Commentary Abortion

On Abortion, the People Keep Speaking. Is Anyone Listening?

Jodi Jacobson

The defeat of the 20-week abortion ban in Albuquerque underscores a critical but often overlooked point in abortion politics: When given the chance, voters have consistently rejected the anti-choice agenda.

Editor’s note: This article was amended at 12:14 pm on Wednesday, November 20th, to clarify that of the two practices offering abortions post 20-weeks gestation in Albuquerque, only one of those provides abortions up to 27 weeks.

On Tuesday, in a tremendous upset victory, voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, defeated a proposed 20-week abortion ban by roughly 55 percent to 45 percent. Arguments for the ban were largely based on the medically disproven claim that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks’ gestation. In public statements, however, proponents of the ban, such as the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List revealed a far darker agenda, one of forcing women to continue a pregnancy and bear a child under virtually any circumstance, even when a fetus is found to have abnormalities incompatible with life.

The original ballot measure was initiated by anti-choice missionaries Tara and Bud Shaver, who after receiving training from Operation Rescue moved to Albuquerque in 2010 with the goal of jump-starting the process of a ballot initiative. Operation Rescue, known for anti-choice terrorist tactics and affiliated with Scott Roeder, the murderer of Dr. George Tiller, targeted Albuquerque in large part because it is home to two providers abortions post 20-weeks gestation and one of a handful of clinics left in the United States that still perform abortions after 24 weeks. By outlawing abortions after 20 weeks, despite almost certain court challenges, anti-choicers hoped not only to close two clinics essential to women urgently in need of health care, but also to spark similar initiatives across the country.

The defeat of the 20-week abortion ban in Albuquerque underscores a critical but often overlooked point in abortion politics: When given the chance, voters have consistently rejected the anti-choice agenda. In South Dakota, voters have twice overwhelmingly defeated anti-choice ballot initiatives promoting abortion bans. And in Colorado, voters have twice dismissed so-called personhood laws that would have banned abortions and most forms of birth control. Another personhood ballot initiative was defeated in Mississippi by a margin of 57 to 43 percent.

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Consistent rejection by actual voters of attempts to give the state control over women’s bodies tells us three things. One, polls that attempt to divide people into neat boxes such as “pro-choice” and “pro-life” or to measure support for hypothetical restrictions on abortion in generic terms do not reflect how people really feel about safe abortion care. In fact, when asked specifically about who should make decisions on how and when to bear children and under what circumstances to terminate a pregnancy, voters make clear they do not want to interfere in the deeply personal decisions they believe belong between a woman, her partner and family, and her medical advisers, even in cases of later abortion. In short, voters do not want legislators playing god or doctor.

Two, in many states, such as Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas, it is clear that legislators and in some cases prosecutors are acting against the will of the voters by enacting or implementing abortion restrictions that were either not supported in polling or outright rejected at the ballot box. According to polling by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner, for example, a majority of Texans opposed the omnibus abortion bill for which Gov. Rick Perry called two special sessions; in fact, 80 percent of those polled opposed Perry’s decision to call the special session this summer to vote on abortion restrictions in the first place. The Texas GOP/Tea Party has now gone so far as to try to quash opposition by women to these laws by undermining the rights of women to vote at all.

Finally, polls themselves have been corrupted by the dangerous misinformation campaigns led by the anti-choice community. Inundated with outright lies and misinformation, the “average” person might assume it is “reasonable” to force doctors providing abortions to gain admitting privileges at local hospitals or to require that providers of early abortion care turn clinics into ambulatory surgical centers. But virtually none of the targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws are based on valid medical or scientific evidence, and none have anything to do with the health or well-being of women. Claiming that people support these laws as “reasonable” is the same as claiming that people “supported” the war in Iraq, which was based on widely trumpeted and ideologically-based claims of weapons of mass destruction that never materialized, but the imagined existence of which was sold to the public by a media machine uninterested in separating fact from fiction or analyzing claims made by the right-wing radicals of any stripe. In other words, polling people about made-up problems with abortion care when the media can’t get the facts straight—or when journalists don’t think getting facts straight is the media’s job—in itself perpetuates a form of medical malpractice built on ideology and rejected by voters once they understand the real purpose and consequences of these laws.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”

News Economic Justice

Colorado Voters Could Get a Chance to Boost the State’s Minimum Wage

Jason Salzman

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees "far above" the required minimum wage in their location.

Colorado’s minimum wage would increase from $8.31 to $12 by 2020 if Colorado voters approve a ballot initiative that could be headed to the November ballot.

Patty Kupfer, campaign manager for Colorado Families for a Fair Wage told reporters Monday that Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, a coalition of groups, submitted more than 200,000 signatures to the Colorado secretary of state, more than double the number required to make the ballot.

Hundreds of volunteers and dozens of organizations collected signatures, Kupfer said.

“Raising the minimum wage is fair and it’s smart,” Kupfer said. “It’s fair because people working full time should earn enough to support their families. It’s smart because when working people have more money in their pockets, they spend it here in Colorado, boosting our economy and helping our community thrive.”

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Speaking at the news conference staged in front of stacked boxes of petitions, Marrisa Guerrero, identified as a certified nursing assistant, said she works seven days a week and still relies on subsidized housing.

“Making $300 a week is not enough to pay rent and buy groceries for a family like mine,” said Guerrero, adding that she’d “really like” to see an increase in the minimum immediately, but “2020 would work wonders.”

After 2020, the state’s minimum wage would be adjusted annually for cost-of-living increases under the initiative.

Tyler Sandberg, a spokesperson for Keep Colorado Working, an organization opposing the initiative, appeared at the news conference and told reporters that he was “especially” worried about the initiative’s impact on small businesses.

“The big corporations, the wealthy areas of Denver and Boulder, might be able to afford [it], but small businesses, rural and poor communities, cannot afford this,” Sandberg told reporters. “So you are going to put people out of work with this. You’re going to harm the same people you’re trying to help.”

“It’s one size that doesn’t fit all. It’s the same for a small business as it is for Pepsi Cola,” said Sandberg, whose organization includes the Colorado Restaurant Association, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, and the National Association of Independent Business.

Asked by Rewire to respond to Sandberg’s argument against a higher wage, Kupfer said, “Research shows small businesses support increasing the minimum wage. The truth is, when workers make more, that means more customers in local Colorado businesses. Both in rural and urban parts of the state, when working people do well, our communities thrive.”

A campaign fact sheet cited an April survey showing that 59 percent of the 2,400 U.S. small businesses polled favor raising the minimum wage, and that about 40 percent of those polled already pay entry-level employees “far above” the required minimum wage in their location.

“In my company, we have customer service representatives being paid $15 per hour,” Yoav Lurie, founder of Simple Energy, told reporters at the news conference. “While others might choose to pay customer service reps minimum wage, we have found that higher pay leads to improved performance and better retention and better customer satisfaction.”

Workers who rely on tips would see their minimum hourly wage increase by about 70 percent, from $5.29 to $8.98, while other workers would get a 44 percent increase by 2020. The initiative states that “no more than $3.02 in tip income may be used to offset the minimum wage of employees who regularly receive tips.”

Colorado passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 that bumped the minimum wage to $6.85. It’s been raised according to inflation since then.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and has not been increased since 2009.

Colorado’s Republican legislators killed legislation this year to allow cities to raise the minimum wage.