Supreme Court changes fuel moves to protect abortion access

A vast swath of West Texas has been without an abortion clinic for more than six years. Planned Parenthood plans to change that with a health center it opened recently in Lubbock.

It’s a vivid example of how abortion-rights groups are striving to preserve nationwide access to the procedure even as a reconfigured Supreme Court — with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — may be open to new restrictions.

Planned Parenthood has made recent moves to serve more women in Missouri and Kentucky, and other groups are preparing to help women in other Republican-controlled states access abortion if bans are imposed.

“Abortion access in these states now faces its gravest ever threat,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president. She said the new health center in Lubbock “is an example of our commitment to our patients to meet them where they are.”

The clinic opened on Oct. 23 in a one-story building that had been a medical office and was renovated after Planned Parenthood purchased it. To avoid protests and boycotts that have beset some previous expansion efforts, Planned Parenthood kept details, including the clinic’s location, secret until the opening was announced.

Planned Parenthood says the health center will start providing abortions — via surgery and medication — sometime next year. Meanwhile, it is offering other services, including cancer screenings, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Planned Parenthood closed its previous clinic in Lubbock, a city of 255,000 people, in 2013 after the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning services and imposed tough restrictions on abortion clinics.

That law led to the closure of more than half the state’s 41 abortion clinics before the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in 2016. There were no clinics left providing abortion in a region of more than 1 million people stretching from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle south to Lubbock and the oil patch cities of Odessa and Midland.

Women in Lubbock faced a 310-mile (500-kilometer) drive to the nearest abortion clinic in Fort Worth.

Anti-abortion activists have been mobilizing to prevent the return of abortion services to Lubbock — and are not giving up even with the new clinic’s opening.

“Lubbock must not surrender to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a West Texas native who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and is now communications director for Texas Right to Life.

Her organization has backed a petition drive trying to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Abortion opponents hope that designation would lead to either enforcement efforts or lawsuits seeking to block abortion services.

Thus far, the City Council has declined to adopt the ordinance, but activists say they have enough signatures to place it on the ballot in a local referendum.

Texas is one of several red states where Planned Parenthood has sought to expand abortion access. Earlier this year, its health center in Louisville, Kentucky, began providing abortions after obtaining

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Barack Obama says Trump trying to dismantle ACA through Supreme Court

In his new memoir, Obama says his push for the Affordable Care Act was personal

President Obama wants Americans to understand the history of the Affordable Care Act. In a long-form piece for The New Yorker, Obama details the history of healthcare in the country, defines the purpose of the plan and the fight to get the bill signed into law.

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But Donald Trump has been vocal about his dislike for the government-based health care plan that provides health insurance for many Americans. He plans to create his own that will be “better” than Obama’s, per CNN. The issue is set to appear in front of the Supreme Court a week before Election Day.

Obama took to his Twitter on Monday with a message and a link to The New Yorker story for his 124 million followers.

“In the middle of a pandemic, this administration is trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court. Here’s how Joe and I fought to expand health care, protect millions of Americans with preexisting conditions, and actually get it done.”

Obama opens up the piece by detailing why a government based healthcare system was important to him. He says it was bigger than politics – it was personal.

“My interest in health care went beyond policy or politics; it was personal, just as it was for Teddy. Each time I met a parent struggling to come up with the money to get treatment for a sick child, I thought back to the night Michelle and I had to take three-month-old Sasha to the emergency room for what turned out to be viral meningitis. I remembered the terror and the helplessness we felt as the nurses whisked her away for a spinal tap, and the realization that we might never have caught the infection in time had the girls not had a regular pediatrician we felt comfortable calling in the middle of the night. Most of all, I thought about my mom, who had died in 1995, of uterine cancer.”

