Family Research Council Launches Attack on Freedom of Choice Act

Scott Swenson

The Family Research Council is attacking the Freedom of Choice Act hoping people won't take time to learn anything more than their spin. The bill explains itself quite well -- without any scare tactics from the far-right.

The Family Research Council is launching a $100,000 advertising campaign attacking the Freedom of Choice Act and Sen. Barack Obama.  The ad will appear in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan and Washington, DC, according to a report from Christian Broadcasting Network reporter David Brody.

To read more about the rationale for the Freedom of Choice Act, Melody Rose wrote, When a Right is Not Enough; Amie Newman wrote, Pro-Choice Leaders Push Legislative Justice;
and we provide this helpful Fact v. Fiction primer demonstrating that
restricting abortion — which has been the goal of the far-right — is not successful at reducing abortion but providing accurate information and education about reproductive health is.

The Freedom of Choice is Act is a rare piece of legislation where the language is so clear and concise that it is worth sharing below, especially for readers who may not be familiar with it.  The legislation was proposed after the Supreme Court passed a federal ban on abortion procedures performed in the late stages of pregnancy even when the life or health of the mother was in danger. 

The Freedom of Choice Act can be found here, though all the relevant portions are excerpted below so that readers can understand the bill:

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Freedom of Choice Act


(1) The United States was founded on the principles of
individual liberty, personal privacy, and equality. Such principles
ensure that each individual is free to make the most intimate decisions
free from governmental interference and discrimination.

(2) A woman’s decision to commence, prevent, continue, or
terminate a pregnancy is one of the most intimate decisions an
individual ever faces. As such, reproductive health decisions are best
made by the woman, in consultation with her medical provider or loved
ones, without governmental interference.


(3) In 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut (381 U.S. 479),
and in 1973, in Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113) and Doe v. Bolton (410 U.S.
179), the Supreme Court recognized the right to privacy protected by
the Constitution and that such right encompassed the right of every
woman to weigh the personal, moral, and religious considerations
involved in deciding whether to commence, prevent, continue, or
terminate a pregnancy.

(4) The Roe v. Wade decision carefully balanced the
rights of women to make important reproductive decisions with the
state’s interest in potential life. Under Roe v. Wade and Doe v.
Bolton, a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy is
absolute only prior to fetal viability, with the state permitted to ban
abortion after fetal viability except when necessary to protect the
life or health of a woman.

(5) These decisions have protected the health and lives
of women in the United States. Prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, an
estimated 1,200,000 women each year were forced to resort to illegal
abortions, despite the known hazards that included unsanitary
conditions, incompetent treatment, infection, hemorrhage,
disfiguration, and death.

(6) According to one estimate, prior to 1973, as many
as 5,000 women died each year in the United States as a result of
having an illegal abortion.

(7) In countries where abortion remains illegal, the
risk of complications and maternal mortality is high. According to the
World Health Organization, of the approximately 600,000
pregnancy-related deaths occurring annually around the world, 80,000
are associated with unsafe abortions.

(8) The Roe v. Wade decision expanded the opportunities
for women to participate equally in society. In 1992, in Planned
Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833), the Supreme Court observed that,
`[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and
social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to
control their reproductive lives.’.

(9) Even though the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteed a
constitutional right to choose whether to terminate or continue a
pregnancy, threats to that right remain, including possible reversal or
further erosion by the Supreme Court of the right, and legislative and
administrative policies at all levels of government that make abortion
more difficult and dangerous to obtain.

(10) 87 percent of the counties in the United States have no abortion provider.

(11) Legal barriers to the full range of reproductive services endanger the health and lives of women.

(12) Women should have meaningful access to
reproductive health services to prevent unintended pregnancies, thereby
reducing the need for abortions.

(13) To ensure that a woman’s right to choose whether
to terminate a pregnancy is available to all women in the United
States, Federal protection for that right is necessary.

(14) Although Congress may not create constitutional
rights without amending the Constitution, Congress may, where
authorized by its enumerated powers and not prohibited by the
Constitution, enact legislation to create and secure statutory rights
in areas of legitimate national concern.

(15) Congress has the affirmative power under section 8
of article I of the Constitution and section 5 of the 14th amendment to
the Constitution to enact legislation to facilitate interstate commerce
and to prevent State interference with interstate commerce, liberty, or
equal protection of the laws.

