At Zero Hour, Competitive Congressional Races See Fights Over Reproductive Health

Amanda Marcotte

Three of the most highly competitive House and Senate races feature spirited debate on reproductive health and other so-called "social" issues.

Dubbed the "silly season"
by political bloggers, campaign season is noteworthy each time around
for the race to the bottom by people willing to exploit any angle they
have to get a single vote.  In the last few days of this historic
election, I keep finding myself humming "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
by Joy Division, specifically the lines, "All my failings
exposed/Get a taste in my mouth/As desperation takes hold." 
Many of us are clutched up in anxiety waiting for Election Day, and
short of a massage, the best relaxation is sitting back and laughing
at the shenanigans.   

The House race between
Illinois 6th District incumbent Peter Roskam and challenger Jill Morgenthaler has become the one to
watch, if you look to politics to entertain you.  Roskam holds
the seat previously held by the abortion obsessive Henry Hyde, who wrote
the infamous Hyde amendment that requires women who receive federal
health care to carry pregnancies to term against their will if they
can’t scrape together the money to pay for abortions.  Roskam, if anything, is even more interested
in using his political power to control women’s private health care
decisions, and this aspect of his political philosophy has become a major factor in
Morgenthaler’s argument against him

Morgenthaler has highlighted Roskam’s attempts to pass a law that
would require women to carry all embryos created for in-vitro fertilization
to term, though the bill did not seem to stipulate that women would
be required to carry 12 to 15 fetuses at once, which perhaps was its
only nod to reality.   

Until this week, Roskam has not had
the money to run ads against Morgenthaler,

and he’s in a state of stress that tends to make political watchers
grab the popcorn, because we know it’s just a matter of time before
something indiscreet comes out of his mouth.  Roskam did not disappoint, as the Pioneer Press
reported.
 

    Citing the late Congressman
    Henry Hyde, who represented the 6th District for 16 terms until 2006,
    Roskam said people cannot be categorized by the way in which they were
    conceived and asked in the Pioneer Press interview why women can have
    abortions if rapists cannot be executed. 

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It’s a baffling statement,
because the only people who truly want to classify people by their conception
are those who espouse "traditional values" and want to classify
people into groups known as "legitimate" and "illegitimate"
precisely on the circumstances of their conception and their parents’
relationship to one another.  As far as I know, no one suggests
giving people conceived by rape fewer rights.  The question I want
to ask Roskam is, if we don’t execute rapists, why do we think it’s
okay to punish their innocent victims with forced childbirth? 

But it’s not a real political
circus until someone sues someone else for libel, and challenger Kay
Hagan of North Carolina obliged, suing Senate incumbent Elizabeth Dole
for defamation and libel.

At issue are a series of ads that imply not just that Hagan consorts
with atheists, but she herself is "godless."  The ad confuses
the words of a local atheist activist, seeming to put them directly
in Hagan’s mouth, even though Hagan is a Presbyterian who teaches
Sunday school.  The lawsuit hurt my feelings a bit, because I’m
an atheist and don’t see that we’re so bad that it’s defaming
to consort with us, but in a nation that’s overrun with culture warriors
who want to imply that one can’t have religious faith and be pro-choice
or pro-gay, I can see the political importance of the lawsuit.  

Dole, who sits in the seat
once occupied by Jesse Helms, has tried to defeat Hagan by pulling out
all culture warrior stops, blanketing North Carolina with mailers decrying Hagan’s
unwillingness to write bigotry into the state constitution,
and comically showing two male dolls
wearing tuxedos, one kneeling in front of the other. I’m taking the
kneeling image as a good sign.  It used to be that just showing
people same sex dolls standing next to each other would send a community
into a tizzy.  Now that’s apparently not enough, and they have
to use images that unsubtly hint at pornographic ones in order to get
people in the right paranoid mindset.  Will the homo-panic fliers
during the next campaign season show naked dolls in bed together? 
I suspect they’ll have to go there. 

The fears of atheism and dude
doin’ it hasn’t managed to help Dole’s campaign, though. 
In fact, Hagan
pulled out even further ahead of Dole in the polls,
capturing a 6 point lead going into
the weekend before election day, and this in a state with early voting. 
Dole no doubt thought the atheist ad would be an October surprise, but
unless she has a November surprise, her chances aren’t looking so
hot.  

