[NRO’s] Williamson started his response by levying a personal attack at Dunham, calling the actress “distinctly unappealing” and describing her piece as ”a half-assed listicle penned by a half-bright celebrity and published by a gang of abortion profiteers,” directed toward Dunham’s “presumably illiterate following.” He claimed that “cultural debasement” is the “only possible explanation” for Dunham’s career.
The NRO columnist echoed a previous infantilizing attack on feminism, casting Dunham’s view of voting as “nothing other than a reiteration of the original infantile demand: “I WANT!” Williamson also took issue with Dunham’s encouraging young women to vote on issues that directly affect them, framing an interest in reproductive rights as an “‘all about me!’ attitude”
More from Kevin Williamson’s column, where he blatantly encourages Dunham’s fans to refrain from voting:
I would like to suggest, as gently as I can, that if you are voting as an act of self-gratification, if you do not understand the role that voting in fact plays in a constitutional republic, and if you need Lena Dunham to tell you why and how you should be voting — you should not vote. If you get your politics from actors and your news from television comedians — you should not vote. There’s no shame in it, your vote is statistically unlikely to affect the outcome of an election, and there are many much more meaningful ways to serve your country and your fellow man: Volunteer at a homeless shelter; join the Marine Corps; become a nun; start a business.
Our answer to Williamson and other conservatives who discourage women from exercising their right to vote, and try to shut down public figures who stand up for women’s choice:
Some women looking for abortions are being misdirected to “clinics” that have no intention of providing them with such a service.
"Misconception," a short documentary from Vice News, looks at the phenomenon of “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) — organizations staffed by anti-abortion groups, usually religiously-based, that encourage women to follow through with their pregnancies, even if they have already decided to terminate.
Some crisis centers provide factually incorrect advice about the process of abortion and its aftermath, others use religious rhetoric to shame women for their choices. Many such centers receive government funding through federal grants or state programs. Vice estimates that in 2014, CPCs could now outnumber abortion clinics 5 to 1.
The film, produced by Allison Yarrow and Claire Ward, investigates the deceptive practices these “clinics” use. Misrepresenting themselves as abortion providers using manipulative tactics like engineering their pages to show up in online searches for “pregnancy symptoms” or situating themselves next to abortion clinics, CPCs reel women in under false pretenses. Often, as shown in the film, these clinics refuse to provide abortion pricing information over the phone, often only revealing that the procedure is not offered there after subjecting women to a “counseling session” and sonogram.
The idea for the documentary came from Yarrow’s field reporting for a Newsweek feature, "The Abortion War’s Special Ops," which follows anti-abortion activist Lila Rose and pro-abortion rights activist Katie Stack. Stack, who was herself referred to a crisis pregnancy center following an unplanned pregnancy, founded The Crisis Project, which investigates the “medical misinformation, emotional manipulation and religious doctrine” that CPCs commonly use.
In “Misconception,” host Fazeelat Aslam attends the pro-life March For Life in Washington D.C., meets with a young woman in Texas who found herself at a crisis pregnancy center after searching for access to an abortion, and goes undercover with Stack to another CPC. Posing as Stack’s aunt, Aslam films a counseling session in which Stack is advised against abortion.
"[Abortion] could never be safe, because it’s so totally unnatural," an anonymous "counselor" tells Stack and Aslam. "Your body is meant to keep that baby, not to have someone put an instrument in and rip it out."
The film also features hidden camera footage from Stack’s visits to other CPCs around the country, revealing some of the shocking things CPC workers have said to her.
"If people die due to an abortion, later on a lot of times they’re finding parts of the fetus in like the lungs or the heart," one "counselor" says. (Hint: this is not true.)
Yarrow believes that “honest, well-run” crisis pregnancy centers have their place, but that the misrepresentation of their mission is unacceptable.
"Centers should reveal up front that they do not offer abortion services and that their counseling is inspired by an anti-abortion position and religious morals," she told The Huffington Post in an email. "We are all entitled to our own positions on abortion, but I bet many people disagree with taxpayer-funded deception."
Stack and other anti-CPC activists are pushing for CPCs to disclose that they do not provide abortions, so that women directed to these places are fully aware of the resources available to them. Raising awareness of this issue is working: organizations like Google have taken a stand, removing deceptive ads for CPCs from their search results.
