Arresting Pregnant Women is Bad for Babies: Kentucky Case Progresses and Advocates Speak Out

Lynn1

Tomorrow, the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear a case involving prosecution of a pregnant, drug-using woman. The case has broad implications for women's rights in pregnancy and advocates for pregnant women are concerned.

Tomorrow, December 10, 2009 the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case involving the prosecution of a pregnant, drug-using woman. It is an important opportunity to understand the broader issues at stake in cases that seem narrowly focused on the very small percentage of pregnant women who use illegal drugs. Oral argument is scheduled for 10 AM and you will be able to watch a live stream of the arguments by clicking this link.

In this case, the state arrested a new mother who, according to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, “ingested cocaine” while her daughter “was in utero and thereafter gave birth.” The daughter was healthy but, according to the Commonwealth, both the mother and newborn tested positive for cocaine. The new mother wasn’t charged with a drug crime – rather she was charged with the crime of “wanton endangerment.” Kentucky alleges that she engaged “in conduct which created a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to” another person – her “unborn” child.

Notice that this law is directed to “conduct” that “creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury.” Many people in positions of power think that a pregnant woman who refuses cesarean surgery, have births outside of hospital settings, or insists on a vaginal birth after previous cesarean surgery is creating a “substantial danger of death or serious physical injury” to an unborn child.

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The Commonwealth wants the Kentucky Supreme Court to interpret this law, and, in fact, every criminal law in the state, to include pregnant women in relationship to the fetuses they carry. Indeed, a close reading of the lower court’s opinion and the Commonwealth’s arguments makes clear that they hope, through this court case, to pass what would, in effect, be a “personhood measure.” As a result, even abortions necessary to protect a woman’s life or health could be charged as homicide.

Because of the broad implications of this case and the medical misinformation it relies on, sixty public health and advocacy organizations as well as numerous experts signed on to amicus (friend of the court) briefs explaining why the court should reject the Commonwealth’s invitation to radically re-write state law. Not a single organization filed an amicus brief supporting this kind of dangerous judicial activism. Kentucky treatment and recovery advocates Michael Barry and Pam Scott published an op-ed in the Courier-Journal explaining why Arresting pregnant women is bad for babies. Here is what they have to say:

On Dec. 10, 2009, the Kentucky Supreme court will consider a case involving a woman who gave birth and got arrested. In this case the Commonwealth claims that because a cocaine-using pregnant woman went to term, she should be punished for the crime of “wanton endangerment” for threatening the health of her “unborn” child. Two other women were recently arrested on similar grounds. Here are five surprising reasons why arresting pregnant drug-using women is a bad idea:


Threatening pregnant women with arrest is bad for babies. Babies have the best birth outcomes when their mothers are not afraid to come in for health care, not afraid to talk honestly to their health care providers, and when they can find the right kind of help for their problems. This explains why threatening pregnant women with arrest and prosecution is bad for babies. While using drugs, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and many other things can create risks, the good news is women who get health care during pregnancy, whether or not they can overcome an addiction, can have healthy babies. Women who are afraid that getting health care will lead to arrest often stop coming in for health care, or if they go, keep their drug problems secret. This is one reason why every medical group in the country to address the issue, including the March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose prosecution of pregnant women.


Threatening arrests and prosecutions create an incentive for women to have abortions. Given how hard it is for most people to overcome an addiction problem quickly (even strong and successful people like Rush Limbaugh) laws that threaten to punish women who carry their pregnancies to term in spite of a drug problem puts pressure on them to get unwanted abortions. In North Dakota, a woman was arrested on charges similar to those in Kentucky. She was twelve weeks pregnant at the time and managed to obtain an abortion. The result? The prosecutor dropped the criminal charges citing the fact that she had “terminated her pregnancy.” Indeed, if the Kentucky Supreme Court uses the current case to permit prosecution of women who “endanger” their unborn children, we might as well post signs saying: “If you are pregnant and can’t achieve abstinence immediately, have an abortion now, before you get arrested.”


