Roundup: Kagan Passes Committee, Conservatives Get a Little Crazy

Robin Marty

Elena Kagan is one step closer to being a Supreme Court Justice, and the anti-choice movement is starting to foam at the mouth.

Elena Kagan is one step closer to being the next Supreme Court Justice now that the Senate Judiciary Committee has voted in favor of allowing her nomination to go to the full senate.  The Judiciary committee voted 13-6 in Kagan’s favor, with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R – S.C.) being the sole Republican vote for her.

The anti-choice contingent, unsurprisingly, is livid.  From World Net Daily:

A U.S. Senate committee today gave Elena Kagan, President Obama’s  pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Supreme Court nominee, the go-ahead to advance on her agenda.

The vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee featured all of the pro-abortion Democrats standing with Kagan and all Republicans opposing her except South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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The nomination now will go to the full Senate, where it still is uncertain whether pro-life GOP members will mount an effort to keep her from a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, where her influence could be felt for the next few decades.

The opposition to Kagan in the 13-6 vote was led by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who said Kagan’s answers to the committee included “political spin.”

“Throughout her career, Ms. Kagan has placed her politics above the law. She has never been a judge, never tried a case before a jury and has practiced law for only three years,” he warned.

Lifenews is even more zealous in their depiction of Kagan as the gateway between life and death.

Pro-life groups have described Elena Kagan as the stereotypical judicial activist and abortion advocate.

She clerked for pro-abortion Justice Thurgood Marshall, whom she lauded, and her writings dating back to her college days are filled with accolades for judges who took the law into their hands and twisted it for a desired outcome rather than relying on the people through their elected officials.

Kagan helped Bill Clinton defend his veto of a partial-birth abortion ban — the gruesome abortion procedure when a baby is birthed halfway and then jabbed in the head with medical scissors, killing him or her. She helped Clinton find political cover for his decision to keep those abortions legal.

Kagan went as far as advocating that the Clinton administration not only ignore but manipulate the opinion of a national medical group that said there was never any medical justification for killing unborn children halfway out of the birth canal.

Kagan has also lauded human cloning and assisted suicide and we can expect those gruesome practices to expand if she becomes the next Supreme Court justice.

How well is the anti-choice campaign working?  Well, they are certainly getting letter writers up at arms, as this letter to the editor of Seacoast Online suggests:

To the Editor:

Elena Kagen should be in jail instead of being a nominee for the highest court in the land.

Regardless of your position on abortion or gay/lesbian marriage, regardless of whether you are liberal or moderate or conservative, this lying, conniving woman has proven that she cannot be trusted to be a Supreme Court justice. Above all else, we want HONEST judges. Please contact your senators and tell them to vote AGAINST Kagen’s confirmation.

Bruce Young


Mini Roundup: Remember that episode of The Family Guy about abortion that was so controversial they couldn’t even air it?  Me, neither.  But apparently it’s out on DVD.  And it’s still pretty controversial.  Or at least, the media campaign is saying it is.

July 20, 2010

UVic anti-abortion group gets funding back –

Judge Extends Order Blocking Okla. Abortion Law – Christian Broadcasting Network

Advocates React To Abortion-Coverage Restrictions In High-Risk Pools – Medical News Today

Abortion trial ‘strange, bizarre’ – The Australian

NY Times on Banned Abortion-Themed “Family Guy” Episode – Toon Zone

Senate Judiciary Committee OKs Pro-Abortion Elena Kagan for Supreme Court –

Ads push Bernero’s abortion stance, Hoekstra’s leadership – The Detroit News

Your morning jolt: Anti-abortion group makes a late robo-call attack on Karen … – Atlanta Journal Constitution

Friday Night Lights and abortion – Dallas Morning News

Abortion, Third-Party Payer, and the Cost of Health Care – Cato @ Liberty

Pro-life choice – Emporia Gazette

Yes, life is a highway–so support ‘Choose Life’ license plates! – RenewAmerica

The ‘New Abortion Providers’ – National Review Online

Massachusetts Pro-Life Group Endorses Governor Candidate Tim Cahill –

Graham only GOP member to support pro-abortion, pro-homosexual nominee –

Abortion law will remain on hold – Tulsa World

‘Family Guy’ abortion episode: Too controversial for TV, but safe for DVD! – Entertainment Weekly

