False Claims Against Obama, McCain’s Record on Domestic Terrorism

Amie Newman

McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer tried to focus more attention, this morning, on the false claim made by Governor Palin that Senator Obama has been "paling around" with terrorists.

McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer tried to focus more attention, this morning, on the false claim made by Governor Palin that Senator Obama has been "palling around" with terrorists. Palin was, at least in part, referring to William Ayers, a professor and education reform advocate who, in the 1970s was suspected of carrying out a string of bombings of federal buildings in protest of the Vietnam War. Charges against Ayers and his wife (also a member of the underground group accused of carrying out the bombings) were ultimately dropped and many years later (since, at that time, Barack Obama was eight years old), Ayers and Obama were both involved in a multi-million dollar education reform project and volunteered on the same board of a foundation.

And while CNN’s Political Ticker concluded that Palin’s attacks were simply false ("There is no indication that Ayers and Obama are ‘palling around’ or that they have had an ongoing relationship in the past three years…"), the McCain campaign continues its attempts to create a controversy by claiming that if McCain had ties to somebody who bombed abortion clinics it would be legitimate to bring it up for discussion.

Think Progress, however, broadens the discussion. While Pfotenhauer dives stright into political attacks, Think Progress brings people the real facts:

Pfotenhauer’s invocation of abortion clinic bombers in defense of McCain is ironic given that McCain has repeatedly voted against protecting Americans from domestic terrorists in the anti-choice movement. On multiple occasions throughout his career, McCain sought to limit the government’s ability to punish violent anti-choice fanatics by:

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  • Voting against making anti-choice violence a federal crime. As the Jed Report notes, McCain voted in 1993 and 1994 against making “bombings, arson and blockades at abortion clinics, and shootings and threats of violence against doctors and nurses who perform abortions” federal crimes.
  • Opposing Colorado’s “Bubble Law.” McCain said he opposed Colorado’s “Bubble Law,” which prohibited abortion protesters from getting within 8 feet of women entering clinics [Denver Post, 2/27/00]. The law was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Voting to allow those fined for violence at clinics to avoid penalties by declaring bankruptcy. NARAL Pro-Chioce America notes that McCain “voted to allow perpetrators of violence or harassment at reproductive-health clinics to avoid paying the fines assessed against them for their illegal acts by declaring bankruptcy.

I know some American voters don’t like facts, preferring instead to vote on emotion. But, really, if we want to open that can of worms, McCain’s support of more governmental protection for domestic terrorists should be cause for a particular emotion, no? Voting against making domestic terrorist acts a federal crime? 

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in an email to Rewire, says, "John McCain’s refusal to protect women and doctors from violent attacks aimed at reproductive-health centers is a travesty. Even anti-choice Sen. Mitchell McConnell and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole supported some clinic-protection measures. Once again, McCain is neither a moderate nor a maverick. He is just plain wrong."

Emily Lyons, the nurse that was nearly killed, maimed for life, from an anti-choice terrorist is a living, breathing example of the hypocrisy of the anti-choice movement. I’d love for McCain to explain to her why her life is unworthy of protection by our federal government. 

News Law and Policy

Obama Judicial Nominee’s Record on Civil Rights Worse Than Originally Disclosed

Jessica Mason Pieklo

New information released by NARAL Pro-Choice America and disclosed by Judge Michael Boggs himself details a career of opposition to civil and reproductive rights. Boggs was nominated by President Obama to be a federal district judge in Georgia.

Read more of our coverage on controversial judicial nominee Michael Boggs here.

The national reproductive rights advocacy organization NARAL Pro-Choice America is ramping up its campaign against Judge Michael Boggs, a nominee to be a federal district judge in Georgia. The campaign comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider a new round of judicial appointments and as further questions surface about Boggs’ record on civil rights.

Boggs currently sits on the Georgia Court of Appeals and is a former state legislator with a long history of opposition to reproductive and civil rights. As a legislator, he co-sponsored bills that would have made it harder for young women to get abortions, and that would have funded anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers. Boggs also voted to amend the Georgia constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and to preserve the symbol of the Confederate flag in the state flag of Georgia.

Boggs’ nomination was part of a deal struck in 2013 with Senate Republicans on judicial nominations. According to reports, the Obama administration agreed to appoint three nominees, pre-approved by Georgia Republican senators, to the federal district court of Georgia. In exchange, Republicans agreed to end their filibuster of the nomination of Jill Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Progressive groups oppose Boggs’ nomination, citing much of his record as a state lawmaker and the fact that conservatives forced his nomination as part of a deal to confirm Judge Pryor as evidence that Boggs isn’t qualified for the federal bench. But then reports surfaced that Boggs had to amend his application because he left out details about his time as a state lawmaker. The items that Boggs failed to disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee include his sponsorship of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, legislation mandating that county courthouses feature the Ten Commandments, and a bill that would have created “Choose Life” license plates to fund crisis pregnancy centers in the state. In an April 10 letter to the judiciary committee, Boggs apologized for the omission, stating, “[I]n several instances in my original questionnaire, I omitted detail that I did not believe was responsive, based on the public questionnaires of other judicial nominees who had also served as state legislators.”

In addition to these omissions to the Senate Judiciary Committee, NARAL has uncovered information that questions Boggs’ fitness to serve on the federal bench. The new findings show that while serving in the state legislature Boggs voted in favor of an anti-choice amendment that would have required Internet-accessible profiles of doctors to include the number of abortion procedures the doctor had provided in the previous ten years. The Democratic leader of the state house at the time warned that the effects of such a measure could put physicians at risk. Boggs also voted in favor of an amendment that would create a committee composed of state politicians and the executive director of Georgia Right to Life to study the effects of “post-abortion syndrome.” Boggs also took an extreme position with regard to fetal “personhood,” voting twice in favor of amending a bill on criminal penalties for child abuse to define children as “both born and unborn.” The effect of this amendment would lay the groundwork to create fetal “personhood” rights and set the stage for prosecuting women for poor pregnancy outcomes, as well as re-criminalizing abortion.

