(UPDATED) Pro-Choice House Leader Calls on Senate to Question Kagan on Abortion Memo, Commitment

Jodi Jacobson

UPDATED: Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, head of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, has asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Kagan on her commitment to the right to choose and on her "troubling" memo written for President Clinton.

The Associated Press reports that Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has called on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to fully question Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan about her position on the issue of a woman’s right to choose whether and when to bear a child.

AP reporter Julie Hirschfeld David writes that Slaughter, head of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Slaughter “views as ‘troubling’ — her word — a 1997 memo Kagan wrote urging then- President Bill Clinton to back a ban on late-term abortions.”

Slaughter wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and the panel’s ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, on Tuesday.

The letter, obtained by Rewire, states:

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As we do not have a judicial record to review for Solicitor General Kagan, it is imperative that the Senate Judiciary Committee fully question the nominee with respect to women’s rights.  The emergence of a memorandum co-authored by Solicitor General Kagan during her time as a White House aide during the Clinton Administration regarding abortion is troubling. As Co Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, I urge you and the committee to keep the constitutional right to choose at the forefront of your minds as you question Solicitor General Kagan.

This is particularly important, Slaughter continued, “following the contentious debate regarding federal funding for abortion leading up to the historic passage of health care reform.”

In a press release Congresswoman Slaughter, one of the longest-serving female members of Congress, also said:

“It’s impossible to overstate how important it is for this country to protect a women’s right to choose. Many of our rights were eroded during the previous Administration and the vote earlier this year on health care reform exposed the efforts to play politics with the rights of women. For that reason, it’s especially important that the next Supreme Court justice take a strong position on protecting a women’s right to choose. It’s my hope that the Senate will respectfully ask Elena Kagan for her views on this critical topic.”

Rewire earlier reported on this memo here.

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.

Radio Broadcasts: The Morality of the Right to Abortion and the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It

Sunsara Taylor tour

For the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, watch and spread these penetrating radio programs celebrating the right to abortion, celebrating the doctors and health care providers who risk their lives every day to provide women access to this essential right, and examining the state of abortion rights today.  Both Include critically important discussion of the changing moral discourse surrounding abortion.

For the 38th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, watch and spread these penetrating radio programs celebrating the right to abortion, celebrating the doctors and health care providers who risk their lives every day to provide women access to this essential right, and examining the state of abortion rights today.  Includes critically important discussion of the changing moral discourse surrounding abortion.

The Morality of Abortion and the Immorality of Those Who Would Force Women to Bear Children Against Their Will

http://archive.wbai.org/files/mp3/110122_150001etff.MP3

Originally broadcast on WBAI-Pacifica radio in NY on Sat. Jan. 22, and hosted by Sunsara Taylor, the program begins with Dr. Leroy Carhart, one of the few doctors left who provides second trimester abortions.  After the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, Dr. Carhart stepped out even further – and became targeted by the anti-choice fascists as “enemy # 1” – by declaring that he will continue to serve the women who need abortions in his area.  Further, he has expanded his practice to Baltimore and is working to train more doctors in later term abortion services.

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Then, the show features a three way conversation between:

Merle Hoffman, the President and Founder of Choices Women’s Medical Center and the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of On the Issues Magazine.  She has been on the front lines providing abortions since 1971 and an outspoken activist and women’s rights advocate.

Debra Sweet, the National Director of World Can’t Wait.  She was central to organizing clinic defense against Operation Rescue across the country throughout the 90’s and continues to expose and mobilize against the attacks on women’s right to abortion and the providers who serve them.

Carole Joffe, author of “Dispatches From the Abortion Wars: The Cost of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us,” as well as, “Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe V. Wade.”

Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper and sits on the National Advisory Board of World Can’t Wait.

 

Another powerful Roe v. Wade anniversary radio show – Jan. 21st broadcast of

The Michael Slate Show on WPFK-Pacifica L.A.

http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive/mp3/kpfk_110121_100012bts_michael.MP3

Michael’s guests include Carole Joffe, author of Dispatches from the Abortion Wars, speaking on the impact of the war on abortion rights.

Jessica Arons, RHRealitycheck.org, on the impact of the Hyde Amendment on women, especially women of color.

Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper, on the morality of the right to abortion, and the immorality of those who oppose it.