Democrats for Life Attacks Pro-Life Groups on Abortion Funding in Health Care –

NGOs issue pessimistic report on women’s rights in Turkey – Hurriyet Daily News

PM’s agenda on maternal and child health is ambitious – Vancouver Sun

Date set for couple to face alleged illegal abortion trial – ABC Online

American TV: Still not ready for an abortion – Salon

Happy birthday to birth-control pill – Houma Courier

Contraceptive pill has improved women’s lives – Daily Monitor

Catholic leaders urged to promote natural family planning – Detroit Free Press

Punitive laws and human rights violations limit access to HIV prevention and … – UNAIDS

Drug abuse worsening HIV situation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – UN report – Sofia Echo

Canada lagging globally on HIV response: Critics – Vancouver Sun

AU delegates say dying mothers and children shame African leaders – The Independent

IVF treatment for prisoners – ABC Online

Is Forever 21 glamorizing teen pregnancy? – Salon

July 21, 2010

Obama toadies vs. abortion freeloaders –

Group plans week of abortion protests – Charlotte Observer

Country deserves and needs honest Supreme Court justices –

GOP or Democrat, most in state still pro-choice – San Francisco Chronicle

California voters back abortion rights – San Diego Union Tribune

More trouble for abortion doctor, this time in Pennsylvania – Philadelphia Inquirer

Field Poll: Voters’ views on abortion – Fresno Bee

Culture impeding family planning progress – The Swazi Observer

Catholic Church Renews Push For Natural Family Planning – Medical News Today

AIDS 2010 delegates and speakers unite in support of full funding for the … – Biology News Net

Thousands march in Vienna for rights of AIDS patients – AFP

Young People Connect at AIDS Conference, Struggle to Be Heard –

Almost all mother-to-infant HIV spread could be prevented – USA Today

HIV gel breakthrough lifts mood at AIDS conference – Vancouver Sun

‘No complacency’ over stillbirths – BBC News

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.”

Commentary Politics

No, Republicans, Porn Is Still Not a Public Health Crisis

Martha Kempner

The news of the last few weeks has been full of public health crises—gun violence, Zika virus, and the rise of syphilis, to name a few—and yet, on Monday, Republicans focused on the perceived dangers of pornography.

The news of the last few weeks has been full of public health crises—gun violence, the Zika virus, and the rise of syphilis, to name a few—and yet, on Monday, Republicans focused on the perceived dangers of pornography. Without much debate, a subcommittee of Republican delegates agreed to add to a draft of the party’s 2016 platform an amendment declaring pornography is endangering our children and destroying lives. As Rewire argued when Utah passed a resolution with similar language, pornography is neither dangerous nor a public health crisis.

According to CNN, the amendment to the platform reads:

The internet must not become a safe haven for predators. Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life [sic] of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography which [is] closely linked to human trafficking.

Mary Frances Forrester, a delegate from North Carolina, told Yahoo News in an interview that she had worked with conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America (CWA) on the amendment’s language. On its website, CWA explains that its mission is “to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens—first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society—thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation.”

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The amendment does not elaborate on the ways in which this internet monster is supposedly harmful to children. Forrester, however, told Yahoo News that she worries that pornography is addictive: “It’s such an insidious epidemic and there are no rules for our children. It seems … [young people] do not have the discernment and so they become addicted before they have the maturity to understand the consequences.”

“Biological” porn addiction was one of the 18 “points of fact” that were included in a Utah Senate resolution that was ultimately signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in April. As Rewire explained when the resolution first passed out of committee in February, none of these “facts” are supported by scientific research.

The myth of porn addiction typically suggests that young people who view pornography and enjoy it will be hard-wired to need more and more pornography, in much the same way that a drug addict needs their next fix. The myth goes on to allege that porn addicts will not just need more porn but will need more explicit or violent porn in order to get off. This will prevent them from having healthy sexual relationships in real life, and might even lead them to become sexually violent as well.