"The best way to combat crisis pregnancy center deception is to know where these centers are located in your own hometown, and to inform other men and women in your community where they are and what they do," Yarrow told HuffPost. "Insist that your legislators support bills that require centers to adhere to truth in advertising standards."
Watch the full film above, and find out more about The Crisis Project here.
"Crisis Pregnancy Centers" = hotbeds of deceptive medical information for the anti-choice movement.
H/T: Nina Bahadur at HuffPost Women
Repulsive Anti-Choice #TCOT Morons Smear Miss America Winner Kira Kazantsev For Interning At Planned Parenthood
WASHINGTON — Kira Kazantsev has been Miss America for only two days, but she’s already taking a stand on issues that don’t usually make their way into the pageant. Kazantsev, who is from New York, made domestic violence the focus of her platform, speaking out about how she was in an abusive relationship in college.
"I want people to stop asking, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’" Kazantsev said in an interview with NPR. “Every woman is an expert in her own case, and there are so many extenuating circumstances that lead to a woman staying with her abuser.” She said she felt incredibly “alone” in the relationship and wanted people to start talking about domestic violence more openly.
Now, Kazantsev is getting attention for something else. Many conservatives are criticizing her for the fact that she once interned at Planned Parenthood.
Kazantsev’s LinkedIn profile notes that for three months in 2013, she worked at Planned Parenthood in Hempstead, New York, assisting with education programs.
The pro-life site LifeNews.com wrote a piece Monday taking aim at Kazantsev’s work with a company they say “snuffs out of the lives of young baby girls.”
So the woman representing the nation as the new Miss America interned for the very organization that has killed millions of Americans in abortions.
Kazantsev worked for the abortion giant just outside New York City proper for three months, from February 2013-April 2013. One month later, one of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in New York City botched an abortion. The incident occurred at the Margaret Sanger Center Planned Parenthood in New York City, New York.
The criticism spread to Twitter:
Planned Parenthood, of course, does more than just provide abortions. In fact, abortion services account for only 3 percent of what the group does. It also estimates that it prevents about 216,000 abortions each year through its contraceptive services.
In a statement to The Huffington Post, Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood, said the organization was proud of Kazantsev:
Miss America Kira Kazantsev interned last year at her local Planned Parenthood affiliate, where she supported staff members who provide sex education in the community and at local schools. Several past Miss Americas have supported Planned Parenthood’s mission, and we’re thrilled and proud that one of our former interns is the new Miss America.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider of sex education. Every year, we provide more than one million people with accurate, nonjudgmental information about relationships, sexuality, and healthy decision-making. An overwhelming majority of the American public supports access to comprehensive sex education in middle and high schools — the type of sex education programming that Planned Parenthood provides and which gives parents tools to have conversations with their families, and helps keep young people safe and healthy.
Kazantsev, 23, has also interned for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) campaign and the political consulting firm Solidarity Strategies. In 2012, she helped set up the presidential debate at Hofstra University.
UPDATE: 6:21 p.m. — Kazantsev’s LinkedIn profile is no longer available.
Kira Kazantsev = hero.
h/t: Amanda Terkel and Usha Sahay at HuffPost Politics
The Obama administration has issued a new set of rules to provide contraceptive access to women whose employers object to their insurance plans covering birth control, which is required under the Affordable Care Act.
The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.
For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. (Yes, it gets complicated.)
“The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.
For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.
HHS is also seeking comment on exactly how to structure its accommodation for for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby, which is only one of 193 corporations that have sued for an exemption from covering contraception.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s rule that all insurance plans cover contraception without a co-pay as preventative care was a burden on the religious freedom of Hobby Lobby and other “closely held” companies. (That decision now guides courts considering other companies with objections to some or all forms of contraception.) The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, said the government failed to show it had pursued the least restrictive way of getting women contraceptive coverage, and as proof pointed to the non-profit accommodation as “a system that seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations.”
A few days later, when asked to prevent Wheaton College, one of the nonprofits suing over the accommodation, from having to fill out the accommodation form to their insurer while their litigation proceeded, a majority of Justices said Wheaton could write a letter instead. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a fierce dissent signed by the other two female Justices, accused the court of going back on its word in Hobby Lobby, writing, “Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs. But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened … does not make it so.”
