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Last night’s debate between Sen. Kay Hagan and former state speaker Thom Tillis included plenty of bantering about who cares more about women’s health issues — most of which concerned access to contraception after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

Sen. Hagan called the decision as she saw it — a blatant effort to restrict access to contraception, while Tillis defended the rights of small businesses with a professed religious affiliation and announced a new-found affection for the expansion of contraception by a variety of means — making birth control pills available over-the-counter as opposed to through a prescription, for example.

Of course, contraception is only one piece of the women’s health pie, and a decision out of Texas late last week reminds us that the fight over restrictive state abortion laws continues to percolate in the federal courts.

In that decision, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel — a George W. Bush appointee — ruled that the state’s requirement that abortion facilities be outfitted as ambulatory surgical centers unduly burdened women without any countervailing legitimate state interest.

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McCrory budgetIn case you missed it over the weekend, Gov. Pat McCrory told an interviewer that he plans to sign the coal ash clean-up bill even though he believes that part of it is unconstitutional. This is from a story on WRAL.com:

McCrory said the bill’s creation of an independent coal ash oversight commission, appointed by House and Senate leaders and the governor, blurs the separation of powers of different branches of the government – just one example, he added, among several such proposals lawmakers advanced this year.

“I’m going to have to fight them from a constitutional standpoint, including even the coal ash commission,” he told Campbell. “I think this concept of creating commissions that are appointed by the legislature – or a majority by the legislature – is unconstitutional, regardless of the subject. Because that means the legislature is doing the operations of state government, which is not their responsibility. I think there’s a constitutional issue there.

How such a position squares with the Governor’s sworn duty to support the Constitution is hard to figure. Of course, when you’re listening to the rather unique policy observations of North Carolina’s current chief executive, you always have to take things with a grain of salt. In the same interview, the Guv expressed his approval for the General Assembly’s rejection of another bill during the waning hours of session last week because it contained multiple, unrelated topics. Again, this is from the WRAL story:

“There were parts of the bill that had no relevance to the other part of the bill, and that’s not the way you should do legislation,” he said.

Uh, Governor, we hate to tell you this, but you’ve already signed dozens of bill that do exactly the same thing — most notably, the infamous SB 353 from just last year. You remember that one. It dealt with those two closely-related topics: abortion clinic regulations and motorcycle safety.
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From the good people at NARAL-Pro Choice NC:

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina member activists will deliver broken cookies to the Governor’s Mansion this morning at 11:00 am to mark the one-year anniversary of Governor McCrory’s broken promise not to support restrictions on access to abortion care. Last July, Governor McCrory signed into law Senate Bill 353, a series of restrictions on reproductive health care. The next day, the governor delivered cookies to NARAL Pro-Choice NC and other reproductive rights advocates protesting his broken promise outside the Governor’s Mansion.

Governor McCrory’s signing of Senate Bill 353 (also known as the “Motorcycle Abortion” bill) came less than one year after promising North Carolina voters in a televised debate that he would not sign any restrictions on abortion access if voters elected him governor.

“Governor McCrory broke his promise to North Carolina voters when he signed Senate Bill 353 into law last year, and today we are delivering broken cookies to remind him of his broken promise,” said NARAL Pro-Choice NC executive director Suzanne Buckley. “With the stroke of a pen, Governor McCrory banned insurance companies from offering for abortion care coverage through the exchanges and stripped away comprehensive reproductive health care coverage from over 367,000 city and county employees.This law is filled with restrictions on access abortion care that McCrory promised he wouldn’t sign,” she said.

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Hobby Lobby1. The unconstitutional application of religious liberty: The original purpose of religious liberty is defined as the separation of church and state, ensuring the protection of both through mutual autonomy. Health care coverage is an entity of the state. By permitting Hobby Lobby the refusal to cover certain forms of birth control on religious grounds in its female employees’ health care plans, the Supreme Court is essentially giving the same blessing of religious liberty to a corporate entity that the law permits for private faith. Based on such reasoning, a company run by Jehovah’s Witnesses could write blood transfusions out of their health care plans and companies run by fundamentalist Christians could write vaccines out of theirs.

2. Blatant hypocrisy: Hobby Lobby’s excuse to refuse coverage for certain forms of women’s birth control was framed as religious opposition to what they falsely named “abortion”–specific contraceptives and devices that prevent a zygote from being implanted in the uterine wall. However, as noted by Mother Jones in a recent investigation, Hobby Lobby has financial ties not only to the manufacturing of said forms of birth control but even to drugs used for inducing abortions. Hobby Lobby has stock holdings in companies that manufacture these products. This is blatant hypocrisy and reveals that the true motive wasn’t religious conviction at all but corporate greed.

3. It’s counterproductive: As noted by pro-life progressive and faith activist Brian McLaren in a recent article, the Hobby Lobby decision–while being hailed as a victory against abortion by many in conservative Christian faith communities–is actually counterproductive to such a cause in that it does nothing to reduce or prevent real abortions. In fact, by making it more financially difficult for female employees to acquire birth control that, scientifically, does not constitute abortion, Hobby Lobby is eliminating assistance that would actually reduce abortions. Hence, the decision is not in any way a victory against abortion. To the contrary, it deceives Hobby Lobby’s religious supporters into making abortion a more viable option through the withdrawal of financial support for significant forms of birth control such as emergency contraception.

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Femcare clinic

(Photo by Jon Elliston, Carolina Public Press)

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out this excellent new story by Carolina Public Press reporter Jon Elliston: “Documents disclose political, PR pressures surrounding Asheville abortion clinic’s suspension.” Elliston, who combed through reams of McCrory administration documents and emails obtained through public records requests, paints a rather dark and fascinating picture of what went on behind the scenes last year as lawmakers passed new abortion clinic restrictions and communicated with HHS officials about past and prospective clinic inspections.

This is from the story:

“While the documents stop short of pinpointing who or what prompted the mid-July inspection of the Asheville-based clinic — Femcare’s first comprehensive review in almost seven years — they do show: Read More