Nel's New Day

June 11, 2017

GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
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While millions of people in the United States were focused on the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, the Republicans were sabotaging health care for a large percentage of people in the nation. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced this goal at the annual Road to Majority conference organized by Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Amidst a drum beat of calling Democrats obstructionists, DDT said that restoring freedom means taking away health care from millions of people. A 13-senator group has been planning in secrecy, hoping to push a vote by July because, according to Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO), “I don’t think this gets better over time.” In other words, they know it stinks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  is desperate because the bill has to meet the approval of both House and Senate by September 30 in order to use the process of reconciliation, allowing a simple majority vote instead of a possible 60 votes in a filibuster. A vote on the bill by June 30 requires that it go to the Congressional Budget by the end of this week. Unlike the House, the Senate cannot vote on a bill that has not received CBO scoring. Because the bill will be voted on under the “reconciliation” process, it cannot require any revenue. Because of the possible tax cuts for the wealthy, a leaked version of the bill shows that it includes waivers for states to the ten essential items—including hospitalization—from insurance coverage and enlarges the ratio of what older people can be charged relative to younger customers, greatly increasing premiums for many people.

McConnell implemented Senate “Rule 14” last week, the day before Comey’s testimony, to fast-track it by skipping the committee process—and a full senate debate. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Health and Human Services 2018 budget request on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) expressed her concern with McConnell’s invoking Rule 14. She said that the senate health care bill was being written by “group of guys in the back room making all the decisions” and asked Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) if there would be a public hearing on the health bill which has been secret until now. (Hatch is a member of the gang of 13 health care killers.) After a painfully long pause, an aide said into Hatch’s ear, “They’re invited to participate in this process and we’re open to their ideas and suggestions.” Hatch, helped by an aide talking into his ear, said he didn’t know. As McCaskill commented, “But we have no idea what’s being proposed.” Republicans complained about her “rants and raves,” perhaps because she said that the Republicans were trying to pass the bill with 50 votes and one from the vice president. McConnell plans to make the bill public for only two days before the vote.

One glitch to the bill comes from a ban on people using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough pointed out that the Byrd Rule might prevent that provision for reconciliation because it covers policy and not budget, not permitted under reconciliation. With the anti-abortion provision, the bill may not be allowed under reconciliation, and without that provision it might not pass. David Christensen of the far-right evangelical Family Resesarch Council, said, “Abortion is not healthcare.” A precedent for MacDonough’s position was in a 1995 ruling about attempting to block abortion in a reconciliation bill.

The GOP senators are already divided into factions, three in opposition to the 13 white men devising the plan. Bill Cassidy (LA) and Susan Collins (ME), not members of the deciding 13 senators, oppose the House bill and co-sponsored their version called the Patient Freedom Act. Led by Rob Portman (OH), another group wants Medicaid expansion. Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) are part of the group that wants the House bill.

The abominable baker’s dozen of murderers on the Senate health care plan has an average age of over 60 and an average worth of over $1 million each. (They look very much like the people above celebrating the ending of health care of millions of people in the U.S. after the House bill passed.) Almost half of the 13, six senators, are from three states—Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and Wyoming’s total population of under 600,000 represents less than 0.002 percent of the U.S. population of 321,000,000. Utah isn’t much better with under one percent of the U.S. population. These are the men deciding health care for everyone, including women, minorities, and the poor. The average net worth of the bottom 40 percent of people in the U.S. is almost zero because of heavy losses during the George W. Bush era.

These 13 men of wealth are writing and pushing through a bill for health care that 140 million people in the U.S. directly rely on and one that comprises one-sixth of the nation’s GDP, one that 140 million people in the United States.  This comes from the same party that complained for eight years that Democrats passed health care on a party-line vote and falsely asserted that Republicans weren’t involved in the process. And they admit what they’re doing: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said that there was no reason for a committee hearing because Democrats won’t support their bill. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the bill will go up for a vote without floor debate as soon as there’re 51 votes for it. The senate has 52 Republicans.

The senate promised a kinder version of health care than the House approved, but states would still be forced to end expanded Medicaid programs because of lost federal funds, and poor and near-poor adults losing Medicaid couldn’t afford private coverage. Eight Medicaid-expansion states have laws immediately dropping the program without federal funding, the year 2020 if the bill passes, and other states would see significant increases in costs which they may not be able to afford. Eighty-four percent of the public, including 71 percent of Republicans, support continued current federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

With the philosophy of “kill the ump,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wants to do away with the Congressional Budget Office because it scored the House bill as removing health insurance from 23 million people as well as either raising premiums or reducing health care coverage—or both—for tens of millions more people. He used this information to claim that the CBO is partisan, despite the fact that his own department’s evaluation matched that of the CBO. In addition, the GOP chose CBO’s director, Keith Hall, praised by DDT’s cabinet member Tom Price because of Hall’s “impressive level of economic expertise.”

In addition to telling Christians at the conference that he wants to strip health care for tens of millions of people, DDT is also sabotaging the existing health care plan. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has impacted 10,500 consumers by pulling out of the federal exchange in Ohio; the company blamed DDT, citing “the lack of certainty” about the federal government funding cost-sharing subsidies. Since DDT was inaugurated Ohio’s governor, John Kasich has warned that insurance markets are “slipping into crisis.” DDT is pushing for the health care system to collapse by making the exchanges less stable and discouraging companies from offering plans.

DDT supporters are big losers with Trumpcare. The more likely people were to vote for DDT, the greater they will lose. Those losing more than $1,000 favored him by seven points, and those losing at least $5,000 in tax credits supported DDT by 59 percent to 36 percent. The largest number of losers from voting for DDT are older people and those who live in rural areas. All the benefits of two tax hikes go to people earning $200,000 or more; only ten percent of that demographic voted for DDT.

North Carolina resident Martha Brawley, 55, cast her first ballot in her lifetime for DDT because he said he would bring down the cost of healthcare. “I might as well have not voted,” she said after she discovered that Trumpcare would give her $3,500 to buy insurance instead of the $8,688 subsidy she gets from Obamacare.

Gone with Trumpcare will be any hope for retirement. Tea Partiers who turned the government into one of cruelty almost eight years ago are the same people who are getting too old to find jobs now and won’t have health insurance if they aren’t old enough for Medicare. Before the Affordable Care Act, people were forced to stay in jobs to keep health insurance; “Obamacare” freed many of them. Trumpcare will force people back into a pattern of working long into old age, even those with serious medical issues like cancer. Trumpcare may force people out of their homes. In 2009, medical bills caused 1.5 million people in the U.S. to declare bankruptcies. Medical bills stressed at least 20 percent of all families. By 2013, medical bills put over ten million people into poverty. During the first year of the ACA, over four million fewer people, including one million children, were in poverty.

The 50+ senators who may vote for Trumpcare go home on recess immediately after the vote. Let’s hope that they all have town hall meetings with their constituents who lose the health care.

 

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April 19, 2017

Want Facts? Check Carefully!

Filed under: Reproductive rights — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
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If you get your information about abortion and reproductive rights from the evening cable news, you may be 64 percent wrong. Media Matters has released a year-long study of reporting on abortion, reproductive rights, and reproductive. The analysis of 354 segments on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC occurred from March 7, 2016 to March 1, 2017. The focus of these subjects was the election, legal issues, religion, anti-choice violence, economic and logistical barriers to abortion access, and state-based legislation on three topics—the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion.

Findings:

Coverage of Abortion and Reproductive Rights Was Male-Dominated Across All Networks: 60 percent of guests, hosts, and correspondents in these segments were male with hosts predominantly male—80 percent compared to only 20 percent female. Male hosts on Fox, representing more than the average on the three stations, were more likely to have male guests; CNN’s only program hosted by a woman, Erin Burnett Outfront, was the only program that had a majority of female guests. On MSNBC, only The Rachel Maddow Show and For the Record with Greta had more female appearances than male about these subjects.

Evening Cable News Features More Inaccurate Than Accurate Information About Abortion: 64 percent of the statements on these three cable stations contained inaccurate information about the Center for Medical Progress, abortion funding rules, Planned Parenthood’s essential services, and late-term abortion. CNN had the fewest inaccurate statements, and Fox, with 80 percent inaccuracy, rose to the top. Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight had no accurate statements at all. (Note: sexist Tucker Carlson is replacing sexist Bill O’Reilly.) On MSNBC, Chris Matthews’ Hardball had the highest number of inaccurate statements—21 out of 27.

