MADISON – Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health (WAWH) Executive Director, Sara Finger, released the following statement on February 7, 2019:
“Recently, and especially in the past 48 hours, we have witnessed a malicious disinformation campaign, advanced by anti-abortion activists who seek to make abortion illegal and stigmatize women and doctors. President Trump parroted blatant falsities about abortion care during his State of the Union address, using inflammatory language to score needed political points. Yesterday we saw Rep. Robin Vos and Assembly Republicans follow suit by staging a press conference in Madison to make their own inflammatory claims that are flat out false and offensive to women who face pregnancy complications. It’s important to remember that the people spreading this misinformation have one motive in mind -- to ban safe, legal abortion in this country.”
“While I don’t appreciate the artifice that was behind yesterday’s media stunt, I welcome this opportunity to talk reproductive rights and abortion laws in Wisconsin. Here in Wisconsin we have an archaic 1849 law on the books that criminalizes abortions. The U.S. Supreme Court is now controlled by an anti-abortion majority following the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh and the future of Roe v. Wade is uncertain. If Roe is overturned, then our 1800’s law kicks in, abortion becomes illegal in Wisconsin and doctors in Wisconsin could face jail time.”
“The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health strongly supports a woman’s right to make her own health decisions. We will continue to work to ensure all women have access to healthcare and access to medically accurate information. We all deserve the rights, freedoms, and opportunities to control our lives at the most basic level: our bodies, our families, and our futures--and that requires the right and ability to have an abortion. It is disrespectful and dangerous that a body of mainly white male legislators without healthcare backgrounds believes they are entitled to dictate a woman’s personal healthcare decisions to score political points. Anti-abortion zealots will do anything to push their agenda to ban safe, legal abortion in this country — including making things up and making outlandish accusations that are not based in fact or medical science. These claims are horrifying and offensive.”
Nonpartisan Report on Opioid Prevention & Treatment Includes Important Policy Recommendations for Pregnant Women
Last summer, the Pew Charitable Trust released a comprehensive report that analyzed Wisconsin’s existing substance use disorder (SUD) treatment systems and public policy landscape. The report includes 25 policy recommendations, several of which pertain to providing SUD treatment to pregnant and postpartum women.
Most importantly, the report acknowledges the barriers to pregnant women seeking treatment in Wisconsin that are posed by Wisconsin’s Act 292, which was passed into law in over 20 years ago and is commonly referred to as the “Cocaine Mom” law. This law gives the state almost unprecedented power over pregnant women who use or have admitted to past use of any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance. There is widespread agreement among medical professionals and advocates that the law deprives pregnant women of basic rights and ultimately undermines maternal, fetal, and child health.
Before getting into the specifics of the Pew report, some details about the specific provisions of Act are needed to provide context for why the law serves as a barrier to pregnant women accessing the medical care they need. An excerpt from and article written by WAWH Executive Director, Sara Finger, outlines the most relevant provision:
Under this law, pregnant women who are thought to use alcohol or drugs may be subjected to forced treatment without any proof that it is safe or even helpful for the pregnant woman or her future child. It gets worse. If the woman refuses the forced treatment, a court can then hold her in contempt and incarcerate her in a county jail, where she is likely to be denied access to pretty much everything recommended for pregnant women including healthy foods, and access to prenatal and other health care. The state can also begin proceedings to terminate her parental rights before she even gives birth. And while the state appoints a lawyer to represent fetuses at all stages of such proceedings, the woman has no right to counsel at important preliminary hearings where her rights are at stake.
In 2017, a federal district court initially struck down Act 292 on constitutional grounds, but the case was eventually dismissed by a federal appellate court because the plaintiff eventually left the state.
While the Pew report does not explicitly call for the full repeal of Act 292, it does state that clinicians and patients “report that this policy serves as a barrier to SUD treatment for pregnant women by potentially discouraging individuals from seeking SUD treatment for fear of repercussions” and that “[t]his barrier potentially puts pregnant women and their child at greater risk of harm than they would be if this policy did not exist.”
Pew does generally suggest that the Legislature make changes to state law to make it easier for pregnant women to “seek and receive evidence-based treatment,” which can certainly be interpreted to mean making changes to Act 292. The report says that state agencies work to address misunderstandings about Act 292 among clinicians, social service agencies, and law enforcement. Finally, Pew recommends that the Department of Health Services issue guidelines for health care providers that receive any type of public funding to align with best practices regarding the education, screening, and treatment of childbearing age women regarding SUD’s.
In addition to recommendations regarding prevention and treatment for pregnant women, the report suggests several policy changes to improve SUD care for postpartum women, including:
If you’re interested in learning more about the background of Pew’s Substance Use Disorder Treatment Policy Recommendations for the State of Wisconsin, you can view the full report here.
