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.

Image result for everything is garbage gif

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.

i give up i quit

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!

Friday Femorandum: A Look at the Fight Ahead

Nate Makuch 2016 trump donald trump c4dIn light of the avalanche of recent bad news for reproductive rights, and the rights of marginalized and oppressed people in general, it feels a little strange to say “Happy New Year.” As advocates, we go into 2017 with teeth gritted and fists clenched in the face of what we’re up against. It’s been a rough few months since the election, with the ascension of anti-choice zealots like Mike Pence and Tom Price to the highest levels of power in our country, and it’s easy to get discouraged. But pro-choice activists across the country are gearing up to fight back in 2017, and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington is going to be leading the charge here in Washington State. Here’s a look at some of the challenges we face in the coming year. Here at the Femorandum, we’re feeling recharged and ready to go, and we hope you are too.

Anti-choice activists are hoping that Trump starts implementing their wish list the day he takes office. Among the agenda items the new President can enact with the stroke of a pen: cutting funds to Planned Parenthood; preventing foreign aid from going to groups that perform abortions; and allowing employers to refuse to pay for health care that conflicts with their religious beliefs. “The high expectations are a change from what’s been a rocky relationship at times between Trump and abortion opponents,” The Hill reports. “Now, though, anti-abortion groups say they are more confident in his commitment to their cause.”GIPHY Studios Originals 2016 fire happy new year kill it with fire

Newsweek columnist Nina Burleigh, in her introduction to an insightful interview with NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue, frets openly that the Trump presidency will be a “nightmare for women’s health,” giving power to “a fierce, single-issue cult that has been trying for decades, with increasing success, to limit women’s access to contraception and abortion.” Asked what women should to to prepare for the coming attacks on women’s health, Hogue says that the most important thing is “to sign up to organize and mobilize people in support of our freedoms and hold elected officials accountable.” Oh, and getting an IUD now (while long-acting birth control is still fully covered) isn’t a bad idea either.

Because, as the New York Times points out, the new administration doesn’t have to ask Congress for permission to eliminate full coverage for birth control. Incoming Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price  can eliminate contraceptive coverage on Day 1, and has given every indication that he will. Moreover, the NYT reports, Price’s anti-woman agenda extends far beyond making it harder for them to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Price has opposed laws that would ban employment discrimination against women who use birth control or have abortions; sponsored legislation that would have defined life as beginning at conception; and supports efforts to overturn the ACA, which, in addition to providing health care coverage to 20 million previously uninsured Americans, banned the previously universal practice of charging women more for health care—simply because they’re women .

mtv 2016 meme the office kevin maloneDidn’t know about that aspect of the plan to repeal the health care plan? You’re not alone—many women aren’t aware of all the other health benefits that are at risk if Price and Trump succeed in persuading a friendly Congress to overturn the ACA. Kaiser Health News reports on some of the main benefits that will no longer be guaranteed without the Act, starting with maternity care—an essential part of many women’s health care that was offered by just 13 percent of individual plans as recently as 2009, the year before the health law passed.

“Women were also generally charged higher rates for health insurance on the individual market before the law,” Kaiser reports. “According to the National Women’s Law Center’s analysis, 60 percent of best-selling individual plans in 2009 charged a 40-year-old nonsmoking woman more than a 40-year-old man who smoked, even in plans that didn’t include any type of maternity coverage.” The ACA barred insurance companies from charging women more than men for identical services. Other guaranteed benefits that could go away? Screenings for breast and cervical cancer; screening and counseling for domestic violence; and annual well-woman visits.
In preparation for the reproductive rights battles ahead, the always-invaluable Guttmacher Institute put together an issue of its journal, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, geared specifically toward arming advocates with the facts and research they’ll need in the coming year. The articles in the journal include an analysis of the impacts of abortion stigma on women who seek abortions and abortion providers; studies of the impacts of new abortion restrictions in Utah, Texas, and South Carolina, and a commentary on the structural differences between the movement for LGBTQ equality and the movement for reproductive rights.

“When we planned this issue, our hope was that the work it brings together would help point the way toward undoing some of the damage that has been done by past policies, and ensuring that newly elected officials and others understand the value of making abortion available as a matter of basic reproductive health, free of stigma and of restrictive policies and practices,” the authors write. “We may need to recalibrate our expectations now, but we remain committed to the notion that good, solid science is the only appropriate foundation for the policies and practices that affect women’s and men’s sexual and reproductive health.”

