Commentary Race

Fighting Black Anti-Choice Campaigns: Trust Black Women

Loretta Ross

Women of color are fighting a race- and gender-baiting campaign that attempts to drive a racial wedge in the pro-choice movement and a gender wedge in communities of color. 

This article is cross-posted from On the Issues Magazine.

Editor’s note: Read all of Rewire’s coverage of this racist anti-choice campaign.

Sixty-five billboards were quickly erected in predominantly African American neighborhoods in Atlanta on February 5, 2010. Each showed a sorrowful picture of a black male child proclaiming, “Black Children are an Endangered Species.”

Georgia Right to Life and the newly-formed Radiance Foundation spent $20,000 to sponsor the billboards that included the address of a previously unknown anti-abortion website.

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This was the opening salvo in a campaign to pass new state legislation attempting to criminalize abortions provided to women of color allegedly because of the “race or sex” of the fetus. Doctors would have been subjected to criminal sanctions and civil lawsuits. Central to the argument of our opponents was the false claim that most, if not all, abortions are coerced.

At Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, where one of the billboards was only a few blocks away, we knew that this race- and gender-baiting campaign would have national implications, driving a racial wedge in the pro-choice movement and a gender wedge in communities of color. The legislation would also trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Although SisterSong had not expected this fight, we could not afford to be silent. We surged into action to challenge the marketing of the billboards and the legislation. We formed a coalition for the fight with SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, Feminist Women’s Health Center, SisterLove, Planned Parenthood of the Southeast Region, and Raksha. We strategized together to use a reproductive justice approach that intersected race and gender as the smartest way to counter this intersectional attack on abortion rights.

We succeeded – this time. We won, in part, by shifting the debate, researching our opponents, understanding the divisions among our opponents, correcting their “facts,” and engaging our Civil Rights allies. In the process, we made new discoveries about how to deal with this latest tactic of our opponents.

Identifying the Campaign

Because of the conflation of race, gender and abortion, the billboards very quickly became national news, picked up by CNN, The New York Times, ABC, The LA Times and many others.

Our opponents began a misogynistic attack to shame-and-blame black women who choose abortion, alleging that we endanger the future of our children. After all, many people in our community already believe that black men are an endangered species because of white supremacy. Our opponents used a social responsibility frame to claim that black women have a racial obligation to have more babies – especially black male babies — despite our individual circumstances.

The campaign also accused Planned Parenthood, the largest single provider of birth control and abortion services in the black community, of targeting the community for “genocide” because of its “racist founder,” Margaret Sanger.

Change-up

We had to fight the rhetorical impact of the billboards by reframing the discourse as an attack on the autonomy of black women, shifting the focus away from the sad, beautiful black boy in the advertisements.

They tried to shame-and-blame black women who choose abortion

It was not accidental that they chose a black male child to feature in their messaging, exacerbating gender tensions in the African American community. We decided that the best approach was to emphasize our opponents’ negative subliminal messages about black women. Either we were dupes of abortion providers, or we were evil women intent on having abortions – especially of black male children – for selfish reasons. In their first narrative, we were victims without agency unable to make our own decisions, pawns of racist, profit-driven abortion providers. In their second narrative, we were the uncaring enemies of our own children, and architects of black genocide.

We decided on affirming messages that refuted both narratives. We had to manage both positive and negative emotions about abortion.

We repeatedly asserted our own agency as black women who are trustworthy, informed and politically savvy. We insisted that whether black women were pro-choice or pro-life, we were united in believing that black women could reasonably decide for ourselves whether to become parents. Freedom is inherent in black women and we would let no one limit our liberty. We aggressively linked women’s rights to civil and human rights.

Our messages: We decided to have abortions. We invited Margaret Sanger to place clinics in black neighborhoods. We are part of the civil and human rights movement. We protected the future of black children, not our opponents. We helped women. They judged them.

We found a resonating message of trusting black women that was widely embraced by African American women. This response forced our opponents to change their messages. They eventually declared—defensively—that they “do trust black women!” We knew we had scored a victory.

Researching the Opposition

We researched our opponents to debunk their emotional appeal that they were defending black children and women. At the same time, we resisted ad hominem attacks.

