Monday Motivation

Remember me? Yep, still a troll!

Welcome to the Monday Motivation — a weekly reminder of what the pro-choice movement is up against.

Here’s what opponents of reproductive freedom had to say about our movement and our rights over the past week.

US News and World Report reports that Rand Paul, the so-called libertarian who loves big government when it meddles in women’s health care choices, announced his intention this week to double down on his anti-choice positions, insisting that embryos have, from the instant of conception, “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution.” Paul has been a big supporter of personhood laws, which declare fertilized eggs to be full human beings with all the rights guaranteed to grown adults, including pregnant women.

Karl Rove, a first-wave right-wing troll before there was an Internet on which trolls existed, blatantly misrepresented the language in proposed immigration legislation barring migrant women from obtaining abortion services provided by private donors. Rove portrayed the legislation, which Republicans in Congress are using to hold the appointment of Loretta Lynch as attorney general hostage, as a mere extension of the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from being spent on abortion care.

However, Media Matters notes that the legislation would go much further than Hyde, “subjecting private money in the new fund created for trafficking victims to federal restrictions.” That’s a massive expansion of abortion restrictions that Rove and his anti-choice allies in Congress are trying to slip past the public.

The National Review manages to drop the word “dismemberment” nearly  a dozen times in a brief piece allegedly dismantling Dahlia Lithwick’s smart legal analysis, at Slate, explaining why bans on the safest and most common type of late-term abortions are harmful to women and legally meaningless.

Interestingly, the supposed intellectual powerhouse publication uses circular reasoning to explain why Lithwick is wrong to say that the term “dismemberment abortion” is legally meaningless: Look, they say! We found a legal definition! Right here in … the Kansas bill defining and then banning “dismemberment abortion.” Logic: Not the best friend of abortion opponents.

If you just can’t get enough of right-wing extremists forgetting that words have meaning, check out coverage of the Kansas ban at World News Daily (which claims “600 lives will be saved” each year by forcing women to go through with dangerous pregnancies or riskier abortions), Breitbart (which describes the second-trimester procedure as “literally ripping a baby apart, limb by limb, body part by body part”), and UExpress, which likens second-trimester abortions to “the brutal torture of ISIS.”

That’s it for this week’s Monday Motivation. Tune in next week for more hostile politicians, shocking anti-choice allegations, and all the extremist talking points that are fit to DoNotLink!

Birth Control Access, Commentary

“Hardly an Excuse.”


That’s what the Seattle Times had to say about the insurance industry’s response to a report released last week by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates (NoHLA), which found that all eight of the insurance companies providing health care under the Affordable Care Act in Washington provided misleading or false information about benefits to women seeking birth control.  Under the federal Affordable Care Act, insurers must provide all forms of prescribed birth control to women at no cost.

The Times interviewed Premera, one of the eight insurers contacted by our “secret shoppers,” and were told that the insurance company never actually denied women birth control, they merely told women that their birth control wasn’t covered.

The Times editorial continues:

The Seattle Times reported Friday that Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler met in March with insurance companies to review the survey’s findings. In that same news story, a Premera Blue Cross representative noted the survey was based on call inquiries, not the final benefits the callers received. Hardly an excuse.

Callers who are given wrong information about coverage might make an economic decision that is not in their best interest.

The carriers agreed to revamp their customer-service training and will meet with Kreidler again in October. Six months? That’s too long to wait on an issue as sensitive as birth control. Any barriers to access — including cost and bad information — can lead to inconsistent use and unintended pregnancies.

We expect consumers to take responsibility for their own health decisions. They deserve to get correct information from the start.

The full report is available here.

If your insurance company has told you they don’t cover your form of birth control at no cost to you, contact  NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and tell us your story.

Friday Femorandum

Friday Fem: “Toxic” Language, Perfect Storms, and a Few Voices of Reason

Welcome to the latest issue of the Friday Femorandum, our weekly roundup of reproductive rights news.
Here’s what’s happening in the world of reproductive rights, women’s health, and politics this week.

