Roundup: Abortion Rises Again as Election Issue

Brady Swenson

Obama seeks middle ground on abortion; McCain slammed for 'sarcastic air quotes'; Abortion restrictions on the ballot in Colorado, South Dakota and California; Broad support for reproductive health bill in Phillipines; UN says more focus on women needed in fight against HIV; 'HIV positive' Muppet educates kids on the disease in South Africa.

Abortion Rises Again as Election Issue

With grave economic concerns driving the conversation on the campaign trail these past weeks the candidates themselves had been relatively quiet on the issue of abortion.  Governor Sarah Palin kicked off the rise of abortion as an election issue this year last Friday at a rally when she called Senator Barack Obama "radical" on abortion.  Then Bob Schieffer asked the candidates about their views on Roe vs. Wade during
Wednesday’s presidential debate.  The question naturally led to a
conversation about the candidate’s stances on abortion.  Obama said America should find a way to work together on the "very difficult issue" and offered a way to reduce the "tragic situation" of abortion while maintaining a woman’s right to choose:

we should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing
appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is
sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and
providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want
to choose to keep the baby.

Obama’s answer was well very received by CNN’s dialtest group of undecided Ohio voters and has been well recieved in OpEd’s by leaders who were formerly in the "overturn Roe" camp, including Jim Wallis and Doug Kmiec.  The LA Times editorial board appreciates Obama’s goal to reduce abortion through better sex education, affordable health care for women and other "culture of life" policies:

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If the goal is to create a culture in which abortion is a last resort
— because even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the procedure will
certainly be legal in some states — then Obama offers the better
vision to safeguard the health of women and children. He places
reproductive health on a continuum of care from gynecological
screenings to high-quality day care. This too is a culture of life.

Senator John McCain gave what has become the traditional GOP answer, that he would like to see Roe overturned and the issue returned to the states, and that we "have to change the culture of America."  McCain rebutted Obama’s observation that he would support restrictions on late-term abortions provided there is an exception for the health of the mother by claiming that the health exception is "the extreme ‘pro-abortion’ position, quote ‘health,’" and making air quotes around the word health.  Women have reacted negatively to McCain’s perceived mocking of the health of women.  Last night Rachel Maddow of MSNBC asked in disbelief on her show if "McCain really made sarcastic air quotes around the word ‘health.’"

The McCain campaign has also decided to press a long-debunked attack on Obama’s record on ‘Born Alive’ legislation he voted against in Illinois.  McCain repeated the false attack in the debate and his campaign is running robocalls in swing states that are spreading the debunked claim:

I’m calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC because you need to
know that Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate
opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after
surviving attempted abortions — a position at odds even with John
Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama and his liberal Democrats are
too extreme for America. Please vote — vote for the candidates who
share our values. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the
Republican National Committee at 202 863 8500.

Today CNN’s fact checking team called the claim "misleading."  Emily’s post, linked above and here, sets the record straight.

Abortion is also an unavoidable voting issue for voters in Colorado, South Dakota and California where various bans and restrictions on abortion are on the ballot.  Today the Christian Science Monitor takes a brief look at those ballot initiatives.

Perhaps discussion of finding a middle ground on the abortion issue centered on an agreement to maintain a woman’s right to choose and use enlightened policy to reduce the economic and social reasons women choose abortion is happening not a moment too late because as Ellen Goodman observes abortion is becoming increasingly stigmatized in no small part by bitter partisanship.  

 

7 of 10 Philippine Families Support Proposed Reproductive Health Legislation

Legislation being considered in the Philippines would provide more comprehensive sex education for students and legalize and subsidize contraception across the country. A recent survey shows 70% of Philippine families support the legislation.  Despite a strong opposition campaign being waged by the Catholic Church in the Philippines the poll shows that support does not vary by religion as 71% of Catholics support the bill compared with 68% of non-Catholics.  

 

UN Says Women Need Empowerment in Fight Against AIDS

Nafis Sadik, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific
region, told a poverty alleviation conference in Beijing that lack of
respect for women was helping drive the spread of the virus
:

"Gender-based violence and discrimination on grounds of gender drive
the HIV and AIDS epidemic among women. Empowerment of women —
equipping them with self-esteem, the knowledge, the ability to protect
themselves — will be of critical importance in winning the battle,"
Sadik said.

"Women suffer doubly. First, from HIV and AIDS itself, and secondly
from the stigma associated with the disease. Women are routinely blamed
for infecting their husbands, though it is almost always the men who
infect their wives," she said.

In Asia, at least 75 million men regularly buy sex from about 10 million female sex workers, she said.

"The results of male behavior can be seen in changing patterns of
infection. Today, about one-third of all people living with HIV in
China are women, compared with one in 10 in 1995," Sadik said.

The human immunodeficiency virus infects 33 million people globally, half of them women, and kills 2 million annually.

 

HIV-Positive Muppet Steals the Show in Johannesburg

Friday’s are good days to smile a little bit and this story will do the trick.  Kami, the "HIV positive" Muppet star of Takalani Sesame, the South African spin-off of the American children’s television program Sesame Street, has become an even bigger star touring the country talking to children about HIV/AIDS. 
Kami made her debut on South African television and radio in 2002, the
result of a cooperative effort between the South African Broadcasting
Corporation (SABC) and Sesame Street and the Muppets in the United
States. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) played a
key role in coordinating the linkage:

"Kami is making a huge difference in the lives of millions of children
here," said the SABC’s Jeffrey Molawa. "She herself lives with HIV. She
is a 5-year-old orphan who has been adopted by other characters on
Takalani Sesame. She is intelligent, bright, loveable and humble. The
children who watch and listen to her learn that it is not a shame to
have HIV/AIDS."

 

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.

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.”