Roundup: The Supreme Court, and Supreme Irony

Robin Marty

How the Supreme Court battle is shaping up, and an anti-choicer refuses to be "intimidated" while trying to intimidate people.

The Supreme Court is going to be a huge factor in the upcoming years when it comes to reporductive healthcare.  With anti-choice activists and legislators working hard to push unconstitutional legislation in an attempt to reopen or overrule Roe V. Wade, the affect loss of Justice John Paul Stevens and his potential replacement is one of the key questions causing both prochoice and anti-choice supporters to wring their hands lately.

According to the LA Times, Stevens may be impossible to replace in an age where your stance on abortion seems to be more important than your actual judicial experience.

Stevens did not think judges should be on one side or the other of an ideological fight. He was a true judicial maverick.

Nowadays that word gets misused by the likes of Sarah Palin, who toes the ideological line every step of the way but calls herself a maverick because she likes to say outrageous things. Palin is a provocateur, not a maverick. Stevens resisted ideological ruts and blazed his own trail.

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American politics changed, and so did the court. In the late 1970s, the religious right became a major force in American politics. Ronald Reagan promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe. Interest groups on the left and the right drew battle lines every time a Supreme Court vacancy occurred.

From then on, no president — Republican or Democrat — could choose Supreme Court nominees without paying attention to the abortion issue. And no nominee could survive the confirmation hearings without answering — or, more often, deflecting — a barrage of questions about Roe.

As a result, ideological categories hardened. The abortion issue came to define the court. If you know where a justice stands on abortion today, you can deduce, with very few exceptions, his or her positions on federalism, gun control, affirmative action, gay rights, campaign finance, tuition vouchers for religious schools — the list goes on and on. In 1975, that was not so.

Of course, the battle cry for a moderate justice who can be overwhelmingly supported by both sides of the aisle is coming mainly from the Republicans, who, as they become smaller and smaller in power seem to think that they should have a bigger say in the running of the country.  As Jeff Schweitzer writes at Huffington Post:

GOP leaders are insisting that President Obama must nominate a moderate justice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens; they want a mainstream jurist who will decide cases impartially. And in other news, Republicans demand that Democrats give up the White House to Mitt Romney. The second demand is obviously ridiculous but has no less credibility than the first, which is real.

The first and most obvious response to the absurd Republican demand for moderation is: Antonin Scalia, appointed by Ronald Reagan, and John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito, appointed by George W. Bush. Their records prove these men to be anything but mainstream, as we shall see shortly. Their extremism was openly celebrated by the right during the nomination and consent process.

The second self-evident response is: President Obama won a national election, and he has the right to appoint justices who reflect his views. He won; Republicans lost. To the winner go the spoils, as they did with Reagan and Bush. But now that a Democrat is doing the nominating, Republicans want to change the rules of the game at half time. The Republicans are like a football team losing by two touchdowns, demanding that the referees declare that a win is valid only if by three touchdowns. They piously demand fidelity to rules when they are ahead, and then dismiss those same rules as irrelevant when losing.

In light of the GOP’s overt push to seat far-right conservative judges on the Supreme Court with not even a nod to moderation when Republicans occupied the White House, we can only conclude the right’s demand now for a mainstream judge is funny. Otherwise if the GOP were serious, the outrageous and transparently cynical call would be too sad to contemplate.

Anti-choicers are holding their breath that the administration’s cave to anti-choice politicians during healthcare reform might be a sign that pushing a pro-choice nominee isn’t something President Obama is ready to fight over.  As such, they’re going out of their way to call frontrunners Diane Wood and Elana Kagan “pro-aborts.”

Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, told the Washington Post today that Wood’s pro-abortion record is “her Achilles’ heel.”

“It tells you that she’s probably not going to be selected, because Obama doesn’t have the stomach for this to be about an abortion debate,” he said.

