International Women’s Health? Who’s President Makes The Difference

Craig Lasher

On the global gag rule, on funding for UNFPA, and on PEFPAR -- who holds the office of the Presidency makes the critical difference.

Under the Constitution and
our system of government as it has evolved over the more than 200 years
of the country’s history, the President has been vested with a number
of powers and authorities by which he can imprint his stamp on the interactions
of the United States with the rest of the world, including through development
and humanitarian assistance. As a result, who occupies the White House
can greatly affect what policies govern international family planning
and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs and how much money is spent
on these critical health activities. The President matters. 

The fact that the President
matters is nowhere more obvious in the policymaking arena, in two ways — either
through promulgation of policy directives himself or in interpreting
and enforcing the laws passed by Congress.

In the first instance, it is important to remember that the Mexico City Policy/Global
Gag Rule
, which
prohibits U.S. family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) assistance from being provided to foreign nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) that provide abortion services or counsel, refer,
or lobby on abortion with non-U.S. funds, is solely an executive branch
policy. The Global Gag Rule has been a ping pong ball that has bounced
back and forth depending on who was in the White House. President George
W. Bush announced the reinstatement of these restrictions, which were
in effect during the Reagan and Bush administrations in the mid-1980s
and early 1990s, on his second day in office, merely by issuing a "presidential
memorandum" to the Administrator of the Agency for International
Development. President Clinton had rescinded the policy on one of his
first days of his term in 1993 by issuing a similar memorandum. The
next President could choose either course of action — leave in place
or rescind. 

Whether or not the United States
will provide a contribution to the United Nations Population
Fund
(UNFPA) is
dependent upon and an example of the second type of leverage that the
President can exert on FP/RH policymaking — the ability to interpret
the law. For the last seven years, President Bush has withheld the U.S. contribution
to UNFPA
by employing
an overly broad interpretation of the so-called Kemp-Kasten amendment
(first attached to annual appropriations bills in 1985), which prohibits
funding to any organization that "supports or participates in the
management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization,"
and by pointing to the presence of a UNFPA country program in China, where
human rights abuses have occurred, as grounds for denying funding. Conversely,
the lawyers in President Clinton’s State Department employed a different
and more narrow and proper interpretation of the statute to allow U.S.
funds to flow to UNFPA during his tenure. Whether or not the next President
wants to fund UNFPA will determine how the Kemp-Kasten amendment is
interpreted and whether the United States will rejoin the more than
180 nations that now contribute to UNFPA. 

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(The next President might go
even further by expanding the application of the Kemp-Kasten amendment,
following through on the threat of the Bush
administration to defund other organizations working in China
with the same Chinese government institutions
which they have judged to be the enforcers of the "one-child" policy.) 

The President has wide discretion
in the conduct of foreign policy. So unless Congress explicitly prohibits
or restricts something, the President enjoys broad latitude in choosing
how to implement legislative directives and in establishing policy guidance
for the programs the executive branch administers. This separation of
powers will enable the next President to choose how to interpret and
implement various reproductive health-related provisions contained in
the recently-passed
reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
(PEPFAR). Suc provisions include the anti-prostitution
pledge
requirement and abstinence funding reporting requirement as well
as whether the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator will explore ways
to better integrate FP/RH
activities into HIV prevention programs
,
such as prevention-of-mother-to-child
transmission
and
voluntary counseling and testing.

As the old aphorism goes, "The President proposes, Congress disposes."
On the question of funding for FP/RH programs, the President can also
exert considerable influence over the amount appropriated through the
request level in his annual federal budget proposal, but ultimately
Congress has the power of the purse. Nevertheless, a low request from
the President such as the 25 and 29 percent cuts
to FP/RH proposed by President Bush

in the last two fiscal years, taxes the ability of family planning champions (especially the chairs of the House and Senate State-foreign operations
appropriations subcommittees) to find additional funding and to balance
many important competing priorities within a limited overall budget
ceiling within which they have to work.

