Pregnant with Potential

Kristen Day

Today, we are hearing more and more Americans in both parties and on all points of the political spectrum call for common ground solutions to this most divisive issue.

Four years ago, we
made great strides as pro-life democrats when the Democratic National Committee
allowed us to unveil our proposal to reduce abortion at its headquarters in Washington, DC.  It was a signal that pro-life democrats were
no longer on the outside of the Party. 
It opened a new era of inclusion and cooperation between those of us who
disagreed with the Party platform on the issue of abortion and pro-choice
Democrats who wanted to find commonly supported measures to lower the number of
abortions.

Today, we are hearing
more and more Americans in both parties and on all points of the political
spectrum call for common ground solutions to this most divisive issue that has
plagued our nation for 36 years.  President
Obama consistently spoke about the need to address the root causes of abortion
in speeches starting in the campaign season. 
More recently he charged his Office of Community and Faith Based
Initiatives and the White House Council on Women and Girls to come up with a
common ground plan for America.  His leadership on this issue has both
encouraged and inspired Democrats For Life of America to keep calling for
progress on this issue. 

We are proud to stand
with the President, groups and individuals who are truly committed to finding
areas of agreement so we can work together to dramatically reduce the number of
women seeking abortion services and help women with crisis pregnancies who wish
to carry to term.   Unfortunately there
are still some who will want to set roadblocks before common-ground proposals
in order to maintain a perceived political advantage by perpetuating the stale
argument over who is right and wrong on the issue of abortion.  

We are confident that
America
will continue to rally behind those of us committed to finding common
ground.  Recent polling released by Gallup indicated that
only a small percentage, 23 percent of respondents believe that abortion should
be illegal in all circumstances and an near equally small percentage, 22
percent, believe abortion should be legal under any circumstance.    

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It is reasonable to
discern that we may never find agreement among the small percentage of
advocates that cling to the purist position on their side of the abortion
debate.  But DFLA is committed to
standing up to those who are intransigent and those who are all too ready to
impede any cooperative attempt. 

The Pregnant Women
Support Act is the first truly bi-partisan bill that will do just that.  It has support from both pro-life activists,
including Doug Kmiec and pro-choice advocates, including, Pro-Choice Scholar
Activist Susan Kelley, as well as pro-choice elected officials including
Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) and pro-life elected officials like Congressman
Lincoln Davis (D-TN) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).   

PWSA addresses areas
of agreement such as prohibiting health insurance companies from denying
pregnant women coverage because they consider her pregnancy a pre-existing
condition and providing more support for violence against pregnant women who
are often forced by a boyfriend or husband to undergo an abortion because the
men want to avoid the financial responsibility.   

The PWSA provide
grants to colleges and universities to establish and operate pregnant and parenting
student service offices so women do not have to choose between having a baby or
completing their education.  The office
will focus on ensuring that women have a safe place to bring their child while
they complete their education. The office would also advocate for maternity
coverage in student health plans, and provide family housing, child care,
flexible schedules, education, provisions of maternity and baby clothing and
post-partum counseling and support, and referrals for prenatal care, delivery, infant
and foster care or adoption. 

PWSA increases
support for WIC. Only 1 in 10 people eligible for the program participate for
several reasons including: difficulty in signing up or access to a store that
accepts the electronic benefit.  Stores
in mostly rural and inner city areas are unable to process WIC benefits because
they don’t have the equipment.  Some
women are kicked off for making a minor mistake in the application process.

Regardless of where
one stands on the abortion issue, DFLA extends an olive branch to any and all
who are willing to work with us to provide needed support to women who wish to
carry their pregnancies to term.  We
believe that common ground isn’t only possible, it is imminent.  We recognize that people on both sides of the
abortion debate may have concerns about certain provisions of the PWSA and
believe that these hamper its common ground potential; such concerns include
coverage for unborn children under SCHIP, funding "life support
centers" or the overall cost of the bill. 
However, we are ready to try to address these concerns with any and all
who are willing to put progress over partisanship and work toward a common
ground solution.

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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