Analysis Politics

Christian Right Group on an Anti-LGBTQ Crusade in Brazil

Jandira Queiroz

Brazil is a country of contradictions. It can produce both the Brazilian Carnival and house right-wing Christian empires.

If you’re looking for a high-level connection in the Brazilian government, whether you’re an American evangelical or Israel’s foreign minister, Filipe Coelho, head of the new Brazilian Center for Law and Justice (BCLJ), can help.

BCLJ is an offshoot of the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian right legal organization founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. Intended to counter the undermining of “family values” by the American Civil Liberties Union, its credits include creating the federal Defense of Marriage Act banning same-sex marriage, defending anti-choice activists for harassing women at reproductive health clinics, and otherwise working to inscribe a conservative Christian worldview into law in the United States and in countries abroad.

The spark for opening a Brazil office came during the ACLJ’s campaign for the release of Iranian Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was jailed and condemned to death in Iran for preaching Jesus’ gospel. In the struggle for his release, ACLJ identified the importance of the Brazilian government’s support, as one of a few countries to maintain diplomatic relations with Iran, and asked Coelho—a friend of the ACLJ leadership from his time studying in the U.S.—for a connection to the Brazilian vice president.

“Forty-eight hours later, Jordan [Sekulow, ACLJ executive director] and Anna [his wife] were in a meeting with him,” Coelho recounts. “From this, they saw how strong evangelical power is within Brazilian politics. They were ‘enchanted’ with Brazilians, because of the favor we did. So they decided to help Brazilian people by opening a Brazilian branch of ACLJ.”

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Recently, Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry requested Coelho’s help in connecting with President Dilma Rousseff. “The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Israel called the president’s office three times to confirm the meeting and was told there was nothing set in the agenda for them,” Coelho recalls. “When I called there to check on that, I was told that the meeting was set for me, that I was the one taking the Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel to the presence of the Brazilian vice president. Then the Israelis were also surprised with our influence.”

Coelho continues: “I never thought that I’d be with the Brazilian vice president, but it’s all God’s plans for us. I’m very thankful to God for all this.”

When I interviewed Coelho in August 2012, the nascent enterprise was awaiting legal registration. The funds to navigate this process, pay Coelho’s salary, and support BCLJ’s operations arrive in monthly installments from the ACLJ in the U.S.—at least until BCLJ begins fundraising in Brazil. Coelho is launching the ACLJ’s Brazilian branch in a modest building in a central neighborhood in Goiânia, the capital of the Brazilian state of Goiás. For Coelho, the goal of the BCLJ is simple: to offer legal services to low-income Christians and to defend “religious freedom, human rights, and life.”

Sowing the Seeds From the U.S. to Brazil

ACLJ already has two offices in Europe, one in Kenya, and another in Zimbabwe. According to Political Research Associates’ 2012 report Colonizing African Values, the center intervened in the African countries’ constitution-making processes, fighting the inclusion of a narrow health exception to the existing ban on abortion and supporting the continued criminalization of homosexuality.

With at least 30 million evangelicals in Brazil—the largest predominantly Christian country on the globe after the United States.—evangelical representation in politics is growing and institutionalizing, making the country a strategic location for ACLJ expansion. In its short existence, it is clear that the BCLJ is using its parent organization’s tactics to win influence: wooing government officials and facilitating access to them, building alliances with key evangelical powerbrokers, and hiring local staff to hide “an American-based agenda behind (local) faces, giving the Christian Right room to attack gender justice and LGBTQ rights as a neocolonial enterprise imposed” on the country, while obstructing critiques of its own activities.

However, battles for political space and power taking place within the Brazilian Christian community may determine BCLJ’s fortunes—and the ACLJ may face difficulty impressing Brazilian evangelicals who enjoy access to more resources than those in other countries. Brazil is by some measures the eighth-largest economic power in the world, with more than 120 years of republican history and nearly two centuries of independence. It exerts influence over other countries in politics and economics, culture and technology. Brazil also exports religious ideology to other countries in the region, such as Argentina and Ecuador—even the U.S. and Mexico—and to Portuguese-language countries including Angola, Mozambique, and Portugal.

Where institutional ties across the continents are thus far weak, one-on-one relationships wield enormous importance. As its first director for Brazil, the ACLJ chose a man from one of Brazil’s most prominent evangelical families, measured in terms of theological, business, and political influence. Filipe Coelho is one of four children of Rev. Silmar Coelho, a Methodist minister who founded a local church with one of his sons. Filipe and his family are Pentecostals in the rapidly growing Assemblies of God church. Most of Filipe’s uncles and aunts preach or otherwise serve evangelical churches; his younger brother, Lucas Coelho, studied at religious institutions in the U.S. and has been offered a position in a Virginia church.