Education, health care, and support work. For years Kentucky has led the country in applying proven methods for helping drug using women. Since Kentucky adopted laws supporting education and treatment over arrest, it has seen a dramatic increase in the number of women receiving prenatal care. In 1990, Kentucky was ranked 26th out of 50 states for prenatal care. In 2000, Kentucky improved its rank to 11th. Infant mortality rates fell 25 percent during that decade and in 2001, Kentucky reported the lowest infant mortality rate since statistics were first recorded. In contrast, South Carolina, the only state that has upheld the prosecution of women who go to term in spite of a drug problem, ranks near the bottom of the list on infant mortality.


Women who use drugs while pregnant are not doing so because they don’t care about their babies. The truth is lots of people use drugs — legal and illegal. Some become addicted and just like people who struggle with obesity and hypertension, most would like to change their behaviors, but find that they can’t do so immediately or without the right kind of help. Kentucky does have some specialized programs for women — but not yet nearly enough. Threatening arrest doesn’t help them or their babies. And the good news is that we have much less to fear than we thought if recovery is not immediate.


What the medical research says about cocaine use and pregnancy is very different from what most people have heard on the news. Scientific experts as well as leading government agencies now confirm that the use of cocaine is not uniquely or inevitably harmful. The National Institute for Drug Abuse has reported that while babies born to mothers who used cocaine while pregnant “were at one time written off by many as a lost generation… It was later found that this was a gross exaggeration.” And, as the U.S. Sentencing Commission concluded, “[t]he negative effects of prenatal cocaine exposure are significantly less severe than previously believed” and those negative effects “do not differ from the effects of prenatal exposure to other drugs, both legal and illegal.” While health experts do not say that there are no health risks associated with cocaine use during pregnancy, the good news is that they overwhelmingly agree that the risks are comparable to cigarettes and less than the possible harm from excessive alcohol use. Exaggerated claims of harm from illegal drugs should not provide the cover for drastically changing Kentucky law, to permit treating pregnant women who do any of these things as criminals.


MIKE BARRY, CEO, People Advocating Recovery
PAM SCOTT, Director, The Healing Place for Women, Louisville 40203

 

Investigations LGBTQ

Brewing Hatred: Coors Beer Company Markets to Women, Latinos, LGBTQ Communities as Coors Family Attacks Their Rights

Zoe Greenberg & Brie Shea

As women, the LGBTQ community, and Latinos gain political and consumer power, Coors and its competitors have scrambled to target these groups. But the family behind the company continues to pump millions of dollars into powerful anti-choice, anti-immigrant organizations.

In a Coors beer ad released in 2011, two men dance suggestively behind the familiar script of the Coors Light logo. One of them, wearing a pink button-down shirt, holds his beer can aloft with one hand and his dancing partner’s thigh with the other. A small blue box near the bottom corner boasts that Coors was named by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the best places to work for LGBT Equality. In the center of the page, above the dancing men, Coors boldly proclaims: “Out Is Refreshing.”

Coors Light is the second most popular beer in the United States, bringing in more than $2.3 billion of the $101.5 billion beer market in 2014, according to the market research firm IRI. The Coors family is one of America’s oldest and largest beer dynasties, and the brewing companies that still bear their name—MillerCoors and Molson Coors—rake in billions each year. (Coors merged with Molson, a popular Canadian brewing company, in 2005, and the two companies created a joint venture called MillerCoors in 2008.) Molson Coors had $4.15 billion in net sales in 2014 alone.

To maintain that success, Coors has recently developed product lines and ad campaigns designed to cater to three key increasingly profitable markets—women, the LGBTQ community, and Latinos. As these groups gain political and consumer power, Coors and its competitors have scrambled to transform beer, once a blue-collar, bro-identified product, into a multicultural cash cow.

But a new Rewire investigation shows that although the Coors marketing messages and company policies have changed, the family behind the company continues to pump millions of dollars into powerful anti-choice, anti-immigrant groups, financing efforts that are directly hostile to the diverse customer base the Coors companies are trying to win over.

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Coors Foundational Giving 2009-2014

Conservative groups to which the Coors foundations have contributed at least $50,000 between 2009 and 2014.