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett To Be Supreme Court Justice
While holding photographs of people who would be impacted by the elimination of the Affordable Health Care Act, Democratic Senators, from L-R, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speak to reporters at the end of the first day of the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)em

During the final presidential debate, Trump told the audience his healthcare bill will “always protect people with

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Upcoming Supreme Court Ruling Could Jeopardize Health Insurance for People with COVID

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and President Donald Trump’s controversial nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat—have ignited concerns over how a court with a six-to-three conservative majority might rule on an upcoming case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s confirmation this Thursday. On November 10 the court will hear Texas v. California. That case will decide whether to uphold a lower court’s ruling that the ACA’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance makes the entire act unconstitutional—or to declare that the mandate is “severable” from the rest of it. If the ACA as a whole is struck down, 20 million people in the U.S. would lose their insurance. Even if it is partially struck down, up to 129 million could lose protections for preexisting conditions—including the more than eight million who have had COVID-19. If she is confirmed before the case is heard, Barrett has given no assurances that she will vote to uphold the landmark health care law.

Many legal scholars say the case for nixing the entire ACA is very weak. But even if the court severs the mandate from most of the law—as Justice Brett Kavanaugh and others have hinted—and strikes down only parts of it, that decision could still do significant damage because the ACA is so intricately tied to the health care system, a number of experts say. Invalidating the law would “throw the nation into economic chaos, in addition to people not having health insurance,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a professional organization that promotes public health. “The unintended consequences of even a small tinkering of the ACA could have enormous implications.”

In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that the ACA’s individual mandate was constitutional because the penalty for not being insured could be considered a tax. But in 2017 Congress passed a tax bill that lowered the penalty to $0, beginning in January 2019. As a result, Texas and other states filed a civil suit claiming the mandate was unconstitutional in 2018. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and nonseverable, making the entire law unconstitutional—but he did not overturn it. The decision was appealed and eventually made it to the Supreme Court, which is now preparing to hear the case.

A range of different outcomes is possible, according to Katie Keith, a part-time research faculty member at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University and a principal at the consulting firm Keith Policy Solutions. First, the court will have to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the mandate. “If the answer is no, the case kind of goes away,” she says. Second, it must decide whether the mandate is constitutional or not. “Reasonable minds could disagree,” she says, but the case also goes away if the mandate is found to be constitutional.

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Affordable Care Act: Trump keeps chipping away at Obamacare with only weeks until the election — and a Supreme Court hearing

The administration this week approved Georgia’s waiver request to provide Medicaid coverage to certain low-income residents if they work or participate in other qualifying activities for at least 80 hours a month. It’s the latest state to receive permission to require work as a condition of coverage, though implementation elsewhere has been halted by federal courts or state officials.

Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it had completed its review of Georgia’s more controversial request to make fundamental changes to the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange. The agency, which opened the door for states to create alternatives to Obamacare in 2018, is still finalizing the terms for approval.

The Peach State, which has the nation’s third highest uninsured rate at 13.4%, is the first to seek this enhanced power to reshape its individual market.

Georgia and federal officials say that these efforts will make coverage more available and affordable to residents, but consumer advocates say they are the latest attempts to undercut the law.

“It’s a road map of what they would allow were the ACA to be struck down and were they to win election again,” said Judy Solomon, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

These moves come as health care takes center stage in the 2020 presidential campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has hammered Trump for trying to take down the landmark health reform law and its protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Trump has repeatedly said he has a replacement plan that would continue those safeguards but has yet to produce one.
Also, Trump’s Justice Department is backing a coalition of Republican-led attorneys general, who argue that Obamacare’s individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional after Congress reduced the penalty for not having insurance to zero as part of the 2017 tax cut law. As a result, the entire health reform law must fall, they argue. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on November 10.
The administration has pursued multiple avenues to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its first term. After efforts to repeal the law in Congress failed in 2017, officials started undermining it from within, including shortening the annual enrollment period to obtain coverage on the exchanges and slashing the budget for outreach and assistance. It also broadened the availability of alternative plans, primarily short-term health insurance policies that typically have lower premiums but are allowed to base coverage and premiums on people’s medical histories.
Also, officials took the unprecedented step in 2018 of allowing states to institute work requirements in Medicaid, a longtime Republican goal. However, the effort has been set aside by federal courts in four states, prompting the six others that had received approval (prior to Georgia) to stop implementation. Another eight states are awaiting permission from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

What Georgia wants to do

Georgia is not looking to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The waiver only applies to those earning up to

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