Coelho claims to not have been engaged in politics until ACLJ asked him to be its director of operations in Brazil, but now considers it his calling: “I was a preacher some time ago, but I realized that my work with ACLJ is what I love doing. This is my ministry.” Coelho spent almost half of his life in the United States, where he graduated with a  degree in business and economics from King College, which is affiliated with both the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. During this time, the Coelhos and the Sekulows, the father-son team leading the ACLJ, became family friends. Filipe said that it is common for his father, Pastor Silmar Coelho, to spend two or three weeks visiting the U.S. to preach to Brazilians in one or more churches a day, in different cities and states.

A close friend of both families is Rev. Silas Malafaia, who runs the Victory in Christ Assemblies of God church in Rio de Janiero, which claims almost 20,000 members. In November 2012, Victory in Christ invited Jay Sekulow, ACLJ chief counsel, to participate in a religious leaders’ school program. Sekulow is regularly invited for prominent speaking engagements in Brazil, including the 2011 meeting of the Interdenominational Council of Evangelical Ministers in Brazil (CIMEB), where Rev. Malafaia is vice president. (While reported back problems kept him away, Sekulow continues to receive invitations.) Last year, ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow appeared on Rev. Malafaia’s Gospel Truth show to ask Brazilians to “tweet for Youcef,” in support of the release of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. ACLJ reported the total number of people tweeting reached more than 3 million, up from 1.1 million.

Other Coelho family friends the ACLJ relies on include Rev. Everaldo Dias da Silva, vice president of the Social Christian Party and one of the founders of the Evangelical caucus at the Parliament. His son, Filipe Pereira, was, at 22, the youngest federal deputy ever elected in Brazil, and Coelho revealed that Rev. Dias is being tapped by the CIMEB to run for president in 2014.

Defending “Religious Liberty”

If you know that Brazil is home to the largest gay pride parade in the world, you may be surprised that LGBTQ rights are restricted and abortion remains illegal with a few exceptions. For 11 years, the LGBTQ movement has unsuccessfully promoted an anti-homophobia bill, which would make homophobia or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity an aggravating factor in hate crimes and speech. LGBTQ advocates are also filing lawsuits against pastors who make homophobic comments and even calls for violence on the air. For instance, Rev. Malafaia, after the 2011 pride parade in Sao Paulo, called on listeners “to beat [literally ‘stick’] down those gay activists.”

Evangelicals perceive this as a threat to their “religious liberty” to keep preaching on national television that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God, and that the homosexual movement is implementing a plan to transform the whole country into Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Brazil, many pastors and televangelists are, like ACLJ founder Pat Robertson, owners of communications empires that include publishers, producers, record labels, radio and television channels, and elaborate websites. Evangelical programs, especially those on TV, follow a U.S. style of televangelism and it is not unusual to see U.S. evangelical leaders on Brazilian shows promoting books and DVDs, encouraging people to join the church, or warning of some “new threat” to the family and tradition, or to religious freedom in the country or around the world.

And the Brazilian audience responds. When Rev. Malafaia asked his audience in 2009 to vote against the anti-homophobia bill in a poll posted on the Senate’s web page, there were half a million “no” clicks in less than a week. The dynamism of Brazil’s growing evangelical community can also be seen in their donations. In April 2011, Rev. Malafaia asked his TV audience for about $50,000 toward a debt of about $750,000 (1.5 million Brazilian reais) to broadcast his show all over the country and abroad. He got it. Later, he told Piaui Magazine, “People in Brazil think all evangelicals are poor and stupid. Evangelicals are donating BRL 100,000, people don’t have a clue of what’s going on within the evangelical world.”

Through all the competition among different denominations—from charismatic Roman Catholics to the most “fast-miracle drive-through” neo-Pentecostal—you hear a common message: the defense of life, traditional values, freedom of expression, and religious freedom. Coelho joins other conservative evangelicals in seeing a threat to these areas. While democracy is not yet being menaced, he says, the anti-homophobia bill “may” move in that direction by threatening freedom of expression.

“Let’s say I hire someone to work in my house as a nanny or a maid, and let’s suppose I find out she’s homosexual, and she’s taking care of my baby girl all day. So I think I have the right to decide who to have inside my home. Let’s say I find out she’s homosexual, and I tell her I don’t want her to work within my family anymore. I can be arrested because of that. So there’s no more freedom of expression; in your own home you have to be careful,” he said.

