Palin Still Finds Fans in Anti-Choice Movement

David Weigel

Anti-abortion activists are ecstatic about the possibility that Palin, freed from the duties and turmoils of office, could become a historic leader and spokeswoman for their cause.

Debbie Joslin wasn’t happy to see Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska)
announce her resignation. “I was disappointed that she wouldn’t be
governor anymore,” Joslin said. “It’s hard to get things done now
because of the 10-10 split between the parties in the State Senate.
What she did was out of the box, and anybody else would be politically
dead.”

Joslin, the president of the Alaska branch of the conservative Eagle
Forum and a longtime Republican activist, saw the possible good in
Palin’s surprise decision to leave office at the end of July and, in her words, “effect positive change outside government at this point in time on another scale and actually make a difference for our priorities.” Ten years ago, Joslin was informed that her son Isaiah
would be born with Trisomy-13 — in other words, anomalies that would
mean severe retardation and early death. She rejected advice to fly to
George Tiller’s clinic in Kansas to terminate the pregnancy. Her son
died 32 days after he was born. Joslin got a letter from Palin, then
the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, praising her courage. When Palin’s son
Trig was born with Downs Syndrome, Joslin gave her moral support, and
even filled in for Palin to accept an award from the Republican National Coalition for Life.

“After that,” said Joslin, “I said, ‘I’m not just an activist. I’m
an eyewitness.’ You can say the same thing about the governor. She has
talked the talk and walked the walk. She knows that there are folks out
there who wanted her to kill Trig.”

Palin’s surprise decision to leave the governorship of Alaska after
only two years and seven months has been mocked by political foes and
friends alike. Staunch allies such as Bill Kristol argued
that Palin made a savvy, from-the-gut political play, “an enormous
gamble” that “could be a shrewd one.” But many conservatives and fellow
Republicans — some of them standing to benefit from the governor’s
political problems — have labeled Palin an erratic quitter. “I am deeply disappointed,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowki (R-Alaska), “that the Governor has decided to abandon the State and her constituents before her term has concluded.”

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One element of the conservative movement is much more excited.
Anti-abortion activists, who embraced Palin after the birth of Trig and
after the unmarried pregnancy of Palin’s daughter Bristol, are ecstatic
about the possibility that Palin, freed from the duties and turmoils of
office, could become a historic leader and spokeswoman for their cause.

“Sarah Palin is the ultimate speaker on pro-life issues,” said Jane
Abraham, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party who
co-founded Team Sarah, a project of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony
List that supports anti-abortion female candidates. “We surpassed
70,000 members over the weekend, after her speech. People respond to
her. She’s absolutely the most effective advocate the pro-life movement
could have."

In the eight rocky months since Palin lost the vice presidency, she
declined (sometimes after initially accepting) speaking engagements at
high-profile events such as the Conservative Political Action
Conference and a fundraiser for the National Republican Senatorial and
Campaign Committees. In April, however, Palin flew to Evansville, Ind.,
to headline a fundraiser for the Vanderburgh County Right to Life
Committee, a show of star power that brought the group an overflow
crowd and a bevy of national political reporters. A month later, Palin criticized the University of Notre Dame for giving an honorary degree to President Obama, calling the president “
someone
who contradicts the core values of the Catholic faith by promoting an
anti-life agenda,” and pouring gasoline on a brief but firey abortion
debate.

“With some politicians, pro-life politicians, you get sense that
they’re throwing us bones,” said Marc Tuttle, the president of
Indianapolis Right to Life, and an attendee at the April fundraising
dinner. “Sarah Palin seems very sincerely to believe what she claims to
believe. We know that she’s been there.”

Tuttle said that Palin had “shattered” the idea that “women can’t
have children and stay in politics,” adding that “she brings out the
truth, that this is an issue that affects a cross-section of the
public, and not just poor women and minorities.”

