Women should be able to make personal decisions w/o intrusion of pols like Greg Abbott, who’d ban abortion even for rape and incest.#HB2
it is hard to find abortion support and info in the internet because all those anti choice, anti autonomy, pro bs people got nothing to do but act stupid in the internet and upload pro bs propaganda. SO PLEASE SHARE WIDE
#IASen: GOPer Joni Ernst dodges question on abortion for rape victims
Republican Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst evaded a question during a Thursday night debate on whether she supports exceptions to an absolute abortion ban in cases of rape or incest, saying she “supports life” with a possible exception being when a mother’s life is at risk.
Early in the debate, the moderators asked Ernst — who supported the personhood amendment in 2013 to change the state constitution to define life as beginning at conception, thus giving legal rights to fetuses — to answer a series of questions on her support of the amendment. But when asked for specific exceptions she would support to an abortion ban, she didn’t mention cases of rape or incest.
“I support life so, going back to perhaps the life of the mother, I think that would be important,” she said.
Republican Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst evaded a question during a Thursday night debate on whether she supports exceptions to an absolute abortion ban in cases of rape or incest, saying she “supports life” with a possible exception being when a mother’s life is at risk.
The state was previously permitted to enforce laws that forced all but eight abortion facilities in the state to shutter.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday halted enforcement of some provisions of a strict Texas abortion law that forced many clinics around the state to close.
The Court stopped enforcement of the requirement that abortion clinics meet the same facilities’ standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Requirements for doctors at clinics in McAllen and El Paso to have admitting privileges at local hospitals were also put on hold.
“Tomorrow, 13 clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights told The New York Times. But said, “This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over.” Oct. 14, 2014, at 7:18 p.m.
Enforcement of the law was halted while it is under review by an appeals court. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted against the court’s order.Supreme Court / Via supremecourt.gov
Cecile Richards, of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the order protected women’s right to safe, legal abortions from the unnecessarily severe law.
We’re seeing the terrible impact these restrictions have on thousands of Texas women who effectively no longer have access to safe and legal abortion. We’re relieved that the court stepped in to stop this, and we hope this dangerous law is ultimately overturned completely.
A federal appeals court will allow Texas to enforce strict regulations that will force all but eight abortion facilities in the state to close until the court can determine if the law is constitutional, the Associated Press reported.
The regulations require abortion facilities to include operating rooms and hospital-style air filtration systems. Another portion of the law has already required doctors working at clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Currently, only seven clinics in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas meet the requirements, which critics say effectively deny many women the right to an abortion in the second most populous state in the U.S.
The 2013 law aimed to protect women’s health, said Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas conservatives. A U.S. District judge ruled in August that the law, which would require millions of dollars of upgrades at clinics, was actually about making access to abortions more difficult. Thursday’s opinion by a panel of judges in New Orleans puts a hold on the earlier decision pending more court review.
According to the law’s opponents, almost a million women will now live more than three hours away from an abortion clinic. It was briefly halted by a 13-hour filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is now running for governor.
Davis reacted to the court decision Thursday on Twitter:
Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, who is running against Davis for governor, also posted his reaction.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has blocked Texas from enforcing key parts of a 2013 law that would close all but eight of the state’s abortion facilities.
The justices largely granted the request of abortion providers Tuesday. With three dissenting votes, the court suspended a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Texas to enforce a rule making abortion clinics statewide spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades.
The appeals court’s ruling suspended an August decision by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who found that such upgrades were less about safety than making access to abortion difficult.
Yeakel’s ruling stopped the requirements, so the state appealed. The 5th Circuit is still considering the overall constitutionality of the measure but allowed it to go into effect.
H/T: Huffington Post
N 2005, THE WITHERSPOON SCHOOL of Law and Public Policy held a conference in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The school’s name was something of a misnomer: Rather than grant JDs, Witherspoon staged seminars and lectures offering lessons in what it summarized as “the comprehensive biblical foundation for our common law and constitutional government.” Its target audience was homeschooled young men. The school itself was a project of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry whose founder was also a leader in the Christian Patriarchy movement, which preaches, among other things, that husbands should vote for their wives.
Timeline: The Personhood Movement
Most sitting judges would go to great pains to avoid such a gathering. But Tom Parker, then a few months into his first term on the Alabama Supreme Court, gladly accepted an invitation to speak at that year’s Witherspoon retreat. Before his election to Alabama’s highest court, Parker had been an aide-de-camp to Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose installation of a granite Ten Commandments monument in the state judiciary building had touched off what became for Alabama both a considerable embarrassment and a genuine constitutional crisis. At Parker’s swearing-in, he made it clear that he had sought the bench to continue his old boss’s spiritual fight.
“The very God of Holy Scriptures, the Creator, is the source of law, life, and liberty,” he declared to an audience that included his eight unsmiling fellow justices.
The atmosphere at Parker’s Witherspoon appearance was far warmer, and his remarks there were even more candid. A DVD of the session shows him gripping the lectern, dressed in a gray suit and blue tie, as he railed against the perceived sins of jurists at every level. “It’s the judges who have legalized abortion and homosexuality … They are shaking the very foundation of our society.” Parker made it clear that he had no intention of letting legal precedent get in his way. “We cannot fall under that trap,” he insisted. “We have to stand for what’s right.” The one thing he most wished for the young men before him was that they find a way to gain positions of influence and turn them to God’s purpose. No opportunity to do so should be shrunk from or wasted.
