Tag Archives: planned-parenthood

Congress Just Got a Lot Closer to Defunding Planned Parenthood

Mother Jones

On Thursday afternoon, the House voted to approve a resolution that is widely seen by advocates as a step towards defunding Planned Parenthood. Should it become law, the measure would weaken contraceptive access across the country.

The bill, HJ Resolution 43, allows states to withhold Title X family planning funds—about $300 million distributed to states annually—from providers who also offer abortion care, a group that includes Planned Parenthood affiliates. In December, Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule that anticipated this sort of effort by prohibiting states from withholding Title X family planning money from Planned Parenthood and other providers. This House resolution proposed overturning that HHS rule via the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to repeal new regulations within 60 days of their passage. A version of this bill is also moving through the Senate.

At a House committee hearing earlier this week, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) called this bill “the most serious threat women have faced so far this Congress.” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) called this the Republicans’ “first salvo” in defunding Planned Parenthood.

This development comes on the heels of several actions by the Trump administration and Congress that threaten women’s health care. They include Congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s mandate requiring insurance coverage for contraception; the approval by the House of a bill to codify the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal funds for most abortions; and Trump’s expansion of the global gag order, which prohibits health providers overseas from receiving any US funding if they so much as mention abortion as an option for patients.

In the last Congress, a broader bill to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood passed both chambers, but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama. In contrast, Trump’s campaign said often that defunding Planned Parenthood would be a top priority for his administration.

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Congress Just Got a Lot Closer to Defunding Planned Parenthood

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Pence Tells Evangelicals He’ll Help Trump Restrict Abortion Rights

Mother Jones

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GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spoke to a convention of conservative Christians Saturday, drawing loud applause for his promises that he will work with Donald Trump to restrict abortion rights and appoint right-wing justices to the Supreme Court.

“Let me be clear: People who know me well know I’m pro-life, and I don’t apologize for it,” said Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, to the largely evangelical crowd at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. “I want to live to see the day that we put the sanctity of life back at the center of American law, and we send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history, where it belongs.”

Pence’s speech provided a stark contrast to his running mate’s address at the same summit. On Friday night, Trump asked attendees for their support in November without ever mentioning abortion or marriage. The pair of speeches reinforced this political duo’s dynamic, with Pence—a lifelong anti-abortion advocate with a legislative record to prove it—once again providing a salve for religious voters skeptical of the thrice-married, formerly pro-choice Trump.

Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, introduced Pence. She opened with an anecdote about getting a call from a reporter after Trump’s selection of Pence. She told the reporter there was one thing people needed to know: On abortion, “Mike Pence has a 100 percent Concerned Women for America voting record, and a zero percent record with the National Abortion Rights Action League,” also known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group.

The audience roared with applause, and Nance lavished praised on Pence’s record both as a congressman and as Indiana Governor. “Mike was a leader in Congress before most people knew Planned Parenthood was the abortion mafia,” she said, citing the deceptively edited Center for Medical Progress videos released last summer that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue. (So far, four congressional investigations and 12 state-level investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.) Nance also lauded Pence’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, both in Congress and as Indiana’s governor. By 2014, Pence had cut Planned Parenthood’s funding nearly in half in his state, resulting in the closure of five clinics, none of which ever provided abortions.

When Pence took the podium, he sharply criticized Hillary Clinton. He cited the Benghazi investigation—a popular topic among many of the speakers. Pence also blasted Clinton’s comments at a New York fundraiser Friday night, in which she said that “half” of Trump’s supporters represented “a basket of deplorables.”

“Let me just say from the bottom of my heart: Hillary, they are not a basket of anything,” Pence said. “They are Americans and they deserve your respect.” Pence added that he hadn’t heard “that level of disdain for Americans” since 2008, when Barack Obama said that residents of Midwestern towns with high unemployment “get bitter and cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Pence went on to promise that a Trump administration would shore up the military, stand with Israel, and cut a variety of taxes. But soon, he turned back to abortion. Citing his own extensive record—including his funding for crisis pregnancy centers in Indiana and state legislation prohibiting women from obtaining an abortion because of the race, gender, or disability of the fetus—Pence outlined the Trump team’s plan for reproductive health access.

He promised to work with Congress to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection act, a bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions only for cases of rape, incest, and threats to the woman’s life. (These kinds of abortions are rare and often happen when a serious fetal disability is discovered late in pregnancy.) “We will end late-term abortions nationwide,” Pence said. The post-20-week abortion ban failed in the Senate in September 2015, but was resurrected with a hearing in March.

Pence promised to uphold the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions, and to defund Planned Parenthood. “The days of public funding for Planned Parenthood are over when the Trump-Pence administration arrives in Washington, DC,” he said.

And finally, Pence returned to Trump’s main selling point with evangelicals: the Supreme Court. “When it comes to life and our liberties,” he declared, “Donald Trump will appoint justices to the Supreme Court of the United States who will strictly construe the constitution of the United States in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”

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Pence Tells Evangelicals He’ll Help Trump Restrict Abortion Rights

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This Abortion Clinic Had to Shut Down Because It’s Expensive to Protect Against Violence

Mother Jones

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A Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin, is closing down. But not because of the state’s staunchly anti-abortion Legislature.

After two civilians and one police officer were killed at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last November, the women’s health care provider reworked its security plans for each affiliate. The Appleton clinic, which provides a range of reproductive health services beyond abortion to Wisconsin women, is unable to fulfill the new requirements. The closure of this clinic means Wisconsin is down to two Planned Parenthood clinics, 80 miles apart, that provide abortions—one in Milwaukee and one in Madison.

