Overnight Health Care: Justices avoid major abortion ruling over Indiana law | Thomas warns court must address abortion soon | Missouri's only abortion clinic expects to be shut down | Groups sue Trump over religious protection rule

Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care.

Abortion continues to be the top health care issue driving the news. The Supreme Court today ruled on Indiana’s fetal remains law — and sent some signals about future abortion cases. Meanwhile, Missouri’s only abortion clinic is being shut down. And we look the at fights over the administration’s new religious protections rule as it sparks another lawsuit.

We’ll start at the high court…

 

Supreme Court upholds Indiana law on fetal remains, avoids major abortion ruling for now

The Supreme Court is not taking up a major decision on abortion rights, at least not yet.

That’s the takeaway from a decision released on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed a lower court’s decision invalidating part of Indiana’s abortion law on the disposal of fetal remains, allowing it to go into effect.

But the court declined to take up a challenge to a provision blocking abortions on the basis of sex, race or disability, avoiding a major ruling on abortion for the time being.

What to watch for: With Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic groups gear up to use abortion rights as attack on GOP in 2020 Murkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats MORE now on the court, conservatives have a majority and the big question is if and when the court will take up an abortion case. Tuesday’s decision shows that the court is not ready to do that yet, but the justices might not be able to avoid the issue for long.

Noteworthy: Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasJuan Williams: Anti-abortion extremism is on the rise Teflon Joe? Biden brushes off attacks Anita Hill: Female 2020 Democrats ‘not being taken seriously’ MORE, in a 20-page concurring opinion, warned that the court cannot continue to avoid ruling on abortion.

“Although the Court declines to wade into these issues today, we cannot avoid them forever,” Thomas wrote.

“Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this court is duty bound to address its scope. In that regard, it is easy to understand why the District Court and the Seventh Circuit looked to Casey to resolve a question it did not address. Where else could they turn? The Constitution itself is silent on abortion.”

Read more here.

 

Harris to unveil abortion rights plan modeled on Voting Rights Act

2020 presidential candidate Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump hits Biden for 1994 crime bill support Will top 2020 Democrats make ending war in Afghanistan a defining issue or an afterthought? Nevada emerges as wild card in 2020 Democratic race MORE is out with a new plan to deal with states that keep passing abortion restrictions. Here’s how it would work:

  • Identify states that have passed unconstitutional abortion laws within the past 25 years.
  • Those states would have to get approval from the Department of Justice before implementing any new abortion laws.
  • As such, the laws would be considered unenforceable until approved by the DOJ.

“Kamala Harris believes we need to fight back and block these dangerous and deadly laws before they take effect,” her campaign said.

Why it matters: Several candidates have rolled out their plans to protect abortion access, but Harris is the first to suggest this idea. Harris, a former prosecutor, says the plan is inspired by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which blocked states with histories of passing racist voting laws from doing so without getting approval from the federal government.

Harris is expected to unveil her plan Tuesday night during a MSNBC town hall.

Read more here.

 

In other abortion news…

 

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Missouri’s only abortion clinic expects to be shut down this week

Planned Parenthood said Missouri’s health department is “refusing to renew” its annual license to provide abortions amid an ongoing investigation.

“This is something we have never seen before,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen told reporters Tuesday, calling the investigation a tactic to intimidate doctors who provide abortions.

The state is demanding interviews with seven doctors who work at the clinic before the expiration of its license May 31, citing an investigation into “possible deficiencies.”

Planned Parenthood made two of its doctors available for interviews, but the other five are not considered employees of the organization and have not consented to interviews.

Why it matters: If the license is not renewed, Missouri would become the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

Planned Parenthood officials said Tuesday they were working with partners in Illinois to ensure Missouri women could still get abortions.

What’s next: Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state Tuesday and arguments are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Of note: The New York Times editorial board warned that Missouri is the future of the country if conservative states get their way and Roe v. Wade is overturned. The article notes that abortion access will be split by income and location; most of the entire southeastern part of the country will have no abortion clinics, and women will need to travel out of state. It will become a procedure for the upper class.

Read more here.

