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Open Letter to Representative Trent Franks: What Caring About Women and Babies Really Looks Like

7:31 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Bria Murray for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Dear Representative Trent Franks,

A mother nurses her infant

What does it mean to care for women? (Photo: See-Ming Lee / Flickr)

Today, I watched you debate during the markup for H.R. 3803, or, as you may know it, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks in Washington, DC. I watched you valiantly fight to save “the children” from their pain even in the case of rape or incest, or when a mother has been diagnosed with cancer and the treatment needed to save her life is incompatible with the continuation of her pregnancy. I watched you warn the rest of the judiciary committee that abortions are linked to higher rates of suicide, even though this “fact,” and the basis for the bill itself (that 20-week-old fetuses can feel pain) flies in the face of all accredited scientific evidence.

And all I could think about was September 7, 2007.

It may seem strange to you. September 7, 2007 was nearly five years ago. Why think about that now? And why such a specific date?

September 7, 2007 was the night I was raped.

September 7, 2007 was the night that my rapist’s sperm met my egg and I was impregnated with the child of my rapist.

I thought about all of this as I watched you passionately advocate on behalf of “the tiny little babies” and the only reaction I could muster was “how dare you.”

How dare you, Representative Franks. Your claim of caring about the “pain of the tiny babies” rings hollow when one remembers your support of the Ryan Budget, which would have slashed over $36 billion from food assistance programs. You called them “slush funds” and “runaway federal spending.” This from a member of the House of Representatives, who makes more in a month than I do in a year.

How dare you, Representative Franks. Your claim of caring about the “increased risk of suicide” among those who seek abortions rings hollow when, again and again, you have voted to strip people like me of health care by voting for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the slashing of Medicare and Medicaid. These programs that I, personally, rely on so that I can afford counseling to help me deal with the trauma of being raped.  After all, “health care” involves your mental health as well.

How dare you, Representative Franks. Your faux concern for the physical and mental well-being of parents and their children is sickening when you have over and over again proven your concern for both is nonexistent.

Read the rest of this entry →

Three Strategies for Promoting Women’s Right to Safe Abortion Care

11:55 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by On The Issues Magazine for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. Originally written by Ayesha Chatterjee and Judy Norsigian for On The Issues Magazine.

As current staff members at Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS), an organization that has advanced the health and human rights of women and girls over four decades, and longtime reproductive justice activists, we continue to hope that safe and affordable abortion care will, someday, become a reality for everyone. With increasing attacks and restrictions on abortion access worldwide, we have our work cut out.

Here, in the U.S., the debate around abortion has become especially polarized. Right-wing and anti-choice groups bombard young people with messages that stereotype and stigmatize those seeking abortion services — both individuals and entire communities. Think: billboards have popped up around the country equating abortion to the genocide of African-American children, who are further described as an “endangered species.” These — and other — oversimplified messages mock a personal and often complex decision, not to mention the right to a constitutionally-protected and medically- safe procedure. They influence how people, especially young people, articulate and align themselves on abortion. They drive our activism — our tireless commitment to alliances across aisles and opinions, and to conversations that move beyond “pro-life” and “pro-choice” rhetoric to focus on the individual, her needs, rights and circumstances.

Engaging, mobilizing and building alliances on an issue like abortion can be an uphill climb. But as 2012 rolls in, we want to take a few minutes to remind you about why it is important and suggest a few ways you can go about this challenge. Read the rest of this entry →

STOKING FIRE: Anti-Choicers Bring Harassment to Wyoming and Get Frosty Reception

12:27 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

It’s a tried-and-true tactic: Any time anti-abortion activists are told that they can’t disrupt worship services, harass people entering or leaving reproductive healthcare facilities, or stand in front of schools with graphic placards and signs, they scream that their First Amendment rights have been violated. This claim has oft-times proved winning, simultaneously filling the anti’s coffers and boosting their morale.