At the time, Wheaton hailed the letter-writing option as a victory, but it’s far from clear that the new accommodations will mollify all of the plaintiffs now that it’s clear the end result will be women getting no-cost contraception.
In July, after the government signaled it would issue the new rules announced today, Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund, which represents Wheaton College and several other nonprofit litigants, said, “This is just the latest step in the government’s long retreat on the HHS Mandate. It is at least the seventh time in three years that the government has retreated from its original, hard-line stance that only “houses of worship” that hire and serve fellow believers deserve religious freedom.” Windham did not say whether the letter-writing option would ultimately be satisfactory, but said, “We are encouraged that the government is reviewing its policies.”
At oral argument for Hobby Lobby, Justice Sotomayor asked the company’s attorney, Paul Clement, “Will your clients claim that filling out the form, if – you’re saying they would claim an exemption like the churches have already?” She was referring to the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which like Wheaton College is a religiously-affiliated nonprofit that had sued for an exemption, saying the accommodation was not enough. The Supreme Court had told the Little Sisters it could write a letter to HHS instead of filling out the form.
Clement’s reply was cagey. “We haven’t been offered that accommodation, so we haven’t had to decide what kind of objection, if any, we would make to that. But it’s important to recognize that as I understand that litigation, the objection is not to the fact that the insurance or the provider pays for the contraception coverage. The whole debate is about how much complicity there has to be from the employer in order to trigger that coverage. And whatever the answer is for Little Sisters of the Poor, presumably you can extend the same thing to my clients and there wouldn’t be a problem with that.”
Indeed, Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown Law School who has written extensively about the contraceptive cases, wrote in July of the letter option, “I think it is likely that most of those organizations will not be satisfied: They will argue that such a ‘fix,’ too, violates their rights under RFRA, because their act of opting out will continue to establish the legal authority for the government to require another party to provide coverage.”
In other words, the legal fights against the Obama administration over contraceptive coverage aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
A federal judge just blocked a medically unnecessary “Texas-style” law in Alabama that would have severely restricted access to safe, legal abortion by forcing all but 2 health centers to stop providing abortions.
Laws like these place onerous restrictions on doctors and health centers, are politically motivated, and do nothing to advance patients’ health — instead, they put women in danger.
They protested the grand opening and have kept a constant presence outside of the clinic to offer “sidewalk counseling,” according to Cosmo. PLAM activists blasted the city’s Chamber of Commerce for “advocating for abortion” by putting together a ribbon cutting for the building in which no abortions are performed.
Brian Gibson, executive director of Pro-Life Action Ministries, told Cosmo that the group only take issue with the clinic’s role in providing abortions. The group argues that certain forms of birth control “can cause early abortions” and that emergency contraception drugs “function most often as abortion-inducing drugs.”
The new Planned Parenthood opened up after the Centro de Salud clinic in South Minneapolis closed, potentially leaving a gap in services for the Hispanic community.
The group claims they have gotten a largely positive response to their efforts to protest the clinic and refer individuals to a Catholic crisis pregnancy center.
"Several people have requested information on what they can do to aid the effort," Gibson told Cosmo. "Some have expressed gratitude for undertaking this effort. Virtually no negative responses have come from identifiable members of the Hispanic community."
But according to the clinic’s director of operations, Kristen Bucko, the protests have not kept people from seeking care at the Planned Parenthood.
"We’re really fortunate that our patients feel very confident walking into our building. It also helps that we had security there the first few days when there were more people outside," she told Cosmo.
She said that the constant protests have even led to donations.
H/t Raw Story
Live Action's deceptively edited ‘torture sex’ video convinces Colorado AG to target Planned Parenthood
Colorado’s attorney general will investigate Planned Parenthood clinics after anti-abortion activists posted deceptively edited undercover videos of staffers offering sex advice.
In the videos, notorious anti-abortion activist Lila Rose poses as a 15-year-old girl and tells the counselor that her boyfriend wants to try out some of the sadomasochistic scenarios described in the popular novel, “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
The counselor, whose face is obscured in the video, advises the “teen” to read the book with her boyfriend, do some Internet research, and discuss which practices they feel comfortable trying – and which they do not.
She also explains the concept of “safe words,” which submissive partners may use to unambiguously communicate they wish to stop sexual activity, and urges the undercover activist to choose another word besides “stop.”
