Today, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Pence Amendment, eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.
Since the first day they took office in January, the GOP and Tea Party majority in Congress have been focused like a lazer beam on one thing: eliminating access for women and in fact all people to have affordable health care, and particularly to reproductive and sexual health care. The main target of this effort in terms of rhetoric has been Planned Parenthood Federation of America, but in truth this is a war waged on all of us, and particularly on low-income women and children, many of whom depend on publicly funded clinics for primary preventive care.
The vote in favor of the Pence Amendment was 240-185 with at least 10 Democrats voting for the amendment, and seven Republicans voting against it. The final roll call vote was not available at the time of this writing, but among the Democrats who voted to defund PPFA were Congressmen Dan Boren (OK), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Jerry Costello (Illinois), Dan Lipinski (Illinois), Mike McIntyre (North Carolina), Collin Peterson (Minnesota), Nick Rahall (West Virginia), Silvestre Reyes (Texas), Mike Ross (Arkansas), and Heath Shuler (North Carolina). See anything in common? Yep. They’re all men. And many of them also remain cosponsors on bills that seeks to further decimate your rights.
Each one of these men apparently bought into and perpetuated the charade that this was a discussion about federal funding of abortion. Which it was not. It was about eliminating federal funds that pay for cervical cancer and breast cancer screenings, for testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and for many primary preventive care services to which, without Planned Parenthood, millions of people will not have access.
The next step on this is the Senate and do not be complacent because there are NO guarantees that the Senate will in fact stick up for women’s health and rights. Senator Harry Reid is anti-choice, and as I write the White House is deep in negotiations to get yet another anti-choice Democrat, Tim Kaine, to run for the Senate in Virginia. Moreover, Obama gave it all away in health reform.
So now, we have one choice, and that is to take action. As Cecile Richards says in the video below, it is time, right now to act.
Republican lawmakers have pushed legislation to ban the D and E procedure in several states over the past year. The measures have been copies of bills drafted by the legislation mill known as the National Right to Life Committee.
Louisiana’s GOP-held legislature continued its legislative assault on reproductive rights, passing a bill Tuesday to ban a common method of abortion care. Lawmakers also put on a hold a measure to ban abortion care due to genetic abnormality.
HB 1081, sponsored by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City), would prohibit a person from intentionally performing or attempting to perform a “dismemberment abortion” unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the pregnant person.
The bill targets the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, commonly used in second-trimester abortion care. During the procedure, a physician dilates the patient’s cervix and removes the fetus.
Physicians who violate the law could face up to two years in jail and be fined up to $1,000 per violation.
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Republican legislators have pushed legislation to ban the D and E procedure in several states over the past year. The measures have been copies of bills drafted by the legislation mill known as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
Another bill stalled Tuesday in Louisiana’s State Senate Health and Welfare Committee amid lawmakers’ concerns about whether the bill is constitutional.
HB 1019, sponsored by Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge), would prohibit a person from performing an abortion knowing that the patient is seeking abortion care solely because the “unborn child” has been diagnosed with either a genetic abnormality or a potential for a genetic abnormality.
The bill defines “genetic abnormality” as “any defect, disease, or disorder that is inherited genetically,” and provides that “the term includes, without limitation, any physical disfigurement, scoliosis, dwarfism, Down syndrome, albinism, amelia, and any other type of physical, mental, or intellectual disability, abnormality, or disease.”
A physician who violates the law would face a fine of up to $1,000 per incidence and/or up to two years in prison.
The bill has already been passed by the house on a 75-1 vote, with 19Democrats and nine Republicans abstaining.
A number of people testified before the committee, sharing personal stories of pregnancies in which the fetus was diagnosed with a disability or fetal anomaly, reported the New Orleans Advocate.
State Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) argued that the state shouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend an unconstitutional law, reported the Associated Press.
“If we cannot win, why are we doing this? We can’t afford it. We’re broke,” Luneau said.
