News Politics

Senate Republicans Are Reminded: ‘Banning Abortion Doesn’t Make It Go Away’

Nicole Knight Shine

Anti-choice activists testified at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks' gestation, although an exhaustive scientific review says that's simply not the case.

The Senate Judiciary Committee considered a new set of federal abortion care restrictions at a Tuesday hearing, less than two weeks after the Supreme Court heard arguments on Texas’ clinic shutdown law.

Although Republicans on the committee have stated they will block any potential Supreme Court nominee, the Senate panel, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), carved out time for a two-hour hearing on “Late-Term Abortion: Protecting Babies Born Alive and Capable of Feeling Pain.”

At hand were two anti-choice bills. S. 2066 amends the Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 to impose criminal penalties on abortion providers who fail to properly “care” for a fetus “born alive” when a pregnancy is terminated, despite a total lack of evidence from at least 38 state attorneys general that this is happening. S. 1553 revives a previously unsuccessful federal 20-week abortion ban.

This is the second go-around in the Senate for the 20-week ban, which Democrats blocked in September 2015. The bill is likely unconstitutional, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, has pointed out, because it bans abortion before viability and fails to include exceptions for the patient’s health.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who introduced the 20-week ban, said Tuesday that the United States is among a handful of countries that permit abortion care later in pregnancy and he wants “to get out of that club.”

Dr. Diana Foster, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, told the committee that such bans are accompanied by higher rates of maternal mortality.

“Banning abortion doesn’t make it go away, it makes it more likely that women will have an illegal abortion,” Greene Foster said.

Committee Democrats, and some from the medical community who were called to testify, said the bills politicize complex medical decisions, intimidate doctors, and punish patients, particularly those without the means to travel great distances or make repeated trips to access abortion services.

Anti-choice activists testified that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks’ gestation, although an exhaustive scientific review says that’s simply not the case.

Feinstein recounted recent reports of pregnant people resorting to coat-hanger abortions that harken back to the pre-Roe v. Wade era. Economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz stated in a ​New York Times article this month that there were about 700,000 Google searches “looking into self-induced abortions in 2015.” An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that states have enacted 231 laws designed to limit or end access to legal abortion.

“Women of America I think want the ability to consult with their physicians, to follow their faith, and to make their own decisions,” Feinstein said.

Jodi Magee, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, told the committee that the rash of anti-choice measures passed by Republican-majority state legislatures has had an outsized impact on marginalized communities.

“Existing restrictions on abortion care disproportionately impact the most vulnerable women,” Magee said. “A woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion should not depend on her zip code. We are already seeing women taking matters into their own hands.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) pointed out the U.S. House has voted to gut family planning spending while decrying abortion. “That makes no sense to me whatsoever,” Durbin told the panel.

Senate Democrats and pro-choice organizations were swift to denounce the GOP-led panel.

“While the Republicans on that committee say they won’t take up the time to do their most important actual job, they were happy to spend their time this morning on their favorite hobby: do everything they can to turn back the clock on women’s access to healthcare,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told Politico: “Apparently Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell are too busy playing doctor to uphold their constitutional duty to consider a Supreme Court nominee when named. Instead, Republican leadership wants to waste taxpayer time on a rejected piece of legislation that leading doctors flatly oppose.”

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify the length of the hearing.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

News Politics

Former Klan Leader on Senate Run: My Views Are Now the ‘GOP Mainstream’

Teddy Wilson

David Duke has been a fervent support of the Trump campaign, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

David Duke, convicted felon, white supremacist, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Roll Call reported.

Duke said that after a “great outpouring of overwhelming support,” he will campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. David Vitter, who lost a bid for Louisiana governor in a runoff election.

Duke’s announcement comes the day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination in the midst of growing tensions over race relations across the country. Trump has been criticized during the campaign for his rhetoric, which, his critics say, mainstreams white nationalism and provokes anxiety and fear among students of color.

His statements about crime and immigration, particularly about immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, have been interpreted by outlets such as the New York Times as speaking to some white supporters’ “deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”

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Duke said in his campaign announcement that he was the first candidate to promote the policy of “America first,” echoing a line from Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First,” Trump said Thursday night. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”

Duke said his platform has become “the GOP mainstream” and claimed credit for propelling Republicans to control of Congress in 2010. He said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump … embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years.”

Trump in February declined to disavow the support of a white supremacist group and Duke, saying he knew “nothing about David Duke” and knew “nothing about white supremacists.” He later clarified that he rejected their support, and blamed his initial failure to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.”

Trump’s candidacy has also brought to light brought many incidents of anti-Semitism, much of which has been directed at journalists and commentators covering the presidential campaign.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in the National Review that Trump’s nomination has “drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork,” and that the Republican nominee has been willing to “channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.”

Duke took to Twitter after Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday to express his support for the Republican nominee’s vision for America.

“Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!” Duke tweeted.

Duke has been a fervent Trump supporter, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana house in 1989, serving one term. Duke was the Republican nominee for governor in 1991, and was defeated by Democrat Edwin Edwards.

Duke, who plead guilty in 2002 to mail fraud and tax fraud, has served a year in federal prison.