Coelho believes this legislation reflects the strong political influence from the LGBTQ movement in the United States on Brazilian strategy. While in the U.S., he heard a lecture about how homosexuals are seeking to become the new Blacks in society, with similar legal protections. He explained, “homosexuals are trying to treat homosexuality as if it were a race, while it is really an attitude, a behavior.” Coelho believes Brazilian activists witnessed the LGBTQ rights movement in America and “imported” its tactics to Brazil—an ironic critique given BCLJ’s own outside origins.

Indeed, alleging attacks on “religious freedom” or “religious liberty” is a long-time popular Christian right argument in the U.S., particularly used in the present day in opposing provisions of the new federal health-care law. Given the close relationship between Rev. Malafaia and ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow, it’s unsurprising that their speeches and writing display similar arguments in defense of “freedom of expression and religious freedom.” Other evidence of U.S. influence includes Rev. Malafaia’s publisher releasing a translation of The Agenda: The Homosexual Plan to Change America, by Louis P. Sheldon, a U.S. Presbyterian pastor, chair of the Traditional Values Coalition, and writer on social issues including religious liberty. The book was distributed free to all members of federal parliament elected in 2010.

Evangelicals in the Political World

The number of evangelicals in Brazil is growing fast. While 90 percent of the country identified as Roman Catholic in 1980, 21 percent now identifies as Protestant. Eighty percent of Protestants report being either Pentecostal or charismatic—evangelicals who believe that you can receive spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues, prophesying, or faith healing—according to a 2006 survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Many Brazilians simply refer to all Protestants as evangelicals, given their large numbers.

As with other Latin American evangelicals, many in Brazil are left-leaning, particularly but not exclusively on economic issues. A 2011 Pew study found that 51 percent of evangelical leaders in Latin and Central America believed that homosexuals should be accepted by society, compared to 23 percent in Europe and 9 percent in North America. Yet it seems apparent that social conservatives wield disproportionate political power.

In the Brazilian National Congress, though the evangelical caucus—made up of mostly pastors, bishops, or self-nominated “apostles” from a range of denominations—is a minority group, it wields greater influence through an alliance with landowners, entrepreneurs, and other conservative groups. Together, they make up a majority that is set, especially over the last decade, on blocking progressive legislation.

In 2011, Rev. Malafaia mobilized thousands to march through the streets of Brasilia, the national capital, to block a bill that would have extended constitutional protections for individual rights and freedoms to cover sexual orientation. Marriage is explicitly only between a man and a woman, which also means a ban on adoption by same-sex couples, though same-sex civil unions and adoption by single women are protected. Once opposed to civil unions, conservatives now claim they form the basis of Brazil’s legal culture, precluding egalitarian marriage.

Professor Maria das Dores Campos Machado of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, who researches religion and politics in Brazil, explains that evangelicals increased focus on using politics and legal battles to take back social arenas—dovetailing with the Brazilian Center for Law and Justice’s agenda. “When you have problems at home or in your personal life you look for a judge or lawyer … but no longer a priest. More and more, even the moral regulators within communities are judges rather than priests or pastors,” she said. “It’s not merely pragmatism. It’s a search for an institutional space for the church in modern society.”

Evangelicals provided key support for the rise of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his center-left Workers’ Party (WP) to the presidency in 2002. In 2010, WP candidate (and Brazil’s current president) Dilma Rousseff was forced to retract statements calling the criminalization of abortion “absurd,” when evangelical leaders, including Rev. Malafaia, brought concerns about abortion and same-sex marriage into the campaign. WP backed off decriminalization in the party platform as “a mistake.” Evangelicals are credited for Rousseff’s eventual victory, demonstrating the price of their vital support. In 2011, Rev. Malafaia and other evangelicals used their political power to force Rousseff to remove a curriculum promoting LGBTQ understanding from public schools.

Rev. Malafaia’s stated goal in the 2012 election cycle was to “make one Assembly of God’s alderman in every city of the country,” which would total about 5,600. An ambitious goal, but one that provides a strategy to empower the Assembly of God and the evangelical community as a whole—and to build, region by region, the base for an evangelical candidate in national elections. Just how many pastors ran for local office is impossible to track (though one journalist tried, reaching 5,000), since some churches no longer allow their clergy to register as “pastors” for fear of a political scandal involving their church’s name.