We kept asking the question, “Where do they get the money to finance their movement?”
With the support of Political Research Associates and the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, we looked at their connections and funding.

We learned from contacts that our opponents crafted this strategy in 2009 in a secret meeting on St. Simon’s Island in South Georgia between Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) and the Georgia Republican Party. They hoped to build an alliance between white and black conservatives, not only to restrict abortion access in Georgia but to split African American voters.

To provide an African American woman to champion the effort, Georgia Right to Life hired Catherine Davis, who failed twice at winning a Congressional seat as a black Republican. Davis’ partner was the Radiance Foundation that designed the billboard. It was set up by an advertising executive, Ryan Bomberger. Bomberger claims that he is the son of a white mother raped by a black man and that his mother gave him up for adoption because she did not believe in abortion. Bomberger says that it is his mission to save black babies, even if it means allowing rapists to choose the mothers of their children.

The billboard campaign was accompanied by a two-hour pseudo-documentary film, Maafa 21, that purported to trace the eugenics movement in promoting genocide against African Americans, and how abortion is part of it. It was created by a white Texan, Mark Crutcher, who has made a career of attacking Planned Parenthood. More than 20,000 copies were distributed free.

We looked at the cross-pollination between the anti-abortion movement and conservative figures from other arenas. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is employed by the anti-abortion Priests for Life and revealed a close relationship with Fox News’ host, Glenn Beck, even speaking at Beck’s August 2010 rally that attempted to hijack the symbolic legacy of Dr. King’s historic 1963 March on Washington. These associations did not aid her credibility in the African American community. Sarah Palin’s endorsement of the billboards tied their campaign to other conservative figures distrusted by the African American community.

We also learned that race and gender became a bait-and-switch tactic by our opponents. When they could not locate any black women who had abortions because of the race of the child – no surprise! – they switched tactics to claim that they were really concerned that Asian American women were having sex-selective abortions, using even more disguised racism against “foreigners” and hyperactivating prejudices against immigrants.

Putting Out Facts

Anti-abortionists misused data and facts. The cornerstone of their genocide theory is that black women have had fewer children over a number of years. In fact, women of all races have fewer children when they have increased access to reproductive health services and educational and job opportunities.

We won by shifting the debate and correcting our opponents’ ‘facts’

The reality is that black women have always controlled our fertility when we could. We brought knowledge from Africa that helped us practice birth control and have abortions. After the end of slavery, we were determined to end the forced breeding of our bodies, and we cut our birth rate in half in the first 40 years after the Civil War. We continued this intentional decline as part of our racial uplift strategy to have fewer children and provide more opportunities for the ones we did have.

Black women, however, do have three times more abortions than white women, a statistic anti-abortionists used to demonize abortion providers. Black women have more unintended pregnancies, less access to contraception, are more vulnerable to childhood sexual abuse, and experience single motherhood more than our white counterparts. For reproductive justice activists, the solution is to help black women have fewer unintended pregnancies and to eliminate the obstacles that interfere with personal decision making.

Another anti-abortion tactic is to claim that abortion clinics are “always” located in African American communities, especially by Planned Parenthood. In Georgia, we were able to easily refute this claim by presenting demographic data, proving that only four of the 15 abortion clinics in our state are in predominantly black neighborhoods.

We addressed the story of Margaret Sanger and her allegedly racist agenda. We documented that African American leaders had worked with Sanger in the 1930s to ask for clinics in black communities. We challenged our opponents’ historical revisionism by citing famous leaders like Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E.B. Dubois, Walter White, Mary Church Terrell, Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and organizations like the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Council of Negro Women. We dared them to call these icons of the civil rights movement pawns of a racist agenda.

A Trust of New Leadership

Engaging leaders of Civil Rights organizations was critical to informing the African American community about the true facts of black women’s lives. We reached out to Julian Bond, former chair of the NAACP, who had endorsed the 2004 March for Women’s Lives. We had a boost when anti-abortion activists chose to picket the 2010 NAACP National Convention, trying to force them to retract their support for reproductive justice. The support of the NAACP opened the door for other Civil Rights organizations to join us, such as Rainbow PUSH.

