Friday Femorandum: Hyde at 40

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the disastrous Hyde Amendment, a federal budget that bans federal funding for abortion care, making abortion the only medical service that explicitly cannot be funded by the federal government.

angry the office screaming dwight rainn wilsonBecause of the Hyde Amendment, low-income women on Medicaid, members of our Armed Services, Peace Corps workers, and all federal employees have no insurance coverage for abortions–that’s 28 million women. By denying essential health-care coverage to those 28 million women, Hyde creates a two-class system in America: Women who can afford to exercise their constitutional right to safe, legal abortion services, and women who cannot.

Rewire, the reproductive health news site, is taking a comprehensive look at Hyde this week, including stories about the difficulties Native American women face when seeking abortion care, the penalty Hyde places on low-income and vulnerable women, and what happens when states defy Hyde and fund abortions for poor women themselves, as Washington State does.

the office slow clap dwight schrute

All Above All has a helpful explainer about efforts in Congress to demonstrate that Hyde, like the Texas TRAP laws that were overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this year, places an “undue burden” on women seeking health care. The EACH Woman Act would overturn Hyde and restore full health care access to women receiving health care coverage through the federal government.

The Guttmacher Institute, which is an indispensable source of information about women’s health, the legal landscape facing women seeking reproductive health care in every state and around the world, and a fact-based moral compass for leaders who write and rule on laws governing women’s health, has a strongly worded editorial in the Huffington Post arguing that it’s time to “end the harmful and unjust Hyde Amendment” once and for all.

“The Hyde Amendment’s detrimental and deeply unjust impact is felt by low-income women in general and low-income women of color in particular. Poor women experience unintended pregnancies at five times the rate of their more affluent peers, and abortion has become increasingly concentrated among this group,” Guttmacher president Ann M. Starrs writes. “Because of systemic social and economic inequality, women of color are disproportionately likely to be poor and insured through Medicaid—and are therefore disproportionately impacted by the Hyde Amendment.”

the office michael office thank you scott

Mother Jones magazine commemorates Hyde with a sobering piece arguing that even if the amendment is overturned, an obscure Supreme Court case, Harris v. McRae, could stand in the way of Medicaid funding for abortion. The case started immediately after Hyde, when Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and other abortion rights advocates sued the federal government, arguing that Hyde was unconstitutional because it didn’t equally protect the rights of poor women. In a 5-4 decision in 1980, the Supreme Court upheld Hyde, ruling that even though women have the right to have abortions, the federal government has no obligation to help–basically, if you’re too poor to pay for an abortion on your own, that isn’t the government’s problem. The ruling, MoJo suggests, still would allow states to refuse to pay for abortion under their state-run Medicaid programs if Hyde was overturned, which 35 states (though not Washington) already do.

Finally, if you want to read even more about Hyde, its history, its legacy, and its future, go to Media Matters, where they’ve compiled an essential reading list for those interested in learning more about this ignominious amendment.


Friday Femorandum: The (Almost) Trump-Free Edition

On Monday, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will debate for the first time. In honor of this historic occasion, we’re bringing you a special Trump-Free Edition of the Friday Femorandum, and holding our breath for Monday, when we boldly predict that one of the candidates will be thoroughly prepped with zingy comebacks and comprehensive policy prescriptions, and the other will rely on juvenile insults and attacks and attempt to belittle their opponent with innuendo and insinuation whenever they can’t come up with a substantive response. Just a hunch.

The Congressional Committee for the Harassment of Women continued its kangaroo-court “hearings” on Planned Parenthood this week, long after the illegally obtained, fraudulently edited videos that prompted its creation had been thoroughly discredited. The panel, whose actual name of course includes the word “babies,” is now attempting to hold the stem-cell research company StemExpress, which was the target of video espionage by anti-choice activists last year, in contempt of court for refusing to hand over personal information about its staff, the names of its customers, and its banking records.

Election 2016 angry frustrated joe biden lying

StemExpress has good reason not trust the committee to safeguard information about who works there, information that could subject employees to threats and harassment. The committee promises it will “redact” all names and identifying personal information once it gets that names list in its hot little hands, but that promise isn’t worth the thin air it’s written on: The last time the committee got a list of names, of researchers and Planned Parenthood staffers, it promptly posted them on the committee’s website.

