Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Pro-Choice Ally

Amie Newman

Rahm Emanuel will be President-Elect Obama's new White House Chief of Staff. As the "Second Most Powerful Man in Washington", Emanuel has the President's ear. With a strong pro-choice record, does this mean advocates can count on Emanuel to 'bring the message home'?

Rahm Emanuel, five-year veteran of the House of Representatives, has accepted President-Elect Obama’s offer to become his White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel is a representative of Illinois’ 5th District and is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. He is also a White House veteran having served under former President Bill Clinton as a policy advisor. 

But Emanuel also lays claim to a strong pro-reproductive health legislative record; he has supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and voted against the politically-named "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" in 2003. Emanuel’s record earned him a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

And Emanuel, like Obama, favors a strong pro-prevention focus, particularly evident in his co-sponsoring of pro-active legislation. In 2007, along with both Senators Obama and Biden, Emanuel co-sponsored the Healthy People 2010 Act, a bill "to expand access to preventive health care services that help reduce unintended pregnancy, reduce abortions, and improve access to women’s health care." 

There are many reasons for reproductive and sexual health and rights advocates to celebrate Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff, a person that certainly holds the President’s ear.

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Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America told Rewire, 

"When it comes to politics, policy, and
understanding how to win both, Rahm is among the best in the business. 
President-elect Obama continues to surround himself with fantastic
talent. Given his fully pro-choice voting record, we couldn’t be happier with
the pick." 

The White House Chief of Staff is sometimes known as the "Second Most Powerful Man in Washington" because of the power he wields. For this reason, having a strong reproductive and sexual health and rights ally could be quite a coup for the advocacy community. President-Elect Obama has the potential to enact key legislation that begins to dismantle some of the harmful policies that have piled up over the last eight years. Will Emanuel support those policies and directives for which advocates are already petitioning? It seems likely. It is clear that having Emanuel as a key member of a new administration will usher in a very different perspective on reproductive and sexual health and rights than we’ve seen in the last eight years. 

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.”

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”