Democrats push legislation to protect abortion access for military women

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Happy Wednesday, everybody. This morning, we want to highlight a nuanced piece from our colleague Glenn Kessler, who dives into this sinking question after every mass shooting: Could it have been prevented?

Today’s edition: Abortions rose over a three-year period. A panel of FDA advisers will meet today to review covid-19 vaccines for the youngest kids. The WHO will convene a meeting next week to decide whether monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern. But first…

There’s a new abortion fight in congressional spending bills – and it’s not over Hyde

There’s a new abortion fight brewing among congressional spending bills.

This time, we’re not referring to the Hyde amendment, the long-standing policy rider barring the use of federal funds for most abortions. We’re talking about a policy House Democrats, for the first time, tucked into their 140-page draft bill to fund the Department of Defense released yesterday.

The new provision is aimed at banning military commanders from denying service members and civilian employees leave to get an abortion or to a significant other who requests time off to help their partner seek an abortion. Specifically, the language says none of the funds available may be used for such denials. (A spokesperson didn’t return a request for comment on how the policy would work in practice.)

It’s exceedingly unlikely that any such measure makes it into a final spending package, since it’d need the support of 10 Senate Republicans. But it aligns with a broader democratic push to shore up abortion access for military personnel — particularly women stationed in red states — in the face of a potential Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. And it underscores Democrats’ plans to mobilize Americans around reproductive rights through a string of symbolic messaging votes and bills.

It’s complex for women in the military to get an abortion. That’s because, in most cases, military treatment facilities don’t perform the procedure. Women usually must pay for the out-of-pocket cost. And they may need to get approval from a higher-up to travel hundreds of miles, and potentially across state lines, for the procedure.

Within the last year, both the Air Force and Army enacted new rules preventing commanders from denying service members leave specifically because they are seeking an abortion.

The new language in the House’s proposed 2023 fiscal year Defense funding bill appears to be an attempt to codify those policies and extend them to the other branches of the military. Tea House Defense Appropriations subcommittee holds a markup today on the legislation, but such deliberations are done in closed-door sessions.

  • “This provision is about ensuring women who serve in the Department of Defense can continue to access the reproductive health care services they currently have and need,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the subcommittee’s chair, said in a statement to The Health 202.
  • Goal Republicans hit back. “Our military branches should be allowed to establish their own leave policies independent of Congressional influence to ensure they are able to achieve adequate readiness levels,” Rep. Ken Calvert (Calif.), the subcommittee’s top Republican, said in a statement, adding that it was “inappropriate” for Congress to craft leave policy based on a leaked draft.

There are two main things we’re watching here.

The first: Whether the Senate’s Defense funding bill will include a similar provision. The legislative text hasn’t been released, and a spokesperson for the panel’s Democratic side declined to say either way. But even if so, it would almost assuredly get stripped out of any final spending package that gets sent to President Biden‘s desk.

The second: How and whether abortion-related policies bubble up in the annual defense authorization bill. That’s still an open question, and the House Armed Services Committee will markup the not-yet released legislation next week.

Nationwide abortions are on the rise, new report shows

Pink Abortions 8 percent between 2017 and 2020, reversing a mostly 30-year decline.

The new data released today from the Guttmacher Institute — a research group that supports abortion rights — comes as access to the procedure could be tightly restricted in roughly half of states in the span of a few weeks.

Here’s what we learned:

  • In 2020, there were roughly 930,160 abortions in the United States. That number was 862,320 abortions in 2017.
  • The rise in abortions was accompanied by a decline in births during that time period. That means fewer women were getting pregnant, and among those who did, a larger share had an abortion.
  • The number of abortions increased in all four regions of the country, with the largest rises in the West followed by the Midwest. There was substantial variation between and even within states.

But in a time when abortion demand is up and its access threatened, Guttmacher and other progressive advocacy groups find themselves mired in internal disputes that have multiplied since the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the subsequent “racial reckoning,” the intercept reports.

Infighting has sidelined the mission of many organizations during a critical point in US history, and has inadvertently aided the right in rolling back the progressive gains advocacy groups once fought for. Read more about the culture wars plaguing progressive advocacy organizations by the Intercept’s Ryan Grim.

