located, and see NARAL Pro-Choice New York's endorsements in primary races for everything from state Assembly to the U.S. Senate.
In addition to voting, don't forget to take a look at all the volunteer opportunities we have to offer between now and election day. Your hard work making phone calls and hitting the streets will help ensure that pro-choice candidates are victorious this election season.
Elections matter. Your activism and voting power will help elect leaders who are willing to stand up and lead on the values we care about from Long Island to Buffalo.
For choice,
Sabrina Shulman
Political Director

12th & Delaware


Posted by: Michelle Haimoff

Cross posted on genfem.com

On Monday night I watched the premiere of the HBO documentary “12th & Delaware“ with some members of NOW’s Young Feminist Task Force (YFTF).

To summarize the movie in a sentence: Passively pro-choice (or generally indifferent) people don’t realize the severity of the pro-life movement.

Namely, they might not realize the following:

In the United States there are 4,000 Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). CPCs are fake abortion clinics.

These fake abortion clinics intentionally present themselves as real abortion clinics (of which there are only 816 nationwide). When a woman calls and asks if they perform abortions, the clinic operators don’t say no, instead they get the woman to come in, separate her from whoever came with her, show her gory images of bloody fetuses, do an unnecessary ultrasound, refer to the baby as “him” (sex can be seen at earliest 12-16 weeks, and many of the women who come in are less than 12 weeks pregnant), and cite fake medical statistics about the correlation between depression, breast cancer and abortion. CPC workers also lie to women about how far along they are until it’s too late for them to get legal abortions (and then the pro-life movement pushes legislation against late term abortions).

This documentary focuses on one CPC, which sprouted up directly across from a safe, legitimate abortion clinic, which is regularly terrorized by clinic protestors. When women park in the real abortion clinic’s parking lot, they are often confused by the CPC’s back entrance and go there instead. CPC workers are trained not to let these women leave until they are bullied into continuing their unwanted pregnancies.

The people who run Crisis Pregnancy Centers and the people who harass patients of legitimate abortion clinics think that they’re on a mission from God to save lives. It’s not surprising, they’re religious fanatics. But they say things like, “This is life or death we’re dealing with here.” And the most extreme of them see themselves as assassins on God’s behalf, with an end that justifies any means, including arson and murder.

But after seeing this documentary, that wasn’t the most horrifying thing about all of this. The most horrifying thing about all of this, even beyond the fetus dolls that the CPC workers force women to hold, is how much these people romanticize babies but don’t care at all about children (or women).

At one point a tearful gang of young men and women beg a woman with six children not to get an abortion, promising her money, food and clothing for her child (apparently they promise everything, but never deliver). And yet if this woman was not on her way into the abortion clinic they wouldn’t help her. They have no interest in dirtying their hands with actual people out there in the world - actual women, actual children - they only care about the cute little babies they think that they’re saving (a CPC worker actually said something to the effect of, “for all you know the babychanges your abusive boyfriend,” to get a woman to go through with her pregnancy).

I wish there existed a vocal anti-personal abortion, pro-political choice movement that offered a safe haven to women who find themselves unintentionally pregnant; women who would never get abortions personally but leave God to deal with the women that do, the way they leave God to deal with any “evil” thing that people get away with.

If there was a group like that, with a presence, that could reason with the religious fanatics that try to manipulate women and intimidate doctors, I can pretty much guarantee that the pro-choice groups would do whatever they could to help them. And the net effect would be that more women would be helped, more children would be helped and more lives would be saved. Women wouldn’t be dying from illegal, unsafe back alley abortions, which they do when abortion is illegal.

Those people, the ones that would be there to help women, not judge them, would be the truly righteous souls. Especially if they could get pro-lifers to donate their time and money (and power) to the millions of children around the world with nothing. It’s shocking to me that abortion clinic protestors strut around everyday with picket signs when their energy and attention is obviously better served helping real live people on this planet right now.

It’s that kind of cherry-picked value system that makes me question if pro-lifers care about human lives at all, or if they just get off on yanking women back into patriarchal servitude.

