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Scouting a New Path: Girl Scouts of America Creates Inclusive Gender Policy

1:53 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

A few months ago, the Girl Scouts of America (GSUSA) found themselves in the midst of a unique controversy. A Denver, Colorado troop initially refused to let 7-year-old Bobby Montoya join. Montoya, who identifies as female, was denied entry to the troop when Felisha Archuleta, Bobby’s mother, first approached them. After protests from Archuleta, and some media coverage, the Colorado Girl Scouts of America ended up welcoming Bobby into the scouts, and released a statement through GLAAD, clarifying the organizations policy:

“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. [...] If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

However, not everyone associated with the scouts agreed with this message of inclusivity. Just last month, three troops in Louisiana have disbanded over this policy when their troop leaders resigned from their positions. One of the former troop leaders, Susan Bryant-Snure, claimed that the message from the GSUSA is “extremely confusing,” and that it “goes against what we (Northlake Christian School) believe.”

In addition to disbanding some troops, thereby not allowing any girl in these area the opportunity to join the scouts, some parents are calling on a cookie boycott to protest the GSUSA’s inclusion of transgender girls into their organization. With a video quickly going viral, a 14-year-old girl, identified as Taylor from California, speaks on behalf of the group, Honest Girl Scouts, and is calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies.

Not only is this video filled with an inaccurate description of transgender, but it does not seem to be espousing any of the Girl Scout values that I learned as a young scout. Compassion, diversity, education, and tolerance were all values that I, and my fellow troop members, held dear. In fact, part of the Girl Scout mission includes the following, “Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect.”

To call for a boycott of cookies based on a decision to become more inclusive on the part of the GSUSA seems to go against everything the organization actually stands for.

I spoke with Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book that takes a look at modern girlhood. Orenstein weighed in on the current Girl Scout issue.

“If you start regulating what is a “girl” and what it is not, you quickly devolve into something really ugly. Think about the controversy over Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose sex was called into question because she was “too fast” for a girl. That was shameful. But what’s next? Should a girl born with no uterus be barred from Scouting? What about one with no ovaries? Should we test chromosomes to make sure there are no girls with Turner’s syndrome (meaning they have only one X chromosome)? What about girls who are chromosomally male but appear (and identify as) totally female because they don’t respond to their male hormones? Obviously, this particular issue affects few girls; the radical Right is using it to create a sex panic, to further its own agenda of intolerance and homophobia. By picking on little girls with cookies. That is so sad.”

For the most part, the video has ended up having the opposite affect. Instead of encouraging people to participate in the boycott, it has actually spurred many more folks to support the GSUSA by buying more cookies this year. Crystal Harvey, mother of two young girls from Massachusetts, shares her reaction to the video, “I honestly feel really sorry for that girl, that she’s been raised so bigoted and small minded. But on the other hand, I now have a really good reason to buy their cookies!!”

I know for a fact that I, too, will be doubling my order of Thin Mints this year in support of a national organization that welcomes, supports, and empowers all girls.

PersonhoodUSA’s Radical, Fetal-Separatist Agenda

6:57 am in Government, Health care, Legislature, State Government by RH Reality Check

Written by Lynn Paltrow for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Next week, people in Colorado will be voting on Amendment 62, a ballot measure sponsored by PersonhoodUSA. This organization seeks to establish the “pre-born,” including eggs, embryos and fetuses as separate “legal persons with protection under the law.”

This organization claims that its goal is to end the “injustice of abortion.” In fact they are promoting a Fetal Separatist movement, one that is trying to legally separate pregnant women and the fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses inside of them. Their efforts are dangerous to all pregnant women including those who go to term, those who expect confidential medical care, and those who want to preserve their right to life and liberty.

The argument that eggs and fetuses may be treated as if they are legally independent of the women who carry them has been used to deprive pregnant women of their status as full constitutional persons.  Angela Carder was forced to have cesarean surgery to advance the rights of the fetus inside of her. Shortly after the surgery both the baby and Ms. Carder died. Ms. Carder was deprived of her right to life. Recently, a pregnant woman was kept prisoner in a Florida hospital because doctors believed that doing so would advance the rights and health of the fetus. She nevertheless suffered a stillbirth. Ms. Burton was deprived of her right to liberty. Although courts in both cases eventually held that these deprivations of life and liberty were wrong, adopting fetal separatist measures would allow outsiders to take similar actions whenever they disagreed with the pregnant woman.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Citizens United: An Unprecedented Threat to Reproductive and Sexual Justice

7:30 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

What’s the connection between the personhood of a fertilized egg and the personhood of corporations?

Both can and will undermine the fundamental rights of women.

On January 21st of this year, perhaps in some cosmically ironic sense a day before the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court handed down a decision on the Citizens United case.

In the 5 to 4 opinion, the Court held that:

Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, including ads, especially where these ads were not broadcast.

Corporations can take money, funnel money, and use money to their political advantage in campaigns for U.S. elected offices and…they do not have to disclose a dime.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Personhood Amendment Would Ban In-Vitro Fertilization. Physicians, Families Speak Out

8:30 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

One in eight couples uses in-vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproductive technology to have children, notes Dr. Ruben Alvero in a Denver Daily News article today.

