The Initial Assaults on Abortion Rights in 2011

JAC

The first urgent business for the incoming 112th Congress was supposed to be a call to repeal the health care bill. Proclaiming a mandate, newly elected Congressional members and incumbents were on message about ObamaCare and what the American people want. They decried the mandatory purchase of health insurance and the penalty for refusing to do so. While they focused on the "will of the people,"  they were very busy planning the will of the conservatives to enact new, highly restrictive abortion laws.

The first urgent business for the incoming 112th Congress was supposed to be a call to repeal the health care bill. Proclaiming a mandate, newly elected Congressional members and incumbents were on message about ObamaCare and what the American people want. They decried the mandatory purchase of health insurance and the penalty for refusing to do so. While they focused on the “will of the people,” as they read it from the results of the midterm elections, they were very busy planning the will of the conservatives to enact new, highly restrictive abortion laws.


To start off the new session and the first of many assaults on abortion, Representative Mike Pense (R-Ind) has written a bill with the catchy title, “Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (HR 217).”  He was able to garner over 122 co-sponsors to this bill, which literally would make organizations that offer abortion services with their own funds ineligible for federal Title X grants. These grants fund family planning and other preventive health services.  Pense cites Planned Parenthood as one of his major targets, but claims that funding for organizations that do family planning but do not offer abortions could keep their funds. Hmm, which ones?  Are they faith based?  Are they violating separation of church and state? There is already a law prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions in Title X programs, so what is the real agenda?


And on the theory of let’s repeat ourselves on the no taxpayer funds for abortions theme, Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) has insisted that the Congress needs yet another law restricting taxpayer funding of abortions.  The Hyde Amendment covers this but that does not seem to stop new legislation. Smith has introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 5939),” and currently has 185 co-sponsors.  This bill was highlighted in the Pledge to America. Since the majority of Americans are in favor of Roe vs Wade, the pledge seems to be for a minority of Americans.
On another front in Nebraska, which already has a plethora of laws chipping away at abortion rights, State Senator Beau McCoy introduced legislation that excludes abortion coverage from policies obtained through health insurance exchanges, which are scheduled to begin in 2014. His bill also would limit coverage of abortion in all private insurance plans sold in the state. Abortion coverage would be allowed only through an optional rider that is paid for solely by the insured.  This ploy appears to part of the playbook of conservatives to make abortion financially impossible for most Americans. If a woman pays for her own insurance, why should she have the additional burden of writing an additional check or have to find insurance that will even cover her? At what point do we acknowledge that many woman pay taxes and might want their tax dollars to cover abortion and contraception rather than Viagra or war related expenses? In the same vein of what is legal rather than personal belief, it will be instructive to see Representatives Pense and Smith point to the section or article in the constitution that deals with requiring women to pay for abortion riders in insurance plans. 
In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell is considering backing a law that will impose more regulations on abortion clinics. He is also looking into the high rates of abortions in metropolitan areas.  If Rep. Pense’s legislation to defund Planned Parenthood is passed, then the Governor may find that pregnancy rates climb even higher as low income teens have no places for counseling.  If these teens cannot receive contraceptive information, the state may be overwhelmed with either botched abortions from backroom alleys or have their Medicaid funds stretched to pay for these dependent children. In many cases, this applies to the mother and the child.


In Texas, the newly empowered Republican state legislature plans to make deep cuts in budgets and propose that women seeking abortions must have sonograms and look at them before they can exercise their constitutional right to have an abortion. Will they include payment for this sonogram? It is interesting to note that the same states that rail against mandates for health insurance have no issue writing mandates that force people to undergo a procedure that they do not want, study it and pay for it.  Dare I say that this type of invasion of privacy is considered permissible when it is a woman? Where in the Constitution is the authority to do this?

For a comprehensive list of legislative trends in 2010, RHReality has a very well written article.  As always, you can find a list of laws by state that have been passed since the murder of George Tiller on our blog under Reproductive Choice.


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Whether on a state or a federal level, conservatives are mounting a full frontal assault on the rights of women. When women control their bodies, they control their destinies. When laws control their bodies, they become trapped by their own biology.  Roe vs Wade is under attack. We can no longer count on a Supreme Court that will rule on precedent. We can no longer count on a Congress that will stop this attack.  Over the past year we have seen women’s reproductive rights being compromised again and again for other issues. We can only count on ourselves to confront this challenge. 


Gail Yamner, President

JACPAC

Commentary Politics

In Mike Pence, Trump Would Find a Fellow Huckster

Jodi Jacobson

If Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn't inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn't understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.

This week, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump is considering Mike Pence, among other possible contenders, to join his ticket as a vice presidential candidate.

In doing so, Trump would pick the “pro-life” governor of a state with one of the slowest rates of economic growth in the nation, and one of the most egregious records on public health, infant and child survival, and poverty in the country. He also would be choosing one of the GOP governors who has spent more time focused on policies to discriminate against women and girls, LGBTQ communities, and the poor than on addressing economic and health challenges in his state. Meanwhile, despite the evidence, Pence is a governor who seems to be perpetually in denial about the effects of his policies.

Let’s take the economy. From 2014 to 2015, Indiana’s economic growth lagged behind all but seven other states in the nation. During that period, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Indiana’s economy grew by just 0.4 percent, one-third the rate of growth in Illinois and slower than the economies of 43 other states. Per capita gross domestic product in the state ranked 37th among all states.