Two of us from the Task Force had the same idea to raise money to send these clinic protestors and CPC workers to conflict regions where women and children suffer from unspeakable human rights abuses daily. Just drop them off in the middle of the Congo with supplies and their passion to save human lives. They’d be helping people a lot more there than they are here, manipulating and lying to the desperate women in this country.

Stop Pres Obama & His Administration from an All-Out Attack on Choice


Take Action!

Explanation from NOW-NYC:
Obama Administration Goes Too Far

According to a recent statement by the Obama Administration, women who need to purchase "high-risk" pool insurance plans will not have access to insurance coverage for abortion.  These plans will cover individuals with pre-existing conditions until the health exchanges are established in 2014.

This means that for the next three years, women with health problems such as diabetes or breast cancer--the women most likely to have pregnancy complications--will be denied insurance coverage for abortion.  Women enrolled in these plans will not even be able to use their own funds to cover abortion through their plans.

This policy takes away abortion insurance coverage for those women who are likely to need it most. Pro-choice activists helped defeat Stupak from being passed in Congress, but now the White House is establishing a Stupak-like policy for the "high-risk" pools, going even further than the Nelson compromise that was passed in the health care reform bill. 

Act NOW to tell the "Pro-Choice" White House that this is unacceptable! 
President Obama (202) 456-1111

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (877) 696-6775

Get More Info and a Sample Letter Here 
From NOW NY State:
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, NOW-NYS President Marcia Pappas warned ad nauseam that Obama was not to be trusted on the abortion choice issue. Pappas repeatedly explained that Obama's Illinois senatorial record was "at best shaky on choice. And Vice President Joe Biden also had a bad record on choice. Women and progressive men must finally realize that 'Democrat' is not synonymous with 'pro-choice.'" 
But In spite of Pappas' alarm, pro choice women and progressive men were fooled by Obama's rhetoric. In a recent interview Pappas remarked: "I believe Hillary Clinton would never have allowed this to happen. She understands that a woman's fundamental right to make decisions about her own body is paramount. As a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, I continued to cast my vote for her throughout the election process, to the end. Obama was never fully on board for choice; and I was never fooled by his hypocrisy. It saddened me that others were so easily swayed. America lost its chance to have a great leader; and women will suffer the consequences."   
Pappas continued: "For example, this new burden will endanger women for whom pregnancy is extremely dangerous because of pre-existing medical conditions like breast cancer, diabetes, or AIDS. For such women, abortion coverage will be totally prohibited. How many more of these assaults can women take?"
Pappas concluded: "It is time for everyone who cares about women's health to stand up and be counted. NOW-NYS is asking you to take action today. Tell Obama he cannot allow this to happen. Women's  lives are worth more than this. This decision can only be seen as a trade for something else that  Obama wants. Those who supported Obama should be outraged by this recent move to restrict American women from getting the health care they need." 

Help us fight back!  We will not go back! Please donate to NOW-NYS to help us do the work that is needed to protect women's health care.  Without your financial help, we will never win this fight for equality!
Donate to NOW-New York State at
(NOW-NYS, Inc. takes no government money. We depend on our generous donors and members to provide us with the financial help that we need to do our work.)

What's next for pro-choice New York?


Month after month, year after year, you – our true allies and pro-choice champions – have worked to protect and advance women's reproductive rights in New York state. You've canvassed, phone banked, written letters of support, and visited your elected officials.
As states across the country turn back the clock on abortion rights, New York had a chance this year to take a bold stand for access to reproductive health care. Seventy-five percent of New Yorkers think it's time for the state Legislature to take that stand and pass a bill protecting a woman's right to choose. Yet the state Senate left Albany without even considering action on the Reproductive Health Act – for the third year in a row.
You deserve better. Women's health is not a trivial issue to be left on the table. It's clear that we do not have enough senators in Albany willing to stand up and lead on this critical issue. We need more champions for the women of New York.
Today we are proud to roll out our first round of endorsements in the 2010 election for the New York state Legislature. Below are the names of endorsed, 100 percent pro-choice candidates for the state Senate and state Assembly.
In light of the Senate's failure to make the Reproductive Health Act a priority this year, we have serious concerns about the current Senate leadership's commitment to reproductive health and rights. Therefore, we are not making endorsements of incumbent state Senate candidates at this time. We are kicking off our election season with endorsements of those candidates who have made a commitment to stand up for the women and families of this state and the values we hold dear.
In the coming months, we will be announcing additional endorsements of pro-choice candidates who will transform the state Senate into a chamber that pro-choice New Yorkers can be proud of. 
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your dedication and your willingness to go to the mat for the women and families of our state. We look forward to continuing this fight together.
The Team at NARAL Pro-Choice New York