Bottom line, whether it is policymaking or funding for U.S. involvement
in family planning and reproductive health programs around the world,
the President matters — and matters greatly.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Insists It Was He Who ‘Broke the Glass Ceiling’ for Women in Construction

Ally Boguhn

Though Trump’s statement came the same day the Associated Press first reported Clinton—whose 2008 concession speech referenced the glass ceiling—would be the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, the news had not broken at the time of Trump’s comments.

This week on the campaign trail, Donald Trump insisted he was the one who had broken the “glass ceiling” for women—in the construction industry. 

Clinton Takes Democratic Nomination—and Endorsements From Key Democrats 

Clinton received endorsements and support from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Thursday after Clinton’s Tuesday primary victories solidified her place as the party’s presumptive nominee.

“For more than a year now, across thousands of miles and all 50 states, tens of millions of Americans have made their voices heard,” Obama said in a video posted to Clinton’s Facebook page. “Today I just want to add mine.”

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“I’m with her,” continued Obama, who had previously remained neutral in the 2016 Democratic primary race. “I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there to campaign for Hillary.”

Biden threw his support behind Clinton that same day while speaking at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s 2016 national convention in Washington. According to CNN, Biden said that “God willing, in my view, [the next U.S. president] will be Secretary Clinton.”

During an interview Thursday night with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Warren, an influential voice among the party, also embraced Clinton. “I am ready to get in this fight and work my heart out for Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States,” said Warren, adding that she was determined “to make sure that Donald Trump never gets anyplace close to the White House.”

Clinton’s string of endorsements come just days after news broke that the former secretary of state had secured enough delegates to become the party’s presumptive nominee.

Though Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) remains in the race for the Democratic nomination, he signaled he will be willing to work with Clinton in order to unite the party.

“I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and to create a government which represents all of us, and not just the 1 percent,” Sanders told reporters Thursday during a press conference outside of the White House.

Trump Says He “Broke the Glass Ceiling on Behalf of Women” in Construction

Trump took credit for breaking “the glass ceiling” in construction for women during an interview on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor Monday evening.

“Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women, more than anybody in the construction industry,” Trump told host Bill O’Reilly when questioned about how he would appeal to women voters during the general election. “My relationship, I think, is going to end up being very good with women.”

Though Trump’s statement came the same day the Associated Press first reported Clintonwhose 2008 concession speech referenced the glass ceilingwould be the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, the news had not broken at the time of Trump’s comments, according to the Washington Post.

O’Reilly went on to ask the presumptive Republican nominee about a recent Boston Globe report analyzing presidential-campaign payroll data, which revealed that just 28 percent of Trump’s staff were women and that the men on staff made “about 35 percent more” than women.

Trump denied the allegations, instead claiming it was Clinton who truly failed to offer pay equality, though he later suggested “there are reasons” men on his campaign would be paid more than women such as “different jobs.”

“If you look at my company and what I pay women versus men, in many cases I pay women more money than I pay for men, and frankly, now I’ll probably get a lawsuit from my men that work for me,” Trump added.

The Globe’s analysis, however, also looked at data for the Clinton campaign and found that men and women were paid roughly the same:

The women working for Clinton — who account for 53 percent of her total staff—took home an average of $3,710. The men made slightly more, at $3,760. Clinton’s staffers, men and women, made less than the women who work for Trump.

On Clinton’s campaign, the highest-paid employee was a woman, Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s director of communications. And of the 15 highest-paid employees, eight were men and seven were women.

Trump has voiced some support for gender pay equality in the past, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe in August 2015 that “if they do the same job, they should get the same pay,” but adding that “it’s very hard to say what is the same job.” When questioned about the topic by an attendee of a rally in November, Trump reportedly said that a woman would “make the same [as a man] if you do as good a job.”

Conservatives have previously alleged that a gender pay disparity existed in Clinton’s senate office, evidencing their claim with a report from conservative news site the Free Beacon. According to FactCheck.org, Clinton’s campaign doesn’t deny that the data used for that study was accurate but argues the analysis used “incomplete, and therefore inaccurate set of numbers.”