Take the city of Wichita, Kansas as an example. Yes, the very same city in which Dr. George Tiller worked–and where he was assassinated–awarded Operation Save America’s Rev. Mark Holick $11,700 in 2009 after conceding that his right to free speech had been thwarted when he was arrested at a Gay Pride parade and festival two years earlier. To hear Holick tell it, he was simply trying to “communicate the gospel” to festival-goers, not badger them by predicting that they’d burn in hell for the sin of sodomy.

Now, Holick, OSA head Flip Benham, and longtime co-conspirators Chet Gallagher and Rusty Thomas are at it again, this time in Jackson, Wyoming. The foursome filed a petition in Wyoming Supreme Court in November, alleging that their rights had been infringed upon by a restraining order meant to keep them and their signs at least two blocks away from last May’s 44th annual Elkfest, an antler auction and community party organized by local Boy Scouts to raise money for habitat enrichment and winter feeding programs for the area’s large elk population.

The OSA posse landed in Jackson several days before Elkfest and shortly after declaring that they intend to make the “Equality State”—so named because it was the first in the U.S. to grant women the right to vote—wholly “abortion free.” Their primary target is Dr. Brent Blue of Emerg-A-Care, a physician who has worked in Jackson since 1984.

“We’re a family practice that does terminations,” Blue begins. “Although less than one percent of our patients come in for them, I believe that as a family physician, abortion should be part of our practice, along with flu shots, STD screenings, dispensing birth control, and general examinations.”

Blue says that he got on the anti-abortion group’s radar a little more than a year ago when he ran for County Coroner. “I’m a Democrat,” he continues. “The guy I was up against ran as a Right-to-Life candidate. That’s when the antis began to target me and when they first started claiming that that they were going to make Wyoming abortion-free.” Read the rest of this entry →

Todd Stave Turns Anti-Choice Tactics Into Pro-Choice Gains

12:57 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

There's Smartphones, and then there is Smart Calling (Photo: AJC1, flickr)

There's Smartphones, and then there is Smart Calling! (Photo: AJC1, flickr)

Written by Carole Joffe for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

“Such hypocrites! They don’t like getting unwanted calls at home!”

In an irony that he clearly relishes, Todd Stave, a Maryland entrepreneur, is telling me about the abortion opponents who contacted him and asked that he suspend the phone campaign he initiated against them.

Stave is currently the subject of a certain amount of buzz in the abortion rights community, after his appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show.  He came to Maddow’s attention  because of his innovative, ­some would say ingeniously simple, way of responding to harassment from anti-abortionists.  Stave is the owner of the property in College Park, Maryland on which sits the clinic building rented by Dr. Leroy Carhart, a longtime Nebraska abortion provider and former associate of the late George Tiller. After Tiller’s assassination, Carhart became a leading target of antiabortion forces, especially so when he began recently began performing later abortions in Maryland. (His move was a result of Nebraska legislation, targeted specifically at him, that banned abortions after 20 weeks).

Besides vociferous protests at the site of the clinic itself, abortion opponents showed up on Parents’ Night at the middle school of Stave’s daughter. Brandishing signs with the usual mangled fetuses, as well as Stave’s name, photo and phone number, the protestors urged people to call him and ask that he “stop the child killing.” Read the rest of this entry →

The Real Reason Anti-Choice Activists Are Pushing Fetal Pain Laws

9:36 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The anti-abortion activists and politicians in the states have made passing 20-week abortion bans based on the idea of “fetal pain” a cause-du-jour for this year’s legislative sessions.  It’s become obvious, as Kate Sheppard reported in Mother Jones, that “fetal pain” is their number one priority this year, with four new states enacting bans and a dozen others at least proposing the legislation.

Emily Bazelon writes in the New York Times that the Center for Reproductive Rights is considering their own eventual lawsuit over the bans, which are unconstitutional due to the Roe V. Wade ruling stating that abortion cannot be banned before a fetus is viable, usually at around 23 weeks.  These state-based bans are only carving off a small section of new abortions, and as Bazelon notes these bans are in many cases “symbolic.”  Some of the states involved don’t even have providers that perform second trimester abortions, and the number of women seeking them out are only a tiny percentage of the overall number of women wanting the procedure.

It’s that statistic that is so dangerous, and why the push for legal action over the ban is exactly what anti-choice activists are both hoping for and counting on.

