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  Bush Plan Would Blunt State Birth Control LawAugust 21, 2008 22:03 A proposed Bush administration regulation on contraception and abortion would stop California from enforcing a state law that requires Catholic hospitals and charities to provide birth control coverage for thousands of female employees, state Attorney General Jerry Brown and family-planning advocates said Wednesday.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department regulation, still in draft form, would define abortion as including certain methods of contraception and would prohibit states and other recipients of federal funds from penalizing health care workers who refused to provide those services because of religious or moral beliefs.

Violators would forfeit federal health care funds, which in California amount to as much as $37 billion a year.

The draft regulation describes the problem as laws such as those in California and New York that require employers to include contraceptives in any prescription drug coverage they offer to employees. The federal agency had no comment Wednesday on the proposal.

California's law was passed in 2000 in response to decisions by many health insurance plans to cover the male potency drug Viagra but continue to deny coverage for birth control pills, forcing women to pay for contraceptives.

The state Supreme Court upheld the law in a 2004 ruling that applied to 1,600 employees of Catholic Charities and 52,000 employees of Catholic hospitals in the state. The law exempts church employees, but the court said affiliated agencies such as Catholic Charities are secular institutions because they employ and serve mostly non-Catholics.

New York's highest court later issued a similar ruling, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of Catholic Charities' appeals in both cases. Similar laws exist in 25 other states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization.

  U.S. Lists More Claims Against StevensAugust 15, 2008 14:10 New filings by U.S. prosecutors in their case against Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, included claims he used inside help for profit in a development deal.

Prosecutors also disputed Stevens' assertions his actions were protected by the Constitution because he was a member, citing nine instances that had nothing to do with lawmaking that was protected, the Anchorage Daily News.

A federal grand jury in Washington indicted Stevens in July on seven felony counts of filing false financial disclosure statements to conceal $250,000 in gifts and services from an oil services company.

Stevens, 84, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, is campaigning for re-election.

Federal prosecutors alleged Stevens used insider help to turn a secret $5,000 investment in a Florida condo development into more than $100,000 in profits.
  Abortion Does Not Cause Mental Illness, Panel Says - Brief - Nytimes.ComAugust 12, 2008 21:05 Women who choose to abort an unwanted pregnancy may experience feelings of grief and loss, but there is no evidence that a single abortion causes significant mental health problems, a panel of the American Psychological Association reported after two years of study. The findings are almost identical to a similar review by the association in 1990.