Friday Femorandum: Reproductive Rights are an Economic Justice Issue

NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, arguing—contentiously, in many quarters—that Bernie Sanders’ “better-economic-policy-lifts-all-boats” brand of progressivism ignored and sidelined issues like abortion rights and access to reproductive health care, as well as economic policies specifically aimed at reducing the inequities that keep women trapped in low-paying jobs in the first place. Gender issues are not “social” issues or mere “identity politics,” NARAL said—rather, they are inextricable: You can’t have an economically just society in which women are systematically deprived of human rights.

 cat love 90s fashion tumblr GIFSanders disagreed, arguing consistently that his progressive taxation and economic policies would be good for everyone, including racial minorities and women, even in the absence of specific policies to address racism, sexism, and reproductive coercion. This week, he demonstrated precisely where that sort of thinking leads, endorsing an openly anti-choice mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, Heath Mello, who supported legislation that would have forced women to undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure and look at the image of the fetus before they could obtain an abortion. The Atlantic reports that Mello has said he won’t do anything to restrict reproductive rights as mayor, which is an obvious cop-out—mayors have limited power to restrict abortion rights or funding for reproductive health care, which is legislated at the state level. But the real problem is a Democratic Party—and an ostensibly Democratic party leader, Sanders—that is willing to trade away women’s basic human rights for a “big tent” that accommodates people like Mello who support virulently anti-choice, anti-woman policies.

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Sanders’ endorsement of Mello came just days after he told MSNBC that he had no problem supporting Democrats who are “not rigidly pro-choice,” reasoning once again that better economic policy is good for everyone (and should be good enough for women). But as Rewire points out, access to abortion is an economic justice issue—particularly for black and Latina women:

Studies show that poor women have significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancy, which in turn leads to a higher rate of unintended births. Nearly 70 percent of women who obtain abortions have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line (roughly $48,000 income annually or less for a family of four). One of the top reasons women choose to have abortions is because they are unable to take on the expense of having a child. Many already have families and can’t afford to add another child. And the majority of those seeking abortions are women of color, mostly Black and Latina.

Meanwhile, Sanders and the DNC haven’t made much of the fact that the Republican candidate in another important race for Democrats, Georgia’s 6th District Congressional runoff, Karen Handel, has a long “obsession,” in Mother Jones‘ words, with defunding Planned Parenthood—so much so that she was reportedly the driving force behind the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision, in 2011, to cancel hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants to the group under Handel’s leadership. In her unsuccessful previous races for governor of the state, Handel praised “crisis fake pregnancy centers”—fake clinics that lie to women to coerce them into bringing pregnancies to term—and she wrote a book called Planned Bullyhood, in which she characterized Planned Parenthood as “a bunch of schoolyard thugs.” katie couric GIF

The Democrat in the race, Jon Ossoff, came close to winning outright in the primary but faces a tough runoff in the heavily Republican district.

This weekend, activists in cities around the country will be participating in the March for Science, a demonstration that organizers have described as “the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.” Rewire points out the many ways in which the March for Science is also a march for reproductive health, rights, and justice. Legislators around the country have passed scores of anti-choice laws based not in science but in ideology, including laws that force doctors to make false scientific claims about the risks of abortions. Targeted Restriction of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws have forced the closure of abortion clinics across the country based on false claims that the restrictions protect women’s health. And increasingly, federal and state health care dollars are being spent promoting fake crisis pregnancy centers, which use false claims and fake science to manipulate women into continuing pregnancies.
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“Whether you are focused on preserving the right to choose abortion, are an advocate for the rights and dignity of women in childbirth, are fighting inappropriate, family-destroying child welfare interventions, or are just committed to the civil and human rights of pregnant persons,” Rewire writes, “we hope to see you at a March for Science.” For local events in your city, check out the March for Science website.
Choice News, Uncategorized

Friday Femorandom: There Is No Pivot

For all the talk of a Trump “pivot”—he learned about the history of China and North Korea! He understands that NATO isn’t a pay-to-play protection racket!—one policy area where the president hasn’t budged is the area of women’s rights.

Indeed, the last week or so saw Trump not only repealing fair pay rules that protected women working for companies that contract with the federal government, but signing a law that allows states to deny Medicaid funds to health care providers that also provide abortion care—legislation aimed squarely at Planned Parenthood, and at low-income women in Republican-led states.  beyonce no finger wag wags finger GIF

The New York Times reports that the new law “nullifies a rule completed in the last days of the Obama administration that effectively barred state and local governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, fertility, pregnancy care, and breast and cervical cancer screening from qualified health providers — regardless of whether they also performed abortions.”