Blue denotes anti-immigrant organizations

Red denotes anti-choice organizations

Green denotes anti-LGBT and anti-choice organizations

Orange denotes anti-immigrant and anti-choice organizations

* Individual contributions from Jeffrey Coors and John Coors, not family foundations

Organization Total

Independence Institute

$2,768,403

American Enterprise Institute

$900,000

Heritage Foundation

$800,000

Institute for Justice

$540,000

Pacific Legal Foundation

$510,000

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

$380,000

Cato Institute

$375,000

Donors Trust

$372,000

Philanthropy Roundtable

$360,000

Mountain States Legal Foundation

$355,000

Ethics and Public Policy Center

$335,000

Leadership Institute

$335,000

Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies

$270,000

ALEC

$240,000

Institute for American Values

$200,000

Independent Women’s Forum

$190,000

State Policy Network

$185,000

Landmark Legal Foundation

$170,000

Reason Foundation

$150,000

Texas Public Policy Foundation

$150,000

Barry Goldwater Institute

$160,000

Property & Environment Research Center

$140,000

Intercollegiate Studies Institute

$130,000

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CO)

$120,000

Southeastern Legal Foundation

$110,000

Americans for Prosperity Foundation

$100,000

James Madison Institute

$100,000

Media Research Center

$100,000

Competitive Enterprise Institute

$90,000

Young America’s Foundation

$90,000

American Studies Center

$80,000

Prometheus Institute

$80,000

Institute for Energy Research

$75,000

Heartland Institute

$70,000

Center for American Values

$65,000

National Center for Public Policy Research

$60,000

Cascade Policy Institute

$55,000

National Catholic Bioethics Center

$55,000

Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives

$50,000

Women Speak Out PAC (SBA List)

* $50,000

Center for Equal Opportunity

$50,000

Foundation for Government Accountability

$50,000

Independent Institute

$50,000

National Center for Policy Analysis

$50,000

The Coors family foundations have contributed at least $12.5 million to conservative organizations in the past six years alone, making the Coors one of the most formidable right-wing donor families on the national stage today.

Much of the family’s money is channeled through two private foundations: the Adolph Coors Foundation (founded in 1975) and the Castle Rock Foundation, which merged with the Adolph Coors Foundation in 2011. The foundations gave approximately $36.8 million total in grants in the past six years, meaning their conservative spending made up at least a third of their overall giving.

According to Kellie McElhaney, founding director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the public messaging from the Coors companies is in clear conflict with the private giving of the Coors family members.

“If the company is truly investing in women and minorities, which is going to cost the company money as an investment strategy, and the [Adolph Coors] Foundation is investing in things that appear counter to supporting women and minorities, then that’s a conflict,” she told Rewire. “You can’t invest in women and minorities on the one hand, and do anything that appears to be divesting from women and minorities on the other hand.”

The Coors beer companies and the Coors family say there is no conflict—because they operate separately. The family foundation’s website reads, “The Adolph Coors Foundation is a family foundation and not connected in any way to the brewery.”

And a spokesperson for Molson Coors echoed that message in an email to Rewire.

“We respect the rights of the family members or their foundations to choose their own political affiliations and activities,” the spokesperson said. “However, their contributions are their own and are not connected to the activities of the company. The culture at Molson Coors is based on respect, integrity and diversity.”

Rewire did not receive a response to our questions from MillerCoors, the other major Coors brewery. The Adolph Coors Foundation declined to comment.

Despite this asserted independence, public records show that Coors family members—including those who control the family’s charitable foundations—retain substantial ownership and control of the for-profit companies that carry their name.

Marcel Kahan, a professor of corporate law at NYU Law School, reviewed the most recent Molson Coors proxy filing for Rewire. He estimated that Coors family members and their entities own about 27 million of the total shares outstanding, or approximately 15 to 20 percent of the total votes in the company.

“They clearly are the most powerful single shareholders here,” he told Rewire. “They have significant influence because they are the directors, and they are the largest shareholders.”

In addition to owning large chunks of the Coors companies, Coors family members are involved in both the company and the foundation at leadership levels.

While some family members work at the companies, and others serve on the foundation, Peter H. Coors and William Coors hold senior positions at both. Peter H. Coors is the chairman of the MillerCoors Board, the vice-chairman of the Molson Coors Board, and the president and chairman of the Adolph Coors Foundation, according to 2014 tax filings. (A spokesperson for Molson Coors told Rewire that although Peter H. Coors fills these roles on the Adolph Coors Foundation board, John Jackson, a Colorado native and former consultant, actually leads the foundation. Tax filings list Jackson as the executive director/secretary of the foundation.) William Coors sits on the board of the Adolph Coors Foundation and is a director emeritus of Molson Coors, a position through which he provides consulting and advisory services, according to a 2015 proxy filing.