And:

“In the past Kagan has been a strong supporter of the pro-abortion agenda. She has vigorously opposed the de-funding of taxpayer-funded clinics which promote abortions, despite the fact that a majority of Americans do not want their tax dollars to fund abortion providers.”

Of course, the “pro-abort” attacks seem to be religated to the women front runners.  Anti-choicers appear to be more comfortable with potential prochoice justices as long as they are male.

Irony Alert: When told he will be expelled from college for refusing to turn graphic anti-abortion signs inward instead of facing out into the public, student Cameron Wilson replied, “[O]ur conviction shall not change and we shall not alter our actions based on intimidation.”  Um, Cameron, aren’t you in fact trying to change other people’s actions via intimidation?

April 19, 2010

Kenya: Using the Law, We Can Reduce the Number of Abortions – AllAfrica.com

SCOTUS: Diane Wood and abortion – msnbc.com

Oklahoma City marks 15 years since bombing – The Associated Press

Foetuses ‘found dumped’ in India – BBC News

Nebraska Passes Controversial Abortion Ban – ABC News

GOP Ad Bashes “Stupak Sellouts,” Pro-Life Democrats Backing Pro-Abortion Bill – LifeNews.com

Bringing humanity back to the abortion debate – Washington Post

US: Obama Criticised for Health Package Abortion Ban – Inter Press Service

Black Pro-Life Leaders Launch Historic Freedom Rides to Stop Abortions – LifeNews.com

U of C may expel anti-abortion protesters – CBC.ca

GG accepts anti-abortion activist’s resignation from Order of Canada – Winnipeg Free Press

Diane Wood Maybe Too Pro-Abortion for Obama Nomination to Supreme Court – LifeNews.com

Abortion bill appears dead; supporters blame Gardiner’s ‘cowardice’ – Tampabay.com

TN Senate approves abortion measure – The Tennessean

Senate OKs ultrasound, other anti-abortion bills – CNBC

10-year-old’s pregnancy fuels Mexican abortion debate – CNN International

Okla. lawmakers approve several abortion bills – The Associated Press

Fight brewing over McDonnell health care cuts – Washington Examiner

Why We Should Care about Family Planning this Earth Day – Care2.com

Meddling in Other People’s Sex Lives – Psychology Today

Compassionate Care compliance lags – Wisconsin Radio Network

Family planning blues – Philippine Star

Wisconsin teachers on the hot seat for teaching birth control – Yakima Herald-Republic

The Birth-Control Riddle – Wall Street Journal

With AIDS, Time to Get Beyond Blame – New York Times

‘Project Runway’ Designer in D.C. to Educate About Living with HIV and Combat … – MarketWatch

Maternal Deaths – New York Times

April 20, 2010

Week’s Funniest Joke: GOP Demands Obama Nominate Mainstream Candidate to … – Huffington Post

Justice Stevens will not be easily replaced – Los Angeles Times

Human fetuses found near garbage dump – UPI.com

Abortion Bill Heads to Governor – Nashville Public Radio

Senate debates, passes five abortion measures – Tulsa World

Pregnant girl sparks abortion debate – UPI.com

Strict New Neb. Abortion Law Faces Long Legal Road – New York Times

Southworth’s arguments not worth much – UW Badger Herald

Playing politics with dying mothers – Globe and Mail

The Evolution of Birth Control – Newsweek

African Leaders to Carve Out Solutions for Child and Maternal Health – SOS Children’s Villages Canada

Track Change program hopes to reduce the risk – Indian Country Today

Sexual network campaign stigmatises HIV patients – Daily Monitor

Morphine Might Protect Brain Against HIV Dementia – AIDSmeds.com HIV/AIDS Treatment News

Childbirth Deaths Are Falling Worldwide, But Not in the US – Politics Daily

Utah’s Feticide Law Puts Miscarriage on Trial – Women’s eNews

In Effort to Limit C-Sections, Two Methods Yield Different Results on Staten … – New York Times

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

Analysis Politics

Donald Trump and Mike Pence: The Anti-Immigrant Ticket

Tina Vasquez

“My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country," Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire.

