News Abortion

Is PRENDA Falling Apart? Anti-Choicers Know They Have No Case, and No One Is Sure of A Vote

Andy Kopsa

The co-launch of the new Lila Rose “exposé” on “gendercide” at Planned Parenthood and the vote on the so-called Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act came forth in perfect harmony – one buoying and leveraging the other. PRENDA was scheduled for a vote yesterday, however was rolled over to today.

See all our coverage of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) here and all our coverage of sex selection here.

The co-launch of the new Lila Rose “exposé” on “gendercide” at Planned Parenthood and the vote on the so-called Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act came forth in perfect harmony – one buoying and leveraging the other. PRENDA was scheduled for a vote yesterday, but was then rolled over to today. 

I started calling around to find out why such an important #waronwomen anti-choice bill in a right-wing House wasn’t driven through like a semi-trailer. From what I can find, it’s  starting to seem like this bill is falling apart. 

Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office denied any discord in the ranks and told me the roll over of the vote to today was just a matter of running out of time. A vote isn’t even likely until at least 10pm.  (Of course as with all things on the Hill anything is possible).

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Yesterday the Majority Leader’s office was equally evasive about PRENDA, telling me they couldn’t say if a vote were scheduled on the bill although it was already on the floor calendar.

Trent Franks, (R-AZ) sponsor of PRENDA was impossible to contact. His office was nothing but a series of answering machines – both in DC and Arizona. The Arizona office wouldn’t even let me leave a message.

I reached out to the Susan B. Anthony List to find out why the delay on such an important bill? A nice representative told me that all their legislative staff had “literally” just headed to the Capitol for a press conference – this was as of 10 am. But, he couldn’t tell me what the presser was about nor did he know if the vote would happen today – and told me if it did it would be late into the night.

No one on the right has been forthcoming about this bill. Perhaps it is because the entire thing is predicated on misinformation and religious ideology. Reading through the testimony last year on PRENDA would be a laugh riot of nonsense if it weren’t actually inserted into the Congressional Record. 

There is no real evidence given in the PRENDA hearing to support the GOP’s claim that unborn girls are under siege in America… and I mean none. Census data is offered from California showing the birth of boys increasing in Chinese, Indian, and Korean American households after 1980. There are zero studies of abortions performed for the sake of sex-selection in the United States. 

The rest of the testimony in favor of PRENDA comes from well-known religious anti-choice activists not known for their fact-based arguments: Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr. and director of African-American outreach at Priests for Life; Students for Life of America; Edwin Black of The Feature Group; The Alliance Defense Fund; and Steven Mosher of Population Research Institute.

Mosher is of special interest because he made sex selection an issue back when Franks originally introduced PRENDA a few years ago. I reached out to the author of “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” Mara Hvistendahl. She has this to say in the book about Mosher’s call to use sex-selective abortion as a political tool:

In 2008 [Mosher] posited to supporters that sex-selective abortion was the next logical battleground in the abortion war — not because it is inherently discriminatory and results in worsening status for women but because an “incremental approach” to restricting access to abortion is more workable than a flat-out ban.

“I propose that we — the pro-life movement — adopt as our next goal the banning of sex-selective abortion,” she quotes him as saying.

Although Hvistendahl had no knowledge of Franks and Mosher working together specifically on crafting PRENDA she told me via email:

“I do get the sense that Mosher and Franks work together quite a bit. They see focusing on sex selective abortion as a great way to divide the left.”

In fact, a lot of the recorded testimony references back to Hvistendahl’s work in Asia as a reason to pre-emptively ban the non-existent U.S. “gendercide” of ‘baby girls.’  Naturally, a red herring but it works for those who don’t care too much about facts and statistics. 

She told me via email:

“It’s a shame that anti-abortion activists in the U.S. are coming at this with the ulterior motive of pushing through restrictions on all abortions — and that they’re targeting a group that today helps a lot of poor and working-class women.”