Four other Coors family members are on the board of the Adolph Coors Foundation, including Jeffrey Coors, CEO of Graphic Packaging Company, a major supplier of packaging for Molson Coors and MillerCoors.

At least three Coors family members—Christi Coors-Ficeli, Peter J. Coors, and David Coors—are currently employed by the brewing companies. All three are the children of Peter H. Coors (the chairman of the Adolph Coors Foundation) and the siblings of Melissa Coors Osborn, another family foundation member.

These ties undermine the claims that the company and the family are unconnected, said McElhaney, of the Haas Business School.

“There’s no question that optically, the family is very inter-linked with the actual company itself, particularly because it’s a family-owned company,” she said.

A Model Corporate Citizen

Just as the nation’s political parties have been forced to reckon with America’s shifting demographics, the nation’s major beer companies now have to appeal to the same groups if they want to stay profitable.

We and our US joint venture with SABMiller—MillerCoors—have increased our marketing to both women and minorities in recent years because they represent key consumer groups that will help drive the future growth of the beer industry,” Molson Coors spokesperson Colin Wheeler said in an email.

The increasing buying power of Latinos, women, and the LGBTQ community offers potentially major windfalls for beer companies. With nearly 33 million people of legal drinking age, and an estimated $1.5 trillion in buying power in the United States, Latinos represent a market that has until recently been underserved by mainstream brewers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos are a relatively young and growing population; by 2045, they will make up 25 percent of the population of legal drinkers in the country. The preferred adult beverage of the Latino population is beer, as noted in a recent report from the research firm Technomic.

In 2014, the U.S. LGBTQ community’s buying power was an estimated $884 billion and rising, according to Witeck Communications.

Women also have growing purchasing power, controlling $5 to $15 trillion in annual consumer spending in the United States, as reported by Nielsen. But as a group, they currently make up only one-fifth of the beer drinking population around the world.

In light of these numbers, Coors and its competitors have devoted themselves to a straightforward, and exceptionally profitable, goal: Get women, Latinos, and gay people to drink more beer.

The goal has spurred new marketing strategies by the major players in the beer industry. In 2008, one such competitor, Anheuser-Busch, introduced Budweiser Chelada, a version of the “michelada,” a popular Mexican drink that combines beer, tomato juice, lime, and spices. A press release promised, “The beers also pair well with traditional Latino dishes such as ceviche, chicken enchiladas and tamales.”

Coors Ad

The goal of selling more beer to Latinos has spurred new marketing strategies from major players in the industry. (McCann Copenhagen, Noche Latina, Bud Light)

Molson Coors also launched its own special beer lines targeting these new demographics.

In 2011, Molson Coors released a beer in the UK specifically for women, called Animée (French for “lively”). Based on almost three years of research about what women want, the beer was sparkling, pink, and advertised as “bloat resistant.”

Melissa Cole, a beer critic for the Guardian, wrote at the time: “Despite having some pretty pictures of hops on the bottle, if anyone can identify anything even approaching a normal beer flavour in any of these drinks I’ll eat my hat.” The brand was taken off the market 12 months after it was released.

Although that particular strategy failed, the company was undeterred from its fundamental goal of getting more women to drink Coors beer.

“Animée was only one part of our plan to attract more female drinkers to beer, and attracting female drinkers remains a priority to get the category back into growth,” a spokesperson told Marketing Week when the brand was pulled.

Coors’ attempts to win Latino consumers have met with more success. In 2014, MillerCoors released the Coors Light Summer Brew, a citrus-flavored beer specifically targeting Latino drinkers. Coors also started including bilingual packaging on Miller Lite and Coors Light brands and running Spanish-language beer ads.

The company’s efforts have gone well past marketing, to encompass a range of real-world corporate policies and efforts directed at these three key groups. 

Coors extended benefits to same-sex couples long before equal marriage was legal, and supports trans employees wishing to transition, both with medical care and paid time off. MillerCoors is a corporate partner of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, sponsors Pride parades around the country, and was the first national sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, according to its website. Earlier this year MillerCoors chairman Peter H. Coors backed out of an event hosted by an anti-gay organization.