Income inequality has been a growing problem in the state. As the Indy Star reported, a 2014 report by the United States Conference of Mayors titled “Income and Wage Gaps Across the US” stated that “wage inequality grew twice as rapidly in the Indianapolis metro area as in the rest of the nation since the recession,” largely due to the fact “that jobs recovered in the U.S. since 2008 pay $14,000 less on average than the 8.7 million jobs lost since then.” In a letter to the editor of the Indy Star, Derek Thomas, senior policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families, cited findings from the Work and Poverty in Marion County report, which found that four out of five of the fastest-growing industries in the county pay at or below a self-sufficient wage for a family of three, and weekly wages had actually declined. “Each year that poverty increases, economic mobility—already a real challenge in Indy—becomes more of a statistical oddity for the affected families and future generations.”

In his letter, Thomas also pointed out:

[T]he minimum wage is less than half of what it takes for a single-mother with an infant to be economically self-sufficient; 47 percent of workers do not have access to a paid sick day from work; and 32 percent are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($29,685 for a family of three).

Despite the data and the struggles faced by real people across the state, Pence has consistently claimed the economy of the state is “booming,” and that the state “is strong and growing stronger,” according to the Northwest Indiana Times. When presented with data from various agencies, his spokespeople have dismissed them as “erroneous.” Not exactly a compelling rebuttal.

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As a “pro-life” governor, Pence presides over a state with one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation. Data from the Indiana State Department of Health reveals a “significant disparity” between white and Black infant mortality rates, with Black infants 1.8 times more likely to die than their white counterparts. The 2013 Infant Mortality Summit also revealed that “[a]lmost one-third of pregnant women in Indiana don’t receive prenatal care in their first trimester; almost 17% of pregnant women are smokers, compared to the national rate of 9%; and the state ranks 8th in the number of obese citizens.”

Yet even while he bemoaned the situation, Pence presided over budget cuts to programs that support the health and well-being of pregnant women and infants. Under Pence, 65,000 people have been threatened with the loss of  food stamp benefits which, meager as they already are, are necessary to sustain the caloric and nutritional intake of families and children.

While he does not appear to be effectively managing the economy, Pence has shown a great proclivity to distract from real issues by focusing on passing laws and policies that discriminate against women and LGBTQ persons.

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a “religious freedom” law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only “amended” it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his “conservative values,” rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

These facts are no surprise given that, as a U.S. Congressman, Pence “waged war” on Planned Parenthood. In 2000, he stated that Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals and advocated that funding for HIV prevention should be directed toward conversion therapy programs.

He also appears to share Trump’s hatred of and willingness to scapegoat immigrants and refugees. Pence was the first governor to refuse to allow Syrian refugees to relocate in his state. On November 16th 2015, he directed “all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana,” sending a young family that had waited four years in refugee limbo to be resettled in the United States scrambling for another state to call home. That’s a pro-life position for you. To top it all off, Pence is a creationist, and is a climate change denier.

So if Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.

News Politics

Clinton in Friday Speech: ‘Fight Back Against the Erosion of Reproductive Rights’

Ally Boguhn

Just after the former secretary of state ended her speech, the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump took the stage at another event and struck a different tone.

Hillary Clinton defended reproductive rights in a Friday speech, following the news that the former secretary of state had become the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Soon after Clinton’s comments, Donald Trump took the stage at a different event and vowed to protect “the sanctity and dignity of life.” 

In her speech, Clinton detailed her support of access to safe and affordable abortion and contraceptive care.

“It’s been a big week, and there’s nowhere I’d rather end it,” Clinton told the crowd while speaking at an event for Planned Parenthood Action Fund in Washington, D.C. Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, endorsed Clinton in January, offering the Democratic candidate “its first endorsement in a presidential primary in the nonprofit’s 100-year existence,” according to the New York Times.

“Today, I want to start by saying something you don’t hear often enough: Thank you,” she said, offering her gratitude to the organization for caring for its patients “no matter their race, sexual orientation, or immigration status.”

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Clinton continued: “Thank you for being there for every woman, in every state, who has to miss work, drive hundreds of miles sometimes, endure cruel medically unnecessary waiting periods, walk past angry protesters to exercise her constitutional right to safe and legal abortion. I’ve been proud to stand with Planned Parenthood for a long time, and as president I will always have your back.”

Clinton then pivoted to discussing presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“When Donald Trump says, ‘Let’s make America great again,’ that is code for ‘Let’s take America backward,’” she said. “Back to a time when opportunity and dignity were reserved for some, not all. Back to the days when abortion was illegal, women had far fewer options, and life for too many women and girls was limited. Well, Donald, those days are over.”

Citing the upcoming Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt as proof of the importance of nominating a new justice to the Court’s vacant seat, Clinton called on Congress to “give Judge [Merrick] Garland the hearing he deserves.”

Clinton went on to outline her vision for reproductive rights in the country should she be elected, noting: “If right-wing politicians actually cared as much about protecting women’s health as much as they say they do, they’d join me in calling for more federal funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Calling to “fight back against the erosion of reproductive rights at the federal, state, and local levels,” Clinton pushed for a host of related priorities, such as ensuring clinic patients and staff can safely access clinics; investing in long-lasting reversible contraception; acting to combat the Zika virus; and repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding for abortion care.

Just after Clinton ended her speech, Trump addressed the Road to Majority conference, hosted by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America, and struck a very different tone. “Here are the goals … and I wanted it to come from me, from my heart. We want to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life,” Trump told the crowd.

The Republican went on to reiterate his promise to nominate only “pro-life” justices to the Supreme Court should he be elected, before turning to attack Clinton. “She will appoint radical judges who will legislate from the bench, overriding Congress, and the will of the people will mean nothing,” said Trump before claiming Clinton “will push for federal funding of abortion on demand until the moment of birth.”

Though Clinton has championed reproductive rights during her presidential campaign, she told Fox News in March that she would be “in favor of a late-pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”