In the nine years Parker has now served on the court, he has made the most of his opportunities. Child custody disputes, for instance, have made good occasions to expound on the role of religion in parental rights. (“Because God, not the state, has granted parents the authority and responsibility to govern their children, parents should be able to do so unfettered by state interference,” he wrote in one case.) But Parker has been the most creative in his relentless campaign to undermine legal abortion. Again and again, he has taken cases that do not directly concern reproductive rights, or even reproductive issues, and found ways to use them to argue for full legal status for the unborn.
Those efforts have made Parker a pivotal figure in the so-called personhood movement, which has its roots in a loophole in Roe v. Wade. While that 1973 ruling was creating a broad new right to abortion grounded in a constitutionally protected right to privacy, an often-overlooked passage left an opening for those who would seek its undoing. Duringoral arguments, the justices had asked Roe’s lawyer what would happen if a fetus were held to be a person under the Constitution. “I would have a very difficult case,” she had replied. In his majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun noted that the Supreme Court could find no basis for such status, before adding, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe’s] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed.”
Roe’s fiercest critics immediately took up the challenge, launching a push for a constitutional amendment affirming that life begins at conception. But that first effort fizzled, and it’s only in recent years that a new wave of pro-life activists—many of them born after Roe and educated in fundamentalist Christian settings—have once again seized on personhood as a way not just of weakening Roe, but of overturning it. In state after state, they have been pushing to have their beliefs enshrined in policy. This November 4, in Colorado, voters will cast ballots on Amendment 67, an initiative that would include unborn human beings under the definition of “person” and “child” throughout the state’s criminal code. North Dakotans, meanwhile, will decide on Measure 1, which would alter the state constitution to recognize the “inalienable right to life” at every stage of human development.
Even if both initiatives fall short, others will follow. The first one to pass doubtlessly will then be challenged in court, igniting the potentially decisive battle that personhood advocates really want. Their goal is to get to the U.S. Supreme Court — as quickly as possible, while conservatives still dominate.
Christian-educated lawyers have been preparing for that day, churning out articles published by Christian law journals, which are then cited in briefs submitted to courts by Christian-right legal organizations. But given their provenance, the impact of those arguments has been limited. Parker, a graduate of Dartmouth and Vanderbilt who counts Clarence Thomas as a role model, has the imprimatur of his office behind him, and he has used it to build a body of reasoning that can be cited and re-cited, helping to frame and refine the thinking of other lawyers and judges in the battles ahead. “Now, it’s not just an obscure law-review article making these arguments,” said Glen Halva-Neubauer, a Furman University political scientist who studies anti-abortion activism. “It’s not just some treatise that twenty-five of your right-to-life friends know about and nobody else. The mainstream effect is not inconsequential.”
And that, of course, was the idea all along. “What Justice Parker has done,” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the nonprofit National Advocates for Pregnant Women, “is explicitly lay out the roadmap for overturning Roe v. Wade.”
The Human Life Amendment, as personhood advocates’ first big push was commonly known, was ahead of its time. In the wake of Roe, pro-choice groups — which then included many centrist Republicans — had the momentum. Personhood proponents hoped in vain that Ronald Reagan’s election and the GOP’s capture of the Senate in 1980 would turn the tide, but the comparatively moderate pro-life mainstream wasn’t fully on board. By the time the Supreme Court reaffirmed a core right to abortion in the landmark 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the movement had shifted to its own incremental approach. Targeting legislatures in conservative states, it sought tougher penalties for fetal homicides, and, later, birth certificates for stillborn babies. The revised approach alarmed abortion-rights advocates because it was so emotionally resonant — and effective.
The basic holding of Roe obviously remains in place, and more than one million legal abortions are performed in the United States every year. Yet the personhood movement has made significant inroads. Today, 38 states have fetal-homicide statutes that make it a crime to cause the death of an unborn child during an act of domestic violence, for example, or while driving drunk. At least 15 have laws that make the pregnancy of a homicide victim an aggravating factor that can lead to the death penalty. And more and more jurisdictions have begun policing pregnant women themselves. In almost every state, women have been arrested or detained for exposing their fetuses to illegal drugs; in more than half of them, mothers can lose some or even all of their custody rights if they or their newborn tests positive for controlled substances. In some places, legislators have written laws expressly authorizing such steps. (Tennessee’s new statute goes the furthest, allowing pregnant drug-users to be charged with criminal assault.) More commonly, it’s constables and prosecutors who’ve taken the initiative, reinterpreting existing laws to detain and arrest mothers. “One clever thing about using drug cases this way,” said Sara Zeigler, a feminist scholar and dean at Eastern Kentucky University, “is that the average person is not going to be at all sympathetic” to a pregnant woman who gets high. Thanks to moves such as these, the idea that a fetus has rights separate from its mother’s has taken root in the law and flourished, even when the more controversial subject of fetal personhood is not directly invoked.
Parker’s own calling wasn’t clear for many years. He was born to a middle-class Montgomery family in 1952, at the dawn of the modern civil rights era, a few miles from the bus stops and churches where it all began. At a time when many white families were fleeing to segregated Christian academies, he attended the city’s public schools. (His senior year, he was student body president and, according to his classmates, “Most Sincere.”) At Dartmouth, he thought he might become a historian, but ultimately chose law school instead.
