Anti-Choice Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Debra Medina “More Conservative Than Thou”

Robin Marty

Dark horse Texas gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina is positioning herself as further right than conservative Governor Rick Perry. She is staunchly anti-choice.

This article was updated at 10:03 p.m., Monday, February 15th to correct an error.  The earlier version incorrectly referred to the NYT article cited here as referring to Ms. Medina’s position on abortion as nuanced.  In fact, the article was referring to the position of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  We regret and apologize for this editorial error.

Despite Glenn Beck declaring that she could be "written off the list" of competitive Republican candidates vying for the party nomination in the race for governor of Texas, Debra Medina may in fact be positioned to pose a real threat for the nod. The former nurse, current business woman and GOP activist is now neck and neck with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in polling among likely primary voters, fighting for second place behind Governor Rick Perry.

Medina is one of the many candidates fighting to be "more conservative than thou" in an attempt to win over the party base.  According to the New York Times, Medina staunchly advocates for states’ rights, abolishing property taxes, deploying the Texas National Guard to protect the border from illegal immigrants, and unregulated ownership of property and guns, opposing all federal gun laws.

Medina is also a staunch opponent of abortion rights.

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"Life begins at conception and concludes at natural death," she states on her campaign website.  "Every
human is created in the image of God. God, not man, is the measure of
all things. Every human life is precious and I will work to protect
innocent human life."

In 2004 Medina became the head of the Wharton County Republican Party, subjecting those interested in local support to answer to a litmus test of GOP ideals.  Her biggest question?  "Are you against abortion?" 

An opponent from inside the party, Merle Huggins, even referred to the county GOP under Medina’s leadership as "Debra Medina’s little Taliban society."

During her appearance on the Lynn Woolley Show (start at 7:37), Medina stated support for abolishing Roe:

LW: Kay Bailey Hutchison was asked about Roe V Wade, and she was asked 4 times, would you favor abolishing Roe V Wade, and the answer was no I would not, but she never would say that, because she had this nuanced answer about well, that would send it back to the states, and then some states would be open abortion, which is kind of the way we are now.  Let me ask you, Debra Medina, the same question, straight ahead, are you in favor of abolishing Roe V Wade?

DM: Yeah and I’d really like to know why we haven’t done that in Texas.  If we’re as pro-life as a state as I think we are, I think we should be pushing the Supreme Court to overturn it. And that means you ban abortion in Texas, you take a hard stand on that.  You do all you can to protect and care for and comfort women who find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy.  But government’s job is to protect innocent life.  There’s none more innocent than that unborn baby. So I believe we really should have done a lot more work than we have and not let the Supreme Court or the Federal Government tell us we can’t otherwise.

LM: Alright, so there’s no question then about Debra Medina’s commitment to life?

DM: There ought not be.


Roundups Politics

Trump Taps Extremists, Anti-Choice Advocates in Effort to Woo Evangelicals

Ally Boguhn

Representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to its shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the organization's president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance at a question-and-answer event on Tuesday.

Making a play to win over the evangelical community, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump met with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders on Tuesday for a question-and-answer event in New York City and launched an “evangelical advisory board” to weigh in on how he should approach key issues for the voting bloc.

The meeting was meant to be “a guided discussion between Trump and diverse conservative Christian leaders to better understand him as a person, his position on important issues and his vision for America’s future,” according to a press release from the event’s organizers. As Rewire previously reported, numerous anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ leaders—many of them extremists—were slated to attend.

Though the event was closed to the media, Trump reportedly promised to lift a ban on tax-exempt organizations from politicking and discussed his commitment to defending religious liberties. Trump’s pitch to conservatives also included a resolution that upon his election, “the first thing we will do is support Supreme Court justices who are talented men and women, and pro-life,” according to a press release from United in Purpose, which helped organize the event.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, told the New York Times that the business mogul also reiterated promises to defund Planned Parenthood and to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically unsupported claim that a fetus feels pain at that point in a pregnancy.