In 2015, anti-abortion activist David Daleiden released undercover videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials involved in selling fetal tissue—a federal crime. This led to a string of 12 state and four congressional investigations, but none revealed any evidence of wrongdoing by the provider. The videos did reinvigorate the anti-abortion movement, and threats of violence against abortion providers surged, culminating in the Colorado Springs clinic shooting.

For local affiliates, this has meant providing more security and, as Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Chief Operating Officer Chris Williams told the Capitol Times, the Appleton facility was unable to meet the “more stringent and scrutinized approach.” The Appleton clinic has experienced violence in the past. In 2012, anti-abortion activist Francis Grady threw a homemade explosive device through a window and damaged a small exam room. The facility was closed when the incident occurred, so no one was injured, and it reopened less than a week later.

The biggest concern was the state of the clinic building, Williams told the Capitol Times, and retrofitting it to make it secure would have cost nearly $300,000. He did not specify what precisely needed to be done. The clinic performed about 600 abortions per year, according to Williams. Collectively, the Madison and Milwaukee Planned Parenthoods provide about 3,400 abortions annually.

It’s no secret that Wisconsin has a history of passing stringent anti-abortion restrictions, and its governor, Scott Walker, has been quoted saying that choosing the life of a pregnant women or her fetus is a “false choice.” Planned Parenthood is currently suing the state for $1.8 million to reimburse the legal costs of fighting restrictions such as those from Texas that were recently struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

The closure means women will now have to drive 200 or 300 miles to one of the other Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinics, or go as far as Chicago or Minneapolis. Another option would be in Marquette, Michigan, where a single Planned Parenthood-affiliated physician provides abortions, but the scheduling is infrequent and can be unpredictable.

“While this decision is extremely disappointing and difficult to make, we believe our staff and patients deserve the best health care environment,” said Teri Huyuck, CEO of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, in a statement. “We remain committed to finding other opportunities to enhance abortion access. We also call on elected officials and community leaders to create a dialogue that prioritizes women’s health and stop the hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers that breed acts of violence.”

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This Abortion Clinic Had to Shut Down Because It’s Expensive to Protect Against Violence

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Planned Parenthood Sting Videographer Cleared of Felony Charge

Mother Jones

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On Tuesday morning, Texas prosecutors dismissed the felony charge against David Daleiden, the founder of the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, one of his associates, related to their work last year in creating sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood. They were facing charges of tampering with a government record over allegations that they had made and used fake drivers’ licenses to facilitate their meetings with Planned Parenthood staffers.

Under Daleiden’s leadership, the CMP last summer released a series of secretly-recorded, deceptively-edited videos which purported to show Planned Parenthood staffers negotiating the sale of fetal tissue, a practice which is illegal. Since then, 12 state-level and 4 congressional investigations have found no such wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Despite these exonerations, the video series continued to reverberate, spawning state and federal efforts to defund the women’s health provider.

The charges dismissed today were issued in January by the Harris County District Attorney’s office. After the CMP videos, the office had assembled a grand jury to investigate Planned Parenthood but after an extensive investigation that spanned more than two months, the group cleared the women’s health provider and chose to indict Daleiden and Merritt instead. The grand jury also charged the pair with a class A misdemeanor: offering to buy human organs, namely fetal tissue. The pair was cleared of this charge in June.

After Tuesday morning’s dismissal, Daleiden touted the victory on Twitter:

But Daleiden’s legal troubles aren’t over yet. A lawsuit filed last summer against CMP by the National Abortion Federation is ongoing, as is a suit filed by Planned Parenthood in California in January, accusing the CMP of racketeering, illegally creating and using fake driver’s licenses, and invading the privacy of, and illegally recording, Planned Parenthood officials and staff.

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Planned Parenthood Sting Videographer Cleared of Felony Charge

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Abortion Rates Are Falling, But Conservatives Won’t Like the Reason Why

Mother Jones

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The abortion rate is declining, but that has nothing to do with the sharp increase in anti-abortion legislation over the past decade. Instead, you can give credit to effective contraception, according to a new study.

From 2008 to 2011, the abortion rate dropped 13 percent, but it did so at a similar pace as the overall decline in the national birth rate, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank that regularly releases data on sexual and reproductive health. A new study by Guttmacher, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, states that unplanned pregnancies are occurring less frequently, but the percentage of unplanned pregnancies that end in abortion remains statistically the same. In 2008, for example, 40 percent of unplanned pregnancies ended in abortion, and in 2011, 42 percent did. But, the overall rate of unintended pregnancies dropped 18 percent between 2008 and 2011—its lowest in 30 years, according to Guttmacher.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

The study’s authors point out that the use of long-acting reversible contraception (or LARCs) such as IUDs or implants more than tripled between 2007 and 2012. Considered by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists as the most reliable and effective form of birth control, the use of LARCs contributed to the declining unintended pregnancy rate. But poor women and women of color are still disproportionately affected; while rates are falling everywhere, they are falling less for these women, most likely because LARCs are more difficult to obtain in these communities. A different study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that rates of unintended pregnancy for poor women were two to three times the national average. IUDs are very effective, but they can be costly—according to Planned Parenthood’s website, it’s possible to pay up to $1,000 for one that lasts 12 years.

A New England Journal of Medicine study last month found that when Texas eliminated Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid public family planning program for low-income women, fewer claims were filed for contraception, and more low-income women in Texas ultimately gave birth. A number of restrictions on abortion in Texas have already shut down more than half of the state’s 42 clinics and could close 8 more.

“Supporting and expanding women’s access to family planning services not only protects their health and rights; it also reduces abortion rates,” says Joerg Dreweke, a researcher at Guttmacher and the author of the study. “The clear implication for policymakers who wish to see fewer abortions occur is to focus on making contraceptive care more available by increasing funding and stopping attacks on all family planning providers.”

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Abortion Rates Are Falling, But Conservatives Won’t Like the Reason Why

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