A bill that would have required insurance companies to provide all reproductive health care to women at a reasonable price failed this week in liberal Oregon, of all places–because of Democrats, not Republicans. Bill supporters turned knock-kneed at language in the bill including abortion in the description of reproductive care alongside pregnancy, pre-partum care, and birth control, arguing that the word “abortion” was too “toxic.”RH Reality Check and Mother Jones have the whole sordid story.

ryan gosling animated GIF Speaking of (actually) noxious language, opponents of the safest form of second-trimester abortion, known as D&E for dilation and extraction, have successfully translated their campaign to relabel the procedure as “dismemberment” into new laws in Kansas and Oklahoma that are, according to Slate, “radically different from previous laws as well as a variation on a pernicious old theme.”

“[T]he whole point of the ‘dismemberment abortion’ ban is to ape the strategies of the partial-birth abortion campaign, including provocative language and images, graphic descriptions of medical procedures in deliberately nonmedical terms, and an effort to launch a national shock campaign,” Slate’s legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick writes.

ABC News has more on the Oklahoma ban.

Meanwhile, at Think Progress, Tara Culp-Pressler reports that a “perfect storm” of anti-abortion sentiment combined with horror at the murder of a pregnant woman may be forming in Colorado, where state legislators are nudging ever-closer to a “personhood” law designating an embryo or a fetus as a human being with all the human rights of a pregnant perso.n

huh animated GIF

Alabama, Texas, and Nevada all came through this week with their own awful abortion news.

In Alabama, according to RH Reality Check, legislators are considering a ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or at about six weeks’ gestation. In Texas, lawmakers are mulling a complete ban on abortion coverage in plans offered under the Affordable Care Act, the Texas Observer reports. And in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports, proponents of a parental-notification bill are comparing parental notification for abortion to the parental permission required when teens miss school, get a tattoo, or have their ears pierced.

In happier legislative news, a state bill in California, backed by NARAL Pro-Choice California, could prohibit so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” from disseminating false information about pregnancy and abortion, including lies about abortion’s physical and mental consequences and inaccurate claims about how “far along” in their pregnancies women are. The San Francisco Appeal reports.

Finally, in case you missed it, here’s NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s blog roundup of coverage of the birth control access report we released jointly this week with Northwest Health Law Advocates, which shows that insurance companies routinely mislead women about their contraception coverage. unbreakable kimmy schmidt animated GIF Subscribe to the Friday Femorandum to get weekly email updates here!

Have a wonderful weekend.

Birth Control Access, Choice News

What the Press Has to Say about Our Birth Control Report

Members of the media, here in Seattle and across Washington state, have picked up on our survey of insurance companies providing insurance under the state health exchange, which found that insurers’ customer service representatives provided false, misleading, and contradictory information about  what forms of birthseatimes frontpage control they covered. (The correct answer: Every FDA-approved method, including NuvaRing, IUDs, and emergency contraception). Consistently, callers were told that insurance companies did not provide a particular method, required women to pay a copay or coinsurance to get the method prescribed by their doctor, or did not know what benefits they provided and were, in some cases, unwilling to find out.

Here’s what the press has to say about the report, published jointly by Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington .

The Seattle Times: “We were surprised. Some of it was fairly shocking,” said Janet Varon, executive director of Northwest Health Law Advocates, or NoHLA, which conducted the survey in conjunction with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.

PubliCola :  “The study’s findings run in direct conflict with not only the ACA mandate, but also with the eight companies’ official filings with the State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, all of which say they cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods to customers free of charge.”

The PI.com: “[Insurance Commissioner Mike] Kreidler said he was ‘surprised’ and ‘very disappointed’ at results of a ‘secret shopper survey’ conducted last year, in which women working with Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington made calls to insurers.

“’This information needs to be communicated when a woman makes a phone call, and it wasn’t,’ Kreidler said.”

The Associated Press: “A 2014 phone survey conducted by pro-abortion rights groups of the eight health insurers selling plans inside Washington state’s exchange — Wahealthplanfinder — found that women seeking information about contraceptive coverage were routinely given false or inaccurate information.”

KPLU  (in Seattle): “In some cases, specific types of birth control were listed as being covered on a company’s website, but were not mentioned to the caller shopping for insurance who asked specifically about birth control. In other cases callers were told they had to pay a $50 co-pays and prescriptions costs when none were needed.”