Disparities Between Discussions of Candidates’ Positions on Abortion Enabled the Spread of Misinformation: Over half the segments studied covered candidates’ stances on abortion access with Donald Trump leading on all three networks. Hillary Clinton’s position was discussed only 21 percent of the time with other candidates’ positions in the other 32 percent. Fox led in coverage about Clinton’s position while providing misinformation about late-term abortion, meaning that Fox watchers heard more negative statements about Clinton and reproductive rights than people watching CNN or MSNBC.

Conversations About Legal Restrictions on Abortion Outpaced Those About the Consequences of Limiting Access:  The second most common focus for abortion was on courts and litigation, behind segments about the candidates’ positions on reproductive rights. Fox and MSNBC had the most pieces about this topic. Anti-choice violence and economic/logistical barriers to abortion access were barely addressed. Only one percent discussed the violence, and five percent concerned economical/logistical barriers. In the entire year, CNN failed to discuss anti-choice violence, and Fox had only one of the 354 segments, the one on The O’Reilly Factor when host Bill O’Reilly commented that the risk of this violence was low. All the anti-choice violence segments were on The Rachel Maddow Show which also showed five of the 11 segments on barriers available on MSNBC.

Fox News Dominated Discussions About Abortion in Concert with Religion or Faith: Abortion connected with religion/faith was the third most common intersection with Fox airing the most segments. Most of these were on Special Report, The O’Reilly Factor, and Hannity. Most of the few on MSNBC were on All In with Chris Hayes and The Rachel Maddow Show.

Misinformation About CMP (Center for Medical Progrss) Was Spread Almost Entirely by Fox New: Fox News aired all except one of the total statements about CMP, and 90 percent of these were wrong. The network typically described the group’s work as “investigative journalism” and failed to note the result of this “work” was refuted by multiple congressional and state investigations. Inaccurate statements came from most of the programs—Special Report, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity. Sean Hannity invited discredited CMP founder David Daleiden on his show and gave him the entire segment to tell his inaccurate, anti-choice claim that Planned Parenthood illicitly sold fetal tissue, which multiple investigations have disproved.

All Networks Except Fox News Shared Largely Accurate Information About Planned Parenthood’s Essential Services: A prevailing anti-Planned Parenthood myth is that defunding it is no problem because these services are nonessential and can be provided by other community health centers (CHC). Accurate statements are that Planned Parenthood provides access to cancer screenings, pap smears, referrals, wellness exams, contraceptives, STD tests, family planning, or LGBTQ health services.  CNN and MSNBC provided largely accurate information about this topic while statements from Fox were split 50/50 between accurate and inaccurate. Only 26 percent of CNN statements were wrong, split evenly between Anderson Cooper 360 and CNN Tonight. All the inaccurate statements on MSNBC were made on Chris Matthews’ Hardball. Most of the Fox inaccurate statements were on The O’Reilly Factor although a couple of them were on The Kelly File before she left the network.

Misinformation About Late-Term Abortion Dominated on Every Network: Tracking segments on late-term abortions showed inaccurate statements 88 percent of the time. False anti-choice terms chosen included “sex-selective” abortion, “race-selective” abortion, “partial-birth” abortion, abortions after 20 weeks that allegedly risk the feeling of “fetal pain,” “abortion until the moment of birth,” “abortion on demand,” or abortion for “anyone, anytime, anyplace.” A search of these terms shows that only 12 percent were accurate. Erin Burnett OutFront and CNN Tonight led CNN’s 75 percent inaccurate statements with either none or one accurate statement. Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room was over 50 percent inaccurate. On Fox, all statements on Special Report, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Hannity were inaccurate, while The O’Reilly Factor, at 95 percent inaccuracy, had the largest number of inaccurate statement. The majority of the 73 percent inaccurate statements on MSNBC were on Hardball.

The above analysis includes only “substantial discussion” or segments with the topic of abortion or reproductive rights and not news or video clips in edited news packages except those made by a network correspondent. It provides a snapshot of accuracy on both networks and programs. The question for further research is the accuracy of these programs and networks in other areas.

With 60 percent of the discussants about women’s reproductive rights being male, the media people addressing the topic, as in politics, aren’t directly affected by decisions and therefore concentrate on court decisions and political candidates. Neglected are topics such as services lost through defunding health clinics, women’s health, and socio-economic barriers to abortion access.

Even more frightening in the analysis is the revelation that almost two-thirds of the statements are false, and the information about late-term abortions is almost 90 percent wrong. Many people get all their information from these inaccurate sources. Terms such as “fetal pain” and “abortion on demand” become part of the litany of people who vote against women’s rights and lead to increasingly horrific laws that limit women’s lives. Some people believed Donald Trump’s outrageous statement at a campaign debate that laws allowed doctors to “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.” This never happens.

The inaccuracies on cable TV haven’t stopped. Less than a month ago, Wolf Blitzer didn’t correct Secretary of Health Tom Price when he claimed that funding for Planned Parenthood is “fungible,” meaning that it supports abortions. The Guttmacher Institute pointed out the flaw: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” Also, if Price is correct, the “fungibility” also moves into taxpayers funding religion in federal subsidized organizations such as religious groups and charities. Yet Blitzer’s television audience didn’t hear that response.

It’s these inaccuracies that people use to pick candidates. Social media passes along billions of false computerized bots, candidates lie to get votes, and journalists don’t bother to check facts or follow their ideologies. When lies are corrected, people claim “alternate facts” or “emotional truth,” as if data doesn’t exist. This situation brought Brexit to Great Britain and the Republicans to the United States.

Next time someone tells you something, check it out! Like this article!

December 16, 2016

 The Return of the Coat Hanger: The State of Abortion Rights

coat-hanger

When Gov. John Kasich vetoed the infamous “heartbeat” bill, people across the nation breathed a sigh of relief. If signed, the ensuing law would have made abortion illegal in Ohio after the sixth week when some women didn’t even know they were pregnant. The bill he did sign into law, making abortion in the state illegal after 20 weeks, seemed mild by comparison. The 1972 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made abortions legal until 24 weeks, 4 weeks later than Ohio, yet the Ohio’s restriction to 20 weeks initially seemed much better than the alternative.

The new Ohio law is dangerous, however, on many levels. Not only does it attempt to break Roe v. Wade, but it also puts doctors in prison. Performing an abortion after 20 weeks is a fourth-degree felony, carrying a sentence of up to 18 months in prison. A 2013 Ohio law imprisons people who commit fourth- and fifth-degree felonies for a first time offense. Doctors disagree with Kasich’s new law: a group of ob-gyns wrote:

“Continuation of these pregnancies abortions [after identification of serious and fatal birth defects] would result in certain death of the baby and expose the newborn to needless pain. Meanwhile the mother is forced to carry the fetus to term and may be exposed to a myriad of medical and reproductive risks.”

Kasich and his legislators ignored the doctors’ plea.

That’s where the coat hangers come in. In the late 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, pro-choice activists used this object as a symbol of choice because women would use this sharp object as their only option. It caused horrible pain, sometimes permanent damage, and even death, but some women felt it was their only solution. On December 10, 2016—16 years into the 21st century—protesters to Ohio’s anti-abortion bills hung several hundred wire hangers on the fence of the state capitol. More people came and added more hangers. They were taken down during that night, but the protesters can back the next day and replace them.

Coat hangers went to court at a 1972 hearing of Abele v. Markle from a lawsuit from 350 women challenging Connecticut’s anti-abortion statute and influencing the judicial opinions of Roe v. Wade. The women in the courtroom brought babies and hangars; they left their hangars. In a 1969 demonstration in Washington, D.C., over 300,000 protesters hung coat hangers around their necks and carried signs reading “Never again” as they marched.

Many people unaware of the meaning of coat hangers can learn from the case of Anna Yocca, 32, who was charged in a Tennessee court last year for trying to abort a 24-week fetus with a coat hanger. Abortion is legal at 24 weeks, but she still sits in jail and faces new felony charges: aggravated assault, an attempt to procure a miscarriage, and an attempted criminal abortion. Only four of Tennessee’s 95 counties have clinics that provide abortions, and Yocca does not live in one of these.

Yocca is not unique: Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year after she took medication to terminate her pregnancy. In other states, women have been charged with attempted feticide for falling down stairs, not wearing a seatbelt, and trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Other women throughout the country have also gone to jail for terminating their pregnancy.