2010 Election Endorsements
New York State Senate
Dist      Candidate
1          Regina Calcaterra
6          Dave Mejias
8          Carol Gordon
12        Michael Gianaris
32        Charlie Ramos
41        Didi Barrett
44        Susan Savage
50        Kathleen Joy
53        Pamela MacKesey
56        Robin Wilt

New York State Assembly
Dist      Candidate
2          Fred Thiele*
4          Steven Englebright*
5          Ginny Fields*
6          Philip Ramos*
11        Robert Sweeney*
13        Charles Lavine*
16        Michelle Schimel*
18        Earlene Hooper*
20        Harvey Weisenberg*
23        Audrey Pheffer*
24        David Weprin*
25        Rory Lancman*
28        Andrew Hevesi*
29        William Scarborough*
31        Michele Titus*
32        Vivian Cook*
33        Barbara Clark*
35        Jeffrion Aubry*
36        Aravella Simotas
37        Catherine Nolan*
39        Francisco Moya
41        Helene Weinstein*
42        Rhoda Jacobs*
44        James Brennan*
45        Steven Cymbrowitz*
46        Alec Brook-Krasny*
52        Joan Millman*
53        Vito Lopez*
54        Darryl Towns*
55        William Boyland, Jr.*
56        Annette Robinson*
58        N. Nick Perry*
60        Janele Hyer-Spencer*
61        Matthew Titone*
64        Sheldon Silver*
65        Micah Kellner*
66        Deborah Glick*
67        Linda Rosenthal*
69        Daniel O'Donnell*
70        Keith Wright*
71        Herman Farrell, Jr.*
73        Jonathan Bing*
74        Brian Kavanagh*
75        Richard Gottfried*
78        Jose Rivera*
80        Naomi Rivera*
81        Jeffrey Dinowitz*
82        Michael Benedetto*
83        Carl Heastie*
84        Carmen Arroyo*
87        Gary Pretlow*
88        Amy Paulin*
90        Sandra Galef*
91        George Latimer*
93        Mike Spano*
94        Kenneth Zebrowski*
95        Ellen Jaffee*
98        Aileen Gunther*
101      Kevin Cahill*
102      Joel Miller*
106      Ronald Canestrari*
118      Addie Russell*
120      William Magnarelli*
121      Albert Stirpe*
124      Will Barclay*
125      Barbara Lifton*
126      Donna Lupardo*
132      Joseph Morelle*
133      David Gantt*
135      David Koon*
141      Crystal Peoples*
144      Sam Hoyt*
150      William Parment*


Obama Administration Applies Stupak Amendment to High Risk Pools


The following post on RH Reality Check explains why the most recent anti-choice act to come out of the Obama administration is such a slap in the face for all of us who spent time and money fighting for reproductive rights in healthcare reform.  Co-chair Meghan and I were in DC on two separate occasions to lobby our legislators to exclude Stupak-like provisions in the healthcare reform.  Other taskforce members like Michelle, Stacy, Esty, Dan, and Sabrina organized in NY and DC toward the same goal.  It seems our efforts were fruitless since the President many of us worked hard to elect lied about being pro-choice and decided to throw women under the bus.

In Solidarity,
Jerin Alam
National NOW Political Action Committee
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force 
National Organization for Women (NOW)

Obama Administration Applies Stupak Amendment to High Risk Pools

ACTION ALERT: Tell the White House and HHS you don't accept their new abortion restrictions!


I agree with NARAL's outrage  that such a decision below would come from a pro-choice president that we helped elect.  I can't imagine Hilary Clinton making the same decision.  This is a series of bad decisions, on the hills of the one Pres Obama made codifying the Hyde Amendment into law.

