Choice News

Friday Femorandum: No Evidence of Wrongdoing

It was a week filled with thwarted bomb threats, successful clinic openings, and Planned Parenthood video fatigue. Maybe we’re just tired of watching anti-choicers play the “medicine is gross” card in their “exposes”-that-aren’t, but frankly, we’re kind of glad the weekend is upon us.

Speaking of those so-called exposes, they may not be landing with the intended impact–investigations of Planned Parenthood’s practices by state legislatures around the country have turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing–but anti-choice leaders are continuing to use them to drum up support with their conservative base. Just yesterday, the anti-choice site LifeNews reports, far-right Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah broke into tears while telling CNN’s Lou Dobbs that “We’ve got to do everything we can … to make sure that we don’t allow [lifesaving fetal tissue research] to happen.”

eye roll animated GIF As The New York Times and many other publications have pointed out, fetal stem cells have been used to create vaccines for  hepatitis A, rubella, chickenpox and shingles, as well as research into cures for cancer, blindness, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, a man was arrested for attempting to carry a bomb into a Kansas abortion clinic in the same building where George Tiller, who was murdered for providing abortions in 2009,  worked. The man, who had set up an interview for a job as a canvasser, claimed he brought the bomb into the clinic only because he was homeless and had no where else to put the bomb. 

Responding to this bizarre claim ,which authorities have indicated they believe, Melissa McEwan at Shakesville noted wearily that such acts and attempted acts of domestic terrorism are almost never described as such, nor do they get much press: This should be at least as newsworthy as the Planned Parenthood videos, but it won’t even get a mention by most news outlets.”

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In some good but perhaps temporary news, two clinics have been allowed to open despite howls of protest from abortion opponents. The first one, in El Paso, closed along with almost half of Texas’ abortion clinics after the state passed a law, HB 2, banning abortions after 20 weeks and requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, which include operating rooms the size of a studio apartment, on-site pre-op beds, vast recovery rooms where clients can lie down after their procedures, and many other costly requirements. The Texas Observer took a detailed look inside the new El Paso clinic, which cost $3 million to build. Most closed clinics don’t have the capacity to meet the unnecessary and costly standards set by the new law—which, of course, is exactly the point.


And in Alabama, a judge blocked regulations that would have required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, an especially tricky requirement given that, under the law, hospitals may choose, for any reason, to deny a clinic admitting privileges. That’s exactly what happened in Alabama, when a Tuscaloosa clinic doctor was unable to convince any local hospital to give him admitting privileges.

According to Mother Jones, the judge’s order overturning the admitting privilege requirement “cited evidence that the increased distances and the additional strain on the state’s remaining clinics forced women to delay abortions until their pregnancies were past the 20-week limit” to obtain an abortion in the state.

MoJo continues:

[US District Judge Myron] Thompson also cited the concern that the regulation’s effect on reducing abortion access “increased the risk that women will take their abortion into their own hands,” and noted that the Huntsville clinic reported calls from women seeking advice on how to terminate their own pregnancies, or threatening to do so. Thompson also referred to a “‘severe scarcity of abortion doctors…nationwide and particularly in the South,’ with no residency program offering training in performing abortion in Louisiana, Alabama, or Mississippi.”

Finally, a couple of think pieces you might have missed. The first, “Anti-Abortion Advocates Don’t Care About Black People,” from Ebony, challenges the absurd and offensive anti-choice claim that pro-choice advocates just want to lower the black  population. Meanwhile, they oppose policies that would actually help black people currently living in the United States, while opposing funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides critical health care services to thousands of low-income African American women.

The second piece, from the Washington Post‘s center-left columnist Dana Milibank, soundly refutes the notion peddled by some conservatives that access to birth control does not reduce abortions. It’s a soundly argued piece that highlights the absurdity of conservatives who argue that we should make abortion illegal but oppose access to the very medicines and devices that prevent pregnancy in the first place.



Monday Motivation: At Least Someone Liked the Republican Candidates

As you know by now, the Republican candidates for President threw a debate last week, and boy did all of them hate abortion rights! From Marco “no rape exception” Rubio to Mike “overthrow the Supreme Court” Huckabee, all ten of the “major” Republican contenders (the other seven convened at a kiddie pool debate earlier in the day) competed to convince GOP voters that they would do the most to prevent women from accessing even life-saving abortions and to defund Planned Parenthood so that poor women would no longer have access to cancer screenings and birth control.