Thirty-eight states have feticide laws; many of these were intended to protect pregnant women. Anything that a pregnant woman does can probably result in criminal charges if police determines that it may damage a fetus in any way. Doctors can’t tell the difference between a self-induced abortion or a natural miscarriage, leaving women subject to interrogation, arrest, and even incarceration. Poverty and poor nutrition can become reasons for imprisonment.

cpr-map

 

The week before DT won the presidential election, seven states—Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas—sent $30 million of federal funding intended to stop poverty to Crisis Pregnancy Centers that lie to pregnant women about the effects of abortion and refuse to refer them to legitimate women’s clinics. They also provide no other health care that Planned Parenthood does.

The courts are providing some help:

  • A federal judge ruled that Mississippi cannot deny Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood because of their affiliation with abortion services, keeping almost 700,000 state residents on Medicaid to a reliable healthcare provider.
  • The Virginia Board of Health voted 11-to-4 to remove the unconstitutional outpatient surgical center building requirements imposed on clinics that perform abortions. It is the first state to comply with Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruling to overturn surgical center and admitting privilege requirements, known as TRAP, passed by many states.
  • A federal court blocked two Alabama abortion restrictions.
  • The Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center opened in Oklahoma City, the first new abortion clinic since 1974. Until the clinic opened, the city was the only major metropolitan area in the country with no abortion provider. It joins two other providers in the state.
  • Memphis Center for Reproductive Health will open a new, comprehensive reproductive health clinic will house the Tennessee first freestanding birthing facility. It will also provide abortion, gynecological, mental health, and sexual/reproductive health care services.
  •  A Planned Parenthood clinic in Springfield (IL) will offer surgical abortion care.
  • South Carolina officials will drop regulations that target abortion clinics in the state.

Alaska must pay almost $1 million in legal fees incurred when Planned Parenthood and two Alaskan physicians fought the state’s unconstitutional parental notification law. Wisconsin had to pay $1.6 million to plaintiffs suing over the state’s admitting privilege law. North Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri also had to reimburse the legal costs from fighting  unconstitutional anti-abortion laws. Other GOP states across the nation are also averaging $1 million out of their budgets to fight abortion rights.

Yet women have to keep fighting for reproductive rights. This month, Texas passed a law, already declared unconstitutional in Indiana and Louisiana, that requires burial or cremation of fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages. A judge has already suspended the law until he hears testimony on January 6, 2017.

Texas is notable because its death rate from pregnancy complications doubled between 2010 and 2014. In 2011, Texas cut out more than 80 family planning clinics, including all Planned Parenthood clinics, across the state, and the other clinics could serve only half as many women as before the budget cuts in 2011. No other state saw the same death rate.

The word “abortion” raises so much emotion among people in the United States. Yet minor surgery to remove scar tissue after early miscarriages is classified in medical files as “abortions.” Basically, self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” are only interested in life until birth. After that children and their parents are on their own because, to quote HUD Secretary nominee Ben Carson, poverty is a choice. Republicans deny children health care, food, water, housing, air, education, and other “amenities” because life for the already born individuals is no longer their responsibility. And the upcoming years will result in more deprivation to children because President-elect Donald Trump is moving more money to the top 0.1 percent.

The year 2015 was considered the worst year for abortion restrictions until now. The upcoming year with a new administration promises to be worse. The last time an elected Republican cared about you was when you were a fetus.

June 30, 2016

Supreme Court Does a 180 Degree Turn

Supreme Court decisions looked hopeless just six months ago. Many of us feared that women would lose abortion rights, and domestic abusers could stomp around with their guns. Affirmative action, rights of unions, and continued Affordable Care Act provisions seemed impossible. What a difference one person makes! Antonin Scalia’s death in February left only eight justices—for a long time if the GOP has its way—and the tone flipped from devastation to optimism.

The 4-4 ties kept an injunction against the DHS immigration policy but saved public union dues, especially after the court refused to hear the case again. Ties don’t establish the law of the land; they don’t establish precedent. All they do is confirm a lower court ruling. The case about religious objections from Catholic nonprofits refusing insurance coverage for employees’ birth control was returned to a lower court to be fixed. These cases, however, did not destroy a progressive movement; two of these three cases just slowed its progression.

In at least three cases, however, a majority voted in favor of progressives, both times with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. The zombie case Fisher v. University of Texas, returning from what should have been an earlier death, upheld the school’s affirmative action plan. Race can continue to be considered to increase college admissions of disadvantaged minorities because, as Kennedy recognized, diversity’s educational benefits cannot be reduced to exact numbers. Now affirmative action can be used if race-neutral alternatives are not enough and if race plays only a small part. The only other Supreme Court case, decided in 2003, warned of a 25-year deadline. This ruling has no such warning. The vote in this case was 4-3 because Justice Elena Kagan recused herself. With Scalia’s vote, it would surely have been a tie.

Women are cheering the 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down faux health requirements and “undue burden” for abortions in Texas. Law required clinic doctors to have “admitting privileges” in nearby hospitals and clinics to meet expensive, and unnecessary, standards for “ambulatory surgical centers” (ASC).  “Undue burden” was a standard set up for abortion restrictions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey almost 25 years ago, but the health issue set new law. Justices warned against state anti-abortion laws that claim to be for health reasons but don’t protect women’s health. Again Kennedy, for the first time supporting abortion rights for women, cast the deciding vote. If he had voted against Whole Woman’s Health, Texas could have kept closing all its clinics—now down to about 20 for 5.4 million of reproductive age.

This ruling affects laws in several states throughout the nation; almost half of them lied about health reasons in restricting abortion rights. The high court announced that it will not consider appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin on laws similar to those in Texas, ending those unconstitutional laws. Alabama dismissed its appeal to keep its anti-abortion law. Laws are on hold in Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Other states are still fighting: Michigan providers are deciding whether to challenge the state’s ASC law, and Florida’s admitting privileges law goes into effect on July 1.

In question also are other anti-abortion laws such as waiting periods and mandated useless medical procedures preceding the abortion. In Indiana, a judge blocked the state’s new anti-abortion law. Planned Parenthood will work to block anti-abortion laws in eight states.

In Voisine v. United States, two men from Maine whose guns were removed after misdemeanor convictions in domestic violence argued that “reckless” conduct wasn’t enough for them to lose their guns. The high court disagreed, voting 6-2 that “a reckless domestic assault qualifies as a ‘misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

A little-mentioned Supreme Court decision in the media may have a long-reaching impact. A 4-4 tie in Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians upholds rulings from the higher Tribal court, the District Court, and the 5th Circuit Court that non-Tribal businesses and individuals can legally face civil suit in Tribal courts. Dollar General had signed a contract with the tribe swearing to uphold its health and welfare, and the manager of a Dollar General on the reservation molested a 13-year-old Tribal boy.

Limited authority of Tribal governments frequently leaves little recourse for victims of sexual attacks. Native American women in the U.S. are twice as likely to suffer sexual assault as other women in the nation, and 80 percent of these assaults are by non-Tribal men who can get off free because tribal courts cannot criminally prosecute non-Tribal members not intimately known to the victims. Federal authorities tend not to pursue these rape cases.  This problem was exacerbated 38 years ago by Oliphant v. Suquamish, in which the high court ruled that Tribal courts cannot criminally prosecute non-tribal members even when the crime is committed on the reservation, making race a de jure (legal) factor in these cases.

About Oliphant, Amy Casselman, author and former case work for the Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada, said:

“Reservations became hunting grounds. This creates a lot of different types of crime—drug production, drug trafficking, human trafficking—but the people who disproportionately feel this sense of predation are Native women. Sexual assault in the US is an overwhelmingly intraracial crime, meaning that rape happens overwhelmingly between two members of the same race. Native women are the one statistical anomaly.”

In the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act, Congress stipulated that Tribal courts only have the authority to prosecute non-Tribal sexual offenders who have pre-existing intimate relationships with the women they abused, purposely excluding from prosecution unknown predators who specifically seek out reservations to commit their crimes. The only course of action comes from civil suits.

The Supreme Court does not finalize this case that began 13 years ago; it merely allows the sexual assault case to move forward in tribal courts. But that is far more than Native Americans had before this decision. Full restoration of tribal sovereignty won’t happen until Congress passes a law or the high court overturns Oliphant.

The high court benefited women when it declined to hear a Washington state case in which pharmacists were told that their religious objections could not keep them from dispensing Plan B or other emergency contraceptives. That refusal to hear Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman allows women to get medication no matter what the person views of a pharmacy owner because the 9th Circuit Court had twice ruled in favor of women.

