News Politics

Wendy Long Wins GOP Nomination For New York Senate — What Does She Believe?

Robin Marty

The former Clarence Thomas clerk will now take on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in November.  But what are the differences between the two women?

Wendy Long may have been the sound winner of the New York Republican primary, but when it comes to winning the senate seat away from Democrat Kristen Gillibrand, it’s going to be a much harder process.

Long, a New York attorney who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, came away from the primary with over 50 percent of the vote, a double digit lead over her next nearest competitor, Republican Congressman Bob Turner. But now that she is on to the general election, it may be harder for her to appeal to a state that is predominately liberal. She campaigned for the nomination on a platform that was pro-gun rights, anti-same-sex marriage and focused on the elimination of the federal deficit.

Her most conservative passion, however, appears to be for the judicial branch. Long worked closely with Judicial Crisis Network to advocate against “liberal” nominees to the bench. She still remains close with her conservative network, receiving an endorsement from the Susan B. Anthony List for her senate campaign back in April. 

“There could not be a more clear contrast between longtime pro-life leader Wendy Long and EMILY’s List poster child Senator Gillibrand,” said Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Wendy understands that the only ‘war on women’ is the one being waged against women of faith and conscience by the Obama administration and their allies in Congress and the abortion lobby. She has boldly called on Senator Gillibrand to end the assault on Life, conscience, and religious liberty.”

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“From her days as a Hill staffer to her time at Americans United for Life and her work on behalf of Supreme Court Justices who practice judicial restraint, Wendy has constantly been engaged in the fight for adherence to the Constitution and the right to Life laid out in the Declaration of Independence,” continued Dannenfelser. “We look forward to having her back on Capitol Hill and adding to the number of pro-life women in the Senate.”

Since winning the primary, though, even the SBA has tried to tone down the anti-choice rhetoric a bit to attempt to make Long appear a bit more moderate. Their statement on Long’s primary win is much less heavy on the anti-choice activism.

“Wendy is a remarkable advocate for women and families and we are thrilled with tonight’s victory,” said Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Not only does she provide an ideal contrast to the pro-abortion leadership of Senator Gillibrand, Wendy is an accomplished leader in her own right. A mother and successful career woman who even went on to clerk for the Supreme Court, Wendy has the broad-based appeal that New York voters are looking for.”

Long, too, is hoping that in the general election, New Yorkers won’t notice her record of attempts to limit the reproductive rights of women. The night she declared her candidacy, when pushed on her history of lobbying for judges who are inclined to fight a woman’s right to choose, Long hedged as much as possible before admitting she believed Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Given her work opposing the appointment of left-leaning judges—which often comes back to Roe v. Wade and the interpretation of a right to privacy—I asked Long about her position on abortion, and the recent debate over contraception.

“It’s not an issue in this campaign, number one,” she said. “There is no issue that’s before us that’s relevant in this campaign.”

When I pressed by pointing out that the issue has very much been in the news recently, and that Gillibrand would almost certainly invite a debate on the topic, Long elaborated a bit.

“I think there is a universal understanding among the legal community that Roe v. Wade was a very flawed legal decision,” she said. “It’s a horrible decision from a constitutional law standpoint, and even liberal law professors will tell you that.

“I believe that the issue of abortion should be left to the people to decide. The Constitution doesn’t mention the word abortion. So I think that’s what it’s really all about. And if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, nobody would even notice, because the states are legislating their own laws about abortion, completely independent.”

If Roe was an issue that was best left to the states, does that mean the same for birth control? Was Griswold v. Connecticut wrong as well? Long doesn’t speak to that specifically, but has made it clear that she would be another yes vote when it comes to the Blunt amendment allowing employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage in their insurance plans if they find it morally objectionable.

Gillibrand was a strong vote against an employer being allowed to refuse contraceptive coverage under the guise of “moral objection,” stating religious beliefs should not be able to trump a woman’s right to control her own body. During the debate over the Blunt amendment and the White House mandate for no co pay birth control, Gillibrand stated:

“While I remain dumbfounded that in the year 2012 we still have to fight over birth control, I commend the White House for its final rule that adheres to a core principle that the power to decide whether or not each individual woman uses contraception should be with that woman – not with her boss.  This common sense rule will ensure that every single woman in America has access to the full range of preventive health care while respecting the teachings of religious institutions.

“This debate has been just the latest political overreach by politicians to roll back access to birth control and undermine women’s health. It is a fight that continues today in the U.S. Senate with outrageous legislation by Senators Blunt and Rubio that would take away women’s rights by allowing any employer to refuse health care services on religious grounds. We will not stand for these attempts to undermine the ability of women to make their own decisions. If my Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue head on, we stand ready to oppose any attacks launched against women’s rights and women’s health.”

Meanwhile, Long is actively participating in the “Fornight of Freedom” event sponsored by Catholics who oppose insurance coverage of no co-pay birth control, and claim that the Administration is denying Catholics the right to practice freedom of religion. Long had scathing words for those who would “force” Catholics to support birth control.

“We are in the midst of two weeks in which all of us American Catholics have been called by the U.S. Bishops to pray and work for religious freedom, particularly the freedom of conscience of Catholic educators, health care workers, and others whose First Amendment right to freely exercise their faith has been trampled upon by Senator Gillibrand and President Obama,” said Long.
 
“I will not let Kirsten Gillibrand off the hook on this one.  Not only is her action harmful to the Catholic Church and practicing Catholics, it is an affront to all free citizens who defend the truths of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, that all men  are created equal, that every human person is equal in the dignity and value of her human life, and that every citizen in America has an equal right to freely exercise her faith.
 
