Tag Archives: reproductive rights

Trump Offers to Let Planned Parenthood Keep Its Funding—If It Stops Performing Abortions

Mother Jones

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The Trump administration has reportedly tried to cut a deal with Planned Parenthood: You can keep your federal funding—maybe even increase it—if you stop providing abortions.

The informal proposal was revealed Monday by the New York Times.

Not surprisingly, the White House offer was a non-starter. Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens told the Times that the women’s health care organization rejected the idea out of hand. “Offering money to Planned Parenthood to abandon our patients and our values is not a deal that we will ever accept,” she said.

Currently, several proposals to defund Planned Parenthood are moving through Congress. One was approved by the House, another was introduced in the Senate, and a third cropped up in a draft of the proposed bill to repeal Obamacare. The measures would make Planned Parenthood and any other clinic that offers abortions “prohibited entities” for the use of Medicaid. This means that low-income patients with Medicaid coverage would be barred from using their federally funded benefits at Planned Parenthood—even to obtain non-abortion health care, such as pap smears, cervical cancer screenings, STI testing, and contraception. It is already illegal for Medicaid to cover most abortions, and it has been for more than 40 years.

In the last Congress, a broader bill to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood passed both chambers, but it was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama. Donald Trump, however, said repeatedly on the campaign trail that defunding Planned Parenthood would be a priority for his administration.

Since Inauguration Day, it’s become increasingly apparent that even some Republicans are worried about the political repercussions of defunding Planned Parenthood, particularly through the Obamacare repeal. “We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill,” said Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.) in leaked audio of a closed-door meeting obtained by the Washington Post in January.

It would seem that the deal-maker-in-chief is trying to avoid any possible backlash over a crackdown on Planned Parenthood funding. The Times reported that White House officials have even offered a possible increase in federal money for Planned Parenthood if it stops providing abortions.

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Trump Offers to Let Planned Parenthood Keep Its Funding—If It Stops Performing Abortions

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“Jane Roe” Has Died. Abortion Rights Might Not Be Far Behind.

Mother Jones

Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States, died Saturday at at an assisted-living facility in Katy, Texas. She was 69.

McCorvey was a complicated symbol for the political fight over abortion rights. Following the high court’s 1973 decision, she became the face of the pro-choice movement. At the time, she represented the struggles faced by ordinary women confronted with unwanted pregnancies. Abortion was illegal in Texas in almost all cases when she learned she was pregnant in 1969. Poor and with a ninth grade education, she didn’t have the means to seek abortion across state lines. The legal battle dragged on for three years; by the time she won, she had long since carried the pregnancy to term. She gave the baby up for adoption.

But in 1995, McCorvey reversed her stance on abortion after discussing the Bible with Pastor Flip Benham, the director of Operation Rescue, an aggressive pro-life group that had moved in next door to the women’s health clinic where McCorvey worked. She soon quit her job at the clinic and was baptized by Benham. She became a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion movement, penning a book about her ideological transformation and traveling the country giving speeches to religious groups.

Like McCorvey’s own views on abortion, popular opinion about a woman’s right to choose has been the subject of much conflict and debate since the landmark 1973 case. And while a strong majority of Americans still agrees with the Roe decision, dismantling the right to an abortion is now an explicit objective for both the new administration and the Republican-led congress.

In the month since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, GOP lawmakers have put forward measures aimed at pulling federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and repealing the Affordable Care Act, including its requirement that insurance plans cover contraceptives. They have also introduced bills that would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would ban the standard abortion method used by doctors in the second trimester.

A Supreme Court majority that would be open to overturning Roe is becoming increasingly likely, as well. This is something Trump promised repeatedly during the campaign as part of his largely successful effort to win over skeptical evangelical voters. As a candidate, he made four promises to the anti-abortion community: He pledged to nominate anti-abortion justices; defund Planned Parenthood; sign the 20-week abortion ban; and permanently enshrine into law the Hyde Amendment—a 40-year old budget rider that Congress has repeatedly used to bar federal tax dollars from funding most abortions. Assuming that Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed this spring, it may only take the departure of one pro-abortion-rights justice to tip the balance on the court against Roe.

