News Abortion

Kasich Cowers in His Office as Activists Rally on the Steps of the Capitol

Robin Marty

As lawmakers, activists, and medical professionals took to the steps to oppose anti-health amendments thrust into the Ohio budget, the governor refused to leave his office or answer his phone.

At 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 27th, the steps of the capitol in Columbus, Ohio were filled with activists, lawmakers and medical professionals all ready to tell Republican Governor John Kasich that the state budget was no place for anti-choice policy planks. People gathered in advance of a final House and Senate vote to raise their voices in opposition to amendments intended to restrict access to safe abortion care, block access to birth control, and use public funding to support deceptive crisis pregnancy centers that trade in misinformation, not medical care. But whether the Republican governor heard them or not remains to be seen. Gov. Kasich spent the entire time in his office, refusing to take phone calls or see the visitors who came to his door.

Ohio lawmakers and reproductive rights supporters donned red clothing to rally in Columbus, vowing to recreate the enthusiasm and success that they had seen earlier in Texas. And the situation is nearly as dire. Like Texas, budget amendments include unprecedented restrictions on abortion clinics that would close down many clinics. Others would greatly reduce easy access to family planning due to funding reallocation, and give tax payer dollars for low-income assistance to religiously based pregnancy centers.

Just as alarming are last-minute additions to the bill, which would require an ultrasound before every abortion and will require providers to “locate a heartbeat” before an abortion is provided. As Luke Brockmeier wrote, that could potentially open up a loophole that could force some family planning agencies to be forced into ultrasounds before offering birth control, simply out of fear of a zealous anti-choicer who believes that the shedding of a fertilized egg is the same as an abortion.

“‘[T]he disruption of implantation of a fertilized egg’ now counts as an abortion. Prescribing birth control is, in Ohio, a ticking time-abortion,” writes Brockmeier. “Meaning, an anti-choice activist can go to Planned Parenthood and get an IUD. She can wait until she has spotting or sheds some of her uterine lining, then claim that it was an abortion caused by her IUD, and Planned Parenthood tricked her into getting an abortion, paid for by Obamacare. Where does she turn? Why, the state medical board, where Kasich appointee and Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis will welcome her with open arms.”

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The new assault on medicine is just one of the reasons doctors gathered with bill opponents to speak out against the budget amendments Thursday. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Dr. Marc Parnes stated that “lawmakers asking physicians to predict pregnancy problems with the bill’s time frame is ‘asking me to do the impossible as a physician.’”

If doctors are angry about the amendments, they aren’t alone. “I’m seeing red, we are angry but what happens when we get angry, we get to work and we stand up,” said Rep. Nickie Antonio (D – Lakewood), rallying supporters at the pre-vote protest.

Rep. Antonio, Sen. Nina Turner (D – Cleveland) and other politicians urged the governor to deploy a line-item veto in ridding the budget of these amendments. Gov. Kasich told reporters that though he was still considering all of the portions of the budget, especially the newer ones he hadn’t had a chance to review as much, they should keep in mind “I’m pro-life.”

His constituents may argue that a “pro-life” governor would want to continue supporting access to birth control that would reduce the rate of abortion, and that a “pro-life” governor would ensure the budget supported needed reproductive health screenings for women in need. They might argue that it is “pro-life” to assist families struggling with temporary financial setbacks rather than funding crisis pregnancy centers that lie about medical facts which can potentially endanger those who visit. They won’t be arguing that fact to him directly, however. Activists attempting to deliver over 17,000 petitions to his office found the governor’s door closed and no response, nor would anyone answer his phone. He could lock them out and refuse to take phone calls, but he won’t be able to hide from actions of a legislature voting through a budget filled with anti-choice, anti-health amendments that had received little review or debate and no proven support by many of the voters in Ohio.

“Hundreds of Pro-choice Ohioans came to deliver 17,000 letters to Governor Kasich asking him to use his veto pen to protect women’s health and his office couldn’t be bothered to send one person to accept them,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio told Rewire after the rally. “We are now in the Ohio House gallery to witness the vote in the budget. We are here for the long haul.”

