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.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

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.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?

News Politics

David Daleiden Brags About Discredited Smear Campaign at GOP Convention

Amy Littlefield

Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent poll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the Center for Medical Progress' anti-choice smear videos.

David Daleiden, a year after he began releasing secretly recorded and deceptively edited videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood officials were illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation, appeared to boast about the videos’ purported impact at a luncheon during the Republican National Convention (RNC).

“I think it’s very clear that one year later, Planned Parenthood is on the brink, they’re on the precipice,” Daleiden said at the event, co-hosted by the Family Research Council Action and the Susan B. Anthony List. “Their client numbers are down by at least 10 percent, their abortion numbers are down, their revenues are down and their clinics are closing.”

The luncheon took place at the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, near the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Republican National Convention is underway. Also in attendance at Wednesday’s luncheon were a slate of Republican anti-choice politicians, including Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx.

Daleiden—who is under felony indictment in Texas and the subject of lawsuits in California for his actions in filming the undercover videos—touted efforts to defund Planned Parenthood by state Republican legislators and governors, who used the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) smear videos as a basis for investigations. Those defunding attempts have been blocked by federal court order in several cases.

He celebrated Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it would close two and consolidate four health centers in Indiana, an effort Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said would “allow patients to receive affordable, quality health care with extended hours at the newly consolidated locations.” Daleiden made no mention of last month’s Supreme Court decision overturning abortion restrictions in Texas, which dealt the anti-choice movement its worst legal defeat in decades.

“One year ago now, from the release of those videos, I think it’s actually safe to say that Planned Parenthood has never been more on the defensive in their entire 100 years of history, and the pro-life movement has never been stronger,” Daleiden said.

While his tone was victorious, Daleiden appeared to avoid directly claiming credit for the supposed harm done to Planned Parenthood. In a federal racketeering lawsuit brought against Daleiden and his co-defendants, Planned Parenthood has argued that Daleiden should compensate the organization for the harm that his smear campaign caused.

Republican congressional lawmakers have held at least five hearings and as many defunding votes against Planned Parenthood in the year since the videos’ release. Not a single state or federal investigation has produced evidence of wrongdoing.

Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the CMP smear videos.