Roundups Law and Policy

Legal Wrap: Marlise Munoz and the Right to Die

Jessica Mason Pieklo

There's a growing conflict between states that recognize a fundamental right to make end-of-life decisions and those that override those wishes only when a person is pregnant.

Legal Wrap is a weekly round-up of key legal reproductive rights and justice news.

An important decision out of New Mexico affirmed a fundamental right to make end-of-life choices. The decision came down during the weeks when attorneys in Texas were negotiating whether or not a Fort Worth hospital would remove mechanical support from the body of Marlise Munoz, which sadly underscores that right now in this country those fundamental rights to make your own end-of-life decisions end when you become pregnant.

The Iowa Supreme Court will reconsider the sentence of a man who plead guilty to criminal transmission of HIV in a case that has become a rallying point for activists calling for an overhaul of state laws that can make HIV transmission a crime.

The religious nonprofit group the Life Center will be allowed to continue giving women free ultrasounds in a remodeled RV thanks to a settlement with the city of Elgin, Illinois, in a dispute over a zoning ordinance that blocked these types of mobile crisis pregnancy centers. However, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, this sounds less like a settlement and more like attorneys for the city gave the anti-choice challengers everything they asked for.

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In Kansas, a judge ruled that a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple is also responsible for child support.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona has asked the Supreme Court to intervene in efforts by anti-choice activists to strip the reproductive health-care provider of Medicaid funds.

Meanwhile, members of Congress and a host of advocacy organizations have begun submitting briefs in the for-profit challenges to the contraception mandate.

For now, the Little Sisters of the Poor won’t have to comply with the contraception mandate in Obamacare, but I wouldn’t call it a win for the nuns just yet.

There’s good news and bad news out of Oklahoma, where a judge permanently blocked a state law designed to reinstate age and identification restrictions on emergency contraception lifted by the Food and Drug Administration, and anti-choice lawmakers pre-filed a slew of new bills designed to curb abortion access.

Adele Stan has all the latest from Congress, where Republican lawmakers passed yet another regressive, extreme anti-choice bill.

Missouri lawmakers want to shield medical providers from participating in any reproductive health-care procedure they find offensive because of religious beliefs.

With the fate of buffer zones around the country hanging in the balance of the Roberts Court, New Hampshire pushes ahead with its efforts to protect clinics and patients from anti-choice harassment.

Meanwhile, Virginia Republicans plan to block expanding Medicaid in the state, because apparently that’s how a party responds to voters after losing an election.

Louisiana lawmakers have a sneaky new way to try and regulate abortion out of existence in their state.

A doctor in Indiana is facing charges following an avalanche of anti-choice complaints, and Emily Crockett explains how this case is a good example of the ways anti-choice groups are increasingly exploiting mandatory reporting rules to try and discredit doctors and close clinics.

Like a lot of states, New Jersey promotes its maternal methadone programs as important tools in combating substance dependency among pregnant women. So why does the state want to charge pregnant women who use methadone with child abuse?

There was an important decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals: The court ruled Massachusetts cannot deny an incarcerated transgender woman gender reassignment surgery.

Missouri Republicans came up with a host of restrictions on individuals and organizations who help people sign up for health insurance under Obamacare, but a federal court wasn’t impressed and blocked the restrictions from taking effect.

Ending on a positive note: Several states (finally) seek to curb the horrific practice of shackling pregnant prisoners when they give birth.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Clarifies Position on Federal Funding for Abortion: I’m ‘for the Hyde Amendment’

Ally Boguhn

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, clarified during an interview with CNN on Friday that he still supports the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

During Kaine’s appearance on New Day, host Alisyn Camerota asked the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee whether he was “for or against” the ban on funding for abortion. Kaine replied that he had “been for the Hyde Amendment,” adding “I haven’t changed my position on that.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that Kaine had “said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment.” Another Clinton spokesperson later clarified to the network that Kaine’s commitment had been “made privately.”

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

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“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” reads the platform.

Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard that he was not aware that the party had put language outlining support for repealing Hyde into the platform, noting that he had “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Clinton has repeatedly said that she supports Hyde’s repeal, calling the abortion care restriction “hard to justify.”

Abortion rights advocates say that Hyde presents a major obstacle to abortion access in the United States.

“The Hyde amendment is a violent piece of legislation that keeps anyone on Medicaid from accessing healthcare and denies them full control over their lives,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said in a statement. “Whether or not folks believe in the broken U.S. political system, we are all impacted by the policies that it produces. Abortion access issues go well beyond insurance and the ability to pay, but removing the Hyde Amendment will take us light years closer to where we need to be.”

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open the Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

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Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.