Roundup: Clinic Protest; Roeder Bible Study; Australian Woman Threatened by Complicated Pregnancy Waits for Government to Act

Jodi Jacobson

The clinic protest that was not: Pro-choice advocates far outnumber those seeking to disrupt services in Nebraska; Scott Roeder attended bible study group with "anti-government" philosophy; Queensland woman with serious pregnancy complications denied access to safe abortion unless government officials act.

Pro-choice clinic defenders outnumbered anti-choice protestors at Bellevue Clinic on Saturday.

Rewire reporter Wendy Norristwittered and wrote from the scene of the protests, reporting that the scene was relatively peaceful and few protestors actually turned out in response to the call by Operation Rescue.  Wendy’s reports and an article on the Nebraska Attorney General can be found here.  Look for forthcoming articles and an interview with Dr. Carhart this week.

Roeder belonged to Messianic sect opposed to government “interference” and to choice

The Kansas City Start reported last night that the FBI is investigating a bible study group attended regularly by Scott Roeder, members of which held anti-government views.

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Among the topics: The Old Testament, their Hebrew roots and the “secret societies” attempting to control government and culture.

They met in one another’s homes on Saturdays, their Sabbath, for potluck dinners and scripture study sessions.

the investigation continues into whether Roeder acted alone in Tiller’s
May 31 death, members of the study group have found themselves in the
spotlight, showing up on the witness list for the prosecution and being
interviewed by the FBI.

The group does help explain the
foundation of some of Roeder’s beliefs, which included distrust of
government and opposition to abortion.

Those attending the study
group, reports the Star:

describe themselves as Messianic Jews who, unlike mainstream
Jews, believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Some people who call
themselves Messianic Jews, such as Roeder, are not Jewish.

Roeder is reported to have said that he:

converted, born again to Christianity.”  “I guess you could say
Messianic, or turned to Jesus, Yeshua, as my Savior.” He said Messianic
believers such as himself had gone “back to our Hebrew roots.”

Roeder said he preferred going to a study group instead of a more
formal religious setting because “organized religion is 501(c)3
tax-exempt organizations, which are businesses.”

The Star story continues:

Roeder and other members of the Bible study used
to attend the Or HaOlam Messianic Congregation in Overland Park but
split off, some said, because the leaders did not want to hear their
talk about Freemasons and other “secret societies.”

They also didn’t approve of Or HaOlam being registered as a nonprofit corporation with the state of Kansas.

Shmuel Wolkenfeld of the Or HaOlam congregation confirmed that Roeder
and the others left over disagreements. Wolkenfeld said he hadn’t seen
them for several years.

“We had such divisive conversations
with them,” he said. “Scott became displeased with us because we were
an incorporated Kansas charity.”

He said the group also espoused
conspiracy theories — including an assertion that Prince Charles is the
Antichrist — and that eventually, he and the elders had to “uninvite”
two of Roeder’s friends.

Government policy in Australia puts woman’s health at risk.

A pregnant
woman at the centre of Queensland’s abortion law standoff
is pinning her hopes
on legislation being fast-tracked into state parliament to allay doctors’
concerns about performing drug-induced terminations.

According to the The Australian, the woman, whose unborn child is so
severely malformed as to have no prospect of survival, has been told
the pregnancy must be aborted for the sake of her health.

But with medical abortion services suspended due to the impasse
between doctors and the state government over the legality of the
procedure, no hospital will admit her.

“This is not a moral issue, it is to save someone’s health,” her father, Gary, told The Australian.

“Everyone should get off their high horse and get my daughter into theatre. Every day that goes by is a day too long for her.”

According to the report:

The predicament of 19 weeks pregnant Shay, 24, has added an
intensely personal dimension to the legal and political imbroglio that
erupted after police moved to prosecute a couple in Cairns for
illegally procuring a medical abortion, prompting obstetricians to
demand the scrapping of criminal sanctions on abortion.

The government will amend a section of the criminal code, exempting
doctors from prosecution for performing otherwise illegal abortions, to
cover recently developed medical techniques involving drugs such as
RU486 and misoprostol.

Shay has been told a conventional surgical abortion would increase
her chances of experiencing future pregnancy and birth complications.

Three Queensland women have been referred interstate for treatment
since Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital stopped medical abortions
last week and other hospitals followed suit, but Shay wants to be near
her family for support. Brisbane obstetrician Adrienne Freeman has
offered to perform a medical abortion at Shay’s home or in a hotel room
but the young woman says she would feel safer having it done in a

Other News to Note:

August 31:

News Miner: New name, same mission for pregnancy center

Beacon News: Alternative to Planned Parenthood moves in

Courier Mail: Abortion laws fast-tracked

LA Times: Crazy ‘death panel’ claims? Thank Roe vs. Wade

ABC News Australia: Qld women forced interstate for abortions

Telegraph: Cherie Blair attacks Catholic Church for holding back career women 

Fact Check: Abortion: Which Side Is Fabricating?

Fredericksburg: Economy impacts adoption numbers

Helena IR: (Letter) Is pro choice issue eclipsing Catholic Church’s roots? 