Yet Colorado voters are being asked to pass the so-called "Personhood Amendment", Amendment 62, which could essentially block couples seeking to have children from utilizing in-vitro fertilization.

Yesterday, physicians and families – especially those who have been helped immensely by the use of in-vitro fertilization, spoke up about the dangers of Amendment 62.

Jim Burness, the father of a 27-month-old daughter who was conceived through in-vitro fertilization, also shared his story.

“Right after our wedding, my father-in-law and my mother both passed away,” Burness said. “As a result, my wife and I had a strong desire to have a child that would have a biological link to those we lost. In this day and age, I am astounded how any group can think they have a right to dictate whether my daughter can have a biological sibling.”

Backers of the initiative have filed a lawsuit to change the language in the state voter’s guide (the "Blue Book") as they believe the current wording shares misinformation about the impact of the measure. As Wendy Norris and others have covered extensively on RH Reality Check, the Personhood Amendment seeks to imbue fertilized eggs with the full legal rights of citizens. Theresa Erickson, writing on The American Fertility Association’s web site, notes

"…the groups backing the amendment are attempting to stop all abortions while effectively banning abortions for victims of rape and incest, banning abortions to save the life of the woman, banning certain forms of birth control (such as IUDs, which inhibit the implantation of an embryo), and banning in-vitro fertilization and other forms of medical research.  Furthermore, in its current form this amendment would effectively restrict a woman and her doctor the ability to obtain and provide proper medical care – instead, it could potentially criminalize the actions of the doctor and his or her patient."

So, it’s odd, isn’t it, that anti-choice blogger and speaker, Jill Stanek, decries the wonders of in-vitro fertlization on her blog today? Stanek blogs about the story of Grace and Luke "frozen when they were 8 cell embryos" and adopted by a Christian couple who "had gestated and given birth to their other embryos" (huh?).

But how were the "8 cell embryos" created in the first place?  Through in-vitro fertilization.

Though Stanek claims that the couple who "adopted" the embryos were using discarded embryos and so, presumably, were doing their good deed by saving them, it’s worthwhile to note that the couple in California who were receiving fertility help, initially, would never have been able to conceive without the help of this assisted reproductive technology.

Amendment 62 would take that option away from couples in Colorado.

“Amendment 62 would deny those couples a medical solution to their infertility and a vital option by which to build their families,” Alvero said.

Stanek also notes that pro-lifers are opposed to destruction of embryos for scientific purposes on the basis that they are "unique, innocent human beings" yet physicians at yesterday’s rally warned that signficant stem cell research on Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and other conditions would certainly be halted if Amendment 62 passes. Many in the anti-choice community also are opposed to Personhood amendments as they are simply too extreme. Robin Marty notes just how blatantly bizarre and offensive Amendment 62′s arguments have become.

Ob/Gyn, Dr. Andrew Ross, told a heart-wrenching story at the rally yesterday of his wife’s miscarriage and the potential for her "uterus to become a crime scene" under Amendment 62; not far-fetched, as we’ve seen this happen in Mexico and El Salvador.

A hearing on the Personhood Amendment’s Blue Book language is scheduled for this Thursday morning in Denver.

Report: States Pass Staggering Array of Anti-Choice Laws, Policies and Ballot Measures

6:43 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amie Newman for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Live in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona, Missouri or Louisiana? The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) wants you to know that, with the implementation of health care reform in 2014, you will not have access to abortion coverage in your state’s health exchanges. These states have enacted insurance bans on abortion coverage. Five other states considered the bans and the CRR expects more to do so in 2011. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The 2010 state legislative session has seen legislation forcing women to undergo "biased counseling" (and compelling health care providers to provide said counseling) which may contain medically inaccurate and misleading information, as well as mandatory ultrasound requirements. Some states have pushed anti-provider bills which seek to bar physicians who provide abortion care from a state’s malpractice compensation fund, and bills which force women to return at least twice to a provider before being deemed acceptable to have a legal abortion. States have sought to define zygotes and fertilized eggs as people; and punish women by barring any insurance coverage for abortion – even if the woman became pregnant as a result of rape.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) recently released its summary on the "major trends in anti-abortion legislation that emerged this year and of the onerous abortion restrictions enacted," according to a statement from the organization.  "A First Look Back at the 2010 State Legislative Session," (PDF) details alarming trends among the states to severely restrict access to legal abortion care.

Of particular consequence this past year has been the Nelson Amendment to the health care reform bill, which is responsible for the ban on abortion coverage in the health exchanges. As mentioned above, in response to the provision, five states have already passed similar state bans with more expected. CRR notes that anti-choice proponents’ argument over abortion access in federal health care reform efforts focused on outright false information about the importance of abortion access, as health care, for women in this country.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Fetuses as Slaves? I Don’t Think So

5:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Pamela Merritt for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Recently, The Denver Daily News ran a story with the headline Are Fetuses Like Slaves?  The article covered Personhood Colorado’s announcement of their ballot initiative campaign strategy, which includes comparing fetuses to slaves. Colorado’s “personhood” ballot measure proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would apply the term ‘person’ as used in those provisions of the Colorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.  Personhood Colorado held a news conference to reveal their campaign strategy where they played their radio ad featuring the voice of an actor playing a slave speaking in support of the proposed “personhood” amendment.

