Repro-Briefs: Graphic Billboards, Defunding Services, and Other State News

Robin Marty

Graphic billboards go up in Texas, anti-choice legislators still trying to defund Planned Parenthood, ACOG opposes Amendment 62 in Colorado, and clinics challenge Louisiana law.

When it comes to creepy, offensive anti-choice billboards, Texas has decided to one up Georgia.  Midland Catholics for Life has taken Radiance’s “abortion is genocide” message even further, adding in some graphic images and even more overwrought rhetoric to its display.

Via CBS 7:

A graphic downtown billboard is turning heads and raising questions in Midland.

Some who have spoken out against the public display considers the billboard’s depiction of a dead baby inappropriate.

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Located at the corner of Texas Avenue and Ft. Worth St., right across the street from Planned Parenthood’s Midland Office, the billboard shows what appears to be a dead baby in a doctor’s hand on the left side.

On the right side it shows what looks like a woman in emotional distress. Above the left side it reads “one dead” and above the right side it reads “one injured.”

On the right side near the woman it reads, “One wounded.”

The two-sided billboard also has a message on the back.

That side says, “Abortion is genocide” and is accompanied by two photos.

The left side depicts what is presumably a healthy baby and the right side shows what looks like a baby that is not alive.

The purpose of the graphic photos, which only recently went live, is to “expose the atrocities that are occurring in Planned Parenthood every week,” according to the president of the group. The pictures used are originally from anti-choice group The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (note, links go to graphic photos), and allegedly depicts an aborted 13 week fetus (11 weeks post fertilization) and 26 week fetus (24 weeks post fertilization), even though 90 percent of all abortions performed are done prior to 12 weeks, and the majority of these before 10 weeks.

The Midland anti-choice group asserts that subjecting the public, even possibly children,  to bloody fetus photos, is the only way to make women understand the choice they are making.  Planned Parenthood clinic staff disagree.  From MyWestTexas.com:

Those who oppose abortion, [president of Midland Catholics for Life Pebbles] Kincheloe said, don’t like seeing images of bloody developing babies either. But, she added, as a group they agreed that’s what it was going to take to “open our eyes to Planned Parenthood being in our backyard.”

She said those who support a woman’s right to choose an abortion often call the fetus “a blob of tissue” and that their sign is meant to show women the developing baby is a human who they believe God intended to be born.

The backside of the billboard also displays a baby and says “Abortion is genocide,” which supporter Danny O’Grady said represents all the families they believe are being killed.

[Carla] Holeva and Planned Parenthood Choice say particularly for children in the area, they think the images are too graphic. They also question why the group acts as if it knows God’s will for area women.

Women who are clients at Planned Parenthood, Holeva said, are presented with all of the options and the organization assists thousands in carrying out their pregnancies to birth as well as connecting several with adoption agencies.

But, she said, they make it a point not to make the decision about what’s best for their clients and they wish others would provide them the same courtesy instead of posting signs and yelling things like “God will not forgive you” at those who come into the clinic.

Both groups do state however, that more needs to be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.  It comes as little surprise that the Midland Catholics for Life approach, however, is a “Just Say No To Sex” push, that they believe should not include any safer sex or contraception education. 

In fact, contraception, safer-sex education, and general reproductive health access are fairly low on the list of priorities for the anti-choice in Texas, who are still working to see if they can convince the Attorney General to strip funding from state Planned Parenthood organizations — even those that don’t provide abortion services. And more voices are starting to join into the fray, as News8Austin reports:

Planned Parenthood clinics provide family planning services, such as screening for breast and cervical cancer, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and prescribing birth control to women. Some Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas also perform abortions.

But the Austin area clinic’s spokesperson said clinics under the state’s Women’s Health Program strictly provide family planning services.

“If Planned Parenthood isn’t able to participate in the Women’s Health Program, it basically means that there are tens of thousands of women across the state that probably aren’t going to get that health care,” Sarah Wheat, with Planned Parenthood, said.

Anti-abortion advocates like Joe Pojman, with Texas Alliance for Life, say that’s not the case. Pojman backed up Sen. Deuell’s request to the attorney general to clear up any confusion about the 2005 law that states participating clinics can’t “perform or promote elective abortions” or be “affiliates of entities that perform or promote elective abortions.”