Women of color are able to build stronger alliances between the Civil Rights and Reproductive Justice movements. It is equally clear that most male-led Civil Rights organizations will not take the lead on gender justice issues on behalf of women, especially on a difficult issue such as abortion.

We stopped the legislation in Georgia in the final two hours of the legislative session. And then we sat down to consider future plans. We created the Trust Black Women Partnership, a long-term strategy to ensure that black women can mobilize wherever such campaigns appear in African American communities, and to generate deeper discussions about black women’s autonomy and human rights.

Our opponents will not retreat, but, in fact, will “re-load,” as Sarah Palin would say. Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation, working with Priests for Life and its $10 million war chest, announced plans to spread their campaign. Similar billboards have already appeared in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri and Tennessee.

The anti-abortion opponents changed their tactics: now they claim to promote adoption for black children as a more compassionate alternative to abortion, ignoring the fact that four out of five “hard to place” children in the adoption system are African American.

The struggle in Georgia also highlighted tensions within the pro-choice movement about the leadership of women of color. The pro-choice movement must overcome its historical reluctance to confront accusations of racism and genocide. It must work harder to understand the power of the reproductive justice framework. Mainstream organizations have to step back and let women of color lead when race and gender intersect in abortion politics.

Reproductive justice activists recognize that we all live in a system of white supremacy that affects everyone in America: no one is immune to racism. The failure to recognize this legacy jeopardizes our collective ability to defeat our mutual opponents. Working honestly on race and power relations is not only the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do to defeat race- and gender-based attacks on abortion and women’s rights.

Analysis Law and Policy

Do Counselors-in-Training Have the Right to Discriminate Against LGBTQ People?

Greg Lipper

Doctors can't treat their patients with leeches; counselors can't impose their beliefs on patients or harm them using discredited methods. Whatever their views, medical professionals have to treat their clients competently.

Whether they’re bakers, florists, or government clerks, those claiming the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people have repeatedly sought to transform professional services into constitutionally protected religious speech. They have grabbed headlines for refusing, for example, to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples or to make cakes for same-sex couples’ weddings-all in the name of “religious freedom.”

A bit more quietly, however, a handful of counseling students at public universities have challenged their schools’ nondiscrimination and treatment requirements governing clinical placements. In some cases, they have sought a constitutional right to withhold treatment from LGBTQ clients; in others, they have argued for the right to directly impose their religious and anti-gay views on their clients.

There has been some state legislative maneuvering on this front: Tennessee, for instance, recently enacted a thinly veiled anti-LGBTQ measure that would allow counselors to deny service on account of their “sincerely held principles.” But when it comes to the federal Constitution, providing medical treatment—whether bypass surgery, root canal, or mental-health counseling—isn’t advocacy (religious or otherwise) protected by the First Amendment. Counselors are medical professionals; they are hired to help their clients, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation, and no matter the counselors’ beliefs. The government, moreover, may lawfully prevent counselors from harming their clients, and universities in particular have an interest, recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, in preventing discrimination in school activities and in training their students to work with diverse populations.

The plaintiffs in these cases have nonetheless argued that their schools are unfairly and unconstitutionally targeting them for their religious beliefs. But these students are not being targeted, any more than are business owners who must comply with civil rights laws. Instead, their universities, informed by the rules of the American Counseling Association (ACA)—the leading organization of American professional counselors—merely ask that all students learn to treat diverse populations and to do so in accordance with the standard of care. These plaintiffs, as a result, have yet to win a constitutional right to discriminate against or impose anti-LGBTQ views on actual or prospective clients. But cases persist, and the possibility of conflicting court decisions looms.

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Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley

The first major challenge to university counseling requirements came from Jennifer Keeton, who hoped to receive a master’s degree in school counseling from Augusta State University. As detailed in the 2011 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision considering her case, Keeton entered her professional training believing that (1) “sexual behavior is the result of personal choice for which individuals are accountable, not inevitable deterministic forces”; (2) “gender is fixed and binary (i.e., male or female), not a social construct or personal choice subject to individual change”; and “homosexuality is a ‘lifestyle,’ not a ‘state of being.'”

