Roundup: Rep. Boehner Gets Anti-Abortion Award, Promises to Expand Hyde

Robin Marty

Someone's been busy this weekend.  Rep. John Boehner has a big award and some big plans for the week.

House Minority Leader John Boehner spent his weekend being lauded by the National Right to Life convention for his opposition to health care reform.  Boehner, a Republican from Ohio and staunch anti-abortion supporter, was called a “a faithful defender of unborn children, disabled persons and seniors whose right to life may be jeopardized,” under a plan to allow everyone to have access to health insurance.

From Lifenews:

“Boehner has been an active supporter of a number of successful pro-life efforts over the years.

“He has been a major impediment to the advance of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid pro-abortion agenda,” [NRLC co-director Darla St. Martin] said. “Boehner relentlessly used his office to attempt to thwart” the massive abortion funding in the health care bill and he used the “sheer force of his his as he confronted Pelosi and other pro-abortion leaders” on the legislation.

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“Not a single one of the 178 House Republicans voted for that deadly pro-abortion Obamacare bill,” thanks to Boehner, St. Martin added. “On behalf of every pro-lifer here and across America, we thank you John Boehner.”

Rep. Boehner had some very glowing words for the NRLC in return.  Via The Corner:

To be recognized by those who have devoted their lives to defending life is a true badge of honor.  Truly awe-inspiring.  I’m humbled, and inspired, by your confidence in me. 

I never sought to be recognized as a leader of the movement.  Never wore my pro-life credentials on my sleeve. 

I was what you might call a quiet warrior.  I just voted for what I thought was right, and stood up for what I thought was right, like all of you do every day.

But over the past few years, I’ve been compelled to raise my voice; to speak out a little more loudly. 

You invited me here to give me an award, and I gratefully accept it.  But let’s be clear: the true leaders are sitting out there in the crowd right now.  What I do matters less than what you do.

Rep. Boehner then followed up by announcing that this week will be a push to institutionalize and expand the national Hyde Amendment, banning any federal funds from being used at all in abortion coverage.  The Hill reports:

House Minority Leader John Boehner intends to press Democratic leaders to vote on a bill to ban federal funding of abortions.

The Ohio Republican told anti-abortion activists gathered at the 40th annual National Right To Life Convention (NRLC) on Saturday that he will co-sponsor a measure to ensure taxpayer dollars don’t fund abortions.


“Codifying the Hyde Amendment so that it applies to all federal funding, whether those funds are appropriated by Congress or authorized by Congress” has traction with individuals participating in the GOP’s new effort to solicit ideas from the public, Boehner said to the crowd of nearly 1,000 on the third day of their convention in Pittsburgh.

NRLC honored Boehner on Saturday as “Legislator of the Year 2010.”

Is it just another promise to an anti-choice activist group hungry to try and regain power, or could it be what many of us feared when reproductive rights unraveled before our eyes during healthcare reform, and Hyde will not only become permanent but much, much stricter?  In the Blog Briefing Room, The Hill states:

Boehner said his party will push for an expansion of the Hyde Amendment–which bans use of certain Medicaid funds from paying for abortion–to cover all federal funding with no exceptions.

Such an expansion would be devastating to those states, such as Minnesota, that do allow Medicaid and other funding to be used due to state Supreme Court intervention and other means.

Rep. Boehner touts in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that expanding Hyde is “the will of the people”:

“I believe this must be the next objective for pro-life America. It’s clear from the health care debate that the American people don’t want their tax dollars paying for abortion, and a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives agrees. It’s the will of the people, and it ought to be the law of the land – right now,” he said.

Seems like he may only be listening to a certain set of “the people” these days.

Mini Roundup: In honor of National HIV Testing Day, a pastor take an HIV test in church to encourage his congregation to get tested, and a letter writer nails why it’s impossible to be a anti-choice feminist.

June 25, 2010

Barber: For most of us, abortion is not topic  – SDNN

Epidemic played large role in shift of attitudes on abortion, author says – Genetic Engineering News

Abortion as genocide group regains club status – National Post

Anti-abortion group raises questions with Kagan’s position on healthcare … – The Hill

Andy Dillon courts voters who’ve had it with politics as usual – Detroit Free Press

The Obama Omelette: Euthanasia, Abortion, Obamanomics… Death is Death – Big Hollywood

Abortion rights advocate protests, then joins Right to Life convention – Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Abortion and Excommunication: An EZ Cartoon Lesson 4 Kidz – Politics Daily

Probe of rural Iowa system for dispensing abortion pills is urged – DesMoinesRegister.com

UK doctors: fetus can’t feel pain before 24 weeks – The Associated Press

When personal beliefs on abortion cross the line – Washington Post

NJ Democrats set stage for battle with Gov. Christie about family planning … – The Star-Ledger – NJ.com

Clinic to offer abortion services – Omaha World-Herald

Approve Reproductive Health Act – Ithaca Journal

At G8, Obama, Clinton Must Speak With One Voice for Safe Abortion Access – The Nation

A ‘Woman’s Right to Know’: breaking down the Texas GOP party platform – Examiner.com

