Stoking Fire: Stoking Conspiracies

Eleanor J. Bader

The extreme right-wing is catching fire. And the anti-choice movement is adopting the paranoia, conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric of hate groups.

According to researchers at the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the extreme right-wing is catching fire. In fact, they report, the number of anti-government Patriot groups swelled by 244 percent last year, increasing from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. Worse, militias — the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement — tripled in number, going from 42 to 127.

And the Patriot’s ideas? SPLC says that they “see the federal government as part of a plot to impose one-world government” on the country’s unsuspecting inhabitants.  This movement, SPLC continues, thrived throughout the 1990s and made a public come-back shortly after Barack Obama took office; since then, an array of conspiracy theorists—many of them influenced by Patriot paranoia–have pushed a wide range of “they’re-out-to-get-you” messages, from death panels to off granny, to the intentional eradication of populations they believe government and its allies consider expendable.

Nowhere is this more blatant than in the current work of such anti-choice groups as the Georgia Right to Life Committee, Life Dynamics, Inc., and Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN). The irony is obvious: While anti-choice groups have for three decades attempted to muster support in the African American, Asian, and Latino/a communities, it took the election of a biracial president for them to capture the attention of major media outlets and communities of color.

Their message is decidedly shrill. First, there’s Catherine Davis, the Director of Minority Outreach at Georgia Right to Life, who raised $20,000 for the posting of 80 attention-grabbing billboards in two largely-Black counties near Atlanta. In the ads, a cute Black baby is depicted. The tag line: Black children are an endangered species.

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For Davis, the fact that approximately 52 percent of Black pregnancies end in abortion proves that there is a racist campaign afoot, a campaign aimed at wiping out the African American community.  In a YouTube video produced by Stewart TV, she likens the effort to the work of Hitler and the KKK. Similarly, Dr. Johnny Hunter, national director of LEARN, calls abortion “womb lynching” and told Pro-Life TV that the 3446 Afro-Americans lynched in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968 was nothing. “That number is surpassed in three days by abortion,” he thunders.

Despite such bombast, Davis denies that the timing of the Georgia billboards has anything to do with Obama, stating that it is a coincidence that they were erected a year into his presidency. But Rev. Clenard Childress, Director of LEARN Northeast, sees things differently and hopes the billboards will sway the president. “Barack Obama became a minister of Planned Parenthood a long time ago,” he wrote in a March 2008 column. “He’s so good at carrying out their racist, murderous agenda, they gave him a 100 percent score on his voting record.”

Planned Parenthood, he continues, “has diabolically perpetrated their plot to surgically eliminate those they deem undesirable. In other words: Kill the babies of unsuspecting minority women by aborting their children…Who is used to lure children, to give credibility to its hideous plot? Barack Obama, that’s who.”

Childress, a Baptist preacher, conveys the fire-and-brimstone passion common to his calling. He is enraged, he said in a recent telephone interview, that the “highest echelons of Black leadership have capitulated to the Democratic Party.” This fury has prompted LEARN members to picket both Democratic and NAACP gatherings where, Childress says, they have distributed more than 400 copies of MAAFA 21, a full-length film, created by Life Dynamics, that slams Margaret Sanger and the eugenicists, a movement that only the most racist 21st century viewers can continue to champion.

Like many anti-choicers, Childress’ agenda extends beyond abortion and he preaches about abstinence before marriage and using the rhythm method after. At the same time, he acknowledges that “If there is a situation where people want to use [artificial] contraception, it is between husband and wife.”  If people choose “that route,” he says, “They have to let their conscience be their guide.”

Georgia RTL’s Catherine Davis focuses exclusively on abortion–sidestepping questions about contraception, abstinence, and sex ed–and sees her job as  “educating the community to the horrific number of abortions in Georgia.” She also says that she is working overtime to “make it more difficult for abortion providers to target the Black community for extermination.”  That said, she admits that it’s an uphill battle, with the number of terminations in her state continuing to skyrocket thanks to the ongoing recession.

Could this explain why anti-abortion language continues to amp up?

Surely, if the late 1980s and early 1990s—the heyday of the “rescue movement”–taught us anything, it is this: It was not a coincidence that seven abortion proponents were murdered between 1993 and 1998 by people acting on the frequently articulated injunction: “If you think abortion is murder, act like it’s murder.”

The last year not only saw the killing of Dr. George Tiller, but also saw violence directed at government. In mid-February, a man enraged by US tax policies drove his plane into an Austin, Texas IRS building. Furthermore, SPLC reports that right-wing extremists have killed six law enforcement officers since early 2009; several racist skinheads were subsequently apprehended for plotting to assassinate the president.

While there is no evidence to suggest that Childress, Davis, or other anti-abortion leaders are directly connected to the Patriots, no one knows how their conspiratorial jargon will influence their followers. Sadly, strange bedfellows are a fact of American politics.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”