“Usually, a lot of people will say ‘stop’ even though it feels good, so that’s usually not something that is used,” the counselor says in the video.
Live Action posted the edited videos — which appear to leave out questions posed by the undercover activist about various sexual practices, including urinating and defecating on partners, to the unwitting counselor – and claimed Planned Parenthood workers were teaching teens about “torture sex.”
The anti-abortion activists apparently targeted the Denver clinic, which has been sued after performing an abortion for a 13-year-old brought to the facility by her stepfather – who was later convicted of raping the girl.
“Here’s an abortion corporation, which gets 45 percent of its budget from the taxpayers, telling 15- and 16-year-olds not only to have sex, but also to choke each other in the process,” said Rose, Live Action’s president. “Police should be busting down its door.”
Although Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has agreed to investigate the activists’ claims about the videos, he lacks jurisdiction to prosecute any potential wrongdoing.
The activists direct fellow abortion foes to contact the Arapahoe County prosecutor.
“Parents of every political persuasion can come together and condemn an institutional ethos where sexual abuse of teens is portrayed as consensual sexual activity – where tax-funded counselors can recommend internet pornography and sex shops, and advise children on how to hide these things from their parents,” Rose said.
Rose founded Live Action at 15 and developed an association with fellow conservative activist and videographer James O’Keefe III while she was a student at UCLA.
Rose and O’Keefe have argued that, essentially, the ends justify the means in their heavily edited video “exposés” that purportedly show illegal or unethical practices by Planned Parenthood employees.
“It’s a pretty complicated ethical issue,” O’Keefe said. “But we believe there is a genocide and nobody cares, and you can use these tactics and it’s justified.”
Watch the video posted online by Live Action:
[Image: Sexy woman in latex catsuit with whip in mouth, desire via Shutterstock]
This reeks of a partisan witchhunt against Planned Parenthood.
Even frozen dessert isn’t safe from the culture wars.
Jodie Ostrovsky, who runs an ice cream shop called “What’s The Scoop?” in Portland, Oregon, didn’t expect to wade into the culture wars. But that’s exactly what happened when she agreed to do a fundraiser with Planned Parenthood. After right-wing groups caught wind of the fact that What’s The Scoop? dedicated an ice cream flavor to the women’s health organization, the nasty comments started pouring in.
“Some of them have been scary,” Ostrovsky told the Willamette Week. “We’ve gotten quite a number of phone calls, a lot of Facebook stuff—we’ve gotten comments through the form on our web page. Some of them are bizarre and odd. We don’t know why they’re telling us that we have problems when they’re saying terrible, threatening things.”
Ostrovsky has worked with Planned Parenthood before without much incident, so she was surprised to spark so much controversy this month. The difference appears to be that this partnership — which involved creating a new flavor called “Rose City Revolution” for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, which was sold at Ostrovsky’s shop for a three-hour window last week, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the women’s health group — was covered on LifeNews.com.
“Abortion giant Planned Parenthood has announced that a local ice cream parlor has created an ice cream just for them. No it will not be called Blood and Scream!” the anti-abortion site reported at the end of last week.
Soon, the ice cream parlor’s Facebook page was inundated with criticism. “Mmmm…murdered baby flavor,” one individual wrote. “Thank you for supporting underage girls to be raped by their stepfather then go to planned Parenthood and get a no questions asked abortion,” another posted.
“Good grief! It’s an ice cream flavor, people!” a Planned Parenthood affiliate responded on its own Facebook page.
Ostrovsky told the Portland Eater that her staff is “still wrapping our minds around the reactions,” but she didn’t back down from her support for the reproductive health organization. “Planned Parenthood is an amazing organization that does so much to help women have access to affordable healthcare,” she said. “The fact that some people only focus on what is such an infinitesimal part of the service they provide is confusing to me.”
This isn’t the only example of persistent anti-abortion activism impacting the food industry. In a different city named Portland — the one located in Maine — a popular sandwich shop actually closed its doors because the surrounding area was too swarmed with protesters picketing the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic. The owner said he was exhausted from battling the protesters, and was even losing business because their graphic signs and persistent chants dissuaded potential customers from visiting his shop.