According to Gary Bauer, the former president of the Family Research
Council who now leads the conservative American Values, Palin’s gender
and personal experiences would make her a “fantastic” leader in the
anti-abortion movement. “A woman making the argument that this is not
something that should be a right, but rather that it’s a disaster for
women, is a much more powerful voice than somebody like myself, for
example.” Bauer recalled that when he led the FRC, he “set out to find
as many pro-life young women as I could. When there were opportunities
to give them media appearances, I did.”

Some anti-abortion activists, while focusing on the role Palin could
play as a spokesman, pointed out the power that anti-abortion politics
could play in the 2012 presidential primaries. In 2008, former Gov.
Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) surged past Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) with a
campaign that focused less on his ten-year record in the state house
and more on his superior credentials
as an anti-abortion, pro-family “Christian leader.” Twenty years
earlier, the Rev. Pat Robertson was able to ride a sterling social
conservative record and support from anti-abortion and religious right
activists to a second-place showing in the Iowa Caucuses (ahead of
future President George H.W. Bush) and a win in the Washington state
caucuses, with a strong showing in Michigan.
Neither man won his party’s nomination, but neither began his campaign
with the level of credibility and popularity that Palin enjoys with the
Republican base.

“My husband had a career in public service,” said Jane Abraham,
whose husband Spencer was a Republican senator from Michigan from 1995
to 2001. “He could stand up and speak effectively about these issues. I
could stand up and speak about the same issues and be far more
effective because I am a woman. I believe that those who want to take
her out, and have been so good at demeaning her on the national scene,
believe that she’s a true threat.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.

Analysis Abortion

From Webbed Feet to Breast Cancer, Anti-Choice ‘Experts’ Renew False Claims

Ally Boguhn & Amy Littlefield

In a series of workshops over a three-day conference in Herndon, Virginia, self-proclaimed medical and scientific experts renewed their debunked efforts to promote the purported links between abortion and a host of negative outcomes, including breast cancer and mental health problems.

Less than two weeks after the Supreme Court rejected the anti-choice movement’s unscientific claims about how abortion restrictions make patients safer, the National Right to Life Convention hosted a slate of anti-choice “experts,” who promoted even more dubious claims that fly in the face of accepted medical science.

In a series of workshops over the three-day conference in Herndon, Virginia, self-proclaimed medical and scientific experts, including several whose false claims have been exposed by Rewire, renewed their efforts to promote the purported links between abortion and a host of negative outcomes, including breast cancer and mental health problems.

Some of those who spoke at the convention were stalwarts featured in the Rewire series “False Witnesses,” which exposed the anti-choice movement’s attempts to mislead lawmakers, courts, and the public about abortion care.

One frequent claim, that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, has been refuted by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But that hasn’t stopped “experts” like Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, a breast cancer surgeon and anti-choice activist, from giving court testimonies and traveling around the world spreading that brand of misinformation.

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During a Thursday session titled “The Abortion-Breast Cancer Link: The Biological Basis, The Studies, and the Fraud,” Lanfranchi, one of Rewire’s “False Witnesses,” pushed her debunked talking points.

Throughout the presentation, which was attended by Rewire, Lanfranchi argued that there is “widespread fraudulent behavior among scientists and medical organizations to obfuscate the link” between abortion and breast cancer.

In a statement, the irony of which may have been lost on many in the room, Lanfranchi told attendees that sometimes “scientists in the pursuit of truth can be frauds.” Lanfranchi went on to point to numerous studies and texts she claimed supported her theories and lamented that over time, textbooks that had previously suggested a link between abortion and breast cancer in the ’90s were later updated to exclude the claim.

Lanfranchi later pivoted to note her inclusion in Rewire’s “False Witnesses” project, which she deemed an “attack.” 

“We were one of 14 people that were on this site … as liars,” said Lanfranchi as she showed a slide of the webpage. “Now when people Google my name, instead of my practice coming up,” Rewire’s story appears.

Priscilla Coleman, another “False Witness” best known for erroneously claiming that abortion causes mental health problems and drug abuse, similarly bemoaned her inclusion in Rewire’s project during her brief participation in a Thursday session, “The Conspiracy of Silence: Roadblocks to Getting Abortion Facts to the Public.”

