Roundup: Bachmann, Pitts, and a Michigan Clinic Fight

Robin Marty

Rep. Bachmann is calling for defunding Planned Parenthood, Rep. Pitts is going to be in charge of a major health committee, and anti-choicers fight a clinic move in Michigan.

New congressmen and women haven’t even been sworn in, but the push to enact the favorite parts of the anti-choice agenda in Congress is already going strong.  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is pushing for defunding of Planned Parenthood, a top target on the anti-abortion wish list.

Via LifeNews:

Rep. Michele Bachmann has become a prominent national conservative figure as an articulate female spokeswoman for issues like abortion and her latest call demonstrates why.

Bachmann says she will press for the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass a bill sponsored by fellow conservative luminary Mike Pence, an Indiana congressman, to de-fund Planned Parenthood when it convenes in January.

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“Well, I think one thing that we can do, quite simply, is to withhold funding from Planned Parenthood,” Bachmann said when asked by CNS News about what Congress can do to protect unborn children.

“It wouldn’t mean that Planned Parenthood would go out of existence, because they do have their own independent funding, but what it would mean is that the taxpayer would no longer be funding that,” she said.

“I think it is incumbent upon us as the members of Congress to let people know–not for the purpose of scaring them–but to let people know the stark fiscal realities that we’re facing right now as a nation,” she said. “And can’t we at minimum start with defunding things like Planned Parenthood and paying for other’s people abortions that are highly controversial and are violating our principles of the Declaration of Independence, our inalienable right to life. That we can at least agree on, that we should defund that.”

Left out of the LifeNews article?  A few key exagerations or outright falsehoods that she also included in her CNS interview.  The Minnesota Independent reports:

CNSNews’ Terrence Jeffrey asked Bachmann, “What should Republicans do to advance protect the lives of those unborn babies who are being slaughtered in this country?”

“Well, I think one thing that we can do, quite simply, is to withhold funding from Planned Parenthood,” Bachmann said. “It’s the largest provider of abortion in the United States. They are a billion-dollar industry. As a matter of fact, the head of Planned Parenthood in Illinois said that Planned Parenthood wants to be the Lens Crafters of big abortion.”

But that’s not the quote that the head of the Illinois Planned Parenthood gave back in 2008 in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. The article focused on Planned Parenthood’s move toward smaller clinic in suburban areas that don’t actually perform abortions.

“It is high time we follow the population,” said Sarah Stoesz, who heads Planned Parenthood operations in three Midwest states.

She recently opened three express centers in wealthy Minnesota suburbs, “in shopping centers and malls, places where women are already doing their grocery shopping, picking up their Starbucks, living their daily lives,” Ms. Stoesz said.

The mall sites promise walk-in convenience and “clothes-on” care, with services limited to birth-control counseling and tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Most patients are in and out in less than half an hour.

“I like to think of it as the LensCrafters of family planning,” Steve Trombley, the top executive in Illinois, said as he toured an express center a few doors down from a hair salon and a Japanese restaurant in the well-to-do suburb of Schaumburg, Ill.

One detail that could definitely assist anti-choice congressmembers in their goal?  The placement of Rep. Joe Pitts, of Stupak-Pitts fame, as head of the Energy and Commerce panel’s subcommittee on health issues

When it comes to abortion and taxpayer funding of it, Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania is the one of the big pro-life champions on Capital Hill.

Now he will have the opportunity to head a key subcommittee that will have jurisdiction over efforts to repeal the ObamaCare law or, at minimum, de-fund the law or the abortion funding it allows.

While pro-life advocates were disappointed by the news that Rep. Fred Upton, who has a weak pro-life voting record, will head the full House and Energy Committee that will tackle ObamaCare and other abortion issues, they were delighted by the news on Pitts.

“We need to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better. We need to protect human life from the unborn to the elderly,” Pitts said this afternoon.

Of course, defunding Planned Parenthood isn’t just a national political pastime, it’s a local pursuit, too.  In Michigan, an attempt to shut down one franchise through lease denial has pitted those who believe in reproductive care and access against those who would rather see women denied care than have Planned Parenthood’s assistance.

From the Sturgis Journal:

On Monday, Sturgis Hospital officials said they will offer Planned Parenthood a six-month lease for space the organization had been subleasing through the health agency.

Sturgis Hospital CEO Rob LaBarge said the hospital’s board of directors was concerned that without Title X services, some women would not seek medical help.

“The system can be kind of intimidating,” LaBarge said. “A lot of people who use this service don’t access health care in traditional ways.”
But those who oppose Planned Parenthood’s presence in the county voiced displeasure with the decision.

Chuck Vizthum, pastor of Whole Life Christian Fellowship, one of the Sturgis churches that has remained in opposition to Planned Parenthood’s presence, questioned the hospital’s decision.

“We are extremely disappointed and concerned about the decision of the Sturgis Hospital,” Vizthum said.

LaBarge emphasized that the hospital has a policy that prohibits abortions from being performed at any of its facilties, and that policy will not change.

But Vizthum said he is concerned that the hospital, “a life-giving and life-saving organization,” would allow the presence of an agency  “which does not value all human life.”

Steve Todd, health officer for the Community Health Agency, said the hospital’s decision was based on a need for access to health care.

“They know there are many people who do not have access to health care,” Todd said. “Having a Title X family planning clinic will provide better services to the community.”

Mark Pawlowski, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, said officials are “very pleased” to be able to continue family-planning services in Sturgis.

“It will make the continuation of our services in Sturgis much more seamless,” Pawlowski said. “I am very appreciative of the board and (LaBarge) looking at this situation to serve a whole group of women who would not have been served without Title X services.”

Vizthum disagreed about access.

It appears that if they somehow can’t find a way to make it happen federally, these types of local efforts to cut off access will grow.  And women will suffer for it.

Mini Roundup: Fat moms are bad for babies.  Fat dads are bad for babies.  I’m sensing a theme here…

December 8, 2010

December 7, 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.