Kansas City Star: FBI traces members of abortion murder suspect’s study group 

Jakarta Post: Wayang used to promote family planning program in Java

Dawn: Informed choices vs morality

Christian Today: Catholic Church should be ‘more positive’ about contraception, says Blair

August 30:

Beliefnet: The Benedict Non-Option

NYTimes: A Different Kind of Liberal

Operation Rescue: Successful Event Exposes Illegal Activity at Cahart’s Abortion Mill, Saves A Life 

ABC News Australia: Qld Govt moves to change abortion, domestic violence laws

Daily Mail: Lower your birth rate, Kenyan families urged

Action 3 News: Exclusive: Controversial Abortion Clinic Gives Us Tour Of Clinic

Catholic News Agency: Persevere with joy, Cardinal Rigali says to diocesan pro-life leaders

Omaha World-Herald: Abortion protest in Bellevue

AP: Makeshift bomb thrown at Neb. abortion clinic

Jakarta Globe: Puppet Masters Promote Family Planning

August 24:

Center for a Just Society: Rethinking Abortion — Two Unexpected Witnesses


News Law and Policy

Texas District Attorney Drops Felony Charges Against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The grand jury returned indictments against Daleiden and Merritt on felony charges of tampering with an official government document for purportedly using a fraudulent driver's license to gain access to a Planned Parenthood center in Houston.

UPDATE, July 26, 2:47 p.m.: This piece has been updated to include a statement from Planned Parenthood.

On Tuesday, the Harris County District Attorney’s office in Texas dismissed the remaining criminal charges against anti-choice activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt related to their production of widely discredited, heavily edited videos alleging Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from fetal tissue donations.

The criminal charges against the pair originally stemmed from Republican Texas lawmakers’ responses to the videos’ release. Attorney General Ken Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick all called for the Harris County District attorney’s Office to begin a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast last August, after the release of one video that featured clinic staff in Houston talking about the methods and costs of preserving fetal tissue for life-saving scientific research.

A Texas grand jury found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood staff and declined to bring any criminal charges against the health-care provider. More than a dozen state and federal investigations have similarly turned up no evidence of lawbreaking by the reproductive health-care provider.

Instead, in January, the grand jury returned indictments against Daleiden and Merritt on felony charges of tampering with an official government document for purportedly using a fraudulent driver’s license to gain access to a Planned Parenthood center in Houston. Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to trying to entice a third party to unlawfully purchase human organs.

A Texas judge in June dismissed the misdemeanor charge against Daleiden on procedural grounds.

“This meritless and retaliatory prosecution should never have been brought,” said Daleiden’s attorney, Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, in a statement following the announcement that the district attorneys office was dismissing the indictment. “Planned Parenthood did wrong here, not David Daleiden.”

“Planned Parenthood provides high-quality, compassionate health care and has been cleared of any wrongdoing time and again. [Daleiden] and other anti-abortion extremists, on the other hand, spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, and lying. When they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up. They spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their anti-abortion agenda. The decision to drop the prosecution on a technicality does not negate the fact that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the extremists behind this fraud,” Melaney A. Linton, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a statement emailed to Rewire after publication.

The district attorney’s dismissal of the felony charges against Daleiden and Merritt happened just before a scheduled court hearing requested by their attorneys to argue the felony indictment should be dismissed.

Daleiden still faces three civil lawsuits elsewhere in the country related to the creation and release of the Planned Parenthood videos.

Analysis Human Rights

El Salvador Bill Would Put Those Found Guilty of Abortion Behind Bars for 30 to 50 Years

Kathy Bougher

Under El Salvador’s current law, when women are accused of abortion, prosecutors can—but do not always—increase the charges to aggravated homicide, thereby increasing their prison sentence. This new bill, advocates say, would heighten the likelihood that those charged with abortion will spend decades behind bars.

Abortion has been illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador since 1997, with a penalty of two to eight years in prison. Now, the right-wing ARENA Party has introduced a bill that would increase that penalty to a prison sentence of 30 to 50 years—the same as aggravated homicide.

The bill also lengthens the prison time for physicians who perform abortions to 30 to 50 years and establishes jail terms—of one to three years and six months to two years, respectively—for persons who sell or publicize abortion-causing substances.

The bill’s major sponsor, Rep. Ricardo Andrés Velásquez Parker, explained in a television interview on July 11 that this was simply an administrative matter and “shouldn’t need any further discussion.”

Since the Salvadoran Constitution recognizes “the human being from the moment of conception,” he said, it “is necessary to align the Criminal Code with this principle, and substitute the current penalty for abortion, which is two to eight years in prison, with that of aggravated homicide.”

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The bill has yet to be discussed in the Salvadoran legislature; if it were to pass, it would still have to go to the president for his signature. It could also be referred to committee, and potentially left to die.

Under El Salvador’s current law, when women are accused of abortion, prosecutors can—but do not always—increase the charges to aggravated homicide, thereby increasing their prison sentence. This new bill, advocates say, would worsen the criminalization of women, continue to take away options, and heighten the likelihood that those charged with abortion will spend decades behind bars.

