News Contraception

Texas Ditches Generic Language, Goes Straight For Planned Parenthood

Robin Marty

The legislature removes defunding language that could hurt the medical groups they don't want punished for performing abortions, but makes sure to keep Planned Parenthood restrictions in their bills.

Texas legislators have decided to relax their mission to end access to abortion in the state and spend their efforts focusing on the real enemy.

Planned Parenthood.

Via the Dallas News:

On a Medicaid cost containment bill, Senate negotiators removed language by Rep. Jim Landtroop, R-Plainview, that would have cut off state funds to hospitals and clinics that perform abortions and “abortion-related services.” The latter phrase wasn’t defined, and began to draw fire for being so broad it could harm health care providers who aren’t in the sights of anti-abortion rights activists.

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“You couldn’t implement that,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, author of the larger bill, which expands Medicaid managed care and allows copayments to be charged if Medicaid recipients inappropriately use a hospital emergency room. “You would be in a lawsuit.” She said that negotiators substituted for Landtroop’s language a provision, very similar to budget language about distribution of family planning money, that would give other health care providers priority over Planned Parenthood clinics if birth control and health screenings for women are continued.

So in case it isn’t clear, the war isn’t on abortion — they’ll let some things pass by to avoid a lawsuit if necessary.  It’s always been and always will be about ending Planned Parenthood.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Calls Out Debate Moderators for Ignoring Abortion

Ally Boguhn

Reproductive rights and justice advocates, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have spent months demanding Democratic debate moderators address abortion, organizing around the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) this week on the campaign trail ignored questions about whether he supports radical “personhood” legislation, while Hillary Clinton called out Democratic debate decision makers for failing to ask the candidates about abortion rights.

Clinton Critical of Democratic Debates for Ignoring Abortion Rights and Access 

After moderators at eight debates failed to ask Democratic presidential candidates about abortion, Clinton called out the unwillingness to address the issue during CNN’s Thursday debate in Brooklyn.

“You know, there is no doubt that the only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe v. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned. And I want to say something about this, since we’re talking about the Supreme Court and what’s at stake,” Clinton said. “We’ve had eight debates before, this is our ninth. We’ve not had one question about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question.”

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“We have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women’s rights,” the former secretary of state continued. “We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished. And we are never asked about this.”

Fact-checking site Politifact pored over transcripts of each Democratic debate during the 2016 presidential race. “We could not find any example of a moderator asking a direct question about abortion,” the site concluded, rating the claim “true.”

Reproductive rights and justice advocates, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have spent months demanding Democratic debate moderators address the topic, organizing around the hashtag #AskAboutAbortion.

“You might be thinking, Clinton and Sanders are both pro-choice and miles ahead of the Republican candidates, so what’s the point in talking about it? Well, both candidates support expanding health care access and regulating Wall Street, but that hasn’t stopped them from clashing over how to do it. It should be the same for abortion,” reproductive justice advocate Renee Bracey Sherman explained in an article for Glamour ahead of Thursday’s debate. “We can’t continue to allow anti-choice candidates to define the conversation. We must demand that our pro-choice politicians do more than just check the box. They must advance access to care, not maintain the status quo.”

Cruz Won’t Address His Anti-Choice Record During MSNBC Town Hall

The Texas senator on Thursday tried to gloss over his extreme anti-choice record during a town hall event hosted by MSNBC, refusing to answer eight direct questions about whether he supports so-called personhood legislation, which could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

“I told you I’m not going to get into the labels, but what I will say is we should protect life. But I’m not interested in anything that restricts birth control,” Cruz said when confronted by moderator Chuck Todd about whether he supports legislation that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby granting constitutional rights to fertilized eggs, zygotes, and embryos. “And I’m not interested in anything that restricts in vitro fertilization because I think parents who are struggling to create life, to have a child, that is a wonderful thing,” continued the Republican presidential candidate.

But as MSNBC’s Jane C. Timm noted, “It’s unclear what Cruz defines to be birth control,” as he refused to answer Todd’s inquiry about whether Cruz considers intrauterine devices a form of contraception. Cruz has falsely equated some forms of hormonal contraception to “abortion-inducing drugs.

Cruz may have refused to discuss “personhood” during his MSNBC appearance, but he has, for the most part, been a vocal proponent of such legislation. The candidate in February released a video promising to “do everything” within his power to end abortion access if elected president, as Rewire reported. Cruz in the video threw his support behind a South Carolina bill that proposed giving fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses full constitutional rights.

He also gave his support for a similar measure in Georgia.

“I have been around conservatives my entire life. I have never met a single human being, in any place, who wanted to ban contraceptives,” Cruz said. Though Cruz has repeatedly alleged that Republicans have never tried to ban contraceptives, he has consistently pushed for legislation to do just that.

Along with the “personhood” measures he has supported, Cruz has crusaded to defund Planned Parenthood, applauded Texas Republicans for restricting Medicaid funding for abortion care while encouraging other states to do the same, and used his Senate seat to attempt to restrict access to contraception.

