Christine Grimaldi is a reporter and writer based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Rewire, she covered Congress for Bloomberg BNA and completed an MA in nonfiction writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her journalism and essays have appeared in or on Slate,Washingtonian.com, The Morning News, and elsewhere. Contact her @chgrimaldi and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocates have been on guard against an executive order like the religious imposition measures modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and others sweeping through GOP-held state legislatures.
LGBTQ people and those with low incomes, especially women of color, rely on Obamacare's birth control benefit and other preventive services, but advocates say the Trump administration is targeting their ability to access health care, even if Republicans can't repeal the law entirely.
“Our patients who rely on Title X family planning funding—including people of color, people with low incomes, and those who live in rural areas—already face systemic barriers to getting health care," said Dr. Willie Parker, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health.
“The more desperate Republican leaders get to win over extreme House conservatives, the worse Trumpcare becomes. But let’s be clear: any member of Congress who is intent on taking away essential benefits ... is in for a rude awakening if this bill ever gets to the Senate,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
The speed with which the Trump administration is wielding the regulatory process against sexual orientation and gender identity sharply diverges from the Obama administration’s slow, steady march toward LGBTQ rights through the federal agencies.
The heightened advocacy on Capitol Hill comes as the Trump administration ditched protections for transgender students under Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.
Congressional Republicans seem unwilling to take on more heat about their embattled goals to repeal the ACA and defund Planned Parenthood, leaving the dirty work to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) warned that Republicans could introduce legislation statutorily strengthening the federal religious imposition law in the absence of similar rumored action from the White House.
“If past is prologue, we could see a number of congressional attacks targeted not just to Planned Parenthood but that will compromise the sustainability of the entire family planning safety net,” said Audrey Sandusky, director of advocacy and communications for the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans in Sessions’ confirmation hearings largely dismissed his abysmal record on a broad range of rights—including voting, reproductive, and LGBTQ rights, all of which are intertwined.
Tillerson pledged to continue State Department programs dedicated to “empowering" women, but dodged a follow-up question on family planning programs, saying he would have to examine all aspects before giving a similar commitment.
“Trump put out a statement on one such area and conspicuously left out all of the other ones,” said a Washington, D.C.-based advocate for LGBTQ rights. “He doesn't get a cookie for deciding to move us zero steps forward, especially when he's considering taking us five steps back.”
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act a day after Trump, surrounded by men, signed the sweeping executive order in one of his first acts as president.
“Unfortunately for Republicans, banning abortion nationwide, which this bill effectively would do, is unconstitutional thanks to Roe v. Wade,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said. “The bill also exposes Republicans’ clear lack of understanding of science and how the human body actually works.”
On the first day of Sessions' confirmation hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans largely dismissed the senator’s abysmal record on a broad range of rights—including, but not limited to, voting, reproductive, and LGBTQ rights.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the organization takes Speaker Ryan’s threat “very seriously,” along with the looming specter of Vice President-elect Pence, “who has made his entire career out of ending access to reproductive health care, including at Planned Parenthood.”
“We’re going to make sure that the country does not, without a conversation, just turn its back on decades of progress in terms of expanding health care choices to vulnerable women," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and her GOP colleagues indicated that they could wield the appropriations process against the National Institutes of Health to end the use of fetal tissue procured from abortion care for research purposes.
A Democratic congressional aide told Rewire that Republicans are "really playing with fire" if they launch attacks on funding for Planned Parenthood and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, leaving tens of millions without access to care.
The Obama administration sent a clear message that states cannot deny reproductive health-care providers from receiving federal Title X funds if they provide abortion care. The funds already can’t be used for the procedure.
“There’s a lot more money needed to respond to the largest public health disaster in the history of this country,” Nayyirah Shariff, director of Flint Rising, told Rewire. “The human cost to this is way more than $170 million.”
“I think there’s more to be done on the military justice side, but these [retaliation] provisions are obviously ways of showing that Congress takes this seriously and [the Department of Defense] should too,” said Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has praised the GOP-led investigation that has attacked Planned Parenthood, abortion care providers, researchers who use fetal tissue to potentially cure life-threatening diseases, and a private company that helps procure tissue donation for medical research.
Three congressional committee investigations found no basis in claims that Planned Parenthood, or other targeted entities, profited from fetal tissue donations. Nor did 13 states and a Texas grand jury.
“Eliminating this dangerous provision from the final bill is a victory, but let us be clear: the fight against bigotry, intolerance, and discrimination does not end with the Russell Amendment,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement.
Betsy DeVos' family is composed of religious conservatives in Michigan who for decades have helped funnel money into influential political battles, such as local races, ballot measures, presidential elections, and key congressional contests in other states.
Dr. Warren Hern, a prominent provider of later abortion care, didn’t mince words in his reply to Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), starting with how she had described him in her initial outreach: as an “abortionist.”
Expanding the budget for an investigative panel tasked with targeting abortion providers and fetal tissue researchers marks one of the first actions House Republicans will pursue as they return to a radically different Washington after Election Day.
