News Politics

Massachusetts Anti-Choice Group Considers Brown a “Prolife” Senator

Robin Marty

Brown's voting record is good enough to win him more support from the state's most active anti-choice group.

Note: This piece was updated at 12 p.m. to provide a quote from EMILY’s List

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is proving that you really can have your cake and eat it, too. In the wake of the public backlash against the GOP’s misogynistic “embryos over women” platform, Brown has begun to vocalize his support for a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

You would think that would be enough to cause anti-choice groups to stop supporting him in his race. You would be wrong. According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts Citizens Concerned for Life has reiterated that they will continue to support the senator in his tight race against Democrat Elizabeth Warren because he may claim to be pro-choice, but he’s a reliable vote against reproductive health and rights anyway.

“We consider him a senator who votes prolife,” said Anne Fox, president of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told the Boston Globe. “We have to take his word for it when he says he is pro-choice. But what we’re looking for is someone who votes prolife, and he does.”

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Brown says that going forward, he pledges to “never vote in the Senate to curb women’s reproductive rights,” and that he already has a long record on that issue.

He does have a long record, and very mixed. But since he was elected senator, his loyalties to the party has obviously trumped his alleged support of reproductive rights.  In his first year in the senate he had a 100 percent rating with the National Right To Life Committee and 0 percent with NARAL Pro-Choice America. His later votes were slightly more mixed but still earned him a 75 percent rating with the NRLC, while his numbers with pro-choice groups never made it above 45 percent. 

Brown told ABC in an interview soon after his election that:

Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, but I think we need to do more to reduce the amount of abortions. And the difference between me and maybe others is that I’m very — I’m against partial-birth abortions. I’m against federal funding of abortions. And I believe in a strong parental consent notification law.

And we should do more for adoptions.

Yet his votes against health care reform and the birth control benefit (ensuring that insurance plans cover contraception without a co-pay), as well as to allow “religious” employers to be able to refuse to provide birth control coverage calls into question exactly how committed his really is to “reducing” abortion. He put the “conscience” of religious groups ahead of women’s health when he supported the Blunt Amendment, saying “This isn’t a political issue. This is about freedom to practice your religion without government interference. It’s about what makes us Americans.”

Brown also voted four out of five times with the National Right to Life position on their key votes, leaving their fold only when it came to defunding Planned Parenthood.

“This is so disrespectful to Massachusetts voters,” said EMILY’s List spokeswoman Jess McIntosh. “He’s actually claiming to be pro-choice despite a voting record so anti-choice that conservative leaders support him. Frankly, women are smarter than that. And this kind of dishonesty is just one of the many reasons they’ll turn out for Elizabeth Warren in November.”

It’s one thing to say you support a woman’s right to choose. But when the same groups who are pushing the GOP to the extreme when it comes to curbing a woman’s right to bodily autonomy say that they consider him a “prolife” vote, that’s a sure sign that actions mean more than words.

News Law and Policy

McAuliffe Restores Voting Rights to 13,000 Virginians

Jessica Mason Pieklo

An order issued this week should restore the voting rights to about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people ahead of the November presidential election.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Monday announced he had restored the voting rights of about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people, responding to a Virginia Supreme Court order that had blocked McAuliffe’s more expansive re-enfranchisement order.

A divided Virginia Supreme Court in July struck down an executive order by McAuliffe that restored voting rights to more than 200,000 people who had lost those rights as a result of a criminal conviction. The court said the Democratic governor lacked the constitutional authority to issue an order broadly restoring voting rights, but would need to instead restore rights individually to each person who had applied.

“The process I have announced today fully complies with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before me,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “It also reflects the clear authority the governor possesses to use his own discretion to restore rights of people who have served their time.”

Any person who has been convicted of a felony and is not incarcerated or under court supervision can apply to have their voting rights restored. The voting rights restored this week were for people who had applied before the Virginia Supreme Court blocked McAuliffe’s broader order.

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McAuliffe had promised to personally restore those individual voting rights.

Virginia Republican leaders criticized the move as political and dangerous. House Speaker Bill Howell (R) said in a statement to the Virginian-Pilot that McAuliffe “has restored the rights of some odious criminals.”

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

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