In a post to its website, representatives from radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue praised Trump’s commitment to their shared values during the event. “I’m very impressed that Mr. Trump would sit with conservative leaders for multiple questions, and then give direct answers,” said the group’s president, Troy Newman, who was in attendance. “I don’t believe anything like this has ever happened.” The post went on to note that Trump had also said he would appoint anti-choice justices to federal courts, and repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Just after the event, Trump’s campaign announced the formation of an evangelical advisory board. The group was “convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America,” according to a press release from the campaign. Though members of the board, which will lead Trump’s “much larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to be announced later this month,” were not asked to endorse Trump, the campaign went on to note that “the formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed.”

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Much like the group that met with Trump on Tuesday, the presumptive Republican nominee’s advisory board roster reads like a who’s-who of conservatives with radical opposition to abortion and LGBTQ equality. Here are some of the group’s most notable members:

Michele Bachmann

Though former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once claimed that “women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care” while arguing against the ACA during a 2012 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, her views on the government’s role in restricting reproductive health and rights don’t square away with that position.

During a December 2011 “tele-town hall” event hosted by anti-choice organization Personhood USA, Bachmann reportedly falsely referred to emergency contraception as “abortion pills” and joined other Republican then-presidential candidates to advocate for making abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. During the event, Bachmann touted her support of the anti-choice group’s “personhood pledge,” which required presidential candidates to agree that:

I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,” and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.

Such a policy, if enacted by lawmakers, could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception. A source from Personhood USA told the Huffington Post that Bachmann “signed the pledge and returned it within twenty minutes, which was an extraordinarily short amount of time.”

Bachmann has also claimed that God told her to introduce a measure to block marriage equality in her home state, that being an LGBTQ person is “ part of Satan,” and that same-sex marriage is a “radical experiment that will have “profound consequences.”

Mark Burns

Televangelist Mark Burns has been an ardent supporter of Trump, even appearing on behalf of the presidential candidate at February’s Faith and Family Forum, hosted by the conservative Palmetto Family Council, to deliver an anti-abortion speech.

In March, Burns also claimed that he supported Donald Trump because Democrats like Hillary Clinton supported Black “genocide” (a frequently invoked conservative myth) during an appearance on the fringe-conspiracy program, the Alex Jones show. “That’s really one of my major platforms behind Donald Trump,” said Burns, according to the Daily Beast. “He loves babies. Donald Trump is a pro-baby candidate, and it saddens me how we as African Americans are rallying behind … a party that is okay with the genocide of Black people through abortion.”

Burns’ support of Trump extended to the candidate’s suggestion that if abortion was made illegal, those who have abortions should be punished—an issue on which Trump has repeatedly shifted stances. “If the state made it illegal and said the premature death of an unborn child constituted murder, anyone connected to that crime should be held liable,” Burns told the Wall Street Journal in April. “If you break the law there should be punishment.”

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland founded Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), which, according to its mission statement, exists to “teach Christians worldwide who they are in Christ Jesus and how to live a victorious life in their covenant rights and privileges.” Outlining their opposition to abortion in a post this month on the organization’s website, the couple wrote that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. “As the author of life, God considers an unborn child to be an eternal being from the moment of its conception,” explained the post. “To deliberately destroy that life before birth would be as much premeditated murder as taking the life of any other innocent person.”

The article went on to say that though it may “seem more difficult in cases such as those involving rape or incest” not to choose abortion, “God has a plan for the unborn child,” falsely claiming that the threat of life endangerment has “been almost completely alleviated through modern medicine.”

The ministries’ website also features Pregnancy Options Centre, a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in Vancouver, Canada, that receives “financial and spiritual support” from KCM and “its Partners.” The vast majority of CPCs  regularly lie to women in order to persuade them not to have an abortion.

Kenneth Copeland, in a June 2013 sermon, tied pedophilia to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, going on to falsely claim that the ruling did not actually legalize abortion and that the decision was “the seed to murder our seed.” Copeland blamed legal abortion for the country’s economic woes, reasoning that there are “several million taxpayers that are not alive.”

Copeland, a televangelist, originally supported former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) in the 2016 Republican primary, claiming that the candidate had been “called and appointed” by God to be the next president. His ministry has previously faced scrutiny about its tax-exempt status under an investigation led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) into six ministries “whose television preaching bankrolled leaders’ lavish lifestyles.” This investigation concluded in 2011, according to the New York Times.