(16) Federal protection of a woman’s right to choose to
prevent or terminate a pregnancy falls within this affirmative power of
Congress, in part, because–

  • (A) many women cross State lines to obtain abortions and many more
    would be forced to do so absent a constitutional right or Federal
    protection; 
  • (B) reproductive health clinics are commercial
    actors that regularly purchase medicine, medical equipment, and other
    necessary supplies from out-of-State suppliers; and
  • (C) reproductive health clinics employ doctors,
    nurses, and other personnel who travel across State lines in order to
    provide reproductive health services to patients.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.


(a) STATEMENT OF POLICY- It is the policy of the United
States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a
child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to
terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect
the life or health of the woman.


(b) PROHIBITION OF INTERFERENCE- A government may not–

(1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose–

 

  • (A) to bear a child;
  • (B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or
  • (C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or

 

(2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set
forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits,
facilities, services, or information.

In this Act:

(3) VIABILITY- The term `viability’ means that stage of
pregnancy when, in the best medical judgment of the attending physician
based on the particular medical facts of the case before the physician,
there is a reasonable likelihood of the sustained survival of the fetus
outside of the woman.

 
What the Family Research Council Won’t Tell You

What the Family Research Council will not tell you is that one of the reasons they want to overturn Roe v. Wade is not simply to return the issue to the states, but to attempt to pass a federal abortion ban outlawing all abortions in all fifty states.  Social conservatives have already tried to use the federal government to intervene in social issues at the end of life, in the Terri Schiavo case, and by attempting to overturn Oregon’s Death with Dignity Law.  The far-right will talk about states’ rights, unless they disagree with what a state chooses to do and  they have power at the federal level to undo it.  The courts, including the Roberts Court, protected individual and state rights against the wishes of the far-right. The most conservative members, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas did not side with states’ rights, but with the federal government’s attempt to overturn the wishes of individuals and states.

The Freedom of Choice Act is about ensuring what the law already provides, legal access to a safe abortion based on the private decisions of the woman, her family, her conscience; and the medical information available to her physician.  Isn’t that where private medical decisions should be made, rather than by angry far-right activists trying to legislate every complex medical case?

Here is the Family Research Council ad, and one political note: $100,000 spread over five states is not a significant ad buy, so it is likely more people will see this online than on TV and its impact in a crowded market will be minimal.  We cover it here in an effort to continue separating fact from fictions that the far-right puts out as they turn up the heat on sexual and reproductive health issues.

 

Analysis Economic Justice

New Pennsylvania Bill Is Just One Step Toward Helping Survivors of Economic Abuse

Annamarya Scaccia

The legislation would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to terminate their lease early or request locks be changed if they have "a reasonable fear" that they will continue to be harmed while living in their unit.

Domestic violence survivors often face a number of barriers that prevent them from leaving abusive situations. But a new bill awaiting action in the Pennsylvania legislature would let survivors in the state break their rental lease without financial repercussions—potentially allowing them to avoid penalties to their credit and rental history that could make getting back on their feet more challenging. Still, the bill is just one of several policy improvements necessary to help survivors escape abusive situations.

Right now in Pennsylvania, landlords can take action against survivors who break their lease as a means of escape. That could mean a lien against the survivor or an eviction on their credit report. The legislation, HB 1051, introduced by Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County), would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to terminate their lease early or request locks be changed if they have “a reasonable fear” that they will continue to be harmed while living in their unit. The bipartisan bill, which would amend the state’s Landlord and Tenant Act, requires survivors to give at least 30 days’ notice of their intent to be released from the lease.

Research shows survivors often return to or delay leaving abusive relationships because they either can’t afford to live independently or have little to no access to financial resources. In fact, a significant portion of homeless women have cited domestic violence as the leading cause of homelessness.

“As a society, we get mad at survivors when they don’t leave,” Kim Pentico, economic justice program director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), told Rewire. “You know what, her name’s on this lease … That’s going to impact her ability to get and stay safe elsewhere.”

“This is one less thing that’s going to follow her in a negative way,” she added.

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Pennsylvania landlords have raised concerns about the law over liability and rights of other tenants, said Ellen Kramer, deputy director of program services at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which submitted a letter in support of the bill to the state House of Representatives. Lawmakers have considered amendments to the bill—like requiring “proof of abuse” from the courts or a victim’s advocate—that would heed landlord demands while still attempting to protect survivors.

