Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum Exposed; A Front Group for National Anti-choice Organizations

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A small group of local Adams, MA residents uncover the national story of major anti-choice organizations hijacking Susan B Anthony's legacy as a historical role model and icon....And, that's just the beginning

Below is the story of a small group of Adam’s Massachusetts residents who exposed the anti-choice organizations and leadership behind the February 14th opening of the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum – you can hear the audio version of this text on the group’s website – http://susanbanthonymuseum.com/

 – this commentary aired March 4, 2010 on 29 Northeast NPR stations

When our local group first met to discuss concerns about the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum, we did not know about the breadth of the museum’s connections to national and state level anti-abortion organizations and how these connections directly tied into the wider agenda of the museum. Nor did we have an understanding of the long term contentious debate between objective historical academic experts with these same organizations portrayal of Susan B Anthony as a “pro-life” feminist icon. After a month of extensive research and consult with expert research historians on Anthony, a story emerged that we realized needed to be shared with the community. So, on February 14, our group held a informational protest outside the opening ceremony of SBABM at Adams Town library and announced the launch of our own website, susanbanthonymuseum.com.

 

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 Our group’s objective has never been to advance an opinion one way or another about how Anthony would view the modern abortion debate, but rather to explain the inappropriateness of inferring upon her an unproven historical stance. Historians agree that it is impossible to ascertain how Anthony would interpret the contemporary abortion debate and according to Ann Gordan, Rutgers University Professor and Research Historian and editor of the academically acclaimed Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers, there is “zero evidence that Anthony ever made her opinion known”.

 Anthony serves a model of female empowerment and strength to all women, and for any group to misrepresent her legacy to claim her for their own political agenda is divisive and a disservice to her legacy.

 For the past ten years, two anti-abortion organizations entrenched with the leadership of the SBABM, Feminist Choosing Life of New York and Feminist for Life of America have been conducting a deliberate and methodical campaign to co-opt Anthony as a historical role model and icon for their new anti-choice feminist movement. The attainment of Anthony’s birthplace by the founder of FCLNY is central to providing legitimacy and credibility to this movement. Feminist for Life of New York was founded by museum owner and President, Carol Crossed, in 2000 as a state chapter for FFLAM. The group changed its name in 2006 to Feminist Choosing Life when it was involuntarily dissolved from its parent chapter. FCLNY & FFLA continue to work together in some capacities. Sally Winn, the former Vice President of FFLA and executive director of the SBABM is a current listed speaker for FFLA college outreach speaking program. Winn was originally commissioned by FCLNY to head a committee “to explore ideas on how best to utilize the property (Anthony’s birthplace) for the advancement of the pro-life, pro-women philosophy”, according to the organization’s 2006 newsletter. In the group’s 2007 newsletter, they announced the SBABM as a registered subsidiary of FCLNY and noted FCLNY would ‘retain control over the selection of board members and the direction of the museum itself. The majority of the SBABM advisory board and board of directors are members of FCLNY including the group’s current president, Kelly Vincent Brunacini, who serves on its board of directors.

 FCLNY & FFLA newly advanced theory of ‘pro-life’ feminism is ribbons and bows for their real agenda to prevent women from accessing comprehensive reproductive health care including safe abortion services. FCLNY and FFLAM are against abortion in all cases, even rape and incest. They are against emergency contraception. FCLNY links on its homepage to Care Net, a Pregnancy Center accused in a 2006 report to Congress of providing inaccurate information about health & psychological risks associated with abortion to pregnant women and teens. Both groups has previously sponsored lectures advancing the completely debunked claim that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. These groups claim compassion and respect for women as central to their pro-life feminist philosophy. Yet, there is nothing respectful about deliberately manipulating a vulnerable pregnant woman with false information. There is nothing compassionate about utilizing fear as a tactic to bully a woman into making a reproductive choice.

 This is not the legacy of feminism that Susan B Anthony teaches us. The whole of her life’s work was dedicated to empowering women to advocate for themselves in the context of truth and courage. It is inappropriate for her image and words to symbolize a school of feminist thought advanced by those who do not believe women capable as acting as moral agents on their own accord.

 The SBABM leadership has deliberately masked their anti-choice agenda as a feminist ethic and disingenuously utilized Anthony as a model and symbol for their own anti-choice cause. As local residents of her home tome of Adams, we will not stand idly by as our most cherished native daughter is co-opted for the narrow political agenda of a few. Susan B Anthony deserves much better.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Group Faces Fundraising Gap in ‘Topsy-Turvy Year’

Amy Littlefield

“I will tell you that this has been the toughest year we have faced since I’ve been executive director of National Right to Life—and I came here in 1984—for our political fundraising,” David O’Steen announced at the annual National Right to Life Convention Friday.