Of course, that’s just the spin from those of us on the left. The anti-choice right’s reaction ranged from ecstatic to disappointed that some of the candidates didn’t go further to clarify just how much they hate women.

Live Action News, for example, criticized Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for being “way too vague” when he claimed that abortion is never necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman. (This purely semantic argument holds that separate procedures, such as fallopian tube removal in ectopic pregnancies, are what destroy the fetus, and are technically speaking not abortions.) Nor did he do enough, in their eyes, to shut down Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin for good.

Similarly, Live Action goes on to argue that while Mike Huckabee did a good job “pointing out” that fertilized eggs (or, as they would have it, “unborn babies”) are full human beings with equal protection and due process rights under the 5th and 14th Amendments, “it would have been nice if he had done more to translate that into a specific plan of action—would he call out the National Guard to shut down abortion clinics, like he actually suggested last week? Or would he instead advocate for legislation invoking those amendments?”

(Legal scholars overwhelmingly believe that this claim by anti-choicers is a vast overreach and improper interpretation of the Constitution.)

Live Action does praise Walker for “informing” debate moderator Megyn Kelly that “abortion is not necessary to save a mother’s life.” After lauding Walkers’ mansplaining to Kelly, the author (a woman) goes on to ‘splain that “literal abortion has never actually been necessary to save the life of the mother, and no woman should be made to believe otherwise.” OK, Merriam Webster. You’re still saying no exception for life or health (much less in cases of rape and incest, which  the far right wing of the anti-choice movement fully opposes.

As the Presidential candidates promised to wage war against women’s health on the debate circuit, the battle against Planned Parenthood that threatens federal funding for clinics that provide cancer screenings, annual exams, and birth control continued to rage across the country.

Anti-choice columnist and supposed “intelligent conservative” Ross Douthat dedicated his column in the New York Times last week to the case against Planned Parenthood, which is basically that no matter what else the group does for women’s health, they also perform abortions, and abortions are unconscionable. Parroting other right-wing activists’ use of fetal parts and other medical imagery to make the purely emotional, gut-level case against abortion rights, Douthat addresses his fellow opinion writers:

If, like many of the moderate-liberal columnists writing on this issue, you are 1) made at least somewhat uncomfortable by the dismemberment of living human beings in utero but 2) are convinced that Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion-related services are essential to the common good, why not write a column urging Planned Parenthood to, I dunno, get out of the dismemberment business? If all these other services are such a great, crucial, and (allegedly) abortion-reducing good, why do you, center-left journalist, want them perpetually held hostage to the possibility of public outrage over the crushing of tiny bodies in the womb? If a publicly-funded institution does one set of things you really like, and another thing that makes you morally uncomfortable, why are you constantly attacking that organization’s critics and telling them that they just have to live with the combination, instead of urging the organization itself to refocus on the non-lethal, non-dismembering portions of its business?

Here’s one reason: Because pro-choice people are capable of knowing that medical procedures can sound gruesome when described in detail can simultaneously be necessary and valid, despite being yucky. Women know how pregnancy and abortion work, and make the choice to have babies or choose abortion fully armed with that knowledge. Consider the alternative: Making decisions (and public policy) based on whether a procedure is unpleasant to watch. If ickiness was a legitimate deciding factor, no one would have or perform open-heart surgery, and most medical research would immediately lose government funding.

Rand Paul, top-ten candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, doesn’t think women understand what abortion is. He told Glenn Beck last week that women don’t understand what they’re doing when they sign consent forms allowing their fetal tissue to be used to advance medical research instead of discarded, and insisted that they’d be “horrified” if they knew.

“I know pro-choice women and you know what? They’re horrified by this,” Paul told Beck. “It’s a rare person who thinks fully-formed babies ought to be taken out.”