“Women and families will get excellent treatment by the other, more than 400 family planning providers across the state of Texas that do not run abortion facilities or are affiliated with abortion facilities,” Pojman said.

A recent Health and Human Services Commission study shows that the Women’s Health Program prevented more than 10,000 unplanned pregnancies in 2008 and saved the state about $40 million a year.

The Senator claims he’s simply trying to get the money to clinics that provide “comprehensive care,” something he asserts Planned Parenthood clinics do not do.  It is unclear what he thinks is more comprehensive than providing cancer screenings, birth control, gynecological exams and testing and treatments for STIs.

But of course Texas isn’t the only state in which anti-choice legislators are on a crusade to defund Planned Parenthood.  A State Senator in Indiana is claiming he will reintroduce a bill next legislative session that will require the state not enter into any contracts or grants with the group.  It would also cancel any current funding the group receives from the state.  State Senator Greg Walker (R-Columbus) also introduced the same bill this legislative session, but it was never brought up for a vote.

In Colorado, the battle over “personhood” continues, this time with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists weighing in.  In a publicly released statement, ACOG stated unequivocally that the language being used to define “person” is both scientifically inaccurate and would greatly jeopardize a doctor’s ability to provide health care to a patient.  From the press release:

1.      The phrase “the beginning of biologic development” is not a scientific or medical reference point in the process of human reproduction. Developmental Biology is a scientific field that studies the mechanisms of development, differentiation, and growth in animals and plants at the molecular, cellular, and genetic levels.  Developmental biology includes the study of embryology and the complex factors involved in human reproduction which leads to the birth of a human being.  “The beginning of biologic development” has no specific meaning in the context of human embryology and could even refer to the growth of specific human cell lines, for example, in the study of human transplant possibilities and the cure for diseases such as diabetes and spinal cord injuries.

2.      Human reproduction (briefly described as the development of egg and sperm, their union into a fertilized egg (or zygote), then division of the embryo and differentiation into a blastocyst, implantation into the uterine wall, and then growth into a fetus, and then viable newborn) is an intricate and inefficient process.  The overwhelming majority of potential egg-sperm unions do not result in human beings.

3.      Current medical and scientific practice/procedures that involve the term “person” as defined by Amendment 62:

·         Treatment of Miscarriage: Miscarriages are commonly treated with medical and surgical therapies as well as supportive means; the goal is the removal of the pregnancy tissue from the uterus, which cannot, by any therapy available, produce a live born infant.  There were an estimated 102,517 pregnancies in Colorado in 2006, resulting in 70,737 live births (CDPHE, Health Statistic Section) and an estimated 15,377 spontaneous miscarriages in this year alone.

·         Treatment of Ectopic Pregnancy: In the U.S., ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy related death in the first trimester.  Once detected, an ectopic pregnancy is treated with the removal and destruction of the pregnancy either by medical or surgical means, as it cannot result in a live born infant, and yet the growing pregnancy tissue is a threat to the health and life of the mother.

·         Infertility treatments: Infertility affects at least 10 percent of couples who desire pregnancy; for many of them, assisted reproductive technologies are necessary.  Currently 1 out of every 100 babies born in the United States are born through in vitro fertilization (CDC, 2009). This amendment would hold a patient and her physicians liable for embryos which fail to develop or do not result in a pregnancy due to completely natural biologic processes despite rendering the best possible medical care. This amendment can be seen as blocking the rights of infertile couples within the state of Colorado from having a family and will set back the standard of infertility care in this state to the level of medical care practiced in the United States before 1980. What could more antithetical to “family values” and the “right to life”?   

·         Treatment of Molar Pregnancy: Approximately 20 percent of patients will develop malignant sequelae requiring administration of chemotherapy after initial treatment.  All molar pregnancies need to be ended as they cannot produce a live newborn and substantially threaten the mother’s health and life.

·         Stem cells research: Stem cells are a unique population of unspecialized cells characterized by their ability to continuously renew themselves for long periods of time through cell division. Researchers are using stem cells to study conditions such a spinal cord injury, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. Human embryonic cells are commonly derived from unused fertilized eggs (donated with the consent of the infertile couple). 

