Roundup: Australian Senator Claims Women Would Have Late Term Abortions for Pay

Robin Marty

An Australian senator blocks paid leave because it will cause "drug addicts and welfare cheats" to have late term abortions.

In case you didn’t know, women will do pretty much anything to get an easy payout.  And there is absolutely nothing in this world easier than being pregnant, right?

Or so claims Steve Fielding, a senator from the “Family First” party in Australia.

The senate was debating a historic piece of legislation that would allow women 18 weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child, when Fielding began expressing his “concerns.”  The leave would be granted not just to those who gave birth to live children, but also to women who had given birth to a stillborn baby (technically, the birth of a child after 20 weeks that did not survive).  Fielding stated that allowing stillborns to be included was a massive “loophole” that could be taken advantage of.  From the HeraldSun:

“Drug addicts and welfare cheats can get themselves pregnant and then after 20 weeks have an abortion and still pocket the Government’s cash,” he told the Senate.

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“There may be mums out there who want to cheat the system in a horrific way.”

His comments were rejected by fellow senators as sad and pathetic.

“All I was trying to do was close that loophole,” Senator Fielding told ABC TV today, adding his approach was “fair and reasonable”.

“I wasn’t the only one to raise this issue in the Senate yesterday.”

But Senator Fielding, when pressed to name the other senators, could not come up with any names.

Fielding’s comments were quickly attacked by many, including the country’s sex discrimination commissioner.  Via ABC News, Australia:

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has described Family First Senator Steve Fielding’s claim that women may try to claim paid parental leave after having late-term abortions as shocking and offensive.

Ms Broderick says she wants to meet with Senator Fielding to discuss his comments over the provisions in the law for stillborn babies.

“To the extent that we could suggest that women could get pregnant and then have a late-term abortion solely for the purpose of collecting paid parental leave – I think most people around Australia found those comments quite offensive,” she told ABC 2.

According to Crikey, this isn’t the first time Fielding has attacked the plan, and in very vehement terms:

in fact, Fielding has been spouting malicious garbage about paid parental leave since at least Tuesday morning when, on the doors, he said the government’s scheme “is putting prisoners and prostitutes ahead of stay-at-home mums”.

The line didn’t really get the sort of media run Fielding is used to, so he had another go yesterday, tweeting:

About to talk in the Senate about PPL. The govt is giving prisoners and prostitutes the payment while stay at home mums get nothing

Welcome to Steve Fielding’s version of the Madonna-whore complex: stay-at-home mums and prostitutes and prisoners.

Kind of makes you wonder how pro-family the “Family First” party really is.

Mini Roundup: All of the usual suspects are fighting the FDA approval for ella.  But since they are against plain old ordinary contraception, too, does anyone consider them unbiased sources?

June 16, 2010

Charlie Crist gambles on the left – Washington Post

FRC Responds to Release of First Ever GAO Report on Federal Funding for … – PR Newswire

Fielding scorned over abortion jibe – Herald Sun

Feminism Today Breaks New Ground, But It Isn’t Pro-Life – Campus Progress

Ella: Contraception or Abortion Pill? – MyFox Phoenix

Activists protest abortion pill at Ashland clinic – Ashland Daily Tidings

Charlie Crist Courts Left, Could Win Democrats’ Support – CBS News

Family First scorned over abortion jibe – Herald Sun

Women Allege Forced Abortion Inside Church of Scientology – Care2.com

Abortion ultrasound bills wins final legislative approval – 2TheAdvocate

CWA to Testify at FDA Hearing on Abortion Drug – Christian News Wire

Iowa Governor Chet Culver Endorsed by Planned Parenthood Abortion Business – LifeNews.com

Bureaucratic housekeeping in Naperville turns into debate over abortion clinics – Chicago Tribune

Ultrasound Required Before Abortion – NewOrleans.Com

Fielding defends abortion comments – Herald Sun

Vote Last Steve Fielding – Crikey

Fielding’s abortion rorts claim ‘offensive’ – ABC Online

Anti-abortion bills win final legislative approval – 2TheAdvocate

Do obese adults need better sexual health care? – The Guardian

Study: Obese Women Have Less Sex, More Babies – CBS News

Planned Parenthood endorses Culver – DesMoinesRegister.com

New Morning-After Pill Passes First FDA Hurdle – MedPage Today

Study finds more HIV testing needed – Private MD

South African Business Tackles HIV/AIDS – Voice of America

Antiretrovirals During Breast-Feeding Shield Babies From HIV, Study Shows – U.S. News & World Report

A Father’s Role? – New York Times

June 17, 2010

Teen abortion numbers a ‘tragedy’ – Otago Daily Times

Military reexamines reproductive health – Politico

South Carolina Legislature Reaches Consensus over Abortion – The State Column

FRC Urges FDA to Reject New Abortion Drug Falsely Labeled as an Emergency … – PR Newswire

Obesity’s impact on sexual health – TIME

New emergency contraceptive ‘Ella’ safe, effective, FDA experts say – The New Mexico Independent

Antiretrovirals prevent HIV transmission – Times of India

Study: 99% Women Taking AIDS-Preventive Drugs Save Their Kids from HIV – TopNews United Kingdom

It’s Time To Pay Attention To Global Women’s Health Care – Forbes

Analysis Law and Policy

Justice Kennedy’s Silence Speaks Volumes About His Apparent Feelings on Women’s Autonomy

Imani Gandy

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

Last week’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was remarkable not just for what it did say—that two provisions in Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion law were unconstitutional—but for what it didn’t say, and who didn’t say it.