What he found at Vanderbilt Law School in the mid-1970s shocked him. The religious roots of American law were a forbidden topic. There were no classes specifically devoted to the founding document of American jurisprudence, he said.
“They teach you about what judges say about the Constitution rather than having you go back and study the Constitution,” he told a gathering last year.
As a young lawyer, Parker led fights to restore God to everyday life in the state — particularly in its schools and textbooks. But he often wound up frustrated, never more so than when a landmark school prayer case he worked on went down to defeat before the U.S. Supreme Court. He complained that the court’s 1985 decision in Wallace v. Jaffree was “the greatest setback to religious liberty that has ever occurred in this country.”
After a stint as a lobbyist, during which he helped establish two think tanks affiliated with James Dobson’s hugely influential Focus on the Family, Parker became a confidant of Roy Moore, then a county judge. When Moore became chief justice of the state Supreme Court in 2000, Parker served as his legal lieutenant, strategist and spokesman. And when Moore’s final Ten Commandments crusade ended in debacle, Parker was ousted, too.
If unemployed, Parker was hardly finished. He went to work at Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, a think tank devoted “to protect[ing] the Constitution and protect[ing] the heritage of our Country.” It promoted the far-right strain of Christianity known asReconstructionism — supporters believe that the Bible should be the governing text for all areas of civil and political life; that America’s Christian founders intended it to be a Christian land; that there is no law without God; that the law and the Constitution don’t evolve any more than humans do, but are fixed and immutable. The Foundation was also a champion of the newly revived personhood movement — indeed, it claimed the group Personhood Alabama as one of its projects.
Parker won a spot on the state’s top court in 2004. Once elected, he freely recruited the kinds of committed, somewhat eclectic culture combatants who made up Moore’s circle. For the powerful behind-the-scenes job of chief of staff, he chose John Eidsmoe, an ex-law professor and author of several seminal Reconstructionist works — “the top Biblical law commander of the era,” according to Frederick Clarkson, a journalist and historian of far-right religious movements and senior fellow at Political Research Associates.
Two of Parker’s quirkiest hires were Alex and Brett Harris, 16-year-old homeschooled twins from outside Portland, Ore., whose blog, Rebelution (tagline: “a teenage rebellion against low expectations”) had made them the Jonas Brothers of the Christian homeschool world. After they blogged about one of his opinions, Parker took them on for a two-month legal internship; despite their lack of training, they quickly progressed from filing memos to researching and drafting legal opinions. A few months after that, in 2006, Parker made them the grassroots directors in his (failed) campaign to become chief justice. “They demonstrated a maturity comparable to the law students we’ve had, and sometimes exceeding that maturity,” Parker raved.
n 2013, a case landed on the Alabama Supreme Court docket that presented Parker with yet another opportunity to attack Roe v. Wade. One of the plaintiffs, Hope Ankrom, from Coffee County south of Montgomery, had pleaded guilty after her son tested positive for cocaine and marijuana at birth. The other, Amanda Kimbrough, from rural northwestern Alabama, had used methamphetamine while pregnant, giving birth 15 weeks prematurely to a boy who soon died. Facing the possibility of life in prison, she opted for a plea deal and a 10 year sentence in the notorious Tutwiler state penitentiary for women. But no Alabama laws specifically authorized the women’s arrests and convictions. Instead, prosecutors had charged them under a felony “chemical endangerment” statute enacted in 2006 to protect children from the noxious fumes and explosive chemicals that make home-based meth labs so dangerous.
Lawyers for Ankrom and Kimbrough argued that the state had grossly overreached, pointing out that legislators had debated — and rejected — expanding the meth-lab law to cover pregnant women. Parker, along with five other justices, didn’t buy it. He declared that the chemical-endangerment law did indeed apply to fetuses exposed to drugs in the womb. But again, Parker didn’t leave it at that. His main opinion in Ex Parte Ankron and Kimbrough ran 55 pages. His concurrence ran another 20.
This time, Parker’s goal was to establish the many ways that existing statutes recognize fetuses as persons with legally enforceable rights. The document is a kind of masterpiece of pro-life reasoning. “He’s someone who really takes time to read history and the development of jurisprudence,” said Mat Staver, the head of Liberty Counsel and a leading Christian legal theorist. “He’s not a surface thinker.” Step by step, Parker lays out his evidence: laws that give inheritance rights to unborn children, laws that ban pregnant inmates from being executed, laws that give fetuses legal guardians for the purposes of protecting their interests, laws that allow parents to sue for damages if fetuses are injured or killed as the result of negligence or some other wrongful act. Several pages of the concurrence consist almost entirely of lists of statutes from around the country conferring fetal rights. “Today, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion,” he concluded, “and that denial is only because of the dictates of Roe.”
This past spring, as if to punctuate its reasoning, the Alabama Supreme Court confronted a virtually identical case, and, with Parker again writing the majority opinion, reached a virtually identical conclusion. In this concurrence, Parker called on the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the matter of full fetal rights once and for all.
