Nel's New Day

August 1, 2015

Planned Parenthood Not Breaking Law

In 1993, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted to legalize fetal tissue donations for the research of cures for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and miscarriage. He was in good company: Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and John McCain (R-AZ) also voted in favor of this law that passed 93-4. Instead of debating that issue, however, they want to defund an organization that follows the law that they passed, and Republicans manifest outrage that Planned Parenthood is doing exactly what Congress authorized the group to do.

Fetal-tissue research is vital and helps many people, but maybe conservatives may see their 1993 legislation as a mistake. If so, they can have a renewed debate on this research instead of attacking Planned Parenthood for following the law that they supported 22 years ago. Planned Parenthood only donates tissue if the women wish.

Salivating about an issue that might bring votes and donations to the Republicans, McConnell used Rule 14 to fast-track legislation to defund Planned Parenthood legislation, bypassing committee involvement, and plans to put the bill up for a vote early next week before the August recess. It can’t pass the Senate without votes from all 54 Republicans and another six Democrats.

McConnell doesn’t even have unanimous GOP agreement. GOP Sens. Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) have already said that they won’t vote to defund the organization. Pro-choice Collins said:

“In my state and many others, Planned Parenthood is the primary provider of women’s health services in certain parts of my state. [I] don’t know how you would ensure that all of the patients of Planned Parenthood could be absorbed by alternative care providers.”

Kirk said:

“I do not plan to cut access to basic health care and contraception for women, the majority of whom have no other resources.”

At least one GOP governor also opposes defunding an organization that provides health care for women in his state. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said that an investigation in the state has cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

Two GOP senators running for president are using the fraudulent videos for campaign fodder. Behind Donald Trump by 16 points, Rubio grandstands instead of participating in the senate: thus far he has an attendance rate this year of 70 percent and has missed 69 votes, more than any other senator. The other fire breather candidate, Ted Cruz (R-TX), is close behind with 55 missed votes and 77 percent attendance from his being out on the presidential campaign trail. (On average, senators miss about 3 percent of their votes with an attendance rate of 97 percent.)

Cruz is leading the cry to shut down the government  if his colleagues won’t defund Planned Parenthood. He plans to attach an amendment to the fall appropriations bill, due by October 1, and persuade his colleagues to stop the spending bill if the conservatives don’t get their way. The last time he used this idea—two years ago—the country lost $24 billion during his shutdown. Cruz, however, is counting on Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who led 17 other House members to start the shutdown in the House.

Fortunately, the Los Angeles Superior Court blocked the fraudulent group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) from releasing more video footage of employees who work at StemExpress, after three heavily edited videos resulted in a conservative call to defund Planned Parenthood. California law requires the consent of all parties before a “confidential conversation” is recorded. After the court order, CMP released a fourth video that was not recorded in California.

Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, wrote:

“These extremists created a fake business, made apparently misleading corporate filings and then used false government identifications to gain access to Planned Parenthood’s medical and research staff with the agenda of secretly filming without consent–then heavily edited the footage to make false and absurd assertions about our standards and services.”

She skipped the part that the people in the video used fake names. One of them may have also used a credit card without the owner’s permission, and the California driver’s licenses presented by supposed BioMax employees at a Texas Planned Parenthood affiliate may have been forged.

Consultants to GOP candidates, particularly men, advise them to not mention women when addressing the topic of abortion and Planned Parenthood. Instead, politicians should focus on ultrasounds, fetuses, and graphic details of the procedures to frame opposition to abortion rights. Rape is another topic that should not be mentioned because more and more bills oppose rape victims from having abortions. Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that the “patient” in an abortion is the “unborn baby.” In essence, GOP politicians are told to address pregnancy and abortion as having no connection to a body.

Politicians are also told to claim that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, not true according to medical associations such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Presidential candidates Scott Walker and Rick Perry are showing 20-week ultrasound images of their children, and Marco Rubio tells that the ultrasound shows that “they were children—and they were our children.” Those ultrasounds, a “really cool” thing according to Walker, can show a severe fetal anomaly, but Walker’s new law doesn’t allow the parents to make a decision about their future. A federal appeals that struck down a North Dakota law banning abortion as early as six weeks asked the Supreme Court for a review to Roe v. Wade with the statement that fetal survival outside the womb “is better left to the states.” Again politicians ignore women—as well as medical recommendations.

Planned Parenthood

The Hyde Amendment prevents the government from funding any abortions, and only three percent of Planned Parenthood activities are connected to abortions; far more of its job is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, do educational outreach and keep people alive and well. Defunding Planned Parenthood denies women access to cancer screenings, STI tests, and other essential preventative care are noticeably absent from the picture. Services are also for men as well as women.

The attack on Planned Parenthood may be dangerous for the Republicans. Only 28 percent of voters want to strip the funding, and only 25 percent said they prefer a candidate who would do this. Even after the release of the videos, 52 percent of the people support Planned Parenthood.

