News Abortion

Half of Michigan Residents Oppose Abortion Rider Effort

Robin Marty

An effort spearheaded by Right to Life of Michigan would require everyone in the state who wants insurance coverage of abortion care to purchase a separate rider. The initiative is proving unpopular with many state residents.

An effort spearheaded by Right to Life of Michigan would require everyone in the state who wants insurance coverage of abortion care to purchase a separate rider—and it is proving unpopular with many state residents. New polling shows that roughly half of Michiganders disapprove of the idea of abortion riders.

The anti-choice group’s effort would circumvent the usual legislative procedure, instead requiring 260,000 petition signatures and a simple majority approval in the state legislature. The move may make it easier to get the anti-choice restriction signed into law without having to worry about a veto. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has already said he would veto the initiative. He vetoed a similar effort last year.

But many state residents oppose the plan, which does not include exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or for the health of the pregnant person. Polling released last week by Lambert, Edwards & Associates, a bipartisan Michigan public relations firm, shows that just 42 percent of individuals surveyed believe abortion coverage should be paid for out-of-pocket; 50 percent oppose the initiative, and 8 percent are undecided. However, “[a]lthough half of voters polled are against limiting health insurance plans in this way, it may not matter if enough lawmakers support it,” Jeff Lambert, president and managing partner at Lambert, Edwards & Associates, noted in a statement. “This has been a successful way for Right to Life in the past to bypass a gubernatorial veto.”

“Right to Life probably knows it would have trouble passing this if the measure went on the ballot,” said Dennis Denno, CEO of Denno Research, the firm that conducted the survey. “It’s a far safer course to get favorable votes from lawmakers who agree with Right to Life’s policy and goals.”

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Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said while testifying in favor of the initiative in May, “Nobody plans to have an accident in a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. You have to buy extra insurance for those two.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Rubio Defends Michigan Governor’s Handling of Flint

Ally Boguhn

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that Gov. Rick Snyder "took responsibility for what happened" in Flint, despite Snyder facing harsh criticism for how he's handled the crisis.

This week on the campaign trail, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) admitted that the Flint water crisis is a “terrible thing” but defended Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) role in it, and Donald Trump named himself a “truth teller” about Planned Parenthood.

“I Give the Governor Credit”: Rubio Defends Michigan Governor’s Handling of Flint

Rubio glossed over the role Snyder played in the water crisis in Flint that has left the city’s residents exposed to contaminated water. An investigator examining how the city was exposed to toxic water said last month that state officials could face charges, including manslaughter

Debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Rubio why Republicans haven’t “done more or talked more about [Flint]” during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate, hosted by Fox News in Detroit.

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“What happened in Flint was a terrible thing,” Rubio responded. “It was systemic breakdown at every level of government, at both the federal and partially theboth the state and partially at the federal level, as well.”

Rubio went on to criticize Democrats for “politicizing” what happened in Flint, claiming that making it a political issue “is unfair, because I don’t think that someone woke up one morning and said, ‘Let’s figure out how to poison the water system to hurt someone.’”

“But accountability is important. I will say, I give the governor credit. He took responsibility for what happened,” Rubio continued, defending Snyder’s response to the crisis.

While Rubio spoke, activists protested outside of the debate in hopes of drawing attention to the crisis residents of Flint are facing—many holding signs demanding the resignation of the governor, according to Talking Points Memo. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has called for Snyder’s resignation. 

Snyder has faced harsh criticism for the way he has handled the Flint water crisis. In January, leaked emails revealed that his administration had stocked clean water for state employees despite continuing to tell Flint’s residents that the water was safe to drink.

Aides close to Snyder claim the governor had known about problems with the city’s drinking water as early as October 2014.

Trump: “I Am a Truth Teller” on Planned Parenthood

Trump used his Super Tuesday victory speech to declare himself a “truth teller” on Planned Parenthood, once again noting the importance of the organization but nevertheless calling for it to be defunded. 

“Look, Planned Parenthood has done very good work for many, manyfor millions of women,” Trump told the crowd during a Tuesday night speech in Palm Beach, Florida. “I’m a common sense conservative, but millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood, but we’re not going to allow, we’re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on,” the presidential candidate continued, re-asserting his stance that the organization should be defunded.

“Millions of people, and I’ve had thousands of letters from women, that have been helped. And this wasn’t a setup. This was people writing letters,” Trump said. “I’m going to be really good for women, I’m going to be good for women’s health issues, it’s very important to me.”

Trump has continuously spoken on the campaign trail about the “very good work” Planned Parenthood does while simultaneously calling for the organization to lose its funding because it provides abortion care—despite the fact that the Hyde Amendment already bans federal funding for most abortions.

What Else We’re Reading

Some experts and educators suggest that Hillary Clinton’s Breaking Every Barrier Agenda, which includes a promise to end the school-to-prison pipeline, is “incomplete” and “disingenuous.”

Trump’s health-care plan “would lead to a significant increase in the number of people uninsured.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) falsely claimed during an appearance at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage could force Christian broadcasters off the air.

An investigation by the Washington Post into what happened to the $6 million raised by Trump when he skipped a Republican debate to hold a fundraiser for veterans was unable to account for more than half of the money that was meant to go to the cause.