It wasn’t those views alone, however, that sunk her educational plans. The problem, rather, was that Keeton wanted to impose her views on her patients. Keeton had told both her classmates and professors about her clinical approach at a university-run clinic, and it wasn’t pretty:

  • She would try to change the sexual orientation of gay clients;
  • If she were counseling a sophomore student in crisis questioning his sexual orientation, she would respond by telling the student that it was not OK to be gay.
  • If a client disclosed that he was gay, she would tell him that his behavior was wrong and try to change it; if she were unsuccessful, she would refer the client to someone who practices “conversion therapy.”

Unsurprisingly, Keeton also told school officials that it would be difficult for her to work with LGBTQ clients.

Keeton’s approach to counseling not only would have flouted the university’s curricular guidelines, but also would have violated the ACA’s Code of Ethics.

Her conduct would have harmed her patients as well. As a school counselor, Keeton would inevitably have to counsel LGBTQ clients: 57 percent of LGBTQ students have sought help from a school professional and 42 percent have sought help from a school counselor. Suicide is the leading cause of death for LGBTQ adolescents; that’s twice or three times the suicide rate afflicting their heterosexual counterparts. And Keeton’s preferred approach to counseling LGBTQ students would harm them: LGBTQ students rejected by trusted authority figures are even more likely to attempt suicide, and anti-gay “conversion therapy” at best doesn’t work and at worst harms patients too.

Seeking to protect the university’s clinical patients and train her to be a licensed mental health professional, university officials asked Keeton to complete a remediation plan before she counseled students in her required clinical practicum. She refused; the university expelled her. In response, the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom sued on her behalf, claiming that the university violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

The courts disagreed. The trial court ruled against Keeton, and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously upheld the trial court’s ruling. The 11th Circuit explained that Keeton was expelled not because of her religious beliefs, but rather because of her “own statements that she intended to impose her personal religious beliefs on clients and refer clients to conversion therapy, and her own admissions that it would be difficult for her to work with the GLBTQ population and separate her own views from those of the client.” It was Keeton, not the university, who could not separate her personal beliefs from the professional counseling that she provided: “[F]ar from compelling Keeton to profess a belief or change her own beliefs about the morality of homosexuality, [the university] instructs her not to express her personal beliefs regarding the client’s moral values.”

Keeton, in other words, crossed the line between beliefs and conduct. She may believe whatever she likes, but she may not ignore academic and professional requirements designed to protect her clients—especially when serving clients at a university-run clinic.

As the court explained, the First Amendment would not prohibit a medical school from requiring students to perform blood transfusions in their clinical placements, nor would it prohibit a law school from requiring extra ethics training for a student who “expressed an intent to indiscriminately disclose her client’s secrets or violate another of the state bar’s rules.” Doctors can’t treat their patients with leeches; counselors can’t impose their beliefs on patients or harm them using discredited methods. Whatever their views, medical professionals have to treat their clients competently.

Ward v. Polite

The Alliance Defending Freedom’s follow-up case, Ward v. Polite, sought to give counseling students the right to withhold service from LGBTQ patients and also to practice anti-gay “conversion therapy” on those patients. The case’s facts were a bit murkier, and this led the appeals court to send it to trial; as a result, the student ultimately extracted only a modest settlement from the university. But as in Keeton’s case, the court rejected in a 2012 decision the attempt to give counseling students the right to impose their religious views on their clients.

Julea Ward studied counseling at Eastern Michigan University; like Keeton, she was training to be a school counselor. When she reviewed the file for her third client in the required clinical practicum, she realized that he was seeking counseling about a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. As the Court of Appeals recounted, Ward did not want to counsel the client about this topic, and asked her faculty supervisor “(1) whether she should meet with the client and refer him [to a different counselor] only if it became necessary—only if the counseling session required Ward to affirm the client’s same-sex relationship—or (2) whether the school should reassign the client from the outset.” Although her supervisor reassigned the client, it was the first time in 20 years that one of her students had made such a request. So Ward’s supervisor scheduled a meeting with her.

