Roundup: HIV Infection Rate Among Young Blacks “Alarming”, Abortion Returns to Spotlight

Brady Swenson

CDC calls HIV infection rate for young black men "alarming"; Abortion has returned to the glaring spotlight of the 2008 election; Judge rejects abortion related anti-Obama group's request for FEC injunction.

CDC Calls HIV Infection Rates for Young Black Men “Alarming” … The September 12 edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality report the organization says that among black males aged 13 to 29, the incidence of HIV infection was 1.6
times higher than that of whites and 2.3 times higher than for
Hispanics.  Forty-eight percent of new infections among black men were among those
aged 13 to 29, compared with 31 percent for whites and 21 percent for
Hispanics.  In reaction to the report Kevin Frost, CEO of the Foundation for
AIDS Research, said:

What is going on with young black gay men is a clear indication of
our failure to develop messages which are targeted to the communities
that are most at risk. What we need are programs that speak directly to these
communities. For too long, prevention in our country has
been to tell everybody that they are all equally at risk of HIV. In
fact, that’s really not true. Twenty-five years into this epidemic,
surely we have learned certain groups of people are at greater risk and
those are injected drug users, people of color and gay men,
particularly gay men of color.


Abortion Back in the Election Spotlight … The nomination of Sarah Palin has reenergized social conservatives
who want to outlaw abortion and has the potential to once again
polarize the healthy discussion that has developed about working
together to limit the need to choose abortion with an array of social
assistance efforts. An article in the Wall Street Journal today is taking a close look at the abortion debate from both sides of the aisle:

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Mr. Obama’s argument has won some surprising converts, most notably the
former Reagan official Douglas W. Kmiec, whose switch has infuriated
his erstwhile allies in the conservative movement. While Mr. Kmiec
still strongly opposes abortion, he also believes that the status quo
will be perpetuated by a McCain-Palin win. As he notes, Republicans
have dominated the White House and Congress for nearly 30 years, and
appointed most of the Supreme Court justices. Yet little has changed.
(Abortion rates in fact dropped under Bill Clinton and are leveling off
under George Bush.)

Mr. Kmiec also argues that Roe v. Wade is effectively settled
law, and while the high court has a mostly Catholic conservative
majority, only Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia would consider
overturning Roe — and not for moral reasons, but because they believe it was based on a flawed reading of the Constitution.

The WSJ article also mentions a “double-standard” developing in the
current state of the abortion debate this election cycle “as Catholics
like Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden are grilled about their
faith and their voting records while Mr. McCain’s and Mrs. Palin’s
assertions go unexamined.”  Indeed Pelosi and Biden are being asked
about their abortion stances on national television and being hammered by their clergy in national newspapers.  The WSJ calls this the “quadrennial intramural Catholic feud over who is in a state of grace.”

While these tough questions are being made of Dems the GOP ticket
remains largely unchallenged on the intricacies of their policy
approach on this complicated issue. We know that John McCain is on
record saying he would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade
and that Sarah Palin, though she has not pursued anti-abortion
policies in her short stint as governor of Alaska, has gone on record
saying she opposes abortion in all cases, even rape and incest. Today Douglas Burns at the Iowa newspaper the Daily Times Herald asks an important unanswered question of McCain and Palin: would they support jailing women who have illegal abortions?
is an important question to consider as every state in the nation
would have to deal with it if Roe v. Wade were overturned.  So is the
question of if and how the McCain approach would do anything to solve the real problems and tough decisions pregnant women face everyday.


Judge Rejects Anti-Obama Group’s Request … The Real Truth About Obama, Inc. is a conservative group seeking an injunction barring the FEC from enforcing fund raising and advertising restrictions against the group.  That injunction was denied by a federal court judge yesterday with the judge finding that the group’s activities are the “functional equivalent of express advocacy.”  The independent group is barred by FEC rule from raising money and engaging in actions that are in express advocacy of one candidate over another.  The group will appeal the decision in hopes that the injunction can be obtained before the November 4 election.

Analysis Abortion

“Abortion Doesn’t Unrape You:” Following Election Disaster, Anti-Choice Activists Look to Re-frame Discussion of Rape

Sofia Resnick

Faced with polls saying that eight in 10 Americans think abortion should be legal when a pregnancy results from rape, anti-choice activists are actually pushing for more public discussion of the issue. It’s part of a long-term campaign to try to change Americans’ minds and to bring the country closer to banning abortion in nearly all cases.

