Commentary Health Systems

First They Come for Your Insurance Coverage. Is Your Bank Account Next?

Amanda Marcotte

Anti-choice attacks on women's access to insurance coverage for contraception and abortion are, in part, about building a legal case for controlling the private finances of women. The arguments being used could in the future apply even to your bank account.

The Hobby Lobby case going before the Supreme Court will hopefully shed new light on what, to my mind, might be one of the most disturbing avenues of attack opened by the anti-choice movement: laying claim to women’s wallets along with their uteruses. The most disturbing thing about this new movement is that it seems not to be firing up people on the left in the same way as red tape attacks shutting down abortion clinics seems to do. But in a way, it’s really just as bad, because the religious right is experimenting with legal avenues to establish the “right” to control women’s private finances, and there’s a strong possibility that they are going to get away with it.

At stake right now are insurance plans. Brick by brick, anti-choicers are trying to create the illusion that it’s perfectly reasonable for strangers who disagree with your private religious views regarding contraception and abortion to determine for you what kind of coverage you can buy. The attack is two-fold: On the contraception front, corporations and other employers are claiming that they should be the decider and not their employees on what kind of coverage the employees’ insurance plans cover, even though those plans belong to the employee and not the employer, since the employee earned the insurance coverage just as surely as she earned her paycheck. On the abortion front, anti-choicers are claiming, successfully in 23 states now, that insurance companies should be banned from selling policies that include abortion coverage, on the grounds that the woman who uses that coverage is pulling from a pool that everyone has paid into, and, well, there’s a bit of magical thinking that justifies believing your premium is “tainted” if a dollar that you paid into the pool ends up being paid to an abortion provider.

It’s an argument that assumes if money has ever passed through the pocket of an anti-choicer, they get to retain control over it no matter who else legally has control of it now. This is not how transfer of control of funds works with anything else, as I explain in this week’s podcast. If I give you anything, it belongs to you and not me. But anti-choicers are arguing that when it comes to reproductive health coverage, that rule should be suspended. If they pay an insurance company, then they should retain control over the money that belongs to the insurance company, even when the insurance company is offering a service to another person, who also purchased coverage.

By the same logic, if an anti-choicer shops at a pharmacy, that pharmacy should not be able to sell birth control pills. After all, a pharmacy may take an anti-choicer’s money and provide, say, heart medication. And then they may take the money they made that day and buy some more drugs to sell, including birth control pills. That bundle of money will have the dollars in it that the anti-choicer used to buy heart medication. Are we going to see anti-choicers start claiming that pharmacies should be banned from selling contraception because, as with insurance, anti-choicers have a special privilege to continue to control dollars even after they relinquished control over them? I expect that we will. Maybe not with pharmacies, but if insurance coverage is subject to this logic, as they do with all other things, anti-choicers will start casting around for a way to expand the scope of control, specifically control over women.

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Right now, the focus is on insurance companies, for one reason only: Obamacare. The repeated media discourse around what health insurance is and does has given anti-choicers a unique opportunity to inject their ideas about how they deserve to control what women do with their own private finances. Right-wing lies about how the new health-care law is “socialized” medicine has confused enough people that they think we’re debating how tax money is spent and not private insurance plans. An opportunity to increase the scope of control has presented itself, and they are taking it to the limit.

And they could very well get away with it. After all, they’ve had smashing success in the past with the nonsense claim that anti-choicers retain a special right to control money after it’s been relinquished to another party, via taxes. The public defense of laws like the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal money from being spent on abortion, has never been that legislators get to determine what the government does and doesn’t spend money on, using their constitutional power to write budgets, even though that’s the legal mechanism that makes it work. The argument is always forwarded in public by the right as this: Because anti-choicers pay taxes, they get to retain control over that money. Never mind that the government has all sorts of programs that various groups don’t like. Anti-choicers have successfully secured in the public mind that they, unlike everyone else, have a special right to retain control over money after they’ve relinquished it.

That’s why we should be very afraid that they will get away with expanding that nonsense argument to insurance companies. Once the claim has been established that an anti-choicer retains control over a dollar after he’s given it to someone else—whether a private entity like an insurance company or a public entity like the government—there’s no reason not to expand it to other institutions. Like pharmacies. Or, and this is where I really start to worry, banks.

After all, banks work on the exact same principle as insurance companies. You give them a certain amount of money and it’s not like they put it in a little vault with your name on it. They put it into a pool that everyone pays into and invest it. Your bank account is just what they agree they owe you if you pull it out, just as your benefits are what the insurance company agrees to pay out in exchange for your premiums. Indeed, your insurance plan is much like your bank account: you pay in, you have a little number so they keep track what you’re owed, and you can withdraw what you’re owed from a common pool at certain times based on a prior agreement. And, of course, your deposit is guaranteed even if the bank loses money on their investments because of insurance.

