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 email@example.com.
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.
A business or other organization drawing on taxpayer money and acting on those views, for instance, could deny child care, health care, and retirement benefits to an employee with a same-sex spouse without penalty from the federal government.
The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.
“It is particularly foolish to target Title X at a time when the nation is at the precipice of a public health emergency resulting from the Zika virus,” National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association President and CEO Clare Coleman said in the group’s response.
A spokesperson for the Corporation for National and Community Service said in an email to Rewire that the grantee "was unsuccessful in a highly competitive year, and they were not the only longtime grantee to not receive funding."
“Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly, and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced during a Thursday press briefing at the Pentagon.
“Republicans don’t want to treat Zika as an emergency and they don’t want to expand access to birth control," Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said in a statement. "It begs the question: Will they be willing to pay the costs associated with every child born in this country with Zika-related birth defects?”
A public university and abortion clinic in New Mexico are the latest targets in a congressional investigation approved by Speaker Paul Ryan and condemned by a House Democrat as "a McCarthy-like witch hunt."
“My life is at greater risk now than it was before,” one researcher told Rewire. “It’s always something that you think about when you get involved in this type of research, but definitely, Marsha Blackburn doing all this has placed all of us at increased risk.”
The administration confirmed to Rewire that the president's remarks on "treating survivors" at the United State of Women Summit Tuesday will not translate into executive action on the Helms Amendment—the subject of a demonstration that preceded Tuesday’s summit activities.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) remarks at Friday’s faith-based Road to Majority conference garnered the loudest rounds of applause when she pointed to her “strong, pro-life" team of Republican colleagues on her Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and touted the constitutional rights of “unborn children” in the country.
Wasserman Schultz co-sponsored legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to roll back proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau protections against predatory lending practices. Such practices often prey on those in poverty with offers of high-interest, short-term loans most borrowers are unable to repay.
The letters from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting the inquiry failed to redact researchers’ names and contact information despite past assurances.
Two anti-LGBTQ amendments that made it into the same energy and water appropriations bill did not appease conservatives. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) charged that the amendments constituted support for North Carolina’s discriminatory, anti-transgender "bathroom bill."
The guidance comes at a time when transgender rights are under attack by Republican legislators at the state level. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has threatened to defy the administration and encouraged superintendents to do the same.
Democrats implored House Speaker Paul Ryan “not to stand idly by while tax dollars are spent on a baseless investigation that endangers women, scientists, health providers, and others involved in women's health care and biomedical research.”
Today's congressional inquiry not only derides fetal tissue research, but attacks abortion care. The inaugural hearing in March 2016 gave Republicans a platform to compare fetal tissue research to Nazi experimentation. Republicans derided Democrats for exaggerating the importance of fetal tissue.
The episode got uglier after the seven Republicans switched their “aye” votes to “noe” and pandemonium erupted on the House floor. Shouts of “Shame!” devolved into continuous booing as the amendment failed.
National Center for Transgender Equality officials warned that some insurance companies could attempt to deny paying for various medically necessary treatments even though the regulations under the rule correspond with the “overwhelming medial consensus” to cover costs associated with transition-related care.
StemExpress officials said in a statement that Blackburn’s letter misrepresents the company’s “continuous efforts” to respond to the panel’s requests since December 2015. Their efforts include relinquishing more than 2,000 pages of documents to various congressional committees.
D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, said it’s “frankly shocking” lawmakers would consider these types of provisions after the backlash that North Carolina legislators are facing from businesses after passing HB 2.
Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Robin Kelly (D-IL), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) formed the caucus in March at the behest of #SheWoke, a collective started by seven advocates and thought leaders across the country.
“When it comes to a health-care provider’s ability to provide care in accordance with the most up-to-date medical research, no politician should ever interfere," said Dana Singiser, Planned Parenthood Action Fund's vice president of public policy.