News Religion

Catholics Not Concerned About Abortion, Gay Marriage, Says Catholics For Choice Poll

Robin Marty

Regardless of what church leaders encourage at the pulpit, a majority of Catholics believe voting with their bishops isn't mandatory.

Despite a continuing push to challenge the Affordable Care Act, the no co-pay birth control mandate, and a call to protect “religious freedoms,” a new poll released today by Catholics for Choice shows that a vast number of self-identified Catholics are more interested in job creation and the economy than they are in the agenda being pushed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States.

According to the survey of 1000 self-described Catholic voters, 83 percent believe that they are not obligated to vote in the same way that their bishop urges, and 76 percent believe Catholic politicians aren’t required to legislate as the bishops wish, ether.

“As we prepare to vote in this election, we have witnessed a concerted effort by the US bishops to convince Catholics that some issues are more important than others,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice via email release. “The Fortnight for Freedom was just one part of their campaign. Some bishops and priests have been less subtle, giving explicit voting advice to congregants. In short, the bishops are trying to bully Catholics to vote in a certain way. This poll shows that the bishops’ efforts have been a spectacular failure. Catholics reject this type of politicking from the pulpit and refuse to be cowed by their religious leaders. Just like other Americans, Catholics care most about the bread and butter issues that affect our families when we consider the political decisions to be made come November 6.”

According to Pew Research Center, 22 percent of all Americans identify as Catholic.

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News Abortion

Arizona Anti-Choice Lobby ‘Not OK’ With FDA Update to Medication Abortion

Nicole Knight Shine

A Planned Parenthood spokesperson said the Center for Arizona Policy "has for years endangered women's health and safety by colluding with extremist Republicans to erect as many barriers as possible between women and the health care they are constitutionally entitled to."

Arizona’s chief anti-choice lobby and Republican lawmakers are regrouping from a recent blow to their campaign to legislate away medication abortion, while continuing to insist that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) updated labeling for abortion-inducing medication is misguided.

The FDA’s recent update to medication abortion labeling kneecapped a restrictive GOP-backed medication abortion law, which the state’s Republican governor signed last month.

The law would force Arizona doctors to follow 16-year-old FDA standards—guidelines that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and now the FDA, advise against.

six-person house and senate conference committee last week conceded defeat—at least temporarily—by tacking onto an existing bill, SB 1112, language to repeal the GOP’s medication abortion restriction, known as SB 1324. Meanwhile, officials from the state’s influential anti-choice group, the Center for Arizona Policy, say they’re figuring out what they, along with state Republicans, will do next to make medication abortion inaccessible.

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“We’re not saying we’re OK with what the FDA did,” Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said Wednesday.

Herrod had championed SB 1324 because it limited medication abortion, a two-pill regime, to the first seven weeks of pregnancy. The updated FDA labeling makes the regimen available up to ten weeks, at a lower dosage, and with fewer doctor visits.

Herrod told Arizona Central that she remains concerned by the updated FDA guidelines saying the medication can be safely administered longer into a pregnancy than she thinks is best. “We want to take the interim to assess what’s best for women’s health and safety,” Herrod said.

Medication abortion has been proven safe, with serious complications occurring in fewer than 0.4 percent of patients. This isn’t the first time Herrod’s organization and the Arizona GOP tried to impose restrictions on medication abortion.

Lawmakers in 2012 enacted a nearly identical medication abortion restriction, which a state court permanently blocked.

The Center for Arizona Policy “provides no medical or social services whatsoever, and has for years endangered women’s health and safety by colluding with extremist Republicans to erect as many barriers as possible between women and the health care they are constitutionally entitled to,” Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in an email to Rewire.

Liggett continued, “The best thing that Cathi Herrod could do for women’s health and safety would be to butt out.”

Representing an unexpected gain for abortion rights advocates, the new language in SB 1112 rescinds a statute that forced doctors to tell pregnant people that medication abortion may be reversible, a measure a federal court had blocked, as the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

The “evidence” for the statute was a single case study of six patients by an OB-GYN who opposes abortion rights. Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, called the provisions “a victory for women’s health.”

The bill reportedly includes new language to require doctors to tell a patient who has taken the first of two pregnancy-ending pills that a single pill does not always end a pregnancy. The bill still needs a floor vote in the house and senate before heading to the governor.

Arizona isn’t the only state to attempt to legislate away medication abortion by making doctors follow outdated FDA guidelines. The FDA’s action last month undercut GOP-supported laws in Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and North Dakota that require physicians to follow the agency’s 2000 label recommendation for mifepristone. The original FDA label instructed providers to administer both doses in the office and have a follow-up visit.

Analysis Politics

It’s Christie’s Anti-Choice Record—Not His Planned Parenthood Donations—We Should Be Worried About

Ally Boguhn

Chris Christie doesn’t need to tell us whether or not he has flip-flopped on reproductive rights: His record speaks for itself.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has spent the last few weeks amid a flurry of controversy over an alleged donation he made to Planned Parenthood in the 1990s. But the governor’s record on reproductive health is getting lost amongst the chaos.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) created one of the most talked-about and fact-checked moments of last week’s Republican debate when, in order to question the candidate’s conservative credentials, he accused rival Chris Christie of making a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Christie flatly denied the claim, countering that he “never wrote a check to Planned Parenthood.”

And it wasn’t the first time a donation to the reproductive health organization made by Christie had been called into question. During an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation a week before the debate, Christie was asked by host Josh Dickerson about his donation to Planned Parenthood after Rubio made the same charge while speaking at a rally in New Hampshire.

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“Well, I never donated to Planned Parenthood. So, that’s wrong,” Christie quickly asserted.

