(VIDEO) Stupak Wants An Apology. But Will He Also Offer One?

Jodi Jacobson

Bart Stupak deserves an apology from Randy Neugebarger.  But he and others in Congress, the USCCB, and the broader anti-choice movement also need to offer one and apologize to the women, men, clinic workers and doctors faced with the same uncivil taunts--and physical threats--every day. 

Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI) does not garner a lot of sympathy among American women these days.  In fact, quite the opposite.  And his (literally and figuratively) 11th hour conversion on health reform cost us a great deal in regard to our basic rights to decide whether and when to carry a pregnancy to term.

At the same time, I am sure I can include the majority of my colleagues and friends and countless others in saying that I was both shocked and dismayed–as well as disgusted–when Congressman Randy Neugebarger (R-TX) called Stupak a “babykiller” as Stupak spoke on the House floor Sunday night.  “Inappropriate” and “uncivil” don’t even begin to describe my thoughts.

Stupak, as he was undoubtedly asked by Democratic leadership to do, stood to head off a “motion to recommit” offered by the Republicans in a last-ditch effort to derail health reform.  Such a motion, based on reinserting Stupak’s original amendment into the bill, would have effectively killed reform. Stupak, who’d extracted an executive order reconfirming the Nelson language, defended against the motion.

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It was at that moment that Neugebarger, following in the footsteps of Congressman Joe Lewis, yelled out “babykiller.”  (Neugebarger, far from apologetic, is now using his act to raise funds for his campaign.)

Now Mr. Stupak wants a formal apology from Neugebarger, from the House floor.  And he deserves one. 

But he should use this moment to insist that the pro-life movement make a blanket apology to pro-choice advocacy groups, pro-choice legislators, and to women, clinic workers, and doctors everywhere.

Because Stupak is one among many who have created the environment in which Neugebarger thought this was appropriate in the first place.  He is now lying in the bed that he–and others in the “pro-life” movement–have made, so to speak.

I understand–and respect–Mr. Stupak’s religious and ideological position.  I do not respect–and continue to fight against–the imposition of his ideology and religious beliefs on women everywhere.  But Mr. Stupak represents and has represented that group of male leaders who have sought to do just that…impose a specific religious ideology on the lives and health of women.

In doing so, the Stupaks, the Pitts, the Neugebargers, the Brownbacks and the Coburns; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Rick Warrens, Family Research Councils, Focus on the Family, Operation Rescues and all other anti-choice groups have sought to decide–according to their own religious and ideological beliefs–exactly what constitutes life, who is a person, what weight to give a woman’s life, and what her role should be in society.

And in shaping their arguments, they themselves have used words like “murder,” “murderer,” “innocent lives” (as opposed, of course, to “not-so-innocent” women), and of course…”babykillers.”  And that is just a start.

They have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate harassment of women and clinic workers on a daily basis at clinics across the country, trying to deny women access to legal medical and health services, while they have pushed for policies that would in effect place a woman’s life at the lowest rung of any social totem pole you can erect.  They have created and silently condone an environment in which violence against women and against clinic workers has risen and in which the deaths of doctors who provide basic medical care are excused, defended and even applauded.

As such, in our public discourse around abortion and contraception, these individuals and groups have–purposefully, with the object of further stigmatizing women’s choices–created this language of hate.  And have led to the realities of violence.

And it is a language of hate, make no mistake about it.  And one that has absolutely no place in a society in which women are equal members, in which women have basic rights, in which there is huge depth and breadth in the notions of what constitutes “life,” “personhood,” and whose rights begin and end where. 

Science does not and can not provide these answers.  And Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christian evangelicals all have deeply differentiated thoughts on “life” and on the right to choose.  Even within religions there is diversity, never mind between different religions.  And even those with the strictest orthodoxy –the Catholic Church for example–do not enjoy adherence to its ideology among its own members.  As but one example, Catholic women and their partners in the United States (not to mention every other country in the world) use contraception and abortion at the same rate as everyone else.  That is to say–the majority of them ignore the hierarchy in favor of “real life” circumstances.

But to make their case, these groups have used a language of hate.  And they don’t like it when it is used against them.

It should not be used by anyone against anyone.  If i can respect the personal life and observance of these organizations, they must respect mine and that of others without imposition.  If I don’t not believe in the “personhood” of a fertilized eggs, zygotes, etc. then I am free to live with and act in my personal capacity on that belief, as are literally billions of women around the world, in concept if not yet in reality. 

