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.



Friday Femorandum: Riskier, Costlier, More Invasive

Shattered glass, surprising decisions, and “special riders” round out this week’s news roundup.

The US Supreme Court schooled the state of Texas eight months ago, ruling that its laws aimed at regulating abortion clinics out of existence were unconstitutional, but anti-choice Texas lawmakers are undaunted. This month, three male Texas legislators filed bills to impose new restrictions on abortion rights in the state–mandating funerals for fetal remains, banning clinics from donating fetal tissue for medical research, and banning the most common form of second-trimester abortion procedure, a low-risk method known as dilation and extraction, or D&E . When a 24-year-old intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas attempted to finish her testimony against the bills, Texas state senate Health and Human Services Committee chairman Charles Schwertner slammed his gavel furiously to silence her–shattering a glass tabletop in the process.

A few minutes later, Cosmopolitan  reports, Schwertner “allowed the president of the anti-abortion Texas Alliance for Life lobby group to extend his testimony, including a quote attributed to Catholic saint and scholar Thomas More, for the same length of time as Hennessy’s, without an interruption.”

reactions reality tv whatever boo you suckIf you’re curious why NARAL and other groups are so adamantly opposed to D&E bans like the one proposed in Texas, the indispensable Guttmacher Institute filed a report this week explaining how such bans force women to undergo riskier, more expensive, more invasive procedures. (Currently, 95 percent of second-trimester abortions are D&E procedures). Guttmacher notes that bans on second-trimester procedures are happening in the context of other abortion restrictions that make it harder and harder for women, particularly low-income women, to access abortion care earlier in their pregnancies:

Research indicates that the vast majority of women obtaining an abortion during the second trimester would have preferred to have had it earlier. State abortion restrictions are one increasingly common reason women encounter delays receiving abortion care, and D&E bans must be considered in the context of such restrictions.

Restrictions that force women to delay abortion care have a disproportionate impact on low-income women, women of color and young women—which is one reason why these groups are overrepresented among women who obtain abortions during the second trimester.

Surprisingly, Republicans in South Dakota—a state known for its harsh anti-abortion laws—rejected legislation this week that would have banned D&E abortions. But as Rewire reports, the Rs weren’t swayed by evidence that the procedure is both safe and common  instead, they seemed worried at the possibility of a costly lawsuit over the legality of banning the common procedure.

In other surprisingly positive news for low-income women, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have effectively banned state funding for Planned Parenthood. Republicans control both houses of the Virginia state legislature, making the Democratic governor the only bulwark against laws that would eliminate critical health-care services for tens of thousands of low-income Virginians. Medicaid is already barred from paying for abortions, so the ban would impact other services, including cancer screenings, STD tests, and primary health care.

The Late Late Show with James Corden what confused shocked surprisedNorma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, died at 69 last week. McCorvey, who never had an abortion, barely participated in her own case, and eventually became an anti-choice activist and religious crusader. Mother Jones has an excellent posthumous profile of this reluctant symbol of the pro-choice movement.

Meanwhile at the federal level—where Republicans control not just both houses of Congress but the executive branch—Paul Ryan and Co. are plotting to make sure that women insured through private plans won’t be able to purchase abortion coverage. Here, according to Slate, is how Ryan’s plan would work: First, the proposal would offer tax credits to everyone buying coverage on the individual market. At the same time, the plan would prohibit women from using those subsidies to purchase plans that cover abortion. Because most women would want to use their subsidies rather than letting them go to waste, insurance companies would almost certainly stop covering abortion. Voila: Women seeking abortion care will have to pay for it out of pocket.

fuck you finger middle finger suck it you suck“Some might suggest that women could purchase special riders to cover abortion, but those sorts of add-ons haven’t worked particularly well in health insurance, since they tend to be extremely expensive,” Slate concludes. Not to mention that the whole concept of insurance is that it provides coverage for things you can’t anticipate—like, say, an unplanned pregnancy.



Friday Femorandum: Nevertheless, She Persisted

A man once deemed too racist to serve as attorney general is now… attorney general, a woman who says she doesn’t know anything about schools is now in charge of the Department of Education, and a cartoon villain who thinks “not one woman” has ever lacked the funds to pay for birth control has now been entrusted with our health care system.

Everything is terrible, but at least we still have Elizabeth “nevertheless, she persisted” Warren to give us a bit of hope in the dark anti-science wasteland that is the current presidential administration.

I think Melissa McEwan of Shakesville put it best:

But back to Trump’s appointments. Betsy DeVos, a major Trump donor who has contributed generously to the virulently anti-LGBT, anti-choice group Focus on the Family, has “compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to ‘advance God’s Kingdom,'” according to Politico. After you consider the chilling implications of that statement for comprehensive sex education in public schools (not to mention the anti-science backlash implied by the phrase “advance God’s Kingdom”), read this Refinery29 piece about what Devos’ appointment could mean for investigations of rape and sexual assault on public university campuses, which DeVos will also oversee.

As head of the education department, DeVos will be in charge of enforcing Title IX, the law that says schools can’t discriminate against students because of their gender. Title IX has been used to ensure that girls’ sports are funded, but it’s also the law that ensures that campuses take rape allegations seriously. Title IX says schools must remove rapists from campus if a victim requests it (as opposed to, say, moving victims to a different dorm); conservatives oppose this because, they say, it violates the rights of men accused of rape. DeVos has financially supported an organization that actively fights against the way colleges enforce Title IX, and advocates for survivors worry what she’ll do now that the interpretation of these rules is essentially up to her.

