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 Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.