While Trump seems to sign most bills in an Oval Office packed with pasty white men, he made an exception for this one, inviting several female representatives of extremist anti-choice groups to join him for the signing. As Right Wing Watch reports, they included Penny Nance from Concerned Women for America posted a photo on Instagram from the Oval Office, Susan B. Anthony List director Marjorie Dannenfelser and Rep. Diane Black, “a vocally anti-choice Republican from Tennessee.”

Earlier this week, they note, Nance and Dannenfelser met with newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who refused to state his position on abortion rights during his confirmation hearings but is widely viewed to be to the right of the justice he is replacing, the late Antonin Scalia.

 angry mad buffy the vampire slayer annoyed hate GIFHow did these anti-choice extremists get such ready access to the President and the newest Supreme Court Justice? Easy, Rewire reports: Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway has longstanding connections with the most virulent wing of the anti-choice community. In fact, before she joined Team Trump, Conway did work for multiple anti-choice groups, including Students for Life of America, the National Right to Life Committee, and the notorious Center for Medical Progress, whose fraudulently edited videos implying that Planned Parenthood “sold baby body parts” contributed to a rash of violence against abortion clinics. Conway, Rewire reports, “has spent two decades helping anti-choice organizations and politicians hone their messaging through her polling company.” No wonder those same groups are suddenly enjoying unprecedented access to the White House

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Susan B. Anthony List’s Dannelfelser, Wonkette writes, has gone so far as to claim that slashing funding for Planned Parenthood will increase women’s access to healthcare—because poor women will just go to abundant “community health clinics” instead of clinics that specialize in women’s health care—”when nothing could be farther from the case. Every year, Planned Parenthood takes care of 38% of patients receiving Title X funding. How many stories of women being referred to dentists, nursing homes, and school nurses do we need before we stop pretending there are tons of providers who can pick up the slack without PP? I read online that the Tooth Fairy has a side hustle providing pap smears!”

But allowing states to eliminate Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, Wonkette continues, “is just the warm-up act for the big show, which is Congressional Republicans’ wet dream of withholding Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood [altogether]. In 2015, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asked the CBO to calculate how much the gubmint would save if they actually pulled out of PP like they promised. Spoiler alert: It will cost millions.


Choice News

Friday Femorandum: Blowing Up the Senate

If you’re confused about what the “nuclear option” is, why Senate Republicans used it to ensure appointment for Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, and why the Democrats may actually have won by losing, here are a few links that explain what the heck happened this week, why it matters to the future of the Senate and to the Democratic Party, and what advocates for equality and reproductive freedom stand to lose now that a far-right jurist and spiritual heir to Antonin Scalia is on the Court.

 upset the office frustrated worst michael scott GIFThe Hill has a blow-by-blow of what happened in the Senate yesterday, as Democrats struggled to convince Republicans not to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments and Republicans insisted they had no choice. (Roll Call has the story on Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley’s 15-plus-hour floor speech on Gorsuch, in which he outlined many of the Democrats’ objections to both Gorsuch and ending the Senate filibuster for Supreme Court nominees).

Basically, the Senate voted to change its own rules so that Supreme Court appointments only require a 51-vote majority, rather than the 60-vote majority required to break a filibuster—the so-called “nuclear option.” That change is permanent, and will apply to all future Supreme Court nominations—meaning that if the Democrats take control of the Senate at some future date, and a future Democratic President nominates his or her own Justice, the Republicans will not be able to block the nomination.

Republican Senators, the Hill explains, claim that Democrats oppose Gorsuch not because of his views or qualifications but because they oppose Trump. However, it’s obvious that the primary reasons Democrats oppose Gorsuch have little to do with the current President: Gorsuch won the nomination only because Republicans mounted an unconstitutional blockade against former President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for 11 months, and his views are in fact far outside the mainstream of judicial thought, and may be even more extreme than Scalia’s.

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The Washington Post and Politico both analyze the many ways in which the Gorsuch appointment could come back to bite Senate Republicans, electorally and in the long term, since the current political dynamic—in which the GOP controls the presidency as well as both houses of Congress—is historically rare and unlikely to last forever, or even long. “You could argue,” the Post says, “that Democrats will be even more motivated to block anything else Republicans want to do” now that the Republicans have ended the Supreme Court filibuster to approve Gorsuch. And they’ll be able to do it, too—because the Senate still has a filibuster for legislation, and not even the Republicans have indicated they want to eliminate that rule, the minority party can hold up legislation with as few as 41 votes.

And Politico notes that the Gorsuch appointment has also energized the Democratic base, which is already “warning Republicans of the potential midterm-election ramifications of jamming Gorsuch onto the court.”