If one account-holder gets to say how all the other accounts are used at an insurance company, then what’s to stop them from trying the same stunt with banks? It’s hard to imagine how that would work, since banks don’t ask you what you’re using it for when you withdraw cash. But banks pay your debts for you, as insurance companies do, in ways beyond just giving you cash you can walk over to the person you want to give money to. They honor checks. They have credit and debit cards. It would be very easy for banks to refuse transactions for abortion or contraception. After all, Obamacare is just a bunch of federal regulations on insurance companies. Banks are also subject to a bunch of federal regulations—and their money is backed by insurance—creating the same sense of justification that anti-choicers have when interfering with insurance coverage.

If nothing else, it’s easy to imagine anti-choicers pressuring legislators to force banks not to hold accounts for abortion providers.

If a common pool means that your insurance plan is controlled by an anti-choicer, then it’s a quick leap to make the same argument about banks. That may seem ludicrous now, but it was ludicrous just a few years ago to imagine that employers would try to opt out of federal labor law based on “religion.” Yet that’s exactly what the Hobby Lobby case going in front of the Supreme Court is about. If that door opens, it’s not a leap to fear banks are next. After all, we are talking about fanatics who spend all day every day seeking for new ways to gain control over women’s lives. Bank accounts are going to be attractive prey, and now they’re building up the legal argument to gain control over them.

News Health Systems

The Crackdown on L.A.’s Fake Clinics Is Working

Nicole Knight

"Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options," Feuer said. "And therefore every day is a day that a woman's health could be jeopardized."

Three Los Angeles area fake clinics, which were warned last month they were breaking a new state reproductive transparency law, are now in compliance, the city attorney announced Thursday.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a press briefing that two of the fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, began complying with the law after his office issued notices of violation last month. But it wasn’t until this week, when Feuer’s office threatened court action against the third facility, that it agreed to display the reproductive health information that the law requires.

“Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options,” Feuer said. “And therefore every day is a day that a woman’s health could be jeopardized.”

The facilities, two unlicensed and one licensed fake clinic, are Harbor Pregnancy Help CenterLos Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

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Feuer said the lawsuit could have carried fines of up to $2,500 each day the facility continued to break the law.

The Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care. Unlicensed centers must disclose that they are not medical facilities.

Feuer’s office in May launched a campaign to crack down on violators of the law. His action marked a sharp contrast to some jurisdictions, which are reportedly taking a wait-and-see approach as fake clinics’ challenges to the law wind through the courts.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Some 25 fake clinics operate in Los Angeles County, according to a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California, though firm numbers are hard to come by. Feuer initially issued notices to six Los Angeles area fake clinics in May. Following an investigation, his office warned three clinics last month that they’re breaking the law.

Those three clinics are now complying, Feuer told reporters Thursday. Feuer said his office is still determining whether another fake clinic, Avenues Pregnancy Clinic, is complying with the law.

Fake clinic owners and staffers have slammed the FACT Act, saying they’d rather shut down than refer clients to services they find “morally and ethically objectionable.”

“If you’re a pro-life organization, you’re offering free healthcare to women so the women have a choice other than abortion,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents several Los Angeles fake clinics fighting the law in court.

Asked why the clinics have agreed to comply, Bowman reiterated an earlier statement, saying the FACT Act violates his clients’ free speech rights. Forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs,” Bowman said.

Reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, Googling “abortion clinic” might turn up results for a fake clinic that discourages abortion care.

“Put yourself in the position of a young woman who is going to one of these centers … and she comes into this center and she is less than fully informed … of what her choices are,” Feuer said Thursday. “In that state of mind, is she going to make the kind of choice that you’d want your loved one to make?

Rewire last month visited Lost Angeles area fake clinics that are abiding by the FACT Act. Claris Health in West Los Angeles includes the reproductive notice with patient intake forms, while Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Criticizes Trump’s Child-Care Proposal in Economic Speech

Ally Boguhn

Hillary Clinton may be wooing Republicans alienated by Trump, but she's also laying out economic policies that could shore up her progressive base. Meanwhile, Trump's comments about "Second Amendment people" stopping Hillary Clinton judicial appointments were roundly condemned.

Hillary Clinton may be courting Republicans, but that didn’t stop her from embracing progressive economic policies and criticizing her opponent’s child-care plan this week, and Donald Trump suggested there could be a way for “Second Amendment people” to deal with his rival’s judicial appointments should she be elected.

Clinton Blasts Trump’s Child-Care Proposal, Embraces Progressive Policies in Economic Speech

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recently announced proposal to make the average cost of child care fully deductible during her own economic address Thursday in Michigan.

