On the Other Hand….Mark Critz

Jodi Jacobson

While progressive Democrats can celebrate the first-step win of Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) over Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in last night's primary, another Pennsylvania race ended with a win for anti-choice Blue Dog Democrats. 

While progressive Democrats can celebrate the first-step win of Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) over Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in last night’s primary, another Pennsylvania race ended with a win for Blue Dog Democrats.  Translation: Late Congressman John Murtha’s seat went to his former PA-12 district director, Mark Critz.

Critz is proudly anti-choice.  According to his website:

Mark is pro-life and opposes taxpayer funding of abortion.  In Congress, Mark will fight for policies that stand up for the sanctity of life.

For the most part, these words are code for the sanctity of life of zygotes, blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses over those of women.  Full stop.

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But how anti-choice Critz really is remains to be seen, as he has no voting record on which to base an analysis.  Will he vote against prevention programs? Against contraception? Against access to clinics and all the services they provide?  Will he support laws and policies that flout all evidence regarding how to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections? Will he vote against funding for SCHIP, food stamps and other programs critical to ensuring reproductive justice?  Or will he be another reflexive, anti-evidence, anti-choice vote?

If Specter was a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) who lost his seat, the Democratic party seems to have gained another DINO in Critz, one for whose campaign they paid large sums of money.

Democrats gave $800,000 to the Critz campaign, according to David Dayen of Firedog Lake.

They expected it to be used to help Democrats win. But Mark Critz, in his first TV ad, basically [told] voters that Democrats aren’t to be trusted and they shouldn’t hold the seat. He contrasts[ed]an ad put up by Republicans saying that Critz would vote the “liberal agenda” in Congress by saying “That ad’s not true. I opposed the health care bill. And I’m pro-life, and pro-gun. That’s not liberal.”

“I’m sure,” Dayen continues, “DCCC donors, particularly pro-choice and pro-gun control ones, are thrilled to know that Mark Critz plans to vote against every single one of their beliefs, and that they helped put him in office.”

The truth is that Critz [was] favored in this special election for a variety of reasons. The main one is that the May 18 special election [was] held on the same day as the Pennsylvania primaries, and there [were] simply more interesting primary races on the Democratic side.

While Critz claims to be a proponent of smaller government, it seems to be widely understood that that means smaller government for everyone but residents of the 12th district.  Jim Geraghty of National Review Online discusses how important pork-barrel politics is and has been in the district:

Now here’s an analysis on Pennsylvania’s 12th district I find compelling: Forget Democrat vs. Republican registration numbers; this is a pork-based district, and the voters knew that the guy who talked about creating jobs in the private sector wasn’t as committed to bringing home the bacon.

Geraghty also quotes a reader comment:

A reader familiar with the area weighs in:

If you’ve ever been in Johnstown, stop by the flood museum,  it’s pretty good but about the only thing going on in the area. Murtha survived (and thrived) by being a porkmeister par excellance. There is no industry surviving, no business and the area is hard to get to the coal/steel hill country. I think Burns had to compete with a socially conservative but traditional union voter population that has looked for it’s representative in D.C. to bring home the bacon. Critz could tie himself to Murtha’s success in that regard. Of all the Northeastern states, Pennsylvania is much like Maine in that the finance/software/services economy has not fully compensated for the collapse of the older heavily unionized industrial base. Republicans have to sell  the hard proposition that there is no more money to give out.

“The reader is correct,” writes Geraghty, “but we should realize the difficulty of the message “there is no more free ice cream” against the message “There is plenty of free ice cream, and I will make sure you get your share.””

So in short, Critz is another fiscal conservative in pig’s clothing with a tendency to play politics, at least rhetorically for now, with women’s (and other people’s) rights to get elected.

We’ve seen this movie before. After the absolutely bruising fight over the Stupak and Nelson amendments in health care reform and the general silence from much of the Democratic Party on issues of choice, the election of another Blue Dog Democrat does not bode well.  Nonetheless it may be a wash. In fact, he is a mirror-image replacement of his former boss, Congressman Murtha, who had a zero percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and a 70 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

News Health Systems

The Crackdown on L.A.’s Fake Clinics Is Working

Nicole Knight

"Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options," Feuer said. "And therefore every day is a day that a woman's health could be jeopardized."

Three Los Angeles area fake clinics, which were warned last month they were breaking a new state reproductive transparency law, are now in compliance, the city attorney announced Thursday.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a press briefing that two of the fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, began complying with the law after his office issued notices of violation last month. But it wasn’t until this week, when Feuer’s office threatened court action against the third facility, that it agreed to display the reproductive health information that the law requires.

“Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options,” Feuer said. “And therefore every day is a day that a woman’s health could be jeopardized.”

The facilities, two unlicensed and one licensed fake clinic, are Harbor Pregnancy Help CenterLos Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

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Feuer said the lawsuit could have carried fines of up to $2,500 each day the facility continued to break the law.

The Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care. Unlicensed centers must disclose that they are not medical facilities.

Feuer’s office in May launched a campaign to crack down on violators of the law. His action marked a sharp contrast to some jurisdictions, which are reportedly taking a wait-and-see approach as fake clinics’ challenges to the law wind through the courts.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Some 25 fake clinics operate in Los Angeles County, according to a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California, though firm numbers are hard to come by. Feuer initially issued notices to six Los Angeles area fake clinics in May. Following an investigation, his office warned three clinics last month that they’re breaking the law.