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As for what Gorsuch will do now that he’s on the court… Think Progress has a speculative but totally plausible roundup of “9 Terrible Things Neil Gorsuch Could Do in his First Full Term on the Supreme Court.” They include: Taking up the Stormans v. Wiesman case, in which an Olympia pharmacy argued that it should be allowed to refuse emergency contraception because of its owners’ religious views (remember, Gorsuch was also the judge in the notorious Hobby Lobby case—more on that at Feminist Law Professors), and ruling that pharmacists can refuse to do their jobs based on their personal beliefs; overturning laws that bar discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation; and making it harder for women to sue their employers for sexual harassment or discrimination.

And, of course, there’s Roe. Rewire explains what will happen if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which is a distinct possibility that will become even more likely if Trump gets to nominate another virulently anti-choice Justice to the Court. In short, Rewire’s Carole Joffe writes, it’s likely that women will end up in jail for seeking abortions in states that will ban the procedure as soon as the Court gives them the opportunity. “When Donald Trump, shortly after his election, was asked by a journalist about what the possible overturning of Roe would mean for American women who sought abortions, he casually answered, ‘Well … they’ll have to go to another state,'” Joffe writes. “Yes, Mr. President, some will go to other states, but many others might go to jail.”



Friday Femorandum: Well, the GOOD News Is…

We’ll get to the NON-Trumpcare-implosion-related news of the week in a moment; but first, let’s have a little GIF party to celebrate the death of a bill that would have let companies sell you insurance that wouldn’t cover the EMERGENCY ROOM.

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Let’s not get TOO carried away, though: We still have a President who proposed a budget that would decimate programs that disproportionately benefit women, who wants to push through tax cuts that would benefit gazillionaires at the expense of middle- and working-class people, and who has nominated an extremist in silver fox’s clothing, Neil Gorsuch, for a lifetime appointment to the US Supreme Court.

As Democrats in the US Senate hem and haw over whether, and how hard, they’re going to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the US Supreme Court, let’s take a moment to look at what Gorsuch’s record says about his views on choice–and a few cases that could end up on his docket if, as is almost certain, he becomes the next Supreme Court Justice.

It’s hard to believe this is an actual headline in twenty-motherloving-seventeen, but this is the world we live in now: “Will Gorsuch send women to jail for abortion?” The Hill asks. Their conclusion: Probably!

After all, the writers note, “Gorsuch has demonstrated he will go to extraordinary lengths to block women’s access to basic reproductive health care, even under current jurisprudence. His prior ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, which allowed the company to deny its employees coverage for contraception, his decision to side with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood, and his writings that criticize the constitutional principles underlying reproductive rights all suggest he would not uphold Roe, if confirmed.”

 frustrated facepalm comedy bang bang rashida jones othertv GIFTalking Points Memo highlights the fact that Gorsuch continuously stonewalled a Democratic Senator who tried to pin him down on privacy rights, the linchpin of Roe v. Wade, rather than say whether he the court had ruled correctly in several precedent-setting cases. First, Gorsuch refused to say whether he agreed with Griswold v. Connecticut, the case that enshrined the right to privacy by invalidating bans on the use of contraception by married couples. Then he declined to say whether the court was correct in overturning bans on interracial marriage and eliminating laws that criminalized consensual sex between same-sex couples—both of which rely on the same privacy protections as Roe v. Wade.

“’You’re declining to be more direct and give the same answers about these cases as you did about Brown leaves doubt in the minds of millions of Americans who rely on privacy rights. They are relying right now. And I think that that doubt is regrettable,’ Blumenthal said.

“But Gorsuch, redrawing the same line he had all week long, said that commenting on them in this context would hinder his abilities as a judge.”

Bloomberg pulls the lens back even further on the Gorsuch appointment, reminding readers that even if the Supreme Court, with Gorsuch as its newest member, does not overturn Roe v. Wade directly, it can still wreak plenty of havoc on abortion rights. Indeed, since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, states have passed dozens of new abortion restrictions, any one of which could end up before the Court, which can rule and set precedent even in the absence of a ruling definitively overturning Roe. “The court can thus see-saw back and forth on abortion decisions as conservative justices replace liberals, and liberals conservatives,” Bloomberg reports.