Across the country, the culture
warrior campaign tactics seem to be losing their luster, after 40 years
of being the go-to way for candidates to turn an election away from
policy and towards begrudging your neighbor and resisting the future. 
Even in the Minnesota race, where anti-choice ads are helping keep Al
Franken close to incumbent Norm Coleman in the polls, the ads  seem lackluster
and uninspired, running through "child-killing" accusations
that have lost much of their power from toothless repetition.
Are Americans finally tired of being
terrorized with hyperbolic images of out-of-control godless liberalism? 
Or is it just a temporary blip, a result of an economic crisis that
makes policing your neighbor’s bedroom seem less important than it
used to?  No one can really say, and it will be years before we
know for sure what’s going on.

News Abortion

Reproductive Justice Groups Hit Back at RNC’s Anti-Choice Platform

Michelle D. Anderson

Reproductive rights and justice groups are greeting the Republican National Convention with billboards and media campaigns that challenge anti-choice policies.

Reproductive advocacy groups have moved to counter negative images that will be displayed this week during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, while educating the public about anti-choice legislation that has eroded abortion care access nationwide.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, along with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Trump’s choice for vice president, have supported a slew of anti-choice policies.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health is among the many groups bringing attention to the Republican Party’s anti-abortion platform. The New York City-based nonprofit organization this month erected six billboards near RNC headquarters and around downtown Cleveland hotels with the message, “If abortion is made illegal, how much time will a person serve?”

The institute’s campaign comes as Created Equal, an anti-abortion organization based in Columbus, Ohio, released its plans to use aerial advertising. The group’s plan was first reported by The Stream, a conservative Christian website.

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The site reported that the anti-choice banners would span 50 feet by 100 feet and seek to “pressure congressional Republicans into defunding Planned Parenthood.” Those plans were scrapped after the Federal Aviation Administration created a no-fly zone around both parties’ conventions.

Created Equal, which was banned from using similar messages on a large public monitor near the popular Alamo historic site in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said in an interview with Rewire that Created Equal’s stance and tactics on abortion show how “dramatically out of touch” its leaders compared to where most of the public stands on reproductive rights. Last year, a Gallup poll suggested half of Americans supported a person’s right to have an abortion, while 44 percent considered themselves “pro-life.”

About 56 percent of U.S. adults believe abortion care should be legal all or most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center’s FactTank.

“It’s important to raise awareness about what the RNC platform has historically endorsed and what they have continued to endorse,” Miller told Rewire.

Miller noted that more than a dozen women, like Purvi Patel of Indiana, have been arrested or convicted of alleged self-induced abortion since 2004. The billboards, she said, help convey what might happen if the Republican Party platform becomes law across the country.

Miller said the National Institute for Reproductive Health’s campaign had been in the works for several months before Created Equal announced its now-cancelled aerial advertising plans. Although the group was not aware of Created Equal’s plans, staff anticipated that intimidating messages seeking to shame and stigmatize people would be used during the GOP convention, Miller said.

The institute, in a statement about its billboard campaign, noted that many are unaware of “both the number of anti-choice laws that have passed and their real-life consequences.” The group unveiled an in-depth analysis looking at how the RNC platform “has consistently sought to make abortion both illegal and inaccessible” over the last 30 years.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio last week began an online newspaper campaign that placed messages in the Cleveland Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Dayton Daily News, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio spokesman Gabriel Mann told Rewire.

The ads address actions carried out by Created Equal by asking, “When Did The Right To Life Become The Right To Terrorize Ohio Abortion Providers?”

“We’re looking to expose how bad [Created Equal has] been in these specific media markets in Ohio. Created Equal has targeted doctors outside their homes,” Mann said. “It’s been a very aggressive campaign.”

The NARAL ads direct readers to OhioAbortionFacts.org, an educational website created by NARAL; Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio; the human rights and reproductive justice group, New Voices Cleveland; and Preterm, the only abortion provider located within Cleveland city limits.

