Roundup: Spain to Liberalize Abortion Laws

Emily Douglas

Spain to liberalize abortion laws; anti-choicers target state funding for Planned Parenthood; Brazil shuts down websites selling misoprostol; medical records follow Phill Kline to Virginia; Sarah Palin silent as National Abstinence Education Association criticizes Bristol; men's reactions to abortion.

Spain to Liberalize Abortion Laws
Despite a strong Catholic presence in the country, Spain is set to liberalize its abortion laws, GMANews reports: "
A parliamentary committee took the first step this week, recommending
that the government legalize early stage abortions, while gradually
imposing more restrictions as pregnancies progress." 
Despite the fact that abortion, except in the case of threats to a
woman’s physical or mental health, is currently illegal in the country,
Spain has one of the highest rates of abortion in Europe.

Anti-Choicers Target State Funding for Planned Parenthood
Big losses in Congress and the White House haven’t
deterred anti-choicers, of course.  Instead they’re focusing their
efforts on state-level legislation and attacking state-level funding of Planned Parenthood.  Writes the Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register, "In its largest-ever state-based initiative, the Family Research Council
(FRC) is contacting every state lawmaker in the country with a plea to
eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest
providers of family planning and abortion services…Planned Parenthood has long been a favorite target for abortion
opponents, who chafe at the $337 million that the organization receives
from public sources to help run its 880 clinics nationwide. States are
the center of the action because 17 state legislatures permit their
funds to be used for abortions. Federal funds, by contrast, can support
only non-abortion services, such as counseling and birth control."  Planned Parenthood responds:

“Public funding of family planning services is an investment in
prevention care that has numerous dividends,” Tait Sye, spokesperson
for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says in an e-mailed
statement. “Cutting public funding of family planning is bad public
policy, will leave even more women without access to vital health care
services, and will lead to increased health care costs for the state.”

 

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Brazil Shuts Down Websites Selling Misoprostol

Around 75 websites distributing misoprostol in Brazil, where abortion is illegal, have been shut down, the Christian Telegraph reports. Some women’s health advocates argue that where unsafe abortion is not available, misoprostol can be a safe option.  Abortion is illegal in Brazil.

Medical Records Follow Phill Kline to Virginia

How did the medical records of women seeking late-term abortions in Kansas end up in Virginia?  By accident, claims the attorney for Phill Kline, the former Kansas Attorney General whose witch-hunt against abortion provider Dr. George Tiller led him to subpoena women’s medical records without justification.  Kline now lives in Virginia, working as a university instructor, KansasCity.com reports. It’s enough for the Kansas City Star to editorialize:

 

Regardless of who is at fault, the judge in the case initiated by
Kline should be very disturbed by the thought of patients’ records
zipping across the country and back.

Kline may be an unwitting bystander in this latest outrage, but a
former aide testified that he kept patients’ records in his apartment
dining at one point while Kline was changing jobs. And the Kansas
Supreme Court criticized Kline when he was district attorney for his
handling of records from the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Johnson
County

These instances validate the concerns of the operators of clinics in
Johnson County and Wichita, who predicted that patients’ privacy would
be jeopardized. If investigations of this sort are begun in the future,
judges have to come up with a more secure system.

 

Sarah Palin Silent as National Abstinence Education Association Criticizes Bristol Palin
On The Huffington Post, Geoffrey Dunn points out that Gov. Sarah
Palin has not stepped in to defend her daughter Bristol after the
National Abstinence Education Association sent out press releases
criticizing her arguments in a recent Fox News interview.  Writes Dunn,

But only weeks after Sarah Palin said "leave my kids alone," her biggest "news" promoter, Van Susteren, sneaks into Alaska behind Palin’s back for a ratings-grabbing interview with Bristol. And then a conservative Christian group goes after her daughter.

Where’s Palin’s vituperative comeback at Van Susteren or the NAEA?

Her silence says truck loads.

Men’s Reactions to Abortion
On Nerve, Lauren B. writes about telling progressive, pro-choice men about her abortion – and their less-than-gracious reactions:


Before my abortion I never would have
imagined that seemingly antiquated ideas about gender — that women need
to be taken care of, that women always have binding ties to motherhood,
that female body processes are somehow alien or scary — would ever
surface in the New Yorker-toting media men I was dating, even if just for a moment, even if just when drunk.
Then they did, more than once, and it was
more than a bit depressing to realize that a fair number of liberal men
still possess confining notions about women, and while they would argue
wholeheartedly for reproductive rights in the political abstract, they
might personally judge me in bed at night.

Other News to Note
Feb 20: Time: Catholic Judges and Abortion: Did the Pope Set New
Rules?

Feb 20: Weekly Standard: Time Magazine’s False Report on FOCA

Feb 21: News Leader:  Learning a new life: Bailey Alternative program
helps young parents finish education, cope with new responsibilities.

Feb 23: WA Today: Spray-on contraceptive could replace pill

Feb 20: Catholic Exchange: Focus on Foca

Feb 21: Renew America: University of Notre Dame’s new pro-life fund

Feb 21: The Christian Post: Seven States Seek Personhood Rights for Pre-Born

Feb 20: LifeSiteNews: CNN Rejects Life-Affirming Obama Ad – 2nd Major
Network to Do So

Feb 21: Beliefnet: Contraception: The Practical Pro-Life Approach

Feb 23: Denver Daily News: Personhood being adopted: Effort underway
in other states to enact failed Colo. initiative

Feb 20: The Texas Observer: Access Denied: Countless women are sexually assaulted as they attempt to immigrate into the United States. What happens to their reproductive rights when they wind up in U.S.
custody?

Feb 20: Cody Enterprise: Sex-ed task force stalled

Feb 22: Border to Border Radio: Florida House Calls for Criminal
Charges in Hialeah Abortion Clinic Death

Feb 22: In Forum: Let’s hope our common sense prevails over fertilized egg bill

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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