This week the White House ordered hospitals to stop sending all data on Corona-19 patients to the Center For Disease Control in Atlanta but to send it to a central data base in Washington controlled by Health and Human Services. The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention …
Tag: Health and Human Services
Jul 16 2020
Feb 17 2012
House of Representative Democratic women walked out of House oversight hearing on access to birth control when the Republican majority’s refused to allow minority female witnesses at a hearing on the Administration’s birth control access rules. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) left accusing Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) of manipulating committee rules to block female witnesses from testifying.
In a letter yesterday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter (pdf) to Issa yesterday objecting to the lack of minority witnesses and those who supported President Obama’s compromise:
When my staff inquired about requesting minority witnesses for this hearing, we were informed that you would allow only one. Based on your decision, we requested as our minority witness a third-year Georgetown University Law Center student named Sandra Fluke. I believed it was critical to have at least one woman at the witness table who could discuss the repercussions that denying coverage for contraceptives has on women across this country.
In response, your staff relayed that you had decided as follows:
“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”
It is inconceivable to me that you believe tomorrow’s hearing has no bearing on the reproductive rights of women. This Committee commits a massive injustice by trying to pretend that the views of millions of women across this country are meaningless, worthless, or irrelevant to this debate.
Only one witness who supported the compromise, Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was invited to testify. The other eleven witnesses over the two days of testimony would be all male religious leaders or professors, including a Catholic bishop. Issa argued that “the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience.”
I agree this is about the 1st Amendment but it has nothing to do with religious freedom, it has to do with establishing religious doctrine as government policy.
Feb 11 2012
President Barack Obama presented a compromise addressing the objections of the religious right, so-called pro-lifers and extremest conservatives to the provision in Affordable Care Act requiring religiously affiliated employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women. Women will still be guaranteed coverage for contraceptive services without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds. Insurers will absorb the cost insuring that access to birth control as well as cancer screening, mammograms and check ups would remain free to all women.
Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Health Association both expressed pleasure about the new plan, however, there were still objections from the Catholic Bishops and right wing politicians who vowed to continue the war on women.
Many of those voicing objections to this provision have cited the 1st Amendment stating that forcing churches to provide something that is opposed by their tenets violates their 1st Amendment right to freely practice their religion. But does it? The First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Contraception is not about freedom of religion, as Scarecrow at FDL so eloquently explains:
What’s happening here is that the government has chosen to adopt a rule relating to health care. Proponents often say this, and some media may dismiss this as ducking the religious issue, but it’s not. It’s consistent with what we’ve done for decades. Contraception is about health care, mostly women’s health care, and sometimes life-saving health care; but it’s clearly health care. When government addresses contraception, it does so for health reasons, not religious reasons. Government can adopt rules to protect women’s health and safety without violating the First Amendment.
What about the “establishment clause”? This is how the bait and switch happens. The Catholic Bishops do not believe contraception should be used; it shouldn’t be available at all. They don’t mean just unavailable to Catholics; they mean not available to anyone. They want the legal rule to be: no contraceptives for anyone, so no insurance coverage for contraception services for anyone.
Religious freedom says they are free to believe contraception is wrong, that it violates their religion. Government can’t force them to believe otherwise; it can’t force them to exercise a religion they don’t believe, except that government can, for health and safety reasons, require everyone to obey reasonable rules to protect peoples’ health and safety, even if some believe such regulations are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
Religious freedom doesn’t mean the Catholic Bishops, or any other religious leaders, have the right to impose what they believe on everyone else. When we cross over to the realm of what the rules should be for everyone, and the pushing is coming from a religious purpose, it’s more likely we’re talking about that other clause, the establishment clause. And that’s exactly where the Bishops are.
Those who oppose any contraception insurance coverage want to prevent the government from having a rule that requires contraception, or have it adopt a rule prohibiting the coverage of contraception. And they want this not for health/safety reasons, but for declared religious ones. In other words, they want a government rule that imposes their religious beliefs on everyone else. That’s not about the “free exercise” clause; that’s “establishment of religion.”
Constitutional lawyer David Boies, who represented VP Gore and successfully opposed California’s Prop 8. appeared with Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word, explaining the constitutionality of the birth control mandate.
