Roundup: America is Pro-Choice, More Opposition to HHS Rule

Brady Swenson

Gallup poll shows America has been steadily pro-choice for two decades; Chorus of opposition to proposed HHS rule continues; Mexico City to revisit legalization of abortion one year later; Study links pre-term births with internal infections.

America is Pro-Choice … An ongoing Gallup poll shows remarkable consistency in the prevailing attitudes of American’s on the issue of abortion over the past two decades (via DailyKos). 
The poll shows that American’s are firmly pro-choice but also reveals
the complexity of the issue in American minds as a majority of
Americans support various restrictions, like parental and spousal
consent laws and limits on third-trimester abortions.  Contrary to what
many may think based on news coverage of impassioned advocates on both
sides of the issue, "abortion is not an important issue for most

While a majority of Americans say they feel strongly about their
abortion views, few indicate they only support political candidates who
share their views on the subject. Abortion typically ranks at the
bottom of any list of issues Americans are asked to rate in terms of
their importance for political candidates to discuss or as a government

The Gallup poll concludes:

Americans support restrictions on abortion that, if enacted, would make
abortion less accessible than it is today. But there is scant evidence
the public is anxious to see these changes made. Few call the issue a
priority, and when asked in general terms about changing abortion laws,
most Americans seem opposed.

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issue, however, receives much attention during election season as the
far-right has sucessfully used the issue to drive a wedge between
voters and parties, as evidenced this election cycle by John McCain’s flip from a relatively pro-choice position to advocating the outlawing of abortion and his persistent attacks on Barack Obama on the issue.

Chorus of Opposition to Proposed HHS Rule Continues … Today the Salt Lake Tribune, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Springfield News Herald all published letters and opinion pieces standing in opposition to the recently proposed HHS rule that will make access to comprehensive, quality reproductive health care more difficult for American women.  The Bureau of National Affairs published a reaction to the proposed rule.

The Salt Lake Tribune says:

Mike Leavitt, secretary of
federal Health and Human Services, says doctors, nurses and other
health care workers should not "be forced to provide services that
violate their own conscience." Instead, a new rule Leavitt is proposing
would, in essence, force poor women to limit their health care choices
to just those that are morally acceptable to taxpayer-funded providers.

Now that is morally suspect. 

A reader of the Springfield News writes:

This rule would especially impact low-income women and women in
rural areas who often depend on federally funded health centers for
basic health care, including affordable birth control. In the midst of
a health care crisis, Bush wants to deny access to over 17 million
women who utilize publicly funded family planning.

If Bush really
wanted to prevent abortion he would not demonize contraception. He
would help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by making access
to birth control easy and affordable. It is time Bush and his
administration stop playing politics and realize women’s health
matters! Women matter!

Mexico City to Revisit Legalization of Abortion One Year Later … In yesterday’s roundup I linked to an article in the New York Times that took a look at the state of abortion services in Mexico City one year after the procudure was legalized.  Today Fox News is reporting that Mexico’s Supreme Court just yesterday began debating a bid to overturn the new law:

Backed by anti-abortion groups and the Roman Catholic Church, the conservative federal government has challenged the law.

out of 11 supreme court judges will be necessary for the law to be
abolished. Four judges have not yet revealed how they will vote –
including the court’s two female judges.

Since abortion was legalized in Mexico City, 12,262 women between the ages of 18 and 29 have had abortions in one of 12 clinics.

means that some 80 women per day have exercised their controversial
right,” Maria Luz Estrada, spokeswoman for the Catholics for the Right
to Decide organization told Agence France-Presse.

The short article concludes with the proposed punishment for women who would obtain an illegal abortion: "If the court reverses the law, women who do have abortions will face prison sentences of three to six months."

Study Links Pre-term Births with Internal Infections … Not much is known about why more and more babies have been born early over the past two decades but a recent study may begin to shed light on one reason:

Infections may play a bigger role in premature birth than doctors
have thought, says a new study that found almost one in seven women in
preterm labor harbored bacteria or fungi in their amniotic fluid.

It’s a small study, and it doesn’t prove that the germs triggered the early labor.

Monday’s research used specialized molecular testing to uncover
microbes that ordinary methods miss, and thus uncovered more women with
simmering infections than previously estimated.

The more heavily
infected the amniotic fluid, the more likely the woman was to deliver a
younger, sicker baby, researchers reported in PLoS One, the online
journal of the Public Library of Science.

"We don’t think any
organisms belong in the amniotic sac," said Stanford University
microbiologist Dr. David Relman, the study’s senior author. "You’d have
to presume there’s something wrong."

More than half a million
babies a year are born premature, before completion of 37 weeks of
pregnancy. It’s a toll that has steadily risen for two decades, yet
doctors don’t know the cause of most preterm births or how to prevent
them. Every extra week in the womb helps. Those born before 32 weeks
face the greatest risk of death or devastating disabilities, but even
babies born a few weeks early can face serious problems.



News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.


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