In the radio spot, the fictional slave George Stevens says,

 “I’m George Stevens and I’m a person. I was held as property as a child. Even before my birth I was called a slave in an America you wouldn’t recognize. But folks like you helped me escape North to freedom and in 1864, I joined the infantry to fight for my country. I fought so all slaves would be recognized as persons, not property. And we won.

But today in Colorado, there are still people called property – children – just like I was. And that America you thought you wouldn’t recognize is all around you and these children are being killed.  This November, vote "yes" on Amendment 62. Amendment 62 declares unborn children persons, not property. And that’s the America I fought for. So visit PersonhoodColorado.com and in November, vote "yes" on 62. It’s the right thing to do.”

This move by Personhood Colorado continues the anti-choice tactic du jour of co-opting Black American history in an attempt to make a case against women’s reproductive rights.  From a “documentary” that declares that the most dangerous place for a Black baby is in a Black woman’s womb to the recent anti-choice “Freedom Rides” that traced the route of the famed Civil Rights Freedom Rides of the early 1960’s, those opposed to reproductive justice are attempting to re-writing Black history to serve their cause.

It would be easy to dismiss this call for fetal emancipation.  The radio ad itself is laughable and it fails to explain Amendment 62 to an electorate that already rejected fetal “personhood” in 2008.  However, this tactic of co-opting Black American history to attack reproductive rights cannot go unanswered even when the execution is flawed. 

When organizations opposed to reproductive rights promote a “documentary” that makes the charge that the most dangerous place for a Black baby is in a Black woman’s womb, they are attacking Black women’s capacity to parent and make health care decisions.  Under the guise of protecting life, these groups are making a full frontal attack that promotes the dangerous lie that Black women are unfit, uncaring and selfish. 

When anti-choice groups mount “Freedom Rides” to promote their anti-choice message, they are attempting to rewrite one of the most important moments in Civil Rights history.  In the early 1960’s, activists risked their lives to test whether interstate buses were desegregated as required by law.  Those activists traveled on Freedom Rides because rights without access are rights in name only, a point that these anti-choice groups conveniently ignore as they travel the same route trying to gather support for the denial of access to reproductive health care.

Now there is an attempt to define a fetus as a slave, which begs the question – who is the master?  Who would Amendment 62 emancipate fetal slaves from?  That’s right – women.  In the world of fetal “personhood” women are slave masters and our reproductive rights hold the fetus in bondage.  That is the latest false claim currently floating out in the atmosphere, sent forth through the voice of a fictional slave in a radio ad.  The reality is that Amendment 62 will not bring about fetal emancipation – this so-called “personhood” initiative would grant the government complete control over women’s bodies. 

Amendment 62 isn’t the second coming of The Emancipation Proclamation.  Rather, this amendment would make government the master and women slaves.  That’s what my ancestors and so many other Americans fought against.

Repro-Briefs: Graphic Billboards, Defunding Services, and Other State News

9:42 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

When it comes to creepy, offensive anti-choice billboards, Texas has decided to one up Georgia. Midland Catholics for Life has taken Radiance’s "abortion is genocide" message even further, adding in some graphic images and even more overwrought rhetoric to its display.

Via CBS 7:

A graphic downtown billboard is turning heads and raising questions in Midland.

Some who have spoken out against the public display considers the billboard’s depiction of a dead baby inappropriate.

Located at the corner of Texas Avenue and Ft. Worth St., right across the street from Planned Parenthood’s Midland Office, the billboard shows what appears to be a dead baby in a doctor’s hand on the left side.

On the right side it shows what looks like a woman in emotional distress. Above the left side it reads “one dead” and above the right side it reads “one injured.”

On the right side near the woman it reads, “One wounded.”

The two-sided billboard also has a message on the back.

That side says, “Abortion is genocide” and is accompanied by two photos.

The left side depicts what is presumably a healthy baby and the right side shows what looks like a baby that is not alive.

The purpose of the graphic photos, which only recently went live, is to "expose the atrocities that are occurring in Planned Parenthood every week," according to the president of the group. The pictures used are originally from anti-choice group The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (note, links go to graphic photos), and allegedly depicts an aborted 13 week fetus (11 weeks post fertilization) and 26 week fetus (24 weeks post fertilization), even though 90 percent of all abortions performed are done prior to 12 weeks, and the majority of these before 10 weeks.

The Midland anti-choice group asserts that subjecting the public, even possibly children, to bloody fetus photos, is the only way to make women understand the choice they are making. Planned Parenthood clinic staff disagree. From MyWestTexas.com:

Those who oppose abortion, [president of Midland Catholics for Life Pebbles] Kincheloe said, don’t like seeing images of bloody developing babies either. But, she added, as a group they agreed that’s what it was going to take to "open our eyes to Planned Parenthood being in our backyard."

She said those who support a woman’s right to choose an abortion often call the fetus "a blob of tissue" and that their sign is meant to show women the developing baby is a human who they believe God intended to be born.