A Washington state judge has also ruled that public hospitals must provide abortions on side if they offer maternity services. The ruling supports the Reproductive Privacy Act, passed by voter initiative in 1991.

On the minus side, the tie allowing a Texas judge to keep his injunction against a DHS policy trying to stop some removals of immigrants appears to be a disaster for the president’s policies. According to noted judge Richard Posner, however, the decision may not make any changes. And as law professor Peter Shane wrote, the decision has nothing to do with executive decisions because it was an agency decision.

The Supreme Court dispensed two disasters in its last week. In Utah v. Strieff, a 5-3 ruling on gender lines overturned the Utah Supreme Court and ruled that an illegally detained person can be subject to lawful search and seizure if the person has a warrant for arrest. Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that this decision contradicts previous Court decisions that had deemed such evidence inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Sotomayor said that police can verify legal status at any time, that a person’s body is always subject to invasion, and that it legitimizes racial profiling:

“The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

The worst ruling, however, may have been the unanimous exoneration of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell on a charge of corruption by overturning his conviction. Chief Justice John Roberts referred to Citizens United ruling that “ingratiation and access” were “not corruption.” McDonnell and his wife took expensive gifts, loans, and vacations worth more than $175,000 in return for favoring a diet-supplement business benefactor, but the court ruled that only formal and concrete government actions such as filing a lawsuit counts. Arranging meetings doesn’t, giving elected officials a blank check to trade for access. The case was returned to the lower court with the stricter standard but will most likely fail.

All except two of the progressive decisions described above would certainly have lost or had a tie if Scalia had voted. I would also ask if he might have swayed some of the justices toward his far-right position in argument if he were still sitting on the court. All in all, the outcome this year was much better than was expected when the session started last fall.

A message to people who agree with this man who said he wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton: “If that means Trump wins, it’s not my fault, the Democrats should have nominated a viable candidate.” Yes, it is your fault, and you will be enabling a GOP president to nominate Supreme Court justices worse than Antonin Scalia.

June 6, 2016

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie to Keep Women Pregnant

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are faith-based organizations, often not medically licensed, that try to keep women from having abortions. Their deceptive practices lure women to seek help by falsely promising to offer a full range of reproductive services, including abortions. Women who go to CPCs face intimidation and misleading, medically-disproved, ideologically-motivated information about abortion by staff who frequently lack any medical licenses but pretend to have them. In many states these bogus clinics outnumber abortion clinics, and many state governments funnel taxpayer money from medical facilities to CPCs. The nation has approximately 4,000 CPCs, three times as many as abortion clinics.

Last month, satirist Samantha Bee presented a segment showing the lies of CPCs from a woman who went to one. Cherisse Scott said she chose the CPC because it had the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages. This is what she was told:

“The nurse told me that if I had an abortion, my uterus would be perforated and I would not be able to have children. I ultimately decided to go ahead and have the baby because I didn’t want to chance not ever being able to have a baby.”

President and CEO of the National Abortion Foundation Vicki Saporta talked about how many CPCs also tell women that their risk of breast cancer will increase after having abortions or will suffer from PTSD. Saporta added that women are forced wait for hours while they are subjected to religious sermons and other propaganda. Other CPCs will also tell women that they can’t get results of pregnancy tests for weeks—stalling them until it’s too late for the women to get abortions. Studies show that over 50 percent of 32 CPCs give false information about abortion. CPCs do not offer medical services such as cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and birth control. Their sole purpose is a counseling service based on guilt.

Amanda Marcotte wrote that another purpose behind CPCs is “to shame women for having sex and to spread stigma over abortion, contraception, and any non-procreative sexual activity.” That’s the reason that these sham facilities also fail to provide any way to prevent abortion such as contraception.

David Grimes wrote that CPCs also misinform women about “contraception and its relationship to sexually transmitted infections.” Eighty percent of 254 CPC-sponsored websites gave one or more false or misleading medical claims about abortion. Most of the websites with information about condoms or STIs discourage the use of condoms because condoms, websites claim, are ineffective in preventing infection. Only two percent of the CPCs “correctly cited the contraceptive effectiveness of condoms,” and only 9 percent “advocated correct and consistent [condom] use.” Grimes noted three unethical practices taking place at CPCs:     “[w]ithholding critical information or providing false information”; providing “[d]isinformation about the safety and efficacy of abortion”; and “disproportionately prey[ing] on those with limited education and resources.”

At this time, Texas is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling about the state’s massive reduction of abortion clinics. Another Texas issue is their reduction of Planned Parenthood funding. They falsely claim that the number of patients who accessed family planning services in the state in 2014 is at the same level as it was prior to funding cuts to Planned Parenthood. In 2011, the state legislature cut the family planning budget by two-thirds and blocked funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, closing 76 of the state’s family clinics or ceasing family planning services. One-third of Texas women lacked a regularly health care provider in 2012, up from one-fifth in 2010.

Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott cut Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program. Yet the number of CPCs in Texas is growing from the boost in state funding. The state increased the Alternative to Abortion Services Program from $2.5 million in 2008 to $9.15 million in 2015. Texas has about 230 CPC; if the state wins its Supreme Court case it will have nine abortion clinics, ten percent from of the total from six years ago. Texas has 5.4 million women of reproductive age, and up to 240,000 women tried to give themselves abortions since the state started to close more abortion clinics in 2013. As in all other states, abortion is legal in Texas but highly inaccessible.

California is one state that tries to prevent CPCs from disseminating misleading information. The law mandates that licensed facilities providing services related to pregnancy and family planning must give women information about how and where they can access affordable and timely abortion, contraception, and prenatal care services. Unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services must tell patients the facilities are not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Any digital or print advertising for unlicensed facilities must state, “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.” CPCs have lost four of five legal challenges against the state law that went into effect January 1, 2016.

New York City and several antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) have reached a settlement in a lawsuit challenging a 2011 ordinance to curb CPCs’ misinformation. U.S. District Judge William Pauley had blocked an ordinance requiring CPCs to disclose whether they offer abortion services, emergency contraception and prenatal care or refer for such services through postings in both English and Spanish in the centers and in ads as well as disclosing whether a medical provider was on site. Pauley’s ruling that the ordinance is “offensive to free speech principles” was partly overturned by a three-judge panel from the 2nd Circuit Court in 2014 that mandated disclosure of a licensed medical provider. The Supreme Court refused an appeal. In the world of abortion, allowing or requiring false information to be provided to pregnant women is “free speech.”

In Virginia, a CPC will move next door to a recently closed abortion clinic in Manassas. Women trying to go to the closed clinic are diverted to the CPC, and the telephone number for the former abortion clinic is redirected to the CPC. Women calling the number are required to endure a lengthy process for an appointment, causing them to miss the timeline for an abortion. Callers are asked several personal medical questions, but the information is not confidential because the CPC is not a legitimate medical provider. This practice is not uncommon.

Oklahoma Wesleyan University, an Oklahoma Christian university, is now considering a degree program, “applied ethics” that would  prepare students for “vocational work in pro-life apologetics, political consulting, or for an executive role” in the crisis centers. Jobs would most likely be available because of the tens of millions of federal and state dollars poured into CPCs.  Eleven states directly fund CPCs, and few states have any regulations, not required to comply with professional standards or malpractice laws.

Earlier this spring, Georgia’s governor signed a bill to create a funding program for CPCs. His excuse came from the fact that 96 percent of Georgia counties with 60 percent of the state’s women of reproductive age have no abortion clinics. Of the 70 CPCs in Georgia, 40 have medical licenses. The measure prohibits referrals to abortion providers, something that CPCs don’t do anyway. Proposed expenditures for these bogus centers is $2 million.

Pennsylvania paid Real Alternative over $30 million to support 98 religious sites for adoption, maternity agencies, and CPCs. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. These places receive more than $1 per minute to provide anti-abortion counseling, and women must receive 20 minutes of this counseling before receiving any material support. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.   More horror stories here. Pennsylvania also pays for religious marriage counseling out of its federal welfare funds.

Mississippi has one abortion clinic and 38 known CPCs. The poorest U.S. state, it has abstinence-based sex education in public schools and one of the country’s highest teen pregnancy.The worst state may be South Dakota where all women seeking an abortion must first go to one of these CPCs.

If you want to know what’s happening in your state, go to this map and click on your state.