 

Civil rights groups sue Trump administration over ‘conscience protection’ rule

A coalition of civil rights groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, asking a federal judge to strike down a recently issued “conscience protection” rule that allows health care providers to refuse to provide care on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The suit, filed in coordination with Santa Clara County in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues the rule is unconstitutional.

The groups involved in the suit include Lambda Legal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Their arguments: The rule will result in “mass confusion” among providers, and health care facilities may do away with reproductive and LGBTQ services altogether, leaving millions without access to critical health care. The complaint says the rule “endangers patients’ health in the name of advancing the religious beliefs of those who are entrusted with caring for them — a result sharply at odds with the stated mission of the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Not the first lawsuit: The arguments made in Tuesday’s suit echo those made in other complaints. A coalition led by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a similar lawsuit last week, as did California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: Trump moves forward with rule on California drilling | House panel advances bill that resumes participation in Paris climate fund | Perry pressed on ‘environmental justice’ | 2020 Dem proposes climate corps Trump administration moves forward with final rule to allow new California drilling Overnight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules MORE (D). The city of San Francisco is also suing.

Back story: The rule is part of a recent string of policies from the Trump administration that favor religious conservatives. The administration says the rule aims to protect health care workers and institutions from having to violate their religious or moral beliefs by participating in abortions, providing contraception, sterilization or other procedures.

More on the lawsuit here.

 

Last week, the administration proposed a policy that would roll back anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ patients. Advocates are gearing up for a fight…

 

Advocates vow to fight Trump rollback of transgender protections

Transgender and public health advocates are ready to fight the Trump administration over a new proposed policy that seeks to roll back transgender health protections.

The proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services, which was released Friday ahead of a long holiday weekend, would rewrite an Obama-era policy that prohibited health discrimination based on sex.

Experts noted the proposal would go much further and could roll back non-discrimination protections for all LGBTQ patients. According to Georgetown University Law Professor Katie Keith, the regulations include non-discrimination requirements for states, insurers, organizations that operate Programs for All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly (PACE) under Medicare, and state contracts with Medicaid managed care organizations.

Immediate pushback: “We will fight to make sure that who you are and the care you need will not be treated as a pre-existing condition ever again. Should HHS finalize this discriminatory rule, we will see them in court,” Louise Melling, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.

Timing: Any potential lawsuits won’t happen for some time. The proposal will need to go through the traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and until a final rule is published, current law will remain in effect.

More on that fight here.

 

2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding

Democratic presidential candidates are seizing on the intensifying abortion debate by calling for an end to a 43-year ban on the use of federal funds for abortions.

Twenty-one of the 24 Democrats running for president say they support repealing the so-called Hyde Amendment, which has prevented government health programs like Medicaid from paying for abortions, in most cases, since 1976.

“I think the Hyde Amendment should be repealed and that we actually need to make sure that women, regardless of their income level, have a basic right to reproductive care,” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandLawmakers, Trump agencies set for clash over chemicals in water 2020 Dems join together for video marking Memorial Day Democratic groups gear up to use abortion rights as attack on GOP in 2020 MORE (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC this past week. “It’s about our humanity and our basic civil rights.”

Why it matters: The Democratic National Committee formally backed the repeal of the Hyde Amendment in its 2016 platform. But this is the first presidential campaign where candidates are putting the issue front and center to show how they would expand access to abortion.

Read more here.

 

What we’re reading

A $2.1 million drug price record is made to be broken (Bloomberg)

Why adding prices to TV drug ads is bad for patients (Stat News opinion)

Opening statements begin in historic trial testing whether Big Pharma can be held accountable for opioid epidemic (CNN.com)

Bill of the month: $4,836 charge for laughing gas during childbirth is no joke (NPR)

 

State by state

North Carolina GOP nixes idea of Medicaid expansion (Winston-Salem Journal)

Oklahoma legislature takes no action on Medicaid expansion (The Oklahoman)

More Medicaid will save more Utah moms’ lives, says report (Utah Public Radio)

 

From The Hill’s opinion page:

Children are the most neglected and vulnerable stakeholders in climate change

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