GIPHY Studios Originals 2017 new year happy new year ooo

Once you’ve armed yourself with information, check out a couple of guides to getting active and involved in the fight to protect and preserve reproductive rights in 2017. The first, from Bustle, is a handy list of concrete steps you can take to “be a better advocate for reproductive rights in 2017.” The second, from Care2, includes an often-overlooked suggestion that is really key to the struggle for reproductive rights in America: Don’t just complain about the lack of pro-choice representatives; promote progressive female candidates, or run for office yourself! And of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you that now is also a critical time to contribute to the fight for reproductive freedom at the state level by donating to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. Our members are our strength, and right now, we need all the strength we can get.

Have a safe and happy new year from your friends at NARAL and the Friday Femorandum!



Friday Femorandum: Secretary of Sexism

“Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.”

So said president-elect Donald Trump at the second Presidential debate, sending a ripple of laughter through the Las Vegas audience and a chill up the spine of every woman who has experienced harassment, abuse, assault, or discrimination at the hands of men who say they “respect” women.

HULU tv wtf what parks and recreationNow the man who bragged about grabbing unconsenting women by the genitals is President-elect, and his cabinet appointments so far are right in character for the nation’s most famous serial sexual harasser. There’s Health and Human Services director nominee Tom Price, who believes “no woman” has ever been unable to afford birth control, is linked to a radical anti-choice “personhood” organization, and has vowed to overturn the Affordable Care Act and slash benefits for low-income women who rely on Medicaid; Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, who has compared abortion to slavery; and Jeff Sessions, who in addition to espousing racist views has consistently opposed efforts to close the wage gap between men and women, opposed Title X funding for women’s health care, and opposed the Violence Against Women Act

Let’s start with his pick for labor secretary, Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s CEO Andy Puzder, whose company is famous for its sexist commercials featuring models moaning orgasmically over burgers, feeding each other bacon while writhing around in bikinis, and licking ketchup off their bodies. Puzder’s attitude toward women is right in line with a president-elect who routinely ranks women on a scale of 1 to 10; last year, Puzder dismissed complaints about his company’s sexist ads, saying, “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American.”

wtf reactions no way disbelief jaw dropIn real life, Puzder’s history with women has been checkered. His ex-wife accused him of domestic abuse, alleging that he hit her, threw her to the ground, and prevented her from calling the police. On another occasions, she claimed, Puzder punched her in the face while the two were driving home. (St. Louis cops were called to the couple’s house at least twice for domestic disputes, Jezebel notes.)

Puzder also has a long history as an anti-choice activist. In the 1980s, Mother Jones reports, he wrote the Missouri anti-abortion law that the Supreme Court upheld in the 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services decision. That case allowed states to impose much harsher restrictions on abortion rights than had been allowed under Roe v. Wade. The Missouri law defined life as beginning at conception in contexts unrelated to abortion–effectively granting embryos property and contract rights, for example, as a prelude to challenging legal abortion. Puzder and his allies in the anti-choice movement in Missouri added a slew of other anti-choice provisions to the law, including one barring public spending on abortions.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Trump’s pick for labor secretary is no fan of labor laws, particularly the minimum wage. As head of a fast-food company, he has fought tirelessly against increases to the federal minimum wage and rules proposed by President Obama that would have expanded the number of employees who qualify for overtime pay. (Those rules are now on hold and seem likely to be overturned by the Trump administration). Women make up the majority of fast-food workers, and of minimum-wage earners in general, in the country.


Many women, understandably, want to protest these appointments, and Trump’s election in general, around inauguration day. Unfortunately, according to the Guardian, the Parks Service, at the behest of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, has filed an “unprecedented” blocking permit placing large swaths of the National Mall, Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial off-limits to protesters during the days and weeks leading up to and after the inauguration. Hundreds of thousands of women are expected to show up on January 21 for the Woman’s March on Washington, which was supposed to begin at the Lincoln Memorial. The “omnibus blocking permit” will effectively ban the march, forcing women who want to exercise their right to protest to do so in a remote location. It’s somehow fitting that one of Trump’s first acts as President will be an attempt to literally silence women’s voices.