On Friday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, giving legitimacy to concerns a Trump presidency would be anti-choice and decimate LGBTQ rights. As Rewire reported last week, Pence has voted against nondiscrimination efforts, signed a so-called religious freedom bill, opposed marriage equality, and attemptednumerous times—to defund Planned Parenthood, something Trump has promised to do if elected president.

But the two Republicans also have something else in common: They are brazenly anti-immigrant.

Despite a misleading article from the Daily Beast asserting that Pence has had a “love affair with immigration reform” and has “spent his political career decrying anti-immigrant rhetoric,” the governor’s record on immigration tells a different story.

Let’s take a look at Trump’s “xenophobic” and “racist” campaign thus far, and how closely Pence’s voting aligns with that position.

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Donald Trump

For months it seemed, Donald Trump’s talking points in the media rarely drifted away from anti-immigrant rhetoric. During his kickoff speech, he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “killers” and in the months since, has promised to build a 2,000-mile-long wall along the United States-Mexico border to keep “illegals” out, a wall the billionaire has promised that Mexico will pay for.

Despite being called “racist” by members of his own party, Trump’s immigration plan is largely consistent with what many Republicans have called for: a larger border wall, increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, requiring all U.S. companies to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees, increasing the use of detention for those who are undocumented and currently residing in the United States, and ending “birthright citizenship,” which would mean the U.S.-born children of undocumented parents would be denied citizenship.

Again, Trump’s proposed immigration policies align with the Republican Party’s, but it is the way that he routinely spreads false, damaging information about undocumented immigrants that is worrisome. Trump has repeatedly said that economically, undocumented immigrants are “killing us by “taking our jobs, taking our manufacturing jobs, taking our money.” 

Market Watch, a publication focusing on financial news, reported that this falsehood is something that a bulk of Trump supporters believe; two-thirds of Trump supporters surveyed in the primaries said they feel immigration is a burden on our country “because ‘they take our jobs, housing and health care.'” This, despite research that says deporting the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently call the United States home would result in a “massive economic hit” for Trump’s home state of New York, which receives $793 million in tax revenue from undocumented immigrants. A recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy also found that at the state and local level, undocumented immigrants nationwide collectively pay an estimated $11.6 billion each year in taxes.

Trump has also been accused by Muslim Americans and members of the media of engaging in “reckless, dangerous Islamophobia” at every opportunity, using terrorist attacks to call for a ban on all Muslim immigration, while also using terrorism in a self-aggrandizing manner. In a statement released after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Trump said, “I said this was going to happen.”

These dangerous assertions that all U.S.-based Muslims are secretly harboring terrorists or that undocumented immigrants are killing “thousands of peoplea narrative he continued to push at the Republican National Convention by having the families of three Americans killed by undocumented people speak—can be deadly and inspire hatred and violence. This was made all the more clearer when in August 2015 two white brothers cited Trump when they urinated on and beat a homeless Latino man. According to Huffington Post, the men “alegedly [sic] told police they targeted the man because of his ethnicity and added, ‘Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.’” Trump’s response? He said that his supporters are simply “passionate” people who want America “to be great again.”

Mike Pence

Wendy Feliz, a spokesperson with the American Immigration Council, succinctly summarized Pence’s immigration approach to Rewire, saying on Monday that he “basically falls into a camp of being more restrictive on immigration, someone who looks for more punitive ways to punish immigrants, rather than looking for the positive ways our country can benefit from immigrants.”

After Trump’s announcement that Pence would be his running mate, Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council, outlined what voters should know about Pence’s immigration record:

Pence’s record shows he used his time in Congress and as the Governor of Indiana to pursue extreme and punitive immigration policies earning him a 100 percent approval rating by the anti-immigration group, Federation for American Immigration Reform.