Another example of evangelical influence on campaigns comes from Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in Brazil, where the mayor who (successfully) sought re-election with the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB)—a center-right party that is a coalition partner with the ruling Workers’ Party—counted on the support of former President Lula and President Rousseff, but also allied with Rev. Malafaia to win evangelical votes against a leftist candidate. A third candidate had a prominent ally “gay-bait” the mayor to undermine his conservative Christian support.

In São Paulo, a Roman Catholic charismatic mayoral candidate with the right-wing Brazilian Republican Party, Celso Russomanno, shot to first place in the polls after a scandal tainted the Workers’ Party candidate. It is remarkable that Russomanno became a frontrunner, even if only temporarily, in a city known as one of the most gay-friendly in the world, where the largest LGBTQ Pride Parade takes place every year.

Brazil is a country of contradictions. It can produce the Brazilian Carnival and house right-wing Christian empires such as Victory in Christ. This country, as the poets have said, isn’t for beginners. Whoever wants to navigate its wonderful byways must tread carefully. If BCLJ pursues a legal and diplomatic focus through one-on-one networking, it may someday find a niche for itself among the powerbrokers. But it is organizing in a competitive environment, one in which evangelicals have already made a vigorous bid for political power and have found ways to generate huge cash resources. So BCLJ’s path to power is far from clear.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Group Faces Fundraising Gap in ‘Topsy-Turvy Year’

Amy Littlefield

“I will tell you that this has been the toughest year we have faced since I’ve been executive director of National Right to Life—and I came here in 1984—for our political fundraising,” David O’Steen announced at the annual National Right to Life Convention Friday.

Less than two weeks after the Supreme Court dealt the anti-choice movement its most devastating blow in decades, one of the nation’s leading anti-choice groups gathered at an airport hotel in Virginia for its annual convention.

The 46th annual National Right to Life Convention arrived at what organizers acknowledged was an unusual political moment. Beyond the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion restrictions in Texas, the anti-choice movement faces the likely nomination later this month of a Republican presidential candidate who once described himself as “very pro-choice.”

The mood felt lackluster as the three-day conference opened Thursday, amid signs many had opted not to trek to the hotel by Dulles airport, about an hour from Washington, D.C. With workshops ranging from “Pro-Life Concerns About Girl Scouts,” to “The Pro-Life Movement and Congress: 2016,” the conference seeks to educate anti-choice activists from across the United States.

While convention director Jacki Ragan said attendance numbers were about on par with past years, with between 1,000 and 1,100 registrants, the sessions were packed with empty chairs, and the highest number of audience members Rewire counted in any of the general sessions was 150. In the workshops, attendance ranged from as many as 50 people (at one especially popular panel featuring former abortion clinic workers) to as few as four.

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The attendance wasn’t the only sign of flagging enthusiasm.

“I will tell you that this has been the toughest year we have faced since I’ve been executive director of National Right to Life—and I came here in 1984—for our political fundraising,” National Right to Life Executive Director David O’Steen announced at Friday morning’s general session. “It’s been a topsy-turvy year. It’s been, for many people, a discouraging year. Many, many, many pro-life dollars, or dollars from people that would normally donate, were spent amongst 17 candidates in the Republican primary.”

O’Steen said the organization needed “$4 million that we do not have right now.”

When asked by Rewire to clarify details of the $4 million shortfall, O’Steen said, “You’re thinking this through more deeply than I have so far. Basically, the Right to Life movement, we will take the resources we have and we will use them as effectively as we can.”  

O’Steen said the organization wasn’t alone in its fundraising woes. “I think across many places, a lot of money was spent in these primaries,” he said. (An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found presidential candidates and affiliated groups spent $1 billion on the presidential race through March alone, nearly two-thirds of it on the Republican primary. Anti-choice favorite Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) spent more than than $70 million, higher than any other Republican.)

The National Right to Life Board of Directors voted to back Cruz in the Republican presidential primaries back in April. It has not yet formally backed Donald Trump.

“I really don’t know if there will be a decision, what it will be,” National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told Rewire. “Everything has [been] kind of crazy and up in the air this year, so we’re going to wait and kind of see everything that happens. It’s been a very unusual year all the way around.”

Some in the anti-choice movement have openly opposed Trump, including conservative pundit Guy Benson, who declared at Thursday’s opening session, “I’m not sure if we have someone who is actually pro-life in the presidential race.”