And across the country, anti-abortion harassment affects much more than ice cream and deli sandwiches. Protesters outside of clinics can actually intimidate patients who are going there to access medical services. Women are sometimes too nervous to enter clinics because they’re confronted with emotional attacks — or, in some cases, physical violence — from the protesters outside, which is why many reproductive health facilities enlist volunteer clinic escorts to help accompany patients to their destination. Although a fixed buffer zone around clinics represents one proactive policy that can help women avoid this type of harassment, the Supreme Court recently ruled they go too far to impede protesters’ free speech rights.
Bill O'Reilly Hosts Anti-Choice Extremist Lila Rose To Discuss Kink Allegedly Promoted By Planned Parenthood
As the product of a 50’s Catholic education, Bill O’Reilly was taught (as was your humble correspondent) that “dirty” thoughts were a one-way ticket to Satansville and that sex was strictly for reproduction. But somehow Bill strayed off the straight and narrow and onto the road to perdition. According to a sexual harassment suit, filed by his former producer, not only did Bill have dirty thoughts about her; but he was so into sex toys that he urged her to get a vibrator and name it! But kink (not that there’s anything wrong with it) is mainstream - so much so that Lila Rose’s “Live Action” (LOL) sting video crew is using it as a pretext to sting Planned Parenthood in an effort to bring about its defunding. Not surprisingly, anti-choice zealot Bill O’Reilly loves the sweet and virginal Lila who, last night, discussed nasty kink stuff being told to clean teens. O’Reilly was all ears?
Lila Rose, a protege of James O’Keefe, hasn’t gotten any traction on her plethora of attempted stings of Planned Parenthood which is now onto Rose’s modus operandi, one of which involved an actress posing as a 15 year old girl, with a non-existent older boyfriend, who was seeking an abortion. The subsequent video attempted to prove that Planned Parenthood was ignoring cases of sex trafficking, child abuse, or parental notification laws. Despite her best efforts, Planned Parenthood still hasn’t been brought up on either state or federal criminal charges as a result of Lila’s carefully edited, not so shocking exposés.
So now, Lila is off in another direction - one that, due to its prurient subtext, has gotten attention from the sexually skewed right wing and its media mouthpiece Fox News. Her latest tactic is to have that “15 year old” go to a Planned Parenthood and engage the counselor in talk about alternative sexual practices. Last week, she appeared on Hannity to discuss, OMG, her video which purported to show the Colorado Planned Parenthood worker encouraging the teen to engage in “sadistic” practices. Hannity was chagrined and appalled. Last night, she made yet another appearance on The Factor where she and Bill discussed her latest kink based sting at an Oregon Planned Parenthood.
O’Reilly began by citing how Planned Parenthood gets tax money. He described how Live Action “staged an undercover sting operation…and the results are shocking.” O’Reilly was visibly agitated as he described how the video shows a discussion of "controversial sex practices." He issued a “strong viewer warning” because “what we are about to show you is ultra disturbing.” (Don’t want gramps to go into cardiac arrest!)
He showed video of the “15 year old” asking about role play. The counselor merely responded to the “girl’s” questions with accurate information. Included in the talk was the importance of communication and setting limits. While the counselor mentioned “pornos,” she added that the girl was under age. Nothing to see here move along - but that’s because Bill “didn’t run the explicit stuff about bondage and sadomasochistic stuff that the woman there” told the alleged patient.
Lovely Lila talked about how she has lots more videos “showing Planned Parenthood and their very destructive, dangerous sex counseling of who they think are underage girls." (Thank you Fox for showing the counselor who is probably getting "pro-life" death threats as we speak!) Father Bill opined that the conversation "was totally inappropriate." Bill prompted her to talk about how Planned Parenthood is encouraging underage girls to "access" sex shops and how the clinics are promoting "sadomasochism, bondage and discipline, destructive sexual practices, porn sites." She brayed about statutory rape and how Planned Parenthood has been investigated for years (with NO results) because they "don’t take child/adult relationship seriously" and "don’t report sexual abuse.” (they do.)
Both O’Reilly and Rose cited federal and “Obamacare” money going to Planned Parenthood” under, according to Bill, "the guise of education and this is the kind of education they’re giving 15 year old girls." Lila brayed about the taxpayer money going to "killing children in the womb" and worked in one more "destructive sexual practices” reference. She urged parents to urge schools “to kick Planned Parenthood out.” Bill: “Absolutely.”