“We know that women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in a growing number of families. We know more Americans are cobbling together part-time work, or striking out on their own. So we have to make it easier to be good workers, good parents, and good caregivers, all at the same time,” Clinton said before pivoting to address her opponent’s plan. “That’s why I’ve set out a bold vision to make quality, affordable child care available to all Americans and limit costs to 10 percent of family income.”

“Previously, [Trump] dismissed concerns about child care,” Clinton told the crowd. “He said it was, quote, ‘not an expensive thing’ because you just need some blocks and some swings.”

“He would give wealthy families 30 or 40 cents on the dollar for their nannies, and little or nothing for millions of hard-working families trying to afford child care so they can get to work and keep the job,” she continued.

Trump’s child-care proposal has been criticized by economic and family policy experts who say his proposed deductions for the “average” cost of child care would do little to help low- and middle-wage earners and would instead advantage the wealthy. Though the details of his plan are slim, the Republican nominee’s campaign has claimed it would also allow “parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes.” Experts, however, told CNN doing so would be difficult to administer.

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Clinton provided a different way to cut family child-care costs: “I think instead we should expand the Child Tax Credit to provide real relief to tens of millions of working families struggling with the cost of raising children,” Clinton said in Michigan on Thursday. “The same families [Donald Trump’s] plan ignores.”

Clinton also voiced her support for several progressive policy positions in her speech, despite a recent push to feature notable Republicans who now support her in her campaign.

“In her first major economic address since her campaign began actively courting the Republicans turned off by Donald Trump, Clinton made no major pivot to the ideological center,” noted NBC News in a Thursday report on the speech. “Instead, Clinton reiterated several of the policy positions she adopted during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, even while making a direct appeal to Independent voters and Republicans.”

Those positions included raising the minimum wage, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, advocating for equal pay and paid family leave, and supporting a public health insurance option.

“Today’s speech shows that getting some Republicans to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with Clinton running on bold progressives ideas like debt-free college, expanding Social Security benefits and Wall Street reform,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement to NBC.

Donald Trump: Could “Second Amendment People” Stop Clinton Supreme Court Picks?

Donald Trump suggested that those who support gun ownership rights may be able to stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing judges to the Supreme Court should she be elected.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a crowd of supporters during a Tuesday rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. “By the way … if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.” 

Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller later criticized the “dishonest media” for reporting on Trump’s comments and glossed over any criticism of the candidate in a statement posted to the campaign’s website Tuesday. “It’s called the power of unification―Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said Miller. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”

“This is simple—what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, in a statement responding to the Republican nominee’s suggestion. “A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”

Gun safety advocates and liberal groups swiftly denounced Trump’s comments as violent and inappropriate for a presidential candidate.

“This is just the latest example of Trump inciting violence at his rallies—and one that belies his fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, which should be an affront to the vast majority of responsible gun owners in America,” Erika Soto Lamb, chief communications officer of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a Tuesday statement. “He’s unfit to be president.”

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, also said in a Tuesday press release, “There has been no shortage of inexcusable rhetoric from Trump, but suggesting gun violence is truly abhorrent. There is no place in our public discourse for this kind of statement, especially from someone seeking the nation’s highest office.”

Trump’s comments engaged in something called “stochastic terrorism,” according to David Cohen, an associate professor at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, in a Tuesday article for Rolling Stone.

“Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable,’” said Cohen. “Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.”

“Those of us who work against anti-abortion violence unfortunately know all about this,” Cohen continued, pointing to an article from Valerie Tarico in which she describes a similar pattern of violent rhetoric leading up to the murders that took place at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

What Else We’re Reading

Though Trump has previously claimed he offered on-site child-care services for his employees, there is no record of such a program, the Associated Press reports.

History News Network attempted to track down how many historians support Trump. They only found five (besides Newt Gingrich).

In an article questioning whether Trump will energize the Latino voting bloc, Sergio Bustos and Nicholas Riccardi reported for the Associated Press: “Many Hispanic families have an immense personal stake in what happens on Election Day, but despite population numbers that should mean political power, Hispanics often can’t vote, aren’t registered to vote, or simply choose to sit out.”

A pair of physicians made the case for why Gov. Mike Pence “is radically anti-public health,” citing the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “policies on tobacco, women’s health and LGBTQ rights” in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Ivanka Trump has tried to act as a champion for woman-friendly workplace policies, but “the company that designs her clothing line, including the $157 sheath she wore during her [Republican National Convention] speech, does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave,” reported the Washington Post.

The chair of the American Nazi Party claimed a Trump presidency would be “a real opportunity” for white nationalists.

NPR analyzed how Clinton and Trump might take on the issue of campus sexual assault.

Rewire’s own editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, explained in a Thursday commentary how Trump’s comments are just the latest example of Republicans’ use of violent rhetoric and intimidation in order to gain power.

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