But many at the convention seemed ready to rally behind Trump, albeit half-heartedly. “Let’s put it this way: Some people don’t know whether they should even vote,” said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. “Of course you should … the situation we have now is just a heightened version of what we face in any electoral choice, namely, you’re choosing between two people who, you know, you can have problems with both of them.”

Another issue on the minds of many attendees that received little mention throughout the conference was the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down provisions in Texas requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and mandating clinics meet the standards of hospital-style surgery centers. The case did not challenge Texas’ 20-week abortion ban.

“We aren’t going to have any changes in our strategy,” Tobias told Rewire, outlining plans to continue to focus on provisions including 20-week bans and attempts to outlaw the common second-trimester abortion procedure of dilation and evacuation, which anti-choice advocates call “dismemberment” abortion.

But some conference attendees expressed skepticism about the lack of any new legal strategy.

“I haven’t heard any discussion at all yet about, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, how that weighs in strategically, not just with this legislation, but all pro-life legislation in the future,” Sam Lee, of Campaign Life Missouri, said during a panel discussion on so-called dismemberment abortion. “There has not been that discussion this weekend and that’s probably one of my disappointments right now.”

The Supreme Court decision has highlighted differing strategies within the anti-choice community. Americans United for Life has pushed copycat provisions like the two that were struck down in Texas to require admitting privileges and surgery center standards under the guise of promoting women’s health. National Right to Life, on the other hand, says it’s focused on boilerplate legislation that “makes the baby visible,” in an attempt to appeal to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast a key vote to uphold a “partial-birth abortion” ban in 2007.

When asked by Rewire about the effect of the Texas Supreme Court case, James Bopp, general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, appeared to criticize the AUL strategy in Texas. (Bopp is, among other things, the legal brain behind Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for corporate spending on elections.)

“This case was somewhat extreme, in the sense that there were 40 abortion clinics—now this is just corresponding in time, not causation, this is a correlation—there were 40 abortion clinics and after the law, there were six,” Bopp said. “That’s kind of extreme.”

Speaking to an audience of about ten people during a workshop on campaign finance, Bopp said groups seeking to restrict abortion would need to work harder to solidify their evidence. “People will realize … as you pass things that you’re going to have to prove this in court so you better get your evidence together and get ready to present it, rather than just assuming that you don’t have to do that which was the assumption in Texas,” he said. “They changed that standard. It changed. So you’ve gotta prove it. Well, we’ll get ready to prove it.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court Decision, After Pressure From Anti-Choice Leaders

Ally Boguhn

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—much to the lamentation of anti-choice advocates.

Donald Trump commented on the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision this week—but only after days of pressure from anti-choice advocates—and Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed explaining how one state’s then-pending decision on whether to fund Planned Parenthood illustrates the high stakes of the election for reproductive rights and health.

Following Anti-Choice Pressure, Trump Weighs in on Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision

Trump finally broke his silence Thursday about the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week, which struck down two provisions of Texas’ HB 2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

“Now if we had Scalia was living, or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn’t have had that,” Trump claimed of the Court’s decision, evidently not realizing that the Monday ruling was 5 to 3 and one vote would not have made a numerical difference, during an appearance on conservative radio program The Mike Gallagher Show. “It would have been the opposite.” 

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“So just to confirm, under a President Donald Trump-appointed Supreme Court, you wouldn’t see a majority ruling like the one we had with the Texas abortion law this week?” asked host Mike Gallagher.

“No…you wouldn’t see that,” replied Trump, who also noted that the case demonstrated the important role the next president will play in steering the direction of the Court through judicial nominations.

The presumptive Republican nominee’s confirmation that he opposed the decision in Whole Woman’s Health came after several days of silence from Trump on the matter—prompting much lamentation from anti-choice advocates. Despite having promised to nominate anti-choice Supreme Court justices and pass anti-abortion restrictions if elected during a meeting with more than 1,000 faith and anti-choice leaders in New York City last week, Trump made waves among those who oppose abortion when he did not immediately comment on the Court’s Monday decision.

“I think [Trump’s silence] gives all pro-life leaders pause,” said the president of the anti-choice conservative organization The Family Leader, Bob Vander Plaats, prior to Trump’s comments Thursday, according to the Daily Beast. Vander Plaats, who attended last week’s meeting with Trump, went on suggest that Trump’s hesitation to weigh in on the matter “gives all people that are looking for life as their issue, who are looking to support a presidential candidate—it gives them an unnecessary pause. There shouldn’t have to be a pause here.”