In recognition of the company’s work, the Human Rights Campaign has awarded MillerCoors a “100” rating in their Corporate Equality Index ten years in a row. EDGE Media, a network of LGBTQ publications, called Coors a “model corporate citizen.”

The Coors companies have donated thousands of dollars to Latino community groups, including the Coors Hispanic Employment Network, a nonprofit based in Golden, Colorado that works to “support Hispanics in career development and employment opportunities.” Another program, called “Coors Lite Líderes,” provides grants, networking events, and online resources “to help up-and-coming Latino leaders to go further.” Each year the organization awards a $25,000 grant to a leader and his or her project, which must benefit the Latino community.

The Coors companies have introduced gender-inclusive workplace policies, as well.

In 2009, Molson Coors launched the Violet Initiative, a task force led by senior women in the company to increase the number of women ready to move into leadership positions and to make Molson Coors a desirable place for top-level women in the industry.

According to an annual report, the company introduced “flexible work arrangements” in 2010 to encourage work-life balance. MillerCoors has its own program to cultivate female leaders, including an annual Women’s Development and Networking Summit for women across the beer industry.

In a video, MillerCoors lays out its gender-related goals for the next five years. In 2014, 28 percent of managers were women, it explains; by 2020, the company hopes to have 34 percent of managers be women.

“This is a got-to-do if we’re going to be successful as a corporation now,” Scott Whitley, the president of the company, says in the video. “I think with the strong pipeline of talent we have among our female employees, we have a great opportunity. We’ve got to make sure we’re removing the obstacles and the challenges that might get in the way of people realizing their aspirations.”

“Learn to Speak English”

At the same time as the Coors companies are prioritizing outreach to women and Latinos, the Coors family is funding some of the most influential anti-choice, anti-immigrant organizations in the country.

The family’s support for right-wing causes is longstanding.

In 1973, Joseph Coors helped establish the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s most famous right-wing think tanks, which has taken credit for many of George W. Bush’s policies. Around the same time, the Coors family helped establish and fund the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative think tank that used anti-gay organizing to build political power for the Christian right.

And the family’s politics were squarely reflected in company policies.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, a broad coalition of unions, members of the gay and lesbian community, and immigrant rights activists boycotted the company because of its low wages and discriminatory hiring. Consumers, activists, and the press summarized these practices in a single menacing symbol: the Coors polygraph test.

“Prior to my employment, I was required to submit to a polygraph (lie detector) test,” David Sickler, an organizer of a 1977 brewers strike, said in a sworn affidavit. “Have you had sex with one or more persons?” Sickler recalled being asked. “What kind of sex?”

“I felt degraded, humiliated, and angry at this unwarranted invasion of my privacy,” Sickler said.

Other employees remembered similar questions. “What is your sex preference?” one recalled. “Have you ever done anything with your wife that could be considered immoral?” “Did you have relations with your wife last night?”

Many of the questions danced around one fundamental concern: “Are you a homosexual?”

The polygraph tests, which were used to screen job applicants in a company that had more than 10,000 workers by the time the practice stopped, were deployed to intimidate non-white applicants as well.

In a sworn affidavit from 1977, Frank Abeyta spoke about the multiple polygraph tests he was forced to take as a prospective employee because, he suspected, the company could not believe he had no criminal record as a Chicano man.

“I feel that this whole month of harassment was unnecessary and I was subjected to it because I am a Chicano and they were trying to discourage me from seeking employment with their Company,” he said.

The polygraph tests helped fuel the boycotts. While they raged, the Coors family foundations continued to support religious-right groups like the Institute for American Values, an organization dedicated to the values of heterosexual marriage, thrift, and anti-gambling; the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell’s conservative Christian organization; and Intercessors for America, a Christian fundamentalist group that focuses on prayer and fasting to end abortion and the “gay agenda,” among other things.

The AFL-CIO boycott ended in the late 1980s, after the company agreed to remove some obstacles to union organizing, but the family’s conservative spending continued, along with generalized pushback from other groups. Throughout the 2000s, the Castle Rock Foundation continued to support political positions that were increasingly opposed to the companies’ public relations messages and internal policies.