Published in partnership with The American Independent.

After two GOP Senate candidates saw their campaigns implode when they made controversial comments about abortion and rape, Republicans like Sen. John McCain have been asking their party to just shut up about abortion.

But anti-choice movement leaders disagree. Faced with polls saying that eight in 10 Americans think abortion should be legal when a pregnancy results from rape, these activists are actually pushing for more public discussion of the issue. It’s part of a long-term campaign to try to change Americans’ minds and to bring the country closer to banning abortion in nearly all cases.

One part of the plan is to train politicians how to answer difficult questions about the issue while also attacking pro-choice politicians. Another is to emphasize the humanity of the rape survivor and her unborn baby.

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On a webcast two days after the election, Billy Valentine—the policy director of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports anti-choice rights candidates—lauded failed Senate candidates Todd Akin (who said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”) and Richard Mourdock (who said that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen”) as being “courageous.”

“What Todd Akin and what Richard Mourdock said, what they meant was not wrong,” Valentine said. “In fact, they were taking a very courageous stand. But it’s how they said it. So one thing we’re going to be working on is making sure that candidates the pro-life movement gets behind are well-versed in our messaging and know how to answer the tough abortion questions.”

A day earlier, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser made a similar point during a speech in Washington, D.C.

“We’re going to relook at how we endorse and train candidates,” Dannenfelser said. “From now on they will not be sent in the field with our support without knowing how to actually discuss the issue with compassion and love and to exploit the other candidate’s extremes.”

Part of the group’s strategy is to recruit more women candidates. The SBA List has celebrated Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer’s election to the Senate, which, says Valentine, makes her one of two pro-life female senators. “It was clear with some of the messaging problems we had on our end that had we had more women candidates, we wouldn’t have those problems,” he said.

Another group that has been particularly vocal about the rape exception issue is Students for Life of America, which was founded in the late 1970s for the purpose of training high school and college students to engage in anti-choice activism and advocacy.

One of the things SFLA currently does is sell postcards that “explore rape and incest arguments for the unborn” for anti-choice advocates to distribute. “Can you tell which child has a criminal father?” the cards read. “Should a child die for his or her father’s crimes?”

A couple of weeks after Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment went viral, SFLA President Kristan Hawkins wrote a blog post explaining why her anti-choice stance has evolved to opposing abortions in all circumstances, even in “those most awful of circumstances, rape and incest.”

“As pro-lifers, we believe that all human life should be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what your parentage may be,” she writes. “If my father goes out today and commits an act of mass murder, does that justify someone killing me? If the mother, a victim or rape, chooses to carry her child through her pregnancy and then decides at age 2 that the child reminds her too much of the rapist, should she be then allowed to kill the toddler?”

Personal testimonials

On Nov. 15, SFLA sponsored a rape-focused panel discussion at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The discussion, which was broadcast online, featured Rebekah Berg, a rape survivor. Berg said that after briefly considering abortion, she decided to parent her child who was conceived as a result of the rape. The panel also included Ryan Bomberger, an anti-choice activist conceived in rape and placed for adoption. Berg gave a tearful testimony about how her son helped her heal from the trauma of being raped. Bomberger argued that abortion does not help rape survivors.

“Abortion doesn’t unrape you,” said Bomberger, who co-founded the Radiance Foundation, a marketing nonprofit that creates ad campaigns criticizing abortion. Some of the group’s billboards and videos, which are displayed on TooManyAborted.com, suggest that Planned Parenthood targets African-Americans for abortion, with messages like “The #1 killer of black Americans is Planned Parenthood and the abortuaries that target us” and “Stop Planned Parenthood End the Genocide.”

Bomberger often speaks at anti-choice conferences about his birth mother undergoing a traumatic pregnancy and allowing him to be adopted into a happy family with 15 kids, as he did last week, at a press briefing held by anti-choice movement leaders in Washington, D.C., ahead of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade next month.

After the briefing, Bomberger told me the anti-choice movement should be using people’s personal stories when addressing the rape exception issue.

Okay, but should women have the option to have an abortion if they have been raped? I asked.

“See the problem is that’s not really the issue, though,” he told me. “The issue really is that 99 percent of all abortions have nothing to do with this act of violence, with rape, incest, or the physical endangerment of the mother. So it allows too often, I think, politicians like Mourdock and Akin to be taken off track and away from the reality. The reality is we have 1.21 million abortions, and 99 percent plus have nothing to do with the act of rape.