During the campaign, the formerly pro-choice Trump brought on Mike Pence to shore up his anti-abortion bonafides. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed some of the country’s strictest abortion restrictions into law, including a measure requiring burial or cremation of aborted fetus remains and a ban on abortions due to fetal anomaly. In a September 2016 speech, Pence told an evangelical conference 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.”

Last month, Pence became the highest-ranking government official to ever address the annual March for Life in person. “Life is winning again in America,” Pence said at the anti-abortion gathering, pointing to the “historic election of a president who stands for a stronger America, a more prosperous America, and a president who, I proudly say, stands for the right to life.”

Roe has been seen by many as an imperfect decision. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the foremost legal warriors for gender equality, has criticized the decision for changing too much, too quickly. After founding the ACLU’s women’s rights project in the 1970s, Ginsburg focused on fighting sex discrimination with an incremental strategy. She brought several cases to the Supreme Court, building up a body of court victories that together established a sweeping legal and moral understanding of sex discrimination as something that is both illegal and wrong. Roe, she said at a conference in 2014, “established a target” for abortion opponents because it ditched this incremental approach, instead imposing a drastic change on states across the country. She suggested that if the high court had moved a little more slowly, today the idea of reproductive choice wouldn’t be so controversial. “A movement against access to abortion for women grew up, flourished, around a single target,” Ginsburg said.

After her victory as Roe’s main plaintiff, McCorvey joined the movement that sprung up to oppose Roe. Her death comes at a time when that movement, with help from the Trump White House, could achieve many of its long-held goals.

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“Jane Roe” Has Died. Abortion Rights Might Not Be Far Behind.

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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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Lyrical Genius John Darnielle Has a Scary New Novel

Mother Jones

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Cult indie-folk band the Mountain Goats is known for having fans that are rabidly devoted—and you’d almost have to be like that just to keep up. Led by John Darnielle—a charmingly nerdy 49-year-old songwriter whose professed admirers include Stephen Colbert, and whom Rolling Stone recently dubbed rock’s “best storyteller”—the Goats have put out 15 albums since 1994, using simple chord structures as a framework for Darnielle’s complex lyrical narratives. Fans have even petitioned to make him America’s Poet Laureate, so maybe it’s no surprise that Darnielle recently stumbled into literary success as well.

His debut novel, Wolf in White Van, about a reclusive, disfigured game designer who seeks refuge in a role-playing game, was a 2014 National Book Award finalist. Out February 7, Darnielle’s latest, an enchanting horror mystery called Universal Harvester, follows a video store clerk in small-town Iowa whose customers begin complaining of disturbing footage spliced into their rented VHS tapes. (The paperback review copy came sheathed in a plastic VHS clamshell.) When he’s not writing something, Darnielle, raised in a progressive activist household, is out fighting for reproductive justice—serving, for instance, on the board of the National Abortion Rights Action League and performing in support of Planned Parenthood.

Mother Jones: So you’re this celebrated songwriter and touring musician, and one morning you wake up as a novelist?

John Darnielle: It was much slower than that! An editor from Continuum asked me how come I hadn’t pitched to “33 1/3” a series of books about individual LPs. I pitched Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. He liked it, so I wrote it. The critique was housed in this fictional narrative, the longest long-form narrative I’d ever attempted—at least since I wrote a very long poem cycle in the late ’80s. An album you write a bunch of songs and put them together, but with this, the focus it required was exhilarating. I submitted the manuscript, and while waiting to hear back I just started writing something else—I ended up writing what became the last chapter of Wolf in White Van. It was just something to do. A lot of good work sort of starts in idleness and becomes labor. Labor for a lot of people has a negative connotation. But not for me. I always want to be working.

MJ: And you got a National Book Award nomination straight out of the gate!

JD: I’m still kind of processing that. I thought that people wouldn’t hate it, but really, I was in shock. That happened two days after it got published! My editor calls me, “Hey, you’re not gonna believe this.” Laughs.

MJ: So, many successful first-time authors struggle with their second novel.