When the fact-checking site analyzed the annual salary data provided by the Democrat’s campaign, which included some staff members not included in the Free Beacon’s study because they did not work the full year, it found that “median salaries for men and women in Clinton’s office were virtually identical” and that “Clinton hired roughly twice as many women as men.” The site took “no position” on whether the methodology used by the campaign was superior to that used by the conservative news site.

What Else We’re Reading

ThinkProgress’ Evan Popp explained that “while Clinton’s declared victory was historic and diversity within government positions has improved, experts say much more is needed before the U.S. government is truly representative of the people.”

Some Republicans are jumping ship after Trump commented on the “Mexican heritage” of the judge presiding over his Trump University case.

When asked about the possibility of another woman joining her ticket as potential vice president, Clinton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I’m looking at the most qualified people, and that includes women, of course, because I want to be sure that whoever I pick could be president immediately if something were to happen—that’s the most important qualification.” 

Though 70 percent of women view Trump unfavorably, Politico’s Daniel Lippman and Ben Schreckinger profiled some of the women who do support the presumptive Republican nominee.

“Libertarians are stepping up to the big time when it comes to fundraising from political action committees,” according to the Sunlight Foundation. Though big money typically doesn’t flow to the party during presidential elections, Gary Johnson’s presence in the race this year could change that.

Delete your account”: Clinton and Trump squared off on Twitter on Thursday.

California’s open primary system allows the top two Senate candidatesno matter the party they belong toto run in the state’s general election, and this time, two Democrats will face off.

News Abortion

The Forgotten History of Republicans’ (Failed) Attacks on Fetal Tissue Research

Christine Grimaldi

Today's congressional inquiry not only derides fetal tissue research, but attacks abortion care. The inaugural hearing in March 2016 gave Republicans a platform to compare fetal tissue research to Nazi experimentation. Republicans derided Democrats for exaggerating the importance of fetal tissue.

Republicans in Congress sixteen years ago were more vested in supporting life-saving fetal tissue research than they were in mischaracterizing such research to score political points.

The times, and the talking points, have changed.

In 2000, GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives conducted an investigation into fetal tissue practices based on a deceptive Life Dynamics video featuring a disgruntled former tissue procurement company employee. Dean Alberty alleged that two of his employers, Anatomic Gift Foundation (AGF) and Opening Lines, which acquired and distributed human fetal tissue to researchers, trafficked fetuses for profit. He also claimed that abortion providers altered procedures to obtain better tissue specimens. 

Life Dynamics, which remains a prominent anti-choice group, paid Alberty thousands of dollars during and after the time he worked in the tissue procurement business. Republicans summoned Alberty to be their key witness, but he later admitted under oath that he had lied about business operations in the Life Dynamics video and in an interview with the then-prominent ABC television news program 20/20.

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Alberty’s reveal came as a surprise, and an embarrassment, to Republicans during a hearing on the allegations before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health and Environment.

“Your credibility, as far as this member is concerned, is shot,” said then-Rep. Richard Burr (R-NC), who now serves in the U.S. Senate.

Sixteen years later, credibility doesn’t seem to carry the same weight for anti-choice Republican lawmakers as a new set of videos alleging problems with fetal tissue donations have simultaneously been discredited but are still being used as the basis of hearings some have called a witch hunt.

In July 2015, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), sponsor of the so-called Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016, and some of his colleagues coordinated with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the anti-choice front group responsible for the widely discredited smear campaign alleging that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations.

The House Energy and Commerce, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform committees launched investigations upon the release of the first surreptitiously recorded videos and have continued to attack fetal tissue research, even though GOP officials in 12 states have since cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

The first set of House hearings also failed to turn up any evidence that laws governing fetal tissue donation or research had been broken.

House Republicans nonetheless voted in October to form the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, an Energy and Commerce panel relying on the CMP videos and other allegedly falsified evidence to prove their charges of “baby body parts” for sale.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the panel’s chair, and other congressional committees have subpoenaed more than 2,000 pages of documents from tissue procurement company StemExpress. However, Blackburn has not brought in David Daleiden, the founder of CMP, to testify, although he now faces felony charges for his role in the original smear campaign.

Daleiden Testimony Could Undermine Republicans

Precedent doesn’t bode well for Republicans and their supposed whistleblowers.