In the past few weeks, at least two states have passed precedent-shattering laws that could soon start working their way through the courts. The first is a Texas law that would protect doctors who withhold information about severe fetal abnormalities based on their belief that knowing about such abnormalities would cause a woman or couple to choose abortion. Specifically, Rolling Stone reports, it eliminates withholding information regarding fetal health as a cause of action in “wrongful birth” lawsuits, giving anti-choice doctors a pass to coercively convince patients that they will give birth to healthy babies, preventing them from making informed decisions about whether to go forward with a pregnancy.
 angry 30 rock tina fey frustrated liz lemon GIFThe second, also from Texas, will (if it passes) require women who think they may need abortion care in the future to purchase separate insurance to cover abortions. In practical terms, since unintended pregnancy is by definition unintended, the bill would eliminate insurance coverage for abortion. (Imagine if you had to purchase separate insurance for a specific disease you were unlikely to ever contract, or coverage for a specific type of accident). The Texas Tribune reports that the bill’s prime sponsor “was inspired to push the measure because of his daughter’s recent pregnancy. He recently welcomed a new grandson born with Down syndrome and heart problems. When his daughter found out what her baby’s condition would be, he said, she knew she would not have an abortion. Taylor says his daughter’s situation is why he believes women know deep down if they would want to keep or terminate a pregnancy.”

Finally, in Oklahoma, the House just passed a bill banning all abortions based on birth defects or fetal abnormalities, forcing women who become pregnant with fetuses that will be severely disabled or die shortly after birth to carry through with those pregnancies even if it dooms infants to a short life of extreme suffering or if the woman can’t afford to care for an extremely disabled child, Public Radio Tulsa reports.



Friday Femorandum: NOT A THING

BarfAs the Trump administration continues to fumble its way from scandal to scandal (as I write this, Jeff Sessions is still attorney general, but—fingers crossed!), antichoice officials at all levels continued to make a mockery of the Constitution, proposing bills that would encourage doctors to lie to pregnant women, enshrine junk science about “abortion reversal” in state law, and repeal a rule that has given millions of women access to no-cost birth control.

In—where else?—Texas, a new proposal would allow doctors to lie to pregnant women about the health of their fetuses, granting impunity to docs who choose not to tell parents about fetal abnormalities that could lead a woman to choose abortion.If the bill passes, parents who weren’t given information that would have helped them make an informed decision about whether to continue a pregnancy would lose the right to sue their doctor, giving anti-choice docs an incentive to withhold that information. According to the San Antonio Current, a representative of the Texas League of Women Voters testified that the bill, SB 25, is “a not-so-subtle way to give medical personnel the opportunity to impose religious beliefs on women.”

“For many low-income women, the alternative — raising a severely disabled child in a state with few affordable health insurance options — would force them into poverty,” the Current reports.stab

Abortion reversal is not a thing. Abortion reversal is not a thing. Abortion reversal is NOT A THING.

Nonetheless, two more states—Idaho and Indiana—are moving forward with bills that would require actual medical doctors to tell abortion patients, falsely, that the effects of medication abortion can be reversed by taking high doses of the hormone progesterone. No scientific study has ever concluded that abortions can be reversed, and claiming otherwise could put women’s physical and mental health at risk.

According to Rewire, since 2015,

bills requiring pregnant patients be informed about “abortion reversal” have been introduced by Republican lawmakers in California, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, and Utah, and governors in Arizona, Arkansas and South Dakota signed similar bills into law. The bills are based on copycat legislation drafted by Americans United for Life, an anti-choice legislation mill.

Anti-choice lawmakers in Iowa, meanwhile, are bypassing all the interim steps toward a total abortion ban and proposing… well, a total abortion ban, in the form of a “personhood” bill that would, according to its supporters, prohibit all abortions and give a fertilized egg, from the moment of conception, “the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Iowa,” and the laws of Iowa.” Rewire reports that opponents of the personhood bill point out that it could criminalize miscarriages, “inadvertently causing people who have miscarriages to face criminal charges such as homicide and manslaughter.”

International family planning charities lost nearly $200 million in  financial support from the United States when President Trump reinstated and expanded the so-called “Mexico City Policy,” which bans federal funding for medical charities that so much as mention to women that abortion is an option or provide referrals to abortion providers.

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Fortunately, those family planning groups have allies in the rest of the world, from countries that recognize that withdrawing funds from groups that provide critical health care to poor women around the world is a pretty heartless way to score political points. NPR reports that a dozen nations and private donors have pledged $190 million to make up for the lost US funding.

The money, dubbed the “She Decides Fund” by the leader who launched the fund drive, The Netherlands’ foreign trade minister Lilianne Ploumen, will help international charities that might otherwise be forced to close their doors, but will only make up for about a third of the $600 million in federal funding that Trump’s action will obliterate. Canada, Australia, and several European countries are among the nations pitching in to help women left vulnerable by Trump’s heartless but unsurprising action.