Then things went off the rails. Ward, explained the court, “reiterated her religious objection to affirming same-sex relationships.” She told university officials that while she had “no problem counseling gay and lesbian clients,” she would counsel them only if “the university did not require her to affirm their sexual orientation.” She also refused to counsel “heterosexual clients about extra-marital sex and adultery in a values-affirming way.” As for the professional rules governing counselors, Ward said, “who’s the [American Counseling Association] to tell me what to do. I answer to a higher power and I’m not selling out God.”

All this led the university to expel Ward, and she sued. She claimed that the university violated her free speech and free exercise rights, and that she had a constitutional right to withhold affirming therapy relating to any same-sex relationships or different-sex relationships outside of marriage. Like Keeton, Ward also argued that the First Amendment prohibited the university from requiring “gay-affirmative therapy” while prohibiting “reparative therapy.” After factual discovery, the trial court dismissed her case.

On appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Ward eked out a narrow and temporary win: The court held that the case should go to a jury. Because the university did not have a written policy prohibiting referrals, and based on a few troubling faculty statements during Ward’s review, the court ruled that a reasonable jury could potentially find that the university invoked a no-referrals policy “as a pretext for punishing Ward’s religious views and speech.” At the same time, the court recognized that a jury could view the facts less favorably to Ward and rule for the university.

And although the decision appeared to sympathize with Ward’s desire to withhold service from certain types of clients, the court flatly rejected Ward’s sweeping arguments that she had the right to stray from the school curriculum, refuse to counsel LGBTQ clients, or practice anti-gay “conversion therapy.” For one, it said, “Curriculum choices are a form of school speech, giving schools considerable flexibility in designing courses and policies and in enforcing them so long as they amount to reasonable means of furthering legitimate educational ends.” Thus, the problem was “not the adoption of this anti-discrimination policy, the existence of the practicum class or even the values-affirming message the school wants students to understand and practice.” On the contrary, the court emphasized “the [legal] latitude educational institutions—at any level—must have to further legitimate curricular objectives.”

Indeed, the university had good reason to require counseling students—especially those studying to be school counselors—to treat diverse populations. A school counselor who refuses to counsel anyone with regard to nonmarital, nonheterosexual relationships will struggle to find clients: Nearly four in five Americans have had sex by age 21; more than half have done so by the time they turn 18, while only 6 percent of women and 2 percent of men are married by that age.

In any event, withholding service from entire classes of people violates professional ethical rules even for nonschool counselors. Although the ACA permits client referrals in certain circumstances, the agency’s brief in Ward’s case emphasized that counselors may not refuse to treat entire groups. Ward, in sum, “violated the ACA Code of Ethics by refusing to counsel clients who may wish to discuss homosexual relationships, as well as others who fail to comport with her religious teachings, e.g., persons who engage in ‘fornication.'”

But Ward’s approach would have been unethical even if, in theory, she were permitted to withhold service from each and every client seeking counseling related to nonmarital sex (or even marital sex by same-sex couples). Because in many cases, the need for referral would arise well into the counseling relationship. And as the trial court explained, “a client may seek counseling for depression, or issues with their parents, and end up discussing a homosexual relationship.” No matter what the reason, mid-counseling referrals harm clients, and such referrals are even more harmful if they happen because the counselor disapproves of the client.

Fortunately, Ward did not win the sweeping right to harm her clients or otherwise upend professional counseling standards. Rather, the court explained that “the even-handed enforcement of a neutral policy”—such as the ACA’s ethical rules—”is likely to steer clear of the First Amendment’s free-speech and free-exercise protections.” (Full disclosure: I worked on an amicus brief in support of the university when at Americans United.)

Ward’s lawyers pretended that she won the case, but she ended up settling it for relatively little. She received only $75,000; and although the expulsion was removed from her record, she was not reinstated. Without a graduate counseling degree, she cannot become a licensed counselor.

Cash v. Hofherr

The latest anti-gay counseling salvo comes from Andrew Cash, whose April 2016 lawsuit against Missouri State University attempts to rely on yet murkier facts and could wind up, on appeal, in front of the more conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In addition to his range of constitutional claims (freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, equal protection of law), he has added a claim under the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The complaint describes Cash as “a Christian with sincerely-held beliefs”—as opposed to insincere ones, apparently—”on issues of morality.” Cash started his graduate counseling program at Missouri State University in September 2007. The program requires a clinical internship, which includes 240 hours of in-person client contact. Cash decided to do his clinical internship at Springfield Marriage and Family Institute, which appeared on the counseling department’s list of approved sites. Far from holding anti-Christian bias, Cash’s instructor agreed that his proposed class presentation on “Christian counseling and its unique approach and value to the Counseling profession” was an “excellent” idea.