The backside of the billboard also displays a baby and says "Abortion is genocide," which supporter Danny O’Grady said represents all the families they believe are being killed.

[Carla] Holeva and Planned Parenthood Choice say particularly for children in the area, they think the images are too graphic. They also question why the group acts as if it knows God’s will for area women.

Women who are clients at Planned Parenthood, Holeva said, are presented with all of the options and the organization assists thousands in carrying out their pregnancies to birth as well as connecting several with adoption agencies.

But, she said, they make it a point not to make the decision about what’s best for their clients and they wish others would provide them the same courtesy instead of posting signs and yelling things like "God will not forgive you" at those who come into the clinic.

Both groups do state however, that more needs to be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. It comes as little surprise that the Midland Catholics for Life approach, however, is a "Just Say No To Sex" push, that they believe should not include any safer sex or contraception education.

In fact, contraception, safer-sex education, and general reproductive health access are fairly low on the list of priorities for the anti-choice in Texas, who are still working to see if they can convince the Attorney General to strip funding from state Planned Parenthood organizations — even those that don’t provide abortion services. And more voices are starting to join into the fray, as News8Austin reports:

Planned Parenthood clinics provide family planning services, such as screening for breast and cervical cancer, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and prescribing birth control to women. Some Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas also perform abortions.

But the Austin area clinic’s spokesperson said clinics under the state’s Women’s Health Program strictly provide family planning services.

"If Planned Parenthood isn’t able to participate in the Women’s Health Program, it basically means that there are tens of thousands of women across the state that probably aren’t going to get that health care," Sarah Wheat, with Planned Parenthood, said.

Anti-abortion advocates like Joe Pojman, with Texas Alliance for Life, say that’s not the case. Pojman backed up Sen. Deuell’s request to the attorney general to clear up any confusion about the 2005 law that states participating clinics can’t "perform or promote elective abortions" or be "affiliates of entities that perform or promote elective abortions."

"Women and families will get excellent treatment by the other, more than 400 family planning providers across the state of Texas that do not run abortion facilities or are affiliated with abortion facilities," Pojman said.

A recent Health and Human Services Commission study shows that the Women’s Health Program prevented more than 10,000 unplanned pregnancies in 2008 and saved the state about $40 million a year.

The Senator claims he’s simply trying to get the money to clinics that provide "comprehensive care," something he asserts Planned Parenthood clinics do not do. It is unclear what he thinks is more comprehensive than providing cancer screenings, birth control, gynecological exams and testing and treatments for STIs.

But of course Texas isn’t the only state in which anti-choice legislators are on a crusade to defund Planned Parenthood. A State Senator in Indiana is claiming he will reintroduce a bill next legislative session that will require the state not enter into any contracts or grants with the group. It would also cancel any current funding the group receives from the state. State Senator Greg Walker (R-Columbus) also introduced the same bill this legislative session, but it was never brought up for a vote.

In Colorado, the battle over "personhood" continues, this time with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists weighing in. In a publicly released statement, ACOG stated unequivocally that the language being used to define "person" is both scientifically inaccurate and would greatly jeopardize a doctor’s ability to provide health care to a patient. From the press release:

1. The phrase “the beginning of biologic development” is not a scientific or medical reference point in the process of human reproduction. Developmental Biology is a scientific field that studies the mechanisms of development, differentiation, and growth in animals and plants at the molecular, cellular, and genetic levels. Developmental biology includes the study of embryology and the complex factors involved in human reproduction which leads to the birth of a human being. “The beginning of biologic development” has no specific meaning in the context of human embryology and could even refer to the growth of specific human cell lines, for example, in the study of human transplant possibilities and the cure for diseases such as diabetes and spinal cord injuries.

2. Human reproduction (briefly described as the development of egg and sperm, their union into a fertilized egg (or zygote), then division of the embryo and differentiation into a blastocyst, implantation into the uterine wall, and then growth into a fetus, and then viable newborn) is an intricate and inefficient process. The overwhelming majority of potential egg-sperm unions do not result in human beings.

3. Current medical and scientific practice/procedures that involve the term “person” as defined by Amendment 62:

Treatment of Miscarriage: Miscarriages are commonly treated with medical and surgical therapies as well as supportive means; the goal is the removal of the pregnancy tissue from the uterus, which cannot, by any therapy available, produce a live born infant. There were an estimated 102,517 pregnancies in Colorado in 2006, resulting in 70,737 live births (CDPHE, Health Statistic Section) and an estimated 15,377 spontaneous miscarriages in this year alone.

Treatment of Ectopic Pregnancy: In the U.S., ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy related death in the first trimester. Once detected, an ectopic pregnancy is treated with the removal and destruction of the pregnancy either by medical or surgical means, as it cannot result in a live born infant, and yet the growing pregnancy tissue is a threat to the health and life of the mother.

Infertility treatments: Infertility affects at least 10 percent of couples who desire pregnancy; for many of them, assisted reproductive technologies are necessary. Currently 1 out of every 100 babies born in the United States are born through in vitro fertilization (CDC, 2009). This amendment would hold a patient and her physicians liable for embryos which fail to develop or do not result in a pregnancy due to completely natural biologic processes despite rendering the best possible medical care. This amendment can be seen as blocking the rights of infertile couples within the state of Colorado from having a family and will set back the standard of infertility care in this state to the level of medical care practiced in the United States before 1980. What could more antithetical to “family values” and the “right to life”?