After claiming that there is ample evidence that abortion is associated with suicide and eating disorders, Coleman suggested that many media outlets were blocking the truth by not reporting on her findings. When it came to Rewire, Coleman wrote the outlet off as a part of the “extreme left,” telling the room that “if you look deeply into their analysis of each of our backgrounds, a lot of it is lies … it’s bogus information.”

An extensive review conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2008, however, found “no evidence sufficient to support” claims such as Coleman’s that “an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion.”

Rounding out the medical misinformation pushed in that session was Eve Sanchez Silver, the director and founder of the International Coalition of Color for Life. According to the biography listed on her organization’s website, Silver bills herself as a “bioethicist” who focuses on “the Abortion-Breast cancer link.”

Silver, who previously worked at the Susan G. Komen Foundation but left, she said, after finding out the organization gave money to Planned Parenthood, spent much of her presentation arguing that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. She also detailed what she referred to as the “Pink Money Cycle,” a process in which, as she explained, money is given to Komen, which in turn donates to Planned Parenthood. As Silver told it, Planned Parenthood then gives people abortions, leading to more cases of breast cancer. 

The seemingly conspiracy-driven theory has popped up in several of Silver’s presentations over the years.

Though Komen does in fact provide some funding to Planned Parenthood through grants, a July 2015 press release from the the breast cancer organization explains that it does “not and never [has] funded abortion or reproductive services at Planned Parenthood or any grantee.” Instead, the money Planned Parenthood receives from Komen “pays for breast health outreach and breast screenings for low-income, uninsured or under-insured individuals.”

On Saturday, another subject of Rewire’s “False Witnesses” series, endocrinologist Joel Brind, doubled down on his claims about the link between abortion and breast cancer in a workshop titled “New American Export to Asia: The Cover-Up of the Abortion-Breast Cancer Link.” 

Brind described the Indian subcontinent as the ideal place to study the purported link between abortion and breast cancer. According to Brind, “The typical woman [there] has gotten married as a teenager, started having kids right away, breastfeeds all of them, has lots of them, never smokes, never drinks, what else is she going to get breast cancer from? Nothing.”

When it came to research from Asia that didn’t necessarily support his conclusions about abortion and breast cancerBrind chalked it up to an international cover-up effort, “spearheaded, obviously, by our own National Cancer Institute.”

Although five states require counseling for abortion patients that includes the supposed link between abortion and breast cancer, Brind told Rewire that the link has become “the kind of thing that legislators don’t want to touch” because they would be going “against what all of these medical authorities say.” 

Brind also dedicated a portion of his presentation to promoting the purported cancer-preventing benefits of glycine, which he sells in supplement form through his company, Natural Food Science LLC. 

“If I sprain my ankle it doesn’t swell up, the injury will just heal,” Brind claimed, citing the supposed effects of glycine on inflammation. 

In a Thursday session on “the rise of the DIY abortion”, panelist Randall O’Bannon questioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) March update to regulations on mifepristone, a drug also known as RU-486 that is used in medical abortions. Noting that the drug is “cheap,” O’Bannon appeared to fret that the new regulations might make abortion more accessible, going on to claim that there could be “a push to make [the drug] available over the counter.”

O’Bannon claimed there are “documented safety issues” associated with the drug, but the FDA says mifepristone is “safe and effective.” A 2011 post-market study by the agency of those who have used the drug since its approval found that more than 1.5 million women had used it to end a pregnancy in the U.S. Of those women, just roughly 2,200 experienced an “adverse event.” According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra.

Speculating that misoprostol, another drug used in medication abortions, was less effective than medical experts say, O’Bannon later suggested that more embryos would “survive” abortions, leading to an “increased numbers of births with children with club feet, webbed toes, and fingers [and] full and partial facial paralysis.”

According to the World Health Organization, “Available data regarding a potential risk of fetal abnormality after an unsuccessful medical abortion are limited and inconclusive.”