Prior to the passage of the ACA, insurance companies were allowed to discriminate against women due to our unique health needs. Insurers could deny coverage to women if they had been pregnant, had fought and survived cancer, or even if they had suffered domestic violence. In many cases, health plans didn’t even cover maternity care.
If the ACA is overturned, then women could be denied coverage based on their medical history, their age, and their occupation, among other factors. As a result, women could be charged more, or priced out of the insurance market altogether. Insurance companies could also try to reinstate gender rating, a common pre-ACA practice in which insurance companies charged women higher premiums than they did men, even though other parts of the ACA protect women from discrimination in the health care system.
The gravity of what the loss of coverage for women and girls would look like, should ACA be repealed, makes it paramount that we speak out against our state legislature supporting anything that could lead to reduced coverage. That's why this week, we weighed in on a GOP authored bill - Assembly Bill 1 - that claims to addresses coverage of preexisting medical conditions in our state.
It's important to note that under the direction of former Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin joined this multi-state lawsuit to overturn the ACA. In December, a Texas District Court judge held that the ACA is unconstitutional in Texas v. Azar. As this case makes its way through the appeals process, the ACA remains the law of the land.
Despite Wisconsin’s voters speaking out loud and clear in November by electing state-wide officials who campaigned on a promise to withdraw Wisconsin from the ACA lawsuit, the Republican-led Legislature rejected the outcome of the November elections and voted to force the state to remain as plaintiffs in Texas v. Azar, threatening coverage for many Wisconsinites.
And with recent actions and actions taken over the past eight years to sabotage the ACA while the GOP has held a super majority in our state, now the Republican controlled legislature is attempting to show interest in protecting coverage for Wisconsinites.
Unfortunately, their proposal, AB1, does not guarantee insurance for people with preexisting conditions in the same capacity as the ACA, nor does it address other very important issues of coverage -- including essential health benefit mandates such as maternal care. AB 1 does not address lifetime coverage limits, preventative care, consumer protections, or bar discrimination based on gender. During the Assembly Committee on Health’s January 15, 2019 hearing, the bill authors testimony made it clear that they were not interested in expanding the scope of AB1 to include expanded coverage. Without the broader protections and subsidies of the ACA, AB1 does not protect enough people—and could actually lead to harmful unintended consequences, including higher costs.
Northern District of Texas Judge Reed O'Connor's December ruling didn't just put protections for preexisting conditions at risk, it attempts to throw out the entire law, including the subsidies that help Wisconsinites afford coverage. AB1 would not close the gap in coverage that will open up should ACA be repealed through the courts.
Our state legislative leaders are in a unique position to work to ensure that Wisconsinites continue to be covered and protected in an affordable and comprehensive manner. Rather than enact this inferior talking-point bill, the Assembly should instead focus on withdrawing Wisconsin from the lawsuit and join the numerous attorney generals seeking to uphold the ACA's framework. Such action would allow the Assembly to proudly take ownership for protecting coverage for Wisconsinites and would have the full support of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health. AB1 is no substitute for the ACA.
Make 2019 the year you take charge of your health! Here are 5 Steps to get started:
Download and share our flier:
Trump-Pence Administration Issues Proposed Rule Designed to Eliminate Insurance Coverage of Abortion in the ACA Marketplaces
From the National Women's Law Center
All health insurance plans should cover all basic health services for women, including birth control, abortion, pre-natal care, childbirth and post-partum care. Yet, merely a day after voters made clear that health care is a top priority, the Department of Health and Human Services released a Proposed Rule designed to take abortion coverage away from individuals who get their insurance through the ACA marketplace.
The Proposed Rule is designed to eliminate coverage of abortion altogether.
The Trump-Pence Administration’s Proposed Rule is targeting states where abortion coverage is available in the marketplaces.
The Proposed Rule would endanger women’s health, economic security, and future wellbeing.
As we start 2019, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains the law! Recently, the federal judge in Texas who ruled last month that the law should be struck down declared that the ACA will remain in effect as his decision is appealed to higher courts by 17 state Attorneys General. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor stayed the effect of his own ruling, writing that otherwise, "many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal.
That means millions of women, LGBTQ people and families are starting 2019 with health insurance they purchased through healthcare.gov and state-based marketplaces during the 2018 ACA open enrollment period. If you’re one of them, here are six insider tips from the pros at Raising Women’s Voices on how to get your money’s worth from your insurance.
1. Breathe a sigh of relief! You have quality insurance that complies with the ACA’s high standards. That means you’re covered for pre-existing conditions, hospitalizations, maternity care, prescription drugs and all the basics you’d expect a health plan to cover!