Rubio’s allegation was likely based on a quote from Christie in a 1994 report on the Morris County freeholder race that ran in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, in which the then-candidate voiced his support for Planned Parenthood:

“I support Planned Parenthood privately with my personal contribution and that should be the goal of any such agency, to find private donations,” said GOP freeholder candidate Chris Christie.

“It’s also no secret that I am pro-choice … But you have to examine all the agencies needing county donations and prioritize them. I would consider all groups looking for funding, but there is a limit and we have to pick and choose,” he added.

Christie has since denied that the conversation took place as reported. “I never donated to Planned Parenthood,” Christie asserted when asked about the donation during an interview with the Washington Post a few days before the debate.

“Listen, this is a quote from 21 years ago,” Christie continued. “I’m convinced it was a misquote. Understand what was going on. In 1994-95, I was fighting against county funding of Planned Parenthood even though I was pro-choice.”

According to the Post, Christie insisted that at the time of the Star-Ledger interview, he was talking generally about donating to causes, not specifically saying that he had donated to Planned Parenthood.

As fate would have it, that same reporter Christie claims to have misquoted him, Brian T. Murray, is now one of the governor’s current spokespeople. Murray has yet to respond to Christie’s allegations, according to NJ.com.

We will likely never know for sure whether Christie actually made the donation to Planned Parenthooda representative from the organization told the Washington Post that it does not disclose donationsbut a definitive answer to the question seems besides the point.

Chris Christie doesn’t need to tell us whether or not he has flip-flopped on reproductive rights: His record speaks for itself.

In the early 1990s, when the Star-Ledger interview allegedly took place and Christie was initially running for state senate, he was vocal about his support for reproductive rights. It wasn’t until 1995, when his wife was pregnant with one of his children, that the presidential candidate claims to have had a change of heart.

“I was driving back to work, I said to myself, you know, as to my position on abortion, I would say that a week ago that wasn’t a life. And I heard that heartbeat. That’s a life,” Christie told Piers Morgan in 2011 during an appearance on CNN.

“And it—it led to me having a real reflection on my position. And when I took time to reflect on it, I just said, you know what, I’m not comfortable with that anymore. That was back in 1995, and I’ve been pro-life ever since.”

But in 1996, Christie yet again vocalized his pro-choice position when asked by the Bergen Record about a resolution to override then-President Bill Clinton’s veto of a “partial-birth abortion,” or intact dilation and extraction, ban. “I’m pro-choice, but I think this procedure is reprehensible,” Christie told the paper, according to Politico, one year after he supposedly decided he no longer supported abortion at all.

In a strikingly similar move to his current situation, Christie would later tell the Associated Press in 2009 that he had been misquoted at the time.

In a February 2015 report for the Daily Beast, Olivia Nuzzi questioned Christie’s “convenient” evolution on abortion politics, citing many of these inconsistencies on the issue. “It’s worth considering that around the time Christie had his epiphany, he was badly losing a Republican primary for the state assembly to a staunchly pro-life conservative named Michael Patrick Carroll,” Nuzzi noted.

No matter his personal views, Christie’s record during his tenure as governor is decidedly more black and white.

After taking office in 2010, Christie eliminated $7.5 million in funding from the state budget for family planning services. That money “supported a variety of health centers, including some run by Planned Parenthood, that provided access to preventive health screenings and birth control but did not directly fund abortions,” and led six reproductive health clinics to close, according to NJ.com.

The drastic reduction in funding for health centers led the state to experience a significant setback in reproductive health care. An analysis conducted by the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association found that the budget cuts, coupled with federal funding cuts to Title X programs, left New Jersey with upwards of 20,000 more women in need of publicly funded contraceptives and a 26 percent decrease in the state network’s ability to meet the demand for them.

Although the state legislature has repeatedly attempted to restore the funding to the state’s budget, Christie has consistently vetoed these measures.

And now on the campaign trail, Christie is using his anti-choice record to help drum up conservative votes.

During CNN’s GOP debate in September, Christie bragged about how he had never allowed Planned Parenthood to be funded under his leadership: Six years ago, as the brand new, first-ever pro-life governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade, I defunded Planned Parenthood,” he asserted.

“I vetoed Planned Parenthood funding now eight times in New Jersey. Since the day I walked in as governor, Planned Parenthood has not been funded in New Jersey. We stood up, and every one of those vetoes has been sustained,” he continued. 

A fact-check of the claim conducted by NJ.com found the “gist of the claim” to be true, pointing to numerous occasions Christie has vetoed efforts that would have provided funding at least in part to Planned Parenthood, but noted that Christie “appears to be conflating his opposition to the Medicaid expansion with the annual budget line-item vetoes” to exaggerate the numbers.

Christie has repeatedly voiced his opposition to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, pointing to his own state as an example for how it should be done.

Speaking in South Carolina in September, Christie urged Congress to defund Planned Parenthood the same way he had. “If I can do it in New Jersey, there’s no reason our party can’t do it in Washington, D.C.” Christie said at the Take Back America Presidential Forum.

Christie has also vocalized his support for Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically unsupported claim that a fetus feels pain at this point in pregnancy, claiming that the legislation “brings Americans together.” Medical experts note that many fetal anomalies are not discovered until the 20th week of pregnancy, and that low-income women are disproportionately impacted by 20-week abortion bans. 

“America is one of just seven countries that permits elective abortions past this point. We can do far better than this. I urge Congress to take swift action on this important issue,” Christie said to anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony’s List in a statement on the bill.

So while Christie’s past donations may remain murky, one thing is as clear as ever: Christie is far from pro-choice and he has the record to prove it. Even if the road to Christie’s current stance on abortion isn’t clear, his record is—and those extreme viewpoints are what we really need to be talking about.