In the lead-up to the decision, many court watchers were deeply concerned that Justice Anthony Kennedy would side with the conservative wing of the court, and that his word about targeted restrictions of abortion providers would signal the death knell of reproductive rights. Although Kennedy came down on the winning side, his notable silence on the “dignity” of those affected by the law still speaks volumes about his apparent feelings on women’s autonomy. That’s because Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity, and where along the fault line of that human dignity various rights fall, has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

His opinion on marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, along with his prior opinions striking down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, assured us that he recognizes the fundamental human rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons.

On the other hand, as my colleague Jessica Mason Pieklo noted, his concern in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action about the dignity of the state, specifically the ballot initiative process, assured us that he is willing to sweep aside the dignity of those affected by Michigan’s affirmative action ban in favor of the “‘dignity’ of a ballot process steeped in racism.”

Meanwhile, in his majority opinion in June’s Fisher v. University of Texas, Kennedy upheld the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, noting that it remained a challenge to this country’s education system “to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”

It is apparent that where Kennedy is concerned, dignity is the alpha and the omega. But when it came to one of the most important reproductive rights cases in decades, he was silent.

This is not entirely surprising: For Kennedy, the dignity granted to pregnant women, as evidenced by his opinions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, has been steeped in gender-normative claptrap about abortion being a unique choice that has grave consequences for women, abortion providers’ souls, and the dignity of the fetus. And in Whole Woman’s Health, when Kennedy was given another chance to demonstrate to us that he does recognize the dignity of women as women, he froze.

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He didn’t write the majority opinion. He didn’t write a concurring opinion. He permitted Justice Stephen Breyer to base the most important articulation of abortion rights in decades on data. There was not so much as a callback to Kennedy’s flowery articulation of dignity in Casey, where he wrote that “personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education” are matters “involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” (While Casey was a plurality opinion, various Court historians have pointed out that Kennedy himself wrote the above-quoted language.)

Of course, that dignity outlined in Casey is grounded in gender paternalism: Abortion, Kennedy continued, “is an act fraught with consequences for others: for the woman who must live with the implications of her decision; for the persons who perform and assist in the procedures for the spouse, family, and society which must confront the knowledge that these procedures exist, procedures some deem nothing short of an act of violence against innocent human life; and, depending on one’s beliefs, for the life or potential life that is aborted.” Later, in Gonzales, Kennedy said that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban “expresses respect for the dignity of human life,” with nothing about the dignity of the women affected by the ban.

And this time around, Kennedy’s silence in Whole Woman’s Health may have had to do with the facts of the case: Texas claimed that the provisions advanced public health and safety, and Whole Woman’s Health’s attorneys set about proving that claim to be false. Whole Woman’s Health was the sort of data-driven decision that did not strictly need excessive language about personal dignity and autonomy. As Breyer wrote, it was a simple matter of Texas advancing a reason for passing the restrictions without offering any proof: “We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law, the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health.”

In Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s two-page concurrence, she succinctly put it, “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory-surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.”

“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ cannot survive judicial inspection,” she continued, hammering the point home.

So by silently signing on to the majority opinion, Kennedy may simply have been expressing that he wasn’t going to fall for the State of Texas’ efforts to undermine Casey’s undue burden standard through a mixture of half-truths about advancing public health and weak evidence supporting that claim.

Still, Kennedy had a perfect opportunity to complete the circle on his dignity jurisprudence and take it to its logical conclusion: that women, like everyone else, are individuals worthy of their own autonomy and rights. But he didn’t—whether due to his Catholic faith, a deep aversion to abortion in general, or because, as David S. Cohen aptly put it, “[i]n Justice Kennedy’s gendered world, a woman needs … state protection because a true mother—an ideal mother—would not kill her child.”

As I wrote last year in the wake of Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell, “according to [Kennedy’s] perverse simulacrum of dignity, abortion rights usurp the dignity of motherhood (which is the only dignity that matters when it comes to women) insofar as it prevents women from fulfilling their rightful roles as mothers and caregivers. Women have an innate need to nurture, so the argument goes, and abortion undermines that right.”

This version of dignity fits neatly into Kennedy’s “gendered world.” But falls short when compared to jurists internationally,  who have pointed out that dignity plays a central role in reproductive rights jurisprudence.

In Casey itself, for example, retired Justice John Paul Stevens—who, perhaps not coincidentally, attended the announcement of the Whole Woman’s Health decision at the Supreme Court—wrote that whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a “matter of conscience,” and that “[t]he authority to make such traumatic and yet empowering decisions is an element of basic human dignity.”