The Court will soon have its chances, if it wants to take them. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit just upheld a set of abortion regulations in Texas that have shut down most of that state’s abortion clinics, the appeal of which the justices could well agree to hear. Meanwhile, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women is putting together a lawsuit that would challenge Alabama’s chemical-endangerment prosecutions, which now number at least 130. Going to the Supreme Court on any issue that touches on abortion feels increasingly risky for pro-choice supporters. Anthony Kennedy remains the swing vote, and, on the one hand, he has argued that people must be allowed “to define one’s own concept of existence.” On the other, he has upheld almost every abortion restriction to come before him. Staver is hopeful that Kennedy’s concern for “the dignity of the individual,” a recent theme of his ever-unpredictable reasoning, may make him newly amenable to overturning Roe on personhood grounds.
Pro-choice advocates, not surprisingly, are deeply worried about any ideas that Parker’s writings could give the justices in Washington. “Parker is pointing out all the ways the law treats the fetus as a person already,” Zeigler, the feminist scholar, said. “The pro-choice argument, meanwhile, is that the personhood of the fetus hinges entirely on the women’s perception of it.” To the question of what constitutes life, she continued, “Parker has answers. The pro-choice side is more, ‘It depends.’ … People will really struggle with that.”
Last year, University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus — author of a widely panned study on same-sex parenting that is nonetheless frequently cited on the Religious Right — helped launch a new group called the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, which has since been publishing his research on topics including pre-marital sex, divorce, religion among college students and masturbation.
According to tax records filed this summer, the Austin Institute receives much of its funding from one donor: New York hedge fund honcho and social conservative mega-donor Sean Fieler.
The 2013 tax return for Fieler’s Chiaroscuro Foundation reports two grants to the Austin Institute, totaling $250,000. Although the public copy of Chiaroscuro’s tax return obscures the dates of its fiscal year, the organization’s 2010 return indicates that its tax year runs from January through December.
Meanwhile, the Austin Institute’s return reports that it took in just $205,000 in contributions between February and June 2013, indicating that a significant portion of its initial funding came from Fieler’s charity.
Fieler’s funding of the Austin Institute shouldn’t come as a surprise. To begin with, he is a trustee of the Witherspoon Institute, the Princeton-based think tank that kicked in $700,000 for Regnerus’ now infamous “New Family Structures” study. The study claimed to show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents suffer all sorts of harmful consequences like drug use and abuse, despite only actually studying two people raised by same-sex couples.
According to the Austin Chronicle, the new group was quickly dubbed “Witherspoon Institute South” — a name stemming from its staff’s plentiful ties to the Witherspoon Institute and the Religious Right.
The Austin Institute grants were among the biggest expenditures last year by Fielder’s Chiaroscuro Foundation, many of which went to groups fighting marriage equality and abortion rights. This year, recipients include Americans United for Life ($20,000), the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty ($260,000), the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which fights pro-choice and LGBT rights initiatives at the U.N. ($20,000), the National Abstinence Education Foundation ($50,000) and the Susan B. Anthony List ($40,000). As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, Fieler’s foundation also gave $50,000 last year to Morality in Media for its increasingly quixotic anti-porn campaign.
In 2012, the foundation gave $20,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, but seems to have snubbed the group in 2013.
The Chiaroscuro Foundation is just the beginning of Fieler’s influence: Last month, RH Reality Check delved in detail into Fieler’s political spending, including his funding of the American Principles Project and his hand in political races across the country.
While Regnerus’ research at the Austin Institute has so far made less of a splash than his faulty same-sex parenting study, he has continued to lend his voice to the effort to stop marriage equality, including testifying on behalf of a same-sex marriage ban in Michigan this year. (That move caused some of his UT colleagues to distance themselves from his work.)
The Austin Institute’s most noticeable contribution so far is a viral YouTube video applying a pop-economics veneer to the Religious Right’s favorite target, the sexual revolution. The video explains (in economic terms, of course) how contraception led to women turning against each other while men became video-game playing slobs — the only solution to which is for women to band together to withhold sex until marriage.
And the Austin Institute seems primed to provide more research to conveniently reinforce the Religious Right’s policy views — a solid investment for a donor like Fieler.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
IotC Head Michael Peroutka: Gay 'Deathstyle' Wants To 'Recruit Your Children' [TW: Homophobia, Anti-LGBTQ Bigotry, Anti-Abortion Extremism]
In an interview with Steve Deace yesterday, Institute on the Constitution head and Maryland GOP politician Michael Peroutka claimed that the aim of LGBT rights advocates is to “recruit your children” into their “deathstyle.”
“Is this about sinful people want to engage in their sin, or is this about making a statement that you will go along with the sin?” Peroutka asked about the LGBT rights movement.
Deace responded by repeating his theory that LGBT people are simply seeking “validation” from the government because they can’t get it from God, adding: “We have two moral vices that have a powerful political lobby in America. One is sexually driven and the other one’s driven on covetousness, that’s the welfare state and victimology.”
Deace fretted that as part of this agenda, the gay rights movement is turning “ESPN into homosexual cake-smash make-out sessions.”
“It seems to me that the reason that it’s got to be validated, perversion has to be validated, because recruitment is necessary,” Peroutka added. “This deathstyle — I don’t call it a lifestyle — this deathstyle does not reproduce, it needs to recruit, so it’s got to recruit your children.”