If Mr. Stupak and his colleagues want to be addressed and regarded civilly, they must act accordingly.

So I think Bart Stupak should get his apology.  But I think he could do far more to help on the road to civility and healing by simultaneously offering his own apology, owning up to his own responsibility, calling on his colleagues of like mind to do the same, and to stop harassing–verbally and physically–the majority of women and men in those country who believe in thought and in deed that we need to respect each other’s differences in this most fundamental area of our lives.

News Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigns as Chair of DNC, Will Not Gavel in Convention

Ally Boguhn

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) resigned her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), effective after the convention, amid controversy over leaked internal party emails and months of criticism over her handling of the Democratic primary races.

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel on Monday that she would not gavel in this week’s convention, according to Politico.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a Sunday statement announcing her decision. “Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”

“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

Just prior to news that Wasserman Schultz would step down, it was announced that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) would chair the DNC convention.

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

Wasserman Schultz’s resignation comes after WikiLeaks released more than 19,000 internal emails from the DNC, breathing new life into arguments that the Democratic Party—and Wasserman Schultz in particular—had “rigged” the primary in favor of nominating Hillary Clinton. As Vox‘s Timothy B. Lee pointed out, there seems to be “no bombshells” in the released emails, though one email does show that Brad Marshall, chief financial officer of the DNC, emailed asking whether an unnamed person could be questioned about “his” religious beliefs. Many believe the email was referencing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT).

Another email from Wasserman Schultz revealed the DNC chair had referred to Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, as a “damn liar.”

As previously reported by Rewire before the emails’ release, “Wasserman Schultz has been at the center of a string of heated criticisms directed at her handling of the DNC as well as allegations that she initially limited the number of the party’s primary debates, steadfastly refusing to add more until she came under pressure.” She also sparked controversy in January after suggesting that young women aren’t supporting Clinton because there is “a complacency among the generation” who were born after Roe v. Wade was decided.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party,” said Sanders in a Sunday statement. “While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people. The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”

Sanders had previously demanded Wasserman Schultz’s resignation in light of the leaked emails during an appearance earlier that day on ABC’s This Week.

Clinton nevertheless stood by Wasserman Schultz in a Sunday statement responding to news of the resignation. “I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” said Clinton. “There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie—which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”

Clinton added that she still looks “forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid.” Wasserman Schultz faces a primary challenger, Tim Canova, for her congressional seat in Florida’s 23rd district for the first time this year.

Analysis Abortion

Legislators Have Introduced 445 Provisions to Restrict Abortion So Far This Year

Elizabeth Nash & Rachel Benson Gold

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Of these, 35 percent (445 provisions) sought to restrict access to abortion services. By midyear, 17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions.

Including these new restrictions, states have adopted 334 abortion restrictions since 2010, constituting 30 percent of all abortion restrictions enacted by states since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

Mid year state restrictions

 

Signs of Progress

The first half of the year ended on a high note, with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down the most significant abortion decision in a generation. The Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down abortion restrictions in Texas requiring abortion facilities in the state to convert to the equivalent of ambulatory surgical centers and mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital; these two restrictions had greatly diminished access to services throughout the state (see Lessons from Texas: Widespread Consequences of Assaults on Abortion Access). Five other states (Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia) have similar facility requirements, and the Texas decision makes it less likely that these laws would be able to withstand judicial scrutiny (see Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Nineteen other states have abortion facility requirements that are less onerous than the ones in Texas; the fate of these laws in the wake of the Court’s decision remains unclear. 

Ten states in addition to Texas had adopted hospital admitting privileges requirements. The day after handing down the Texas decision, the Court declined to review lower court decisions that have kept such requirements in Mississippi and Wisconsin from going into effect, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced that he would not enforce the state’s law. As a result of separate litigation, enforcement of admitting privileges requirements in Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma is currently blocked. That leaves admitting privileges in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah; as with facility requirements, the Texas decision will clearly make it harder for these laws to survive if challenged.

More broadly, the Court’s decision clarified the legal standard for evaluating abortion restrictions. In its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court had said that abortion restrictions could not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy. In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court stressed the importance of using evidence to evaluate the extent to which an abortion restriction imposes a burden on women, and made clear that a restriction’s burdens cannot outweigh its benefits, an analysis that will give the Texas decision a reach well beyond the specific restrictions at issue in the case.

