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.



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.