Alberty, for example, expanded on his allegations of fetal tissue misconduct in the 20/20 interview with then-correspondent Chris Wallace, who now anchors Fox News Sunday. 20/20 separately targeted Opening Lines founder Dr. Miles Jones in an ostensibly damning undercover video included in the segment.

Alberty was unequivocal about wrongdoing. “This is purely for profit. Everything was about money,” he told Wallace. 

Wallace, for his part, narrated that Alberty had accepted thousands of dollars to act as an informant for Life Dynamics while continuing to work in the tissue procurement business. Why believe Alberty, then?

“I will stand behind my words until I die,” Alberty said. “I will go in front of Congress if I have to and testify under oath.”

Alberty appeared before the subcommittee the morning after the 20/20 segment aired. By that time, he had changed his story in an affidavit and a deposition that Democrats referenced to undermine his claims.

“When I was under oath I told the truth,” Alberty admitted during the hearing. “Anything I said on the video when I’m not under oath, that is a different story.”

Alberty’s name resurfaced at the select panel’s April 2016 hearing on fetal tissue “pricing,” which featured GOP exhibits reportedly taken from the CMP videos. Fay Clayton, a senior partner and founding shareholder of Robinson Curley & Clayton, P.C. and a witness for the Democrats, recalled her experience representing AGF. Alberty admitted to fabricating claims about AGF in the deposition with Clayton. 

Republicans did not know about the deposition until Democrats raised it during the 2000 hearing.

“Fetal tissue wasn’t ‘for sale’ at all,” Clayton said at the 2016 “pricing” hearing. “What was for sale was phony witness testimony, bought and paid for by opponents of abortion.”

An FBI investigation cleared Opening Lines and Jones of the trafficking charges. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also found no violations of federal statutes and closed an investigation in 2008, Robert Raben, a former DOJ official, said when he testified for the Democrats at the panel’s 2016 “pricing” hearing. 

Clayton called for members of the panel to get Daleiden under oath to tell the truth or face legal repercussions for perpetuating his claims. However, Republicans misrepresented Clayton’s testimony by saying she called for StemExpress to turn over accounting records. Blackburn soon subpoenaed those records and threatened “to pursue all means necessary” as the investigation proceeds.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, has no doubts about why Republicans continue to rely on third-party witnesses rather than Daleiden.

“I don’t think they want to bring David Daleiden in because they know that he’s a shady character and an unreliable witness,” DeGette said in an interview with Rewire.

Anti-Choice Tactics Influence Current Inquiry

As the only lawmaker to serve on the past and present investigations, DeGette sometimes feels like she’s “in a real-life version of Groundhog Day.”

“We keep having these same kinds of hearings, over and over again,” DeGette said. “In my opinion, there’s continuing pressure on the Republican Party from the far-right anti-choice movement to have these hearings, even though the claim of sale of fetal tissue has been repeatedly disproved.”

Anti-choice tactics, if not the key players, behind what congressional Democrats have branded a “witch hunt” to undermine fetal tissue research are similar today.

Life Dynamics, the anti-choice group behind the Alberty video, receives the majority of its funding from fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks—the main backers of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) suspended presidential campaign. Providers told Rewire in March that a Life Dynamics document has been used to deceive and intimidate both patients and providers by threatening legal action should they go through with obtaining or providing abortion care.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the past and present inquiries is Republicans’ attitudes toward fetal tissue research—and their ability to separate research from abortion.

The shift can be summed up in one word: politics.

“I think the difference is a structural one with a political origin,” Raben, the former DOJ official, told Rewire in an interview.

Republicans in 2000 investigated fetal tissue practices as part of a standing subcommittee. House Republicans today created the select panel, sought members to serve on it, and despite the lack of any evidence, continue to fund it through tax dollars that otherwise would not be diverted to sustained attacks on fetal tissue research.

“In the face of lousy evidence, they’re going to keep going,” Raben said.