But when you ask a survivor to go to the police or hospital to obtain proof of abuse, “it may put her in a more dangerous position,” Kramer told Rewire, noting that concessions that benefit landlords shift the bill from being victim-centered.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” she said.

The Urban Affairs Committee voted HB 1051 out of committee on May 17. The legislation was laid on the table on June 23, but has yet to come up for a floor vote. Whether the bill will move forward is uncertain, but proponents say that they have support at the highest levels of government in Pennsylvania.

“We have a strong advocate in Governor Wolf,” Kramer told Rewire.

Financial Abuse in Its Many Forms

Economic violence is a significant characteristic of domestic violence, advocates say. An abuser will often control finances in the home, forcing their victim to hand over their paycheck and not allow them access to bank accounts, credit cards, and other pecuniary resources. Many abusers will also forbid their partner from going to school or having a job. If the victim does work or is a student, the abuser may then harass them on campus or at their place of employment until they withdraw or quit—if they’re not fired.

Abusers may also rack up debt, ruin their partner’s credit score, and cancel lines of credit and insurance policies in order to exact power and control over their victim. Most offenders will also take money or property away from their partner without permission.

“Financial abuse is so multifaceted,” Pentico told Rewire.

Pentico relayed the story of one survivor whose abuser smashed her cell phone because it would put her in financial dire straits. As Pentico told it, the abuser stole her mobile phone, which was under a two-year contract, and broke it knowing that the victim could not afford a new handset. The survivor was then left with a choice of paying for a bill on a phone she could no longer use or not paying the bill at all and being turned into collections, which would jeopardize her ability to rent her own apartment or switch to a new carrier. “Things she can’t do because he smashed her smartphone,” Pentico said.

“Now the general public [could] see that as, ‘It’s a phone, get over it,'” she told Rewire. “Smashing that phone in a two-year contract has such ripple effects on her financial world and on her ability to get and stay safe.”

In fact, members of the public who have not experienced domestic abuse may overlook financial abuse or minimize it. A 2009 national poll from the Allstate Foundation—the philanthropic arm of the Illinois-based insurance company—revealed that nearly 70 percent of Americans do not associate financial abuse with domestic violence, even though it’s an all-too-common tactic among abusers: Economic violence happens in 98 percent of abusive relationships, according to the NNEDV.

Why people fail to make this connection can be attributed, in part, to the lack of legal remedy for financial abuse, said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project, a public interest law center in Pennsylvania. A survivor can press criminal charges or seek a civil protection order when there’s physical abuse, but the country’s legal justice system has no equivalent for economic or emotional violence, whether the victim is married to their abuser or not, she said.

Some advocates, in lieu of recourse through the courts, have teamed up with foundations to give survivors individual tools to use in economically abusive situations. In 2005, the NNEDV partnered with the Allstate Foundation to develop a curriculum that would teach survivors about financial abuse and financial safety. Through the program, survivors are taught about financial safety planning including individual development accounts, IRA, microlending credit repair, and credit building services.

State coalitions can receive grant funding to develop or improve economic justice programs for survivors, as well as conduct economic empowerment and curriculum trainings with local domestic violence groups. In 2013—the most recent year for which data is available—the foundation awarded $1 million to state domestic violence coalitions in grants that ranged from $50,000 to $100,000 to help support their economic justice work.

So far, according to Pentico, the curriculum has performed “really great” among domestic violence coalitions and its clients. Survivors say they are better informed about economic justice and feel more empowered about their own skills and abilities, which has allowed them to make sounder financial decisions.

This, in turn, has allowed them to escape abuse and stay safe, she said.

“We for a long time chose to see money and finances as sort of this frivolous piece of the safety puzzle,” Pentico told Rewire. “It really is, for many, the piece of the puzzle.”

Public Policy as a Means of Economic Justice

Still, advocates say that public policy, particularly disparate workplace conditions, plays an enormous role in furthering financial abuse. The populations who are more likely to be victims of domestic violence—women, especially trans women and those of color—are also the groups more likely to be underemployed or unemployed. A 2015 LGBT Health & Human Services Network survey, for example, found that 28 percent of working-age transgender women were unemployed and out of school.