In Solidarity,
Jerin Alam

National NOW Political Action Committee
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force 
National Organization for Women (NOW)

From Raising Women's Voices
Yesterday, the Obama administration shocked women's health organizations by announcing it had decided to sharply restrict abortion coverage in the new federally-subsidized "high-risk pool" insurance plans that will be offered to people with pre-existing conditions, such as breast cancer and diabetes. The coverage will only be allowed in cases of rape, incest or danger to the woman's life, according to a press statement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The administration's decision will mean thousands of women with serious medical conditions will lack coverage for abortions they may need because of risks to their health -- or the health of a developing fetus – from medical complications or treatments such as chemotherapy. These women will not even be permitted to use their own premium dollars to buy this coverage through the new federal and state high-risk pool plans.

Contact the White House and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius NOW to say this decision is unacceptable! Tell the administration that women with pre-existing medical conditions need abortion coverage!

To reach the White House:
Call: (202) 456-1111
Email: public@who.eop.gov

To reach the Department of Health and Human Services:
Call: (877) 696-6775
Email: http://www.hhs.gov/feedback.html

But don't the restrictions on use of federal dollars for abortion coverage apply here?  No. Even though federal dollars are being used to subsidize these new high-risk pool insurance plans, there is no requirement that abortion coverage be restricted. That is because the Hyde Amendment restrictions on use of Labor-HHS appropriations for abortion coverage do not apply to this new appropriation. Moreover, the Nelson amendment abortion restrictions that were included in the health reform law do not apply to the high-risk pool plan section of the law.

What this means is that the administration has voluntarily adopted these new abortion restrictions, going beyond what the health reform law required.

The White House has imposed what amounts to the egregious Stupak abortion ban on the high-risk pool insurance plans. Like the Stupak ban, the new administration decision will bar women with pre-existing conditions from using their own funds to buy abortion coverage through the high-risk pools.

Tell the White House we defeated Stupak in Congress and won't accept it from HHS! The abortion restrictions in the high-risk pools must be lifted!

To reach the White House:
Call: (202) 456-1111
Email: public@who.eop.gov

To reach the Department of Health and Human Services:
Call: (877) 696-6775
Email: http://www.hhs.gov/feedback.html


To our dismay, the Obama administration just announced it will exclude abortion coverage in the temporary health-insurance pools that will transition us into the new health-care system.
I am outraged that such a decision would come from a pro-choice president that we helped elect.

I have contacted the White House, but I need your voice, too. Tell President Obama that this new policy is unacceptable and ask him to change course immediately.

According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration is set to ban abortion services in a new, temporary program for individuals who fall into high-risk pools.1 This policy means that women who are part of these pools because they have significant health problems, such as diabetes or cancer, will not be able to access abortion care, even if their health is at further risk.
Believe it or not, the administration’s policy is similar to the ban proposed by anti-choice Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). That’s right. For about three years, a Stupak-style ban will now apply to women in these new high-risk insurance pools.

Abortion is the most common surgical procedure women receive. At a time when the country is on the cusp of implementing nationwide health-insurance coverage, it is unacceptable to treat abortion care differently in the new high-risk pools.
Please urge President Obama to remove the abortion-coverage ban immediately.

Unless President Obama steps in, women with pre-existing conditions or other high-risk medical needs like diabetes will lose out on coverage for abortion care.
Help us fight back. Tell President Obama that the abortion-coverage ban was not part of the agreement on health reform.