Dec 14 2011
The latest shot in the war on women by the Obama administration goes to court. A federal court judge in Brooklyn, NY will hear challenge by the Center for Reproductive Rights to the constitutionality of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of the Federal Food and Drug Administrations decision to make the “morning after” pill. Plan B, available without a prescription thus making it accessible to teen age girls under the age of seventeen.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and other groups have argued that contraceptives are being held to a different and non-scientific standard than other drugs and that politics has played a role in decision making. Social conservatives have said the pill is tantamount to abortion.
Judge Edward Korman was highly critical of the government’s handling of the issue when he ordered the FDA two years ago to let 17-year-olds obtain the medication. At the time, he accused the government of letting “political considerations, delays and implausible justifications for decision-making” cloud the approval process.
In court papers prior to Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Landau said the government had complied with Korman’s orders by lowering the cutoff for over-the-counter sales of the drug from 18 to 17.
He said the plaintiffs “unfairly accuse FDA of bad faith and delay.”
And will wonders never cease. Mayor Michael Bloomberg raised his voice in support of making Plan B morning-after contraceptive available over the counter to young teenage girls. And just where did NYC’s speak-his-mind mayor do this? At a press conference in Queens, NY during an event promoting the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness with none other than Kathleen Sebelius in attendance:
“It would be much better if these young girls didn’t get pregnant, but once that happens I think this should be available,” Hizzoner told reporters.
Speaking minutes later at the same event, Sebelius said: “I felt that the data presented, and justification for [making Plan B available to] all ages, did not match.” [..]
He called FDA director Peggy Hamburg, who served as the city’s Health Department commissioner during the Dinkins administration, a “first rate scientist.”
“I think her advice should be followed,” he said prior to the jobs event at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
Dec 10 2011
This was not a good week for women’s reproductive freedom, especially young women of childbearing age under seventeen. The Secretary of Health and Human Services chose to strike down the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to make emergency contraception available without a prescription to people under 17, just as it is now to those who are 17 and older. It is very obvious that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius based her decision, not on the science that Plan B One-Step is safe, but on pure politics to avoid a confrontation with Catholic Bishops and so-called “pro-life” conservatives in an election year.
President Barack Obama’s statement that he did not intervene in the secretary’s decision is barely believable. What was even more insulting was his paternalistic statement regarding women being able to make their own reproductive decisions using his own daughters:
I will say this, as the father of two daughters. I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.
And as I understand it, the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old go into a drugstore, should be able-alongside bubble gum or batteries-be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.
And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.
No, Mr. President this is not “common sense”, this is a dangerous decision that will put thousands of young women at risk for unwanted pregnancies. As a parent, I know full well that children do not always confide in their parents when they have done something the parents will disapprove. Unlike you, sir, parents can’t watch their children 24/7 and children are not known for making good long term decisions, especially, when they are pressured by their peers.
Girls as young as 10 and 11 are having unprotected sex. As available as condoms are, kids don’t always use or have them and, oh, they do break. There is also the matter of rape and incest. Who do these young women turn to when they are too ashamed to seek help because of the backward attitudes about sex in this country?
For EC to be effective it must be taken within 72 hours of intercourse, the sooner the better. The direction for Plan B are simple and easily understood: Take one pill within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. Directions that most 10 or 11 year olds can easily understand.
So putting constraints to access by requiring a prescription from a doctor, which may not be either timely or possible, further put the young woman at risk. This is a rule that could adversely affect the rest of their lives, economically, educationally, familial and professionally. This is denying them control over their reproductive lives. As the father of two daughters, you might want to about this more carefully.
The President’s remarks were not just paternalistic but uniformed and sexist. I’ll get to the nonsense he spouted about over the counter drugs.
Let me say this, as a medical professional, there are millions of young women who take birth control, some for health issues, with no adverse side effects. Teenage pregnancy carries increased health risks to both mother and infant, even a higher risk of mortality.
The “morning after” pill has been available to all women in their menarche over the counter in Europe for years with little or no ill effect. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the F.D.A.’s commissioner, in her statement disagreeing with Sec. Sebelius’ veto, stated the agency’s scientists “determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted disease.”
