Roundup: Canada’s Pro-Choice Politicians Lose Vote On Family Planning

Rachel Larris

While the U.S. just had our pro-choice politicians put their priorities to a vote, Canada also went through a similar power-struggle between their pro- and anti-choice forces. In Canada’s case, it was the anti-choice side that came out ahead.

While the U.S. just had our pro-choice politicians put their priorities to a vote, Canada also went through a similar power-struggle between their pro- and anti-choice forces. In Canada’s case, it was the anti-choice side that came out ahead.

What was up for debate was whether abortion would be included in Canada’s maternal and child health initiative at the G8 summit this June. Initially, contraception was going to be left off because, in the words Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon family planning doesn’t “save lives” and the goal of this initiative is to improve the health of mothers and young children in poor countries. (Quite the head-scratching statement).

After receiving a firestorm of criticism Prime Minister Steven Harper seemed to open the door to contraception being included, but didn’t want a “debate here or elsewhere on abortion.”

Yesterday the leader of Canada’s Liberal party, Michael Ignatieff tried to pass a motion that called to include “the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options” in Harper’s G8 initiative.

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The Montreal Gazette reports:

After accusing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff of playing petty anti-American politics and attempting to instigate a divisive debate on abortion, the minority Conservative government on Tuesday defeated by 144-138 a Liberal motion that called for family planning in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s G8 maternal and child health initiative.

Harper is hosting a G8 summit in Muskoka in central Ontario in June and pledged to focus on nutrition, clean water, inoculations and basic health care. During debate Tuesday, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda told reporters the government is still committed to contraception as a possible element as well but refused to let the Liberals hijack the initiative by focusing on abortion.

The Liberal motion said the initiative must include “the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options” and that the government “should refrain from advancing the failed right-wing ideologies previously imposed by the George W. Bush administration in the United States” which barred official development assistance to non-government organizations that provide access to abortion. That policy was overturned in the opening days of the Obama administration.

The Ottawa Globe and Mail has more insight:

It was a gong show last night in the Commons for Michael Ignatieff and his Liberals; one Liberal MP is even calling it “clown city.”

First, the Liberal motion on the Harper government’s maternal health initiative, aimed at stirring up the Tory bench over reproductive issues, such as abortion, failed. The Grits lost the vote after three of their own MPs opposed it; others abstained and some Liberal MPs, who are pro-life, were told to stay away from the Commons, according to sources.

“Everyone knows that many Liberal supporters are pro-life” as are “a number of Liberal MPs, including myself,” Mississauga MP Albina Guarnieri said. She abstained.

“The motion did not specifically talk about abortion, but there was sufficient inference that some people stayed away and a few actually voted against it,” she said. “If it had been a more straightforward motion, everyone would have been standing on one side or the other.”

The Montreal Gazette quotes one MP who didn’t think the motion needed to say “abortion.”

Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett, an obstetrician, said it was unnecessary to use the word in the motion.

“No, I think that there is no need to mention abortion,” she told reporters. “I mean, full reproductive services is very clear. I think that . . . termination of pregnancy is a very difficult thing for lots of people, but it needs to be there. It is, in terms of a service offered to women. We want every child to be a planned child and pregnancy and still 13 per cent of the deaths attributed to pregnancy are from unsafe abortions.”

[Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae, sponsor of the motion] said the vote was intended as a way to clear the air. The government had given so many differing responses to questions about the initiative that its policy had come down to “contraception if necessary, but not necessarily contraception.”

A very timely poll says that Canadians overwhelmingly support contraception being included in Harper’s G8 initiative. The Canadian Press reports:

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey comes amid debate over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to champion maternal and child health in developing countries during the coming G8 summit.

The poll indicates fully 74 per cent believed the plan should include government funding for contraception; only 21 per cent were opposed.

But respondents were almost evenly split as to whether Harper’s initiative should include funding for abortion services, with 48 per cent opposed and 46 per cent in favor.

Meanwhile as a reminder why access to abortion in poorer countries is important, CNN offers this report on back alley abortions in Kenya where it remains an illegal practice.

Women are being forced into backstreet abortions in Kenya because of the country’s restrictive abortion law, a study says.

And the law could soon get even tougher with church groups urging a ban on almost all abortions.

The U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Health, which advocates abortions rights, found that women and girls in Kenya use metal wires, knitting needles and other unsafe practices to abort tens of thousands of unwanted pregnancies.

Now church groups in Kenya are pushing for the new constitution, coming up for a parliamentary vote soon, to make almost all abortions illegal. The church groups want to define ‘life as starting at conception,’ and heavily restrict abortion except for cases where a mother’s life is in immediate danger.

Social workers say that women often don’t have choices and that in a country where one-third of maternal deaths are caused by abortions, they say stricter laws will only force women to make choices that could kill them.