According to Allyson Brantley, a PhD student at Yale writing her dissertation on the Coors boycott, the first significant public break between the political stance of the company and the family came in 2004, when Peter H. Coors, then 58, ran for Colorado Senate. As a candidate, Coors opposed abortion without exception, defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and supported Bush’s war in Iraq.

Brantley says that the senate run represents a turning point, because for the first time, the company sought to distance itself publicly from members of the Coors family.

“The company was very explicit about how they were unconnected from Peter Coors and his senate run,” Brantley told Rewire. “Although, the family was always involved in the money of the company and also the operations of it. It was hard to know where one ended and one began.”

Another turning point came in 2009, when the Adolph Coors Foundation appears to have shed any reticence caused by the controversies of prior decades, and began once again to aggressively fund national conservative organizations, according to Rewire’s analysis of tax filings and other public documents.

Since then, the family has become one of the major funders behind some of the right’s marquee battles in the culture wars, including the fight against the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit.

Between 2009 and 2014, the Coors family foundations contributed $380,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the nonprofit law firm that masterminded many of the challenges to the Affordable Care Act. That represents around 2 percent of the overall giving to the Becket Fund—one of the nation’s largest right-wing nonprofit groups—during that time, according to Rewire‘s research.

The Becket Fund’s most famous client is Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts supplies store that brought its objections to insurance coverage for contraception to the U.S. Supreme Court last year, and won. The Becket Fund has also represented other religiously affiliated nonprofits, such as Wheaton College, in an effort to eliminate insurance coverage for birth control for employees of religious institutions.

The Coors family, though, did not have just one horse in the anti-birth control race. Between 2009 and 2014, the family foundations also contributed $335,000 to the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a neoconservative group dedicated to “applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.” The center filed an amicus brief in the Hobby Lobby case as well, arguing that for-profit corporations can exercise religious freedom, and therefore deny their employees access to birth control.

Molson Coors told Rewire that although the company’s health-care benefits vary by country, most employees have health care that provides birth control benefits and covers abortion.

The Coors family has also contributed thousands to right-wing women’s groups that seek, among other things, to eliminate legal abortion. In 2014, Jeffrey Coors and John Coors each gave $25,000 to Women Speak Out PAC, the super PAC arm of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List. The group’s stated goal is to “reduce and ultimately end abortion.”

Between 2009 and 2014, the family foundations also gave $190,000 to the Independent Women’s Forum, which the New York Times editorial board described as “a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women.” The IWF sent a spokesperson to testify against gun control laws in the aftermath of the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, claiming “guns make women safer”; opposed the Violence Against Women Act, arguing that it has been a source of “waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer resources”; and defended Rush Limbaugh when he called a college student a “prostitute” and a “slut” for her support of the birth control benefit.

In addition to funding anti-choice political groups, between 2009 and 2014, the Adolph Coors Foundation contributed nearly $120,000 to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), many located in the Coors’ home state of Colorado. CPCs are anti-choice facilities that try to persuade women not to get abortions, often by claiming that abortion causes breast cancer or sterility (it doesn’t). CPCs tend to use deceptive advertising to trick women into thinking they may be able to get an abortion if they make an appointment.

And, as much as Coors marketing spokespeople tout the benefits of bilingual advertising and scholarships for Hispanic students, the Coors family has a very different idea about how to spend the profits reaped from such careful multicultural advertising.

Between 2010 and 2011, the Castle Rock Foundation contributed $50,000 to the Center for Equal Opportunity, a small conservative think tank fiercely opposed to bilingual education. In testimony before the House Judiciary committee, the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity said that to achieve assimilation, there are “ten basic principles” to which all Americans must subscribe. They included “learn to speak English”; “don’t have children out of wedlock”; “don’t demand anything because of your race, ethnicity, or sex”; and “don’t hold historical grudges.”