Earlier in the interview, Deace said that governors should just ignore court rulings that they disagree with — such as marriage equality and legalized abortion —saying that if he were governor he would have shut down every abortion clinic in the state “and arrested every employee for killing, every single one of them.”
“The Nazis, everything they did was technically legal too,” he said.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Dr. Willie Parker NAILED IT at our Men for Choice event last week. Thank you, Dr. Parker, for being an amazing advocate for reproductive freedom!
WE SHOULD BE SCARED: If You Are Pro-Choice, This Is The Single Most Ominous Paragraph You Will Read Today
You know what’s even worse for abortion advocates than a federal appeals court decision eviscerating abortion rights? A Supreme Court decision eviscerating abortion rights
While many women in Texas were sitting down to dinner, a federal appeals court in Texas drastically reduced their access to reproductive health. In the process, the Court practically begged the Supreme Court to take the case and to narrow abortion rights nationwide. Two judges who are particularly hostile to abortion are responsible for Thursday’s decision limiting abortion rights in Texas. And, it is clear from a single paragraph of their opinion that they are very confident the Supreme Court will take their side if the justices agree to to hear this case.
On Thursday evening, a conservative panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit surprised no one who has paid attention to their abortion decisions by reinstating much of a Texas law restricting access to abortion in that state. The Fifth Circuit is one of the most conservative federal courts in the country, and it includes several judges who are particularly unfriendly to pro-choice arguments. Two of those judges, Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod, were on the three-judge panel that handed down Thursday’s decision.
As Tara Culp-Ressler notes, women in Texas are now “waking up to learn that the number of health care facilities in their communities has been drastically reduced overnight.” Before the Texas law took effect, the state had 40 licensed abortion clinics. Now there are eight, a result that was predicted by the trial judge whose opinion the Fifth Circuit overruled on Thursday.
Judge Elrod’s opinion for the court builds upon a prior Fifth Circuit decision holding thatforcing some women to travel 150 miles to obtain an abortion is not an “undue burden” on their right to choose. It places an unusually high burden on plaintiffs seeking to bring what are known as “facial challenges” — lawsuits claiming that a law should be effectively removed from the books — in abortion cases. And it rejects the trial judge’s conclusion that the Texas law should be struck down because it does virtually nothing to advance women’s health — or much at all, for that matter, besides make abortions harder to obtain. “In our circuit,” Judge Elrod writes, “we do not balance the wisdom or effectiveness of a law against the burdens the law imposes.”
Nevertheless, the single most ominous paragraph of the opinion, at least for people who care about reproductive freedom, is this one:
Plaintiffs argue that the district court’s balancing approach is used by other circuits. We agree with Plaintiffs that some circuits have used the balancing test to enjoin abortion regulations; other circuits—including ours—have not.Compare Planned Parenthood Ariz., Inc. v. Humble, 753 F.3d 905, 914 (9th Cir. 2014), and Planned Parenthood of Wisc., Inc. v. Van Hollen, 738 F.3d 786, 791–99 (7th Cir. 2013), with Abbott II, 748 F.3d at 593–94, 597, Planned Parenthood Sw. Ohio Region v. DeWine, 696 F.3d 490, 515 (6th Cir. 2012), Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Bryant, 222 F.3d 157 (4th Cir. 2000), and Women’s Health Center of W. Cnty., Inc. v. Webster, 871 F.2d 1377 (8th Cir. 1989). We are bound to follow our circuit’s approach.
See that long list of case names and legal citations? That’s what’s known as a “circuit split.” The conservative Fifth Circuit is actually calling attention to the fact that their approach to abortion cases is at odds with the way other federal courts of appeals handle similar cases.
The reason why this is significant is that the Supreme Court is particularly likely to hear a case when “a United States court of appeals has entered a decision in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter.” Though it is common for a federal appeals court to explain why they are not following the rule in a another circuit when one of the parties has asked them to do so, Judge Elrod’s lengthy citation — which includes one case that was decided three years before the Supreme Court built the backbone of current abortion jurisprudence in Planned Parenthood v. Casey — is an unusually ostentatious and gratuitous effort to highlight the fact her own decision is “in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter.” If anything, Elrod is exaggerating the extent to which judges deciding abortion cases disagree with each other.
That’s a very strange tactic for a judge to take unless they are eager to have their opinion reviewed by the justices, and quite confident that their decision will be affirmed if it is reviewed by a higher authority. By calling attention to disagreement among circuit court judges regarding the proper way to resolve abortion cases, Elrod sent a blood-red howler to the Supreme Court telling them to “TAKE THIS CASE!”
Elrod, it should be noted, is not wrong to be confident her decision will be affirmed if it is heard by the justices. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the closest thing the Supreme Court has to a swing vote on abortion, hasn’t cast a pro-choice vote since 1992. As a justice, Kennedy’s considered 21 different abortion restrictions and upheld 20 of them.
Source: Ian Millhiser for ThinkProgress
BREAKING: Appeals court allows Texas to enforce abortion restrictions that will force all but seven abortion facilities to close.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court Thursday allowed Texas to immediately begin enforcing tough new abortion restrictions that will effectively close all but seven abortion facilities in America’s second most-populous state.
A panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans stayed a lower judge’s ruling while it considers the overall constitutionality of key portions of Texas’ sweeping 2013 abortion law, which Republican Gov. Rick Perry and other conservatives say is designed to protect women’s health.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in August that part of the law requiring Texas clinics to spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades was less about safety than making access to abortion difficult.
Providers in neighboring states are bracing for an influx in out-of-state patients.
As a harsh new abortion restriction is about to take effect in Missouri, clinics in neighboring states are preparing for an influx of women crossing the border to get the reproductive care they need.
Two weeks ago, Missouri lawmakers overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) veto of a 72-hour abortion waiting period, ensuring that the policy will go into place in October. The new law triples the state’s former 24-hour waiting period and doesn’t have any exemptions for victims of rape or incest.
Since there’s only one abortion clinic left in Missouri — located in St. Louis — the additional two day wait may pose too much of a barrier for the women who have to travel more than 100 miles to get there, particularly if they can’t afford a stay in a hotel or an additional lengthy round trip. Some of those women may instead opt to travel to Illinois or Kansas, where there isn’t such a lengthy waiting period before they’re allowed to have the procedure. Illinois doesn’t require women to wait for any length of time before an abortion, and Kansas’ waiting period is 24 hours long.
The closest option is in Granite City, Illinois, where there’s an abortion clinic just about 15 minutes from Missouri’s sole provider. Dr. Erin King, the associate medical director there, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she may hire more staff if necessary to accommodate a rise in out-of-state patients. “We are prepared to handle women from Missouri that come over the river from Missouri because of the restrictions,” King said.
“We definitely know that this law is coming,” Julie Burkhart, who runs an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas, added. “We certainly expect that this law is going to be a hardship for women and it’s clear that this law is meant to do nothing but block access when it comes to abortion care.”
This dynamic is hardly unexpected. Last year, when the legislature was first considering the 72-hour waiting period, reproductive rights advocates argued that the measure may actually represent an indirect method of ending abortion in the state of Missouri. Writer Robin Marty pointed out that if women all start going to Granite City, abortion opponents will have won a significant symbolic victory. “If it simply becomes that much more convenient to leave the state, the Missouri legislature will have accomplished what multiple states have been itching to do — be the first to eliminate abortion access in the state altogether,” she wrote last winter.
Across the country, this has played out over and over again as states have passed increasingly harsh restrictions limiting women’s access to the procedure. These state-level abortion restrictions are designed to force women drive farther to get to a clinic, make additional trips to the same provider before finally completing the procedure, and ultimately pay higher prices for their abortion. Those mounting hurdles mean that women’s reproductive rights are becoming dependent on their zip code.
As one abortion provider in Maryland put it last year, when stringent laws in Pennsylvania led to an increase in out-of-state patients at her clinic, “As long as there are clinics, you could make the argument that there is access, but the question is, how Herculean of an effort does one have to put forth in order to gain that access?”
Plus, this points to the fact that state-level abortion laws need to considered in a national context. The implications of new anti-choice restrictions aren’t contained within a single state’s border, particularly if abortion opponents are going after a state that serves a large portion of patients from other places.
That’s exactly what’s currently threatening to unfold in Tennessee, where anti-abortion activists are attempting to mobilize support for a ballot initiative that would roll back access to abortion in one of the last states in the region where women can still manage to end a pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in four abortions performed in Tennessee are sought by a resident of a different state.
Cristina was 18 years old when something went wrong with her pregnancy. Her family found her in the bathroom, unconscious and covered in blood, and rushed her to a hospital. When she got there, hospital staff asked her, “Why did you kill your child?” She was sentenced to 30 years in prison for trying to have an illegal abortion.
That’s just one of the stories collected in a new report about a country with one of the harshest abortion bans in the world. Cristina lives in El Salvador, where abortion is illegal for any reason — even in cases where it’s necessary to save a woman’s life — and where women are frequently jailed for illegally ending their pregnancies.
Officials from Amnesty International, the group that released the report on Thursday, call the grim reality facing women in El Salvador “truly shocking and akin to torture.” And disturbingly, there are aspects of El Salvador’s policies that resemble what’s facing some pregnant people in the United States.
“One way in which El Salvador is very different from other countries with complete bans on abortions is this demonstrated record of going out and prosecuting women,” Larry Ladutke, who serves as the country’s specialist at Amnesty International, told ThinkProgress in an interview. “That includes women and girl who are accused of having had an abortion, but also women and girls who have had miscarriages and are then charged with aggravated homicide.”
In El Salvador, women like Cristina can be sentenced to decades in prison after being charged with killing a family member, which carries a harsher sentence than other types of homicide. Often, there’s no clear evidence they actually did anything to cause harm to their fetuses; miscarriage, after all, is a relatively common experience for pregnant women. Human rights lawyers have been working to overturn the sentences on those grounds. Cristina served four years before her own sentence was thrown out.
While that’s certainly extreme, it’s not entirely unheard of in the developed world. Here in the U.S., even though abortion is legal under most circumstances, women are increasingly being charged under allegations that they intentionally harmed their pregnancies. This can occur if a woman is accused of using drugs while she is pregnant, even if there’s no scientific evidence that the drug will pose long-term harm to the fetus. It can also occur in cases when women are suspected of having an illegal abortion.