In recent years, local feminist groups have drawn attention to “Las 17 and More,” a group of Salvadoran women who have been incarcerated with prison terms of up to 40 years after obstetrical emergencies. In 2014, the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion) submitted requests for pardons for 17 of the women. Each case wound its way through the legislature and other branches of government; in the end, only one woman received a pardon. Earlier this year, however, a May 2016 court decision overturned the conviction of another one of the women, Maria Teresa Rivera, vacating her 40-year sentence.

Velásquez Parker noted in his July 11 interview that he had not reviewed any of those cases. To do so was not “within his purview” and those cases have been “subjective and philosophical,” he claimed. “I am dealing with Salvadoran constitutional law.”

During a protest outside of the legislature last Thursday, Morena Herrera, president of the Agrupación, addressed Velásquez Parker directly, saying that his bill demonstrated an ignorance of the realities faced by women and girls in El Salvador and demanding its revocation.

“How is it possible that you do not know that last week the United Nations presented a report that shows that in our country a girl or an adolescent gives birth every 20 minutes? You should be obligated to know this. You get paid to know about this,” Herrera told him. Herrera was referring to the United Nations Population Fund and the Salvadoran Ministry of Health’s report, “Map of Pregnancies Among Girls and Adolescents in El Salvador 2015,” which also revealed that 30 percent of all births in the country were by girls ages 10 to 19.

“You say that you know nothing about women unjustly incarcerated, yet we presented to this legislature a group of requests for pardons. With what you earn, you as legislators were obligated to read and know about those,” Herrera continued, speaking about Las 17. “We are not going to discuss this proposal that you have. It is undiscussable. We demand that the ARENA party withdraw this proposed legislation.”

As part of its campaign of resistance to the proposed law, the Agrupación produced and distributed numerous videos with messages such as “They Don’t Represent Me,” which shows the names and faces of the 21 legislators who signed on to the ARENA proposal. Another video, subtitled in English, asks, “30 to 50 Years in Prison?

International groups have also joined in resisting the bill. In a pronouncement shared with legislators, the Agrupación, and the public, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Women (CLADEM) reminded the Salvadoran government of it international commitments and obligations:

[The] United Nations has recognized on repeated occasions that the total criminalization of abortion is a form of torture, that abortion is a human right when carried out with certain assumptions, and it also recommends completely decriminalizing abortion in our region.

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights reiterated to the Salvadoran government its concern about the persistence of the total prohibition on abortion … [and] expressly requested that it revise its legislation.

The Committee established in March 2016 that the criminalization of abortion and any obstacles to access to abortion are discriminatory and constitute violations of women’s right to health. Given that El Salvador has ratified [the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights], the country has an obligation to comply with its provisions.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, described the proposal as “scandalous.” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director, emphasized in a statement on the organization’s website, “Parliamentarians in El Salvador are playing a very dangerous game with the lives of millions of women. Banning life-saving abortions in all circumstances is atrocious but seeking to raise jail terms for women who seek an abortion or those who provide support is simply despicable.”

“Instead of continuing to criminalize women, authorities in El Salvador must repeal the outdated anti-abortion law once and for all,” Guevara-Rosas continued.

In the United States, Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) issued a press release on July 19 condemning the proposal in El Salvador. Rep. Torres wrote, “It is terrifying to consider that, if this law passed, a Salvadoran woman who has a miscarriage could go to prison for decades or a woman who is raped and decides to undergo an abortion could be jailed for longer than the man who raped her.”

ARENA’s bill follows a campaign from May orchestrated by the right-wing Fundación Sí a la Vida (Right to Life Foundation) of El Salvador, “El Derecho a la Vida No Se Debate,” or “The Right to Life Is Not Up for Debate,” featuring misleading photos of fetuses and promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion.

The Agrupacion countered with a series of ads and vignettes that have also been applied to the fight against the bill, “The Health and Life of Women Are Well Worth a Debate.”

bien vale un debate-la salud de las mujeres

Mariana Moisa, media coordinator for the Agrupación, told Rewire that the widespread reaction to Velásquez Parker’s proposal indicates some shift in public perception around reproductive rights in the country.

“The public image around abortion is changing. These kinds of ideas and proposals don’t go through the system as easily as they once did. It used to be that a person in power made a couple of phone calls and poof—it was taken care of. Now, people see that Velásquez Parker’s insistence that his proposal doesn’t need any debate is undemocratic. People know that women are in prison because of these laws, and the public is asking more questions,” Moisa said.

At this point, it’s not certain whether ARENA, in coalition with other parties, has the votes to pass the bill, but it is clearly within the realm of possibility. As Sara Garcia, coordinator of the Agrupación, told Rewire, “We know this misogynist proposal has generated serious anger and indignation, and we are working with other groups to pressure the legislature. More and more groups are participating with declarations, images, and videos and a clear call to withdraw the proposal. Stopping this proposed law is what is most important at this point. Then we also have to expose what happens in El Salvador with the criminalization of women.”

Even though there has been extensive exposure of what activists see as the grave problems with such a law, Garcia said, “The risk is still very real that it could pass.”