Where Is Obama’s Truth on Late Term Abortion?

Amie Newman

Does Barack Obama honestly believe that a small percentage of the already tiny percentage of women who undergo late term abortions, those who, under the advice of a skilled physician, decide that a D&X is the safest procedure for them, are somehow not broken enough to receive one?

Barack Obama waxed not-so-poetic about late term abortion,
the federal abortion ban and the validity of mental health exceptions in said
ban to the Christian magazine Relevant
last week, telling the interviewer that states should have the right to
restrict or ban late term abortions. And Obama made no bones about the fact
that, as he sees it, "mental distress" should not qualify as a threat to "the
health of the mother". He was referring to the health exceptions the Supreme Court has
deemed unnecessary in order to ensure the constitutionality of the
(medically-ambiguous-at-best term) "partial birth abortion" ban ignoring the
health exceptions explicitly required in Roe v. Wade and its "companion" ruling, Doe v.
Bolton.

Last year, in a questionnaire on reproductive health issues
sent out to all of the presidential candidates at that time, Barack Obama’s campaign had
this to say to Rewire
:

Rewire: Does Sen. Obama support any restrictions
on abortion, or does he believe it should be entirely up to women?

Obama supports those
restrictions that are consistent with the legal framework outlined by the
Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

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Roe v. Wade allows the law to consider a woman’s mental
health as well as her physical health when making decisions about late term
abortion. Presumably, therefore, Obama should support the mental health
exception as presented in Roe v. Wade. But that’s not what his recent comments suggested
to many reporters, journalists and media outlets.

The mainstream, progressive and conservative news media all went
ballistic. The Baltimore
Sun
asked if Obama was for "Weakening Roe v. Wade?" The Bay Area Indymedia
shouted, "Anti-Abortion Obama – He Gets Worse by the Minute" while over at The
National Review
online, Ramesh Ponnuru’s sarcastically titled post, "Obama on
Abortion (For Now)" takes the Senator to task for still not being anti-choice
enough (what? Obama thinks there should be any
exceptions for the woman’s health when it comes to late term abortion?!).

Offering pro-choice legislators some credit, campaign spokeswoman
Shannon Gilson clarified yesterday,
"Senator Obama…recognizes that some people view these health
exceptions not as exceptions, but as a way around these restrictions.
Senator Obama believes that while ‘mental distress’ should not be
covered by a health exception, there will be cases where carrying to
term a pregnancy may seriously damage a woman’s mental health and those
cases should be covered.  He believes that we can craft well-defined
health exceptions – as pro-choice legislators have
tried in Congress and in state legislatures – that address those concerns and fully protect women’s health."

What is the truth about Obama’s position on this issue?

Did Obama’s statements reveal his real stance on abortion
access and rights for women? Or was it a political misstep, kow-towing to the
religious media and telling the young, twenty-something readers of the
Christian magazine what they wanted to hear? Maybe Barack Obama just hasn’t
thought this through to the degree that he needs to.

Remember McCain’s embarrassing spate of ignorance last year
when grilled by a reporter about contraception/condoms and HIV transmission? He
was, in his own words, "stumped" and told the reporter he didn’t know his
position because he wasn’t "informed enough about it."

But what should we make of Obama’s statements last year in response
to the Supreme Court decision allowing the federal abortion ban to remain?

"I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling,
which dramatically departs from previous precedents safeguarding the health of
pregnant women. As Justice Ginsburg emphasized in her dissenting opinion, this
ruling signals an alarming willingness on the part of the conservative majority
to disregard its prior rulings respecting a woman’s medical concerns and the
very personal decisions between a doctor and patient. I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state
legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose,
and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other
opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a
matter of equal rights for women."
[Emphasis mine]

 

Less than one year ago, Obama was
standing firmly against any state restrictions on late term abortion. Less than
one year ago, Obama did not differentiate
between respecting a woman’s physical medical concerns and her mental and
emotional concerns. There was no mention then that the very personal decisions
between a doctor and a patient should stand only if politicians deem them correct
decisions.

Where is the truth now?

The "truth" that I’m looking
for from Barack Obama, from John McCain, from all of our politicians – is not
the one truth about these issues but their own truths.

Does Barack Obama now honestly believe that a small
percentage of the already tiny percentage of women who undergo late term
abortions, those who, under the advice of a skilled physician, decide that a
D&X is the safest procedure, if a heart-wrenching one, for them, are
somehow not broken enough to receive
one?

More to the point: does Barack Obama’s truth point him
towards erring on the side of giving women less control over their own health
and bodies, while giving government more?

Does Barack Obama’s truth allow him to accept the
politically-created, medically meaningless term "partial birth abortion" as he
speaks to the upholding or creation of laws based on the term?

I hope not.

I want Obama to understand what an utterly pointless
distraction this entire issue is. I want him to realize how sweetly and utterly
he has played into the hands of those who want only to entrap him in political
sport where the only winners are the leaders of the anti-choice organizations
who originally created the term "partial birth abortion;" the leaders who
insist on pushing presidential candidates into a mindless corner in which they must endlessly
discuss medical procedures that should be the domain of physicians and their
patients.

Many have already argued and will argue brilliantly, from
places both personal and professional, the importance of mental health
exceptions in any abortion ban, patiently describing to Senator Obama why his
declaration is wrong, that only "serious mental health complications" (and not,
as he puts it "just feeling blue") should be legally accepted as the golden key
to the medical exception passageway on the way to a late term abortion.

I choose only to ask Barack Obama to resist the urge to play
the game that will get him nowhere. Last year Barack Obama told an interviewer
that he supported the choice position because he "trusts women to make a
prayerful decision."

I’m going to ask Barack Obama to do the same.

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

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