News Abortion

Hundreds of Anti-Choice Protesters Descend on New Orleans

Teddy Wilson

The protests appear to be motivated in part by the construction of a new Planned Parenthood facility in the city that will offer a full range of reproductive health services.

Hundreds of anti-choice activists are descending on New Orleans this week to stage protests around the city.

Reproductive rights advocates view the protests as part of a continued assault on women’s access to reproductive health care in the city and the state. The planned protests have local law enforcement gearing up for their presence with extra vans, barricades, plainclothes intelligence officers, cops wearing body cams, and some officers on horseback.

Operation Save America, formerly Operation Rescue National, began its week-long demonstration Saturday protesting New Orleans’ Causeway Medical Clinic and what the group has ascertained to be the private residence of an abortion provider. The protests that have been planned over the last several months will conclude on July 26.

The New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department reportedly will have uniformed officers outside both the Causeway Medical Clinic and the Women’s Health Center throughout the week.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“Anytime we have demonstrations and things like this, we always want to make sure we deploy some people there both in uniform and plainclothes,” Col. John Fortunato, a spokesperson for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department, told the New Orleans Advocate.

“Just for the visibility aspect. We don’t anticipate having any problems. It’s just a precaution, and we want to make sure we’re out there and the citizens know we’re out there to protect the community,” said Fortunato.

The protests follow on the heels of legislative efforts to reduce access to reproductive health care in Louisiana, which advocates say are already having a negative impact on residents’ access to reproductive health-care services.

In a press release Melissa Flournoy, the Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said the protests are motivated in part by the construction of a new Planned Parenthood facility in the city that will offer a full range of reproductive health services.

Local anti-choice organizations have attempted to prevent the building of the facility with television advertisements and billboards, as well as by calling for boycotts of local businesses that have been hired to take part in the construction of the facility.

“These groups that have been harassing us and the local business community for months don’t do a thing to help people detect cancer or avoid unintended pregnancy,” said Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. “We’re taking action to help more people get health care, and these attacks only make us stronger.”

Volunteers with the New Orleans Abortion Fund told Rewire that together with the Feminist Majority Foundation and others, allies are organizing clinic escorts and legal observers to ensure the safety and well-being of patients and clinic staff.

“This opposition only steels our resolve to expand access to health care in New Orleans, and we’re moving forward full-steam to build this health center so that more people can get cancer screenings, birth control, and STI testing and treatment,” Flournoy said.

News Abortion

Blackburn Punts on Next Steps in Anti-Choice Congressional Investigation

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) deflected questions about targeting later abortion care in her interview with Rewire.

What are the next steps for the U.S. House of Representatives investigation into a market of aborted “baby body parts” that according to all other accounts—three other congressional committees, 13 states, and a Texas grand jury—doesn’t exist?

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, said she had not decided on the topic of the next hearing, nor whether to subpoena the leader of the anti-choice front group fueling the investigation.

“We’ll have something that we’ll look at in September, but no decisions [yet],” Blackburn said in a July 14 interview with Rewire.

Blackburn’s remarks followed a press conference coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the first Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos that still serve as the basis for the $1.2 million investigation.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“We’re continuing to pursue [options], we have a tremendous amount of information that has come through to us through whistleblowers and individuals, so we’ll continue to work,” she said.

Congress adjourned for a seven-week recess the day after Blackburn presented House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) with the panel’s interim update, which repeats many of the same widely discredited allegations from CMP and other anti-choice groups cited in the document.

The panel will release a final report by the end of the year. That’s the only definitive next step in an investigation that started with allegedly falsified evidence of fetal tissue trafficking and pivoted in recent months to later abortion care, including subpoenaing a prominent provider and calling for a state-level criminal investigation of a university and abortion clinic supposedly in collusion.

Blackburn would not commit to subpoenaing David Daleiden, the CMP leader under felony indictment in Texas and the subject of lawsuits in California. Republicans’ interim update called Daleiden an “investigative journalist,” even though more than two dozen of the nation’s preeminent journalists and journalism scholars recently filed an amicus brief explaining why that isn’t so in the federal court case between CMP and the National Abortion Federation.