May 2, 2016

Women Not Protected from Unintended Pregnancies Should Have the Right to Abortions

“No woman ever wants an abortion.” That was Michele Stranger-Hunter’s introduction to her talk about a program called “One Key Question” at a recent NOW meeting in Newport (OR). Yet women continue to obtain legal—and illegal—abortions throughout the United States because they are not protected from these pregnancies. Under ten percent of these abortions are because of health reasons for either or both of the pregnant woman and the fetus, and about 90 percent of all abortions are performed at under 13 weeks. Stranger-Hunter (below, left) is the executive director of the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon.

Michele Stranger-Hunter with Gloria Steinem

Because women don’t want to have abortions, it is vital to provide women of reproductive age to have access to contraception and an understanding of how to use the method that they use. Stranger-Hunter said that the Affordable Care Act “is the best thing that happened to women in my lifetime.” Yet

Stranger-Hunter said that her organization plans to push proactive legislation for women’s reproductive rights in Oregon’s 2017 legislative session. “No other state ever tries to help women,” she said. The group laid the foundation for these bills in 2015 for comprehensive women’s health and a basic health plan ensuring that everyone have equitable access to quality health care. As the group’s members worked with legislators who they had endorsed, however, they discovered that these lawmakers were unwilling to use the term abortion, and the group’s bill died. Since that time, Oregon NARAL’s PAC has revised its endorsement procedures to include only people willing to actually use the word “abortion” as shown by interviews and questionnaires. “We need legislators who will commit,” Stranger-Hunter said. In Oregon, 64 percent of the voters favor a bill that covers the full range of reproductive services, including abortion. Only 29 percent of voters disagree.

The “One Key Question” (OKQ) program began after research showed that doctors didn’t talk to women about birth control. That isn’t “just an Oregon thing,” Stranger-Hunter said. It happens all over the country. That may be one reason that one-half of all women will have had an unintended pregnancy by the age of 45. And half of all pregnancies are unintended.

Fertility is a “chronic condition,” said Stranger-Hunter. Women are fertile for 39 years and spend at least 30 of those years trying to avoid pregnancies. The poorer women are, the more unintended pregnancies (IP) they have. Of women in the 200+ poverty range, only 20 percent have an IP; 112 percent of the women under that level of wealth have IPs.

Pregnancies can be deadly for women in the U.S.: in a quarter of a century, maternal deaths from childbirth have increased 150 percent from 7.2 per 100,000 births in 1987 to 18.5 in 2013. At the same time, almost all the other countries in the world are seeing fewer maternal deaths. For every woman who dies from maternal deaths,  another 75 experience a near-fatal emergency during pregnancy or childbirth such as heart attacks, kidney failure or profuse bleeding—also increases in recent years.

Bad health care has been given as a major reason for these deaths and other disasters. Stranger-Hunter listed other reasons: physical abuse, depression, and emotional problems. Women’s health care is “fragmented,” many times between two doctors. Half of all fertile women are on medications for depression, and 10 to 15 percent of congenital birth problems come from these meds. About 98 percent of pregnancies among female opioid users are unintended.

While states introduce thousands of bills to make abortions harder to obtain, none of them is doing anything to fight maternal deaths by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The “One Key Question” program, while not legally mandated, is a beginning.

The goal of this program is to have every woman of reproductive age be asked “would you like to become pregnant in the next year?” Stranger-Hunter described this approach as a non-threatening approach that leads to a dialog with the health practitioner. Depending on the answer—yes, no, don’t know, or fine either way—the clinician can present suggestions for helping the woman successfully achieve her goal. With “yes” or “fine,” women can prepare her body for a healthy pregnancy and fetus by considering medications, taking folic acid, and knowing about other health options such as screening for infections and a dental check-up. “No” leads to a discussion of effective contraception and important information such as the 85 percent chance of becoming pregnant for sexual activity with men with no birth control. An answer of “don’t know” can lead to evaluating choices.

In Oregon, care providers for low-income women—home visiting staff, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization–are starting to routinely ask families One Key Question at intake. Questioners have found that patients, especially those who have little control over their lives because of poverty or abuse, like the wording that shifts the focus from long-term planning to immediate desires. National professional organizations are taking note as well, with the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health expressing their support.

Michele Stranger-Hunter shows that just one woman can make a huge difference. The One Key Question program began from her fact-finding tour of hospitals and clinics across the state in 2009. Now 20 states are asking that question on a volunteer basis. Heavy reliance on computerization has kept some large medical groups from incorporating this question because it needs to be built into the electronic software. Legislatures, however, should put this concept into law: for ever $1 spent on family planning, $4 are saved. The cost barrier for many women’s contraceptives has been removed through the Affordable Care Act, but advances in birth control methods have made the woman’s decision more complicated.

OKQ won’t stop the need for all abortions, however. Contraception can fail, and health problems will continue to plague pregnant women and fetuses, especially with bad health care in many of the states across the nation. The biggest problem with legal abortion at this time is its inaccessibility. Fewer than one-fourth of the counties in Oregon have clinics that provide abortions, and these are largely along the I-5 corridor, requiring woman from smaller counties to travel long distances, sometimes hundreds of miles, and spend the night away from home. The abortion costs an average of $451 which is usually not paid by insurance. And Oregon is better off than the five other states that have only one clinic in the entire state and the huge state of Texas that is still trying to cut down to nine women’s clinics for its 5,404,124 women of reproductive age.

One help for women with lodging and transportation costs comes from the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health (OFRH) in the form of the Spring Adams Fund. It was started in 1989 after a 13-year-old girl in Boise (ID) was sexually abused by her father. The Idaho Health Department suggested Portland (OR) for a location where she could get an abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon found the funds to pay for transportation and lodging, but the night before Spring was scheduled to make the six-hour trip to Portland, her father shot and killed her in her bed. More information about this fund is here.

At this time, Oregon is the only state in the nation that has not passed anti-choice laws either through the legislature or the voter initiative process allowing individuals to put statutory and constitutional measures on the ballot. It may stay that way after a judge ruled that language in a proposed ballot measure from anti-choice Oregon Life Unified is too “fuzzy” and sent the initiative back to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for modification of the ballot initiative verbiage. The state supreme court ruled that the initiative must clearly state that its effect is to deny access to abortion care coverage to Oregon’s low-income residents. Reproductive advocates who petitioned the court argued that the proposed amendment to the state constitution would allow coverage only to women with private health insurance. Signatures for the necessary 117,578 are still being collected for the misnamed Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act of 2016.

Until every woman is protected from unintended pregnancies, all women should have the right to have access to abortions.

April 24, 2016

Conservatives Use God as Justification

About going back into politics, Marco Rubio, failed GOP presidential candidate, said, “We’ll see if God offers us another opportunity in the future.” Let’s hope that God has more sense than Rubio. Below are other lawmakers that God should turn down.

Answering the question about funding a defense for Oklahoma’s latest unconstitutional attack on women, state Rep. David Brumbaugh said that God will pay all the legal expenses as well as fixing the state’s disintegrating economy. The state has a $1.3 billion deficit. Last week, the state House passed SB1552 that revokes the license of any doctor who performs an abortion other than for women who have miscarriages or have endangered lives. If the Senate passes House amendments to the bill, which looks likely, and Gov. Mary Fallin signs the bill, which looks likely, women can’t even get a legal abortion within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy when 90 percent of these surgeries are performed. Brumbaugh compared passing this bill to the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights Act, and the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a place where religious conservatives go to pat themselves on the back because they are better than the rest of the people in the United States. It’s also a place where they plan to make everyone in the nation believe the same way that they do. Many of their positions will be found in The Federalist. George W. Carey explained that its readers “would agree with Clinton Rossiter that it stands with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution among the “sacred writings of American political history.” One of these authors of “sacred writings,” Henry Scanlon, published a piece explaining how women who share his views are “incredibly attractive,” whereas the women on the left are manly. In one paragraph of his 2,000 word piece, he writes:

“The young women who attend CPAC are spectacular. No kidding: What’s up with this concentration of incredibly attractive young, conservative women? It’s noticeable and remarkable. They are beautiful and stylish in the way French women often are, which is to say in their own way, not in a conforming or predictable way. They all look like the girl the high school quarterback wants to date, and they are confident, relaxed, and smart, joking amongst themselves.”