“This is the biggest abortion decision that has come down in years and Hillary Clinton was quick to comment—was all over Twitter—and yet we heard crickets from Donald Trump,” Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a Tuesday statement to the Daily Beast.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, expressed similar dismay on Wednesday that Trump hadn’t addressed the Court’s ruling. “So where was Mr. Trump, the candidate the pro-life movement is depending upon, when this blow hit?” wrote Hawkins, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. “He was on Twitter, making fun of Elizabeth Warren and lamenting how CNN has gone negative on him. That’s it. Nothing else.”

“Right now in the pro-life movement people are wondering if Mr. Trump’s staff is uninformed or frankly, if he just doesn’t care about the topic of life,” added Hawkins. “Was that meeting last week just a farce, just another one of his shows?”

Anti-choice leaders, however, were not the only ones to criticize Trump’s response to the ruling. After Trump broke his silence, reproductive rights leaders were quick to condemn the Republican’s comments.

“Donald Trump has been clear from the beginning—he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and said he believes a woman should be ‘punished’ if she has an abortion,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has already endorsed Clinton for the presidency, in a statement on Trump’s comments. 

“Trump’s remarks today should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes women should have access to safe, legal abortion. Electing Trump means he will fight to take away the very rights the Supreme Court just ruled this week are constitutional and necessary health care,” continued Laguens.

In contrast to Trump’s delayed reaction, presumptive Democratic nominee Clinton tweeted within minutes of the landmark abortion rights decision, “This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.”

Clinton Pens Op-Ed Defending Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire

Clinton penned an op-ed for the Concord Monitor Wednesday explaining that New Hampshire’s pending vote on Planned Parenthood funding highlighted “what’s at stake this election.”

“For half a century, Planned Parenthood has been there for people in New Hampshire, no matter what. Every year, it provides care to almost 13,000 people who need access to services like counseling, contraception, and family planning,” wrote Clinton. “Many of these patients cannot afford to go anywhere else. Others choose the organization because it’s the provider they know and trust.”

The former secretary of state went on to contend that New Hampshire’s Executive Council’s discussion of denying funds to the organization was more than “just playing politics—they’re playing with their constituents’ health and well-being.” The council voted later that day to restore Planned Parenthood’s contract.

Praising the Supreme Court’s Monday decision in Whole Woman’s Health, Clinton cautioned in the piece that although it was a “critical victory,” there is still “work to do as long as obstacles” remained to reproductive health-care access.

Vowing to “make sure that a woman’s right to make her own health decisions remains as permanent as all of the other values we hold dear” if elected, Clinton promised to work to protect Planned Parenthood, safeguard legal abortion, and support comprehensive and inclusive sexual education programs.

Reiterating her opposition to the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding for abortion care, Clinton wrote that she would “fight laws on the books” like it that “make it harder for low-income women to get the care they deserve.”

Clinton’s campaign noted the candidate’s support for repealing Hyde while answering a 2008 questionnaire provided by Rewire. During the 2016 election season, the federal ban on abortion funding became a more visible issue, and Clinton noted in a January forum that the ban “is just hard to justify” given that restrictions such as Hyde inhibit many low-income and rural women from accessing care.

What Else We’re Reading

Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher highlighted some of the potential problems Clinton could face should she choose former Virginia governor Tim Kaine as her vice presidential pickincluding his beliefs about abortion.

Foster Friess, a GOP mega-donor who once notoriously said that contraception is “inexpensive … you know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” is throwing his support behind Trump, comparing the presumptive Republican nominee to biblical figures.

Clinton dropped by the Toast on the publication’s last day, urging readers to follow the site’s example and “look forward and consider how you might make your voice heard in whatever arenas matter most to you.”

Irin Carmon joined the New Republic’s “Primary Concerns” podcast this week to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on the election.

According to analysis from the Wall Street Journal, the popularity of the Libertarian Party in this year’s election could affect the presidential race, and the most likely outcome is “upsetting a close race—most likely Florida, where the margin of victory is traditionally narrow.”

The Center for Responsive Politics’ Alec Goodwin gave an autopsy of Jeb Bush’s massive Right to Rise super PAC.

Katie McGinty (D), who is running against incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania, wrote an op-ed this week for the Philly Voice calling to “fight efforts in Pa. to restrict women’s access to health care.”

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against an attempt to restore voting rights to more than 20,000 residents affected by the state’s law disenfranchising those who previously served time for felonies, ThinkProgress reports.

An organization in Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of the almost 70,000 people there who have previously served time for felonies and are now on probation or parole, alleging that they are being “wrongfully excluded from registering to vote and voting.”

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