What Lila Rose’s videos reveal are Planned Parenthood workers responding to a strange question – one they probably have never had to answer before until Trent Franks and Steven Mosher dreamed up a US gendercide: “I want to abort my baby girl.”

What is a provider of legal abortion to do? Dissuade a woman from making a choice that she is within her rights to make? Or, offer explanation of her options no matter what her supposed reason, and communicating the law, as it exists – abortion on demand at specific stages of gestation, as is her right? PRENDA and Live Action’s videos aren’t about protecting girls – it is about robbing women of choices by any means necessary. 

Whether it is through the manipulation of statistics from China or India or as noted in the Congressional record or a 1980 California census showing an uptick in the number of baby boys, the goal is to provide another false alarm for anti-choice advocates to latch onto and ride all the way to November. If they manage to continue to defund Planned Parenthood then so be it.

Finally, after calling around all morning, Steven Ertelt of Life News provided me with an answer via a flurry of twitter exchanges. 

Ertelt told me that the suspension vote in his view was used because suspension is for “non-controversial bills” and this bill should be “non-controversial.” Ertelt confirmed what I expected all along – and what others have said and believed – “Suspension [was used] b/c there are likely enough Dems to kill it and they can be exposed for their extremism.”  

This Democrat “extremism” further fuels the new Republicans meme: this bill will save millions of baby girls! The Democrats voted against saving the lives of potential women! Who’s waging the real war on women, Democrats? We are the true women’s rights advocates!

Exactly. 

You can track and read the bill here. And look for calendar updates on Representative Cantor’s website here.

Roundups Politics

Ted Cruz Is No Moderate: Meet Some of His Most Extreme Allies

Ally Boguhn

The presidential candidate has lined up supporters who have suggested that marriage equality may usher in a second civil war and compared Planned Parenthood workers to perpetrators of clinic violence.

In his quest to secure conservative votes, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) has embraced extremists across the country, many of whom have well-documented histories of anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, and racist rhetoric. As more moderate Republicans flock to Cruz in a push to block Donald Trump from winning their party’s nomination, Cruz’s support of these extremists sheds light on his future policy making, should he be elected president.

Though hardly an exhaustive list of the radicals with whom Cruz has aligned, here are some of the most reactionary characters in his playbook.

Troy Newman

Cruz and activist Troy Newman, head of the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, have spent months on the campaign trail praising each other’s extreme stances on abortion.

Operation Rescue moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 2002 to continue its campaign to intimidate abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, whom it had nicknamed “Tiller the Killer.” Before Newman came on as president, the group had previously targeted Tiller as part of its 1991 “Summer of Mercy,” when it led protesters to physically block and verbally intimidate those entering abortion clinics in Wichita, holding signs that, among other things, read “Tiller’s Slaughter House.”

Although Newman issued a statement on behalf of Operation Rescue condemning Scott Roeder when he murdered Tiller in 2009, a 2010 Ms. investigation reported that, according to Roeder, Newman had once told him that “it wouldn’t upset” him if an abortion provider was killed. (Newman denied meeting Roeder.) Roeder also had the phone number of Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger on a note on the dashboard of his car when he murdered Tiller. Sullenger, the senior vice president of the group, had been sentenced to prison time in 1988 for attempting to bomb an abortion clinic.

Newman co-founded anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in 2013, whose widely discredited videos alleged that Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from fetal tissue donations. Multiple ensuing investigations at both the state and federal level produced no evidence of wrongdoing, and one of the group’s other founders, David Daleiden, was later indicted in connection to the videos. Newman later separated from the group.

Despite the extremism of Newman’s groups, Cruz lauded the anti-choice activist upon receiving his endorsement in November, saying in a statement, “We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice.”

Cruz announced in late January that Newman would co-chair his coalition of anti-choice advisers, “Pro-Lifers for Cruz,” listing Newman’s book co-authored with Sullenger, Their Blood Cries Out, among his accomplishments. As Right Wing Watch noted, however, the text argues women who have abortions should be treated like murderers, and that abortion doctors should be executed. The book, now out of print, read: “[T]he United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt [sic] from the land and people,” according to Mother Jones.

