News Abortion

The Anti-Choice Agenda in Indiana? Full Speed Ahead

Robin Marty

Although Mourdock didn't win a senate seat, that's small consolation for the women in the state who still need access to abortion and family planning services.

Like many of states on election day, voters in Indiana turned out ready to support women’s reproductive rights and autonomy. Unfortunately for those voters, their desires at the polls may have little effect on the attacks on women within the state itself.

A senate seat that was believed to be an easy pick up for the Republican party remained in Democratic hands after outrage over GOP candidate Richard Mourdock‘s statement that pregnancy from rape should be considered a gift from God. Senator Joe Donnelly, trailing behind prior to Mourdock’s “revelataion,” won a clear victory on November 6th as voters rejected Mourdock‘s extreme abortion views.

That rejection spread over into the Governor’s race, where Republican Congressman Mike Pence nearly lost his race to Democrat John Gregg, coming in at just below 50 percent of the vote to Gregg’s 46 percent in a three-way race (Libertarian candidate and former reality show star Rupert Bonham received the other 4 percent of the vote). Although the state voted overwhelmingly for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and increased the gap between Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature, the near-upset in the Governor’s race shows their unhappiness with the most radical of anti-choice politicians enforcing their extreme views on residents.

Despite his narrow victory, however, the new governor is unlikely to take the lesson to heart, although it may lessen the zeal with which he enacts his agenda. Pence, who lead the charge to defund Planned Parenthood nationally in Congress, is expected to continue that quest in Indiana, where Governor Mitch Daniels already started the ball rolling.  And as a leader in the movement to redefine rape at the national level and supporter of every anti-choice bill proposed in the House, there is little doubt that even if Pence doesn’t actively advocate for anti-choice legislation, he will enthusiastically sign it once it reaches his desk.

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That the bills will be coming isn’t in doubt. The Republicans gained more seats in the state legislature, putting them so far up in numbers that legally the Democrats don’t even need to show up to the capital for bills to still be passed. Democrats had been using the “walkout” method to stop bills that were being pushed by the Republican majority by refusing to allow the legislature to have a quorum to do business. Now, that power is gone.

“There were some surprises in the election,” Betty Cockrum, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana told RH RealityCheck. “But we still expect to see every piece of legislation proposed before come back again.”

Cockrum believes that the effort to try again to defund Planned Parenthood will be the first priority of the legislature, and that despite saying he would focus on jobs and the economy, Pence will be ready to make that happen.

The surprise victory of the Democratic candidate for state superintendent was seen to be a rebuke to attempts to change education policy in Indiana, but sadly, there was no parallel victory for women’s health. Despite the loss of Mourdock and the near loss of Pence, anti-choice activists and politicians are already preparing to legislate away women’s reproductive rights.

Indiana Right to Life is already planning their blueprint for legislative action in 2013, and unsurprisingly an attempt to restrict the availability of medication abortion is a high priority. Acting off of their complaint earlier this year that the Lafayette, Indiana Planned Parenthood clinic isn’t following proper licensing rules because they only offer medication abortion, not surgical procedures, the group appears ready to use the incident as an excuse to write a new bill that could make RU-486 difficult—if not impossible—to obtain in the state at all. It has happened in other states and will be a priority wherever anti-choice activists have control of most of the state government, if the model legislation surrounding it is any indication.

“That’s something that I think our lawmakers are interested in,” Sue Swayze, Indiana Right to Life legislative director told WBAA News reporter Mike Loizzo. “This is a new frontier of the abortion industry.”

It’s a frontier that Pence may not be willing to explore on his own. When he campaigned for governor with his “Roadmap for Indiana,” he stayed far away from the social issues that many had come to identify with him as a religious-right congressman. Although he accepted the previous governor’s stance to refuse to implement Obamacare, he did not set Daniels’ quest to defund Planned Parenthood into his blueprint, and even emphasized the problem that unintended pregnancies have become in the state.

Like the rest of the country, Indiana has seen an explosion in the past generation of births to unmarried mothers, whose children will be statistically much more likely to end up poor and prone to a number of social and educational dysfunctions. Today, 41.5 percent of births to women over 18 in Indiana are to unmarried mothers. The unmarried birth rate problem is no longer primarily a matter of teen pregnancies, as it was back in days before welfare reform. Instead, unmarried mothers today are more likely to be in their 20s. Why does this matter? A large body of social science research has shown that children born to unmarried mothers are also much more likely to drop out of high school and to be out of work.

Pence stated that if elected, he would promote a “family impact statement” on any piece of legislation that would force legislators to study how the bill would “promote families, increase family budgets and respect a parent’s right to raise their children,” among other potential affects. He also said that he would focus specifically on the economic issues he campaigned on, not the social issues that seem to have driven so many state legislators who are supported by Indiana Right to Life.

If Pence is really intent on keeping his campaign promises, improving — not limiting — reproductive care access should be a priority. After all, it encompasses every economic measure in the state, from healthier families to improved access in schools, a better business climate and workforce and better graduation rates.

It’s that message that many reproductive rights advocates in the state are hoping to hone in on during the 2013 legislative session, as they try to proactively beat the bills they know will come up for a vote. Sue Ellen Braunlin of the Indiana Religious Coalition in Support of Reproductive Justice says that it is this aggressive stance that she and her allies will assume when it comes to new bills, rather than the more cautious approach they took when Daniels was in office.

“We treaded more cautiously with Daniels [during the defunding of Planned Parenthood], not wanting to make it so partisan so he could maybe veto that bill when it came through,” Braunlin told RH RealityCheck. “A lot of us thought he really would. I think he might have if he weren’t considering running for president.”

While Daniels was trying to woo over the ultra right-wing for a potential presidential run, Pence, by nearly losing the governor’s race, more likely needs to present a moderate stance if he wants to appeal to both a statewide and a national audience. Advocates of reproductive rights believe that this will be the key to keeping the most onerous bills at bay. “There is solid support for being more bold, for having a voice that is more independent, heavier on values language and making a much more solid pushback on legislation, and that we have business leaders’ backing,” said Brailin.

Of course, a veto by Pence means very little when the legislature is so solidly Republican that they can easily overturn it. Yet by appealing to more reasonable leaders who are sensitive to the public’s opinion of restrictive ultra conservative social legislation, such as Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, Braulin and her fellow activists believe they see a path to blocking bills.  They also hope to release their own “family impact statements” on legislation that they believe is harmful to families, with realities that the most rabidly anti-choice politicians choose to ignore.

In fact, Braulin sees the 2012 election as a positive change for the state, even with the legislature and the governor’s mansion still being dominated by anti-choice factions. “Despite the super majorities, I see that Indiana has a limit. Last year we didn’t know if Indiana had a limit, but with this election it is clear, especially with the solid rejection of Mourdock. Indiana was always a ‘leans right’ state, not a ‘far right’ state. I don’t think deep down Indiana is far far right.”

“We’re right, but I think there’s a limit to it,” said Braulin. “Last session felt like a free for all. This year, there are Republicans who will push to make sure things don’t get out of hand.”

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.