In one recent case in Mississippi, for example, a 16-year-old mother faced a potential life sentence for giving birth to a stillborn child. She was accused of “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” causing her child’s death by using cocaine, even though it’s not clear that cocaine poses a risk to pregnancy outcomes in the first place. In another case in Montana, a woman was charged with child endangerment when she was just 12 weeks pregnant, effectively blurring the lines between women’s rights and fetuses’ rights.
That’s why advocates argue that the trend of criminalizing pregnant women — there are “fetal homicide” laws on the books in 38 U.S. states, and they’re increasingly used to prosecute women for their own behavior during pregnancy — represents a dangerous threat. Just like in El Salvador, they make women more vulnerable for prosecution simply because of their gender.
“They violate people’s rights, and even more so women’s rights, because a man is never going to have a miscarriage,” Cristina told Amnesty International in an interview included in the new report. “This has got to be underlined: the issue is women’s inequality.”
The dynamic also has a serious impact on women’s ability to seek medical care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, approximately 40 percent of the women who have illegal abortions experience complications that require follow-up treatment. But if they’re worried about getting in trouble with the law, they might not want to show up at a hospital asking for help.
“Medical professionals in El Salvador have been filing complaints and providing evidence against women who they suspect of having had an abortion,” Ladutke told ThinkProgress. “So then it becomes a question: Do I go to the doctor and risk going to jail, or do I wait and see and potentially risk my life?”
Doctors here in the United States also may notify authorities if they suspect a woman did something to illegally end her pregnancy. A woman in Indiana, for example, is currently facing decades in prison after she sought treatment in a hospital for a miscarriage. Her doctors called the police, who found her fetus in a dumpster. A women in Pennsylvania is currently serving jail time for giving her daughter abortion-inducing drugs that she bought online, something she didn’t realize was illegal at the time. Although her daughter didn’t have any adverse side effects, a doctor reported them to the state’s child-protective services when she sought follow-up treatment for the bleeding that can result from either this type of abortion or from a miscarriage.
Ladutke pointed out that women should not have to fear going to her doctor and seeking emergency attention after having a clandestine abortion. Medical experts make the same arguments about women here in the U.S., who are increasingly being dissuaded from seeking medical treatment because of the laws that threaten to criminalize pregnancy. “If we want pregnant women to obtain prenatal care and drug-treatment therapies, they have to trust that a trip to the doctor won’t end with the police at her doorstep,” reproductive health activists in Montana pointed out after the arrest of the pregnant woman who was just 12 weeks along.
“No one should have a criminal record for having had an abortion,” Ladutke, whose organization is hoping to put international pressure on the Salvadoran government to relax its abortion ban and review the cases of the women who still imprisoned, said. But with an increasing number of U.S. states finding ways to prosecute women for their pregnancy outcomes, that’s not necessarily a guarantee here at home either.
He’s a mega-rich member of the New York financial class who backs the Tea Party and rails against “elites.” He spends millions at a time funding extreme anti-government, anti-choice groups including the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life. He’s set up nonprofits that seem to act as pass-throughs for rivers of campaign cash.
And his last name is not Koch.
Since 2010, Sean Fieler, a New Jersey-based hedge fund manager and fervent Catholic, has personally contributed nearly $18 million to political candidates and causes that align with his anti-choice, anti-LGBT, and pro-theocracy views, quietly cementing himself as the ATM for the most extreme elements of the fundamentalist Christian and Catholic political machine, according to an analysis of tax filings and campaign finance records by RH Reality Check.“It’s enough money that folks ought to know who he has given to.”
Due to the opaque nature of federal and state disclosure laws, it’s impossible to know exactly how much any individual has given to political candidates, causes, and committees. Experts told RH Reality Check, however, that $18 million places Fieler among the upper tier of political givers in the United States.
“Whether he’s in the top ten or top 20, it’s impossible to say,” said Dale Eisman, spokesperson for Common Cause, a nonpartisan good government group. “It’s enough money that folks ought to know who he has given to.”
Fieler did not respond to RH Reality Check’s requests for an interview, but our analysis of his public statements and financial contributions paints a picture of a man with extremely deep convictions, and the pockets to match. He has sprinkled funds amongst at least 77 candidates throughout 19 states, has almost single-handedly created a pass-through entity for funding extreme Catholic and Christian groups, and has laid the foundation for a policy center that appears intended to influence the Republican Party to bring ultra-conservative views to the center of its policies.
“When it comes to what are euphemistically referred to as the ‘social issues,’ we promise not to talk about life and marriage, the literal future and irreplaceable foundation of our society,” Fieler told his audience at last year’s annual gala for one of the nonprofits that he funds, the American Principles Project. “To win, we need but make one change, to emphasize, rather than run away from our principles.”
So ubiquitous is Fieler’s money, and so extreme are his views, that even other conservatives are willing to speak out against him.
“Very few people actually support the positions advocated by the groups that he funds but their funding is so massive that they’re able to project more strength than they actually have,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, a conservative strategist and commentator who formerly headed GOProud, a now-defunct group that advocated for LGBTQI people within the Republican Party. “Fewer and fewer conservatives are supporting such extreme social positions. The only thing keeping that movement alive is the funding because there isn’t popular support for those points of view.”
However, given Fieler’s wealth and the fervor of his convictions, it’s likely that he will have a growing influence on conservative politics and national political debates.