Less than two weeks after the Supreme Court dealt the anti-choice movement its most devastating blow in decades, one of the nation’s leading anti-choice groups gathered at an airport hotel in Virginia for its annual convention.

The 46th annual National Right to Life Convention arrived at what organizers acknowledged was an unusual political moment. Beyond the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion restrictions in Texas, the anti-choice movement faces the likely nomination later this month of a Republican presidential candidate who once described himself as “very pro-choice.”

The mood felt lackluster as the three-day conference opened Thursday, amid signs many had opted not to trek to the hotel by Dulles airport, about an hour from Washington, D.C. With workshops ranging from “Pro-Life Concerns About Girl Scouts,” to “The Pro-Life Movement and Congress: 2016,” the conference seeks to educate anti-choice activists from across the United States.

While convention director Jacki Ragan said attendance numbers were about on par with past years, with between 1,000 and 1,100 registrants, the sessions were packed with empty chairs, and the highest number of audience members Rewire counted in any of the general sessions was 150. In the workshops, attendance ranged from as many as 50 people (at one especially popular panel featuring former abortion clinic workers) to as few as four.

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The attendance wasn’t the only sign of flagging enthusiasm.

“I will tell you that this has been the toughest year we have faced since I’ve been executive director of National Right to Life—and I came here in 1984—for our political fundraising,” National Right to Life Executive Director David O’Steen announced at Friday morning’s general session. “It’s been a topsy-turvy year. It’s been, for many people, a discouraging year. Many, many, many pro-life dollars, or dollars from people that would normally donate, were spent amongst 17 candidates in the Republican primary.”

O’Steen said the organization needed “$4 million that we do not have right now.”

When asked by Rewire to clarify details of the $4 million shortfall, O’Steen said, “You’re thinking this through more deeply than I have so far. Basically, the Right to Life movement, we will take the resources we have and we will use them as effectively as we can.”  

O’Steen said the organization wasn’t alone in its fundraising woes. “I think across many places, a lot of money was spent in these primaries,” he said. (An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found presidential candidates and affiliated groups spent $1 billion on the presidential race through March alone, nearly two-thirds of it on the Republican primary. Anti-choice favorite Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) spent more than than $70 million, higher than any other Republican.)

The National Right to Life Board of Directors voted to back Cruz in the Republican presidential primaries back in April. It has not yet formally backed Donald Trump.

“I really don’t know if there will be a decision, what it will be,” National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told Rewire. “Everything has [been] kind of crazy and up in the air this year, so we’re going to wait and kind of see everything that happens. It’s been a very unusual year all the way around.”

Some in the anti-choice movement have openly opposed Trump, including conservative pundit Guy Benson, who declared at Thursday’s opening session, “I’m not sure if we have someone who is actually pro-life in the presidential race.”

But many at the convention seemed ready to rally behind Trump, albeit half-heartedly. “Let’s put it this way: Some people don’t know whether they should even vote,” said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. “Of course you should … the situation we have now is just a heightened version of what we face in any electoral choice, namely, you’re choosing between two people who, you know, you can have problems with both of them.”

Another issue on the minds of many attendees that received little mention throughout the conference was the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down provisions in Texas requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and mandating clinics meet the standards of hospital-style surgery centers. The case did not challenge Texas’ 20-week abortion ban.

“We aren’t going to have any changes in our strategy,” Tobias told Rewire, outlining plans to continue to focus on provisions including 20-week bans and attempts to outlaw the common second-trimester abortion procedure of dilation and evacuation, which anti-choice advocates call “dismemberment” abortion.

But some conference attendees expressed skepticism about the lack of any new legal strategy.

“I haven’t heard any discussion at all yet about, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, how that weighs in strategically, not just with this legislation, but all pro-life legislation in the future,” Sam Lee, of Campaign Life Missouri, said during a panel discussion on so-called dismemberment abortion. “There has not been that discussion this weekend and that’s probably one of my disappointments right now.”

The Supreme Court decision has highlighted differing strategies within the anti-choice community. Americans United for Life has pushed copycat provisions like the two that were struck down in Texas to require admitting privileges and surgery center standards under the guise of promoting women’s health. National Right to Life, on the other hand, says it’s focused on boilerplate legislation that “makes the baby visible,” in an attempt to appeal to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast a key vote to uphold a “partial-birth abortion” ban in 2007.

When asked by Rewire about the effect of the Texas Supreme Court case, James Bopp, general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, appeared to criticize the AUL strategy in Texas. (Bopp is, among other things, the legal brain behind Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for corporate spending on elections.)

“This case was somewhat extreme, in the sense that there were 40 abortion clinics—now this is just corresponding in time, not causation, this is a correlation—there were 40 abortion clinics and after the law, there were six,” Bopp said. “That’s kind of extreme.”