I’ll keep you posted as this story unfolds. We will keep the pressure on the White House until the administration changes course.
Nancy Keenan
Nancy Keenan
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

Action Alert: Many ways YOU can defend reproductive rights in North Carolina


NOW Action Alert
Activists defending our right to choose, all across the country.
Defend Reproductive Rights: Join women's rights supporters at the rally.
Militant anti-abortion rights group Operation Save America is planning to terrorize abortion care providers and harass the women they serve in Charlotte, N.C., from July 17-24. Please join Charlotte NOW, Feminist Majority Foundation and supporters of women's reproductive rights by taking action NOW.
Here's how you can help:
1. Demonstrate your support with NOW activists by participating in clinic defense outside the Family Reproductive Health Clinic in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, July 24, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Bring your NOW rounds with you!
2. Sign this petition denouncing terror campaigns against abortion care providers and harassment against the women they serve.
3. Volunteer to help turn out NOW members in N.C. by phonebanking in the NOW Action Center or from the comfort of your own home!
4. Tweet up! Whether or not you can make it to Charlotte, tweet your support for women's right to abortion by using the hashtag #savechoice.
5. Donate to NOW to help support our unyielding defense of women's rights.
Defend Abortion Rights with Charlotte NOW at the Family Reproductive Health Clinic on July 24
Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue), an anti-abortion rights group known for encouraging a climate of violence and terrorism against abortion care providers and patients, is planning a national event in Charlotte, July 17-24. We anticipate them staging a wide-scale demonstration outside the Family Reproductive Health Clinic on Saturday morning, July 24.
Sign up and join Charlotte NOW and other NOW members in Charlotte to defend the clinic on July 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. We are planning a peaceful demonstration in support of women's fundamental right to the full range of reproductive health services.
The Family Reproductive Clinic is located at 700 E Hebron St, Charlotte, N.C. 28273, off the W. Arrowood Road exit of I-77. A map is available here.
Nearby hotels include the Courtyard Marriott (located at 800 West Arrowood Rd, Charlotte, N.C. 28217; phone 1-704-527-5055) and Hyatt Place Charlotte/Arrowood (7900 Forest Point Boulevard, Charlotte, N.C. 28273; phone 1-704-522-8400), both also off the W. Arrowood exit of I-77.
If you have specific questions, please contact Charlotte NOW at cltnow@yahoo.com.
Sign the Petition Denouncing the Tactics of Operation Save America
Activists defending our right to choose, all across the country.
Sign the petition and help put a stop to anti-abortion rights terrorism.
Sign NOW's online petition denouncing anti-abortion rights terrorism and violence.
Groups like Operation Save America and Operation Rescue use intimidation tactics to scare away women from exercising their right to obtain abortion care and to drive out of business those clinics that provide the full range of reproductive health services. Anti-abortion rights zealots have turned to vandalism, arson, assault and murder to get their way. Send a message that these actions are an organized form of terrorism that must stop -- sign NOW's petition today, and encourage others to do the same!
Volunteer to Phone NOW Members
Volunteer with National NOW to call up NOW members in and around North Carolina to come rally with us on July 24. We must use all of our resources to push back against Operation Save America.
Fill out a volunteer interest form.
Keep the Conversation Going
Tweet in support of women's reproductive rights from July 17-24 using the hashtag #savechoice. Let us know how your efforts are going and keep engaged with other activists around the country before, during and after the counter-protest!
Donate to NOW
Donate to NOW so that we can continue to organize to protect and expand women's fundamental reproductive rights!

SUPPORT NOW: Donate to NOW | Join NOW

Religious Hospitals Probed for Denying Women Care


Womens eNews
Covering Women's Issues -
Changing Women's Lives

Friday, July 9, 2010
Religious Hospitals Probed for Denying Women Care
By Caroline Johnston Polisi
WeNews commentator
Friday, July 9, 2010
A legal commentator analyzes the possible reverberations of a Catholic nun being excommunicated for authorizing an abortion that saved the life of a young woman and the ACLU's decision to act against what they say is a violation of federal law.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Late last year, when a young mother of four came through the doors of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Sister Margaret Mary McBride made a difficult decision. The choice she made would turn out to be the definitive one of her career.
Because of it, she suffered a very public excommunication at the hands of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, was held up by the Roman Catholic Church as an example of a former "woman religious" turned apostate and resigned at the request of the bishop from her position as vice president of mission integration at the hospital.
While details of the case remain hidden by federal privacy laws, the maelstrom of media attention generated by the incident has provided some information concerning the events that took place.
The woman, age 27, was 11 weeks pregnant and suffered from a serious condition called pulmonary hypertension, which ultimately led to a diagnosis of right-sided heart failure and shock. In consultation with her family and a team of doctors, the ethics committee of the hospital--on which Sister McBride sat--voted to allow an emergency abortion in order to save the life of the woman.
In a statement released shortly after the incident became public, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix proclaimed it a "scandal that a Catholic hospital would perform such a reprehensible act" and insisted that a set of ethical and religious directives, to which St. Joseph's and countless other public Catholic hospitals adhere, prohibit direct abortions under any circumstances--even, apparently, if that means almost certain death for the mother and fetus.
Representatives at St. Joseph's Hospital responded with a statement of their own, firmly reiterating that the procedure was necessary to save the woman's life.

