Hypocrisy on EC

Nancy Keenan

Republican presidential candidates claim to want to reduce instances of abortion, but they often oppose access to emergency contraception, too.

August 24 marks the one-year anniversary of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) long-delayed approval of over-the-counter sales for the emergency contraceptive known by its brand name Plan B®. Quick refresher: Emergency contraception (EC), if taken within 72-120 hours after sex, can significantly reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant. EC does not cause abortion; rather it works like other hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy. For the 98 percent of American women who use some form of contraception during their lives, this is basic, essential health care.

Still, it took three years for the Bush administration to stop interfering with the FDA's approval process. I suppose it's more fun to place politics and ideology over sound science and women's health.

Shortly after last year's decision, I wrote about what we could expect in the wake of the FDA's decision. Looking back, I can see that many of our initial concerns were valid: anti-choice activists and politicians, who were further emboldened by the Supreme Court decision on the Federal Abortion Ban, did indeed try to distort the facts and push divisive legislation to undermine women's access to birth control.

Thankfully, as a result of the '06 midterm elections, we now have additional pro-choice allies in Congress who are standing up against these threats, and we have been able to keep some of them at bay. But we still need more pro-choice lawmakers to stop politics from interfering with science and women's health. With that in mind, it's a good thing the '08 elections are right around the corner!

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A woman's right to choose has already become a pivotal issue in the presidential campaign. During the first Republican debate in California, many of the candidates came out stronger in their opposition to Roe v. Wade than even President Bush did during either of his presidential campaigns. Say WHAT?!?! I know it's hard to believe someone could be more anti-choice than George W. Bush, but watch this video for a satirical look at statements that were recently said during the debates. (It's scary to think that the statements about Roe v. Wade aren't satire, but verbatim answers by the presidential candidates.)

Anti-choice candidates like these are clearly opposed to abortion, but what's more – they're also opposed to birth control, although you'll likely not hear them talk about it. Even those candidates who once claimed to support a woman's right to choose are pulling back from commonsense prevention measures. For instance:

  • As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney vetoed measures that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription and would have ensured that sexual-assault survivors receive information about, and access to, the medication in hospital emergency rooms.
  • Former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in his much-hyped "12 commitments" suggests ways to "decrease abortions," but never mentions greater access to birth control as an option.

And don't even think that the others aren't in on it too. Sens. John McCain, Sam Brownback, and the still undeclared Fred Thompson, all voted against family-planning bills in the Senate. I wish there was a word stronger than "hypocritical" because that somehow doesn't seem to convey this draconian position against family-planning services.

Let's keep these statements and actions in mind as we reflect on the one year anniversary of the FDA's approval of Plan B® for limited over-the-counter sales. Let's be sure to spread the word and call on lawmakers and candidates to put an end to the divisive attacks on contraception and the right to choose and work together on commonsense issues that will ultimately reduce the need for abortion. We really shouldn't have to sit through another speech that calls for an end to abortion without hearing the candidates articulate support for birth control. And if candidates refuse to support something as basic and necessary as birth control, then let them know you won't support them in '08.

This is just one piece of the effort to ensure access to Plan B®. For a different view on the Plan B®, please visit NARAL Pro-Choice America's blog, BushvChoice, this week to check out our exciting series of blogposts from different organizations within the pro-choice movement. Our guest-bloggers will highlight the various problem areas they've come across while doing their work to protect women's reproductive-health rights. Be sure to stop by and check it out!

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.