In 2004 when Pence was a senator, he voted for the “Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments.” The bill failed, but it would have required hospitals to gather and report information on undocumented patients before hospitals could be reimbursed for treating them. Even worse, the bill wouldn’t have required hospitals to provide care to undocumented patients if they could be deported to their country of origin without a “significant chance” of their condition getting worse.

Though it’s true that in 2006 Pence championed comprehensive immigration reform, as the Daily Beast reported, the reform came with two caveats: a tightening of border security and undocumented immigrants would have to “self-deport” and come back as guest workers. While calling for undocumented immigrants to self-deport may seem like the more egregious demand, it’s important to contextualize Pence’s call for an increase in border security.

This tactic of calling for more Border Patrol agents is commonly used by politicians to pacify those opposed to any form of immigration reform. President Obama, who has utilized more border security than any other president, announced deferred action for the undocumented in June 2012, while also promising to increase border security. But in 2006 when Pence was calling for an increase in border security, the border enforcement policy known as “Operation Gatekeeper” was still in full swing. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Operation Gatekeeper “concentrated border agents and resources along populated areas, intentionally forcing undocumented immigrants to extreme environments and natural barriers that the government anticipated would increase the likelihood of injury and death.” Pence called for more of this, although the undocumented population expanded significantly even when border enforcement resources escalated. The long-term results, the ACLU reported, were that migrants’ reliance on smugglers to transport them increased and migrant deaths multiplied.

There are more direct ways Pence has illustrated a xenophobic agenda, including co-sponsoring a congressional bill that would have made English the official language of the United States and as governor, blocking Syrian refugees en route to Indiana, saying he would not accept any more Syrian refugees out of fear they were “terrorists.” The governor also added Indiana to the Texas lawsuit challenging expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). And he praised the inaction by the Supreme Court last month to expand DACA and DAPA, which leaves millions of undocumented immigrants living in fear of deportation.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, “when a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors (usually family members), while they await immigration proceedings.”

The ORR added that these sponsors “live in many states,” including Indiana, which received 245 unaccompanied minors between January and July 2014. Pence was reportedly unaware that unaccompanied minors were being placed in his state by the federal government, something he said he was made aware of by media reports. These are asylum seeking children, often girls under the age of 10, escaping violence in their countries of origin who arrive at the United States-Mexico border without an adult. Many, including advocacy organizations and the Obama administration, have contended that the circumstances surrounding unaccompanied minors is not simply an immigration issue, but a humanitarian crisis. Not Pence. In a letter to President Obama, the Indiana governor wrote:

While we feel deep compassion for these children, our country must secure its borders and provide for a legal and orderly immigration process …. Failure to expedite the return of unaccompanied children thwarts the rule of law and will only continue to send a distorted message that illegally crossing into America is without consequence.

In the four days since Pence was named Trump’s running mate, he’s also taken a much harsher stance on Muslim immigration. Back in December when Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Pence tweeted that banning Muslims from entering the United States was “offensive and unconstitutional.” However, on Friday when Pence was officially named Trump’s VP pick, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “I am very supportive of Donald Trump’s call to temporarily suspend immigration from countries where terrorist influence and impact represents a threat to the United States.”

Wendy Feliz of the American Immigration Council told Rewire that while Pence’s rhetoric may not be as inflammatory as Trump’s, it’s important to look at his record in relation to Trump’s to get a better understanding of what the Republican ticket intends to focus on moving into a possible presidency. Immigration, she said, is one of the most pressing issues of our time and has become a primary focus of the election.

“In a few days, we’ll have a better sense of the particular policies the Republican ticket will be pursuing on immigration. It all appears to point to more of the same, which is punitive, the punishing of immigrants,” Feliz said. “My greatest fear is that this ticket doesn’t seem to realize immigrants are actually an incredible resource that fuels our country. I don’t think Trump and Pence is a ticket that values that. An administration that doesn’t value immigrants, that doesn’t value what’s fueled our country for the past several hundred years, hurts all of us. Not just immigrants themselves, but every single American.”