At any rate, the zealots’ absurd demands prompted all the Democrats on the committee to walk out on the proceedings Wednesday, refusing to participate in what ranking member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) called an “illegitimate and unsanctioned effort” to harass scientists. The committee failed in its original effort to justify defunding Planned Parenthood, and is engaging in increasingly desperate witch hunts to attempt to prove any wrongdoing by the organization, which provides basic health care to millions of low-income women across the country.


Texas, whose unconstitutional Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws got struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year, isn’t budging in its efforts to regulate abortion out of existence. As you may recall, the state adopted rules requiring women who have abortions to also hold funerals for their embryos (usurping the normal practice of disposing them as medical waste), a law designed expressly to make abortions more expensive. The law requires the individual burial or cremation of all fetal remains, inclu ding the products of miscarriage, regardless of the period of gestation. Translation: If you abort a fetus the size of a peanut, or have a miscarriage, you have to pay for its “funeral,” a macabre imposition that artificially inflates the cost of ending a pregnancy (potentially by thousands of dollars) and forces women for whom abortion is an emotionally fraught decision to “pay” for their choice by going through a farcically cruel process.

According to the Texas Tribune, the rules mandating fetal funerals “are likely to be challenged in court.”

In other news, legendary feminist Katha Pollitt continues to be brilliant, appearing in Colorado this week to discuss (and dispel) some of the more persistent myths surrounding abortion, the myth that there are “too many abortions,” the myth that opposing abortion is not about punishing women, and the myth that abortion is “racist.” On that point, Pollitt says, “If these people cared about the rate of abortion in black communities, they would be pushing for good health care in black communities, including good access to reproductive health care, good methods of birth control that really work. Black women have more pregnancies than white women because they have less access to good health care and less access to effective birth control.”

yas yas queen lauryn hill lawd yas kweenFinally, Hillary Clinton gave a landmark address about expanding access to jobs and opportunities to people with disabilities and released a comprehensive plan to tackle poverty this week. Neither of them got much coverage, because OMG WAS THAT A COUGH?! IS HILLARY TOO WEAK TO BE PRESIDENT? etc. Both plans are worth a read, and both have their skeptics within the progressive community.

Choice News

Friday Femorandum: All Paternalism Is Local

Isn’t it funny (no) how often anti-choice laws that materially harm women’s health and well-being are passed under the guise of “protecting women”?

That was certainly the case in Texas, where laws that were later overturned by the US Supreme Court would have made it virtually impossible for women in huge swaths of that geographically massive state to obtain abortion care. These Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital, and required abortion providers to build mini-hospitals for their patients to take a pill or undergo an outpatient procedure.

In Ohio, another law ostensibly aimed at “protecting women’s health” required women to take an outdated dosage of mifepristone, AKA “the abortion pill,” when they get a medication abortion.  The old dosage, since updated by most states based on clinical research, was significantly higher than what the FDA currently recommends, but Ohio and several other states stubbornly stuck with the old, higher-dosage recommendations. This has had major negative consequences for women’s health. In fact, Mother Jones reports, they found that since the law mandating a very high dose of mifepristone has been in effect, women who have had medical abortions were “three times more likely to require at least one additional medical treatment related to the procedure than women who had medication abortions before the law passed.”

A new study from the University of Washington concludes that women whose health plans exclude contraception coverage experience a higher rate of unintended pregnancies, which makes logical sense:  Contraception prevents pregnancy but costs money, so women who have to pay for it out of pocket are less likely to use it. The study also found, however, that far from saving companies money, denying coverage for birth control may actually add costs for employers, because employers must then pay the cost of childbirth, health coverage for additional dependents, and maternity leave. In addition, employers pay an indirect cost because their health-care plans are less competitive, which makes it harder to recruit and retain women who don’t want to get pregnant.

In related news, researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University found that a recent drop in the teen pregnancy rate is due to more frequent, consistent use of contraception by teens–and not because teenagers are having less sex.full house ashley olsen michelle tanner duh mary kate olsen

“And it wasn’t because they were having more abortions,” NPR reports. “Abortion has been declining among all age groups, and particularly among teenagers.

“Rather, the researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University found that ‘improvement in contraceptive use’ accounted for the entire reduced risk of pregnancy over the five-year period.

“‘By definition, if teens are having the same amount of sex but getting pregnant less often, it’s because of contraception,’ says Laura Lindberg, the study’s lead author and a Guttmacher researcher.”