4. Find doctors you trust. The key to getting the most value out of your health plan is finding doctors and other health care providers you trust who take your insurance. A good way to start is by calling your health plan for help. Tell the representative what is important to you in a doctor, such as office location, languages spoken, gender, hospital affiliation or office hours. If you are looking for an LGBTQ-friendly doctor, try searching the glma directory. You can also ask friends, family or colleagues for recommendations. If you try a new doctor and you do not like him or her, you do not have to go back. You are entitled to try someone different next time.
Need more help getting started with your new health insurance? Raising Women’s Voices has created a website where you can learn much more. It’s called My Health, My Voice. There you can learn five important steps to getting started using your health plan, and understand the four types of costs you may pay to use your coverage (your monthly premium, co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance.) You can also download free copies of our publications: A Woman’s Step-by-Step Guide to Using Health Insurance and My Personal Health Journal.
December 10, 2018
The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health (WAWH) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’) Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds proposed rule. WAWH is a state-based organization that advocates for public policies to promote the health, economic security, and safety of Wisconsin women and girls.
We strongly oppose the proposed rule because it would erect insurmountable barriers to the ability of immigrants and citizens to access and use Medicaid and other public benefit programs for which they are lawfully eligible. The proposed rule would drastically change the definition of what it means to be a “public charge” by considering immigrants’ use of public benefits beyond those used for subsistence. It would improperly penalize immigrants who use public benefits to augment their standard of living and ultimately achieve self-sufficiency. The proposed rule would also create a widespread chilling effect whereby both immigrants and citizens, especially women and citizen children, disenroll from or forego enrollment in public benefits. The resulting effects would needlessly harm individuals’ and families’ health and well-being, the greater public health, the U.S.
economy, and the public budget.
Further, the proposed rule would undo decades of policy work that improved benefits administration and eligibility processes for such programs. Streamlined enrollment and access to public benefits such as Medicaid have had a positive impact on public health. In particular, Medicaid and health related public benefits programs improve both individual quality of life and population health of the U.S. No person should have to question whether accessing the health care they need will adversely impact their immigration status or ability to remain in the U.S.
Given the proposed rule’s significant detrimental effects, its contravention of established law and practice, and its lack of supporting evidence, DHS should immediately withdraw its proposed rule.
View our full comments here:
Wisconsin Republicans Rush Through Bills to Undermine Incoming Administration and Efforts to Improve Health Care Access
The contents of the bills were so extensive and the passage happened so quickly that we still don't have a full analysis of the consequences of the legislation. But we do know that these bills will have significant ramifications for many policies that are important to women’s health. For example the bills as passed will significantly limit the extent to which Governor-Elect Evers will have discretion over Wisconsin’s Medicaid program and prevents Attorney General-Elect Kaul from withdrawing Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit that is trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This damaging and unprecedented move by the GOP will prevent state agencies from taking action to effectively implement and meet the full promise of the ACA in Wisconsin.
In total, three separate pieces of legislation were passed. Two pieces of legislation focused on limiting the powers of Governor-Elect Evers and Attorney General-Elect Kaul and reducing the time period for early voting. Both bills passed the Senate and Assembly on largely party line votes, with the exceptions of Republican Senator Rob Cowles and Republican Representative Todd Novak, who joined Democrats in opposing both measures. We encourage you to use the links to your own legislators to find their phone numbers and to call them to express your gratitude or outrage over their vote depending on how they weighed in. Link here if you need help finding out who represents you. You can always use the State Legislative Hotline number too: 1-800-362-9472
Coverage of the lame-duck session:
GOP lawmakers vote in wee hours to pass lame-duck bill curtailing powers of governor, attorney general
In Lame-Duck Coup, Wisconsin GOP Strips Democrats of Power and Makes It Harder to Vote
Governor-Elect Tony Evers hasn’t even been inaugurated, and Republicans are already trying to weaken his ability to govern and override the results of November’s election. The lame-duck Session involves five sweeping pieces of legislation that propose to strip away constitutional powers from the Governor and Attorney General, limit early voting, and change a spring election date to favor a conservative State Supreme Court candidate.
The contents of the bills are so extensive that it is impossible to provide a full analysis of them in this post. However, if passed, these bills will have significant ramifications for many policies that are important to women’s health, including whether Governor-Elect Evers will have discretion over Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, whether Attorney General-Elect Kaul will be allowed to withdraw Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit that is trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and remove discretion from state agencies that would allow them to more effectively implement the ACA.
To learn more about these proposals, see the following articles:
Cecely Castillo, Policy Director