Awkward Reunions at Denver March for Life

Wendy Norris

Following the overwhelming defeat of Colorado's personhood initiative, Denver's annual March for Life underscored the sense of how lost the local anti-abortion movement seems.

Denver’s March for Life rally at the state Capitol Thursday was as
much a witness to an awkward family reunion of marriages of political
convenience as a gathering to protest the 36th anniversary of the
landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision.

Following the overwhelming defeat of Amendment 48 — the ground-breaking “personhood” initiative to confer constitutional rights on fertilized human eggs
last Election Day — this year’s annual march assembly underscored the
sense of how lost the local antiabortion movement seems to have become
after years of shocking vitriol, clinic violence and internecine
fighting that has turned off much of the public.

The protest ran the gamut from the usual fiery anti-abortion
invocation declaring President Barack Obama a baby killer to a
professorial lecture on 18th-century slavery abolition politics and
soft Christian music interludes in between. The crowd of 275 people
alternately hoisted gory homemade signs and extended gently swaying
hands in the air to the cadence of prayers.

The schisms within the anti-abortion community — from those invoking
violent imagery to prayerful opposition and the politically powerful —
were well-represented at the march.

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A gaggle of Cub Scouts proudly bearing merit badges were joined in
the crowd with pious Franciscan sisters in full black habit and gray
veils, retirees, a bus load of high school students and families of all
ages.

Republican state Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs sang along
to an electric piano accompaniment of “Everyone has a Right to Life,”
while Berthoud’s new senator, Kevin Lundberg,
looked on. GOP rising star state Sen. Scott Refroe was greeted
enthusiastically by the crowd after an odd shout-out by the master of
ceremonies, Colorado Right to Life’s president Joe Riccobono, who
failed to recognize the other lawmakers standing in front of the crowd.

At the same time, the Operation Rescue “truth truck,” a rolling
advertisement plastered with anti-abortion slogans and gruesome images
of dismembered fetuses, circled the block around the Statehouse.

Yet even the March for Life itself seems torn between its own
conflicting personas of rabble-rousing advocates with a penchant for picking fights with Focus in the Family and serving as the local political muscle for the personhood initiative.

The event program featuring a photoshopped image of a scalpel resting on top of a slave shackle.

It appears the anti-abortion movement is having a middle-age crisis, if not an existential one.

The rally’s keynote speaker, author Eric Metaxas,
implored the crowd, during a nearly 30-minute recitation on British
abolitionist William Wilberforce from his biography-turned-movie
“Amazing Grace,” to be real Christians and turn away from the
temptation of criticizing their opponents. Metaxas’ long speech was
delivered in such a quiet and unassuming manner portions of the crowd
began to get restless, since they were likely expecting the rip-roaring
barn burners of past rallies — or at least the fervor of Pastor Kevin
Swanson’s preceding invocation — than a Christian advocacy history
lesson.

Following the speech, Metaxas told me, “It’s always lonely being on
the right side of history because in the beginning you always sound
crazy.” To him, the fight to imbue slaves with unalienable rights 200
years ago is a perfect analog to the quest for personhood status of
fertilized eggs, a political action first attempted in Colorado and catching fire with religious conservatives nationwide.

The soft-spoken contributing writer and narrator of the popular
children’s morality video series, “Veggie Tales,” Metaxas uses the same
value touchstones expressed by animated tomatoes and cucumbers to TV
tots in talking about how movement Christians need to talk with more
love and humility. While all the same acknowledging how “radical” the
personhood concept is to some folks — especially for those who voted
against Amendment 48, which was defeated in a 73-27 drubbing in statewide polls and by a similar margin in ultra-conservative Colorado Springs.

It’s tough not to question the futility of this headier argument
that fetuses, like black slaves a century before them, enjoy only
“three-fifths of personhood” when a family with young children standing
near the West steps of the Capitol held a hand-lettered “Obama 卐
Nation” poster board sign replete with Nazi symbolism and pasted
dot-matrix printouts from some grisly anti-abortion photo stockpile.