· Treatment of Molar Pregnancy: Approximately 20 percent of patients will develop malignant sequelae requiring administration of chemotherapy after initial treatment. All molar pregnancies need to be ended as they cannot produce a live newborn and substantially threaten the mother’s health and life.

· Stem cells research: Stem cells are a unique population of unspecialized cells characterized by their ability to continuously renew themselves for long periods of time through cell division. Researchers are using stem cells to study conditions such a spinal cord injury, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. Human embryonic cells are commonly derived from unused fertilized eggs (donated with the consent of the infertile couple).

· Safe and legal abortion: Although not mentioned in the Amendment itself, the intent of Amendment 62 (from www.personhoodcolorado.com) is to provide a legal framework to make all abortions illegal. The American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists opposes unnecessary regulations that delay or limit women’s access to needed medical care and that subject physicians to criminal charges for practicing according to accepted medical standards. [v]

Finally, Louisiana is taking a page out of Oklahoma’s book when it comes to the new mandatory ultrasound law, with six clinics challenging the language of the new regulations. From Courthouse News Service:

Six medical clinics have challenged Louisiana laws on abortion, including the "Ultrasound Statute," which could force doctors to make women take home ultrasound pictures of their fetuses, even if the women resist, according to the federal complaint.
The Hope Medical Group for Women and five other clinics say the two state laws are vague, "will deter qualified, reasonable health care providers from entering the field of abortion provision," will "make it more difficult for women in Louisiana to obtain abortion services," and are "not rationally related to any legitimate state interest."
The two statutes in question are the Exclusion Statute, which, the plaintiffs say, would exclude abortion services from medical malpractice coverage, and the Ultrasound Statute.
"The plain language of the Exclusion Statute applies only to health care providers when they are performing certain illegal abortions," the complaint states. "Plaintiffs believe, however, that defendants intend to apply the Exclusion Statute to health care providers performing lawful abortions. Such application would be unconstitutionally vague. It would also deny abortion providers equal protection of the law by excluding them from access to benefits that are available to all other health care providers."
A doctor’s failure to comply with either statute could subject them to criminal and civil liability and professional discipline.

A major disagreement that the clinics are having with the ultrasound law is the mandate that they must provide a copy of the ultrasound in a sealed envelope to every woman, with no clarification as to whether the woman must accept and leave with the image. Each ultrasound picture reveals, among other things, private patient information such as name of patient and age of fetus. One major concern the clinics have is that such information, once discarded, could be used to target the women who may have had abortions.

"At Hope Medical, for example, every print reveals the woman’s name, the fact that she is pregnant, the gestational age of the fetus, and that fact that the woman obtained her ultrasound at Hope Medical, a facility publicly known to provide abortions."
The plaintiffs say that if "a woman is required to take a copy of her ultrasound print, there is a risk that it will be discovered by the woman’s partner, relatives, co-workers, or other persons to whom the woman may not wish to disclose her pregnancy or her consideration of an abortion."
The clinics say this could be dangerous, because for "women in abusive relationships, disclosure of a pregnancy or an abortion to an abusive partner is likely to spark violence."
The plaintiffs add that the "ultrasound print may also be discovered by anti-abortion extremists. For example, an ultrasound print thrown into a garbage can near a clinic might be discovered by extremists surveilling the clinic, particularly since the print will be contained in an envelope clearly stating its contents."

The lawsuit was filed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Friday, August 6th.

Resurrected CO “Egg-as-a-Person” Initiative Could Make Ballot

6:42 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Wendy Norris for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

A ballot measure seeking to give constitutional rights to fertilized eggs may rise again after supporters’ hopes were dashed last month. And if not by sheer volume of petition signatures, they’ll sue the state to advance the cause.

Anti-choice activists with Personhood Colorado turned in 46,671 petition signatures Thursday in a last gasp attempt to place the controversial initiative on the Nov. ballot.

However, questions are being raised about the validity of the current effort.

Gualberto Garcia Jones, co-sponsor of the measure, said at a street-side press conference before submitting the most recent petitions to the Colorado Secretary of State that volunteers collected more than two signatures per minute over the entire 15 day period allowed to make up the Feb. petition shortfall. If accurate, it would be an astounding effort that would have required 24-hour circulation drives to reach that level of critical mass.

The superhuman campaign was launched shortly after the Colorado Secretary of State invalidated 15,700 names on the original petition rolls as ineligible voters. State election officials will now review the second round of names. A decision on the validity of the petitions is expected in about 10 days.

The latest round of yet-to-be verified petitions tripled what the group needed to collect and could be added to the 64,000-odd signatures approved last month. If the new petitions pass muster, the personhood amendment will comfortably surpass the required benchmark of 76,047 valid voter signatures and will be placed on the ballot, short any legal challenges.

Opponents of the measure describe it as a unabashed attempt to ban abortion with far reaching consequences for fertility care, embryonic stem cell research and some forms of implantation-inhibiting contraception.