·         Safe and legal abortion:  Although not mentioned in the Amendment itself, the intent of Amendment 62 (from www.personhoodcolorado.com) is to provide a legal framework to make all abortions illegal.  The American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists opposes unnecessary regulations that delay or limit women’s access to needed medical care and that subject physicians to criminal charges for practicing according to accepted medical standards. [v]

Finally, Louisiana is taking a page out of Oklahoma’s book when it comes to the new mandatory ultrasound law, with six clinics challenging the language of the new regulations.  From Courthouse News Service:

Six medical clinics have challenged Louisiana laws on abortion, including the “Ultrasound Statute,” which could force doctors to make women take home ultrasound pictures of their fetuses, even if the women resist, according to the federal complaint.
     The Hope Medical Group for Women and five other clinics say the two state laws are vague, “will deter qualified, reasonable health care providers from entering the field of abortion provision,” will “make it more difficult for women in Louisiana to obtain abortion services,” and are “not rationally related to any legitimate state interest.”
     The two statutes in question are the Exclusion Statute, which, the plaintiffs say, would exclude abortion services from medical malpractice coverage, and the Ultrasound Statute.
     “The plain language of the Exclusion Statute applies only to health care providers when they are performing certain illegal abortions,” the complaint states. “Plaintiffs believe, however, that defendants intend to apply the Exclusion Statute to health care providers performing lawful abortions. Such application would be unconstitutionally vague. It would also deny abortion providers equal protection of the law by excluding them from access to benefits that are available to all other health care providers.”
     A doctor’s failure to comply with either statute could subject them to criminal and civil liability and professional discipline.

A major disagreement that the clinics are having with the ultrasound law is the mandate that they must provide a copy of the ultrasound in a sealed envelope to every woman, with no clarification as to whether the woman must accept and leave with the image.  Each ultrasound picture reveals, among other things, private patient information such as name of patient and age of fetus.  One major concern the clinics have is that such information, once discarded, could be used to target the women who may have had abortions.

“At Hope Medical, for example, every print reveals the woman’s name, the fact that she is pregnant, the gestational age of the fetus, and that fact that the woman obtained her ultrasound at Hope Medical, a facility publicly known to provide abortions.”
     The plaintiffs say that if “a woman is required to take a copy of her ultrasound print, there is a risk that it will be discovered by the woman’s partner, relatives, co-workers, or other persons to whom the woman may not wish to disclose her pregnancy or her consideration of an abortion.”
     The clinics say this could be dangerous, because for “women in abusive relationships, disclosure of a pregnancy or an abortion to an abusive partner is likely to spark violence.”
     The plaintiffs add that the “ultrasound print may also be discovered by anti-abortion extremists. For example, an ultrasound print thrown into a garbage can near a clinic might be discovered by extremists surveilling the clinic, particularly since the print will be contained in an envelope clearly stating its contents.”

The lawsuit was filed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Friday, August 6th.

Commentary Sexuality

Black Trans Liberation Tuesday Must Become an Annual Observance

Raquel Willis

As long as trans people—many of them Black trans women—continue to be murdered, there will be a need to commemorate their lives, work to prevent more deaths, and uplift Black trans activism.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

This week marks one year since Black transgender activists in the United States organized Black Trans Liberation Tuesday. Held on Tuesday, August 25, the national day of action publicized Black trans experiences and memorialized 18 trans women, predominantly trans women of color, who had been murdered by this time last year.

In conjunction with the Black Lives Matter network, the effort built upon an earlier Trans Liberation Tuesday observance created by Bay Area organizations TGI Justice Project and Taja’s Coalition to recognize the fatal stabbing of 36-year-old trans Latina woman Taja DeJesus in February 2015.

Black Trans Liberation Tuesday should become an annual observance because transphobic violence and discrimination aren’t going to dissipate with one-off occurrences. I propose that Black Trans Liberation Tuesday fall on the fourth Tuesday of August to coincide with the first observance and also the August 24 birthday of the late Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson.

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There is a continuing need to pay specific attention to Black transgender issues, and the larger Black community must be pushed to stand in solidarity with us. Last year, Black trans activists, the Black Lives Matter network, and GetEQUAL collaborated on a blueprint of what collective support looks like, discussions that led to Black Trans Liberation Tuesday.