Inquiries Diverge on Science

The current inquiry not only derides fetal tissue research, but also attacks abortion care. The inaugural hearing in March 2016 gave Republicans a platform to compare fetal tissue research to Nazi experimentation. Blackburn subsequently derided Democrats for exaggerating the importance of fetal tissue.

Democrats have warned that such rhetoric could slow scientific advances on dangerous diseases, including the Zika virus, which is linked to irreparable defects in the developing fetuses that Blackburn and her Republican counterparts have pledged to protect.

In 2000, even anti-choice Republicans repeatedly deferred to science on fetal tissue research.

“Today’s hearing is not about whether fetal tissue research is a good or bad thing, and it is definitely not about whether a woman should have a right to choose to have an abortion, which is the law of the land,” former Energy and Commerce Chair Tom Bliley (R-VA) said in 2000. “Whether we are pro life, pro choice, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, I think and hope that we can all agree that present federal law which allows for this research should be both respected and enforced.”

At that time, leading Republicans on the subcommittee also extolled, in the words of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the “life-saving research” that their investigation aimed to protect.

Upton had worked in 1992 with former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to lift the ban on fetal tissue research. And he further expressed disappointment when President George H.W. Bush vetoed their effort.

“It’s really tragic,” Upton said then. “We tried to lift the substance over politics.”

President Bill Clinton signed legislation legalizing fetal tissue donations in 1993. “Being for fetal tissue transplantation is consistent with being for life,” Upton reportedly said during that era.

Republican Fetal Tissue Allies Disappear

Upton’s approach today does not reflect what happened the last time an anti-choice group manipulated evidence and fed it to congressional Republicans. The contents of CMP’s heavily edited smear videos “can’t help but make you weep for the innocents who were sacrificed in such a cavalier manner for alleged profit,” Upton wrote in a op-ed published in the weeks after the release of the first CMP recording.

Although Upton does not serve on the panel, he effectively sanctions the investigation as chair of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee. Under House rules, standing subcommittees draw funding from the budget of the full committee with jurisdiction. The full committee chair is in charge of managing additional funds from the House Administration Committee, which sets aside $500,000 per session of Congress to supplement operating budgets, according to a senior House Democratic aide with knowledge of the chamber’s rules.

The aide said the panel follows the same procedures, receiving an undisclosed amount from Energy and Commerce and an additional $300,000 from Administration.

Administration Democrats unsuccessfully protested the transfer at the end of last year. “Spending taxpayer money on this select panel is wasteful on substantive grounds and unnecessary on practical grounds,” they said.

The transfer followed the House’s informal two-thirds/one-third funding split between the majority and minority parties, with the Republicans receiving $200,000 and the Democrats $100,000, the aide said. Full committee leaders are charged with distributing the funds, meaning that Upton had to do so with the $200,000 for Blackburn, the aide said.

Rewire contacted Upton’s office with questions ranging from whether the chair approves of the panel’s approach to how much more financial resources he will direct from the full committee’s budget to the panel. Rewire asked for Upton’s views on fetal tissue research, including if he shares Blackburn’s derision for the research and if he considers fetal tissue and “baby body parts” to be separate.

In response, a committee spokesperson emailed a brief statement. “The efforts of the Select Panel have always been based on learning the facts,” the spokesperson said. “The panel has been given a one-year term to conduct that mission, and will continue their important work. Chairman Upton has been a supporter of the panel’s charge and their efforts to protect the unborn.”

Republican Leaders Disregard Appeals to Disband Panel

Although Upton’s office told Rewire that the panel was given one year, the resolution that created the panel suggested it could go longer. The resolution only specifies that the panel will come to an end 30 days after filing a final report.

Democrats have repeatedly called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to disband the panel, including in a letter to Ryan and Blackburn last month. The panel’s Democrats again appealed to Ryan after Blackburn subpoenaed a prominent abortion provider, shifting the target from fetal tissue procurement and research to later abortion care.

DeGette said some congressional Republicans have privately shared concerns about the panel with her, but won’t do so publicly, even as their counterparts on the panel have gone “rogue.”

“This is so out on the fringes that really, I think it’s beginning to reflect on Speaker Ryan and on the whole Republican leadership in the House,” she said.

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