Roundup: Family Planning Expansion in 2010 Budget

Emily Douglas

Family planning expansion in 2010 budget; Arizona abortion bill considered by House; groups protest Brownback fundraising letter; anti-choicers protest possible Sebelius pick; Phill Kline to face ethics complaint; sex "education" failing kids in Texas; California study examines attitudes on abortion.

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Family Planning Expansion in the 2010 Budget
The Medicaid family planning expansion is back, write Laura Meckler in the Wall Street Journal and Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic.  Meckler writes, "Amid the controversy over the stimulus package, President Barack
Obama agreed to drop the provision, but promised it would be back. Thursday, he made good on that promise. The provision on family
planning is included on a list of proposals to promote efficiency and
accountability — and to raise money for the president’s health-reform
effort. The administration estimates it will save $190 million over 10
years."  Ambinder’s account of how the measure would reduce abortions: "Advocates say it would reduce later-term abortions because lower-income women would have quicker access to doctors."

Arizona Abortion Bill Considered by House

Arizona’s abortion bill, which would address everything from mandatory delay
to parental involvement, has been approved for consideration by the
full House.  KPHO.com reports,
"The legislation would require a pre-abortion waiting period and
mandatory disclosures to women seeking abortions. It also would allow
pharmacists and health care providers
to refuse to participate in abortion or emergency contraception on
moral grounds. Other provisions toughen the existing law on parental
rights."  Anti-choice Gov. Jan Brewer has not yet taken a position on
the bill.

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Groups Protest Brownback Fundraising Letter

Sen. Sam Brownback’s office claimed to have had no knowledge of a
fundraising letter with the Senator’s name on it that went out on
behalf of the Catholic Advocate, but religious and political groups are
arguing that the letter still violates ethics standards.

The Capitol Journal reports: "In response, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or
CREW, filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and
the Boston-based Catholic Democrats urging Brownback to apologize…In the ethics complaint, CREW pointed to a 1978
prohibition on senators using facsimiles of Senate letterhead for
fundraising purposes."  Faithful America has called on Brownback to answer some remaining questions: "All people of faith have reason to be offended by the letter’s divisive
tone. Together with our friends at Catholics United we are calling on
Senator Brownback to 1) clarify to all those who received the letter
that he does not support these attacks on his colleagues’ faith and 2)
ask Deal Hudson to return all the funds raised by this campaign or put
them to good use in this time of economic crisis, by donating them to
Catholic Charities."

LifeNews, Christian Broadcasting Network Claim White House Is Concerned about Anti-Choice Protest Against Sebelius

Writes LifeNews,

Now,
White House officials tell CBN News that abortion and the
Tiller-Sebelius connection are causing pause when considering Sebelius
for the Cabinet post.

CBN
News White House correspondent David Brody indicates that a senior
Obama administration official confirmed that "concerns voiced by
pro-life groups about potential HHS Secretary Nominee Kathleen Sebelius
have come up in high level White House discussions but it has not
disqualified her from the job."


Former Kansas AG Phill Kline to Face Ethics Complaint
Yet another twist in the ongoing saga of former Kansas
Attorney General Phill Kline and his crusade against Kansas abortion
provider Dr. George Tiller: Kline, along with two deputies, will face
ethics complaints, the AP reports.  "The letter [from a state investigations official] does not say what allegations prompted the
finding, and officials say details won’t be made public until a formal
complaint is filed. But the Kansas Supreme Court, which determines
whether attorneys are punished and can revoke their law licenses, has
suggested Kline could be punished and even disbarred for his handling
of abortion cases."


Sex "Education" Failing Kids in Texas

"Real biology education" means "real sex education," writes columnist John Young in the Waco Tribune,
and Texas needs it. Young talks to Prof. David Wiley, author of the
recent "Just Say Don’t Know" report on sex education in Texas.  "The
most troubling thing is how adults have failed kids," Wiley said in a
phone interview. "This is an adult problem. We have refused to address
this as a public health matter. Instead, we’ve addressed it as a
morality issue."

California Study Examines Attitudes on Abortion
A California study found that while a wide majority of Californians
support preserving Roe v. Wade, a slight increase favor some
restrictions on abortion’s availability, the California Progress Report says
"61% said that the government should not interfere with abortion access
as opposed to 35% who favor more restrictions on abortion…However, that 61% marks a decline of 10 points since January 2000
while the percentage who favor greater abortion restrictions rose from
27% to 35%."  The study found that a greater percentage of Latinos
(52%) supported abortion restrictions than other ethnic groups. 
Support for contraception for teens and for comprehensive sex education
is very strong:

Support for Government-funded programs that provide contraceptives
to teens is still strong at 70 percent but that’s down six points from
December 2005. The partisan divide is even wider on this question. Solid majorities
of Democrats (81%) and independents (71%) back these programs, but
Republicans’ views have shifted. While 54 percent supported these
programs in 2005, only 44 percent do today…Support for
comprehensive sex education is very strong. 78% of California residents
believe that giving teens comprehensive sex education, including
information about abstinence, birth control, and healthy relationships
is very important in preventing pregnancy."

 

"Traditional Catholics" for Obama

On Beliefnet, Steven Waldman reports on a study that found that "traditional Catholics," in addition to liberal Catholics, went for Obama.

While Obama did clean up with those lefty Catholics, a new survey by Professor John Green of University of Akron, shows that he also made stunning improvements among more traditional white Catholics.

(A "traditional Catholic," according to Green’s methodology,
is one who is more likely than average to attend mass, pray, and read
scripture; more likely to believe in God, the afterlife, scripture and
the devil; and more likely to say religion is very important in their
lives.)  In 2004, white traditional Catholics went 78%-22% for the
Republican, George Bush, over the Democrat, John Kerry. In 2008, they
went 61%-39% for John McCain over Barack Obama. That represents an
amazing 17 point improvement for the Democrat.

Waldman’s explanation?  Obama’s apparent commitment to "abortion reduction" was part of the deal.

Other News to Note

Feb 26: Public News Service: Supporters Say Birth Control Bill About "Prevention Over Politics"

Feb 26: Catholic News Service: Theologians Criticism of the Pope Draws Vatican Response

Feb 26: NRO: I have "shocked" OLC nominee Dawn Johnsen

Feb 26: Daily Gazette: Editorial: Family planning sound investment

Feb 26: Capitol Journal: Senator’s abortion letter draws fire; Groups
assert Brownback broke fundraising rules
http://www.cjonline.com/stories/022609/sta_398674107.shtml

Feb 26: Fox Forum: STRAIGHT FROM CPAC: Rep. Chris Smith Talks About Abortion

Feb 26: Deseret News: Senate approves private donations to defend state abortion laws

Feb 26: Jackson Sun: Abstinence is a realistic goal

Feb 26: WOWK: Unplanned Pregnancy Seminar Held in Bridgeport

Feb 26: Tucson Citizen: Women need access, not obstacles, to birth control 

Feb 25:CNA: Pro-life amendments blocked from consideration on House floor  

Feb 26: World Mag: Mexico City, Part II: A group of lawmakers appeal to the Democratic leadership to keep pro-life provisions in future spending bills

Feb 26: FRC Blog: Live Blog from CPAC 2009: New Challenges in the Culture War

Feb 26: NRO: Why Fight FOCA Now? The ‘mythical’ bill that could derail decades of progress in the fight against abortion.

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”