From 2009 to 2014, the Coors family foundations also contributed $800,000 to the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank founded by Joseph Coors, which in recent years has become increasingly hostile to immigration. In 2013, a Heritage senior policy analyst named Dr. Jason Richwine wrote a study that argued against amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Dr. Richwine was subsequently fired when reporters discovered that he had written a dissertation arguing that Hispanic immigrants had I.Q.s that were “substantially lower than that of the white native population,” something he said should be taken into account when drafting immigration policy.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Coors family foundations contributed $60,000 to the National Center for Public Policy Research, another conservative think tank devoted to a white vision of America. In 2012, the group announced the creation of a “Voter Identification Task Force,” to push forward voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect Black and Latino voters. And between 2009 and 2014, the Coors gave $510,000 to the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has fought against bilingual education and state tuition rates for undocumented students in California.

“California taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize the post-secondary education of adult illegal aliens,” the Pacific Legal Foundation wrote in an amicus brief.

The individual family members also have a long track record of contributing to anti-choice politicians, according to federal election commission records. Between 2008 and 2015, they gave at least $57,000 to Mike Coffman, a Colorado congressman who opposes abortion including in cases of rape or incest, and between 2005 and 2015, they gave $50,700 to Scott Tipton, another anti-choice Colorado congressman.

Though the family hasn’t publicly stated which Republican they’ll be supporting in the election season, Peter H. Coors gave $5,000 to the Right to Rise PAC, connected to Jeb Bush, in February. Last month, Bush told the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

To be sure, not all of the family’s spending has a political bent: Between 2009 and 2014, the Coors foundations gave approximately $19 million to various community organizations, schools, and nonprofits.

But when it comes to supporting groups that undercut the inclusive stance of the Coors companies, the Coors family seems to maintain a position that was most clearly articulated by Peter H. Coors in 2004, when he was asked about Coors’ pro-LGBTQ practices.

That’s “just good business, separate from politics,” he said.

Sharona Coutts contributed to this report. Follow her on twitter: @sharonacoutts

CORRECTION: Due to a copy-editing error, a version of this piece incorrectly noted the location of Newtown. The piece has been updated to correct this.

Investigations Religion

West Virginia Women Speak Out About Extremist Anti-Choice OB-GYN

Sharona Coutts

Women in West Virginia are speaking up against Dr. Byron C. Calhoun, the prominent anti-choice OB-GYN who holds senior positions in West Virginia’s public health care and education institutions.

Read more of our articles on False Witness Dr. Byron Calhoun here.

To view the full False Witnesses gallery, click here.

Women in West Virginia are speaking up against Dr. Byron C. Calhoun, the prominent anti-choice OB-GYN who has been caught out lying about the risks of abortion on more than one occasion.

In addition to being affiliated with multiple extremist anti-choice groups, Calhoun holds senior positions in West Virginia’s public health care and education institutions.

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He is vice chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at West Virginia University, and serves as the only maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC)—where many West Virginia women go for prenatal and birthing care.

That means Calhoun is the only expert available at the state’s major teaching hospital for women with high-risk pregnancies, including women carrying twins or triplets, as is the case for two of the authors of these open letters, who have granted Rewire permission to publish them.

The four authors are Margaret Chapman Pomponio, Lesly Messina, Christine Teague, and Jessica Gladwell. All are West Virginia residents. Pomponio, Messina, and Teague are affiliated with WV Free, a local reproductive rights organization. Gladwell, who is pregnant with triplets, is not affiliated with WV Free.

They addressed their letters to key decision makers at West Virginia University and CAMC, including Andrew Weber, vice president and administrator at CAMC; John Linton, the dean of the School of Medicine at WVU’s School of Medicine-Charleston; and Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean at WVU Health Services. So far, none of the women has received a response, they told Rewire.

In preparation for this article, Rewire reached out to both West Virginia University and CAMC. Neither replied to our requests for comment or to our questions about whether they have initiated any investigation or disciplinary proceedings against Calhoun.


“Calhoun is singlehandedly driving patients away from health care close to their homes, creating anxiety and possibly medical problems due to travel time; families suffer as a result.” —Margaret Chapman Pomponio

“My intention in writing this letter is not to open a discussion of the politics of abortion, but rather act in my duty as a woman and as a healthcare provider myself to express disdain.” —Christine Teague

“There is no question that he is dangerous to women’s health.” —Lesly Messina
“I never dreamed that my need for access to high-risk maternity care would place me in the care of a physician whose knowledge about the source of my employment causes me panic.” —Jessica Gladwell

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