JD: It’s both easier and harder. The easier part is you know you can do it, whereas at a certain point on Wolf in White Van I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway with the manuscript all over the place, cutting up with scissors, trying to figure out what went where. There was a point where I was like, “This is going to be a mess. I’ll never put it get it back together.” If I hadn’t done it out in physical space, it would’ve never gotten finished. The second one, you know well enough to be planning ahead. A lot of the time with Wolf, I would find out what was going to happen as I wrote the sentence: click click click click…Oh! He went to a hospital! You can ad-lib a song. A novel is a performance you have to plan.

MJ: In the new book, as we often see in your music, there’s this horror motif.

JD: When I was a kid, I was a big science fiction fan, but current horror books were harder to get your hands on. You’d get, you know, Poe and Lovecraft. So there was this zine called Whispers. They would publish things by Robert Aikman, Manly Wade Wellmann, and Dennis Etchison, big names in a very small pond. Whispers was very hard to find, but it was really cool. Aikman would write horror stories that weren’t gore, they weren’t slashers, and they weren’t monster stories either. He called them ghost stories. The main thing about them was the vibe. It was really disquieting. He wanted to sketch the scene so that you could see it and know the characters and get a feel for the motion—and then ask yourself why and not get a final answer. Leave something that itches. I loved that! Etchison would write stories that were just punch lines at the end. You wouldn’t realize something horrific was happening until the last paragraph.

MJ: So what scares you most?

JD: The possibility of disaster remains horrific to me. Like when you know everything’s about to go wrong in a way that’s not controllable or knowable. What’s scary is the unknown, the stuff you can’t put your finger on. Hauntings are also scary—the notion that there are things from the past that render, that you can’t wash out, that you can’t be free of. The notion of the mark—the mark of Cain—is scary. Stuff clinging to you is scary.

MJ: Did you ever work in a video store?

JD: I worked the AV counter at the Roland Heights public library in the ’80s.

MJ: Did people ever record weird stuff on the tapes?

JD: No, I made that up. My best story from the library was the time a couple asked for a recommendation, and I recommended Raising Arizona and they absolutely hated it. They came back hungry for blood. I was on my lunch break and my boss came out and said, “Hey kid, you need to come talk to these people. They totally hate Arizona.” And he said, “Arizona‘s a dog; nobody gets that movie.” I said, “What’re you talking about! All my friends love that movie.” Laughs.

MJ: Was it your idea to package the book in a VHS case?

JD: No. This is the funny thing about me. People think John just comes up with all the ideas. I’m honored. People think I have a big old brain, but actually I am the sum of the people I work with. I do a few things pretty well. I write good songs, I hope I write good books, and I’m a pretty bitchin’ performer, I will say—you come to a Mountain Goats show and you’re gonna have a good time. But I consider myself a prep cook. The stuff I do is indispensable to the meal, but it’s not the whole meal.

MJ: You write so many songs. Do you ever get bored of it?

JD: Nah. People don’t tend to notice, but in the past 10 years especially there’s been a lot of growth in how I write songs and what goes into them. You can listen to Mountain Goats from 1991 to 2007 and never hear a seventh chord. In 2007 or 2008, I started working on the piano to grow as a songwriter. I started throwing major sevens in and sixes and more interesting stuff. I still write in 4/4 time. Maybe not the next hurdle, but one I want to meet in a couple years, is writing something in three or in six.

MJ: Wait, you’re going to turn the Mountain Goats into math rock?

JD: Well, six is not that complicated, but 13—I’d like to write something in 13!

MJ: You officially retired your song “Going to Georgia.” Have you retired others?

JD: Yeah, I think that’s pretty natural. I suspect by the time the Beatles were writing the White Album, they didn’t go, “‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand!’ I wanna play that!” It’s like if somebody asked you to put on the clothes you wore in high school. Well, no. No!

MJ: What was it like growing up in this intensely pro-choice household?

JD: It was exciting, insofar as I was thinking about things that few of my peers were. Young people like to feel self-righteous, like they’re on the right side of things.

MJ: In recent years, abortion rights have come under serious assault.