James Dobson

James Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family (FoF), previously supported Cruz in the Republican primary, releasing an ad for the campaign in February praising Cruz for defending “the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage.” As Rewire previously reported, both Dobson and his organization hold numerous extreme views:

Dobson’s FoF has spent millions promoting its anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, even dropping an estimated $2.5 million in 2010 to fund an anti-choice Super Bowl ad featuring conservative football player Tim Tebow. Dobson also founded the … Family Research Council, now headed by Tony Perkins.

Dobson’s own personal rhetoric is just as extreme as the causes his organization pushes. As extensively documented by Right Wing Watch,

Dobson has:

Robert Jeffress

A Fox News contributor and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Jeffress once suggested that the 9/11 attacks took place because of legal abortion. “All you have to do is look in history to see what God does with a nation that sanctions the killing of its own children,” said Jeffress at Liberty University’s March 2015 convocation, according to Right Wing Watch. “God will not allow sin to go unpunished and he certainly won’t allow the sacrifice of children to go unpunished.”

Jeffress spoke about the importance of electing Trump during a campaign rally in February, citing Democrats’ positions on abortion rights and Trump’s belief “in protecting the unborn.” He went on to claim that if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Hillary Clinton were elected, “there is no doubt you’re going to have the most pro-abortion president in history.”

After Trump claimed women who have abortions should be punished should it become illegal, Jeffres rushed to defend the Republican candidate from bipartisan criticism, tweeting: “Conservatives’ outrage over @realDonaldTrump abortion comments hypocritical. Maybe they don’t really believe abortion is murder.”

As documented by Media Matters, Jeffress has frequently spoken out against those of other religions and denominations, claiming that Islam is “evil” and Catholicism is “what Satan does with counterfeit religion.” The pastor has also demonstrated extreme opposition to LGBTQ equality, even claiming that same-sex marriage is a sign of the apocalypse.

Richard Land

Richard Land, now president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, was named one of Time Magazine‘s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005 for his close ties with the Republican party. While George W. Bush was president, Land participated in the administration’s “weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.” Bush also appointed Land to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2002.

According to a 2002 article from the Associated Press, during his early academic career in Texas, “Land earned a reputation as a leader among abortion opponents and in 1987 became an administrative assistant to then-Texas Gov. Bill Clements, who fought for laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion” in the state.

Land had previously expressed “dismay” that some evangelicals were supporting Trump, claiming in October that he “take[s] that [support] as a failure on our part to adequately disciple our people.”

Culture & Conversation Media

Hinder Is a Progressive Jab at Anti-Choice Politicians

Shonte Daniels

Every person and quote in the app from Lady Parts Justice, no matter how ridiculous their stories sound, are real, and it’s that authenticity that seeks to inform, disgust, and entertain us.

Dressed in signature Steve Jobs black shirt and blue jeans attire, comedy writer Lizz Winstead is on a stage, showing the crowd her team’s new invention: Hinder. The crowd appearing in the Apple-inspired video is wooed by Winstead’s swaying, her long pauses, and whisper voice as she describes Hinder as a combination of “the sensibility of the Daily Show,” which Winstead co-created, “the accessibility of Facebook, and the creepiness of Tinder” all in the palm of your hands.

Of course, this is all satire. Winstead’s impersonation of Steve Jobs is just that: fake. The video is merely poking fun of the way presenters reveal new technology or ideas among a large audience of curious onlookers. The crowd was edited to whoop and holler at the most opportune moments.

But the app is real.

In the video, Winstead demos Hinder by showing the Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) page. Farenthold gained national attention following allegations by a former press aide that Farenthold sexually harassed her. When his photo pops up in the app, he is wearing a light blue onesie, standing next to a woman wearing a short, black nighty, but as Winstead notes, “this creepy onesie isn’t the worst thing about this guy.”

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Farenthold’s embarrassing photo is (unfortunately for him) real, and the charges against him for sexual harassment are real. Every person and quote in the app, no matter how ridiculous their stories sound, are real, and it’s that authenticity that seeks to disgust, entertain, and us.

The app allows users to either swipe left or right, à la the dating app Tinder, depending on whether the user wants to learn more about the candidate, or sees the official as a waste of time. If users swipe left on Farenthold, for example, Hinder asks you to donate to Winstead’s organization, Lady Parts Justice, “to make up for this personal shortcoming.” Swiping right allows users to “weep for democracy” and share the fact that you rejected the individual on Facebook or Twitter.

