Roundup: HHS Regulation a ‘Sneak Attack on Family Planning’

Brady Swenson

The LA Times calls HHS proposal a 'sneak attack on family planning'; HPV vaccine banned from Catholic school in UK; HIV rates among drug users worldwide rises; Wall Street takes welfare it begrudges to women; Why the election matters for reproductive rights; Jesuit priest embraces social support programs to reduce abortion; Remote control male birth control.

Federal Push to Let Healthcare Workers Refuse Services is Really an Assault on Reproductive Health

An LA Times editorial today calls the proposed HHS ‘conscience’ regulation that would allow all health care workers and volunteers, not just doctors, to refuse services on the basis of contentious objection, a "sneak attack on family planning."  The editorial echoes one of the most common and concerning criticisms of the proposed regulation, its undefined breadth: 

It gives no definition of abortion, leaving it up to the individual
provider. It’s equally unclear what else might be morally
objectionable. Providing HIV tests? Treating the children of same-sex
couples? Giving a rape victim emergency contraception, or delivering
life-prolonging treatments to seniors?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 98% of
women of reproductive age in the U.S. have used contraceptives; the
pill is the leading method among young women, and sterilization the
preferred method of women over 35. But should Health and Human Services
or the president permit this change — congressional approval is not
necessary — husbands and wives would share the decision about whether
to have children with a pharmacist at a CVS, a volunteer at a federally
funded clinic or a second-year medical resident. So much for individual

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We have much more on the proposed regulation and encourage you to voice your thoughts and concerns today as the public comment period ends tomorrow.  


HPV Vaccine Banned from Catholic High School in UK

A Catholic church in the UK has barred 12 and 13 year old pupils from being vaccinated against HPV and, thus, cervical cancer on school premises:

Governors of St Monica’s RC High School in Prestwich, Bury, Greater
Manchester, reached the decision even though the vaccination programme has
been approved by the Catholic hierarchy in Britain.

Although a letter outlining the governors’ stance makes no mention of moral
objections, at least one of their number has previously criticized the
injections for "encouraging sexual promiscuity".


HIV Rates Up Among Drug Users

The BBC reports on a study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, that shows in at least 9 countries more than 40% of intravenous drug users are HIV positive:

In some countries in South East Asia, Latin America and Eastern
Europe the rates of infection among injecting users are above 40%. In
Estonia it is more than 72%.

But some countries have maintained very low rates of infection,
such as the UK – where the rate is 2.3% – New Zealand and Australia
where only 1.5% of injecting drug users are HIV-positive.

Researchers cite successful needle exchange programs as the central reason some countries are able to maintain such a low rate of HIV infection among intravenous drug users. 


Wall Street Takes Welfare it Begrudges to Women

Mimi Abramovitz of Women’s eNews laments the government’s diminishing commitment to important economic safety net programs while government hastens to provide a safety net for failing corporations: 

Today we sit and watch as the high-rolling gamblers and critics of "big
government" take welfare. These are many of the same people who thought
it was just fine to deprive millions of women of critical resources and
let them fend for themselves.

Abramovitz says that "[b]eginning with President Carter in the mid 1970s, our leaders changed their tune, blaming economic woes on big government."  This change of tune began a 30 year trend of decreased funding for Great Depression era economic safety net and welfare programs that is "one of the three interlocking pillars of economic support counted on by thousands of women from all walks of life."  The other two pillars according to Abramovitz, marriage and wages, are also growing weaker as median wages for men and women have declined over the past 30 years.  Abramovitz concludes:

The public bailout of corporate America may be necessary given the
risks of a collapse to the global economy. But why is it that the rich
and reckless accept "welfare" for themselves while steadfastly
rejecting the same for women in need? It’s time to take a billion here
and there to assist the women raising families on too little income to
keep a roof over their heads.


Why the 2008 Election Matters for Reproductive Rights

Dawn Johnsen blogging at the blog Balkinization explains why she thinks the outcome of this election will indeed impact reproductive rights.  She writes in response to a claim by Neal Devins that the election will do very little to impact abortion rights because Roe v. Wade will never be overturned.  Johnsen answers that "[p]residents of course possess the authority to do far more to affect reproductive health and liberty than just appoint judges."  She cites the Bush administration’s proposed HHS regulations that would limit access to reproductive health care for women as an example.  She also cites a president’s authority to

determine whether
government money will fund anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” and
whether schools will provide comprehensive sexuality education, aimed
at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, or only
teach abstinence.


But Johnsen also writes that she is "amazed at the
confidence with which some commentators assert that the Court will
never overrule Roe, regardless of changes in the Court’s composition."  Indeed I have read several articles now in which the author is very confident that, because of the principle of stare decisis, the court will never overturn Roe.  While Johnsen has her doubts as to the certainty of Roe she is more concerned about the strategy to chip away at Roe and how Supreme Court justices will decide on cases like the current South Dakota
abortion ban proposal.  


Abortion: Rhetoric or Results

Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese is one of those who thinks Roe is settled law that will not be overturned.  That belief, along with a slew of studies he cites in his post today at a Washington Post blog, leads him to the conclusion that pro-lifers need to embrace social programs that support women, children and familes and have been proven to help reduce abortion rates. 


Remote Control Male Birth Control

Thanks for Samhita at Feministing for pointing us to a new technology currently in testing in Australia that "allows men to control a valve that can switch their sperm flow on and off as required."  You’ve got to check this out.

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.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”


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