Roundup: When Anti-Choice Bills Go Badly For Activists

Rachel Larris

South Carolina anti-choice legislators can't seem to get together for a bill to add a 24-hour waiting period while the Georgia House Speaker doesn't seem to be onboard with the Georgia Right to Life's goal for a constitutional challenge to Roe v Wade.

There is probably some joke one could make about South Carolina Republican legislators who are trying to craft a bill that would require a 24-hour waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion but then can’t get to the committee meeting on time. The Greenville News has the details:

Lawmakers appointed to work out differences between House and Senate versions of a bill to require women to wait longer before getting an abortion will try to meet again next week after House members cancelled a meeting Tuesday.

Senate members later took to the floor to express their frustration, while House members argued the no-shows were due to a scheduling conflict, not opposition to the Senate’s position.

“I think there is some kind of game being played,” Sen. Kevin Bryant, an Anderson Republican chairing the conference committee, told The Greenville News. “And this is the most serious issue this Legislature could deal with, if not this year, this session.”

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Yes there is a “game” being played — with South Carolinian women’s healthcare. It’s also great to know that a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion is the “most serious issue” facing South Carolina.

Meanwhile in Georgia the bill to criminalize abortions performed due to the race or sex of the fetus has hit a couple of snags. First the bill lost the endorsement of the NAACP. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has their statement:

Earlier this month, the Georgia NAACP submitted a letter to support Senate Bill 529. We now fully understand the intention of this legislation and wish to retract our support for it.

At the time, we were of the understanding that this bill would work to benefit the women in our community. However, after many conversations with membership and constituents, we now realize that this is nothing more than using women’s health as a political tool.

Women of color in Georgia need more than divisive messages and deserve better access to health care.

We look to the Georgia General Assembly to support initiatives that benefit the community including education and prevention services and working to reduce health care disparities. SB 529 does nothing to address these goals.

Even though Georgia Right to Life has said they want to the bill to be unconstitutional so they can take it to the U.S. Supreme Court with the goal of rolling back Roe v. Wade, it seems like the Georgia House Speaker isn’t on board with that idea —  at least not in deliberately drafting a constitutional challenge. So the Speaker is trying to water down the “controversial” aspects.  Not sure what parts you could take out that would remove just the “controversial” parts — maybe just the entire bill? The AJC has the story:

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) will make a final-hour push on Thursday to pass a revamped abortion bill that removes many of the original proposal’s most controversial elements, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Ralston told the AJC on Tuesday that the abortion bill now before the House, Senate Bill 529, is unacceptable as written. On Thursday, he will propose an alternative that is more constitutionally sound and not designed to encourage a court fight.

“I’m working with pro-life House members and House members who feel very passionately, and have supported SB 529, by suggesting to them that I’m interested in protecting the unborn,” Ralston said. “I’m not interested in the agenda of a special interest group, and I believe what we have done is craft a bill that has done that.”

If you would like to know what Ralston thinks is not controversial here is what his bill would do:

Ralston’s new version eliminates the criminal penalties for doctors and uses a more traditional definition of coercion. It also:

  • Allows for exception in the case of rape, incest or medical necessity.
  • Says a doctor must not perform an abortion if he learns that the woman was being coerced into the abortion or that she wants an abortion due to objection to the race or gender of the fetus.
  • Clinics must post a sign that says they will not perform an abortion unless they “know you have freely and voluntarily consented to having an abortion.”
  • Doctors must inform the patient that no one can force her to have an abortion and the patient must certify in writing that she was so informed.
  • Also, the bill would ban federal funds from paying for abortion services under health insurance exchanges created by the federal health care legislation.

In Other News: A Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reject a bill that would have expanded gay adoption in Louisiana.

Senate Bill 129, which ended up as a combination of two measures by Sens. Ed Murray and J.P. Morrell, would have allowed unmarried couples to jointly adopt and allow an existing parent to petition a court to add a second adult as a legal parent. The bill would have applied regardless of the adoptive parents’ sexual orientation, but the debate centered on the rights of gay parents and their children.

Louisiana law restricts adoption to married couples or single individuals, meaning gay couples or unmarried heterosexual couples can adopt but must choose which adult has parental rights.

Bonus item: A 60-year-old law that requires the state of California to seek cures for homosexuality has finally been dropped in a bill passed by the State Assembly.

April 28, 2010

Two Convicted of Denying Access to Abortion Clinic New York Times

New Oklahoma abortion law faces battle NewsOK.com

State Abortion Law Immediately Challenged Courthouse News Service

Oklahoma Passes Two Laws Intended to Curb Abortions Wall Street Journal

Exclusive: Ralston scraps ‘special interest’ abortion bill; crafts his own Atlanta Journal Constitution

SC House members may meet soon to work on abortion bill Greenville News

SC senators expect debate on abortion in budget The State

At Supreme Court: Privacy for those who sign petitions to curb gay rights? Christian Science Monitor

Nassau University Medical Center Apologizes to Nurses over Abortion Decision 1010 Wins

McDonnell finally makes pro-choice plate official Daily Press (blog)

The Tories’ maternal health initiative is the mother of bad policy Globe and Mail

Sex education curriculum for Ontario elementary schools could be ready by Sept. Winnipeg Free Press

Harper defends abortion decision Ottawa Citizen

British Foreign Office apologises over ‘Benedict’ condoms slur Irish Post

Testing for cervical cancer virus could detect more cases of disease Telegraph.co.uk

Parents, if you don’t have The Talk with your kids, someone else will Plain Dealer

Nebraska legislation aimed at undoing Roe v. Wade Lexington Herald Leader

How to Choose an OB-GYN Los Angeles Times

‘No Baby!’ rally for girls will discourage teen pregnancy Dallas Morning News

Ethiopia to benefit from new cervical-cancer diagnostic tool Ethiopian News Journal

Acupuncture does not relieve childbirth pain, says study The Guardian

How Parents Became Cool Wall Street Journal

Home births on rise Tulsa World

China Lifts Ban on Visitors Who Are HIV Positive New York Times

April 27, 2010

Fiorina endorsed by major anti-abortion group in California Senate race The Hill (blog)

Abortion wanes as issue The Hill

SC legislators to try again on abortion bill Lake Wylie Pilot

South Carolina Legislators No Shows for Hearing on Pro-Life Abortion Bill LifeNews.com

Senate panel rejects gay adoption expansion NOLA.com

Gay ‘cure’ law finally repealed in California DigitalJournal.com

Girl Goes To Congress To Talk About Teen Pregnancy WJZ

Calgary university students face expulsion for provocative anti-abortion display Toronto Star

Simon Institute polls on abortion, gay rights The Southern 

Mississippi Legislators Want Bill to Opt Out of Abortion Funding in Health Care LifeNews.com

National anti-abortion group announces “pro-life freedom rides” al.com (blog) 

Protesting Abortion Rights: There’s An App For That! The Frisky

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: The Silent Epidemic Ithaca Journal

People with HIV living longer, study shows Montreal Gazette

We Know the Way to End Prison Rape. Is It Too Expensive? Washington City Paper

Officials, residents attend forum to combat teen pregnancy Northern Virginia Daily

Do Gay Couples Give Up Their U.S. Citizenship? New York Times (blog)

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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