Just as anti-abortion activists won a victory in ending “partial-birth abortion,” a made-up term that helped change the face of abortion challenges by placing a government duty to “protect” a fetus over the needs of a mother, even though very few abortions would ever be affected by the ban, “fetal pain” bans seek to do the same: allow the Supreme Court to place a new standard for which the rights of a fetus outweigh the rights of the woman carrying it.  

Read more

The War on Contraception Goes Viral

7:40 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

As those of us who’ve been following the anti-choice movement for years can attest, the biggest stumbling block for them has been finding a way to make a move towards restricting access to contraception while still trying to keep something like a decent reputation with the public. Attacking sexual liberation and women’s rights has always been at the heart of the anti-choice movement, but in order to sell such a radical agenda as mainstream, they’ve had to make sentimental and often bad faith claims about simply wanting to protect fetal life. While making frowny faces in the direction of pregnant women who want to terminate has been an effective strategy for restricting abortion rights, however, it has its limits when it comes to attacking women’s ability to prevent pregnancy in the first place.

Not that there haven’t been attempts at using “pro-life” arguments to fight not just abortion but contraception. Some anti-choicers have floated the idea that contraception leads to abortion—claiming that women wouldn’t have abortions if they didn’t get it in their silly heads that they should be able to have sex for pleasure instead of procreation. (Never mind that women throughout history have attempted abortion by all sorts of means, whether their cultures had contraception or not.) A slightly more effective argument has been to claim, with no evidence in support, that popular, female-controlled hormonal birth control is the same thing as abortion. This hasn’t done much to convince anyone, but at least establishes a convoluted, disingenuous cover story about embryonic life that anti-choicers can hide behind while they attack contraception. But even then, it has limits, since while the “pill is abortion” argument can be used to attack hormonal contraception, even anti-choicers haven’t been bold enough to claim that condoms or other barrier methods are also abortion.

Then, just this year, it seems that the anti-choice movement came to a nationwide realization: Their past attempts to create some logical-sounding connection between contraception and fetal life were a waste of time and energy. … Read more

Meet the HR3 Ten: Daniel Lipinski, Daddy’s Boy

7:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sarah Jaffe for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Ten Democrats cosponsored H.R.3, even with language redefining rape; four of those ten also apparently don’t care if pregnant women die. Sarah Jaffe takes a closer look at all ten, find all posted to date here.

Meet Daniel Lipinski!  He represents the 3rd Congressional district in Illinois, and has since 2005. He was preceded in that seat by…Bill Lipinski. Yes, that’s his dad. Yay, nepotism!

It gets better. David Bernstein in Chicago magazine calls the story of Lipinski the younger’s ascension “a classic Chicago move.”

He writes: 

His father, William Lipinski, had held the Third Congressional District seat since 1983, but after winning the 2004 primary election William withdrew and then urged Democratic Party leaders to slate Daniel—living in Tennessee at the time—virtually assuring his son’s victory against token Republican opposition.

So his dad not only stepped aside to give his son the seat–he literally won the primary FOR him and then gave him the election. Those of you who’ve lived in a one-party machine city know that when Democrats control all the levers of power, the primaries are the real contest, bloody and vicious as any Democrat vs. Republican contest. But incumbents have a huge advantage that perhaps the son of the incumbent, apparently living in Tennessee, might not have had. 

Bernstein notes also that Lipinski was an aide to infamous Gov. Rod Blagojevich, when Blago was a congressman, and notes that Lipinski the elder was a key early backer of Blago’s run for the governorship. No word on what they think of Blago’s run for reality TV. 

Lipinski is such a gem that he not only cosponsors H.R. 3 but also H.R. 358, the “Let Women Die If Saving Them Might Harm a Theoretical Hair on a Fetus’s Underdeveloped Head” act, and of course H.R. 217, the Pence “Defund Healthcare Providers That Actually Help Prevent Abortions Act” and my favorite Orwellian-named “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2011″ (No, that one’s the REAL name.) He was also the only Illinois Democrat to oppose health care reform, though at least he had the sense not to join the GOP attempt to repeal it. … Read more

Can John Boehner Placate Randall Terry?