He has an explanation for this incredible beauty: daring to read Ayn Rand makes young women “the prettiest, smartest girls” because they have an inner confidence. Scanlon’s wife told him that it’s because these women don’t act like boys which is ugly and they are willing to take fashion risks like Parisian trendsetters. In addition, Scanlon thinks that women get wrinkles from being “politically correct.” In essence, conservative women are “freer” because they don’t have to think. And of course, because God favors registered Republicans. Now we know what religious Republicans are thinking about at CPAC.

In addition to ogling young women at CPAC, Republicans are writing letters in support of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and asking for leniency for the recently-convicted child molester. Among 40 letters of support for Hastert is one from Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority whip who helped make Hastert the speaker and wrote that he is a man of “strong faith” and “great integrity.” DeLay wrote:

“We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can.”

Dennis HastertWhile part of the movement to impeach President Bill Clinton over an extramarital affair between consenting adults, Hastert covered up Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate relationships with young Congressional male pages. Legislators in southern states are in a panic about molesters in their women’s bathrooms. Lawmakers, here’s what a child molester looks like. The sentencing for the man who was two heartbeats away from the presidency for eight years is this coming Wednesday. It is not for his molesting children but instead for a financial crime. (More about Hastert here.)

Many fundamentalist Christians, finding Donald Trump too liberal, are turning toward Ted Cruz as a presidential candidate in November. Their question now is whether he’s the kind of fundamentalist that they want. Cruz’ father, foreign policy adviser Jerry Boykin, PAC leader David Barton—and possibly Cruz himself—are “Seven Mountains Dominionists” who want to take over seven cultures: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government. Those who say that Cruz is just a “constitutionalist” see Dominionism as an “elastic” concept and avoid talking about the Dominionist influence on Cruz.

Every year since 1952, the President of the United States has been forced to sign a proclamation declaring the observation of the National Day of Prayer despite the 7th Circuit Court ruling that Congress’s law is unconstitutional. Alabama state Rep. Mack Butler wants to push religion into government ever farther with his proposal of a resolution demanding that the United States become a Christian nation banning abortion and returning to “traditional values.” His proposal follows the first “whereas” that “God has blessed America, where freedom exists for all, regardless of belief or creed.”

God wanted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to make a fortune off securities fraud, according to the man who’s charged with an alleged kickback deal in which he persuaded people to invest in a company. After his friends put $840,000 in Servergy, Inc., Paxton, who failed to tell them his connection to the company, got 100,000 shares of stock. Paxton claims that the shares were a gift from Servergy’s CEO, William Mapp, because Mapp told him the shares were a gift while they were eating at a Dairy Queen.

Texas has many links to Christianity. The state Board of Education has managed to insert fundamentalist Christianity into the textbooks that then infiltrate the United States, and the Board’s new leader doesn’t believe in science. The woman assigned to head the state’s Board of Education is a home schooler who doesn’t believe in science. Mary Lou Bruner, a woman running for the Board of Education, thinks that the Middle East is forcing Islam content into the textbooks by buying the books. She also has some other bizarre claims, including her accusation that President Obama is a gay prostitute. With a Masters of Education degree from East Texas State University, Bruner has worked as a teacher and counselor in Texas public schools for 36 years. Last November, the board approved about 90 social studies textbooks deemed inaccurate, biased, and politicized.

Almost a year ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a mental health bill on advice from Scientology lobbying. SB 359 would permit hospitals to detail potentially dangerous for several hours in order that they be evaluated. Scientology does not believe in mental illness and purports that the 9/11 attacks were spearheaded by Osama Bin Laden’s psychiatrist.

While engaged in child molesting, other crimes, demolition of the economy, sexism, and falsehoods through their attempts to put fundamentalist Christians into a secular government, Republicans move forward in their attempts to destroy women’s lives. South Dakota plans to be the third state after Arizona and Arkansas that forces doctors to lie about the pseudoscience that a pill will reverse abortions in progress. The theory is based on a physician’s anecdotal case report who tested something on about six patients who said they regretted swallowing the abortion pill. Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, said that doctors offering to undo medical abortions are “essentially testing an unproven, experimental protocol on pregnant women.” Now legislators with no medical training are forcing doctors to do just that in at least three states.

Cecile Richards, director of Planned Parenthood, said, “A woman voting for Ted Cruz is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.” I would say that her statement holds true for the vast majority of Republicans now running for office.

April 7, 2016

Lawmakers Rule Medical Advice for Women

In an interview on MSNBC, Donald Trump brought up the idea that women who seek abortions should be “punished.” The audience, women’s rights groups, and other politicians were incensed. How dare he say that!? The March for Life erroneously referred to women who gets abortions as “victims” and said that it was wrong to “punish” these women. There can’t be punishment for these women in such a free country as the United States! Oh no?!

In most states, women cannot get abortions from state health care, at least five states have each closed all except one clinic providing this service, a current case in the Supreme Court is considering whether to force women in Texas to drive at least 200 miles to a women’s clinic, and at least one state restricts abortions past 18 weeks. Women are forced to get and watch ultrasounds, wait up to three days, and listen to lies from doctors telling them the problems of having abortions such as cancer.

Just when rational people think that a state cannot come up with more punishment for women who have abortions, Indiana has thought of a few new wrinkles. Gov. Mike Pence has totally banned abortions if a women requests it because a fetus has Down syndrome or any other disorder. These defects could include the ones related to Zika virus, meaning that a woman would be forced to carry fetuses to term that have no chance of surviving long after birth. A lethal fetal illness is legal only if the woman informs the state that she plans to terminate the pregnancy.

A woman’s doctor can face a wrongful death lawsuit if he provides an abortion after learning about a pregnancy complication. One OB/GYN said that the law could imperil patients’ health by deterring doctors from performing a legal medical procedure. He said that “some women have “cases in which the risk of death during a full-term pregnancy is more than 14 times higher than for a termination of pregnancy.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, with 30,000 members, opposes the law because a patient might keep life-threatening information from her doctor.

The legislature didn’t stop there. Donating fetal issue to scientific research is classified as a felony crime, and abortion providers responsible for burying or cremating “fetal remains.” Physicians must also provide information “about perinatal hospice care to a pregnant woman who is considering an abortion because the unborn child has been diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly.” Women are forced to listen to a fetal heartbeat and view an ultrasound 18 hours before getting an abortion in a state that has only four clinics in 92 counties.

Women have decided to fight back. In a new program called “Periods for Pence,” women are calling the governor’s office with details about their menstruation. It is based on the women’s assumption that the governor deserves updates on their bodies because he has shown so much interest in them. Below are sampling of call reports:

Me: “Good morning. I just wanted to call and let the good Governor know that I am still not pregnant, since he seems to be so worried about women’s reproductive rights.”

Irritated lady on the other end of the phone: “And can I get your name, please?”

Me: “Sure, it’s Not Pregnant Laura.”

 

Just got through to Governor Pence’s office. (The operator must be on break.)

Me: “Hi, is this the operator, or the Governor’s office?”

Them: “Um, this is the office, but I am covering for the operator right now.”

Me: “Oh, good. I need to get a message to the Governor that I am on day three of my period. My flow seems abnormally heavy, but my cramps are much better to–”

Them: (Seriously pissed and trying to keep their voice down, but not quite succeeding.) MA’AM, WHAT IS IT THAT I CAN HELP YOU WITH?

Me: “Oh, I don’t need your help, I just wanted to keep Governor Pence informed of my reproductive cycle, since he seems so concerned.

Them: “Ugh.” (Click.)

 

I called to let him know that I am a lesbian so I won’t be needing an abortion (or legal protections, for that matter lol double whammy! Thanks, Pence!) also mentioned that I’m not currently menstruating but I might be ovulating.

 

Me: “Good Morning. I just wanted to inform the Governor that things seem to be drying up today. No babies seem to be up in there. Okay?”

Them: (Sounding strangely horrified and chipper at the same time.) “Ma’am, can we have your name?”

Me: “Sure. It’s Sue.”

Them: “And your last name?”

Me: “Magina. That’s M-A-G-I-N-A. It rhymes with–”

Them: “I’ve got it.” (Click.)

 

Someone from Pence’s campaign literally just rang my doorbell, wanting to know if I was likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the upcoming election. I let him know that I wasn’t sure, and that I’m going to be ovulating soon, and that I was unclear on whether or not I was legally required to fertilize the egg. He started cracking up.

 

Operator: Governor Mike Pence’s Office, please hold…  (Six minutes later.) Governor Pence’s office, thank you for waiting…

Me: Hi, I’m a native Hoosier who derives from the uterus of another native Hoosier…

Operator: (clears throat.)