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Meanwhile, the Sessions appointment, along with a decision by the Trump administration to rename and shift the focus of its “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) program to focus exclusively on “Radical Islamic Extremism,” rather than homegrown terrorism, is terrible news for abortion providers. Rewire notes that the decision to ignore terrorism by right-wing extremists and white nationalists will likely have “devastating impacts” on abortion providers targeted for attacks, and send a message to antichoice extremists that they can attack clinics and providers with impunity.

“Because of Sessions’ past vehement opposition to abortion, Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation, said that the organization has ‘serious concerns about the safety of abortion providers’ under Sessions,” Rewire reports. “Meanwhile, one of the country’s leading anti-choice extremists, Troy Newman, has said that he ‘could not be happier‘ about Sessions possibly heading the DOJ.”Image result for everything is terrible gif

Finally, Price may be the biggest threat to women’s reproductive freedom in Trump’s cabinet. Price opposes access to contraception, has repeatedly called for defunding Planned Parenthood, has supported radical abortion bans as a Republican Congressman, and believes companies should have the right not just to deny their employees coverage for birth control or abortion but to fire women who have used birth control or had abortions on the grounds that these personal medical decisions violate the employer’s freedom of religion.  Nonetheless, the US Senate approved his nomination early this morning 52-47, with no Democrats voting in favor of the appointment.


Friday Femorandum: This Is Not a Drill.

It’s getting real, folks.

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We don’t mean to alarm you, but in just over one week, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of these United States, and the party that believes in forced birth and full human rights for fertilized eggs will have absolute control over the executive and legislative branches of our federal government, and will be well on its way toward taking over the judicial branch as well. As Reuters reports, “The battle to restrict abortion in the United States, heating up with the election of Donald Trump as president and a conservative Congress, will be waged from the nation’s highest court down to state legislatures.”

If you’re a person with a uterus or care about someone who is, here’s a preview of what we’re up against in the coming year. And take heart: Even if we’re stuck with Trump for the next four years, Congressional midterm elections are in less than two, and many states and cities (including Seattle) will have elections in 2017. The days of what House Speaker Paul Ryan calls, chillingly, “unified government,” are almost certainly limited.

In the meantime, though, Republicans are most definitely after your birth control. As Mother Jones reports,  in its rush to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have required insurance companies to continue to cover the full cost of contraception, including longer-lasting, more effective methods such as the IUD. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) (as reported on Rewire) would have also continued to require insurers to pay for mammograms and cover maternity care, and the ACA-imposed ban on charging women more for “pre-existing conditions” (such as a previous pregnancy).

what confused worried huh oh noTwo reports this week from the Guttmacher Institute highlight the need for low-cost birth control and other reproductive health care. The first concludes that the number of women who need publicly funded family planning services increased by a million between 2010 and 2014, and that access to affordable reproductive care, including contraception, reduced the number of unintended pregnancies by an estimated 2 million a year. The second finds that between 2012 and 2014, when the guarantee of contraception coverage went into effect, the number of women with private insurance who paid nothing out of pocket for the pill increased from 15 percent to 67 percent, with similar increases for other methods. The report concludes, “it would be shortsighted for policymakers to undermine or eliminate the federal contraceptive coverage guarantee and all the benefits that accrue from it.”

As part of the ACA repeal, Ryan and the Republicans have also promised they will eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that a 15-month-long, $1.6 million “investigation” into the health care provider’s business practices revealed nothing nefarious. MTV News reports that the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives managed to issue a lengthy set of “infant protections” designed to put Planned Parenthood out of business without once mentioning infant mortality—the supposed focus of the committee.

reactions awkward new girl nick miller embarrassed“By announcing the defunding now, Ryan and his party show that they’re not too worried about providing a better alternative to Obamacare, or even protecting actual infant lives. If they were, they’d be proposing new bills aimed at lowering infant mortality,” MTV News’ Jamil Smith writes. “Their real accomplishment, if they succeed, will be to increase the likelihood that someone will get sick with an untested sexually transmitted disease, or will be unable to have their cancer detected, or won’t have access to any number of other health care services.”

It’s hard to say exactly how much anti-choice Republicans will be able to get away with legislatively. One thing that’s clear already, though, is that they plan to give Trump’s virulently anti-choice, anti-birth control, and anti-woman Cabinet appointees an easy buy. Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, who in addition to opposing laws against voter suppression and racially biased policing also opposes women’s right to choose, appears headed for easy confirmation by his Senate colleagues.

As Rewire reports, Sessions had a friendly reception at the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose Republican members gave him a pass on his abysmal record on civil rights and reproductive health care. Eventually, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Sessions where he stood on Roe v. Wade; he responded that he believes the 7-2 1973 Supreme Court ruling “violates the constitution.” Okay, then.

Quick Action Alert! Monday was the start of the Washington State Legislative session, and as our lawmakers get to work in Olympia, now is the perfect time to let them know that we’re counting on them to protect and expand reproductive freedom in our state.
Write to your legislator today and urge them to stand with women by preserving access to health care, protecting pregnant workers, and preventing the passage of anti-choice laws that have no place in our state. Click the link above and you’ll be redirected to a handy, pre-drafted and customizable message to your representatives!