Likewise, legal experts scoff at "personhood" as a strategy for dismantling Roe v Wade protections. Abortion opponents point to the 14th Amendment as a weakness in the court’s decision — though constitutional scholars describe that as a substantial misreading of the precedents supporting the landmark Supreme Court case that unequivocally stated a fetus is not a living person until birth.

The group’s first-in-the-nation attempt in 2008 to codify zygote rights was smacked down by Colorado voters by a 73-27 landslide. The revised constitutional amendment involves only minor tweaking of the previously failed language — substituting the phrase "at the beginning of biological development" for the more politically charged term "conception."

Leslie Durgin, senior vice president for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said, "We defeated the same initiative in 2008 by a ratio of 3-to-1 and we’re prepared to defeat this amendment again."

One of the still unanswered questions is whether the latest petitions were properly prepared for submission following a July 1, 2009 rule change that requires notaries to verify the identity of the petition circulators by citing a state-issued identification card instead of personally vouching for them.

Personhood USA is threatening to sue the Secretary of State for failing to inform the group of the revised certification process.

Keith Mason, co-founder of the tax-exempt organization, said, "Thousands of valid voter signatures were discounted due to new notary requirements that notaries were not aware of." Mason said the notary handbook doesn’t mention the well-publicized 2009 law that was enacted after repeated allegations of fraud by petition circulators for misleading voters about the intent of another proposed ballot measure to rescind affirmative action.

However, the law is prominently linked at the state elections Web site under "Information for Petition Entities, Circulators and Proponents." And Secretary of State spokesman Rich Coolidge told Denver ABC television affiliate that the new rules have been printed on page 8 of the petition training guides for the last 18 months.

Mason would not confirm how many of the newly collected signatures may be subject to disqualification over the notary flap.

Colorado Maternity Care Mandate Raises Pro-choice Hackles

6:36 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Wendy Norris for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

While Congress and the White House dither on healthcare reform, state lawmakers across the country grapple with the practicalities of the uninsured, discriminatory gender rating and mandated care.

In Colorado, a seemingly feel-good bill to require insurance plans to cover maternity care and contraception is fraught with problems that could have and should have been solved by the long-delayed federal legislation.

However, in today’s highly charged political realm with spiraling state budget deficits and the lingering effects of a recession that just won’t quit, even motherhood and apple pie can’t get a unanimous vote in a crucial election year.

A reproductive healthcare mandate bill passed its first major hurdle on a largely party line 37-27 vote Tuesday in the Colorado House with some surprising defections by pro-choice lawmakers.

A peek behind the legislative sausage-making curtain exemplifies the deep political divisions being created with incremental approaches by states to fix an intractable and unsustainable national healthcare crisis.

Emilie Ailts, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, laid down a pre-vote challenge to conservative lawmakers to channel their much ballyhooed family values:

Will the anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-comprehensive sex education politicians vote their purported values, which they claim are about healthy babies and healthy families? House Bill 1021 provides a clear opportunity for these anti-choice lawmakers to enact responsible policies that can reduce the need for abortion by ensuring women have access to the prenatal care they need for healthy pregnancies.

Twenty-six of the "no" votes were cast by GOP members. None of the dozen Republican House members with longstanding anti-choice records who voted against the bill, including some who amended and approved it in committee days before, returned calls for comment. The amendments that significantly watered down the bill and specifically noted that abortion care was not covered were eventually thrown out by the House after flexing its 11-vote majority.

However, the biggest danger with the bill is the caustic stew of ideological posturing, political gamesmanship and over-promised and under-delivered healthcare reform that could leave a bitter taste in the mouths of an increasingly surly mid-term electorate.

Two unexpected opposition votes from pro-choice lawmakers are especially telling about the skittish local mood.

Concerns about insurance affordability for rural women

Rep. Ellen Roberts, a moderate Republican from rural southwest Colorado, expressed reservations about how the bill was being fast tracked through committee and ultimately voted against it.

"It’s not content specific," said Roberts explaining her pained vote against maternity care. "I’ve always been a strong supporter of women’s issues."

Roberts primary beef is the already limited options for rural communities to buy into healthcare plans. Few insurance carriers offer individual or small group plans in remote regions of the state. That’s coupled with broad public perceptions that a coverage mandate — even a widely popular one like maternity care — would increase premiums to the point of becoming unaffordable

"My constituents are contacting me seriously two to three times a week telling me ‘no more mandates’ because we are going to have to drop our insurance," said Roberts.

Those with the gold make the rules

The Durango Republican was also miffed that House Democratic leaders knuckled down and bypassed the state’s Commission on Mandated Health Benefits which provides nonpartisan cost benefit analysis to lawmakers.

"That’s the kind of information I need to make an educated vote," said Roberts acknowledging that both Republicans and Democrats alike have ignored the cumbersome committee when pushing though legislation. The 11-member commission of insurance experts, health policy advocates and consumers has been widely criticized for its slow pace in reviewing bills often introduced at a breakneck pace during the state’s three-month legislative session.

Roberts co-sponsored legislation with fellow Western Slope lawmaker Rep. Kathleen Curry, U-Gunnison, to reform the commission created by state statute in 2003 and which is set to expire in July.