Attention Focused on Murky Questions

Much of the attention over the past few months has centered on murky questions of ethical and religious significance, with popular reactions ranging from outrage at the Catholic Church for its treatment of Sister McBride to a renunciation of the hospital for opposing church directives.
With attacks so virulent coming from both sides of the political spectrum, it's important to recognize the situation for what it is, and what it is not. It is not a platform to criticize members of the Catholic Church for their deeply held religious beliefs. They are entitled to them. Nor is it a time to delve into the complex moral and political arguments so often associated with the practice of elective abortions.
Rather, it is an opportunity to identify and rectify a troubling and dangerous violation of federal law potentially taking place in Catholic hospitals across the country.
Last week, members of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington legislative office did just that, along with the ACLU of Arizona and the New York-based ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. Together, the civil liberties organizations sent a letter addressed to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. In it, the organizations raise possible systematic violations by religiously-affiliated hospitals of the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).
EMTALA became law in 1986 and applies to hospitals that accept federal dollars for Medicare and Medicaid services, which, in practical terms, is almost every hospital in the United States.

Act Applies to All Patients

The law governs how and when a patient can be denied medical treatment or transferred to another hospital when she or he is in an unstable medical condition. While the act covers hospitals that receive funding for Medicare or Medicaid, the requirements apply to every patient the hospital treats, not just those using the programs.
"Religiously-affiliated hospitals--which are often the only hospital in a particular area-- are not exempt from providing critical care to patients who come through their doors," said Daniel Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, in a press statement issued last week.
The letter cites an American Journal of Public Health article that documents refusals by various Catholic hospitals to provide urgent medical reproductive care in miscarriage management cases. In each situation described, the letter asserts, the hospital in question placed a woman's life or health at risk in direct violation of federal law.
The ACLU's legal argument hinges on an interpretation of a section of federal law that requires hospitals to stabilize patients with an "emergency medical condition," defined as a situation in which the health of the patient is in serious jeopardy or the patient risks serious impairment to bodily functions or dysfunction of a bodily organ. There are unfortunately countless conditions in which termination of pregnancy will be necessary to stabilize a patient, they argue. They also allege violation of federal law in the various hospitals' failings to provide their pregnant patients with all available treatment options.
"The law rightly requires hospitals to provide life-saving medical care to their patients," said Vania Leveille, ACLU legislative counsel. "The government must ensure that the well-being of the patient does not take a back seat to religious beliefs."

Group Seeks Investigation

The civil liberties group seeks a comprehensive investigation as well as an explicit clarification of protocol in situations similar to the one that gave rise to Sister McBride's excommunication. They request an immediate in-person meeting with Marilyn Tavenner, an administrator and chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is responsible for the development and enforcement of EMTALA.
In taking a hard-line stance against the violations of the rights of women in religiously-affiliated hospitals, the ACLU provides a morally neutral framework to analyze the situation: hospitals that refuse to provide emergency medical reproductive health care jeopardize the health and lives of women in direct violation of federal law.
While Sister McBride's decision has no doubt caused her immense personal suffering, the uproar surrounding her excommunication has and will continue to resonate publically. It has shed light on a troubling problem that cannot be rectified without government intervention.
Many await the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' response and hope it strikes a proper legal balance between respect for individual religious liberty and patient safety.
Caroline Johnston Polisi is an attorney and freelance journalist in New York City who does volunteer legal work for the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. She wrote this article in her individual capacity.