A big objection to the videos is that the impersonal language—just like other surgeons use when they’re discussing surgeries. In her blog, Helen Philpot from Texas shares her perspective with her best friend, Margaret Schmechtman of Maine, who she’s known for over 60 years:

“Margaret, this Planned Parenthood scandal seems to be all hat and no cattle–something I’ve come to expect more and more from the religious right. If honesty isn’t your best policy then join the Republican party….

“I’m a nurse so I get that doctors in particular don’t have the best bedside manners when it comes to talking about the science of healthcare. Yes. It’s a science. I didn’t so much appreciate the way they talked about my breasts when I was diagnosed with cancer. They were my breasts after all, but the way my doctor talked about them you would have thought they weren’t attached to my body. So I get it.  My late husband, Harold, felt the same way about testicular cancer.

“But that isn’t a crime…. Do I wish that the doctors in those videos displayed a little more compassion? Sure. But do I think the greater show of compassion is respecting the privacy and personal decisions of women to manage their own healthcare? Damn right I do.”

People who want to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood continue to forget that abortion is still legal and that Planned Parenthood isn’t breaking any laws. Taking away funding will cause more abortions because fewer women will have contraception. In addition, most defenders have just one concern—that a fetus emerge to breathe. After that many of them are indifferent to the welfare of these breathing creatures.

Sister Joan Chittister said it best:

nun quote

If you are a pro-life defunder, then adopt children and donate lots of money to feed, clothe, and house the children—even if you think that this is the parents’ responsibility. Stop religious people from blocking contraceptives for women. Picket courts and prisons to stop executing people who may not be guilty or who may be rehabilitated. Expand your horizons beyond making sure that a fetus can take one breath. Life is not for one second.

January 22, 2012

Roe v. Wade at Risk

A third Republican presidential candidate has taken the majority delegates in a third state—although it’s hard to say that Rick Santorum really won Iowa when 8 precincts can’t find their paperwork. For women’s reproductive rights, there is no real difference among these three: any one of them would return women’s rights to that of a century ago–in short, none. All the candidates vow to overturn Roe v. Wade; all support the concept of “personhood,” giving more rights to a fertilized egg than a woman.

Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion for all women in this country during the first third of the pregnancy and allowed abortion during the second third to protect the woman’s health.  Legal yes, but not necessarily accessible. The murders of doctors who perform abortions during the past decades plus state laws limiting abortions have made this surgery almost impossible to get in many places, and state laws compound the inaccessibility of abortions.

To stop pregnancies, the far right has set up “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPC) to pressure women, usually with deceptive information, into carrying a fetus to term, regardless of the women’s wishes and needs. An investigation of the CPCs in North Carolina, more than eight times the number than clinics that actually provide abortion, shows that over two-thirds of them provide medically inaccurate information. Yet they receive public funding from the state’s “Choose Life” license plate sales.

Of the 122 CPCs, 92 percent had no medical professionals although only 22 percent disclosed that they were not medically licensed. Because there is no state licensing for the CPCs, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not protect patient confidentiality. An investigator posing as a pregnant Jewish woman who went to five centers was told that unless she converted to Christianity she would not go to heaven. Volunteers at one meeting prayed for an investigator and suggested she become a “born-again virgin.”

New York City tried to give the public information about CPCs with a law that would require them to disclose whether they have licensed medical staff and how they protect the clients’ privacy. Federal Judge William Pauley blocked this law.

Over 1100 anti-abortion bills were introduced at the state and federal level in 2011, including the 8 by House representatives elected to find jobs for people and save the economy, an unbelievable increase from previous years. Legislators in 24 states passed 92 anti-abortion provisions in 2011, shattering the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005. Recent state restrictions include waiting-period requirements, unnecessary medical procedures, burdensome and unnecessary clinic regulations, and cuts to family planning services and providers because of their connection with abortion. Other laws restrict private insurance coverage of abortions.

Arizona stopped the use of student fees and tuition to train OB/GYN students to perform abortions and revoked tax credit for donations to organizations that provide abortions, like Planned Parenthood, as well as to any institutions that might refer clients to Planned Parenthood, like domestic violence shelters. North Carolina’s requirement for an ultrasound before an abortion included the provision that a woman’s refusal to view the ultrasound would be kept on file for 7 years. Nine other states also have an ultrasound mandate.

Dana Millbank, supposedly one of the “good guys” in this debate, seems to sneer at pro-choice activists: “If the ‘choice’ rally participants really wanted to preserve legal abortion, they’d be wise to drop the sky-is-falling warnings about Roe and to acknowledge that the other side, and most Americans, has legitimate concerns.” Is he talking about the fact that the state forces women to have MRIs, a medical procedure not recommended by their doctors and one which serves no medical reason, before having an abortion.

Does he think that the “personhood” movement is no problem? After the initiative to define a fertilized egg as a “person” failed in Mississippi, Oklahoma thought it would put its oar in the fertilization waters. Their new bill defines “person” as “every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being” with a few exceptions such as “Only birth control that kill a person shall be affected by this section” and “Only in vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction that kills a person shall be affected by this section.” The same people who proposed these bills are also convinced that ordinary birth control will kill the “person.”