Donald Trump Jr. joined white supremacist James Edwards on the radio Tuesday in order to campaign for Donald Trump. Reuters reports that Edward’s radio show, The Political Cesspool, “is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading U.S. civil rights group, as ‘racist and anti-Semitic.’”

In the first election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, many Super Tuesday voters were blocked from voting thanks to new voting restrictions—and Democrats appear to be hit the hardest.

Analysis Politics

Louisiana’s Race to the Bottom: State Gubernatorial Candidates Both Oppose Abortion

Ally Boguhn

Louisiana's highly anticipated gubernatorial runoff election is making waves as a Democrat in the Deep South threatens Republicans’ hold on the governor’s seat. But whatever his politics, should he win, Rep. Edwards would still be no friend to reproductive health in the state.

Louisiana’s highly anticipated gubernatorial runoff election is making waves as a Democrat in the Deep South, Rep. John Bel Edwards, threatens a Republican’s hold on the seat. Much ado has been made about the possibility of a more liberal candidate taking over the office. But whatever his politics, should he win, Rep. Edwards would still be no friend to reproductive health in the state.

In the October gubernatorial election, neither Edwards nor his Republican rival, Sen. David Vitter, were able to capture the necessary 50 percent of votes it takes to win in the state, prompting a general election runoff slated for November 21. Vitter, once considered a shoo-in for the position after leading a May Southern Media & Opinion Research poll by more than 38 points, is now trailing 22 points behind Edwards, according to a recent University of New Orleans poll.

As part of a seemingly last-ditch attempt to regain ground, the Republican candidate has ramped up efforts to highlight his own extremism on abortion and contrast it with his opponent’s. Speaking at Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge last Thursday, Vitter condemned Edwards for supposedly refusing to defund Planned Parenthood. “Make no mistake about it. Planned Parenthood is an abortion mill,” Vitter said.

Vitter’s assertion that Edwards had opposed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood dismissed the Democratic candidate’s potential plan to do just that. Prior to the runoff, during an October gubernatorial debate that Vitter did not attend, Edwards outlined his support for investigating and possibly defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in the statenone of which currently provide abortion servicesin response to the deceptively edited series of undercover video tapes released by the anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress. Although Edwards also stated that funding shouldn’t be pulled until after another solution is found to deal with the patients who would lose access to care, the future could still be uncertain for the 5,200 patients eligible for Medicaid services who, according to the Times-Picayune, currently use Planned Parenthood of New Orleans and Baton Rouge for “cervical cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection screenings and contraception.” 

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Even before the runoff, however, candidates across the aisle were touting their anti-choice credentials. The previously crowded gubernatorial field included two additional Republican candidates whose extreme positions on reproductive health were also a talking point on the campaign trail, and Vitter himself noted on social media that he was “honored” to receive an endorsement from the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee.

But it wasn’t just Republicans pushing their extreme positions on reproductive health; Edwards has also made his opposition to abortion access a key component of his campaign. In a 30-second television ad, Edwards’ wife appeared to discuss how doctors had advised her to terminate her pregnancy when tests revealed their daughter would have spina bifida, and how the couple decided to go through with the pregnancy anyway. Edwards credited his daughter with coming up with the idea for the ad, explaining that it was meant “to make sure people understood where we are on that issue as it relates to our Catholic Christian faith, being pro-life,” as reported by the Advertiser.

Overall, despite criticism launched by his more conservative opponent, Edwards’ record on abortion speaks for itself. According to Louisiana Right to Life (LARTL), the candidate received a 100 percent rating from the group based off a scorecard he filled out asking questions such as “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade,” and, presumably referring to the Hyde Amendment, “Would you veto a law that would weaken existing law that prohibits the use of federal funds or state funds, facilities, employees, from performing, referring for, recommending, or counseling for abortions?” Edwards’ voting history while in the Louisiana House of Representatives between 2008 and 2015 also earned him a “100% Pro-Life” rating according to LARTL records, finding that he sided with the group in 28 out of 28 anti-choice votes. 

One thing is clear: No matter which party wins the election, an anti-choice governor will remain in Louisiana, where the reproductive health-care situation is already dire. According to anti-choice organization Americans United for Life, Louisiana is the most hostile state to abortion rights in the country. Under Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal’s governorship and a GOP-led legislature, Louisiana has pushed through almost every effort to regulate abortion services out of existence within its borders. Extreme laws in the state include mandated state-directed counseling and an accompanying 24-hour waiting period prior to obtaining an abortion, telemedicine bans, required parental notification for those under 18, forced ultrasounds, and an outright ban on abortion procedures should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned.

These measures meant that there were just five abortion providers left in the state in 2011, leaving people in 92 percent of counties in Louisiana without access to an abortion provider.

Despite the state’s efforts to roll back access to care, the need for reproductive health services in the state is evident. According to a 2010 analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, 60 percent of all pregnancies in the state were unplanned, and almost 80 percent of the resulting births were publicly funded. About 45,000 women in the state relied on publicly funded family planning services for care in 2013.

It would seem that no matter who wins Saturday’s runoff elections, the real losers in the race will be the residents of Louisiana who won’t be able to access the reproductive health care they need.