They proposed handing the mandate review process to the nonpartisan Legislative Council and implementing a one-year timeout on any new state mandates while Congress sorts out its overdue national healthcare reform plan. The internal bickering over the mandate process at the state capitol became so heated that Curry, a staunch pro-choice Democrat, resigned from the party in December.

As expected, at the behest of statehouse leadership, their bill was killed in committee.

"Obviously in a political year you don’t enjoy making some of these votes because it will be used against you in the campaign cycle." said Roberts. "I can’t be guided by that. I have to try to do the right thing."

While Roberts and Curry duke it out over a seemingly obscure policy issue the state legislature risks losing two stalwart pro-choice voices. Roberts is term-limited and is seeking a Senate seat in a evenly partisan district. Meanwhile, Curry, who voted to support the maternity mandate bill, is now an unaffiliated candidate. She must petition onto the ballot to seek reelection in 2010. And she’s already drawn a conservative, anti-choice Republican challenger.

Solomon’s choice for a pro-choice Dem

The decision to vote against the mandate was also a difficult one for Rep. Jim Riesberg, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

"Primarily, I’m in support of what this bill is trying to do," explained Riesberg, a pro-choice Democrat from rural Greeley. "But what I’m more concerned about is the 700,000 people in Colorado who have no insurance whatsoever, many of whom are women."

Riesberg claims 85 percent of insured Colorado women already have access to maternity care in their policies. Yet, on the flipside, he said he would have supported a bill to solely mandate coverage of contraceptive care since that’s less likely to be covered by insurance than childbirth expenses.

"I’m very concerned that an insurance company would pay for a pregnancy but wouldn’t to tie a woman’s tubes," he said elaborating on his vote conundrum. "I mean that doesn’t make sense to me. I just hate to expand coverage for those who have something instead of expanding coverage for those who have nothing."

Riesberg also confirmed that the maternity care mandate will effect a very small number of women because many health insurance plans are not subject to Colorado law. About half of insured Coloradans have policies regulated by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), such as self-funded employer insurance plan and publicly-funded programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and federal employee benefits.

Even the Colorado Division of Insurance can’t pinpoint the precise number of women with private insurance policies the mandate could potentially benefit. But both Roberts and Riesberg echoed the same concern: it’s likely that few women could afford to maintain their coverage with reproductive health mandates since premiums for individual plans are already skyrocketing with annual double-digit increases.

Despite Roberts and Riesberg’s concerns, the bill now moves to the Democratically-controlled Colorado Senate where the upper chamber co-sponsor predicts easy passage.

Senate sponsor vows to fight

"It’s a good strong health care bill for families that buy individual policies," remarked Sen. Joyce Foster. "For me, it’s my most important bill this session. This bill is long overdue."

Foster’s co-sponsor is Sen. Betty Boyd, a veteran lawmaker with a strong history of passing pro-choice, pro-family bills through the contentious chamber.

Foster is undaunted by the prospects of going up against a fierce ultra-conservative bloc of Republican senators whose anti-choice antics are legendary. Colorado Springs Sen. Dave Schultheis last year said the HIV testing of pregnant women encourages sexual promiscuity. Not to be outdone, a week later, Sens. Larry Liston and Kevin Lundberg raised the old, tired canard that oral contraception is just a fancy word for abortion.

"Bring ‘em on," she taunted.

Radical Anti-choice Group Rocked by Founder Resignations

6:31 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Wendy Norris for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Lost in the chaos of the U.S. House vote on health care reform and the machinations of Rep. Bart Stupak was an unexpected and unreported schism in the hard core anti-choice movement fueling the state "personhood" ballot drives.

A Nov. 15 letter that only surfaced this week reveals the stormy resignation of the founders of American Right to Life Action, a Denver-based political organization created after a high profile catfight with national anti-choice groups and James Dobson of Focus on the Family. In the correspondence addressed to its former ally Colorado Right to Life, the two leaders cryptically refer to an "incident involving a key person in the Personhood movement" among other unspecified reasons for their immediate departure from the group.

The sudden split by President Brian Rohrbough and Vice President Steve Curtis caps off a series of controversial antics at the tax-exempt nonprofit ARTLA. In its brief two year tenure the group sought to end abortion within an unexplained 12 year timeline, "challenge the ‘wicked courts’ and oppose ‘child-killing regulations’" through state ballot measures, like promoting constitutional rights for fertilized eggs.

The group’s first salvo was launched after national anti-choice activists praised the Apr. 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding restrictions on late-term abortion. Rohrbough, then president of Colorado Right to Life, lead a public relations assault with a veritable Who’s Who of the absolutist anti-choice faction who seek nothing less than an unequivocal ban on abortion, contraception and assisted fertility care.

Several weeks later, ARTLA published "An Open Letter to James Dobson" as full page newspapers ads condemning the incrementalist approach of the national groups who favor stacking Congress and the courts with reproductive choice foes to further restrict abortion services. But they reserved a special brand of vitriol for Dobson, whom the ads attacked as a "moral relativist" — a particularly nasty "your mother wears Army boots" insult in evangelical Christian circles.