“I think it’s inappropriate to predetermine any decisions,” Blackburn said about the possibility of a Daleiden appearance before the panel. “We’re an investigative panel. We’re going go where the facts take us.”

The interim update indicates that the investigation will continue to focus on later abortion care. Blackburn, however, deflected questions about targeting later abortion care in her interview with Rewire.

Blackburn seemingly walked back the pledge she made at a faith-based conference last month to pursue contempt of Congress charges for “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion”—who she alleged have not cooperated with her subpoenas. Blackburn’s panel spokesperson previously told Rewire that the panel required the names of those involved in fetal tissue transactions and research in order to understand how things work.

Democrats have repeatedly objected to the subpoenas, escalating their concerns after Blackburn initially failed to redact researchers’ names and contact information in her call for a federal abortion inquiry.

“We’re going to pursue getting the truth and delivering a report that is factual, that is truthful, and can be utilized by the authorizing committees,” Blackburn said in response to a question about the contempt charges at the press conference.

Blackburn and her fellow Republicans had no such reservations about going after Democrats on the panel.  They accused Democrats of furnishing subpoena recipients with a memo to subvert requests for information. The final pages of the interim update includes a chart alleging the extent to which various organizations, hospitals, procurement companies, abortion providers, and others have or have not complied with the subpoenas.

Emails obtained by Rewire show a Democratic staffer refuting such accusations last month. Democrats produced their own status update for members, not a memo advising noncompliance for subpoena recipients, the staffer said in a June email to a Republican counterpart on the panel.

News Human Rights

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Baton Rouge Police Department

Imani Gandy

“Defendants have responded to peaceful acts of protest with unlawful restrictions on constitutionally protected activity and disproportionate deployment of militarized equipment and excessive force,” the complaint reads.

A group of civil rights organizations filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday in Louisiana alleging that the Baton Rouge police have unlawfully infringed on the First Amendment rights of protesters who gathered to protest the recent death of Alton Sterling at the hands of police officers.

Plaintiffs include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana, Black Youth Project 100, North Baton Rouge Matters, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, and the Louisiana Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

Defendants include the City of Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Police Department, the Louisiana State Police, and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department, among others.

In the wake of Sterling’s death on July 5, a video of which went viral on social media, thousands of protesters took to the streets to engage in protest. In Louisiana, they were met, as alleged in the complaint, with a “military-grade assault on protestors’ bodies and rights.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“Defendants have responded to peaceful acts of protest with unlawful restrictions on constitutionally protected activity and disproportionate deployment of militarized equipment and excessive force,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit alleges that law enforcement officers have “escalated peaceful situations, impeded protestors’ entry or exit from demonstrations; threatened assault with chemical agents including mace and pepper spray; rounded them up in mass arrests; [and] engaged in physical and verbal abuse.”

The lawsuit additionally alleges that multiple protesters were “punished and wrongly arrested” for engaging in “constitutionally-protected speech.”

According to the complaint, about 200 people have been arrested in the past week during the Baton Rouge protests.

Those include prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.

“I witnessed firsthand as peaceful protestors were violently attacked and arrested, assault weapons pointed at them with fingers on the triggers, some dragged across the cement, their clothes ripped off of them,” said Alison McCrary, president of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, as reported by WWL-TV.

“What I saw happening was an immediate threat to life. My and other demonstrators’ speech was chilled because of this event,” McCrary continued.

In addition to filing the complaint, plaintiffs filed a request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Baton Rouge Police Department and other defendants “from interfering with people’s constitutional protected right to gather peacefully moving forward,” according to a press release issued by the ACLU.

“The police didn’t do their job in Baton Rouge, again,” said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman, according to KATC. “They are bound to protect us from harm, to keep us safe, to do everything possible before throwing someone to the ground or pulling the trigger,” she continued.

“Yet Alton Sterling is on the long list of Black people killed needlessly by our nation’s police, and protests in his honor have turned into circuses of violence where the first amendment is tossed aside,” she said.

Esman concluded, “We can’t bring Alton Sterling back but at a minimum, the police can stop blocking our right to protest in his name.”