Real Anti-Choice Agenda Revealed in Attack on Anti-Choice Dems

Amanda Marcotte

A number of anti-choice groups have decided to target anti-choice Democrats who voted for health care reform, even though there’s no reality-based reason to think the law provides funding for abortion.

It was a small news item in Politico, but one that unwittingly revealed the truth behind one of the most persistent myths about the anti-choice movement, which is that they are “single issue” voters.  The story is simple.  A number of anti-choice groups have decided to target anti-choice Democrats who voted for health care reform, even though there’s no reality-based reason to think the law provides funding for abortion.  In other words, the anti-choice movement is coming closer to coming clean about how they simply carry the water for the entire conservative movement, and cynically use fear-mongering over abortion to push for a whole host of right wing agenda items.

Let’s be clear: There is nothing “pro-life” about opposition to universal health care.  In a reality-based world, in order to earn the moniker “pro-life”, one should support life, and few things do much better at achieving that goal than demanding inexpensive, efficient, universal health care.  Even if you’re just pro-birth, you should love universal health care, since having it is the major reason most other industrialized nations have lower infant mortality rates than we do. If you’re motivated by loathing for sexually-active women, it’s hard to say why you should care much about health care reform in any direction, since the amount of health care dedicated to protecting the sexual health of women is a small amount of overall health care spending.  If you’re a single issue voter on abortion, health care reform shouldn’t really matter to you one way or another.

Yet you have the anti-choice movement working as a single beast to attack Democrats who, by and large, give anti-choicers all sorts of support in their “forced childbirth/punish the sluts” goals. Poor Bart Stupak, for instance, couldn’t catch a break with these people. He bore a heavy load for anti-choicers, shoring up the single issue credentials they crave and bashing everyone female in sight, from internet feminists to pro-health care nuns.  His reward was that they harassed him and called him a “baby killer”.  Why?  He didn’t change his mind on abortion.  (Still against it.)  He didn’t change his attitude towards women. (Still condescending.) He voted for a series of regulations and bureaucratic adjustments that have no real relationship to abortion, for better or for worse.  But he and all other anti-abortion Democrats are targets.

The official excuse for why anti-choice groups can campaign against life-saving health care reform while still wearing the farcical label “pro-life” is that they believe that the law provides federal funding for abortion. But they could not have come to this conclusion through a sober-minded assessment of the facts, since such a sober assessment would lead one to the truth, which is that Congress and the President went out of their way to stop federal funding for abortion precisely to placate the anti-choice Democrats. So if this belief isn’t grounded in reality, where are they getting it?

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The most logical explanation is that anti-choice groups believe something that isn’t true about the law because they oppose health care reform, and want a politically expedient and even Christian-sounding reason to oppose it.  Coming right out and opposing health care reform for the standard issue conservative reasons—i.e., their real reasons—would blow the cover story that many anti-choice groups have, which is that they’re interested in “life” or human welfare.  Groups like the Susan B. Anthony List try to steal the identity of feminism, for instance, in order to promote an agenda that’s anti-woman and anti-life.  Their cover story of pro-feminism is weak to begin with, but coming straight out against health care reform for the standard conservative reasons would make their already ludicrous claims to be anti-abortion feminists even more ludicrous.  After all, how “pro-life” and “pro-woman” is it to support a system where getting breast cancer means getting kicked off your insurance?  Can you really continue to front like you’re pro-life if you’re supporting a system where small children can’t get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, where many infants and mothers die unnecessarily because of gaps in maternal care, where thousands die every year from lack of health insurance?

Most importantly, if you think that insurance company profits are more valuable than the lives of living, breathing people, then your enthusiasm for stripping women’s rights away looks cruel indeed.  It’s clear then that this is the ranking in your mind: profits, embryos, real people, women’s rights.

The breath-taking cynicism of the anti-choice movement is on full display with this campaign against anti-choice Democrats.  It’s hard to take anti-choice claims that they feel deeply for fetuses seriously when they use abortion as nothing more than a tool to distort and raise emotional stakes on issues that have little to do with abortion.  Anti-choice leaders increasingly use “abortion” as a buzzword to rally the troops against whatever issue the larger conservative movement worries about, if they can even find the slimmest of an angle.

The use of abortion as a cynical political ploy does great things for individual politicians on the right, who need some way to wrap themselves in a humanitarian cloth while pushing policies that don’t do much good for most people.  But for the shock troops of the anti-choice movement, I see no real benefits.  Most people lured into opposing health care reform with dishonest, scandalizing language about abortion probably stand to benefit from the legislation in the long run.  Few of us are independently wealthy, and so we can’t get out of engaging in the increasingly dysfunctional health care system.

Still, even setting aside this specific example, you have to wonder about a movement that lies to its base to motivate them.  Most anti-choicers are already stalwart, across-the-board conservatives, and yet here their leadership is lying to them about abortion and health care reform to get them to open their wallets and dedicate their time to throwing out anti-abortion Democrats.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not usually one to enjoy having my leaders lie to me in order to get me motivated.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

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