Welcome, President Obama – Fight for Reproductive Rights Continues

Kris Hamel

In the November 2008 election, voters reaffirmed their support for reproductive rights and overwhelmingly chose Barack Obama for president who supports reproductive health access.

Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion as a woman’s right, will be 36 years old on Jan. 22. The 1973 ruling was wrested from a reactionary bench after years of struggle by women and their male supporters, as well as many legal and medical groups. Ever since, women’s right to reproductive freedom has been under vicious attack by right-wing, racist, anti-woman and anti-choice forces.

In the November 2008 election, voters reaffirmed their support for reproductive rights by defeating anti-choice ballot measures in South Dakota, Colorado and California. Across the U.S. they overwhelmingly chose Barack Obama for president. Obama supports the right to abortion and women’s reproductive health care.

Roll back Hyde Amendment, other restrictions!

A letter to Melody Barnes, head of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, was prepared by the Hyde–30 Years Is Enough! campaign, a project of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Women’s rights and reproductive rights leaders met with Barnes and other members of the Obama transition team in December to begin discussing how to “ensure real reproductive choices for all women.”

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The letter states in part: “For more than 30 years, the Hyde Amendment and other funding restrictions have affected the poorest and most vulnerable of low-income Americans, with a disproportionate impact on women of color and immigrant women. The Hyde Amendment denies abortion access to the 7 million women of reproductive age who are currently enrolled in Medicaid. These funding restrictions are the most detrimental of all attacks on safe, legal abortion care, and represent a clear violation of low-income women’s human rights.”

The Barnes letter urges Obama to “strike language in his first budget that blocks women’s access to abortion care, including restrictions on abortion funding for Medicaid-eligible women and Medicare beneficiaries (the Hyde Amendment), federal employees and their dependents (FEHB), residents of the District of Columbia, Peace Corps volunteers, Native American women, and women in federal prisons. Though attached to different funding streams, we consider these restrictions to be a single issue requiring consistent and equal treatment by President Obama.”

The letter to Barnes further states: “By striking funding restrictions, President Obama can place abortion back in the context of health care, thereby setting a new tone and signaling to Congress his commitment to comprehensive women’s health care. [T]his early commitment will bolster the efforts of our diverse and growing grassroots advocacy campaign as we continue educating the public and Members of Congress about the urgent need for a full repeal of these restrictions.”

Only 43 percent of House members in the new Congress are abortion rights supporters. The U.S. Senate now has 40 members who are committed to reproductive rights.

Among the signers of the Barnes/Obama letter are dozens of national organizations such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, Catholics for Choice, the National Organization for Women, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and Black Women for Reproductive Justice. Dozens of local and regional organizations are also signers.

Bush’s parting blow to women

On Dec. 18 the Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a new regulation affecting 17 million poor women–a disproportionate number of whom are women of color–who are enrolled in public health care programs. The restrictive regulation significantly impairs women’s ability to get such basic reproductive health services as contraception, counseling and information necessary to make decisions about their own health.

A Center for Reproductive Rights press release stated: “The new regulation allows people only tangentially related to the provision of health care and an increased number of medical institutions to refuse a woman care based on religious and moral beliefs. HHS claims this will further protect health care providers against discrimination; but in reality, it leaves women who rely on public programs unprotected and seriously violates their rights and needs as patients. HHS also purposely leaves the door open for health care providers to justify refusing a woman basic forms of contraception such as birth control pills and IUDs.”

Advocates for reproductive rights are urging incoming-President Obama to immediately rescind the new HSS regulation. The petition “Urge Obama to Take Action” can be signed at www.naral.org.

Just as it took a mass struggle to win Roe v. Wade 36 years ago, access to full reproductive health care for all women will involve grassroots organizing to build a strong, broad-based coalition for women’s reproductive rights. This struggle will continue on a national and state-by-state basis in order to stop ongoing right-wing, anti-choice initiatives and begin establishing reproductive justice for all women.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

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.