“Patrisse Cullors [a co-founder of Black Lives Matter] had been in talks on ways to support Black trans women who had been organizing around various murders,” said Black Lives Matter Organizing Coordinator Elle Hearns of Washington, D.C. “At that time, Black trans folks had been experiencing erasure from the movement and a lack of support from cis people that we’d been in solidarity with who hadn’t reciprocated that support.”

This erasure speaks to a long history of Black LGBTQ activism going underrecognized in both the civil rights and early LGBTQ liberation movements. Many civil rights leaders bought into the idea that influential Black gay activist Bayard Rustin was unfit to be a leader simply because he had relationships with men, though he organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Johnson, who is often credited with kicking off the 1969 Stonewall riots with other trans and gender-nonconforming people of color, fought tirelessly for LGBTQ rights. She and other trans activists of color lived in poverty and danger (Johnson was found dead under suspicious circumstances in July 1992), while the white mainstream gay elite were able to demand acceptance from society. Just last year, Stonewall, a movie chronicling the riots, was released with a whitewashed retelling that centered a white, cisgender gay male protagonist.

The Black Lives Matter network has made an intentional effort to avoid the pitfalls of those earlier movements.

“Our movement has been intersectional in ways that help all people gain liberation whether they see it or not. It became a major element of the network vision and how it was seeing itself in the Black liberation movement,” Hearns said. “There was no way to discuss police brutality without discussing structural violence affecting Black lives, in general”—and that includes Black trans lives.

Despite a greater mainstream visibility for LGBTQ issues in general, Black LGBTQ issues have not taken the forefront in Black freedom struggles. When a Black cisgender heterosexual man is killed, his name trends on social media feeds and is in the headlines, but Black trans women don’t see the same importance placed on their lives.

According to a 2015 report by the Anti-Violence Project, a group dedicated to ending anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected community violence, trans women of color account for 54 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicides. Despite increased awareness, with at least 20 transgender people murdered since the beginning of this year, it seems things haven’t really changed at all since Black Trans Liberation Tuesday.

“There are many issues at hand when talking about Black trans issues, particularly in the South. There’s a lack of infrastructure and support in the nonprofit sector, but also within health care and other systems. Staffs at LGBTQ organizations are underfunded when it comes to explicitly reaching the trans community,” said Micky Bradford, the Atlanta-based regional organizer for TLC@SONG. “The space between towns can harbor isolation from each other, making it more difficult to build up community organizing, coalitions, and culture.”

The marginalization that Black trans people face comes from both the broader society and the Black community. Fighting white supremacy is a full-time job, and some activists within the Black Lives Matter movement see homophobia and transphobia as muddying the fight for Black liberation.

“I think we have a very special relationship with gender and gender violence to all Black people,” said Aaryn Lang, a New York City-based Black trans activist. “There’s a special type of trauma that Black people inflict on Black trans people because of how strict the box of gender and space of gender expression has been to move in for Black people. In the future of the movement, I see more people trusting that trans folks have a vision that’s as diverse as blackness is.”

But even within that diversity, Black trans people are often overlooked in movement spaces due to anti-Blackness in mainstream LGBTQ circles and transphobia in Black circles. Further, many Black trans people aren’t in the position to put energy into movement work because they are simply trying to survive and find basic resources. This can create a disconnect between various sections of the Black trans community.

Janetta Johnson, executive director of TGI Justice Project in San Francisco, thinks the solution is twofold: increased Black trans involvement and leadership in activism spaces, and more facilitated conversations between Black cis and trans people.

“I think a certain part of the transgender community kind of blocks all of this stuff out. We are saying we need you to come through this process and see how we can create strength in numbers. We need to bring in other trans people not involved in the movement,” she said. “We need to create a space where we can share views and strategies and experiences.”

Those conversations must be an ongoing process until the killings of Black trans women like Rae’Lynn Thomas, Dee Whigham, and Skye Mockabee stop.

“As we commemorate this year, we remember who and why we organized Black Trans Liberation Tuesday last year. It’s important we realize that Black trans lives are still being affected in ways that everyday people don’t realize,” Hearns said. “We must understand why movements exist and why people take extreme action to continuously interrupt the system that will gladly forget them.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” Breitbart.com changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”

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