JD: If you’re working at the very local level and there are nine of you and six of the other people, you can strong-arm them. The anti-choice forces stole that tactic from the left! They’ve learned that if you act locally, you can get stuff on the books that will take forever to undo. It’s the same with redistricting. It’s hard to get people from far away to give a shit. That’s the issue! It’s easy to follow national politics and weigh in on social media, but if I’m tweeting stuff about Chatham County, no one cares. All you can do is wait until they make a move that’s unconstitutional, and then you have to sue, and you appeal—that’s how it works.

MJ: You’re based in Durham, North Carolina, these days?

JD: Yessir. We’re actually right next door to Wade County, where the first targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws were enacted. They can’t outlaw abortion, so they say, “Well, you can have an abortion, but the operating table has to be a Möbius strip, and the public restroom has to be 1,000 yards from the operating table.” It’s so playground! It’s: “Cross this line and I’m gonna punch you in the face,” and then they draw the line in back of you.

MJ: North Carolina recently has been on the vanguard of being against trans rights and eroding voting rights and so on.

JD: North Carolina was on the vanguard of being for those things, and that’s why we’re seeing this pushback. The conservatives noticed that there had been a lot of progress and they tried to tamp it down. Conservative forces in the South have a lot of power—almost dynastic—dating back many years. Our former governor Pat McCrory was supposed to be a moderate, but he found himself beholden to people who have much more draconian ideas. I think he assumed this stuff flew under the radar.

MJ: The Black Lives Matter movement in Charlotte seems pretty robust.

JD: Durham was gonna vote Democrat regardless of whether the Republicans nominated this madman—it’s a very blue county. Charlotte—things are a little different. But over the past 40 years, the tradition of Southern progressivism has been somewhat successfully erased by right-wing revisionist historians. The South actually has a very strong tradition of activism. The civil rights movement came from down here! It was black activists demanding that their voices be heard. People say these are red states. No they’re not! They’re hotbeds of progressivism that have been legislated against and redistricted out of existence. The fighting spirit remains in the voice of the people down here.

MJ: Are you tempted to infuse your songs and books with your politics?

JD: No. I have a hunger for justice, but art is a place I’ve always enjoyed being able to be free—to live in worlds that you don’t have to be thinking about that all the time. I don’t see myself writing Upton Sinclair books. My books are to entertain, although to me, entertainment is to make you feel sadness or to get in touch with your own pain—or fear, or to remember somebody who has gone missing from your life. That’s my calling. There are real teachers out there; I don’t pretend to have their mantle.

MJ: Are there any writers you’ve tried to emulate?

JD: There are stylists I really love. I’m a huge Joan Didion fan—if I wrote something that she might like, then I’d feel very proud. I want the action to move as quickly as it does in A Book of Common Prayer, where one thing bonks right into another very quickly, but I want the effect to be a little more velvety—simple language that has lush effects.

MJ: Had you ever written fiction prior to Wolf?

JD: I wrote short stories when I was a teenager, but they weren’t any good and I kinda knew it. I was 14 or 15 when I discovered poetry, and I pretty much stopped writing prose until Master of Reality. I did a lot of music criticism. I don’t think much of it was any good. I think I wanted to show off a lot when I was younger. Now I just want people to enjoy the story. If it were possible to publish anonymously, that would be awesome.

MJ: A lot of your fans seem to know your entire catalog. They sing along at shows and shout out constant requests. What does that feel like?

JD: It’s a a huge honor. I try not to dwell on it, because anything that might lead to me being too egocentric is not healthy. I’ll look at them and try to have a moment with them, but I hope it’s more of a shared experience than a didactic one.

MJ: Do the requests get annoying?

JD: Generally no. A good show—and this is on the band as much as on the audience—people will get a sense of the rhythm, so they won’t yell out a request after some song where everyone has gotten real sad together. That would be unkind. But I don’t really have any position to complain about my job. Yeah, every job has its moments like, “Ah, you know, it’s Wednesday.” But I’m blessed. I love my work.

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Lyrical Genius John Darnielle Has a Scary New Novel

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Anti-Abortion Activists Say Trump’s Court Picks Aren’t Extreme Enough

Mother Jones

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During the presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump pledged to nominate pro-life Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wadeautomatically,” and he released a list of 21 candidates he would consider for a spot on the high court. The conservative legal organization the Federalist Society, as well as the Heritage Foundation, an influential right-wing think tank, helped draft the list. But since the election, some pro-life activists have been pushing the Trump team to jettison most of the people on his short list on the grounds that they aren’t sufficiently committed to overturning the landmark 1973 abortion ruling.