“Democrats will be completely unified under the Senate in beating back any attempts to curtail reproductive rights,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide said in an email to Rewire. “It’s an issue that binds our caucus together.”
Julie Fernandes, advocacy director for voting rights and democracy at the Open Society Policy Center, said that under different circumstances, the racially charged rhetoric during the 2016 presidential election would have led the Department of Justice to deploy a record number of federal observers.
“My main concern is having to show my driver’s license and then looking completely different than the person on the license," said Cassandra Beckham, who is voting for the first time as an openly transgender woman.
The Russell Amendment follows in the tradition of measures that purport to protect religious freedom at the expense of marginalized groups, while actually codifying the imposition of religious beliefs on others.
“That anybody who holds elected office in the state of Missouri would weigh optics over accountability is disturbing, at best, and alarming," said Pamela Merritt, the St. Louis-based co-founder of the direct action group Reproaction.
“Our letter asks the Department of Justice to investigate the constitutional and environmental justice issues implicated by the state’s decision to effectively prevent the city of Flint from suing the state,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D), who represents Flint. “Quite simply, this is wrong.”
Congressional Democrats expressed concern about the findings of a recent American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists study showing that less than half of OB-GYNs believed an IUD could be inserted in a person immediately after giving birth.
Politicians often tell stories about their constituents in selling various policies. Why not provide those stories, revealing how such policies affect their constituents’ access to, and experiences with, abortion care?
“I’m in a position now where I have an opportunity for advocacy on behalf of survivors of sexual assault,” said Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH). “The bottom line is, we need to change the culture. And it’s ironic, but I believe that Donald Trump has essentially started this national dialogue. He inadvertently defined ‘lack of consent.’”
President Obama signed the unanimously bipartisan Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act October 7—the same day video leaked of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for the nation’s highest office, bragging about sexually assaulting women.
“If these politicians feel the need [to] prove their anti-choice bona fides before Election Day, that is probably a sign that pro-choice organizing is gaining ground,” said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the pro-choice advocacy group URGE.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) described a cadre of congressional abortion opponents “available for advice and counsel if and as needed” on legislative processes, whether for the Hyde Amendment, bans on later abortion care, “live child, or some of the other legislation that we work on,” rather than a formal board.
Neither the U.S. House of Representatives nor the U.S. Senate have finalized the items on the legislative agenda. But if all goes as planned, lawmakers will leave Washington, D.C., by the end of the week and won’t return until at least November—potentially later.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) characterized abortion care as a “tragedy for any life, no matter what color,” but ultimately found as much fault with Black Americans who make the reproductive health-care decision as those who advocate on behalf of civil rights.
“The killing of unarmed Black men and women by police is a crisis,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said. “It is an emergency. And it has not just affected those victims and families of those who were killed, it has affected every Black man and woman who wonders when they or someone they know will be killed next.”
“We don’t look at Trump as an aberration that’s different from [the] GOP,” said Max Berger, an organizer with the #AllOfUs2016 campaign that protested outside House Speaker Paul Ryan's office on Tuesday.
Democrats have been increasingly proactive in attacks on the Hyde Amendment. The 2016 Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing Hyde, though the process for undoing the yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.
The so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives plans to recommend that the U.S. House of Representatives pursue the charges against StemExpress and the California-based company’s CEO, Cate Dyer.
Under the terms of the deal, Flint is the only community eligible for the $100 million in subsidized loans and grants—“about half of what we’re told needs to be done to replace the pipes and to get the faucets bringing out safe water,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said during a Wednesday press conference.
Fifty-nine percent of voters in battleground states would likely withdraw support should their member of Congress vote to restrict funding for reproductive health care amid the escalating crisis, according to a new NARAL Pro-Choice America poll.
“Let me assure you, the Trump-Pence administration will stand for the sanctity of life and defend the unborn from the first day we take office,” said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), a supporter of some of the country’s most restrictive anti-abortion measures.
“Congress never delegated to the states the ability to just change the eligibility requirements and withhold Title X funds from entities for reasons that are wholly unrelated to the quality of care that they provide,” said Janel George, director of federal reproductive rights and health for the National Women’s Law Center.
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest claimed North Carolina's bathroom discrimination law was “a bill of reasonable accommodation,” comparing the discriminatory law to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.
Democrats for Life of America leaders, politicians, and rank-and-file supporters often contradict each other, and sometimes themselves, exposing a lack of coherent strategy at a time when the Democratic Party's platform is newly committed to increasing abortion access for all.
“Our nation’s ability to mount the type of Zika response that the American people deserve sits squarely with Congress," HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell wrote in a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
In an effort to study the impact of enacting paid family and medical leave programs, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will divide $1.1 million in federal funds between Denver, Colorado; Hawaii; Indiana; Franklin County, Ohio; Pennsylvania; and Madison, Wisconsin.
Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath said Pence’s sweeping anti-choice law, which includes banning pregnant people from terminating a pregnancy due to fetal anomalies or the sex or race of a fetus, drew the ire of even those who typically oppose legal abortion.
“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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