The (Vancouver) Columbian: “A secret shopper survey conducted last year revealed health insurers in Washington systematically gave women false or inaccurate information about contraceptive coverage.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Executive Director Rachel Berkson said, “We were disappointed to find out that insurance company representatives were providing inaccurate information to their customers, but encouraged by the insurance commissioner’s work to bring insurers in line with the Affordable Care Act. We will remain vigilant and monitor insurance companies to make sure they provide all methods of birth control at no cost to women, as required by the ACA.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington plans to continue to monitor insurance companies’ progress toward meeting the goals laid out in the federal Affordable Care Act and report back on how the companies are doing after we sit down again with the Insurance Commissioner, NoHLA, and representatives of the eight companies in October.



Birth Control Access

New Report Finds Insurers Mislead Women About Birth-Control Coverage


At the request of Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, eight insurance companies in Washington have agreed to revamp the information they provide to consumers about contraception benefits after a survey revealed alarming discrepancies.

A 2014 phone survey conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates of the eight health insurers selling plans inside Washington state’s exchange, Wahealthplanfinder, uncovered that women seeking information about contraceptive coverage were systematically given false or inaccurate information about their benefits.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers must cover all federally approved methods of contraception with no copays or co-insurance.

The “secret shopper” survey took place from July – November 2014. Volunteers from NARAL and NoHLA called each of the eight health insurers and asked about contraceptive benefits, including:

  • Which contraceptive methods they covered;
  • If there was cost-sharing and if so, how much it was; and
  • If the plans included restrictions on the use of certain contraceptive methods.

The insurers questioned include:

  • Bridgespan
  • Community Health Plan of Washington
  • Coordinated Care Corporation
  • Group Health Cooperative
  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest
  • LifeWise Health Plan of Washington
  • Molina Healthcare of Washington, Inc.
  • Premera Blue Cross

Answers to these questions varied across the eight insurers and in some cases, among representatives of the same company.  Sales and customer-service representatives routinely told callers that select methods of contraceptives had copays or co-insurance while other methods did not. Many struggled to answer or could not answer specific questions about contraceptive benefits and resisted checking for coverage of certain methods or brands when asked.

“Our study indicates there is work to be done to ensure that the women of Washington reap the full benefit of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement,” said Janet Varon, executive director of NoHLA.

We were disappointed to find out that insurance company representatives were providing inaccurate information to their customers, but encouraged by the insurance commissioner’s work to bring insurers in line with the Affordable Care Act,” NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Executive Director Rachel Berkson said. “We will remain vigilant and monitor insurance companies to make sure they provide all methods of birth control at no cost to women, as required by the ACA.”

NoHLA and NARAL brought their results to Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. He convened a meeting of the advocates and insurers on March 18, 2015 to discuss a comprehensive strategy for addressing and correcting the findings.

“I was deeply concerned by the results of this survey and am grateful that NoHLA and NARAL brought it to my attention,” said Kreidler. “Women have the right to contraceptive coverage and I expect their health insurers to provide them with accurate information.”

During the March 18 meeting, the insurers were presented with the report’s findings and asked to create written action plans to address four key areas:

  • Improve education and training for customer service and sales representatives.
  • Create clearer consumer materials for contraceptive benefits.
  • Ensure that forms and formularies accurately describe any additional steps women would have to take to access certain benefits.
  • Complete a self-assessment look-back, including an audit of calls and claims review in six and 12 months.

“I believe the insurers were as startled at the findings as we were,” said Kreidler. “They were very forthcoming and are committed to improving their customer service on these issues.”

Kreidler has set a date in October for the advocates and insurers to meet again and discuss their progress.

“We are pleased that Commissioner Kreidler is acting on the concerns raised in our report and standing up for consumers,” added Varon. “He summoned the insurers to the table and pressed them for answers and we’re encouraged by their responses.”

“We will be following up with the health insurers but we want to hear today from anyone who believes they’re not getting the coverage they deserve,” said Kreidler. “Don’t hesitate. File a complaint with my office or call us at 1-800-562-6900.”