Those three clinics are now complying, Feuer told reporters Thursday. Feuer said his office is still determining whether another fake clinic, Avenues Pregnancy Clinic, is complying with the law.

Fake clinic owners and staffers have slammed the FACT Act, saying they’d rather shut down than refer clients to services they find “morally and ethically objectionable.”

“If you’re a pro-life organization, you’re offering free healthcare to women so the women have a choice other than abortion,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents several Los Angeles fake clinics fighting the law in court.

Asked why the clinics have agreed to comply, Bowman reiterated an earlier statement, saying the FACT Act violates his clients’ free speech rights. Forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs,” Bowman said.

Reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, Googling “abortion clinic” might turn up results for a fake clinic that discourages abortion care.

“Put yourself in the position of a young woman who is going to one of these centers … and she comes into this center and she is less than fully informed … of what her choices are,” Feuer said Thursday. “In that state of mind, is she going to make the kind of choice that you’d want your loved one to make?

Rewire last month visited Lost Angeles area fake clinics that are abiding by the FACT Act. Claris Health in West Los Angeles includes the reproductive notice with patient intake forms, while Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

News Politics

Ohio Legislator: ‘Aggressive Attacks’ May Block Voters From the Polls

Ally Boguhn

Efforts to remove voters from state rolls and curb access to the polls could have an outsized impact in Ohio, which has seen a surge of anti-choice legislation under the state’s Republican leadership.

Ohio Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) said she is worried about the impact of what she called “aggressive attacks” on voting rights in her state.

Ohio voters who have not engaged in voter activity in a fixed period of time, generally two years, are considered by the state to have moved, which then begins the process of removing them from their rolls through something called the “Supplemental Process.” If a voter fails to respond to a postcard mailed to them to confirm their address, they become “inactive voters.” If an inactive voter does not engage in voter activity for four years, they’re automatically unregistered to vote and must re-register to cast a ballot. 

Though other states routinely clean voting rolls, most don’t use failure to vote as a reason to remove someone.

“We have two million voters purged from the rolls in the last five years, many in the last four years since the last presidential election,” Clyde said during an interview with Rewire

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Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) dismissed concerns of the voter purges’ impact during an interview with Reuters. “If this is really important thing to you in your life, voting, you probably would have done so within a six-year period,” he said.

Ohio’s removal of voters through this process “is particularly problematic in the lead-up to the November 2016 federal election because voters who voted in the high-turnout 2008 federal election (but who did not vote in any subsequent elections) were removed from voter rolls in 2015,” according to an amicus curiae brief filed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights division in support of those who filed suit against Ohio’s law. 

The DOJ has urged the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court’s ruling in favor of the state, writing that Ohio’s voter purge violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Since 2012, at least 144,000 voters have been removed from Ohio’s voter rolls in its three biggest counties, Reuters reported. The secretary of state’s office said 2 million registered voters had been taken off the rolls in the past five years, though many had been removed because they were deceased.

Husted contends that he is just enforcing the law. “Ohio manages its voter rolls in direct compliance of both federal and state laws, and is consistent with an agreement in this same federal court just four years ago,” Husted said in an April statement after the ACLU of Ohio and Demos, a voting rights organization, filed a lawsuit in the matter.

In predominantly Black neighborhoods near downtown Cincinnati, “more than 10 percent of registered voters have been removed due to inactivity since 2012,” reported Reuters. The outlet found that several places where more voters had cast ballots for President Obama in 2012 were the same locations experiencing higher percentages of purged voters.

“Some of the data is showing that African Americans voters and Democratic voters were much more likely affected,” Clyde said when discussing the state’s purge of registered voters. 

Clyde has requested data on those purged from the rolls, but has been turned down twice. “They’ve said no in two different ways and are referring me to the boards of elections, but there are 88 boards of election,” she told RewireWith limited staff resources to devote to data collection, Clyde is still searching for a way to get answers.

In the meantime, many otherwise eligible voters may have their votes thrown away and never know it.

“[P]eople that had been purged often don’t know that they’ve been purged, so they may show up to vote and find their name isn’t on the roll,” Clyde said. “Then, typically that voter is given a provisional ballot and … told that the board of elections will figure out the problem with their voter registration. And then they don’t really receive notice that that provisional ballot doesn’t eventually count.” 

Though the state’s voter purges could continue to disenfranchise voters across the state, it is hardly the only effort that may impact voting rights there.

“There have been a number of efforts undertaken by the GOP in Ohio to make voting more difficult,” Clyde said. “That includes fighting to shorten the number of early voting days available, that includes fighting to throw out people’s votes that have been cast—whether it be a provisional ballot or absentee ballot—and that includes purging more voters than any other state.” 

This could make a big difference for voters in the state, which has seen a surge of anti-choice legislation under the state’s Republican leadership—including failed Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich.

“So aside from the terrible effect that has on the fundamental right to vote in Ohio, progressives who maybe are infrequent voters or are seeing what’s happening around [reproductive rights and health] issues and want to express that through their vote may experience problems in Ohio because of these aggressive attacks on voting rights,” Clyde said. 

“From our presidential candidates on down to our candidates for the state legislature, there is a lot at stake when it comes to reproductive health care and reproductive rights in this election,” Clyde added. “So I think that, if that is an issue that is important to any Ohioan, they need to have their voice heard in this election.” 

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