News Politics

Clinton Wants Sanders to Join Unsanctioned Debate Sponsored by Anti-Choice News Outlet

Ally Boguhn

The event, moderated by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow, would allow local reporters to ask questions of the Democratic candidates.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called on Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to allow for an unsanctioned Democratic debate pitched by MSNBC and an anti-choice news outlet, the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“What I’ve said to my campaign is that I would look forward to another debate. I am, you know, anxious, if we can get something set up, to be able to be there. And so let’s try to make it happen,” Clinton said during a phone interview Wednesday on MSNBC’s Hardball in which she addressed news that that the network had planned a new unsanctioned debate.

“I would like the chairman of the party and the campaigns to agree that we can debate in New Hampshire next week. That is what I’m hoping will happen,” Clinton went on before calling on Sanders to “change his mind” and join the debate.

Sanders leads by 13 points in New Hampshire, according to Real Clear Politics’ polling average.

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The Union Leader announced Tuesday that it would team up with MSNBC for a prime-time debate on February 4, five days prior to the polls opening for the state’s influential primary. The event, moderated by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow, would allow local reporters to ask questions of the Democratic candidates.

The Union Leader has a history of publishing stringently anti-choice editorials attacking reproductive health and politicians who champion it, according to an analysis conducted by Rewire.

“Our readers have demanded a debate to help them see who is most fit to be the Democratic nominee for President,” Joseph W. McQuaid, Union Leader president and publisher, said in a statement. “We were always concerned that this would have been the first time in 32 years without a Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary. We are glad to partner with MSNBC to ensure Granite Staters have the information they need to make a critical decision on Feb. 9.”

The Democratic Party has “no plans” to formally sanction the new debate, meaning that candidates who attend may be penalized for breaking party rules stipulating that those who participate in unsanctioned debates would face “forfeiture of the ability to participate in the remainder of the debate process,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Wasserman Shultz has faced criticism for allowing the DNC to partner with the Union Leader for a December Democratic debate, in part because of the Leader’s anti-choice viewpoints.

Sanders’ campaign explained that the senator would sit out the event because the campaign did not want to “jeopardize our ability to participate in future debates,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, said in a Tuesday statement, according to the New York Times.

Martin O’Malley is the only candidate to have accepted the invitation to participate so far.

John Bivona, O’Malley’s New Hampshire state director, called the move to have a new debate a “big victory not only for our campaign and our supporters that championed this effort, but it is also a victory for voters across New Hampshire and the United States,” in a Tuesday statement after the debate’s announcement. 

Clinton’s calls for the DNC and Sanders to “make” the Union Leader and MSNBC’s debate happen come despite the candidate’s efforts to make reproductive rights a key part of her platform. Clinton recently spoke out about her opposition to the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion, and has advocated on behalf of organizations such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America after receiving endorsements from those groups.

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Group Wants National Abortion Data Reporting Law

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice activists claim that despite the evidence, the number of complications from abortion is higher than is being reported. States that track abortion care data have shown the procedure to be exceedingly safe.

A leading anti-choice organization is calling for a national database of abortion statistics and increased reporting requirements for states—proposals seen as part of a strategy to justify laws restricting access to abortion care.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down provisions of Texas’ omnibus anti-choice law known as HB 2. The ruling relied heavily on research that showed abortion care was a safe and well regulated procedure. Anti-choice activists have long disputed those claims.

Clarke Forsythe, acting president of Americans United for Life (AUL), told Politico that there is not enough data on abortion. “The abortion advocates like to talk in vague terms about abortion but we need specifics,” Forsythe said. “We don’t have a national abortion data collection and reporting law.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collected “abortion surveillance” data since 1969. The CDC published the most recent report on abortion statistics in 2012.

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Abortion surveillance reports are created by compiling data from health agencies, provided voluntarily to the CDC, in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and New York City. The data includes deaths from abortion related complications, but does not include the number of complications that don’t result in deaths.

Reporting requirements for abortion statistics vary from state to state, with 46 states requiring that abortion providers submit regular reports, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Most states report the number of abortion procedures performed as well as the type of procedure, the gestation of the pregnancy, and demographic data of the patient.

There are 27 states that require providers to report the number of complications from abortion procedures.

The self-described “legal architect” of the anti-choice movement, AUL has been heavily involved in lobbying for state and federal laws that restrict access to abortion. The organization creates copycat legislation and distributes anti-choice proposals to state lawmakers, who then push the measures through legislatures.

Forsythe took a victory lap Monday for the organization’s role in promoting bills from the AUL’s “playbook of pro-life legislation” that were introduced this year in state legislatures. “AUL continued to assist states considering health and safety standards to protect women in abortion clinics,” Forsythe said in a statement.

Dozens of bills to increase reporting requirements have been introduced in state legislatures over the past several years. These proposals include several types of reporting requirements for abortion providers, and many of the provisions are similar to those found in AUL model legislation.

Arizona legislators in 2010 passed SB 1304, which required abortion providers to submit annual reports to the state and required the state Department of Health Services (DHS) to publish an annual report.

The Republican-backed legislation is similar to copycat legislation drafted that same year by AUL.

Since the law’s passage there have been very few complications resulting from abortion procedures reported in the state: from 2011-2014, less than 1 percent of abortions procedures in the state resulted in complications.

Arizona reported that 137 patients experienced complications out of 12,747 abortion procedures in 2014; 102 patients experienced complications out of 13,254 abortion procedures in 2013; 76 patients had complications out of 13,129 abortion procedures in 2012; 60 patients experienced complications out of 14,401 abortion procedures in 2011.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, a physician at the University of California, San Francisco who studied the impact of HB 2 for the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), told Politico that abortion has been shown to be exceptionally safe medical procedure.

“There’s already a lot of data that have been published documenting how safe abortion is in the U.S.,” Grossman said.“The abortion complication rate is exceedingly low.”

Anti-choice activists claim that despite the evidence, the number of complications from abortion is higher than is being reported. Joe Pojman, the executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, told Politico that “better data” is needed.

Texas has required reporting of the number of complications from abortion procedures since 2013, and the data has shown that abortion complications are exceedingly rare. There were 447 complications out of 63,849 procedures in 2013 and 777 complications out of 54,902 procedures in 2014.

Pojman said that the Texas data “defies common sense” and that the complications are “are much smaller than what one would expect.”

The Texas abortion statistics reveal that it is safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term in the state. Between 2008 and 2013, the most recent years for which data is available, there were 691 maternal deaths in Texas, compared to one death due to abortion complications between 2008 and 2014.

“There’s no sign that there’s a hidden safety problem happening in Texas,” Grossman said.

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