So, uh, if a girl has questions about sexual practices, she should be told to STFU and go see her parish priest about her sinful thoughts? Seriously, if a kid is old enough to ask these questions, shouldn’t they get respectful and factually accurate information? Lord knows that Bill O’Reilly’s viewers don’t!
Since Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger coined the term “birth control” in 1914, contraception has truly revolutionized women’s lives in the United States, and around the world. Brush up on your birth control history, and see just how far we’ve come in 100 years.
Anyone who thinks you can just walk into a convenience store and get the affordable birth control you need clearly has no understanding about the reality of women’s lives — and no business making decisions about them.
Have you been hearing this line as much as we have? Share this.
News Releases - Newsroom - HOBBY LOBBY: Murray, Udall to Introduce Legislative Fix to Protect Women’s Health in Aftermath of Supreme Court Decision - United States Senator Patty Murray
From Sen. Patty Murray (D)’s Official Senate Page:
Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) will introduce the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act to restore the contraceptive coverage requirement guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act and protect coverage of other health services from employers who want to impose their beliefs on their employees by denying benefits. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“After five justices decided last week that an employer’s personal views can interfere with women’s access to essential health services, we in Congress need to act quickly to right this wrong,” said Senator Murray. “This bicameral legislation will ensure that no CEO or corporation can come between people and their guaranteed access to health care, period. I hope Republicans will join us to revoke this court-issued license to discriminate and return the right of Americans to make their own decisions, about their own health care and their own bodies.”
"The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives. Coloradans understand that women should never have to ask their bosses for a permission slip to access common forms of birth control or other critical health services,"said Senator Udall. ”My common-sense proposal will keep women’s private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn’t be able to dictate what is best for you and your family.”
“With this bill, Congress can begin to fix the damage done by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow for-profit corporations to deny their employees birth control coverage. The Supreme Court last week opened the door to a wide range of discrimination and denial of services. This bill would help close the door for denying contraception before more corporations can walk through it,” said Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. ”As the nation’s leading advocate for women’s reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is committed to making sure women can get the no-copay birth control benefit that we and others fought so hard to pass and protect. No woman should lose access to birth control because her boss doesn’t approve of it.”
"Last week, we heard a collective gasp across the country as Americans everywhere tried to make sense of five male Justices on the Supreme Court deciding that our bosses could have control over our birth control in the Hobby Lobby decision,” said Ilyse Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Today, we hear those gasps turn to cheers as we see champions in Congress move to right this wrong. Ninety-nine percent of American women use some form a of birth control in our lifetimes, and all medical experts agree that these remedies should be included in comprehensive healthcare. Anything less than this amounts to discrimination against women in the workplace. If there’s one thing we can agree upon more than the idea that politicians aren’t equipped to decide for us how and when and with whom we have families, it’s that our bosses are even less so. This bill is the first step in making sure those personal healthcare decision stay where they belong — in the hands of the women whose lives are affected.”
“This critical legislation will protect women’s health care services guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act and safeguard their rights,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President, National Women’s Law Center. “Women have worked for and earned the right to have their health needs covered—just as men do. This legislation makes it unmistakably clear that businesses, in the name of religion, can neither discriminate against their female employees nor impose their religious beliefs on them. Bosses should stick to what they know best—the board room and the bottom line—and stay out of the bedroom and exam room.”
Senators Murray and Udall were joined in introducing the legislation today by: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Timothy Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Harry Reid (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), John Walsh (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
In January, Senator Murray led eighteen other Senate Democrats in filing an amicus brief in support of the government’s position in the cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. The brief filed by Senator Murray and her colleagues provided an authoritative account of the legislative history and intent underlying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senators urged the Supreme Court to reverse the Tenth Circuit’s expansion of RFRA’s scope and purpose as applied to secular, for-profit corporations and their shareholders seeking to evade the contraceptive-coverage requirement under the ACA.
Senator Udall decried the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to allow some employers to refuse to cover contraception as part of employees’ health insurance policies and vowed to introduce legislation to restore Americans’ freedom to make their own health care decisions without corporate intrusion. A longtime champion for Colorado women’s access to affordable health care, Senator Udall has fought to expand access to preventive health care services for women and has championed women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.
Read full bill text here.
This decision shows a troubling level of disregard for American women, who should be able to make carefully considered, private medical decisions without running a gauntlet of harassing and threatening protesters. We are taking a close look at this ruling, as well as patient protection laws around the country, to ensure that women can continue to make their own health care decisions without fear of harassment or intimidation.