“I’m always called a rapist’s child,” he added. “Well, I’m also the child of my mother, and many women believe that that child has been their only healing grace, their only redemption. So I think any time we talk about this issue, we have to talk more about what happens beyond the act of rape.”

This type of personal appeal was also employed last year, with the “Rape Victim’s Child Tour,” an event sponsored by a national group pushing Mississippi’s failed “personhood” amendment, which would have outlawed abortion by defining a fertilized egg as a person.

While abortion-rights groups seek to expose lawmakers and candidates who oppose abortion even in the case of rape and incest, anti-choice advocacy groups are trying to figure out how to sell the argument that abortion should be banned. 

But some, like Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas at Minneapolis, thinks most Americans are not ready to ban abortion without rape exceptions.

And public opinion polling tends to agree with her.

In late August, shortly after Akin’s comments, a nationwide poll produced by CNN and ORC International found that 83 percent of Americans polled said abortion should be legal “when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.” Periodic polling from Gallup since 1996 has found that between 75 and 78 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in the case of rape or incest. 

Collett spoke at a recent anti-Roe lecture at Harvard University that was co-sponsored by Law Students for Life, an affiliate of SFLA. She suggested that most women who become pregnant through rape do not choose abortion. She cited a study published in the late 1970s, often promoted by the anti-choice community, “that found that 75 to 85 percent of those choose against abortion.”

However, a longitudinal survey published in 1996 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology—which estimated that more than 32,000 pregnancies result from rape annually—found that about 50 percent of pregnant rape victims chose abortions, 32 percent opted to keep the baby, six percent opted for adoption, and 12 percent miscarried. Overall, 32 percent of the rape victims did not discover they were pregnant until the second trimester.

In her talk, Collett explained why the majority of Americans believe abortion is acceptable in the case of non-consensual sex. As an example, she brought up South Dakota’s recent attempts to ban abortion, beginning in 2006, when the state legislature passed a bill that banned all abortions except those to save the life of the mother. That law was overturned by a referendum.

“At the time that Roe versus Wade was decided, though, many abortion bans contained a rape exception,” Collett said. “And Roe struck that down. That certainly would be a law that I believe, were we to try to pass a ban, politically, as they did in South Dakota, a majority of Americans would require that there be an exception for victims of rape, and yet that would affect only 2 percent of the abortions in this country. Only 2 percent.”

She went on to say that many Americans who are against abortion believe in the rape exception because “they have an innate jurisprudential sense that law is about requiring people to live up to their duties more than it is about affirming people’s rights.

“And so they believe that when women have consensually engaged in sexual intercourse, the natural consequence is, on occasion, pregnancy, and there is no injustice in forbidding them in terminating that pregnancy. But where a woman has not consensually engaged in the activity that we know can result in pregnancy, that we ought to at least allow her some window of opportunity.”

“Not arguing for it,” she added. “I’m trying to explain why so many of our fellow citizens, who even self-identify as pro-life, think the rape cases are different, think the responsibility of people who did not even engage in the activity they know could be procreative should be excused for some brief period of time. Although even among those who would support a rape exception, I question whether they would accept it after the fourth or fifth month. There’s some sort of idea that you’ve waited long enough, you’ve made your decision.”

After the lecture, one audience member asked a question apparently related to rape exceptions.

“No, I think there will always be a rape exception,” Collett responded.

“I think that is likely, just politically,” agreed Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Steven Aden.

“I think that’s sad,” Collett added, “but we saw in South Dakota… it was unsuccessful.”

“As you saw Professor Collett’s stat that most women who are subjected to rape decide to keep the baby,” Aden said. “And those babies provide joy and fulfillment to other couples. But until there’s a place in the heart in this society for every person, even those conceived in horrible, indefensible circumstances, I think that politically perhaps there always will be.”

Analysis Politics

The GOP’s Official Stance On Abortion, Emergency Contraception and “Personhood”

Sidra Zaidi

The GOP platform committee did not amend language from the 2004 and 2008 GOP platforms, which “assert the sanctity of human life,” and provide no exceptions to abortion in any case whatsoever. The committee add language opposing drugs such as mifepristone, but members agreed that this platform amendment did not apply to EC.