In a poignant editorial, the Miami Herald argued this week that “don’t get pregnant”–the advice the Centers for Disease Control is giving to women in the Zika-afflicted state–is “lousy advice” to give to sexually active women.beyonce no funny live hell naw

“Perhaps the CDC hasn’t considered what these recommendations mean to people in Florida — a state that received a grade of F from NARAL Pro-Choice America for restricting access to reproductive healthcare,” The Herald writes. “In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011, 73 percent of Florida’s counties had no abortion clinic. Florida has also failed to expand its Medicaid program, leaving many uninsured women with no access to contraception.

“How is a woman with no access to family planning supposed to keep herself from getting pregnant for eight weeks? Oh right, abstinence. We’re talking about Florida, after all, where schools are required to teach abstinence in sex-education classes but there is no requirement to include information about contraception.”

If abstinence doesn’t work (it doesn’t), will anti-choice activists insist on forcing women to give birth to Zika-affected babies, who may be born with microcephaly (smaller than average heads), underdeveloped or undeveloped brains, and crippling or fatal physical abnormalities? That’s the question Newsweek poses in this  piece, which points out that Florida women who lack access to both birth control and abortion may indeed be forced to do just that. (Florida and many other states ban abortions after 20 weeks, while most Zika-related disorders can’t be detected before then).
Newsweek makes the excellent point that  “While we think about abortion as a national issue, the politics of abortion is local. Specific states, not the federal government, have been pursuing increasingly restrictive abortion regulations. States that do so have strong anti-abortion organizations, weaker abortion rights groups, and more perceived public support for restricting access.

“This means that while the nation may see abortion through Zika as it did through thalidomide and rubella, there are strong forces that oppose legal reform in the states where it could most matter.”

Choice News

Friday Femorandum: 90 Percent Likelihood

Happy 45th Women’s Equality Day! Here’s your present for this year: The New York Times’ election tracker now puts the odds of a Hillary Clinton victory over Donald Trump at 90 percent, the highest that number has ever been. We’re not ones to count our chickens (Wikileaks founder and unaccountable accused rapist Julian Assange continues his anti-Hillary crusade from exile, pledging  to release documents that will help Trump and damage the Clinton campaign), but those are pretty solid numbers. Fingers crossed that by the time the 46th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day rolls around, we’ll be able to celebrate living proof of women’s progress in this country: The first female president of the United States.

Speaking of Women’s Equality Day, Jezebel  has a short photo and video pictorial honoring Congresswomen Shirley Chihsolm and Bella Abzug, the two feminist pioneers who, along with thousands of women who marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City demanding changes to health care and child care policies and protesting women’s lack of educational and professional opportunities, made Women’s Equality Day a reality in 1976. Abzug was a Jewish, Democratic Congresswoman from New York; Chisholm, the first African American ever elected to Congress. Together, the two founded the National Women’s Political Caucus, which works to get elect progressive women elected.

Election 2016 meryl streep dnc democratic national convention cheerAnd speaking of Trump, did you hear the one about how his new campaign “CEO” (allegedly) beat up his first ex-wife back in 1996 and then (allegedly) forced her to leave the state to avoid testifying against him in court? The New York Post has all the sad, sordid details: In 1996, Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness after an altercation that left his then-wife with injuries on her throats and wrist, then threatened to take away the couple’s twin girls if his wife did not leave town to avoid testifying. The case was dismissed because Bannon’s wife was not available to testify. Bannon was most recently the head of Breitbart News, an ultraconservative website linked to white nationalist and antisemitic groups.

reactions wtf frustrated stupid facepalmA New York Times report this week detailed on the impact the Zika virus has on babies. It’s an alarming read that includes graphic, disturbing photos of Zika-affected babies, and it raises important issues around women’s ability to avoid getting pregnant in Zika-affected areas, as well as access to abortion for pregnant women who contract the virus. Currently, NPR reports, Planned Parenthood is going door-to-door in Miami, where Zika cases have been confirmed, to let people know about the risks of the virus, which can be transmitted sexually as well as by mosquitoes. Planned Parenthood is doing this important work without the help of the state or federal government; the state, under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, has tried repeatedly to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, and has blocked expansion of Medicaid for low-income Floridians.

toy story woody shake fist fist shake shakes fistCongress, which is on extended vacation, has done nothing to combat Zika in the US and its territories, instead blocking legislation that could expand access to contraception, especially in Puerto Rico. Rewire  reports that a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says “access to contraception isn’t really an issue in 2016”–which is probably news to people in Miami-Dade County, which, according to the NPR report linked above, has the state’s largest population of uninsured people.