THE SUPREME COURT "BUFFER ZONE" CASE IS THE BIGGEST ABORTION CLINIC BATTLE YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF - Bustle
While walking past the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Boston neighborhood of Allston Wednesday morning, an elderly woman in a white visor asked if I would like a flower — a red rose. Nearby, a small group of people prayed the rosary, red roses in hand, while a priest held a large placard proclaiming: “It’s Not Too Late To Seek Help.” They all stood behind a painted yellow line on the sidewalk — the buffer zone currently being debated in the Supreme Court that keeps anti-abortion protesters 35 feet from the clinic entrance.
The Supreme Court will deliver its ruling on McCullen v. Coakley this June. At the center of the case are: a 2007 Massachusetts law that established a 35-foot buffer zone at every abortion clinic in the Commonwealth; and Eleanor McCullen, a 77-year-old anti-abortion protestor who regularly conducts “counseling” outside the Planned Parenthood Allston clinic. But the case extends outside of Boston.
If the high court strikes down the law, it may mean a return to the anti-abortion violence that prompted buffer zones nationwide more than a decade ago.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Since Roe v. Wade, abortion clinics have been the targets of extreme violence, ranging from arson to bombings and bioterrorism. According to the National Abortion Federation, there were roughly 1,800 incidences of violence against abortion providers and more than 630 clinic blockades between 1977 and 1994. The violence reached its peak during the ’90s, when two doctors and a clinic escort were murdered in Pensacola, Fla., in two separate incidents.The anti-abortion extremism soon spread to Massachusetts. On Dec. 30, 1994, 22-year-old John Salvi entered the Planned Parenthood in Brookline, an affluent town that borders Boston, and shot and killed receptionist Shannon Lowney. He then traveled about two miles down the road to Preterm Health Services, where he killed receptionist Lee Ann Nichols and injured two others.
Massachusetts residents were rattled by the shootings. Planned Parenthood moved its clinic from Brookline to its current spot on Commonwealth Avenue, and upgraded its facility with security cameras, metal detectors and padlocked doors. But harassment from protesters continued.
“Protesters were dressing up as police officers, blocking doors at clinics, standing in front of cars, photographing patients and very aggressively throwing literature,” Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, tells Bustle. Amundson added that at Planned Parenthood in Springfield, a protester used a fireplace prodder to pass anti-abortion literature into cars, “hurting a number of people.”
ZONING INTo curtail harassment, Massachusetts enacted a buffer zone law in 2000. It created a “floating buffer,” barring protesters from coming within six feet of clinic staff and patients. The law was modeled after a measure in Colorado, which applied to all health care facilities. The Supreme Court upheld the zone in Hill v. Colorado.
In 2007, Massachusetts revised the law, creating a fixed 35-foot buffer zone. The only people allowed within the zone are clinic employees, agents (i.e. escorts) or patients and their companions. Since the zone has been in place, Amundson said abortion providers and their patients have felt more secure.
Currently, just four states have buffer zone laws: Massachusetts, Colorado, Montana and New Hampshire. However, a number of cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, have similar buffer zone ordinances in place. And according to the Guttmacher Institute, 14 states plus the District of Columbia have clinic safety laws that bar protesters from blocking access to clinics, harassing employees or destroying property.
“We know that buffer zones aid law enforcement and reduce violence,” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said in a statement. “Surveys show that buffer zones decrease criminal activity and increase safe access to clinics.”
THE LEGAL BATTLE
When it comes to the courts, the buffer zone becomes entangled in a fight between free speech and patient safety. Eleanor McCullen and her fellow abortion opponents say the buffer zone violates their First Amendment rights — after all, people do have the right to stand and hand out literature on public sidewalks.
But it’s more than free speech: The buffer zone has also made it more difficult for protesters to discourage women from having abortions. McCullen, who’s a member of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, told The New York Times that she has been much less successful at “sidewalk counseling” because she can no longer make direct contact with clinic patients.
So far, the Massachusetts buffer zone has been backed by the lower courts. The First Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in 2013 that the state has the right to protect the safety of patients, and that the current buffer zone does this without infringing on anyone’s First Amendment rights.