Paul told Beck he doesn’t know how pro-choice advocates “can live with themselves” knowing that abortion clinics donate intact fetal parts for research. “When we’re talking about lungs, brains, hearts, livers, I think it … should make all people shudder that we’re doing this,” he said. “I don’t know how anyone could do that day in and day out, knowing that you’re pulling out the pieces of a baby.” Paul, incredibly, is a medical doctor, and either somehow obtained his certification without learning that some important research is, to use the medical term, gross, or is lying. We’re betting on the latter

Finally, the ironically named American Thinker has an a long justification of  “the necessary comparison [of abortion] to Nazism,” because of course it does. Note to political bloggers everywhere: There is no necessary comparison between Nazism and anything.


Choice News

GOP Candidates Compete for Coveted “Who Hates Women Most?” Award

Welcome to the Friday Femorandum, your weekly guide to all the news in reproductive rights this week.

Two Republican Presidential debates happened this week, and while we at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington didn’t subject ourselves to both (the kids’ roundtable, between the seven (!!!!!) declared candidates who didn’t rank among the top ten in the polls, happened in the afternoon before the main event), we did clamp our eyelids open to watch the remaining ten spill out of the clown car and onto the stage at the (largely empty) Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

While the top ten contenders did talk about other topics such as ISIS (Obama armed them, says Rand Paul), the welfare state (“pimps and prostitutes” are “freeloading off the system,” says Huckabee), and “illegals” (“build that wall!” says Donald Trump), the topic they returned to again and again was women’s rights. Specifically: Are women fully human, like embryos? And which of these ten men hates abortion rights the most?

Mother Jones has an extensive roundup of what the candidates had to say about Planned Parenthood, abortion ban exemptions for rape and incest or to save the life of the woman, and their views on whether the “rights” of a fetus (all agreed that fertilized eggs are people) should trump the rights of incubators. I mean, women.

Of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, MoJo writes:

[Moderator Megyn] Kelly pressed Walker on his across-the-board opposition to abortion, even in to save the life of the mother: “Would you really let a mother die rather than let her have an abortion?” she asked, wondering if his position put him too far out of the mainstream to win the general election.

Walker answered, “There are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother. That’s been consistently proven.” Walker was  alluding to a popular pro-life myth that abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother, an opinion rejected by mainstream medical practitioners.

Donald Trump (whose own anti-choice talking point was about how some friends of his had a baby once) out-Trumped himself when attempting to skirt a question by Kelly about some of the names he’s called women over the years, including “fat pigs,” “dogs,”  “slobs” and “disgusting animals.” (He also told a female contestant on his reality-TV show, The Apprentice, that she would look good on her knees.) Deflecting the question, Trump accused Kelly of not being nice enough to him and generally not being a cool gal, Reuters reports.

“Honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me,” Trump said. “But I wouldn’t do that.”


As Melissa McEwan at Shakesville notes, Trump perfectly filled his role as the guy who made all the other Republicans, whose views on women’s rights and other issues are exactly in line with his own, look reasonable by comparison:

“By comparison to the bombastic, utterly contemptible Trump, the rest of the field looked comparatively measured and thoughtful, even as they took turns disgorging entirely typical conservative swill.

“But, make no mistake, despite the Trump Sideshow, it was just another exercise in Republican Disdain for Humankind Cloaked in Heartland Anecdotes.”


MSNBC‘s Iris Carmon notes that although just four years ago, mainstream Republicans did believe in saving women’s lives instead of forcing them to carry life-threatening pregnancies to term or have babies conceived by their rapists. In recent years, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush all broadly said they supported such exemptions. Last night, in contrast,every candidate who was asked said he supported a total ban on all abortions with no exceptions whatsoever.

Walker, who boasted repeatedly that he had defunded Planned Parenthood in his state (shuttering five clinics in the process), once again had some cool ideas about what’s “out there” in the world outside his hermetically sealed bubble of privilege (last seen on Scott Walker’s list of things that are “out there”: Forced vaginal ultrasounds)–this time, “an unborn child in need of protection out there.”


Walker made his remark, Think Progress reports, in response to a question about whether he’d rather let a woman die than have an abortion. His answer was yes, of course, but he softened it by saying there were “many alternatives” to save a woman whose pregnancy has been deemed life-threatening. Maybe he’s talking about prayer, because there certainly aren’t any medical resources that doctors are holding back when they tell a woman her life is in danger, and Governor Walker is being glib, disingenuous and irresponsible by implying otherwise.

