Expect More “Action” From Live Action Come 2011

Robin Marty

The anti-choice "undercover" Live Action group is announcing it has big plans for 2011.

Despite the criticism of misleading editing and deceptive tactics, Live Action, a “James O’Keefe” style gotcha group focused on attempting to find reproductive health clinics that they claim aren’t following state laws, has announced they will be coming back strong in 2011.

Via Lifenews.com:

Now, Live Action is preparing to launch several major investigations of the abortion industry next year and launching a new fundraising campaign designed to cover the expenses associated with it.

“Our previous investigations have revealed shocking video evidence against commercialized abortion and prompted legislators and law enforcement to hold Planned Parenthood accountable,” says president Lila Rose.

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She told LifeNews.com: “With recent unprecedented pro-life gains in state and local government, now is a critical time for the pro-life movement to keep the pressure on the abortion industry.”

Live Action’s favorite tactic, sending in a young-looking woman to pretend she is under age and then accuse clinics of not reporting statutory rape cases, has been used to attack multiple clinics across the country in an effort to defund women’s reproductive health projects.  With a new plan underway for 2011, one can only expect more of the same.

It’s not enough to have women’s reproductive health under attack by congress, local state legislatures, protesters, picketers and sidewalk counselors.  Now we get to add even more vigilante “investigators” into the mix.

News Law and Policy

Tennessee Woman Takes Plea Deal Under State’s Fetal Assault Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Advocates say the law effectively criminalizes an entire population: pregnant people.

A Tennessee woman who was one of the first to be charged under the state’s controversial fetal assault law accepted a plea deal that will keep her out of jail but on probation for almost a year.

Brittany Nicole Hudson pleaded guilty to child abuse, or simple assault, stemming from an incident in October 2014 where Hudson allegedly gave birth to a baby girl in a car on the side of a Blount County, Tennessee road. The Blount County Sheriff’s Office then opened an investigation and determined that Hudson had used illicit drugs during her pregnancy.

Tennessee lawmakers in April 2014 passed the first-of-its-kind fetal assault bill, which enables prosecutors to charge pregnant patients with assault for actions patients took while pregnant that cause “harm” to their fetus.

SB 1391 allows a person to be prosecuted for the illegal use of a narcotic while pregnant, if the baby is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug, and the addiction or harm is a result of illegal use of a narcotic drug taken while pregnant.

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This bill allows women to be charged with aggravated assault, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, if they have a pregnancy complication after illicit drug use.

Hudson was one of the first women to be charged under the fetal assault law, passed by Tennessee’s GOP-majority state legislature.

“It is very easy to mistake a plea deal that keeps someone from spending time behind bars with a victory,” Farah Diaz-Tello, senior staff attorney at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told Rewire in an email. “Ms. Hudson and her attorney made the choice that was best for her under the circumstances, but we need to read between the lines [and] look more closely at the circumstances—including the fact that she gave birth in a car on the side of the road—and … what probation really means.”

Hudson’s baby reportedly showed signs of being affected by drugs at birth, which prompted authorities to place the baby in the University of Tennessee Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit, where the child was weaned off opiates.

Tennessee passed its fetal assault law in response to what public health officials decried as a rash of births of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome [NAS], a temporary, treatable condition that can occur if a person takes opiates during pregnancy. As Diaz-Tello explained, the law effectively criminalizes an entire population: pregnant people.

“First of all, she [Hudson] pleaded guilty to something that is not a crime: Tennessee’s notoriously failed law makes giving birth to a baby with NAS simple assault, not child abuse,” said Diaz-Tello. “This tells me that she saw the odds so stacked against her that pleading guilty to a non-existent crime of ‘fetal child abuse’ and putting her name on a record of child abusers that will affect her employability and child custody for possibly decades seemed like the better choice than fighting the charge.”

Hudson received two sentences of 11 months and 29 days of supervised probation under the plea deal, according to reports. But Diaz-Tello said that even probation is a poor outcome for people who are facing a fetal assault charge.