Me: I now live in California and I’m wondering if my uterus still falls under the jurisdiction of Governor Pence or– ?

Operator: Please hold. (Click.)

The woman who launched this initiative on Facebook wrote:

“The more I read this bill, the more vague language I found and the more loopholes, and it just seemed incredibly intrusive. So I wanted to give a voice for women who really didn’t feel like they were given any kind of input into a bill that would affect our life so much.”

The law includes a reporting requirement that “some women on their periods may unknowingly expel a fertilized egg and thus have a miscarriage and be potentially liable if the egg is not correctly disposed of.” Lawmakers didn’t take into consideration that about half of miscarriages take place shortly after a fertilized is implanted and occur about the time when a woman might expect her menstrual period. She may not even know that she was having a “miscarriage.” As the creator of Periods of Pence wrote, “I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not ‘properly dispose’ of this or report it.” Therefore she recommends to women that they report to the governor about their menstrual periods in detail to keep from breaking his new law.

Some women, such as Madi Whitman, are choosing to post information on the governor’s Facebook page instead of calling:

Dear Governor Pence,

I recently switched from tampons to a menstrual cup and have found that it has an unexpected learning curve. I am having trouble with the position of my cervix at the onset of my period and as a result the cup leaks. Since you are so invested in my reproductive health and clearly understand my anatomy better than I do, I would appreciate any advice you have in cup placement and rotation techniques. Thanks!

And this request from Brandy Hager Smith:

Governor, I am thinking about getting a pair of underwear called Thinx. They are designed to catch the blood from Menstruation, replacing the need for tampons & pads. Are these approved by you? I don’t want to violate any of our strict women’s rights laws in Indiana. Thanks for undying commitment to women’s health!!!

Those wishing to participate in “Periods for Pence” can call (317) 232-4567, or 317–569-0709, fill out a form on the governor’s website,  or leave a message on his Facebook page. More message are on his Facebook page.)

In late March, one Missouri state legislator explained one reason why lawmakers consider themselves authorities on women’s reproduction. In a discussion about whether to ban abortion in the state, GOP Rep. Mike Moon claimed to know when a fetus becomes an “unborn human child” because he is a “former embryo.” After the audience finished laughing at him, a certified health expert testified against the resolution, explaining that there is no scientific consensus on when a fetus becomes a person and declaring that women should have the final choice about ending a pregnancy. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that only “all persons born” are granted citizenship under the jurisdiction of the United States. Two key words: persons and born. Personhood begins at birth.

When the cervix of a pregnant woman in Texas began prematurely dilating, nothing could be done to save the 20-week-old fetus. State law sent the woman home to wait until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat or the woman could deliver the fetus. After she started bleeding, she went back to the hospital where she had to wait four days until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat.

Thanks to “religious liberty” and conservatives, medical decisions are made by ignorant lawmakers who consider themselves experts in women’s reproductive health.

March 7, 2016

More Than Candidate Conflict–Such As Women’s Rights

The results from wacko caucuses that let 18,000 people in an entire state determine its presidential candidate continue to roll in and dominate the media while almost all other news is left in the dust. Tomorrow brings more about the presidential election and nothing else. But there is more news—like information about the GOP’s attempt to dominate women’s lives by denying us our reproductive rights.

For example, the House committee to close down Planned Parenthood after 11 other investigations showed no fault for the organization that operates thousands of women’s clinics nation-wide. The only indictments related to the discredited doctored videos produced by extremists were for the anti-choice activists.

We could subtitle the committee “Baby Parts,” which is how Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) referred to the issue, but the issue  is called the “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” despite the fact that the subject is fetal tissue—not infants. The hearing’s focus was on a legal act since 1970, the ethics of donating fetal tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research that has resulted in vital medical breakthroughs. This donation has nothing to do with whether women have abortions, but the choice by chair, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), to feature people hostile to abortion shows her political bent.

Two people were allowed to testify about the facts of the case. R. Alta Charo, a professor at University of Wisconsin’s Law School and the School of Medicine & Public Health, said, “Federal review has repeatedly found that the option to donate tissue has no effect on whether a woman will choose to have an abortion.” She added that the Center for Disease Control has requested fetal tissue donations to speed up its study of Zika, the virus linked to severe brain defects in thousands of newborns. “The absence of this kind of research could lead to more abortions” by women who find out their fetus has been affected by the disease. “If we cut off this research, we’re facing a global emergency,” Charo said.

A serious difference of opinion on the committee, with the Republicans winning, was whether to issue subpoenas to medical researchers instead of disbanding. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked why the committee is demanding names of researchers and medical students dealing with fetal tissue and pointed out that publicizing their names could “endanger their lives” from attacks from anti-abortion extremists. Blackburn said that the committee has the right to do this but refused to give any reasons for why the committee needed these names. Pointing out the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic and explaining the committee members would be “complicit” in murders of researchers had no influence on the eight GOP members who outnumbered the six Democrats. The gunman who shot 12 people, killing three of them, explained his actions by saying “No more baby parts.”

The Democrats at the hearing called the committee’s actions a witch hunt. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) compared Blackburn’s investigation into researchers and doctors to former Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) abusive tactics 60 years ago. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said that those burned at the stakes “are our scientists, who hold future medical breakthroughs in their hands [and] brave women’s healthcare workers who are simply trying to care for their patients.” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) said, “This is not an objective hearing. This is a debate against a woman’s right to chose.” Rep. DelBene summarized the day’s events with this question: “Do you think ideology should shape the rules about scientific research?”

On the same day as this House travesty, the remaining eight U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, concerning the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the nation. If the court decides to rule on the case this year, it will need five votes to overturn the Texas law but just four to make the laws uncertain in other states. Justice Antonin Scalia would certainly have voted to uphold the Texas law, but he is no longer on the court.

Four of the justices hearing the case, three of them women, seemed suspicious of the claim that the law was to protect women’s health because of unreasonable mandates for women’s clinics to turn them into “ambulatory surgical centers.” Stephen Breyer pointed out that colonoscopies, which don’t need to be performed in an ambulatory surgical center, are 28 times more likely to have complications than abortions. Elena Kagan asked the Texas attorney about this, but he had no response. Then she pointed out that liposuction actually has greater complications. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked why a dilation and curettage associated with a miscarriage can be performed in a doctor’s office whereas a basically identical D&C for an abortion must be performed in an ambulatory surgical center.

The swing vote for a majority comes from Anthony Kennedy, who shifts back and forth from finding abortion “icky” (Gonzales v. Carhart) and wishing to keep some vestige of abortion (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). After statements that Texas imposed heavy burdens on clinics performing abortions but not on facilities performing riskier procedures, Kennedy suggested that the law creates an “undue burden,” a criterion, determined in Casey, that could result in striking down the law. A Kennedy concern was that the law would result in more women having surgical abortions rather than mediation abortions, a situation that he said “may not be medically wise.”

The uncertainty of the court’s decision comes from the claim that admitting privileges requirements cannot be determined at this stage of litigation. In discussing this procedural issue, Kennedy suggested returning the case to the lower court for additional fact-finding. To block the pro-choice faction, Justice Samuel Alito suggested the requirement of very specific information or challenges to each line of the many pages of regulations individually. Alito noted, “It will be work,” and the burden falls on abortion providers and their advocates.

If the Texas laws go into effect, the state will have fewer than ten women’s clinics for 5.4 million women of childbearing age, many of whom live 200 miles away.  The attorney general defending Texas law said that women who live more than 100 miles from a clinic can just go across the border into New Mexico. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found that “odd” because “New Mexico doesn’t have any surgical ASC requirement, and it doesn’t have any admitting requirement.” Kagan asked if Texas could demand that all clinics conform to Massachusetts General to increase health benefits “because MGH, it’s a great hospital.”

Texas laws are proposed in many red states throughout the country and drafted by Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group that, according to its website, “works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced.”

Missouri initiated both laws under discussion in the Supreme Court, mandating clinics performing abortions be outpatient surgical centers in 1986 and requiring doctors have privileges at a nearby hospital in 2005. By now, the state has only one clinic, making it one of five states in the nation in this situation. If the court strikes down these laws in Texas, other states may lose them. States have passed over 200 TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws within the past five years, including Missouri’s 72-hour waiting period. The claim is always that the laws protect women, and the claim is always false.

