Putting Another Anti-Abortion Myth to Bed

Cindy Cooper

In the wake of the crushing defeat of the South Dakota and Colorado ballot measures to ban abortion, anti-choice activists can no longer say that the "people haven't spoken" on the right to abortion.

Don’t look now, but another
anti-abortion myth was put to bed in this election.   

The defeat of state anti-abortion
ballot measures marks the buckling of an underlying girder of the anti-abortion
movement.  For years, anti-abortion adherents have insisted that 
the U.S. Supreme Court wrongly took the matter of abortion out of the
hands of the voters in 1973 with the decision in Roe v. Wade
and, willy-nilly, imposed the right to choose on an unwilling public.  

Frederica Mathewes-Green, a
former vice-president of Feminists for Life and a well-known anti-abortion
writer and speaker, lays out this view in the 2007 documentary, Beyond the Politics
of Life & Choice: A New Conversation About Abortion

Mathewes-Green says:  

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    The problem with
    Roe v. Wade
    was that the people had no chance to vote.  Nine
    men in black robes decided what the law of the land was going to be.
    Americans had no opportunity to speak on this and to say how they felt
    about abortion, what they thought the laws ought to be.  We’ve
    never had a chance to say what our convictions are. 

In 2008, the people did have
an opportunity to speak, and their convictions aren’t with Mathewes-Green. 
The conviction of the voters is the that abortion should be available
and legal. They said that in Colorado, where a state ballot measure
could have resulted in banning all abortion, and in South Dakota, where
a ballot measure would have criminalized most abortions.  

South Dakota rejected an abortion
ban this November by a double-digit spread with 55 percent against it
to 44 percent in favor.  This is a state that tossed its electoral
college votes to Republican John McCain.  In 2006, the South Dakota
voters spoke their convictions in almost exactly the same way and with
the same voting margin when confronted with a more restrictive ban. 
Adding limited exceptions in 2008 did nothing to change their views. 
In fact, the 2008 ballot measure would have made abortion about as available
in South Dakota as it was in Texas when its law was challenged in
, and the voters in South Dakota still said no.   

In Colorado, where I traveled
in the fall with performances of the play Words of Choice, voters
could hear Kristi Burton, spokeswoman for the antiabortion "personhood"
amendment, argue her case on a video opinion-editorial.  Burton said, enthusiastically,
that the ballot amendment "lets us tell our elected officials and
judges who we think a person is … We want to have a voice on it and
it’s time to give the people of Colorado a voice." 

The voice of the people of
Colorado came though loud and clear.  By a margin of three to one,
they shouted: they don’t agree with Burton and they don’t want to
turn back the clock.  The vote — 73 percent against the measure
to 27 percent for it — is not so different from the percentages of
men in black robes on the Supreme Court who tossed out the Texas law
by a vote of 7 to 2 in Roe

But don’t count on anti-abortion
activists to admit the crash of their long-parroted sentiment. 
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found the perfect term for this type of
linguistic and intellectual bob-and-weave in 2007.  She described another prolife myth — that women
who have abortions come to regret them — as "an antiabortion
" for which there is "no reliable evidence." 
In fact, the word "shibboleth," rooted in Hebrew, means a saying used by "adherents" that
is "empty of real meaning." 

A "shibbolet watch" might
be in order to keep the "Roe usurped the will of the people"
argument from rearing again.  Some anti-abortion forces seem intent
on ignoring the "real meaning" of the election.  Colorado anti-abortion
adherents declared immediately that they will continue to push their
losing personhood
amendment in other states

They will do so, they said, "regardless of polls or winning or losing
elections."   So much for the "voice" of the voters.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.


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