As Winstead says in the video, “Uterus begins with you,” to which the fake crowd erupts in celebration.

The Lady Parts Justice website jokes that the app exposes “anti-choice douchebags with a swipe,” but it absolutely does more than that. Hinder keeps its thousands of users updated on the latest absurdities from politicians and anti-choice advocates, state by state.

The app is more than a Tinder parody. Beyond passing judgment with a quick swipe left or right, the app also provides articles that include additional information on a politician’s reprehensible behavior. A writer at Lady Parts Justice confirmed that the organization put a lot of time and research into making sure Hinder was just as informational as it was funny. I would agree it is indeed both.

Lady Parts Justice is the equivalent of pairing tasteless medicine with sugar, and Hinder is both the sugary substance and the medication all in one. Even the organization’s name, an homage to former Rep. Lisa Brown (D-MI), pairs humor with the utter awfulness of legislators trying to police women’s bodies. Brown was banned from speaking on the statehouse floor after saying the word “vagina” during an argument against a transvaginal ultrasound bill in 2012. According to the organization’s website, it was suggested she use the term “lady parts” instead.

In many ways, Hinder is perfect for people like me, a woman still in her 20s whose frustration is only growing the more I read articles about abortion bans or efforts to criminalize pregnant people. The app works as an introduction to anti-choice advocates, where reproductive rights newbies can learn about the long list of advocates pushing to end a woman’s access to critical health services. I see someone like Farenthold, gleeful in his onesie, and I realize this man is a representative for an entire state. He helps make decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of people. Why? To use one trendy word, the Hinder app encompasses the “lolsob,” the urge to laugh until I cry.

But the app is not just to share information. It also serves to help Lady Parts Justice garner allies who will spread awareness about the importance of knowing who makes or upholds laws hindering our reproductive health and rights. Voting allows us to have a say in who can be an elected official: If you wouldn’t swipe right on a lawmaker who believes swallowing a camera would allow doctors to see the vagina, why would you vote them into office?

Hinder is an app for those unaware of the anti-choice environment in which we live, and who want to make a change in who is allowed to make these decisions—and the gallery is ever-growing.

Lady Parts Justice is essentially taking names of any politician fighting against reproductive rights and placing them onto Hinder. Users are encouraged to email the organization any info on local politicians who should be added to the app. This move is, again, a lolsob moment, because as great as it is to have a list of anti-choice politicians to avoid conveniently in the palm of your hands, it would be better to not need a list in the first place.

“It’s unending,” Winstead told me in a phone interview. “It’s a real wake-up call to how much is going on.”

For Winstead, the opening that allowed for more discussion on these taboo topics happened back in 2012, when former congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) made the controversial (and highly inaccurate) claim during an interview that, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” His statements opened a floodgate of criticism from both political parties. Even Akin’s fellow Republicans urged him to withdraw from the senate race that he was in.

Reproductive rights have always been difficult to discuss, but as Winstead stated during our phone call, “When we saw a person say something so stupid, it gave us [the Lady Parts Justice team] an opportunity to point out people saying things and using their own words with humor for the first time.”

Akin’s comments came the same year Lady Parts Justice was founded. Since then, it has worked to “expose creeps hellbent on destroying access to birth control and abortion.” Using humor, the team is fighting to disrupt stigma about abortion and reproductive rights. To Winstead, these politicians are nothing but “Lame-O, lying losers” who simply want control of women’s bodies. Humor, via Hinder, is a way of pushing back against their false narratives and disingenuous claims about our health.

According to the organization, Hinder will continue to grow and evolve well beyond the presidential election season. Anyone willing to participate can send Lady Parts Justice information on local politicians working to stifle reproductive rights.

For its part, Winstead stated that the organization will be “hitting the ground and rallying” across the country in support of abortion providers and clinic workers who constantly face threats and violence. “At the end of the day,” said Winstead, “we have to fight to try to not have horrible anti-choice monsters get elected. But even if they do, clinics still need to be up and running.”

Hinder is a catharsis, a joke wrapped in real advocacy and education. When the laughter fades, Hinder provides information about actual people who are fighting against reproductive rights. The first mandatory action to oppose these politicians is simple: Swipe left.