Curtis signed the letter along with Operation Save America director Flip Benham, Human Life International president Rev. Tom Euteneuer and Judie Brown, president of American Life League. Denver Bible Church pastor Bob Enyart, who refers to himself as "America’s most popular self-proclaimed right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice radio talk show host" also joined in.

The reaction to the ads was swift. National Right to Life immediately delisted its Colorado affiliate.

Rohrbough, a sympathetic figure in Colorado after his son, Danny, was tragically killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, set about with Curtis, the former chair of the state Republican Party, and Enyart to challenge the street cred of the national anti-choice establishment by founding ARTLA in Nov. 2007 with the blessing of its ad partners.

The group feverishly attacked its former allies while promoting the "Abortion Vigilante Worksheet," a logically-convoluted justification for the so-called necessity defense infused with dark, violent Bible quotes.

And they wasted no time mixing it up on the presidential campaign trail to make their point. In Feb. 2008, ARTLA produced an email attack campaign and a series of television ads slamming Republican presidential primary candidate and Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney for his alleged flip flops on reproductive rights.

The group claimed credit for derailing Romney’s bid and then quickly upped the ante with increasingly more bold attacks on conservative Republicans they considered movement weaklings. Several month later in Sept. 2008, Enyart, his brother and a local anti-choice activist acting on behalf of the organization were arrested, fined and later jailed for staging a sit-in at Focus on the Family to protest Dobson’s endorsement of GOP presidential nominee John McCain, whom the trio also criticized for not being sufficiently anti-abortion.

In the meantime, ARTLA’s cause de jour — Amendment 48, the 2008 Colorado personhood ballot measure — was going down in flames and was eventually defeated in a 73-27 landslide.

Prior to the May 2009 sentencing for trespassing at Focus, the bombastic Enyart spurred fellow ultra-conservative Christian radio hosts to ambush acid-tongued conservative pundit Ann Coulter over her support of Romney. Said Rohrbough in a statement that accompanied ARTLA’s video of Coulter’s on-air freak outs:

Ann Coulter has misrepresented and even defended some of the most egregious and immoral behavior. When Ann covers up aggressively anti-marriage action, and pro-abortion legislation that actually funds the killing of unborn children, she apparently is motivated by a desire to distort the truth and deceive Christians for some personal gain.

So it all comes as more than a bit curious that Rohrbough and Curtis’ letter alludes to "the confusion of purpose that currently surrounds CRTL, Personhood CO and Personhood USA." All three groups are actively involved in a renewed but quixotic scheme to outlaw abortion, contraception, stem cell research and in-vitro fertilization in one fell swoop by awarding zygotes civil right protections via state constitutional amendments.

In a biting comment left at Jill Stanek’s blog about the dismantling of ARTLA’s leadership, Personhood Colorado director Gualberto Garcia Jones called Rohrbough and Curtis "irrelevant to our efforts."

Stanek attributes the falling out to Prolife Profiles, a Web site promising a rogues’ gallery of conservative icons ranked by their public commitment to promoting "personhood" laws. The site officially launched the day following Rohrbough and Curtis’ joint resignation letter. It attacks conservative heros Sarah Palin, Romney and others as anti-abortion hypocrites while holding up the Dobson ad signatories — including Rohrbough himself — as saintly paragons of the cause.

However, that would suggest a fairly drastic change of heart for Rohrbaugh and Curtis who were actively involved in and publicly crowing about ARTLA’s attacks on Romney, McCain and Coulter just two years ago.

One possible explanation for the rift is the letter’s mention about "recent press articles" — a reference to Garcia Jones’ penchant for spilling the beans about the true purpose of the personhood amendments. An Oct. 31 World Net Daily article extensively quoted the ex-American Life League legal analyst, who does not appear to be licensed to practice law in Colorado, about using the state measures to force a challenge to Roe v Wade in the courts.

That’s diametrically opposite the 2008 Colorado campaign, with which ARTLA was quite active, that religiously stuck to a strict set of talking points that avoided mentioning abortion or contraception bans. When an early spokesman dared to raise the specter of a Supreme Court case he was quickly hustled out of the campaign never to be heard from again.

It’s also just as plausible that ARTLA hasn’t quite become the cash cow and national force once envisioned by Rohrbough and Curtis, who jointly operate a nonprofit firm specializing in sinister anti-choice videos.

ARTLA has since missed three consecutive financial reporting periods this year though it contacted the IRS in Sept. to change its official name to "AMERICAN RIGHTS [sic] TO LIFE ACTION" a month after an RH Reality Check investigation into the finances of anti-abortion groups behind the personhood movement. It’s a fairly common political campaign trick to use misspellings and all capital letters to thwart efforts at tracking records in case- and keyword-sensitive search engines.

Aside the record-keeping shenanigans and dramatic resignation of its founders, the situation doesn’t look so rosy for the group.

In the last quarterly filing posted on March 18, 2009 reflecting the post-election period thru Dec. 31, 2008: ARTLA reported a mere $80 in receipts and a $2,000 expenditure. The big outlay? It was the second of two loan re-payments totaling $9,000 to a suburban Denver woman, who coincidentally happens to be an office worker employed by none other than Rev. Bob Enyart.