In mid-December, Andrew Schlafly, president of the Legal Center for the Defense of Life and son of the late anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly, wrote an open letter to Trump, signed by more than 70 anti-abortion activists, urging him to appoint a Supreme Court justice with a “proven pro-life record.” In a notsosubtle reminder that pro-life voters may have played a huge role in putting Trump in the White House despite his obvious moral failings, Schlafly wrote:

Exit polls in the election showed that 21% of voters felt that this issue of the Supreme Court was ‘the most important factor’ in determining for whom they voted. Among that group of voters, you defeated your opponent by a landslide of 15%, 56-41%.

“I’m worried that Trump’s advisers will pull a Souter,” Schlafly explains, referring to President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Justice David Souter. Souter was something of a blank slate when he was nominated, and he proved to be far more liberal than Republicans had believed. When it comes to the Supreme Court, Schlafly and his supporters don’t want to leave anything to chance, which means a nominee who doesn’t just profess pro-life convictions, but has a documented track record of ruling in abortion cases. But Schlafly suspects some of the people advising Trump on a court pick want “a stealth candidate, someone without a record,” who would generate less opposition in a confirmation hearing.

Among those he’s singled out for supposedly pushing such a candidate is Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society—which Schlafly insists is “not a pro-life organization,” despite Leo’s stated opposition to abortion. (Leo did not respond to a request for comment.)

Among those whom Schlafly has targeted on Trump’s short list are some pretty stalwart conservative federal judges, including Diane Sykes, a 7th Circuit judge who reportedly ranks as one of Trump’s top two choices. Schlafly believes Sykes is not pro-life because as an Indiana state court judge she sentenced two anti-abortion protesters to 60 days in jail for a clinic protest. Later, on the federal bench, she also helped strike down a law defunding Planned Parenthood—another black mark against her in his book. Another potential nominee, 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, won’t be pro-life on the bench, according to Schlafly, because he doesn’t invoke the term “unborn child” in his decisions or public comments.

Candidates who meet Schlafly’s litmus test are few and far between, but there are two women from the highly conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas, Judges Edith Jones and Jennifer Elrod, who make the cut. Jones is a conservative poster gal who has been floated as a candidate for a GOP Supreme Court slot so many times that she’s been dubbed the “Susan Lucci” of Supreme Court nominations, after the soap opera star who was nominated 18 times for an Emmy before finally winning. As Tim Noah explained in Slate in 2005, “Presidents have been not choosing Jones since 1987,” back when Ronald Reagan needed a Supreme Court nominee to replace Robert Bork, whom the Senate rejected as too much of an extremist.

Today, Jones’ far-right views would make the late Bork look like a bleeding-heart liberal. In 2006, Jones made the Texas Observer’s list of worst judges in the state for rulings such as the one that upheld the execution of a man whose lawyer slept through his trial. Her performance in a sexual-harassment case was also noteworthy. “After hearing testimony that a woman had endured, among other things, a co-worker pinching her breast at work, Jones retorted, ‘Well, he apologized,'” wrote the Observer.

In 2014, lawyers and law students filed a judicial misconduct complaint against Jones over a speech she gave at a 2013 Federalist Society event. Jones allegedly said the death penalty provided a “positive service” to defendants because they are “likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution.” She also allegedly said, “African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime” and “prone to commit acts of violence.” (Because there was no recording of Jones’ remarks, the complaint against her was dismissed.)

But for anti-abortion activists, her record is stellar: She was part of a three-judge panel that upheld a 2012 mandatory sonogram law in Texas, forcing doctors to give women seeking an abortion medically unnecessary information designed to persuade them to change their minds. In 2014, she was on a panel of judges considering a challenge to a Texas abortion law that closed 22 abortion clinics in the state. During oral arguments, she told lawyers for the Texas clinics that the 300-mile round trip some women would have to endure to reach a clinic under the new law was no big deal if they drove fast. The road, she said, was flat.