Sebelius’ override has been described as “medically inexplicable”:
Sebelius’ decision is “medically inexplicable,” said Dr. Robert Block of the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of a number of major medical groups that contends over-the-counter access to emergency contraception would lower the nation’s high number of unplanned pregnancies.
Pediatricians say the morning-after pill is safe — containing a high dose of the same female hormone that’s in regular birth control pills — especially compared to some existing over-the-counter medicines.
“I don’t think 11-year-olds go into Rite Aid and buy anything,” much less a single pill that costs about $50, added fellow AAP member Dr. Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington.
Instead, putting the morning-after pill next to the condoms and spermicides would increase access for those of more sexually active ages “who have made a serious error in having unprotected sex and should be able to respond to that kind of lack of judgment in a way that is timely as opposed to having to suffer permanent consequences,” she said.
Sebelius may not have been forthcoming when she said that the drug’s manufacturer had failed to study whether girls as young as 11 years old could safely use Plan B. Teva Pharmaceuticals had funded a study that “tracked 11- to 17-year-olds who came to clinics seeking emergency contraception. Nearly 90 percent of them used Plan B safely and correctly without professional guidance, said Teva Vice President Amy Niemann.”
There are far riskier drugs that are on the shelves of drug stores that are available to teens that can do more harm than a one time use pill that you have to see the pharmacist to get. There are no known drug interactions, yet there are serious warnings about taking Tylenol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, Naprosyn) with a long list of over the counter and prescription drugs. There are diet pills and cough remedies that carry higher risks. A teen driving a car is more dangerous.
For the President to say that he was not involved in the process is laughable on its face. The Executive Branch is controlled by him. All of the cabinet members are answerable to him. No cabinet member would presume to make a decision of this magnitude with the political repercussions without his direct or implicit approval. The buck stops with him.
There is no medical argument that can be made to justify this. It is purely political, pandering to the far right factions that will never vote for Obama even if his were the only name on the ballot. It is feckless, cowardly and a slap in the face to 51% of the population of the United States.
Jun 30 2009
Crossposted at Daily Kos
ACTION: Contact HHS and The White House to let them know that if there is a No Robust Public Option, there is NO REFORM! Contact Information provided below.
Al Hunt: “You’ve said, all right, you are willing to compromise on your notion of a public plan, you are willing to compromise on the employer mandate, you are willing to compromise on taxing benefits. What’s non-negotiable?”
Sec HHS Kathleen Sebelius: ” Uh, the, the bill at the end of the day has to have a comprehensive approach that lowers cost. That’s just non-negotiable. The status quo is unacceptable. . . ”
AH: “Most congressional watchers say any chance of any really bi-partisan bill is dead. No Republicans in the House seem to be signed up, in the Senate your talking about a hand full of Republicans, maybe four or five. Isn’t really any notion of a bi-partisan health care bill pretty much off the table?”
KS: “Well, I certainly hope not, and I hope, that, um, the Senate Republicans who have been working hard on this issue are genuinely interested in participating in the solution.”
AH: “How many Senate Republican votes do you think you can get?”
KS: “You know, I don’t know. Um, I, I would love to see them all.”
AH: “But how many realistically? Can you get to double digits? You know how to count.”
KS: “I, I know how to count. I think it depends on, you know, what, what we have, but I think there are 5-10 who may well be there for the final vote. I am encouraged by the number of people who say we need to do something. The status quo doesn’t work, and I think people know that. In the early nineties, again, not doing anything won at the end of the day. People thought that was an acceptable place to land. I don’t think anybody thinks not doing anything is acceptable for our current situation.”
While Democrats in Congress and the President’s cabinet carry water for the Republicans, real Americans are dying. They are dying from disease that can be prevented. They are dying from lack of emergency care. They are dying because it is more profitable to let them die than it is to cover their insurance. It is that simple.
And as the Democrats do all the heavy lifting for the Republicans in putting up road blocks to a Robust Public Option, the Republicans return the favor by attacking the Democratic President, the Democratic Congress and the entire Democratic agenda.
Is that how bi-partisanship is supposed to work?
Sep 07 2008