“Then there is the fact that probation means 11 months and 29 days of living under the microscope of correctional control. Probation is not designed for people to be successful and whole, it is designed for them to be quasi-prisoners,” Diaz-Tello said. “I’m happy for every woman who manages to keep out of jail, but it’s cold comfort: health-care issues should never be under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system in the first place.”

A woman who helped Hudson deliver her baby, Bailey McCay Propst, was reportedly also charged with child abuse and providing false information to police after the birth of the child. Officials eventually dropped the child abuse charge against Propst and she later pleaded guilty and was placed on probation for the charge of providing false information to a police officer.

The Tennessee law is set to expire July 1, 2016 unless lawmakers renew the measure.

News Politics

University Caves to Anti-Choice Pressure, Suspends Fetal Tissue Acquisition From Some Vendors

Jason Salzman

Despite the absence of evidence that Planned Parenthood broke any laws, the university has suspended fetal-tissue acquisitions from entities “implicated in the Planned Parenthood investigation.” But research will continue using tissue from other sources.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

Despite the absence of evidence that Planned Parenthood violated any laws, Colorado State University (CSU) officials have suspended the school from acquiring fetal tissue from entities linked to Planned Parenthood until “Congressional investigations are concluded.”

CSU President Tony Frank made the decision in the wake of pressure from anti-choice Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), who demanded in a July 17 letter that the university stop the “purchases of aborted babies’ body parts” for use in research.

Lamborn cited 2013 documents apparently released by the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress, and promoted by LifeNews.com, an anti-choice website, showing that CSU acquired fetal tissue from a California company called StemExpress.

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The university, located in the town of Ft. Collins, about an hour from Denver, initially defended its use of fetal tissue in research and gave no indication that it would take action in response to Lamborn.

In a strongly-worded response email, the university stated that its fetal-tissue research complies with all regulations, and “CSU has used cells from fetal tissue samples as part of research to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.”

Fetal-tissue donations, the university email stated, “by their nature, inevitably come in the face of a difficult or tragic situation, and we believe they are made in the hope that they will do some good.”

CSU President Tony Frank backtracked somewhat in a July 23 letter to Lamborn, stating that he’d accepted the recommendations of the university’s Bioethics Advisory Committee to suspend the “acquisition of fetal tissue from StemExpress or other vendors implicated in the Planned Parenthood investigation pending the outcome of the Congressional investigation,” and “all efforts should be made to seek alternatives to aborted fetal tissue.”

A CSU spokesman, who provided background material on the fetal-tissue decision, declined to say whether the university had put any time limit on the “Congressional investigation” and how the university would evaluate the “outcome” of such investigations.

The university spokesman declined to say if CSU was alleging any legal wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, in light of the fact that no such wrongdoing has been demonstrated.

“Indiana and Massachusetts have completely cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, and the makers of these videos are under a restraining order in California,” said Karen Middleton, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “It’s unfortunate that CSU chose not to wait until the facts were in and the agenda behind it. I would hope as more details emerge about the misleading nature of the recent videos, that CSU will reinstate the program for the sake of public health and medical research.”

Lamborn, who introduced a bill last week to halt all use of fetal tissue resulting from an “induced abortion” in medical research, issued a statement saying CSU’s actions were insufficient.

“These steps are definitely headed in the right direction. However, they simply aren’t far enough,” Lamborn wrote in a statement. “I call on President Frank to commit to no longer using aborted babies’ body parts in research. There are profound ethical, moral, and legal questions with this practice that deeply trouble many Coloradans.”

In its report to Frank, CSU’s Bioethics Advisory Committee wrote of the CSU’s fetal-tissue research: “The research has produced significant results regarding HIV infection, pathogenesis, and treatments, and has resulted in many research publications over the lifetime of the projects. In the course of the research, many students have been trained and supported as part of the land grant mission of CSU. All of the research performed was executed under the appropriate human and animal use committee requirements and reviewed by relevant CSU committees to assure compliance with federal regulations.”