And in a 1988 landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Bertha Wilson indicated in her concurring opinion that “respect for human dignity” was key to the discussion of access to abortion because “the right to make fundamental personal decision without interference from the state” was central to human dignity and any reading of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982, which is essentially Canada’s Bill of Rights.

The case was R. v. Morgentaler, in which the Supreme Court of Canada found that a provision in the criminal code that required abortions to be performed only at an accredited hospital with the proper certification of approval from the hospital’s therapeutic abortion committee violated the Canadian Constitution. (Therapeutic abortion committees were almost always comprised of men who would decide whether an abortion fit within the exception to the criminal offense of performing an abortion.)

In other countries, too, “human dignity” has been a key component in discussion about abortion rights. The German Federal Constitutional Court explicitly recognized that access to abortion was required by “the human dignity of the pregnant woman, her… right to life and physical integrity, and her right of personality.” The Supreme Court of Brazil relied on the notion of human dignity to explain that requiring a person to carry an anencephalic fetus to term caused “violence to human dignity.” The Colombian Constitutional Court relied upon concerns about human dignity to strike down abortion prohibition in instances where the pregnancy is the result of rape, involves a nonviable fetus, or a threat to the woman’s life or health.

Certainly, abortion rights are still severely restricted in some of the above-mentioned countries, and elsewhere throughout the world. Nevertheless, there is strong national and international precedent for locating abortion rights in the square of human dignity.

And where else would they be located? If dignity is all about permitting people to make decisions of fundamental personal importance, and it turns out, as it did with Texas, that politicians have thrown “women’s health and safety” smoke pellets to obscure the true purpose of laws like HB 2—to ban abortion entirely—where’s the dignity in that?

Perhaps I’m being too grumpy. Perhaps I should just take the win—and it is an important win that will shape abortion rights for a generation—and shut my trap. But I want more from Kennedy. I want him to demonstrate that he’s not a hopelessly patriarchal figure who has icky feelings when it comes to abortion. I want him to recognize that some women have abortions and it’s not the worst decision they’ve ever made or the worst thing that ever happened to him. I want him to recognize that women are people who deserve dignity irrespective of their choices regarding whether and when to become a mother. And, ultimately, I want him to write about a woman’s right to choose using the same flowery language that he uses to discuss LGBTQ rights and the dignity of LGBTQ people.  He could have done so here.

Forcing the closure of clinics based on empty promises of advancing public health is an affront to the basic dignity of women. Not only do such lies—and they are lies, as evidenced by the myriad anti-choice Texan politicians who have come right out and said that passing HB 2 was about closing clinics and making abortion inaccessible—operate to deprive women of the dignity to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term, they also presume that the American public is too stupid to truly grasp what’s going on.

And that is quintessentially undignified.

News Politics

Trump University ‘Preyed Upon the Elderly and Uneducated,’ Claims Former Trump Staffer

Ally Boguhn

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets.

Recently unsealed court documents from a class action lawsuit against Trump University—a for-profit company founded by presumptive presidential Republican nominee Donald Trump—revealed the tactics employed by the business to aggressively push their classes.

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets, CNN reported. Staff members were told to address buyers’ doubts about going into debt with scripted responses:

I don’t like using my credit cards and going into debt: “[D]o you like living paycheck to paycheck? … Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dreams cars with huge checking accounts? Those people saw an opportunity, and didn’t make excuses, like what you’re doing now.”

Testimony from former Trump University Sales Manager Ronald Schnackenberg uncovered by the New York Times claims that staff were pushed to exploit those struggling financially. Schnackenberg claimed in written testimony that he was once “reprimanded” for not pushing a couple he felt was in a “precarious financial condition” to buy a $35,000 real estate class using their disability income and a loan.

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Schnackenberg said he believed “Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”

Some of the released documents were later ordered to be resealed after U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who is presiding over two of the three lawsuits against Trump University, on grounds that they were “mistakenly” released to the public. Trump University faces a second class action lawsuit as well as a $40 million lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman on Thursday told Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos that Trump University had engaged in fraud. “We have a law [in New York] against running an illegal, unlicensed university,” Schneiderman said. “This never was a university. The fraud started with the name of the organization, and you can’t just go around saying this is the George Stephanopoulos Law Firm/Hospital/University without actually qualifying and registering, so it was really a fraud from beginning to end.”

Trump’s pending Trump University lawsuits have been under increasing scrutiny. The Republican made headlines again Friday for lobbing “racially tinged” attacks on Curiel.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater,” Trump said at a campaign rally in San Diego, going on to speculate that the judge may be “Mexican.”

Trump nevertheless vowed in a Thursday tweet to reopen Trump University once the pending lawsuits against the business have concluded.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign wasted no time this week blasting the presumptive GOP nominee for his role in Trump University after the release of the case’s documents. Speaking about the matter during a campaign rally at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Clinton called out Trump’s for-profit school.

“This is just more evidence that Donald Trump himself is a fraud. He is trying to scam America the way he tried to scam all of those people at Trump U,” Clinton said. “Trump and his employees took advantage of vulnerable Americans, encouraging them to max out their credit cards, empty their retirement savings, destroy their financial futures—all while making promises they knew were false from the beginning.”