But the presentation itself revealed that Cash intended to discriminate against LGBTQ patients. In response to a question during the presentation, the head of the Marriage and Family Institute stated that “he would counsel gay persons as individuals, but not as couples, because of his religious beliefs,” and that he would “refer the couple for counseling to other counselors he knew who did not share his religious views.” Because discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates ACA guidelines, the university determined that Cash should not continue counseling at the Marriage and Family Institute and that it would be removed from the approved list of placements. Cash suggested, however, that he should be able to withhold treatment from same-sex couples.

All this took place in 2011. The complaint (both the original and amended versions) evades precisely what happened between 2012 and 2014, when Cash was finally expelled. You get the sense that Cash’s lawyers at the Thomas More Society are trying to yadda-yadda-yadda the most important facts of the case.

In any event, the complaint does acknowledge that when Cash applied for a new internship, he both ignored the university’s instructions that the previous hours were not supposed to count toward his requirement, and appeared to be “still very much defend[ing] his previous internship stating that there was nothing wrong with it”—thus suggesting that he would continue to refuse to counsel same-sex couples. He continued to defend his position in later meetings with school officials; by November 2014, the university removed him from the program.

Yet in challenging this expulsion, Cash’s complaint says that he was merely “expressing his Christian worldview regarding a hypothetical situation concerning whether he would provide counseling services to a gay/homosexual couple.”

That’s more than just a worldview, though. It also reflects his intent to discriminate against a class of people—in a manner that violates his program’s requirements and the ACA guidelines. Whether hypothetically or otherwise, Cash stated and reiterated that he would withhold treatment from same-sex couples. A law student who stated, as part of his clinic, that he would refuse to represent Christian clients would be announcing his intent to violate the rules of professional responsibility, and the law school could and would remove him from the school’s legal clinic. And they could and would do so even if a Christian client had yet to walk in the door.

But maybe this was just a big misunderstanding, and Cash would, in practice, be willing and able to counsel same-sex couples? Not so, said Cash’s lawyer from the Thomas More Society, speaking about the case to Christian news outlet WORLD: “I think Christians have to go on the offensive, or it’s going to be a situation like Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, where you aren’t safe to have a guest in your home, with the demands of the gay mob.” Yikes.

Although Cash seems to want a maximalist decision allowing counselors and counseling students to withhold service from LGBTQ couples, it remains to be seen how the case will turn out. The complaint appears to elide two years’ worth of key facts in order to present Cash’s claims as sympathetically as possible; even if the trial court were to rule in favor of the university after more factual development, Cash would have the opportunity to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, one of the country’s most conservative federal appeals courts.

More generally, we’re still early in the legal battles over attempts to use religious freedom rights as grounds to discriminate; only a few courts across the country have weighed in. So no matter how extreme Cash or his lawyers may seem, it’s too early to count them out.

* * *

The cases brought by Keeton, Ward, and Cash not only attempt to undermine anti-discrimination policies. They also seek to change the nature of the counselor-client relationship. Current norms provide that a counselor is a professional who provides a service to a client. But the plaintiffs in these cases seem to think that counseling a patient is no different than lecturing a passerby in the town square, in that counseling a patient necessarily involves expressing the counselor’s personal and religious beliefs. Courts have thus far rejected these attempts to redefine the counselor-patient relationship, just as they have turned away attempts to challenge bans on “reparative therapy.”

The principles underlying the courts’ decisions protect more than just LGBTQ clients. As the 11th Circuit explained in Keeton, the university trains students to “be competent to work with all populations, and that all students not impose their personal religious values on their clients, whether, for instance, they believe that persons ought to be Christians rather than Muslims, Jews or atheists, or that homosexuality is moral or immoral.” Licensed professionals are supposed to help their clients, not treat them as prospective converts.

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”