News Politics

Pelosi On Anniversary Of ACA: “Republicans Are Brazen” In Attempts To Undermine Women’s Health Care

Robin Marty

With two years of health care reform already behind us, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other congresswomen remind women what is at state if the act is repealed.

It has been two years now since the Affordable Care Act was passed, and today it was celebrated by Congresswomen eager to remind the public of the great changes it has made on the behalf of women’s health.

“Today, a large number of women politicians spoke on the historic law,” Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters via conference call.

Noting that Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan unveiled his new budget, which would dismantle Medicare, Leader Pelosi emphasized the even greater need for keeping the ACA intact. “Republicans are brazen,” she stated. “They are out to destroy Medicare, and here they go again.”

Pelosi was joined by Democratic Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Gwen Moore (D-WI), all of whom attested to the benefits their constituents have received thanks to the Affordable Care Act, including the millions of children and young adults able to remain on their parents’ insurance and the over 30 million seniors who have received preventive care through Medicare.

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Their biggest focus, however, was on the 20 million women who have received necessary, affordable preventive services and low-cost coverage thanks to reform, much of it, such as cancer screenings, literally lifesaving.

“I can tell you for a fact that preventive health care saved my life,” Rep. DeLauro said, recalling her own battle with ovarian cancer 26 years earlier. “Many women aren’t so lucky.” Cancer screenings now, she explained, “aren’t just covered, they are affordable.”

Rep. DeGette was as enthusiastic in her praise of the new mandates. “Women no longer need a referral for an Ob-GYN,” said Rep. DeGette.  “Being a woman is no longer treated as a preexisting condition.”

But Republicans seem intent on undoing these gains, they said, especially during the 2012 legislative session. “We’ve already taken eight votes in this congress alone on anti-women legislation, from increasing taxes on employers covering abortion to denying life-saving health care in hospitals.”

Rep. DeGette called the proposals “some of the worst attacks I’ve ever seen on women in my lifetime.”  She remarked that although the House GOP has already made two attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have provided no blueprint for what they want to replace it with.

Of course, it’s not just the Republican party that serves as a threat to the advances made in the reform act.  With the Supreme Court about to begin reviewing state challenges to the law, what has been gained could just as quickly be lost. “We feel pretty solid constitutionally, we feel pretty iron-clad,” Leader Pelosi said when asked about the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the law.

“But,” she admitted,  “you never know what the court may do.”

News Politics

Anti-Choice Crusade Tests ACOG’s Donations to Blackburn

Christine Grimaldi

Republicans' prevailing views on abortion haven’t stopped the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists from contributing to their campaigns for U.S. Congress.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the leader of the congressional crusade to undermine access to abortion care and halt fetal tissue research, received campaign funds from an unlikely donor: the political advocacy arm of the nation’s leading professional association for obstetricians and gynecologists.

Publicly available campaign finance records obtained through the Federal Election Commission reveal that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) donated $2,000 to Blackburn early in the two-year 2016 federal election cycle. ACOG made the contribution through its political action committee (PAC), Ob-GynPAC, on June 30, 2015—several months before the U.S. House of Representatives voted in October to establish the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.

ACOG is the 501(c)(6) affiliate of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the membership association for 57,000 such providers across the country.

ACOG supports access to abortion care based on public health and medical evidence. Any contribution to Blackburn may, at first, appear misplaced. Blackburn, a longtime abortion rights foe, has emerged in recent months as the House’s most outspoken critic of an illicit market in “baby body parts” that according to all other accounts—three prior congressional committees, 13 states, and a Texas grand jury—doesn’t exist.

An ACOG spokesperson, however, stressed that Ob-GynPAC is broader than any one issue.

“The PAC often supports candidates and elected officials whom they disagree with on one issue or another because they work with the PAC on another priority,” the spokesperson told Rewire in an email.

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ACOG priorities overlap with some traditionally in the GOP camp: medical liability and Medicare payment reform, health information technology, and Affordable Care Act’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, a yet-to-be-constituted oversight panel to control Medicare costs. Medical groups generally oppose the advisory board, while anti-choice advocates have framed it as a “death panel.”

“Ob-GynPAC’s goal is to achieve real solutions to the issues facing ACOG members, which happens through bipartisan cooperation,” the spokesperson said.

The vast majority of congressional Republicans outright reject public health and medical evidence on abortion and oppose abortion rights, with the measured exception of retiring Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), who voted in 2015 against defunding Planned Parenthood even as he supports restrictions such as the Hyde Amendment. Hanna received $5,000 from ACOG in the 2016 federal election cycle.

Republicans’ prevailing views on abortion haven’t stopped ACOG from contributing to their campaigns for the House and U.S. Senate.