Tony Perkins

Troy Newman isn’t the only radical in “Pro-Lifers for Cruz”—the group’s chair, Tony Perkins, is an anti-LGBTQ activist with a history of aiding extremist anti-choice groups.

Since 2003, Perkins has led the Family Research Council (FRC), classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a “hate group” for its anti-LGBTQ record.

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Recounting Perkins’ biography, the SPLC noted that although he claimed to have left a police force position over a disagreement about containing an anti-choice protest, “the reality is quite different.” The SPLC pointed to a report from the Nation finding that Perkins “failed to report an illegal conspiracy by anti-abortion activists” Operation Rescue during the group’s 1992 “Summer of Purpose,” while he worked dual roles as a reserve police officer in Baton Rouge and reporting for a conservative television station:

According to Victor Sachse, a classical record shop owner in the city who volunteered as a patient escort for the clinic, Perkins’ reporting was so consistently slanted and inflammatory that the clinic demanded his removal from its grounds.

In order to control an increasingly tense situation, the police chief had a chain-link fence erected to separate anti-abortion activists from pro-choice protesters, and he called in sheriff’s deputies and prison guards as extra forces. Perkins publicly criticized the department and the chief. Then, after learning about plans for violent tactics by anti-abortion activists to break through police lines and send waves of protesters onto the clinic’s grounds, he failed to inform his superiors on the force. As a result of his actions, Perkins was suspended from duty in 1992, and he subsequently quit the reserve force.

Perkins also has ties to white supremacist groups and is well known as a vocal opponent of LGBTQ equality, having suggested, among other things, that there is “a correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia,” and that lawmakers who supported the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy had “the blood of innocent soldiers on their hands.”

Frank Gaffney

Cruz’s list of national security advisers, meanwhile, includes Frank Gaffney Jr. Even in the face of criticism, Cruz has defended his pick, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “Frank Gaffney is a serious thinker who has been focused on fighting jihadists, fighting jihadism across the globe.”

Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official, is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy (CSP). In this year’s Intelligence Report, which documents extremist groups, the SPLC categorized CSP as an anti-Muslim hate group.

The CSP’s primary focus in recent years “has been on demonizing Islam and Muslims under the guise of national security” by promoting conspiracy theories, according to SPLC. The Center for American Progress’ 2011 report, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, featured Gaffney as a key player in promoting anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States, writing that he often “makes unsubstantiated claims about ‘stealth jihad,’ the ‘imposition of Sharia law,’ and the proliferation of ‘radical mosques.'”

Gordon Klingenschmitt

Cruz announced in early April that his Colorado Leadership Team included state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs), asserting he was “honored” to have the support of the politician and 24 other conservatives from the the state.

The previous week, Klingenschmitt had made headlines for claiming transgender people are “confused about their own identity” during an appearance on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

Klingenschmitt had been previously stripped of his position on the Colorado House of Representatives’ House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee in early 2015 after claiming on his television program that a violent attack on a pregnant woman in the state was the result of “the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb.”

“Part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open,” claimed Klingenschmitt at the time before going on to pray for an “end to the holocaust which is abortion in America.”

In the wake of the deadly shootings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in November 2015, Klingenschmitt claimed that “Planned Parenthood executives” have the “same demonic spirit of murder” as the alleged killer, Robert Lewis Dear Jr.

Earlier in 2015, the Colorado state representative said that Planned Parenthood executives have “demons inside of them, you can see the blood dripping from their fangs. These people are just evil.” That June, he criticized Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) for signing a measure forcing those seeking abortions to receive medically unnecessary forced ultrasounds, claiming that the law didn’t go far in enough because it didn’t ban abortion entirely
.
James Dobson

Focus on the Family (FoF) founder and chairman James Dobson played a starring role in a February ad released by the Cruz campaign, which praised the candidate for defending “the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage.” That same month, he rolled out a robocall for a super PAC supporting the candidate after giving Cruz his endorsement last year.