Elrod, who is also on Schlafly’s short list, wrote a circuit opinion in a preliminary phase of the case upholding that controversial law, which was struck down by the US Supreme Court last year in Women’s Whole Health v. Hellerstedt. In her opinion, Elrod gave almost complete deference to the state’s argument that the abortion-closing law was designed to protect women’s health, despite having no evidence to support that claim. She wrote, “In our circuit, we do not balance the wisdom or effectiveness of a law against the burdens the law imposes,” suggesting that the difficulties women might face obtaining an abortion in Texas were not relevant to her deliberations.

Florida Supreme Court Chief Judge Charles Canady is one of Trump’s potential candidates who meets with Schlafly’s approval as well. Canady, as a member of Congress in 1995, coined the term “partial-birth abortion” when he sponsored legislation banning dilation and extraction abortions in which doctors removed an intact fetus after collapsing its skull to minimize health complications in the woman. As a state court judge, he blocked a young woman from getting an abortion without her parents’ consent. His anti-abortion credentials are rock solid.

Schlafly complains that Trump’s advisers, including the Federalist Society’s Leo, are pushing him to tap younger judges while ignoring older, more proven judges such as Jones, who is 67, or Canady, 62. He wrote recently, “Mr. Leo’s approach runs afoul of conservative principles, which recognize that the longer someone is in D.C., the more liberal they generally get. That’s apparently true for some think tank executives as well, by the way.”

The anti-abortion movement as a whole has not gotten on board with Schlafly’s campaign, largely because everyone on Trump’s Supreme Court list is very conservative and likely to be hostile to abortion, even if they have not yet ruled on it. The signatories of Schlafly’s letter to Trump are B-listers of the anti-choice movement. Many of them represent state chapters of his late mother’s organization, the Eagle Forum, or the much-diminished Operation Rescue. But the most politically powerful anti-abortion groups such as Americans United for Life, National Right to Life, and the Family Research Council have not weighed in on his picks. Even anti-abortion stalwart Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, has shied away, despite being approached by Schlafly for support, saying that Schlafly’s letter “doesn’t reflect my judgment on all of the candidates.”

Ed Whelan, a former Scalia law clerk and attorney in the George W. Bush administration’s Department of Justice, has been one of the most outspoken conservative critics of Schlafly’s abortion purity campaign. He declined to comment for this story, but in his “Bench Notes” column in National Review, Whelan has explicitly defended potential Trump nominees from Schlafly’s attacks. He points out, for instance, that Schlafly’s own mother approved of the judges on Trump’s list before she died. In her last book, The Conservative Case for Trump, she and her co-author wrote, “It is to Trump’s credit that his shortlist is as good as it is.”

And he counters Schlafly’s criticism of the 7th Circuit’s Sykes by noting that while Sykes did rule in a case involving abortion protesters, “she didn’t sentence them for protesting abortion. She sentenced them for cementing their legs to the front of a car parked at the entrance to an abortion clinic and thus shutting down the clinic. What sentence does Schlafly believe Sykes should have imposed?”

But Whelan’s primary opposition to Schlafly’s campaign is that he believes the anti-abortion purists “want judges to indulge pro-life values to misread the law in order to reach pro-life results,” something he argues Scalia would never have approved of. Schlafly dismisses Whelan’s criticism as sour grapes: “Ed Whelan was a strident opponent of Trump himself.”

On Wednesday, during his first press conference since July, Trump said he would announce his Supreme Court choice during the first week or two after the inauguration. It’s unclear whether he’s taking Schlafly’s input under advisement. Neither Trump nor his advisers have responded to Schlafly. But Schlafly notes that his letter was featured on Fox News, and he’s hopeful it’s making an impact. “Nothing else a president does even compares to the significance of this decision,” Schlafly says, noting that its ramifications could last 30 years or more. Yet he thinks when it comes to the potential justices, Trump’s team hasn’t done its homework on the abortion issue, and he’s simply trying to fill in the research gaps. “Everybody knows that’s what’s at stake,” he says. “A very thorough vetting process is in order.”

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Anti-Abortion Activists Say Trump’s Court Picks Aren’t Extreme Enough

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