Scott Walker Hates Planned Parenthood Too!

Carole Joffe

Gov. Scott Walker: "(I am proud of) trying to defund Planned Parenthood and make sure they didn’t have any money, not just for abortion, but money for anything."

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally and inadvertently published under the byline of the wrong author.  The author is Carole Joffe as is now reflected in the byline.

“(I am proud of) trying to defund Planned Parenthood and make sure they didn’t have any money, not just for abortion, but money for anything.”

This is gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker speaking to Wisconsin Right to Life last April, boasting about his record as a state legislator. And for this constituency, now-Governor Walker has come through.  His recently released budget proposes to repeal Wisconsin’s “contraceptive equity” law which stipulates that that health insurance plans in the state that cover prescription drugs cover contraception.  The budget also eliminates the state’s participation in the Title V Maternal and Child Health program, which provides family planning services as well as other health services for both men and women, including prostate and cervical cancer screenings.  Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin argues that such a move would mean the loss of four million dollars (of both state and federal funds) affecting 50 health centers in the state (PP receives about one quarter of Wisconsin’sTitle V funds).

Scott Walker’s actions in the short time he has been governor (he took office in January) were supposed to serve as a template for the newly energized Republican governors and state legislators who came to power as a result of the November 2010 “shellacking.”  That is, please your religious right base by going after birth control services in general and Planned Parenthood in particular, and please economic conservatives by offering generous tax breaks to corporations, massively cutting social programs, and  greatly weakening, if not destroying, public sector unions.

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As a fascinated country has seen for the past several weeks, that part about destroying the unions hasn’t played so well.  Walker’s poll numbers are tanking.  The Republican leaning Rasmussen poll recently found that nearly 60% of Wisconsin likely voters now disapprove of Walker, with 48% “strongly disapproving.”  Observing Walker’s situation, a number of other Republican governors have backed off from earlier plans to similarly combat public sector unions in their states.

Thus far, however, neither Republicans in Congress or in state houses show signs of retreating from the harsh and increasingly bizarre war they are waging on abortion and contraception. In Congress, Republicans (and a handful of Democrats) voted to defund Planned Parenthood and Title X, a program that funds family planning and other basic reproductive health services, and passed legislation that permits hospitals to deny lifesaving abortions.   At the state level, several states are considering legislation that has been interpreted as making the killing of abortion providers “justifiable homicide,” Georgia is considering a “prenatal murder” bill that would make miscarriages  suspect  unless a woman could “prove” she did nothing to cause it,  and S. Dakota has decreed that before a woman can receive an abortion she must first go to a blatantly antiabortion “Crisis Pregnancy Center” for counseling—and then wait three days before seeking an abortion.

But there are signs that the American public is noting with alarm these fanatical measures. Just released data from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows a “movement toward a liberal position on abortion.”  While much has been made of a 2009 poll that showed the public evenly divided on the question of whether abortion should be legal, Pew reports that “support for legal abortion has recovered” and now stands at 54%, with 39% opposed.  Similarly, two recent polls show voter disapproval of the defunding of Planned Parenthood, with particularly strong opposition among women and younger respondents.

Though both the right and the left have tended to treat economic issues, including the fate of labor unions, and reproductive rights as separate phenomena, with two different constituencies, in the real lives of working people, these issues are very much connected.  Hardly surprisingly, in difficult economic times people try to control their childbearing. This was true during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and it is true today.  The Guttmacher Institute released a report, at the height of the current recession  that showed that many women did not feel they could afford another child and that they they were committed to using birth control more consistently.  Yet the report also showed that one in four respondents put off a visit to a family planning center because they could not afford it.

It is too soon to know the significance of the poll numbers cited above, or of the nation-wide demonstrations in recent weeks in support of both labor unions and Planned Parenthood. Possibly, though, this political moment may mark a serious pushback against the Right’s extraordinary overreach, since the 2010 election, in its eagerness to abolish both the workplace conditions and health care services needed  by so many.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open the Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

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Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.