Because the final version of the budget was agreed to by a six-person committee (2 Democrats and 4 Republicans), each chamber needed to reread and hold one last vote of approval. The Senate debate against the amended budget was highlighted by Sen. Shirley Smith (D – Cleveland), who panned the final product. “What was a bad bill three weeks ago is an even worse bill now.” Sen. Smith noted the new provisions were added with no feedback or oversight, that could turn doctors into criminals and leave people of less means without adequate care. “This bill is a raw deal for Ohio’s poor, and we’re stuck with the disappointment for years to come.”

Sen. Capri Carafo (D – Hubbard) took her opposition to the bill directly to the governor, appealing to his conscience and asking for line item vetoes directly. “Please Gov. Kasich, do what’s right,” she urged. Sen. Turner agreed. “I would add requests for the governor to take his red pen and veto defunding Planned Parenthood, and veto the ‘heartless’ bill as well. This budget doesn’t just show a total disregard for women, it shows a total disregard for the poor.” Sen. Turner urged the body to “Grow a pair—either ovaries or otherwise,” and reject the budget’s passage.

Democrats in the House were just as adamant in their opposition. “This budget treats women like they are too stupid to make their own health care decisions.” Rep. Debbie Phillips (D – Albany). “This may be good for your donors, but it’s not good for Ohioans.”

Despite objections, the Senate passed the budget on a 21-11 vote, followed by chants of “shame on you” from pro-choice activists in the audience. The House followed the Senate’s example a few hours later. Although Democrats chastised their counterparts for their lack of concern for women or the poor, Republicans focused entirely on “job creation.” Only one lawmaker in support of the budget directly mentioned the anti-choice amendments that were added. Rep. Rob Amstutz (R – Wooster), closed off the debate, asking why Democrats who repeatedly said they were standing up for the rights of those who weren’t there to speak for themselves wouldn’t admit that “the least of these” really should be “the unborn.” “Why do they have to be the victims?” demanded Rep. Amstutz, as the final voice of the debate.

The senate voted the bill through shortly after, on a 51-43 vote.

Overall, throughout the debate the Republicans hid from their own anti-choice amendments, the very reason they buried them in the budget in the first place. Circumventing direct votes on them gave them an excuse to not debate each one of them in a head’s on manner. Gov. Kasich, on the other hand, has until June 30th to use a line-item veto on these proposals, or answer to the voters in the next election.

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 Politics

Former Klan Leader on Senate Run: My Views Are Now the ‘GOP Mainstream’

Teddy Wilson

David Duke has been a fervent support of the Trump campaign, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

David Duke, convicted felon, white supremacist, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Roll Call reported.

Duke said that after a “great outpouring of overwhelming support,” he will campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. David Vitter, who lost a bid for Louisiana governor in a runoff election.

Duke’s announcement comes the day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination in the midst of growing tensions over race relations across the country. Trump has been criticized during the campaign for his rhetoric, which, his critics say, mainstreams white nationalism and provokes anxiety and fear among students of color.

His statements about crime and immigration, particularly about immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, have been interpreted by outlets such as the New York Times as speaking to some white supporters’ “deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”

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Duke said in his campaign announcement that he was the first candidate to promote the policy of “America first,” echoing a line from Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First,” Trump said Thursday night. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”

Duke said his platform has become “the GOP mainstream” and claimed credit for propelling Republicans to control of Congress in 2010. He said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump … embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years.”

Trump in February declined to disavow the support of a white supremacist group and Duke, saying he knew “nothing about David Duke” and knew “nothing about white supremacists.” He later clarified that he rejected their support, and blamed his initial failure to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.”

Trump’s candidacy has also brought to light brought many incidents of anti-Semitism, much of which has been directed at journalists and commentators covering the presidential campaign.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in the National Review that Trump’s nomination has “drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork,” and that the Republican nominee has been willing to “channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.”

Duke took to Twitter after Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday to express his support for the Republican nominee’s vision for America.

“Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!” Duke tweeted.

Duke has been a fervent Trump supporter, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana house in 1989, serving one term. Duke was the Republican nominee for governor in 1991, and was defeated by Democrat Edwin Edwards.

Duke, who plead guilty in 2002 to mail fraud and tax fraud, has served a year in federal prison.