Still have a few minutes before you can leave work and go enjoy the sunshine (and, if you’re in Seattle, 85-degree temperatures) today? Take this Buzzfeed quiz, which reveals what, exactly, Donald Trump wants to do to YOU if he’s elected!

Choice News

Friday Femorandum: Campaign Shakeups and Clinic Shakedowns

It was a week of campaign shakeups, gubernatorial debates, and record-high temperatures at NARAL HQ, so let’s jump right in (so we can all go jump in a lake!)

In addition to firing his Putin-friendly campaign adviser Paul Manafort and hiring the executive of a terrifying alt-right white nationalist website as his “campaign CEO” (barf), Donald Trump this week hired a right-wing pollster, Kellyanne Conway, to serve as his new campaign manager. Conway is supposed to serve as a sort of Trump Whisperer to women, who really, really, really, really hate the candidate known for saying Megyn Kelly was mean to him because she had “blood coming out of her whatever.” (Wonder why?reactions wtf britney spears confused unsure


As a political consultant and image burnisher, New York magazine reports, Conway is best known for trying to turn the ship around when Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin suggested that women who experienced “legitimate rape” had mysterious “ways” to ensure that they wouldn’t get pregnant. (You know: “The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”–that guy.)

“By 2014, she had used her experience with Akin to develop a rap (delivered on one occasion to a House Republican Conference retreat) on how conservative pols could avoid offending women without, of course, changing their positions on issues like abortion,” NY Mag writes. Akin, of course, was not elected, but Trump still apparently believes the disgraced candidate’s adviser on women’s issues can get the ladies to vote for a guy who “jokes” about dating his own hot daughter and famously called women he didn’t like “fat,” “ugly,” “disgusting” “pigs.”

Best of luck, Kellyanne!


Trump’s other new hire, Breitbart News chairman Steven Bannon, is best known for turning the conservative news site into a home for white nationalist and white supremacist rhetoric. But Breitbart isn’t just racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic; it’s also virulently sexist, as Media Matters explains in a post  documenting the site’s lies about Planned Parenthood and birth control. Breitbart has on various occasions accused Planned Parenthood of “black genocide”; having “racist, pro-Nazi roots”; and “carving up murdered babies… Mengele-style.”

gross do not want yuck gag barfThey’ve also claimed that birth control in the water supply causes infertility, gone all-in to defend anti-choice activist David Daleiden and his fraudulent videos attacking Planned Parenthood; and asserted that birth control pills turn women who take them into “fat,” “unsexy” “sluts.”

We predict great things from this dynamic duo!

Texas isn’t letting the Supreme Court get in the way of restricting abortion rights, no sir! Think Progress reports that lawmakers in the Lone Star State (hook ’em!) Anti-choice legislators are seeking to find hard data that backs up their (false, and rejected) claim that abortion is really, really dangerous for women. To find that (nonexistent) data, they’re seeking access to private medical records of thousands of Texas women, Rewire reports. However, “The data they are looking for — records of botched abortions, deaths linked to abortion procedures, statistics on patients’ ages, the gestational age of aborted fetuses, and other details — may be hard to find, if not illegal under privacy laws.” seinfeld idk shrug julia louis dreyfus jerry seinfeld

Meanwhile, pregnancy remains far more dangerous in Texas than abortion, and pregnancy-related deaths have skyrocketed even as abortion has become more and more difficult to access.


Rewire  took a thoughtful, nuanced look this week at the debate over Zika, abortion, and disability, noting that even as anti-choice activists dismiss the developmental disabilities associated with the virus as mere inconveniences (while dehumanizing people with disabilities as “angelic, inspirational, and sometimes educational” for others), pro-choicers sometimes also use disability as a rhetorical device, running the risk of suggesting that some lives are worth more than others.

It’s a smart piece that challenges assumptions about how those of us on both sides think about the thorny issue of Zika, which causes microcephaly and is most common in countries with strict laws banning all or most abortions.

Finally, did you watch the gubernatorial debate? The whole thing, which aired Wednesday, is available here. There are four more debates scheduled; maybe at one of them they’ll manage to #askaboutabortion? (Republican candidate Bill Bryant has not said whether he supports the right to choose, and we think the public deserves to know.)