Two laws that Missouri  lost are spousal consent for an abortion and second trimester abortions to be performed in a hospital. The state did block abortions in public facilities, for example the University of Missouri’s medical school in Kansas City. In accordance with religious beliefs, laws signed by then Gov. John Ashcroft in 1986 stated, “The life of each human being begins at conception.”

Also last week, seven of eight justices blocked a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital rights within 30 miles of the clinics. In this case, June Medical Services v. Gee, Clarence Thomas was the only dissent. The order blocking the Louisiana law began with 14 important words: “Consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.” In short, they criticized the 5th Circuit Court for ignoring the high court’s previous stay orders if the lower court “cannot discern the underlying reasoning” behind those orders and rebutted the lower court’s logic on its own terms.

This order may show that the Supreme Court opposes the 5th Circuit Court’s efforts to eradicate Roe v. Wade. And Scalia is not there to protect laws that violate women’s reproductive rights.

 

January 22, 2016

‘Roe v. Wade’: Past, Future

Filed under: Reproductive rights — trp2011 @ 9:14 PM
Tags: , ,

Abortion is as old as the Bible, but recently its history and politics have moved from attention on pregnant women to unborn fetuses. “Women always have and always will have abortions,” said Heather Ault, 4000 Years for Choice founder and graphic designer. “It’s fundamental to human existence, and all human societies around the world have practiced forms of controlling pregnancy, to various degrees of effectiveness with the tools and knowledge they had available at that time, whether it be toxic herbs, early surgical methods, or magic and spells.”

In Numbers 5:11-31, God is described as instructing Moses to present “The Test for an Unfaithful Wife” (NIV), a ritual to be used by priests against women accused by their husbands of unfaithfulness. These women are to drink “bitter water,” a potion that to abort any pregnancies that result from “having sexual relations with a man other than your husband.”

The Royal Archives of China holds the earliest written record of an abortion technique in the 3000s BCD. The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, a founder of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the 2700s BCE, wrote recipes for contraception and abortion which were quoted into the 16th century. In the 300s BCE, siliphium, now extinct, was regarded as a gift from Apollo and used for both contraception and abortion in northern Africa and Greece. At the same time, Egyptians and Greeks used the birthwort plant for the same purpose. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “If too many children are being born, there are measures to check propagation,” and Aristotle agreed on the need for population control.

In the 200s, prolific Christian theologian Tertullian described two surgical methods used for abortion. In 418, St. Augustine, like most theologians of the time, felt that abortion wasn’t homicide because “unformed fetuses perish like seeds which have not fructified.” In 1318, St. Thomas Aquinas opposed abortion unless the fetus was “ensouled” at approximately 30 days after conception. Aquinas did not consider abortion a sin before this time because it was not a human being. After England broke with the Catholic Church in 1540, abortion was no longer considered a crime under common law.

During American slavery beginning in the 1600s, black slaves used the cottonwood plant as an abortive remedy to spare their children a life of misery. Colonial women used the same technique because abortion was legal through common law before “quickening,” the first detectable fetal motion at about the fourth month.

In 1821, Connecticut passed the first law in the United States that made abortion illegal. By the end of the nineteenth century, every state had passed anti-abortion legislation except Kentucky, which waited until 1910. The oppressive maternity homes established for pregnant women refused, however, to house black women. A choice was Dr. Bronson’s Female Pills, which promised to “remove difficulties arising from obstruction”; text warned that taking these during the first three or four months or pregnancy might result in miscarriage—most likely the remedy’s intent. The most widely known abortionist in the 1830s, Madame Restelle operated for 35 years with additional offices in Boston and Philadelphia. By the 1850s, she was one of over 200 abortionists in New York City, largely sought out by middle- and upper-class Protestant women who wanted smaller families.

Male doctors pressed for laws against abortion when they took over health care for women from the midwives, who they considered a threat to the male economic and social power. After the AMA declared in 1857 that abortion should be illegal, politician and “morality” advocate Anthony Comstock crusaded against birth control, sex workers, and eventually abortion. In 1873, the “Comstock Law” outlawed contraception and abortion with limited exceptions for health and women lost their common law right. Comstock also succeeded in passing laws against sending anything through the mail related to sexuality and was instrumental in jailing Margaret Sanger for defying the contraception prohibition.

Not until 1869 did the Catholic Church condemn abortion at all stages of pregnancy. By 1896, the Chicago Health Department forbade “any midwife having in her possession any drug or instrument or other article which may be used to procure and abortion,” as well as eleven other rules intended to control how they practiced traditional women’s health care.

When Margaret Sanger surveyed 10,000 working-class women during the 1920s, she found that 20 percent of them had had abortions. Another study showed that ten to 23 percent of educated, middle-class women had had the same procedure. By the late 1920s, 15,000 women a year died from illegal, unsafe abortions from knitting needles, crochet hooks, hairpins, scissors, and buttonhooks. Physicians reacted to the rising death toll in the 1930s by providing abortion care through underground clinics and working to protest the prohibition on abortion.

In 1931, a study in the Bronx found that 35 percent of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish women had had at least one illegal abortion. The next year, Harlem Hospital (New York City) opened a separate ward to treat women seeking emergency post-abortion emergency services from illegal abortions. For 10 years during the Depression, Dr. Josephine Gabler performed over 18,000 abortions at her office on State Street in Chicago. Eighty percent of the women were married and 57 percent already had children. She had referrals from over 200 area doctors.

During the 1930s, the U.S. had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with induced abortions responsible for at least 14 percent of the deaths. The increase in the number of the abortions to over 681,000 coincided with the rising economic problems faced by most people in the U.S. Women began to organize their own “birth control clubs,” such as one in New Jersey with 800 members. They paid dues and carried cards entitling them to regular examinations and access to illegal abortions.

Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer, Jr., a black physician in Detroit, started providing abortions in 1938. After performing 30,000 procedures, he was incarcerated from 1958 to 1960. In 1939, 68 percent of medical students in the U.S. said that they would be willing to perform abortions if they were legal. By the 1950s, between 200,000 and 1.2 million illegal abortions were performed each year.

With abortions still illegal in many states in 1959, Patricia Maginnis, a medical technician in San Francisco, developed a do-it-yourself abortion procedure that involved dilating your own cervix to miscarry. Although oral contraceptives came on the market in 1965, it was available only through prescription to married women for the next seven years. In Chicago, a group of young women started “The Service,” an underground feminist healthcare system to help women find safe and affordable illegal abortions, before it renamed itself “Jane” and trained themselves to provide surgical abortions in-house. Between 1969 and 1973, Jane performed nearly 12,000 abortion procedures. A similar group called the Feminist Women’s Health Center began in California.

All these efforts could stop in 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade  that the right of privacy included “a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” The 7-2 decision found that a person’s “zone of privacy” extended to their doctor’s office although Justice Harry Blackmun’s decision ruled that more narrow state laws could be constitutional after the point of fetal viability.

Blackmun’s ruling is the reason for the huge spate of anti-abortion, anti-women laws clogging state constitutions and statutory restrictions in the past half decade which have again removed the “zone of privacy.” In the past four years, 231 abortion restrictions have been enacted at state levels. The U.S. is rated D+ in overall reproductive rights and health, downgraded from the C rating in 2014,  and 27 states are ranked either “hostile” or “extremely hostile” to abortion. Not satisfied with attacking abortion, many of these states have attacked pregnant women, imprisoning them for using drugs or alcohol and convicting them of feticide if they accidentally have miscarriages. At this time, 38 states have feticide laws.

As the number of restrictive anti-choice laws rise, so does the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth—from 14.5 deaths per 100,000 in 2007 to 28 in 2014—almost double, as the conservative states pass draconian laws surrounding reproductive rights. This rate is seven times higher than seven European countries and 14 times that of Israel which has liberal abortion laws and government-subsidized abortion services. The states with the most restrictive abortion laws also have the highest uninsured rates, infant and child death rates,  and teen drug and alcohol abuse as well as lower preventive care and cancer screening rates.

On March 2, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear its first abortion case in eight years: Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case concerning a Texas law designed to close down more than 75 percent of clinics that provide abortion services in the state—a law which is actually a de facto abortion ban. The question before the court is whether reducing abortion clinic numbers into single digits for a state the size of Texas constitutes an “undue burden.” The decision will most likely set new precedent for the country. The answer will be whether every woman has a right to safely and legally end a pregnancy in this nation that claims to prize personal freedom.

Today is the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We can only hope that women will regain some of the rights they have lost during the past 43 years.

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