All eyes are turning to the GOP and its position on abortion and emergency contraception (EC) after Congressman Todd Akin’s (R-MO) remarks about “legitimate rape.” For his part, Rep. Akin opposes the “morning-after” pill. On August 8, 2012, he told a Kansas radio station:

““As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.” Greg Knapp, the radio host, asked again: “So just to be clear, though, you would like to ban the morning-after, totally for everyone?”

“Yeah,” Akin said. “I think that’s a form of abortion, and I don’t support it.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Rep. Akin’s opponent for U.S. Senate in Missouri, responded to Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments with support for EC:

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“My experience in working with hundreds of rape victims, and holding their hands and crying with them, is that the morning after pill is such a sense of security for them that there will be no pregnancy as a result of what is the most horrific and traumatic experience that they will ever have in their life. I want to hold on to their ability to take the morning after pill, so I do think that it’s worth the conversation and the debate on that issue.”

Although almost every prominent member of the GOP has condemned Rep. Akin’s “legitimate rape” statement, the GOP platform committee did not amend language from the 2004 and 2008 GOP platforms, which “assert the sanctity of human life,” and provide no exceptions to abortion in any case whatsoever. But the committee did add language opposing drugs such as mifepristone. Members agreed, however, that this platform amendment did not apply to EC.

Mary Summa, a delegate from North Carolina, introduced a plank that asked the FDA not to approve drugs that terminate pregnancies. She said, “We oppose approval of these drugs and similar drugs that terminate innocent human life after conception.”

The committee’s youngest member by a decade, 22-year-old Jackie Curtiss from Alabama, sought clarification that the amendment would not obstruct access to EC. She stated, “In light of the recent comments by Congressman Todd Akin, and in an attempt to reaffirm to the American people the party’s sensitivity on the subject of rape, I believe that we should not support an amendment which opposes approval of a method that’s been proven effective in preventing the pregnancy of rape victims.”  The amendment passed after other committee members ensured that the resolution would not affect the “morning-after” pill.

Despite the novelty of the GOP platform committee amendment, opposition to drugs such as mifepristone is a continuation of previous GOP efforts to prevent the FDA from approving such drugs. In 1999, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP vice-presidential nominee, voted yes on the “Prohibition of Chemically Induced Abortion Amendment,” which denied funding to the FDA for the testing, development, or approval for any drug that chemically induces abortion. The amendment passed in the House but was blocked in the Senate.

The proposed 2012 GOP platform, to be published next week, reiterates advocacy for a human life amendment in identical language to the 2004/2008 platform: “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” This language does not provide exceptions for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.

Even though the GOP platform does not specify when human life begins, in 2011, both Ryan and Akin co-sponsored H.R. 212 “Sanctity of Human Life Act,” which states, “Each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” H.R. 212 was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution in January 2011 and has not progressed further since then.

According to his website, Mitt Romney, who describes himself as “pro-life,” also “believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view.” Romney has referred to EC pills as “abortive pills” and “abortifacients” on numerous occasions.

But he concedes that “while the nation remains so divided” on when life begins, the “next step” to limit abortion is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Romney’s website does not provide exceptions to anti-abortion laws in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. After Akin’s comments, however, the Romney-Ryan campaign stated: “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

This assertion directly contradicts Ryan’s views on abortion, which he supports banning in all cases, except when abortion is required to save the life of the mother. Ryan is, however, inconsistent on that point because he also opposes partial-birth abortions. But in an August 22nd statement, Rep. Ryan says he is “comfortable” with Romney’s position:

“I’m proud of my pro-life record. And I stand by my pro-life record in Congress. But Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney will be president and he will set the policy of the Romney administration. His policy is exceptions for rape incest and life of the mother. I’m comfortable with it because it’s a good step in the right direction.”

Although Romney now claims he would support exceptions to abortion in cases of rape or incest, it is unlikely that his new-found views will spur any change in the GOP’s official platform. In 2008, Senator John McCain tried to amend the platform’s language to include exceptions to rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother, but his requests were ignored by the platform committee, which is known for being more conservative than some of its party’s members.

The Democratic National Committee quickly pointed out that the official GOP platform included an “Akin plank.” Romney’s campaign rebutted that it was not uncommon for the nominee to contrast his views with the official party platform. Indeed, Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, chairman of the platform committee asserted, “We have a general plank in there that affirms our belief in the God-given right to life and that governments are instituted to protect that. The specifics are largely left up to the states.”