State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) said that he was not sure if the bill would “pass constitutional muster” because it could be argued that it would restrict access to abortion care, reported the New Orleans Advocate.
“I’m pro-life, but when I get one like this, it puts me in a box: Do I go with the constitution, or make a decision against my oath?” Claitor said.
After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a similar bill in March, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the law. It is the first legal challenge to such a measure.
Ever since Congress left town for the holidays in December without renewing emergency unemployment payments for the long-term unemployed, Democrats have been hammering Republicans to take up a bill that would do just that. On Tuesday, to the surprise of those leading the charge, the U.S. Senate inched closer to a vote on a measure that would add another three months of benefits for those who have exhausted their federal emergency unemployment insurance without finding another job.
In the Senate, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act (S. 1845), a measure co-sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV), faced a filibuster unless Democrats could find an additional five Republicans to vote with them on a cloture motion. Prospects were dicey, right up until the last minute.
“It was in the balance until the very last moment,” Reed said at a press conference following the vote. “I was hopeful, but I guess being Irish I’m always expecting the worst.”
Of the six Republicans who joined the Democrats in forestalling a filibuster on the bill were three of the Republicans’ four women senators: Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Rob Portman (OH), Dan Coats (IN), and, of course, co-sponsor Heller rounded out the GOP’s filibuster-busting contingent.
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Immediately following the vote, President Barack Obama staged a press event in the East Room of the White House, his podium placed against a backdrop of unemployed Americans standing on risers. Introducing the president was Katherine Hackett of Moodus, Connecticut, who described herself as the mother of two grown sons who are serving in the military.
The event was designed to refute the claims of Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul (KY), who recently claimed, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday last month, that an extension of unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed was a “disservice” to those who are out of work because, he claimed, it encouraged them not to look for jobs. Never mind that, according to economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who spoke to reporters on a press conference call arranged by House Democrats on Friday, there are at least three unemployed workers for every available job.
“I have cut expenses everywhere possible,” Hackett said at Obama’s press event, “and I am not just sitting at home enjoying the good life. My cuts include heating my house to 58 degrees, wearing a hat and a coat to stay warm, because oil is expensive. I have lost weight, because food is expensive.”
Hackett went on to describe how, as a single mother, she raised two sons, “working many different jobs, never asking for a handout.”
Single mothers are overrepresented among the ranks of the long-term unemployed, according to the National Women’s Law Project, which reported an unemployment rate in June among single mothers of 10.7 percent (compared with 7.0 percent that month for the general population). Older workers and African-Americans also disproportionately comprise the ranks of people who have been out of work for more than six months, as do those who did not attend college.
Obama took on the Republican rhetoric launched in opposition to an extension of unemployment benefits by saying he had never met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than a job.
“They’re not looking for pity,” he said. “They just want a shot.”
He also noted that despite GOP arguments that extended unemployment benefits somehow hurt the economy, they actually act as a stimulus, since the unemployed spend the benefit money right away on necessities, and he called on the House of Representatives to act speedily on the unemployment extension as the Senate proceeds with its votes on the measure.
“Voting for unemployment insurance helps people and creates jobs,” the president said. “Voting against it does not.”
(Some critics of the GOP suggest that the stimulative effect just might be the real impetus behind Republican opposition to the extension, since it could help improve the economy on the president’s watch, ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.)
Despite the fact that emergency unemployment insurance extensions traditionally pass without additional burdens attached, Republicans are demanding an “offset” to pay for any extension they may vote for.
Speaking on the floor ahead of the cloture vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested that in exchange for an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, Democrats should accept a one-year delay in the imposition of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While that’s not likely to happen, Democrats, while balking at the notion of offsets, have made noises to the effect that they might consider the closing of corporate tax loopholes as a means of paying for the extension of benefits. On a teleconference with reporters on Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) suggested eliminating tax breaks “for corporations shipping jobs overseas.”
Despite Tuesday’s vote, chances for passage of the unemployment extension remain uncertain. But Republicans are surely feeling the heat.