Roundup: Choice Issues Play Key Role in Key Races

Robin Marty

Crist complains Meeks is misrepresenting him on choice, Rossi needs to appeal to anti-choice voters, and one Delaware House candidate rails against abortion after rape or incest.

Election Day is only eight weeks away, and abortion politics are becoming a bigger factor in races, from primaries to general elections. 

The three-way senate race in Florida is heating up, and it’s becoming more apparent that Governor Charlie Crist’s plan is to vie for non-conservative voters.  Now he’s attacking Democratic nominee Kendall Meeks for saying he’s not for abortion rights.  Via the Palm Beach Post:

Meek released an ad Tuesday in which he claims, among other things, that he’s “the only one against privatizing Social Security” and “the only one who’s pro-choice.”

“I think it’s off the mark,” Crist said of the ad.

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As for Meek’s abortion claim, Crist said, “I’m pro-life, that’s my personal position. But as you know I vetoed a bill this year that would have required an ultrasound that I think was too invasive and didn’t respect women in the way that they should be. So that kind of leaves choice to women.”

When he was a Republican seeking the GOP Senate nomination, Crist played up his “pro-life” stance, but qualified it by saying he would “rather change hearts” than change laws.

As a GOP candidate for governor in 2006, Crist told The Palm Beach Post: “I’m pro-life. And I believe in a culture that supports life. But I also obviously am very respectful of those who have a different point of view. And I’ve said publicly that I think it’s more important to change hearts than change the law and wouldn’t attempt to do so.”

The Meek campaign defended its characterization of Crist’s abortion stance by citing the NARAL Pro-Choice America website, which describes Crist as “anti-choice.”

In Washington state’s senate race between Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Dino Rossi, choice may be the key to bringing the enthusiasm of Tea Party voters to Rossi’s side.  While Murray can count EMILY’s List as a campaign endorser, Rossi has no big backers and may need to take more conservative stands to get some.

Via Associated Content:

According to Open Secrets, 85 percent of Rossi’s donations are from individuals, with only 5 percent from political action committees. Clint Didier, who lost to Rossi in the primary, could bring the Tea Party to Rossi’s side, but he has first demanded that he commit against abortion, tax increases and federal spending.

Chances of unseating Patty Murray: Rossi has come very close to winning elections in the last several years, but he has fallen short. To get over the hump, he has to unite Republicans and tap into anti-incumbent sentiment.

For Delaware’s open house seat, abortion could also be the deciding factor, in this case between two candidates vying for the Republican endorsement.  One candidate even believes that abortion should be banned in cases of rape and incest.


[Glen] Urquhart, appointed by former President Ronald Reagan to chair the federal planning commission that oversees projects in and around the nation’s capital, describes Reagan as his “mentor” and often brings up his name while trying to portray himself as more conservative than Rollins.

“I’m not a born-again conservative,” he said in a recent debate highlighted by a discussion about abortion.

During the debate, Urquhart chided [Michele] Rollins for not signing a pro-life pledge.

“Abortion is murder,” said Urquhart, suggesting that the procedure should be prohibited even if the woman is a victim of rape or incest.

Urquhart stood by his position in an interview Wednesday.

“We have two innocent parties in a rape, the child and the mother,” he explained. “And to say that the child is the mother’s property is a return to the days of slavery… I believe that taking the life of an unborn child is murder.”

Rollins, says she is personally against abortion and opposes federal funding, late-term abortions and abortions for minors without parental consent, but that the choice should be left to a woman.

“I believe that the social issues are important and they are personal, but they should not be part of the political campaign,” she said Wednesday.

Mini Roundup: Johnson & Johnson is pledging a five year commitment to maternal and child health globally, and the altruistic public relations campaign is already paying dividends in the media.

September 8, 2010

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.”

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.