Speaking of glib, disingenuous and irresponsible: Refinery29 reports on professional hater Mike Huckabee’s position on abortion and it is just as extreme and radical as you probably imagined it would be! Basically, Huckabee thinks that not only should all abortions be banned, but that fetuses and fertilized eggs should be granted due process and equal protection under the law. “Now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother’s womb is a person at the moment of conception,” Huckabee lied, “it’s time that we recognize that the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being” and take away its right to determine the definition of a “person.” Huckabee’s proposals would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and give fetuses and embryos more rights than actual, living women.

Remember, these are the ten men chosen by members of one of the two major US political parties to represent their values on the national stage!


Lessons from the Field (In Millennial-Friendly List Form!)

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This post is by Meg Rierson, a field canvasser with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. 

My name is Megumi (Meg for short) and I recently joined NARAL’s Washington field canvass team. I just finished my freshman year at Whitman College, where I am pursuing a politics major and a gender studies minor. As with any new job, being a field canvasser teaches you a ton of new skills and experiences. Maybe teach isn’t the right word here—it inundates you with new skills and experiences. I’ve distilled a few choice (pun absolutely intended) examples from my short time here at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and compiled a list. Millennials love lists, right? I’m one of the few in my generation who doesn’t have the tech savvy to throw in some cat GIFs to pique your interest, but I’ve done my best.

1. Enunciation is really important. Going door to door is all about keeping your message really clear and logical. One time someone at the door thought I said “Catholic hospital murder” instead of “Catholic hospital merger.” Clarity is key. Though maybe he would have made a donation if I did in fact mean to say murder. Who knows? This skill is one of an endless list that can be applied to the world outside of canvassing. Also on the list is “don’t sit in dog poop” and “it’s probably not professional to aggressively hug the people who give you donations.”

2. Anything can become an existential musing if you want it to be. Many times throughout my time as a canvasser, usually after the 10th time I’ve given my speech to someone at the door, I get weirdly existential. Isn’t it crazy how many people we talk to and how our lives will only ever intersect this one time? How many people are there in the world whose lives will never intersect? Am I on the Truman show right now? Is David Sedaris writing his next short story about me and the rapidly increasing number of people who have told me they’re praying for me? Canvassing gives you a lot of time to consider these possibilities as you heave yourself up an endless uphill Lake Forest Park driveway or circle a house three times because you’re not sure where in God’s name the front door is.

3. Everything balances out. Really, though, it does. If you get a door with a particularly cranky human, you’re guaranteed to get someone later who invites you in to pet their cat (thank you sweet old woman in Burien). If you don’t quite make your fundraising goal one night, you’ll make up for it later in the week. I’ve really never felt more strongly about the order and balance that exists in the universe than when I’ve been canvassing.

All jokes aside, I couldn’t have foreseen that I would glean these particular tokens of wisdom from canvassing, but I do know that I accepted the job precisely because I wanted to experience triumphs and successes outside of the bubble of a small college campus. At the end of the day, I’m doing work that I’m truly passionate about, but I feel like that phrase is overused to the point where it has lost its meaning. When I say I’m doing work I’m passionate about, I mean that my job makes me passionately excited, passionately concerned, and sometimes passionately angry. I chose this job because I can’t think of anything better than being paid to talk about reproductive rights all day. Plus, there’s endless fodder for my comedy routine, and that in itself is payment enough.


Jeb Bush Totally Cares About Women’s Health, Says Jeb Bush

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Presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has said he’s “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” now says what he REALLY meant was that regular old health care clinics could easily fill in if the federal government pulled all its funding for Planned Parenthood.

Repeating the lie that the pro-choice women’s health care provider “sold” fetal organs, Bush called the donation of fetal tissue an “unthinkable practice.” Not only is tissue donation quite thinkable and common, it contributes to potentially life-saving medical research, research that could not be done if women receiving abortion care did not decide that they wanted to donate their fetal tissue.

That Jeb Bush thinks of women’s basic health care, including annual physical exams, mammograms, Pap smears, and family planning a mere “issue” that doesn’t merit federal funding is just one more reason this guy is not qualified to be President.