What does Millbank think about Jennie Linn McCormack, a 32-year-old Idaho woman with three kids—unmarried, unemployed, and barely surviving on $250 monthly child support for one of her children? The man who had impregnated her was sent to jail for robbery. She couldn’t afford the $500+ necessary for the two-and-a-half-hour trip—mandated twice!–to Salt Lake City to get to a clinic. Her sister in Mississippi got her RU-486 online for about $200. She thought she was about 12 weeks pregnant, but the fetus turned out to be between 18 and 21 weeks.

According to Idaho’s 1972 law, a year older than Roe v. Wade, women can be imprisoned for five years for inducing her own abortion. The charges against McCormack have now been dropped, but the state retains the right to re-file charges. McCormack’s attorney, Richard Hearn, also a physician, not only obtained a federal injunction to prevent any woman from being prosecuted under the state’s anti-abortion statute by the district attorney but also filed a class-action suit against the state, claiming the statute is unconstitutional. He plans to argue the case up to the Supreme Court.

Much of politicians’ ignorance comes from their reliance on the bible to explain science. A fine example of this is Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) who—naturally!—opposes Planned Parenthood. Marshall believes that women who have abortions then have disabled children because of God’s punishment. “In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest,”Marshall told a press conference.

David Williams, who ran for governor of Kentucky, tried to use logic to defend forcing rape and incest victims to carry their fetuses to full term. “If somebody shot my mother, I would want to kill them, but I don’t think that is the appropriate thing to do. We have laws against murder,” he said. He also failed in his gubernatorial bid but stayed as the president of the state senate.

Morals of the religious fluctuate and extend into hypocrisy. The Catholic leader St. Augustine believed that abortion of the “unformed” embryos was acceptable because “the law of homicide would not apply, for … it could not be said that there was a living soul in that body.” The Southern Baptist Convention voted in the 1970s to support abortion under certain circumstances but said in 2010 that life begins at conception and abortion is not permitted.

Memphis (TN) is another place where religion controls women’s rights. Shelby County commission voted 9 to 14 to take Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and give it to Christ Community Health Services. No more emergency contraception because of “religious objections.” Never mind that EC doesn’t abort fetuses. Instead women have to go to a “third party,” delaying the process and probably being too late for EC to be effective. Clients also are forced to listen to sermons with their health screenings and birth control pickups.  A Christ Community patient testified at the commission that she was told, “If only my relationships with people and God were right, I would have fewer health problems.” No way are there any referrals to clinics that provide abortions.

While some Christians call abortion murder and therefore wrong, they are not bothered by people lacking insurance or those with insurance having it terminated, meaning that people are killed by the “person” of insurance companies. War is murder, as is capital punishment, but anti-abortionists are usually not bothered by these murders.

People outraged by abortions past the first third of the pregnancy aren’t swayed by the horrific health issues that cause women to have abortions during the third trimester to save their lives. Rick Santorum refers to the health exception for a third-trimester abortion as “phony.”

Anti-choice people also don’t realize that they are at fault. Because of the severe limitations on getting abortions, despite Roe v. Wade, some women like McCormack who face funding and travel—sometimes two or three times to see a doctor far away—wait past the first trimester. Prejudice against birth control also causes abortions: 46% of women who get abortions weren’t using a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant often because of abstinence-only education and the cost of contraceptives.

Anti-abortion activists care nothing about the life of women who end up dying from illegal abortions, but at one time Mitt Romney understood the tragedy of these deaths. During his candidacy for Massachusetts senator in 1994, he volunteered the story of the sister of his brother-in-law. Because of her death, he said in the debate with Ted Kennedy, he believed that abortion should be “safe and legal.” That same year, he attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, and his wife, Ann, gave $150 to the group. During the same campaign, he said, “I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people.” During his 2002 campaign for the state’s governor, Romney vowed to uphold the state’s abortion laws. Ten years later he supports “personhood,” not only for corporations but also for fertilized eggs.

Ann Keenan, the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law, died of an infection at the age of 21 in 1963, ten years before Roe v. Wade. Listed on her death certificate was “subarachnoid hemorrhage following septic criminal recent abortion with septic thromboembolism pneumonia and hepatitis with focal necrosis of liver.” Infection, often caused by the use of unsanitary instruments, was one of the most common causes of death from abortion in the pre-Roe era, according to Dr. David Grimes, who previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control studying abortion deaths. Many other deaths were caused by self-inflicted wounds or bleeding to death, especially because women were afraid to see medical help.

Last week, Guttmacher reported that in countries where abortion is illegal—think maybe inaccessible?—abortion rates are higher. Stopping access to safe, legal abortion care does not lower abortion rates; it just forces women to search for clandestine and unsafe abortion care. The simple solution to unwanted pregnancies is to provide ways to stop these pregnancies. U.S. legislators are trying to stop birth control too. The conservative House and many state legislators have been intent on eliminating women’s access not only to birth control but also to breast and cervical cancer screenings.

To combat this trend, Planned Parenthood has created its own campaign, Women are Watching. Over half the voters in this country are women. All of us need to know about these attacks on women’s health and the candidates’ stance on pivotal health care issues.


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