Roundup: Specter Changes His Mind, Does Scott Brown?

Rachel Larris

Today's roundup is all about the politicians and the things they do in their attempts to keep supporters happy, some of which will backfire.

Today’s roundup is all about the politicians and the
things they do in their attempts to keep supporters happy.

First up, in an unexpected move Senator Arlen Specter
has said he will vote to ratify Dawn Johnsen,
nominee for head of the Office of Legal Counsel. This would provide the 60th
vote in the Senate and potentially break the logjam holding up her nomination.

"After voting ‘pass’ [which means no position] in the
Judiciary Committee, I had a second extensive meeting with Ms. Johnsen and have
been prepared to support her nomination when it reaches the Senate floor,"
Specter said in a statement circulated by his office.

Since last year Republicans have been blocking
Johnsen’s nomination from coming to a full Senate vote partially on the idea
that some of her past work as legal
director for NARAL
made her too controversial.

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During her Senate Judiciary hearing last February
Sen. Specter questioned Johnsen’s position on abortion bans. But Specter, a brand-new
"Democrat" since April, may be feeling the heat from Rep. Joe Sestak, his Democratic primary challenger, which
could explain why he changed his mind.

Meanwhile another politician that is trying to shore
up his support among women voters is Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate
Scott Brown. Martha
Coakley, the democratic candidate, issued a new television ad that highlights a
2005 amendment Brown sponsored in the state Senate that would have allowed
medical staff at hospitals to deny
rape victims a emergency contraception
if it "conflicts with a sincerely
held religious belief.”

The amendment, which did not pass, was
attached to a bill that he ultimately voted for, which required emergency rooms
to provide the contraceptives to rape victims…

Brown and his supporters have declined
to discuss the underpinnings of his amendment, instead trying to focus on the
fact that he supported the overall legislation. He also voted to override a
veto by Governor Mitt Romney.

Brown has also declined to discuss his
amendment proposal.

"It’s irrelevant; it’s a red
herring,” he told reporters after Monday night’s debate, as an aide cut off
further questions.

While Brown isn’t speaking up about this amendment
his daughters are willing to come forward to vouch
for him

Lastly Susan
B. Anthony List, the anti-choice counterpoint to Emily’s List, had
supporters gather outside Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office
in Toledo, Ohio. The
group wanted to urge Rep. Kaptur to continue her support for keeping the Stupak
Amendment in the final health care reform package. Kaptur was one of only two
Democratic women representatives that voted for the Stupak amendment.

Jury selection in the Scott Roeder trial is set to
begin today, just after the Kansas Supreme Court ordered Sedgwick County Judge
Warren Wilbert to reconsider
his decision to keep jury selection secret.

13, 2010

Why Do Scott Brown And The GOP Hate
Rape Victims?
Air America (press

Abortion takes stage in Senate race
Boston Globe

Are we inciting unlawful sex?
Malta Independent Online

Supporter sparked by Brown’s stand
on abortion

Boston Globe

Team 4: Bob Casey Heckled By Anti-Abortion Protesters

Judge to rethink jury selection in abortion murder Washington

Sarah Palin: Criticism is a
"Bunch of BS"
CBS News

Kaptur lauded for anti-abortion vote Toledo Blade


12, 2010

Planned Parenthood Director Bemoans
Lack of Info about Natural Family Planning

Address infertility in family planning services New

More attention needed on health
Jakarta Post

Franken & Snowe Introduce
Military EC Bill
Ms. Magazine

School Refused Title X Funds for
Blocking Access to Morning-After Pill

National Right to Life sends
letters urging pro-life lawmakers in
US House
Canada Free Press

the Massachusetts election: a pro-life dilemma Catholic

Judge recuses herself from trial of
Notre Dame pro-life protesters
Catholic News Agency

US warnings target Bayer, Amylin,
Cephalon, Lilly

Birth Control Conundrum: Yaz, Depo
Have Disturbing Side Effects …

Gillibrand is running scared
New York Daily News

Pro-choice activist adds lobbying
Feminists for Choice

Pro-Choice Catholic Tackles
Dogmatic Question of Abortion

George Tiller Murder Trial: Are
Prosecutors Trying to Silence Abortion Foes …
CBS News

Abortion issue threatens health care
USA Today

Poor Pre-Abortion Counseling Causes Women and Men Relationship Problems

Protest Against New Houston Planned
Parenthood Abortion Center Coming Soon

Don’t use tax money to subsidize abortions
Asbury Park Press

Suspect in slaying of abortion doctor can use voluntary manslaughter defense
Los Angeles Times

Blackmun: If this is established, abortion ‘rights’ would, of course, ‘collapse’

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.