Dobson’s FoF has spent millions promoting its anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, even dropping an estimated $2.5 million in 2010 to fund an anti-choice Super Bowl ad featuring conservative football player Tim Tebow. Dobson also founded the aforementioned Family Research Council, now headed by Tony Perkins.

Dobson’s own personal rhetoric is just as extreme as the causes his organization pushes. As extensively documented by Right Wing Watch,

Dobson has:

Other Notable Extremists Working With Cruz

Conservative radio host Steve Deace, a member of the Cruz campaign’s Iowa leadership team, is “virulently anti-LGBT, having repeatedly attacked supporters of LGBT equality as being part of a ‘Rainbow Jihad,'” according to media watchdog organization Media Matters for America.

In October Cruz announced he was “thrilled” to receive the endorsement of Sandy Rios, a conservative radio host and official at the American Family Association-yet another organization classified by the SPLC as a hate group. Rios gained notoriety during the 2015 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia after claiming the conductor’s sexuality may have played a role in the accident.

Cruz and several other Republican presidential candidates spoke alongside far-right, anti-LGBTQ pastor and Christian radio host Kevin Swanson in November at the National Religious Liberties Conference. Swanson is featured in GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project, which highlights figures who “represent extreme animus towards the entire LGBT community.”

A&E’s Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson has been a fierce Cruz supporter, and in February the presidential candidate pitched the idea of making him an ambassador to the United Nations should he be elected. Just weeks earlier, Robertson had called same-sex marriage “evil” during a Cruz rally. This statement came as little surprise given the reality television star’s previous comments condemning homosexuality and linking it to bestiality.

Cruz was also “thrilled” in March to win an endorsement from “Ohio’s top conservative leaders”—a list that included activist Linda Harvey, who once wrote that LGBTQ youth may be possessed by “demonic spirits.”

News Law and Policy

Congressional Testimony: Anti-Choice Measure Would Turn People of Color Into ‘Suspects in the Exam Room’

Kanya D’Almeida

All of the letter’s 56 signatories are people of color who have had abortions. They say the bill would force providers to interrogate patients’ reasons for seeking care and “erect a political divide” between patients and their physicians.

Dozens of people of color sent a letter to Congress Thursday expressing outrage over the introduction of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2016 (HR 4924), which they say threatens the future of abortion care and codifies dangerous racist and sexist stereotypes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Black people, and Latinas.

Introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, the bill seeks to impose criminal penalties on providers who perform abortions knowing that they are sought on the basis of the fetus’ race or sex.

It also seeks to criminalize anyone who coerces a person into seeking a race- or sex-selective abortion; anyone who raises funds for the procedure; or anyone who transports a woman into the United States or across state lines to obtain the abortion—and imposes a penalty ranging from a fine to a five-year prison term.

Cloaked in the language of “nondiscrimination,” the act would achieve the opposite goal, the letter says, by singling out women of color for additional scrutiny based on, among other things, the “gross mischaracterization” of Asian-American communities, in particular, as having a preference for male over female children.

This assumption, referred to in the bill as “son preference,” has no medical or empirical basis—as the letter points out, and as research has shown, birth sex ratios indicate that Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are having more girls on average than their white counterparts.

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All of the letter’s 56 signatories are people of color who have had abortions. They say the bill would force providers to interrogate patients’ reasons for seeking care and “erect a political divide” between patients and their physicians, essentially transforming abortion seekers of color into “suspects in the exam room.”

Signatories say they are deeply troubled by the bill’s racist language, which came to the fore at a recent House hearing during which anti-choice activists and other witnesses evoked a history of eugenics by way of supporting the bill, essentially equating women who choose abortion care to slave owners and white supremacists.

“Several people of color—including immigrant folks, queer folks, and Black folks—walked out of that hearing feeling disgusted by the way terrible stereotypes were used to twist our history, and then put into the congressional record,” Renee Bracey Sherman, one of the original drafters of the letter, said in an interview with Rewire.