As important as the Whole Woman’s Health decision is and will be going forward, it is far from the only good news so far this year. Legislators in 19 states introduced a bevy of measures aimed at expanding insurance coverage for contraceptive services. In 13 of these states, the proposed measures seek to bolster the existing federal contraceptive coverage requirement by, for example, requiring coverage of all U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved methods and banning the use of techniques such as medical management and prior authorization, through which insurers may limit coverage. But some proposals go further and plow new ground by mandating coverage of sterilization (generally for both men and women), allowing a woman to obtain an extended supply of her contraceptive method (generally up to 12 months), and/or requiring that insurance cover over-the-counter contraceptive methods. By July 1, both Maryland and Vermont had enacted comprehensive measures, and similar legislation was pending before Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). And, in early July, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a measure into law allowing women to obtain a year’s supply of their contraceptive method.

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But the Assault Continues

Even as these positive developments unfolded, the long-standing assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights continued apace. Much of this attention focused on the release a year ago of a string of deceptively edited videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood. The campaign these videos spawned initially focused on defunding Planned Parenthood and has grown into an effort to defund family planning providers more broadly, especially those who have any connection to abortion services. Since last July, 24 states have moved to restrict eligibility for funding in several ways:

  • Seventeen states have moved to limit family planning providers’ eligibility for reimbursement under Medicaid, the program that accounts for about three-fourths of all public dollars spent on family planning. In some cases, states have tried to exclude Planned Parenthood entirely from such funding. These attacks have come via both administrative and legislative means. For instance, the Florida legislature included a defunding provision in an omnibus abortion bill passed in March. As the controversy grew, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers Medicaid, sent a letter to state officials reiterating that federal law prohibits them from discriminating against family planning providers because they either offer abortion services or are affiliated with an abortion provider (see CMS Provides New Clarity For Family Planning Under Medicaid). Most of these state attempts have been blocked through legal challenges. However, a funding ban went into effect in Mississippi on July 1, and similar measures are awaiting implementation in three other states.
  • Fourteen states have moved to restrict family planning funds controlled by the state, with laws enacted in four states. The law in Kansas limits funding to publicly run programs, while the law in Louisiana bars funding to providers who are associated with abortion services. A law enacted in Wisconsin directs the state to apply for federal Title X funding and specifies that if this funding is obtained, it may not be distributed to family planning providers affiliated with abortion services. (In 2015, New Hampshire moved to deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates; the state reversed the decision in 2016.) Finally, the budget adopted in Michigan reenacts a provision that bars the allocation of family planning funds to organizations associated with abortion. Notably, however, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a similar measure.
  • Ten states have attempted to bar family planning providers’ eligibility for related funding, including monies for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, prevention of interpersonal violence, and prevention of breast and cervical cancer. In three of these states, the bans are the result of legislative action; in Utah, the ban resulted from action by the governor. Such a ban is in effect in North Carolina; the Louisiana measure is set to go into effect in August. Implementation of bans in Ohio and Utah has been blocked as a result of legal action.

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The first half of 2016 was also noteworthy for a raft of attempts to ban some or all abortions. These measures fell into four distinct categories:

  • By the end of June, four states enacted legislation to ban the most common method used to perform abortions during the second trimester. The Mississippi and West Virginia laws are in effect; the other two have been challenged in court. (Similar provisions enacted last year in Kansas and Oklahoma are also blocked pending legal action.)
  • South Carolina and North Dakota both enacted measures banning abortion at or beyond 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is equivalent to 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. This brings to 16 the number of states with these laws in effect (see State Policies on Later Abortions).
  • Indiana and Louisiana adopted provisions banning abortions under specific circumstances. The Louisiana law banned abortions at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization in cases of diagnosed genetic anomaly; the law is slated to go into effect on August 1. Indiana adopted a groundbreaking measure to ban abortion for purposes of race or sex selection, in cases of a genetic anomaly, or because of the fetus’ “color, national origin, or ancestry”; enforcement of the measure is blocked pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a sweeping measure that would have banned all abortions except those necessary to protect the woman’s life.

071midyearstateabortionstable

In addition, 14 states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) enacted other types of abortion restrictions during the first half of the year, including measures to impose or extend waiting periods, restrict access to medication abortion, and establish regulations on abortion clinics.

Zohra Ansari-Thomas, Olivia Cappello, and Lizamarie Mohammed all contributed to this analysis.