6:57 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Randall Terry isn’t just your everyday anti-choice nut.  It takes someone with a special level of nuttiness to get shunned by most of the anti-choice community, a community generally known for having a high tolerance for hysterics, attention-seeking, blatant lying, and quiet encouragement of violence against abortion providers.  If you’re such a nasty piece of work that even Jill Stanek and Troy Newman can’t stand you, you must be something else.

So why on earth did soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner actually conduct a meeting with Randall Terry and his cadre of extremists?  It’s understandable, if disappointing, that such a prominent politician would meet with anti-choice activists.  We still don’t live in an era where women’s human rights are above debate, and so it’s to be expected that some politicians will hold meetings based around the concept that women should be forced to bear children against their will.  But there are many dozens of anti-choice leaders Boehner could have held meetings with to establish his misogynist bona fides, and cozy up to the Christian right.  Why choose the worst of the worst, a man whose primary reputation on the right now is that of a self-aggrandizing blowhard who just screws everything up?

A few possibilities come to mind.  First, Boehner might just be ignorant of the battles within the anti-choice movement, and selected Terry for this anti-choice photo op because Terry is just so visible in D.C.  After all, Terry is forever making a spectacle of himself.  He’s hard to ignore.  To someone who only paid minimal attention to the anti-choice movement, it might seem like Terry is more of a leader than he really is.  But while incompetence can never completely be taken off the table as a reason that a politician makes a baffling mistake, it’s hard for me to imagine that Boehner and his people could be so ignorant of Terry’s place in the anti-choice world.  And if they were ignorant before, the fact that Terry did wacky stuff like put fetus dolls on the table during the discussion should have clued Boehner into the facts.

It’s also possible that Boehner is trying to signal that he’s hardcore when it comes to disrespecting women’s rights.  If you want to send that signal, you’re in good shape picking the worst of the worst of the anti-choice community.  But again, there are many people that are just as mean-spirited as Terry without being so hated within the larger anti-choice community.  Troy Newman, for instance, has just as much distaste for women’s rights and health as Terry, but he has a better reputation in the anti-choice world.  So that doesn’t really make sense. 

There is another possibility, and that is … Read more

An Anti-Choice Wishlist for the New Congress

10:39 am in Government, Health care, Legislature by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The anti-choice movement spent a great deal of time and money in campaigning for Republican candidates that would flip the leadership of the House from Democrat to Republican control in 2011.  Focusing primarily on the weakest candidates, anti-abortion Democrats running in conservative districts, groups like National Right to Life and the Susan B. Anthony list managed to create a new army of Republicans who owe their seats to the funding and backing of anti-choice activists.

Now those activists want their payback.

Via Lifenews, the anti-choice Republican groups have created a wishlist of the “top priorities” for congress once the new members are sworn in.  For the most part, the list is unsurprising — it is legislation that they have been pushing for nationally for years, and advocating for and often passing on a state by state basis.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Election Aftermath: How Did the SBA List Do?

6:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commmentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The election is over and the analysis begins, and the first thing to do is evaluate how various action groups did when it comes to their proclaimed electoral wins and losses.  First on the deck is the anti-choice action group the Susan B. Anthony List.

Much news media coverage had tried to paint the group as a conservative counterpart to EMILY’S List, despite the fact that seeing women succeed in elections was almost an afterthought to their campaigning.  Now, the election results are in and we can see where their priorities really were.

According to the group’s scorecard, of the 90 races they weighed in on, their candidates won 60 and lost 18.  But once you begin to look at their numbers you see that a majority of their wins are either status quo or putting men in seats that previously held women.

The group endorsed in four senate races: Nevada, New Hampshire, California and Delaware, with New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte being their only win.   All four of their endorsed candidates for governor won, as well as both lieutenant governors and their sole secretary of state candidate. They had split results on Attorney General, winning Florida but losing Iowa, despite the fact that Iowa elected an anti-choice governor and rejected the three judges who voted to allow gay marriage in the state. Read more