March 24, 2010

US Bishops call health care law ‘deeply flawed,’ ask Catholics to remain vigilant – Catholic News Agency

Neugebauer continues fight against abortion –

Obama to sign executive order on abortion limits Wednesday – CNN

One way to balance the budget – California Catholic Daily

Atlanta Ads on Black Abortions May Go National – Women’s eNews

LIVE Blog: Obama set to sign executive order on abortion limits – CNN

Canada’s foreign policy on abortion unclear –

Obama to sign promised executive order on abortion – The Associated Press

NJ 2011 budget won’t include abortion funds – OneNewsNow

Health care policy skirts abortion – The Daily Evergreen

Abortion still a divisive political issue – Toronto Sun

Virtual March Believed to be First of its Kind – News Channel 7

A ray of sunshine for poor women – Boston Globe

Changes needed to cut childbirth mortality – Telegraph-Journal

Urge G8 to include contraception – Straight Goods

Florida: “Get Tested” Is Advice as AIDS Infection Rate Rises in Duval –

Money worries influencing family planning – Kiddicare

Central Jakarta Socialize Family Planning Service Via SMS –

HIV Numbers Reveal Impact on MSM Community –

Mayor’s Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten AIDS/HIV “Epicenter” in Bronx – The Bronx Ink

March 23, 2010

N.O.W. Health Care Reform Victory Comes with Tragic Setback for Women’s Rights – OpEdNews

Pro-Lifers Plan Retaliation for Health Bill Passage – Christian Post

McGurn: Pro-life Democrats, R.I.P. – Wall Street Journal

Donnelly’s decision – The Herald Argus

Rahall: Health bill the most pro-life vote in his life – Beckley Register-Herald

A Final FAQ on Healthcare and Abortion – First Things

Abortion restrictions approved – Topeka Capital Journal

Tories accuse Liberals of reopening abortion debate – Toronto Sun

States Sue Over Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill, Poll Shows Americans Supportive

Health Insurance Reform: Bittersweet for Women’s History – Huffington Post

Obama Signs Historic Health Bill; Key Provisions Go into Effect in 2010 – Ms. Magazine

Stupak: Randy Neugebauer Should Apologize on House Floor for “Baby Killer” Remark – CBS News

A closer look at Bachmann’s ’30 percent increase in abortions’ claim –

Reproductive Health – Priority or Poker Chip? Editorial – EmpowHer

Fiorina and the Republican primary – PoliGazette

‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’ season finale: Tackling abortion like … – Entertainment Weekly

Canadians approve funding contraceptives; maybe not abortion, for world?s poor … – The Canadian Press

Kansas House passes bill to narrow late-term abortion rules – Kansas City Star

Abortion still a divisive political issue – Toronto Sun

Stupak Can’t Hyde – Big Government

Pregnancy notice policy debated – Skokie Review

Democrats Find New Ground on Abortion – AOL News

New Health Care Legislation Includes Troubling Setbacks For Reproductive Rights – Common Dreams

Family planning absent from Canada’s G8 focus on women, child health – StarPhoenix

ANALYSIS – Abortion looms as election issue after US reforms – Reuters India

Family planning vote aimed at forcing Tory clarity on abortion ends in disarray – CHQR

Health Reform: Where Women Stand to Gain – U.S. News & World Report

The American people must repeal Obamacare – Desert Dispatch

Abortion restriction moves ahead – Topeka Capital Journal

Tories defeat motion on family planning – Montreal Gazette

Mother furious after in-school clinic sets up daughter’s abortion – Seattle Post Intelligencer

In Kenya, few choices to backstreet abortions – CNN International

Gloria Steinem: Health-Care Reform and a Woman’s Body – Women on the Web

Rep. Bart Stupak, at the heart of health care and abortion. – Slate

Obama to sign abortion exec order in private – Politico

Rutgers historian puts 50th anniversary of the pill into cultural medicine cabinet – Genetic Engineering News

Liberals press for ‘full range’ of family planning options in G8 plan – Globe and Mail

Bunnies and birth control – Hartford Courant

Tories defeat motion on family planning – Montreal Gazette

10 birth control choices for women – Creative Loafing Tampa

Tell the FDA to Act on Emergency Contraception – Feministe

Condoms offer 85% protection from HIV, says WHO – Philippine Information Agency

Religious summit engages religious leaders in the HIV response – UNAIDS

AIDS 2010 to Focus on Eastern Europe and Central Asia – Voice of America

Religious groups discuss ending AIDS stigma – The Associated Press

Religious Leaders to Fight HIV Stigma – Voice of America

Washington bans shackling of pregnant inmates – Seattle Times

News Family Planning

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”

The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Federal law already bars health-care providers from using Medicaid dollars for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.

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The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.

At least ten states, including Arizona, have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding—the fallout from a string of deceptive smear videos masterminded by David Daleiden, the head of the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress, who now faces a felony record-tampering charge.

“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”

The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.

In April, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to all 50 states saying that cutting funding to qualified providers solely because they provide abortion care violates federal law.

Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.

2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.

In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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.