Cruz also worked to block a Washington, D.C. law to protect residents from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions, which could have made accessing contraception more difficult had he succeeded.

What Else We’re Reading

Donald Trump’s campaign manager won’t be prosecuted for allegedly assaulting journalist Michelle Fields.

The campaigns of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Clinton are joining the Democratic Party in a lawsuit against Arizona’s Maricopa County after voters there faced hours-long waits to cast a ballot in their state’s primary. The lawsuit alleges that Arizona’s “alarmingly inadequate number of voting centers resulted in severe, inexcusable burdens on voters county-wide, as well as the ultimate disenfranchisement of untold numbers of voters who were unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines.” The situation was “particularly burdensome” for communities of color, who had less placesand in some cases no placesto vote.

The New York Times’ editorial board encouraged Clinton to “say more about the crime bill” which she supported and was signed into law by her husband in 1994. Another article in the Times explained that while the bill was not singularly responsible for mass incarceration, it added to prison populations and the “results may still be playing out.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) couldn’t believe that a young woman at one of his campaign rallies came up with a question for him about social security on her own. “Did somebody tell you to ask this question?” Kasich asked the woman, according to the Huffington Post. “No,” she told the Republican presidential candidate. “I think for myself.”

Mother Jones’ David Corn reported that Cruz once defended a law criminalizing the sale of sex toys. In their brief, Cruz’s legal team declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal judge to block Kansas’ restrictive voter ID law. The GOP measure requires proof of American citizenship when registering to vote while applying for a driver’s license pending the outcome of their suit against the law. At least 16,000 people have been stopped from registering to vote by the law, according to the ACLU. The preliminary injunction would stop the law from being enforced ahead of upcoming elections in August and November.

A Black man from Wisconsin brought three forms of identification to the polls in Wisconsin and still wasn’t allowed to vote thanks to the state’s Republican-backed voter ID law.

News Law and Policy

Brownback Administration: Medicaid Funding Ends for Planned Parenthood Cancer Screenings, Health Exams

Teddy Wilson

Sam Brownback, a staunchly anti-choice governor, said in January that he would cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. That came months after the release of deceptively edited, surreptitiously recorded videos smearing Planned Parenthood officials.

An official in Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration said notice was sent 11 days ago to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri that the organization would be banned from Kansas’ Medicaid program—a move that courts have blocked in other states. 

Melika Willoughby, deputy communications director for Brownback, confirmed in an email to Rewire that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment sent letters on March 10 to local Planned Parenthood affiliates notifying officials of termination from state Medicaid, including KanCare.

A Planned Parenthood spokesperson told Rewire that the organization continues to provide health-care services to Medicaid patients, and did not confirm that the organization received the letters from the Brownback administration.

“Planned Parenthood is and continues to be a qualified Medicaid provider in Kansas. Continuing to provide preventive health care to Medicaid patients across the state is our number one priority,” Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Misssouri, told Rewire.

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Brownback, a staunchly anti-choice governor, said in January’s State of the State address that he would cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. That came months after the release of the first round of deceptively edited, surreptitiously recorded videos smearing Planned Parenthood officials.

The videos, released by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), prompted a string of Republican-led investigations into the health-care organization. The investigations have failed to turn up any wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood, and CMP’s leaders have been indicted on charges related to the videos. 

Several Republican governors have moved to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood clinics. Courts have blocked those attempts in AlabamaArkansasLouisiana, and Utah.

Planned Parenthood would lose $61,000 in Medicaid reimbursements, which fund health exams, cancer screenings, and birth control for low-income people, Elise Higgins, Kansas manager of government affairs at Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told the Associated Press.

“I am disappointed on behalf of the women who rely on us for health care that the governor has chosen to make them his political scapegoat,” Higgins said.

Brownback sent a letter in January to the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment directing the agency to “take all necessary steps to terminate Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and all associated medical providers from Kansas Medicaid, including KanCare.”

The termination of the organization from Kansas’ Medicaid program would affect two Planned Parenthood facilities in the state: the Comprehensive Health Center in Overland Park and the Wichita Health Center.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told the Associated Press last week that she expected the letters to arrive eventually. “Whether or not it’s legal, whether or not it’s rational, whether or not it’s constitutional, those aren’t the guiding principles,” she said.

McQuade added that Brownback’s attempt to block Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program is an attempt to divert attention from the state’s ongoing budget problems, brought on in part by Brownback’s massive tax cuts.

“You can never discount the fact that Planned Parenthood is a convenient target for Gov. Brownback,” McQuade said.

Brownback has passed a series of anti-choice laws in his five years as governor, including the first law in the nation banning dilation and evacuation, a common medical procedure used after miscarriages and in second-trimester abortions. That law has been blocked by the state court of appeals, and the state has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Kansas.