Texas GOP Platform: Recriminalize Sodomy, Make it a Felony to Marry Gay Couples – Care2.com

Texas GOP: No Strip Clubs, No Porn, No Gays, No Fun – AVN News

Social conservatives make their case against Kagan – BP News

Canada announces $1.1B in new maternal health funding – CTV.ca

Sex Education in Schools Now Includes Elementary School Condoms and Middle … – Associated Content

Should the pill be available over the counter? – The Week Magazine

Condoms for First Graders? School Board’s Decision Sparks Firestorm in … – FOXNews

Can a Male Birth Control Pill Save the Environment? – Green Prophet

Letters: Attack on Planned Parenthood unwarranted – Appleton Post Crescent

Free family planning service benefits thousands – Republica

Restore funding for family planning; it’s a matter of health – The Star-Ledger – NJ.com

Democrats Try To Reverse Cuts To Family Planning Programs – NJ TODAY

Childless by choice – Salon

Silence Still Equals Death – Huffington Post

Bar operators launch STI/HIV/AIDS Prevention Project – Ghana News Agency

Obama urges all Americans to get tested for AIDS/HIV – CCN News Online

Assam proposes cancer vaccines for class IX girl students – Samachar Today

NY forum tackles women’s problems worldwide: sexual exploitation, HIV-positive … – The Canadian Press

Oh, Canada! Good News for Mothers Around the World – Babble

G20 split on stimulus but united on maternal health  – CTV.ca

The New Abortion Wars – CounterPunch

June 26, 2010

National abortion foes strategize to oust backers of reform – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Letter: Feingold is pro-abortion – Herald Times Reporter

The Bishops’ Fig Leaf  – Huffington Post

Proponents and Opponents of Bill to Update New York Abortion Law Step up …  – WGRZ-TV

Retired educator has spent 20 years battling abortion – Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Kagan Hearings Help Interest Groups Raise Money, Rally Support – BusinessWeek

Abortion foes, gun fans seek a place at Texas Democratic convention – Dallas Morning News

Research deals blow to anti-abortion lobby – ABC Online

Challenge of remote abortion pill system – Chicago Tribune

Unborn baby cannot feel pain before abortion limit: report – Telegraph.co.uk

What abortion fight? – Globe and Mail

Speaker for Life – National Review Online

Republicans to push for expansion of Hyde Amendment – The Hill

Boehner to press bill to enforce Obama’s order on abortion funding  – The Hill

Abortion hotline in Pakistan faces violent opposition – Independent

Republican Leader Boehner Gets Pro-Life Award for Opposing Pro-Abortion Health … – LifeNews.com

Paul Vallely: Better an abortion than a mass grave? – Independent

Kagan on Life: As Radical as They Come – FOXNews

Lawmaker promises pro-life bill – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pill, Over the Counter? – New York Times

Boy preference lingers, alarming imbalance in central Vietnam – VietNamNet Bridge

Changes to Guidelines for Contraceptive Use Could Compromise a Woman’s Ability … – Health News – HealthCanal.com

CDC has contraception advice for some ill women – Southeast Missourian

State media gets down to rescuing dying mothers – Daily Times

June 27, 2010

Abortion in Wales a ‘postcode lottery’ – WalesOnline

Abortion debate rages on and on – Evansville Courier & Press

Anti-abortion activists predict legislative gains – Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Bishops conference clarifies abortion stance – Arizona Republic

Kagan: Past writings on abortion could be flashpoint issue – CNN

Abortion trial without precedent – The Australian

CRR Legal Analysis of Kagan’s Abortion Rights Record – Docuticker

Experts question challenge to Neb. abortion ban – Action 3 News

Republicans to launch new push for federal restrictions on abortion funding – The Hill

Experts question challenge to Neb. abortion ban – Beatrice Daily Sun

Obama high court pick to face Senate – AFP

Study Finds Questioning of Nominees to Be Useful – New York Times

Anti-abortion group backs Childers for MS-01 – Yall Politics

Blood test may be able to predict menopause – CNN

HIV: focus on children – Times LIVE

Blood test to predict fertility loss – ABC Online

Nation celebrates HIV Testing Day – News14.com

National HIV testing day was Sunday – KRCG

For Inmates, HIV Testing Should Make an Impact – New York Times

Canada Calls for Billions More In G8 Aid For Maternal Health – Voice of America

Maternal mortality rate declines in Iran: UN – Tehran Times

The high cost of caesareans – Boston Globe

June 28, 2010

Recession causes more Irish women to turn to abortion – Irish Central

More questions for nominee Elena Kagan – Washington Post

Palin’s Stanislaus visit shows political power – San Francisco Chronicle

All women have a voice –             MiamiHerald.com

Kagan must explain abortion stance – Politico

Factbox: Kagan will face questions on host of issues – Reuters

Scientists invent first male contraceptive pill – Telegraph.co.uk

Women’s health initiative fails to inspire – Ottawa Citizen

HIV incidence rise among Asian women – Times LIVE

Pastor Takes HIV Test In Front Of Congregation – WSB Atlanta

Blood Test Predicts Menopause Say Scientists – Medical News Today

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

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.