Speaking to an audience of about ten people during a workshop on campaign finance, Bopp said groups seeking to restrict abortion would need to work harder to solidify their evidence. “People will realize … as you pass things that you’re going to have to prove this in court so you better get your evidence together and get ready to present it, rather than just assuming that you don’t have to do that which was the assumption in Texas,” he said. “They changed that standard. It changed. So you’ve gotta prove it. Well, we’ll get ready to prove it.”

News Science

‘Bad Medicine’: Anti-Choice Laws Ignore Medical Evidence

Nicole Knight Shine

Nineteen states require providers to give verbal or written statements that are medically inaccurate or biased. Patients must be told fetuses can feel pain, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

Seventy percent of the 353 state-level abortion restrictions introduced so far this year are based on political pretext, false information, or stereotypes, according to an analysis released Thursday.

The advocacy group National Partnership for Women & Families released the analysis as part of its “Turning Lies into Laws” campaign focused on lies about abortion in 2016. The analysis follows on the heels of its report, Bad Medicine: How a Political Agenda is Undermining Women’s Health Care, which lays out the ideological motivations and inaccuracies that the report’s authors say underpin the majority of legislative impediments to abortion care.

Two hundred fifty-one cases of newly introduced abortion care restrictions run contrary to evidence-based medicine, according to the National Partnership’s analysis of data from the Guttmacher Institute.

“Lies about abortion and the women who have them are being turned into laws across the country, and it needs to stop,” Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, said in a statement accompanying the memo. “All women deserve medically accurate information and access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion care.”

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The Bad Medicine report, which includes abortion restrictions in place as of 2015, notes how such regulations force health-care providers to deliver outmoded care, ignore patient preferences, and drive up costs for providers and patients without improving patient health.

The report’s authors detail a growing number of medically unnecessary impediments to abortion care, including:

  • Mandated counseling: 19 states require providers to give or offer verbal or written statements that are medically inaccurate, biased, or false. In 12 of those states, patients must be told fetuses can feel pain, despite the lack of scientific evidence. In nine states, the written statements stress the negative emotional effect of abortion, including depression and suicidal thoughts, even though the American Psychological Association has said the “overwhelming majority” of pregnant people feel relief after the procedure, rather than regret.
  • Mandatory ultrasounds: 13 states have passed laws to require ultrasounds before abortion care, and of those, five include a requirement that the providers display and describe the image even if the patient doesn’t wish to see it.
  • State-sanctioned delays: 31 states have passed laws to delay abortion care, typically 24 hours, with Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah forcing a patient to wait 72 hours in the off chance that pregnant people might change their mind—a common anti-choice argument.
  • Onerous facility requirements: Nearly half of all states require abortion clinics to be outfitted like ambulatory surgical centers, despite research that indicates abortion procedures often are safer than wisdom teeth removal, which is performed in a dentist’s office.
  • Medication abortion restrictions: 19 states have passed measures to bar providers from administering medication abortion via telemedicine, with six states having “passed laws preventing providers from administering medication abortion in accordance with the standard of care that reflects the most up-to-date evidence.”

Major medical organizations oppose “this trend of political interference in medical decision-making,” according to the report. And courts have moved to block some of these anti-choice measures pushed by Republican-held legislatures across the country.

NPWF_Bad-Medicine_Overview-Map_2

The report issues a call for reform, asking lawmakers to reject legislation that interferes with the patient-provider relationship and to repeal laws that ignore medical evidence and science. In addition, the “Turning Lies into Laws” campaign encourages site visitors to take a pledge to fight back against politicians “using lies to push abortion out of reach.”

“The leading medical societies, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are on the record stating that obstacles to abortion care pose a threat to women’s health,” Sarah Lipton-Lubet, director of reproductive health programs at the National Partnership, said in a statement. “Abortion opponents need to learn that legislating something doesn’t make it true, and that when they lie we’re going to call them out.”

The American College of Physicians has said in its “Statement of Principles on the Role of Governments in Regulating the Patient-Physician Relationship” that “mandated care may also interfere with the patient-physician relationship and divert clinical time from more immediate clinical concerns.”

In February, a Rutgers University study suggested that people considering abortion care are provided with medically inaccurate information about a third of the time in the 23 states with so-called informed consent laws. Researchers found that more than 40 percent of information in booklets produced by Michigan, Kansas, and North Carolina was medically inaccurate.

Alabama, Alaska, and Georgia had the lowest percentages of inaccuracies, each with less than 18 percent.

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to clarify the data in the National Partnership for Women & Families’ “Turning Lies into Laws” campaign and its Bad Medicine report.