The website provides visitors with a chronological look at anti-abortion restrictions that have been passed in Ohio since the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 2015, for example, Ohio’s Republican-held legislature passed a law requiring all abortion facilities to have a transfer agreement with a non-public hospital within 30 miles of their location. 

Like NARAL and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Preterm has erected a communications campaign against the RNC platform. In Cleveland, that includes a billboard bearing the message, “End The Silence. End the Shame,” along a major highway near the airport, Miller said.

New Voices has focused its advocacy on combatting anti-choice policies and violence against Black women, especially on social media sites like Twitter.

After the police killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy, New Voices collaborated with the Repeal Hyde Art Project to erect billboard signage showing that reproductive justice includes the right to raise children who are protected from police brutality.

Abortion is not the only issue that has become the subject of billboard advertising at the GOP convention.

Kansas-based environmental and LGBTQ rights group Planting Peace erected a billboard depicting Donald Trump kissing his former challenger Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) just minutes from the RNC site, according to the Plain Dealer.

The billboard, which features the message, “Love Trumps Hate. End Homophobia,” calls for an “immediate change in the Republican Party platform with regard to our LGBT family and LGBT rights,” according to news reports.

CORRECTION: A version of this article incorrectly stated the percentage of Americans in favor of abortion rights. 

News Law and Policy

ACLU of Indiana Sues State Health Department, County Prosecutors Over Ultrasound Law

Michelle D. Anderson

The official digest language for the law says that pregnant patients considering an abortion “must be given the opportunity to view the fetal ultrasound imaging and hear the auscultation of the fetal heart tone” at least 18 hours before an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood joined forces again on Thursday to challenge an anti-choice law that the organizations say will prove burdensome for reproductive clinics and their patients alike in Indiana.

The two parties filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to challenge a provision of the omnibus HEA 1337, which requires an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion procedure.

The official digest language for the law says that pregnant patients considering an abortion “must be given the opportunity to view the fetal ultrasound imaging and hear the auscultation of the fetal heart tone” at least 18 hours before an abortion. At the same time, the clinic must obtain the state-required “informed consent.”

The provision went into effect July 1. Prior to its enactment, Indiana law required an ultrasound but did not mandate the time at which the imaging had to be provided. As such, clinics typically performed ultrasounds right before the procedure.

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The plaintiffs claim the new law would require many patients to make two lengthy trips to obtain an abortion or pay for an overnight stay in order to receive care. This, Planned Parenthood officials said, would also burden its majority low-income clientele by causing them to lose at least a day of wages and by potentially requiring them to arrange special child care.

The law, the plaintiffs argue, would also cause clinics to become more crowded, delaying abortions to the point where some patients may not be able to receive care within Indiana’s legal limits. Indiana bans abortions after 20 weeks except when the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Betty Cockrum, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, told the Indiana News Service the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion bill, HB 2, opened the door for the organization to seek further review of Indiana’s laws.

In an official statement, Cockrum said the 18-hour ultrasound requirement was “unduly burdensome” and added no value to the state’s already restrictive abortion policies.

The 10-page lawsuit, which argues that there is no medical justification for an ultrasound 18 hours before an abortion, lists Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams and the prosecutors of Marion, Lake, Monroe, and Tippecanoe Counties as defendants.

As commissioner, Adams is the “duly appointed official” in charge of the agency responsible for licensing abortion clinics pursuant to Indiana law, the suit explains.

Similarly, the prosecutors of the four counties listed in the lawsuit, help enforce the laws that the four Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortion care in Indiana must adhere to.

While Planned Parenthood has 23 health centers throughout the state, it only provides abortions in Bloomington, Merrillville, Indianapolis, and Lafayette.

Thursday’s lawsuit is the second legal action Planned Parenthood has taken against Indiana officials in recent weeks to challenge laws the health-care provider says could make securing abortion care cumbersome or impossible for state residents.

On June 30, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to block several provisions in HEA 1337 that would have kept a pregnant person from terminating a pregnancy when an abnormality, such as a life-threatening disability, is present in the fetus.

The lawsuit filed Thursday asks for the law to be blocked during the trial and until the court makes a decision, a declaration that the ultrasound provision is unconstitutional, and an monetary award for the plaintiff’s attorney fees.