In an email campaign to supporters, NARAL is asking its members to call their senators and demand that they question Boggs about his anti-choice record in Georgia. “New information has come to light that provides further evidence as to why Michael Boggs has no business being on the federal bench,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “Our judicial branch is too important to risk appointing someone whose record and stated values are out of line with our nation’s commitment to women’s fundamental rights. The Senate Judiciary Committee should aggressively question the nominee about his anti-choice record or risk further eroding the constitutional rights that so many Americans have fought to realize.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has a nominations hearing scheduled for May 13, but so far no nominees have been named on the hearing agenda. Both Georgia senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, turned in their so-called blue slips to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, which means Boggs and the other nominees in his deal are cleared for consideration, and that could happen as early as Tuesday.

Commentary Abortion

Pro-Choice Groups: It’s Time to Include Abortion Workers in the Movement

Shelley Abrams

The movement already trusts us to provide abortion treatment, so why aren't we trusted with the defense of our own cause?

Dear national pro-choice groups and local grassroots activists for abortion rights,

I’d like to begin by saying thank you. I know that most of you out there deeply and genuinely care about protecting abortion access in our country and abroad. Most of you have done the best you can within the confines of either your hierarchical employment structure or your social structure, and I want to thank you for standing up for what you believe in.

But I think we can all see that it is time to make some big changes in the movement. What we’ve been doing since 1973 hasn’t worked. The anti-choice advocates have outsmarted us and outlasted us. They have been creative in their tactics, working at the most local levels all the way up to the Supreme Court.

It’s time to call up your local loud-and-proud abortion worker. I know, I know, we can be different, even scary. We don’t always have a smile on our faces or have time for pleasantries, and we can have bad manners. Many of us feel “diplomacy” has failed the abortion rights movement, so we’ve dispensed of it in our lives. We are really real. But we are putting our lives on the line every day, and with that commitment and passion comes power.

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Clinic Workers Understand the ‘Heart of Abortion’

In 1993, when the first murder of an abortion doctor occurred, I became an abortion rights activist. I marched, traveled to defend clinics across the deep South, and, eventually, was hired at my local clinic as a doctor’s assistant.

Fast forward 20 years, and I’ve been running clinics ever since. I’ve led clinics in four U.S. southern states, including the last remaining clinic in Mississippi, and a clinic in Alabama that was bombed. I always considered working in a clinic the highest form of activism. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of abortion care. I quickly learned that patients come in many forms: anti-abortionists, Republicans, white supremacists, young, old, religious. Some of these women not only weren’t grateful that we were risking our lives to provide them this service, they actually resented us for being the people that happened to be around when they made a decision they never thought they’d make.

None of these realizations caused me to question my stance on abortion rights, however. They made it stronger and in the process sharpened my senses to the “heart of abortion,” by which I mean the day-to-day truth of abortion: That there are women every day who think abortion is murdering a baby yet very consciously choose it anyway. That most abortion patients are normal, flawed, determined women who want to not have a baby and move on with their lives as if they were never pregnant. That abortion is just plain normal.

What Went Wrong Over the Last 40 Years?

National pro-choice activist groups have done the best they could. Because they do not understand the heart of abortion, they have taken the path of least resistance and painted the issue of abortion as sanctified. They only discuss certain abortions—rape, incest, and life of the mother—while arguing society must allow other abortions to occur by default.

They set the tone. We’ve all heard it: safe, but rare. This tone implies shame. The national organizations are worried that the public will “find out” that some women do get multiple abortions or that most women don’t regret their abortion.

And talking about the normality and commonality of abortion requires, well, talking. It requires the hard work of debunking a lot of myths and reversing a lot of damage. To have this conversation honestly and accurately, it requires someone very familiar with the heart of abortion. It requires the experiences of abortion workers.

By allowing abortion rights to become something that professional figureheads defended, we took the reality out of abortion. We made it something different, strange, and special. I’m here to tell you that abortion isn’t different, it isn’t strange, and for some women, it isn’t special.

So What Do I Propose?

Like I said in the beginning, it’s time to call up your local abortion worker. The movement already trusts us to provide abortion treatment, so why aren’t we trusted with the defense of the cause? I know a lot of abortion workers can be tough nuts to crack. Some of us are a little shell-shocked from dealing with protesters, police, and threats from anti-abortion extremists. But, we are fighters, and we are survivors.

To get us out of our clinics and back into the light of day, you may have to reassure us, coach us a bit, or even talk with us about event security. We need a little patience and understanding.

Here are a couple of suggestions for getting abortion workers involved in the movement:

  • Make sure that if a pro-choice event is happening in your area, you reach out to your local provider for input and advice on the most pressing issues for their staff and patients.
  • Hold an abortion speak-out or forum and invite abortion providers to talk about what it’s really like operating a clinic.
  • Demand that local or national groups representing abortion rights have independent clinic workers on their organizing committees and board of directors. Give providers a real vote and a real voice.
  • Start a letter-writing campaign to national media sources asking them to bring in a worker for interviews when talking about abortions. Tell them that there are a lot of smart providers out there with first-hand knowledge and experience.

We are, after all, the ultimate stakeholders, and there is a lot at stake here.


Shelley Abrams
Director, A Capital Women’s Health Clinic