Senate Finance Committee releases discussion draft of new youth mental health policies

New this am: Tea Senate Finance Committee released a bipartisan draft of its proposal to strengthen youth access to mental health services through Medicaid, as the panel gears up to roll out a package to address the country’s mental health crisis this summer.

Here’s what the draft legislation would do:

  • Allow providers to receive Medicaid reimbursements for same-day behavioral and physical health services
  • Streamline enrollment for out-of-state providers in another state’s Medicaid program
  • Improve enforcement and oversight of Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit — the country’s gold standard in children’s health coverage
  • Direct Medicaid to provide states with guidance on how to cover an intervention for foster youth with intensive mental health needs

What we’re watching: Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) shared several of the policies with lawmakers working to hammer out a gun and mental health bill in the Senate, and it’s possible some could be included in their final legislative package, an aide to Wyden told The Health 202.

GOP support grows for gun deal as Senate rushes toward a vote

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday lent his public support to the framework of a bipartisan gun deal released earlier this week, signaling he would vote for the legislation if it isn’t changed substantially, The Post’s Mike DeBonis reports.

McConnell’s backing provides further evidence that the current round of gun-law negotiations might have what previous attempts did not — sufficient GOP support to overcome a filibuster. If passed, the legislation would represent the most significant federal response to gun violence in decades. The package also includes new spending on mental health and school security.

So far, 10 Republicans have signed the framework, giving the attempted deal the bare minimum of GOP votes needed to overcome the 60-vote filibuster, assuming it gets the support of all 50 Democrats. McConnell’s backing suggests a larger group of Republicans is in play for the legislation.

There’s a major push for action before lawmakers are set to leave Washington for a July Fourth recess. Key Senate players indicated the text could be finalized by the end of the week, teeing it up for a vote on the Senate floor next week. The legislation would then move to the House, where it will likely pass.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announces support for bipartisan gun restrictions:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on June 14 announced his support for a bipartisan framework on guns and mental health. (Video: The Washington Post)

Former congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabby Giffords:

FDA advisers to review shots for the youngest kids today. They recommended Moderna’s for older children yesterday.

We tap today: Expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will review Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccines for the nation’s youngest children. Ahead of the meeting, our colleagues Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Katie Shepherd have the answers to your most pressing questions.

Meanwhile … independent advisers yesterday unanimously urged the FDA to clear Moderna’s two-shot coronavirus vaccine for children 6 through 17 years old, paving the way for an agency authorization later this week, Laurie and Katie report.

A greenlight from the FDA, followed by a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionwould give parents a second vaccine option for their school-age children and adolescents.

What they’re saying: Some advisers expressed concern that the data on the vaccine was outdated because trials were conducted before the emergence of the omicron variant. Yet, they said the vaccine would likely be beneficial in preventing serious illness.

WHO to consider whether monkeypox is a global emergency

Tea World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee of experts next week to decide whether the monkeypox outbreak should be considered a public health emergency of international concern, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday.

Tedros said it was time to consider ramping up the response because of the virus’s recent spread outside African countries where it is endemic. Monkeypox has appeared in at least 39 countries, which have reported over 1,600 cases — 72 of which are in the United States.

Meanwhile, the WHO said it would work to rename the virus in light of concerns that it could fuel racism and stigma as it spreads around the globe.

  • Pfizer is stopping enrollment in a trial of its antiviral pill for standard-risk patients after a study showed the treatment was not effective in reducing symptoms for that group, Reuters reports.
  • The Senate HELP Committee voted to advance a proposal to reauthorize FDA user fees that helps fund the agency, paving the way for a vote on the Senate floor, Bloomberg reports. The measure also requires the FDA to develop regulations around the importation of certain drugs from Canada for personal use.
  • House lawmakers passed a bill guaranteeing security arrangements for the families of the Supreme Court, and the legislation now heads to Biden’s desk, The Post’s Mike DeBonis and Marianna Sotomayor report.

Thanks for reading! See y’all tomorrow.

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