“That’s where [economic abuse] gets complicated,” Tracy told Rewire. “Some of it is the fault of the abuser, and some of it is the public policy failures that just don’t value women’s participation in the workforce.”

Victims working low-wage jobs often cannot save enough to leave an abusive situation, advocates say. What they do make goes toward paying bills, basic living needs, and their share of housing expenses—plus child-care costs if they have kids. In the end, they’re not left with much to live on—that is, if their abuser hasn’t taken away access to their own earnings.

“The ability to plan your future, the ability to get away from [abuse], that takes financial resources,” Tracy told Rewire. “It’s just so much harder when you don’t have them and when you’re frightened, and you’re frightened for yourself and your kids.”

Public labor policy can also inhibit a survivor’s ability to escape. This year, five states, Washington, D.C., and 24 jurisdictions will have passed or enacted paid sick leave legislation, according to A Better Balance, a family and work legal center in New York City. As of April, only one of those states—California—also passed a state paid family leave insurance law, which guarantees employees receive pay while on leave due to pregnancy, disability, or serious health issues. (New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and New York have passed similar laws.) Without access to paid leave, Tracy said, survivors often cannot “exercise one’s rights” to file a civil protection order, attend court hearings, or access housing services or any other resource needed to escape violence.

Furthermore, only a handful of state laws protect workers from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy or familial status (North Carolina, on the other hand, recently passed a draconian state law that permits wide-sweeping bias in public and the workplace). There is no specific federal law that protects LGBTQ workers, but the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission has clarified that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Still, that doesn’t necessarily translate into practice. For example, the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 26 percent of transgender people were let go or fired because of anti-trans bias, while 50 percent of transgender workers reported on-the-job harassment. Research shows transgender people are at a higher risk of being fired because of their trans identity, which would make it harder for them to leave an abusive relationship.

“When issues like that intersect with domestic violence, it’s devastating,” Tracy told Rewire. “Frequently it makes it harder, if not impossible, for [victims] to leave battering situations.”

For many survivors, their freedom from abuse also depends on access to public benefits. Programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the child and dependent care credit, and earned income tax credit give low-income survivors access to the money and resources needed to be on stable economic ground. One example: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where a family of three has one full-time nonsalary worker earning $10 an hour, SNAP can increase their take-home income by up to 20 percent.

These programs are “hugely important” in helping lift survivors and their families out of poverty and offset the financial inequality they face, Pentico said.

“When we can put cash in their pocket, then they may have the ability to then put a deposit someplace or to buy a bus ticket to get to family,” she told Rewire.

But these programs are under constant attack by conservative lawmakers. In March, the House Republicans approved a 2017 budget plan that would all but gut SNAP by more than $150 million over the next ten years. (Steep cuts already imposed on the food assistance program have led to as many as one million unemployed adults losing their benefits over the course of this year.) The House GOP budget would also strip nearly $500 billion from other social safety net programs including TANF, child-care assistance, and the earned income tax credit.

By slashing spending and imposing severe restrictions on public benefits, politicians are guaranteeing domestic violence survivors will remain stuck in a cycle of poverty, advocates say. They will stay tethered to their abuser because they will be unable to have enough money to live independently.

“When women leave in the middle of the night with the clothes on their back, kids tucked under their arms, come into shelter, and have no access to finances or resources, I can almost guarantee you she’s going to return,” Pentico told Rewire. “She has to return because she can’t afford not to.”

By contrast, advocates say that improving a survivor’s economic security largely depends on a state’s willingness to remedy what they see as public policy failures. Raising the minimum wage, mandating equal pay, enacting paid leave laws, and prohibiting employment discrimination—laws that benefit the entire working class—will make it much less likely that a survivor will have to choose between homelessness and abuse.

States can also pass proactive policies like the bill proposed in Pennsylvania, to make it easier for survivors to leave abusive situations in the first place. Last year, California enacted a law that similarly allows abuse survivors to terminate their lease without getting a restraining order or filing a police report permanent. Virginia also put in place an early lease-termination law for domestic violence survivors in 2013.

A “more equitable distribution of wealth is what we need, what we’re talking about,” Tracy told Rewire.

As Pentico put it, “When we can give [a survivor] access to finances that help her get and stay safe for longer, her ability to protect herself and her children significantly increases.”

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”