ACOG split $390,500 almost evenly between Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2016 cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Notable exceptions include Rep. Trent Franks (R-AL), the author of misleading legislation to ban sex- and race-selective abortion care, and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), perhaps the most abortion-obsessed lawmaker in Congress. Franks and Smith have not received any money since ACOG became operational in 2010, according to Center for Responsive Politics’ data.

The $2,000 contribution to Blackburn marks a retrenchment, as ACOG first gave a $3,500 campaign contribution in the 2012 election cycle. Blackburn received another $4,000 from ACOG in the 2014 cycle.

Some of Blackburn’s top campaign contributors are from the medical field. The American Medical Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American College of Radiology each gave Blackburn $10,000 in the 2016 federal election cycle, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

Across the aisle, ACOG donated $7,500 each in the 2016 cycle to Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), two of Blackburn’s adversaries on the select panel. Campaign finance records show that Schakowsky, the panel’s top Democrat, received the last $2,500 of that contribution from ACOG on March 31 of this year—several weeks after Republicans drew comparisons between fetal tissue research and Nazi experimentation at the panel’s first hearing.

ACOG defended both abortion care and fetal tissue research in a March 1 letter to Blackburn and Schakowsky and later that month, reiterated support for “life-saving research” in a statement and joint letter with others from the medical, scientific, and academic communities.

Neither the panel, nor the investigation, have ACOG’s support, the group’s spokesperson told Rewire.

In July, 30 progressive and reproductive health-care groups signed a letter in a bid for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to disband the panel.

News Abortion

Democrats to Speaker Ryan: End GOP ‘Witch Hunt’ on Fetal Tissue, Later Abortion Practices (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

Democrats implored House Speaker Paul Ryan “not to stand idly by while tax dollars are spent on a baseless investigation that endangers women, scientists, health providers, and others involved in women's health care and biomedical research.”

UPDATE, May 26, 9:05 a.m.: The Democrats’ letter gained three signatories later on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) told Rewire. A total 181 out of 188 Democrats are now calling for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to disband the GOP-led investigation into fetal tissue and later abortion practices.

Nearly every Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives called on Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to disband a panel relying on anti-choice allegations to investigate fetal tissue and later abortion practices.

“The onus is on you to put an end to this witch hunt,” the lawmakers, accounting for 178 of the House’s 188 Democrats, said in a letter to Ryan. “You cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the serious risks presented by the panel and still claim to fulfill your responsibilities as Speaker.”

The Democrats requested a written response from Ryan by June 6.

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“Speaker Ryan supports the Select Committee’s continued efforts to protect infant lives,” AshLee Strong, a spokesperson for Ryan, said in an email to Rewire.

The so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives escalated what Democratic lawmakers called a “pattern of reckless disregard for safety” in recent weeks when Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) shifted the inquiry’s focus from fetal tissue procurement and research to later abortion care.

A press release accompanying Blackburn’s batch of subpoenas named a later abortion provider and clinic. Coupled with the release’s “hyperbolic rhetoric and misleading allegations,” the Democrats charged that the latest move could endanger the provider, staff, and patients.

The subpoenaed clinic is already a target of the radical anti-choice group Operation RescueTroy Newman, Operation Rescue’s president, and David Daleiden founded the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the anti-choice front group behind the discredited smear campaign alleging that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations.

Blackburn still references the CMP videos as she issues subpoenas and holds hearings on those allegations. GOP hearing exhibits reportedly duplicated or nearly duplicated the “evidence” in the CMP attack videos.

It is not unthinkable for such rhetoric to draw newfound violence to the subpoenaed clinic, pro-choice advocates have charged. Blackburn and the panel’s Republicans repeatedly refer to “baby body parts,” which mirrors the language of the accused Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter, who called himself a “warrior for the babies.” An April National Abortion Federation report found unprecedented levels of anti-choice violence and threats, including a spike after the release of the CMP videos, against abortion providers in 2015.

Democrats implored Ryan “not to stand idly by while tax dollars are spent on a baseless investigation that endangers women, scientists, health providers, and others involved in women’s health care and biomedical research.”

The investigation is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. A senior House Democratic aide with knowledge of the chamber’s rules told Rewire that the panel operates from the budget of the full committee with jurisdiction—the House Energy and Commerce Committee—and from an additional House Administration Committee transfer of $300,000 last year. The panel’s Republicans received $200,000 and Democrats $100,000 under the House’s informal two-thirds/one-third funding split between the majority and minority parties.

“These recent steps are completely outside the bounds of acceptable Congressional behavior,” the Democrats said. “We disgrace ourselves by allowing this misconduct to continue.”

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