KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Contraception, Abortion Issues Crop Up In State Legislatures, Political Races

The debate over the birth control mandate is seeping into West Virginia's governor race as reproductive-rights supporters assess their place amid losses in state legislatures.

National Journal: Abortion-Rights Supporters, Losing In State Legislatures, Retaliate With Jokes
A bill giving sperm special status and another requiring men to undergo invasive exams before they can get Viagra are among some of the tongue-in-cheek pushback measures being offered up this year by legislators backing abortion rights. The liberal blog Think Progress published a list of such measures on Tuesday. They include laws that would protect the rights of sperm and laws that would require onerous medical tests before men could seek prescriptions for drugs to treat erectile dysfunction (Sanger-Katz, 3/7).

Politico: Contraception Debate Seeps Into Gov Races
Fallout from the Obama administration's contraception rule is now seeping into governors' races. And it's immediately evident which candidates see the issue as a winner. In West Virginia, Republican candidate Bill Maloney is calling on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to join a multi-state lawsuit charging the federal regulation violates the First Amendment. "Earl Ray Tomblin should end his silence and immediately join the seven other states that have sued the Obama administration’s ruling that violates religious freedom," said Maloney in a statement (Catanese, 3/7).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: Women In Texas Losing Options For Health Care In Abortion Fight
The cuts, which left many low-income women with inconvenient or costly options, grew out of the effort to eliminate state support for Planned Parenthood. Although the cuts also forced clinics that were not affiliated with the agency to close -- and none of them, even the ones run by Planned Parenthood, performed abortions -- supporters of the cutbacks said they were motivated by the fight against abortion (Belluck and Ramshaw, 3/7).

And lawmakers in New Hampshire and Georgia pass legislation that exempts religious institutions from having to provide contraception coverage in their health plans --

Reuters: New Hampshire House Passes Birth Control Exemption
New Hampshire's Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to exempt religious institutions from having to include contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans. The move was the latest in a national effort by Republicans opposed to provisions of President Obama's 2010 national health care reform law that would require all insurance plans -- even those sponsored by religious institutions -- to provide coverage for birth control pills and other contraception for women (McClure, 3/8). 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Conservative Social Issues Rule Crossover Day
With Georgia state lawmakers in an election year, the Republican-controlled Gold Dome struck a familiar chord Wednesday by demanding more personal responsibility from the state's neediest residents. … New restrictions on protests and picketing that drew the ire of community leaders and workers' groups also passed the Senate, as did a bill exempting some employers from providing contraception coverage in their health plans. … Most of the passionate debate was reserved for bills that would ban state employee health insurance plans from offering coverage for abortion services, SB 438, and SB 460, which would allow Georgia to exempt religiously affiliated businesses from having to provide birth control coverage.  The Senate passed the abortion bill (Torres and Quinn, 3/8).

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