But the Supreme Court may reach a different conclusion, and legal experts speculate the McCullen v. Coakley decision may be a close one. The SCOTUS blog noted that after January’s oral arguments, it may be difficult for the Supreme Court to “put together a majority to uphold a law.”
Justice Scalia argued that the protesters outside of clinics are not protesting at all, but just “want to talk to people.” Even justices who support the buffer zone questioned if 35 feet was too much. “That’s a lot of space,” Justice Kagan said.
WHAT’S AT STAKEThe Supreme Court could not only strike down the Massachusetts law, but also overturn or limit the buffer zone set by Hill v. Colorado. If that happens, abortion clinics across the U.S. may be in jeopardy.
While some anti-abortion protesters — like the ones I met Wednesday in Boston — are peaceful, there is still the threat of harassment, vandalism and violence. Most recently, a Montana clinic was forced to close after it was sustained significant damage to its windows, equipment and furniture by an anti-abortion activist.
There’s also the fear that harassment from anti-abortion activists will lead women to seek unsafe alternatives, such as crisis pregnancy centers—which are notorious for spreading false information—or shady abortion providers. It’s a very real fear: A patient of rogue abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell told The Associated Press that she went to his clinic because it was out of the eye of unruly protesters.
“[The protesters] want to limit abortion access,” Amundson said. “Having an abortion is a constitutionally protected right, and buffer zones protect that right.”
By Wednesday afternoon, just one protester remained outside Planned Parenthood Allston. Standing with his toes on the yellow line, the elderly man yelled at a woman entering the clinic: “Don’t you want to give your baby a birthday?”
Although 35 feet away, she heard him clearly.
On Thursday afternoon, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) approved a measure that is expected to close four of the state’s five abortion clinics. The new law is directly modeled on similar clinic restrictions in Texas that are already wreaking havoc on women’s access to abortion services in the Lone Star State.
Jindal also signed a measure that will ban Planned Parenthood employees from providing any material about sexual health in public schools. After approving the two pieces of legislation in a Baptist church, the governor released a statement saying he’s “proud to sign these bills because they will help us continue to protect women and the life of the unborn in our state.”
Women’s health advocates, who are concerned about the dwindling access to legal abortion services as Southern states continue to pass harsh restrictions on clinics, disagree.
“When Gov. Jindal heralds his newly enacted law, he is celebrating a measure that corners women into using dangerous back alley procedures, unlicensed practitioners and the black market drugs already seen peddled on the streets of New Orleans,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “By shuttering nearly all legal providers of abortion care in the state, Gov. Jindal is putting at risk the health and safety not only of Louisiana women, but women from the region whose access to safe medical care in their own states has also been foreclosed.”
Since Texas’ harsh restrictions on abortion clinics grabbed headlines last summer, women’s access to abortion clinics has taken a sharp turn for the worse. Dozens of clinics are being forced to close in Texas, leaving hundreds of miles of the state without access to a single abortion provider. Similar laws are tied up in court in Mississippi and Alabama, but would have a similar impact if they’re allowed to take effect. And this legislative session, Louisiana and Oklahoma have moved forward with their own Texas-style clinic regulations. Women in the region are running out of options.
In order to justify tighter regulations on abortion clinics and providers, anti-choice lawmakers like Jindal typically claim that additional policies — like requiring doctors to have admitting privileges with local hospitals, which is the subject of Louisiana’s new law — are necessary to keep women safe. In reality, that’s been thoroughly debunked by medical professionals, who point out that these laws have no real basis in health and safety.
“Major medical groups like ACOG and AMA oppose these laws because they actually harm women by preventing them from getting high quality medical care,” Jennifer Dalven, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, pointed out. “Given that doctors and medical groups oppose these laws, we have to ask ourselves why some politicians are pushing them?”
The main reason that politicians continue to push them is because they’ve been incredibly politically successful. By framing abortion restrictions in bureaucratic terms, it’s possible for these policies to fly under the radar, rather than provoking the widespread outrage that outright bans on abortion tend to inspire.
The only clinic in Louisiana that currently has admitting privileges is one located in Shreveport. The abortion clinics in Baton Rogue and New Orleans likely won’t be able to comply with the law, leaving impoverished women who can’t afford to make a long trip to another city with few options. Amy Irvin, a founding board member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, an organization that helps low-income people access reproductive services, recently told ThinkProgress that women in the state are “under siege.”