Roundup: Women’s Health Groups Disappointed by Obama on Stimulus

Emily Douglas

Women's health groups disappointed by Obama on the stimulus; National Right to Life Committee decries Newsweek story on "abortion reduction" strategies; Virginia bill to regulate pharmacies that refuse to dispense birth control tabled; Ellen Goodman on the stimulus.

Women’s Health Groups Disappointed by, But Not Cursing, Obama

From Planned Parenthood to NOW to National Family Planning and
Reproductive Health Association, women’s health and rights groups
expressed frustration and disappointment that Obama publicly pushed for
family planning provisions to be cut from the stimulus while making it
clear that they still expect him to ensure the same Medicaid family
planning expansion in the coming weeks, reports Politico. For example:

Jane Gallagher, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and
Reproductive Health Association, said she was “devastated” by Obama’s
decision. But she added, “He’s made commitments to fund family
planning and do it quickly. … The president had a tough choice, and
he told us he was going to make them and we have to stick with him, and
I’m sticking with him because I fully expect really quick action on
this,” said Gallagher.

Anti-Choicers Decry Newsweek Story on "Abortion Reduction" Focus
The National Right to Life Committee has "put a hit out on Sarah
Kliff," Newsweek reporter, for a recent story that examined the
emergence of new political strategies in the anti-choice movement that
don’t focus on overturning Roe v. Wade and instead attempt to "reduce
the need" for abortion, writes Kurt Soller.  Soller adds,

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their long essay, they accuse our piece of, essentially, making up a
pro-life strategy that they say doesn’t exist, squaring the blame on
Sarah for saying that groups of people are working together when they
actually aren’t. Click above to read their essay, which ends with this
line: "There will be no end to stories [like Newsweek’s].Their
objective is to convince us that people and organizations, whose entire
reason for existence is to multiply the number of abortions, have
suddenly seen the bipartisan/compromise/common ground light."

Kliff herself responded:

As I write in my story, even when
you arrive at the “common ground” of abortion politics, there are
complex fault lines to navigate. The pro-life movement is not giving up
their fight to overturn Roe v. Wade – nor does my story suggest that
they should. There are, however, some activists and legislators
pursuing additional strategies, including the abortion reduction
legislation that I explore in this story. One of the complexities to
navigate here is language: what defines an ‘abortion reduction’
strategy? Restricting access to clinics that provide abortion has been
one way the pro-life movement has attempted to reduce abortion in the
United States.

Now, some pro-life legislators and activists
are considering a different definition: reducing the need for abortion
through socioeconomic supports. The Support Pregnant Women Act is a
good example of this. The legislation aims to reduce abortion through,
among other provisions, better Medicaid assistance and more resources
for parenting students. It has received support from many legislators
with strong pro-life records, including Chris Smith (R-NJ) who spoke at
the March for Life I attended. The pro-life leaders I spoke with didn’t
see these strategies as forcing activists to ‘give up the fight to pass
legislation,’ but another way to pursue a pro-life agenda.

Bill to Compel Regulate Pharmacies That Refuse to Dispense Birth Control Tabled
A Virginia bill which would have regulated pharmacies, including
self-identified "pro-life pharmacies," that refuse to fill birth control
prescriptions will not come up for a vote this year, claims Bob Laird, Executive Director of Divine Mercy Care. The bill read: “Any pharmacist who refuses to fill a
prescription for contraception shall ensure that the patient seeking
such contraception is treated in a nonjudgmental manner and is not
subjected to indignity, humiliation, or breeches in confidentiality.
The pharmacist shall not confiscate a prescription for contraception
that he refuses to fill.”  Catholic News Agency reports:

The bill also required licensed
pharmacies which do not prescribe contraceptives to place a
“conspicuous notice” in at least 30-point boldface type in both English

Ellen Goodman on the Stimulus
When family planning was dropped out of the stimulus, "Score one for the ideologues," writes Ellen Goodman in the Seattle Times.

Goodman observes, 

I’m not sure if family-planning expansion would stimulate the economy any more or less than the rest of $87 billion for Medicaid in the plan. I’m not sure if it would jump-start the recovery more or less than, say, arts funding. But I am sure why it was targeted. The right wing was back at the game.

Other News to Note

Jan 29: Life News: Mexico Supreme Court Will Hear Abortion Case on
Pro-Life Baja Amendment

CBS News: CBS News Learns Mother of California Octuplets Has Six Older Children Already

Missouri Life News: Anesthesia For Dying Babies

Jan 29: MSNBC: State Funding For Family Planning Nurse Program Gets
Extended Until June 2009

Jan 29: Nonpareil Online: Christie Vilsack targets unintended pregnancies

Jan 29: The State: S.C. Politics today: Panel oks 24-hour wait on abortions

Jan 29: Newspaper Tree: El Paso billboards for ProLife Across America

Jan 29: The Earth Times: NBC Sacks Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad

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.

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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