While Metaxas decried to me the “specter of a few nuts” that give
the anti-abortion movement a bad name, a man decked head-to-toe in
camouflage with a free “I survived Roe vs. Wade” rally T-shirt draped
over his shoulders stood nearby carrying a sign — “Abortion is the New
Holocaust.”

There goes the “truth truck” again.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Criticizes Trump’s Child-Care Proposal in Economic Speech

Ally Boguhn

Hillary Clinton may be wooing Republicans alienated by Trump, but she's also laying out economic policies that could shore up her progressive base. Meanwhile, Trump's comments about "Second Amendment people" stopping Hillary Clinton judicial appointments were roundly condemned.

Hillary Clinton may be courting Republicans, but that didn’t stop her from embracing progressive economic policies and criticizing her opponent’s child-care plan this week, and Donald Trump suggested there could be a way for “Second Amendment people” to deal with his rival’s judicial appointments should she be elected.

Clinton Blasts Trump’s Child-Care Proposal, Embraces Progressive Policies in Economic Speech

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recently announced proposal to make the average cost of child care fully deductible during her own economic address Thursday in Michigan.

“We know that women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in a growing number of families. We know more Americans are cobbling together part-time work, or striking out on their own. So we have to make it easier to be good workers, good parents, and good caregivers, all at the same time,” Clinton said before pivoting to address her opponent’s plan. “That’s why I’ve set out a bold vision to make quality, affordable child care available to all Americans and limit costs to 10 percent of family income.”

“Previously, [Trump] dismissed concerns about child care,” Clinton told the crowd. “He said it was, quote, ‘not an expensive thing’ because you just need some blocks and some swings.”

“He would give wealthy families 30 or 40 cents on the dollar for their nannies, and little or nothing for millions of hard-working families trying to afford child care so they can get to work and keep the job,” she continued.

Trump’s child-care proposal has been criticized by economic and family policy experts who say his proposed deductions for the “average” cost of child care would do little to help low- and middle-wage earners and would instead advantage the wealthy. Though the details of his plan are slim, the Republican nominee’s campaign has claimed it would also allow “parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes.” Experts, however, told CNN doing so would be difficult to administer.

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Clinton provided a different way to cut family child-care costs: “I think instead we should expand the Child Tax Credit to provide real relief to tens of millions of working families struggling with the cost of raising children,” Clinton said in Michigan on Thursday. “The same families [Donald Trump’s] plan ignores.”

Clinton also voiced her support for several progressive policy positions in her speech, despite a recent push to feature notable Republicans who now support her in her campaign.

“In her first major economic address since her campaign began actively courting the Republicans turned off by Donald Trump, Clinton made no major pivot to the ideological center,” noted NBC News in a Thursday report on the speech. “Instead, Clinton reiterated several of the policy positions she adopted during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, even while making a direct appeal to Independent voters and Republicans.”

Those positions included raising the minimum wage, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, advocating for equal pay and paid family leave, and supporting a public health insurance option.

“Today’s speech shows that getting some Republicans to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with Clinton running on bold progressives ideas like debt-free college, expanding Social Security benefits and Wall Street reform,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement to NBC.

Donald Trump: Could “Second Amendment People” Stop Clinton Supreme Court Picks?

Donald Trump suggested that those who support gun ownership rights may be able to stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing judges to the Supreme Court should she be elected.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a crowd of supporters during a Tuesday rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. “By the way … if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.” 

Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller later criticized the “dishonest media” for reporting on Trump’s comments and glossed over any criticism of the candidate in a statement posted to the campaign’s website Tuesday. “It’s called the power of unification―Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said Miller. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”

“This is simple—what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, in a statement responding to the Republican nominee’s suggestion. “A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”

Gun safety advocates and liberal groups swiftly denounced Trump’s comments as violent and inappropriate for a presidential candidate.

“This is just the latest example of Trump inciting violence at his rallies—and one that belies his fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, which should be an affront to the vast majority of responsible gun owners in America,” Erika Soto Lamb, chief communications officer of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a Tuesday statement. “He’s unfit to be president.”