“It was so deeply offensive to have to sit there and listen to people like Catherine Davis [of the anti-choice National Black Pro-Life Coalition] invoke the names of Black civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), saying, ‘They did not march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge so that Black women could have abortions.’”

She pointed out that King was a strong supporter of family planning, while Lewis has been an outspoken proponent of reproductive justice and abortion rights.

Bracey Sherman also said she was disturbed by the fact that Alveda King, a prominent figure in the anti-choice movement, was allowed to submit her testimony in a letter to Congress.

“I kept thinking, She doesn’t speak for me,” Bracey Sherman told Rewire. “I didn’t want her words to be the only ones representing people of color who’ve had abortions, because the overwhelming majority of us don’t regret our choices. I felt that we needed a voice too, we needed our testimony to be heard.”

Bracey Sherman, together with Kristine Kippins, who is the federal policy counsel for the U.S. Policy and Advocacy Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Shivana Jorawar spent the weekend drafting the letter.

“This letter was very personal for me as a Black woman who has had an abortion,” Kippins told Rewire in a phone interview. “I’d never publicly said that I’d had an abortion, and this has really compelled me to speak out.”

She recalled the moment in last week’s hearing when Chairman Franks repeatedly silenced Miriam Yeung, the executive director of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and the only pro-choice witness at the hearing.

“At one point Yeung said very quietly, ‘Black women choose abortion,’” Kippins said. “And I realized, she was talking about me. So I felt I had to stand up and say, ‘Yes, I am one of those women, I chose abortion and it was the best possible thing for me. I need people to trust me, and women like me, to make those decisions for ourselves,’” she added.

Her words echo the efforts of reproductive justice advocates like those in the Trust Black Women Partnership who have long fought to assert Black women’s bodily autonomy and push back against a wave of discriminatory laws that directly target or disproportionately impact Black women. These include a recent rash of anti-choice laws that impose medically unnecessary safety regulations on providers and force women to delay care by insisting on multiple medical appointments.

“If legislators actually care about women’s health they should work towards making abortion available to our community. They should vote the Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act into law,” Kippins stated.

“We need access to housing, job opportunities, education for the children we already have. Lawmakers need to stop wasting our time and taxpayers’ money with bills like this and start addressing the civil rights and economic needs of the Black community and our Asian and Latina sisters and brothers,” she said.

Race- and sex-selective abortion is not a widespread occurrence in the United States, but anti-choice groups and lawmakers have cited isolated studies claiming to document the practice occurring in immigrant communities as a way to push anti-abortion legislation in the past.

Drafters of the letter say the current proposed act echoes these same cultural and racial stereotypes, and represents a blatant attempt to control women’s bodies.

“As an Indo-Caribbean woman, I can think for myself—I don’t need oversight from misogynist and paternalist politicians,” Shivana Jorawar said in a phone interview with Rewire.

Jorawar had her abortion when she was in high school. She was 15 years old at the time, harboring dreams of becoming a lawyer and making her family proud.

“My parents were immigrants from Guyana. They came here with almost nothing to their name, and access to education was really an important part of their American dream,” Jorawar explained, adding that they sacrificed almost everything they had to pay for tuition and send her to the best possible schools, working minimum-wage jobs around the clock to do so.

“They uprooted themselves and crossed borders and oceans to get to this strange land only to be greeted by discrimination. So to me, in that moment when I found out I was pregnant, I just felt I could not let my family down by ruining my chances at academic success,” Jorawar said.

She had the abortion and went on to become the first lawyer in her family.

“Every time I see my parents beaming with pride when they introduce me to new people and say ‘My daughter is a lawyer,’ or every time a young woman in my community comes to me for mentorship, I’m reminded that I made the right decision for my life,” she told Rewire.

“So this suggestion that we can’t make our own decisions, that we are not people capable of having a vision for our lives, is just incredibly insulting and it needs to stop,” she said.