“Senator Gillibrand and President Obama think some citizens are more equal than others.  This is clearly wrong.  We Catholics are resolved in these two weeks to defend our commitment to religious freedom and equality for all,” Long said.

Long states that issues of choice and reproductive freedom won’t be something that will matter to the voters in November. “Of course, there’s a certain segment of the far left to whom these kind of issues appeal,” Long said in an interview in May. “Who care about contraception and think that the world revolves around that but I think that mainstream women of both parties and independents are much more concerned about jobs and the economy and taxes and regulation.”

But considering Long’s active participation in limiting a woman’s right to control her own body, both prior to and after pregnancy, voters feel that reproductive health might be a very important issue in November, despite Long’s assurances otherwise.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

Commentary Contraception

Hillary Clinton Played a Critical Role in Making Emergency Contraception More Accessible

Susan Wood

Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second-chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Clinton helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

In the midst of election-year talk and debates about political controversies, we often forget examples of candidates’ past leadership. But we must not overlook the ways in which Hillary Clinton demonstrated her commitment to women’s health before she became the Democratic presidential nominee. In early 2008, I wrote the following article for Rewirewhich has been lightly edited—from my perspective as a former official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the critical role that Clinton, then a senator, had played in making the emergency contraception method Plan B available over the counter. She demanded that reproductive health benefits and the best available science drive decisions at the FDA, not politics. She challenged the Bush administration and pushed the Democratic-controlled Senate to protect the FDA’s decision making from political interference in order to help women get access to EC.

Since that time, Plan B and other emergency contraception pills have become fully over the counter with no age or ID requirements. Despite all the controversy, women at risk of unintended pregnancy finally can get timely access to another method of contraception if they need it—such as in cases of condom failure or sexual assault. By 2010, according to National Center for Health Statistics data, 11 percent of all sexually experienced women ages 15 to 44 had ever used EC, compared with only 4 percent in 2002. Indeed, nearly one-quarter of all women ages 20 to 24 had used emergency contraception by 2010.

As I stated in 2008, “All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.”

Now, there are new emergency contraceptive pills (Ella) available by prescription, women have access to insurance coverage of contraception without cost-sharing, and there is progress in making some regular contraceptive pills available over the counter, without prescription. Yet extreme calls for defunding Planned Parenthood, the costs and lack of coverage of over-the-counter EC, and refusals by some pharmacies to stock emergency contraception clearly demonstrate that politicization of science and limits to our access to contraception remain a serious problem.

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Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

Although stories about reproductive health and politicization of science have made headlines recently, stories of how these problems are solved are less often told. On August 31, 2005 I resigned my position as assistant commissioner for women’s health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because the agency was not allowed to make its decisions based on the science or in the best interests of the public’s health. While my resignation was widely covered by the media, it would have been a hollow gesture were there not leaders in Congress who stepped in and demanded more accountability from the FDA.

I have been working to improve health care for women and families in the United States for nearly 20 years. In 2000, I became the director of women’s health for the FDA. I was rather quietly doing my job when the debate began in 2003 over whether or not emergency contraception should be provided over the counter (OTC). As a scientist, I knew the facts showed that this medication, which can be used after a rape or other emergency situations, prevents an unwanted pregnancy. It does not cause an abortion, but can help prevent the need for one. But it only works if used within 72 hours, and sooner is even better. Since it is completely safe, and many women find it impossible to get a doctor’s appointment within two to three days, making emergency contraception available to women without a prescription was simply the right thing to do. As an FDA employee, I knew it should have been a routine approval within the agency.

Plan B emergency contraception is just like birth control pills—it is not the “abortion pill,” RU-486, and most people in the United States don’t think access to safe and effective contraception is controversial. Sadly, in Congress and in the White House, there are many people who do oppose birth control. And although this may surprise you, this false “controversy” not only has affected emergency contraception, but also caused the recent dramatic increase in the cost of birth control pills on college campuses, and limited family planning services across the country.  The reality is that having more options for contraception helps each of us make our own decisions in planning our families and preventing unwanted pregnancies. This is something we can all agree on.

Meanwhile, inside the walls of the FDA in 2003 and 2004, the Bush administration continued to throw roadblocks at efforts to approve emergency contraception over the counter. When this struggle became public, I was struck by the leadership that Hillary Clinton displayed. She used the tools of a U.S. senator and fought ardently to preserve the FDA’s independent scientific decision-making authority. Many other senators and congressmen agreed, but she was the one who took the lead, saying she simply wanted the FDA to be able to make decisions based on its public health mission and on the medical evidence.

When it became clear that FDA scientists would continue to be overruled for non-scientific reasons, I resigned in protest in late 2005. I was interviewed by news media for months and traveled around the country hoping that many would stand up and demand that FDA do its job properly. But, although it can help, all the media in the world can’t make Congress or a president do the right thing.

Sen. Clinton made the difference. The FDA suddenly announced it would approve emergency contraception for use without a prescription for women ages 18 and older—one day before FDA officials were to face a determined Sen. Clinton and her colleague Sen. Murray (D-WA) at a Senate hearing in 2006. No one was more surprised than I was. All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.

Sometimes these success stories get lost in the “horse-race stories” about political campaigns and the exposes of taxpayer-funded bridges to nowhere, and who said what to whom. This story of emergency contraception at the FDA is just one story of many. Sen. Clinton saw a problem that affected people’s lives. She then stood up to the challenge and worked to solve it.

The challenges we face in health care, our economy, global climate change, and issues of war and peace, need to be tackled with experience, skills and the commitment to using the best available science and evidence to make the best possible policy.  This will benefit us all.

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