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, also said in a Tuesday press release, “There has been no shortage of inexcusable rhetoric from Trump, but suggesting gun violence is truly abhorrent. There is no place in our public discourse for this kind of statement, especially from someone seeking the nation’s highest office.”

Trump’s comments engaged in something called “stochastic terrorism,” according to David Cohen, an associate professor at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, in a Tuesday article for Rolling Stone.

“Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable,’” said Cohen. “Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.”

“Those of us who work against anti-abortion violence unfortunately know all about this,” Cohen continued, pointing to an article from Valerie Tarico in which she describes a similar pattern of violent rhetoric leading up to the murders that took place at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

What Else We’re Reading

Though Trump has previously claimed he offered on-site child-care services for his employees, there is no record of such a program, the Associated Press reports.

History News Network attempted to track down how many historians support Trump. They only found five (besides Newt Gingrich).

In an article questioning whether Trump will energize the Latino voting bloc, Sergio Bustos and Nicholas Riccardi reported for the Associated Press: “Many Hispanic families have an immense personal stake in what happens on Election Day, but despite population numbers that should mean political power, Hispanics often can’t vote, aren’t registered to vote, or simply choose to sit out.”

A pair of physicians made the case for why Gov. Mike Pence “is radically anti-public health,” citing the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “policies on tobacco, women’s health and LGBTQ rights” in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Ivanka Trump has tried to act as a champion for woman-friendly workplace policies, but “the company that designs her clothing line, including the $157 sheath she wore during her [Republican National Convention] speech, does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave,” reported the Washington Post.

The chair of the American Nazi Party claimed a Trump presidency would be “a real opportunity” for white nationalists.

NPR analyzed how Clinton and Trump might take on the issue of campus sexual assault.

Rewire’s own editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, explained in a Thursday commentary how Trump’s comments are just the latest example of Republicans’ use of violent rhetoric and intimidation in order to gain power.

News Race

At ‘Pro-Life’ Conference, Silence on Police Violence

Amy Littlefield

Among the only contributions to the national dialogue taking place over racial justice and state violence was a card circulated in the exhibit hall by a group called the Radiance Foundation that read “All Lives Matter In & Out of the Womb.”

As one of the nation’s largest anti-choice groups launched its three-day conference in Herndon, Virginia, Thursday, a very different conversation was underway on the national stage.

Across the country, peaceful protests erupted over the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

As Rewire’s Imani Gandy has documented, the anti-choice movement has long attempted to appropriate the language of racial justice and the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag as part of a wider effort to shame Black women and cast abortion as “Black genocide.”

But at the National Right to Life Convention, the overriding response to last week’s police killings was silence. Among the only contributions to the national dialogue taking place over racial justice was a card circulated in the exhibit hall by a group called the Radiance Foundation that read “All lives matter In & Out of the womb.”

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Rewire asked convention director Jacki Ragan whether she thought the issue should have been raised explicitly at the conference.

“We are very single issue,” Ragan said. “We are here because of a threat to human life. We believe the unborn child is a human being from the moment of fertilization. We believe the disabled should have the same rights, [the] elderly should have the same rights, so we’re very single issue. So, no, I don’t really think it would be appropriate to address what had happened other than through prayer at the conference.”

At a prayer breakfast on Friday morning, after conference-goers awoke to the news five police officers had been killed by a gunman in Dallas, Rev. Dennis Kleinmann of St. Veronica Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia, prayed for guidance “to make this a better world, a world free of war and violence of every kind, including attacks on those who protect us.”

Ernest Ohlhoff, National Right to Life Committee outreach director, addressed the violence more directly.

“I don’t know if any of you heard the news this morning, but unfortunately we had another catastrophe in our country,” he said. “Five police officers in Dallas were killed in a shooting and [at least] six wounded, and I would ask you to pray for them and their families.”

No prayers were offered for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, or their families. 

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