Pro-Choice Groups in New Mexico Set Sights On State FOCA

Gwyneth Doland

Advocates for reproductive choice in New Mexico say the time is right to push for passage of a state Freedom of Choice Act.

While abortion is legal in New Mexico, thanks to Roe v. Wade, the
state still has an old law on the books from 1969 banning the practice.

Advocates for reproductive choice say they plan to push again in the 2009 legislative session for
passage of a state Freedom of Choice Act that would repeal the 1969 law
and consolidate three decades’ worth of laws protecting access to
contraception and abortion. A similar bill died in the House before a
vote last year but supporters are hopeful that a new environment in the
state Legislature, including more progressive members and a new female
governor, will help push the bill to passage.

But it won’t be easy. Legislators will have a huge budget deficit to
deal with. Anti-abortion groups are sure to oppose it, and the
transition between outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson and incoming Gov.
Diane Denish could result in some chaotic power struggles.

"We’re saying this is bad law, an outdated, outmoded law that needs
to be taken off the books, and we need to bring New Mexico law into
line with federal law. It’s really a clean-up," says Heather Brewer,
the outgoing executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico.

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According to a Legislative Finance Committee analysis of last year’s version of the bill (it’s expected to be similar this year), the Freedom of Choice Act would:

… Prohibit the state from denying or interfering with a
person’s right to obtain and use contraceptives, or a woman’s right to
have an abortion prior to viability of the "conceptus." The bill would
also confer the right to provide reproductive services on health care
providers unimpeded by state action. The bill also repeals state laws …
which generally impose fourth degree felony penalties on persons
performing abortions if the pregnancy termination is not a "justified
medical termination."

"I can’t see FOCA going anywhere when we have a half a billion
dollar shortfall," says Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New
Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, a group that frequently lobbies
to restrict abortion and to protect social service programs.

"The legislators I’ve spoken to feel there’s enough [laws] already in place that they don’t need to go further," Sanchez says.

Still, supporters are optimistic.

"I think there’s a pretty good chance of getting FOCA through. … I
think we still have pretty good numbers in the House and Senate," says
Brian Nichols, an Albuquerque attorney and a director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Mexico who has helped to draft the Freedom of Choice Act.

One strategic concession in FOCA, designed to maximize its appeal,
is that it would not challenge the federal law known as the
"partial-birth" abortion ban.

"It’s a fight that’s not worth fighting," Nichols says, referring to
the ambiguity inherent in the law and the extreme rarity of the
procedure.

Trying to get around that particular federal ban might have reduced
to nil FOCA’s chances of passing in New Mexico, but leaving it out
won’t necessarily sweeten the deal for anti-abortion groups.

"It creates a more difficult way to get any [anti-abortion]
legislation, such as parental notification, through the statehouse,"
Sanchez adds.

That’s precisely why groups like NARAL want FOCA in place. During
nearly every session, anti-abortion legislators introduce bills
restricting abortion in some way, such as requiring that teen-age girls
notify their parents before getting an abortion. So far, pro-choice
supporters have successfully fought off most of those laws. But they’re
tired of swatting at flies, they say, and the election of a strong
pro-choice president in Barack Obama has given them … yes … hope.

(A federal version
of FOCA has also been introduced, but not passed, in Congress. Barack
Obama was a co-sponsor of the 2007 Senate version of that bill, and in
a speech last year he said: "The first thing I’d do, as President, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing that I’d do.")

"The state – even the nation – is reaching some sort of a consensus
that abortion should be safe, legal and available with some
limitations," Nichols says, referring to anti-abortion ballot measures that failed in several states on Nov. 4.

It is not yet clear who will introduce the bill when the state
Legislature convenes in January. In the last session it was introduced
in the House by Reps. Gail Chasey and Mimi Stewart, both Albuquerque
Democrats; this time supporters are considering introducing it in the
Senate.

The bill’s chances could be helped by the November election results,
which will bring a handful of new, more progressive allies of choice to
the Roundhouse. FOCA’s chances could be improved if progressives
succeed in an effort to shake up leadership
in the Senate and install Sen. Carlos Cisneros, a Questa Democrat, as
the body’s leader. The bill’s prospects would dim if Sen. Tim Jennings
, D-Chaves, is successful in forming a coalition of Republicans and
conservative Democrats to retain his leadership post.

And then there’s the governor’s office. Although both Richardson and
Denish have been strong pro-choice supporters, Denish has been more
intimately involved; She is an honorary board member of NARAL, and some
abortion rights advocates view her as more reliable on the issue.

Richardson has indicated that he will not relinquish control of the
office until he is confirmed as commerce secretary by the U.S. Senate
in February, leaving open the possibility that he could torpedo FOCA to
spite a supporter in the Legislature who has drawn his ire. The
governor is notorious for using his veto powers to reward those who are
loyal to him and punish those who are not.

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?