This is a scary story, for sure, but it is not supported by research. Yes, porn does activate the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by, for example, cocaine or heroin. But as Nicole Prause, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Rewire back in February, so does looking at pictures of “chocolate, cheese, or puppies playing.” Prause went on to explain: “Sex film viewing does not lead to loss of control, erectile dysfunction, enhanced cue (sex image) reactivity, or withdrawal.” Without these symptoms, she said, we can assume “sex films are not addicting.”

Though the GOP’s draft platform amendment is far less explicit about why porn is harmful than Utah’s resolution, the Republicans on the subcommittee clearly want to evoke fears of child pornography, sexual predators, and trafficking. It is as though they want us to believe that pornography on the internet is the exclusive domain of those wishing to molest or exploit our children.

Child pornography is certainly an issue, as are sexual predators and human trafficking. But conflating all those problems and treating all porn as if it worsens them across the board does nothing to solve them, and diverts attention from actual potential solutions.

David Ley, a clinical psychologist, told Rewire in a recent email that the majority of porn on the internet depicts adults. Equating all internet porn with child pornography and molestation is dangerous, Ley wrote, not just because it vilifies a perfectly healthy sexual behavior but because it takes focus away from the real dangers to children: “The modern dialogue about child porn is just a version of the stranger danger stories of men in trenchcoats in alleys—it tells kids to fear the unknown, the stranger, when in fact, 90 percent of sexual abuse of children occurs at hands of people known to the victim—relatives, wrestling coaches, teachers, pastors, and priests.” He added: “By blaming porn, they put the problem external, when in fact, it is something internal which we need to address.”

The Republican platform amendment, by using words like “public health crisis,” “public menace” “predators” and “destroying the life,” seems designed to make us afraid, but it does nothing to actually make us safer.

If Republicans were truly interested in making us safer and healthier, they could focus on real public health crises like the rise of STIs; the imminent threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea; the looming risk of the Zika virus; and, of course, the ever-present hazards of gun violence. But the GOP does not seem interested in solving real problems—it spearheaded the prohibition against research into gun violence that continues today, it has cut funding for the public health infrastructure to prevent and treat STIs, and it is working to cut Title X contraception funding despite the emergence of Zika, which can be sexually transmitted and causes birth defects that can only be prevented by preventing pregnancy.

This amendment is not about public health; it is about imposing conservative values on our sexual behavior, relationships, and gender expression. This is evident in other elements of the draft platform, which uphold that marriage is between a man and a women; ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its ruling affirming the right to same-sex marriage; declare dangerous the Obama administration’s rule that schools allow transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room of their gender identity; and support conversion therapy, a highly criticized practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation and has been deemed ineffective and harmful by the American Psychological Association.

Americans like porn. Happy, well-adjusted adults like porn. Republicans like porn. In 2015, there were 21.2 billion visits to the popular website PornHub. The site’s analytics suggest that visitors around the world spent a total of 4,392,486,580 hours watching the site’s adult entertainment. Remember, this is only one way that web users access internet porn—so it doesn’t capture all of the visits or hours spent on what may have trumped baseball as America’s favorite pastime.

As Rewire covered in February, porn is not a perfect art form for many reasons; it is not, however, an epidemic. And Concerned Women for America, Mary Frances Forrester, and the Republican subcommittee may not like how often Americans turn on their laptops and stick their hands down their pants, but that doesn’t make it a public health crisis.

Party platforms are often eclipsed by the rest of what happens at the convention, which will take place next week. Given the spectacle that a convention headlined by presumptive nominee (and seasoned reality television star) Donald Trump is bound to be, this amendment may not be discussed after next week. But that doesn’t mean that it is unimportant or will not have an effect on Republican lawmakers. Attempts to codify strict sexual mores are a dangerous part of our history—Anthony Comstock’s crusade against pornography ultimately extended to laws that made contraception illegal—that we cannot afford to repeat.