Fieler is the manager and co-owner of a financial firm called Mason Hill Advisors, which was formed on Christmas Eve of 2004. At of the end of 2013, the firm had more than $2 billion under management, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.“Fewer and fewer conservatives are supporting such extreme social positions. The only thing keeping that movement alive is the funding because there isn’t popular support for those points of view.”
The funds that Fieler manages through Mason Hill hold large amounts of stock in mining companies whose value depends largely on the value of silver and other metals.
Two such companies are MAG Corporation and Fortuna Silver Mines, both Canadian-based companies that operate in Mexico. (Fortuna also has sites in Peru.)
Like most hedge fund managers, Fieler and his partners take a percentage of their investors’ capital as fees, as well as a percentage of any profit they earn on those investments. While hedge funds are notoriously opaque, it’s clear that Fieler’s business has done well enough to enable him to shower dozens of candidates and a select few of his favored nonprofits with millions of dollars at a time.
The main beneficiary of Fieler’s generosity is the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that says it aims to “offer the saving grace of Jesus to all while defending everyone’s unalienable right to exercise the religion of their own choosing.”
Fieler appears to have given nearly $13 million to the foundation since 2006, with contributions ramping up in 2010. In fact, Fieler appears to be the only significant contributor to Chiaroscuro, with all other contributions totaling less than $90,000.
“Chiaroscuro” refers to the style of painting from the 17th Century—made most famous by Caravaggio and da Vinci—that emphasized contrasts between light and dark. One can’t help but think the name is a metaphor for how Fieler, who is chair of the foundation, and the group’s president, Greg Pfundstein, see the world: in stark terms, where their views represent the light, and other views belong in the shadows.
In all, Chiaroscuro disbursed some $19.2 million to conservative, and mostly religious, organizations between 2011 and 2013, according to an analysis of the foundation’s own numbers, as well as publicly available documents. (Because Chiaroscuro did not reply to our request for comment, we cannot account for the discrepancies between what they have reported on their site, versus on their tax filings.)
Recipients of Chiaroscuro’s largesse include:
- Nearly $1.2 million to EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, a type of anti-choice center known for bait-and-switch tactics thatmislead pregnant women into believing they offer abortion, when in fact they exist to peddle anti-choice propaganda such as debunked claims about the health risks of the procedure.
- $650,000 to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the nonprofit law firm that, along with the Alliance Defending Freedom, has played a central role in the scores of lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act.
- $295,000 to the extreme anti-choice group Americans United for Life.
- $275,000 for the Susan B. Anthony List, a key anti-choice group that funds misleading attack ads against pro-choice candidates, while also backing anti-choice candidates.
- $100,000 to Live Action, the group run by Lila Rose, a young darling of the anti-choice movement, whose so-called “sting” operations on Planned Parenthood clinics and other progressive groups have veered between over-hyped and clownish.
- $20,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, a leading group that opposes equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
(See complete lists of Fieler’s giving, both directly and through the multiple nonprofits he funds, here.)
But that is far from the full extent of Fieler’s giving. He has an entirely separate collection of entities known as the American Principles Project, with its affiliated groups, the American Principles Fund and American Principles in Action. According to public records analyzed by RH Reality Check, Fieler appears to have given just shy of $1 million to American Principles in 2013 and 2014 alone.
American Principles paid nearly $800,000 in 2013 to 2014 for political advertisements attacking candidates for their stances on same-sex marriage and abortion. Key targets included Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who is now a U.S. senator, as well as Elizabeth Cheney in her bid to win the Republican primaries to become a U.S. senator for Wyoming.
Why Fieler’s group would oppose Elizabeth Cheney—whose anti-gay rights views led to a bitter public conflict with her sister, Mary, who is a lesbian—is unclear.“Regrettably, the Left’s spontaneous chant against life is not an aberration. It is part of a larger tension with human dignity that underlies their whole project.”
The third target of American Principles’ attack ads was Monica Wehby, a Republican challenger for a U.S. Senate seat from Oregon.
And then there’s Fieler’s personal giving, which he does directly in addition to the millions of dollars in contributions he makes to nonprofits and pass-through entities.
Since 2008, Fieler has contributed $2.5 million directly to 77 candidates in 19 states, including both state and federal races.
His largest contributions included denizens of the ultra-conservative movement. Ken Cuccinelli, the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate for Virginia, received $72,000. Cuccinelli supports so-called personhood laws, an anti-choice legal Trojan horse that would criminalize abortion and many forms of contraception under the guise of giving fetuses the full rights of legal “persons.”
Other ultra-conservative stalwarts—Mike Pence, Scott Walker, and Carl Paladino—each received $20,000 or more.
Fieler also gave $2,500 to Richard Mourdock, the GOP candidate for a U.S. Senate seat for Indiana who torpedoed his 2012 campaign when he said that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from God.”
And Fernando Cabrera, a New York City Council member and pastor who is running for New York state senate, received $6,500 from Fieler. Though a Democrat, Cabrera has recently made comments broadly understood to be praising the extreme anti-LGBTQI laws in Uganda. Cabrera, a former Republican, has also attended events held by the Family Research Council, a fundamentalist Christian organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
If that isn’t wingnuttish enough, Fieler also gave $3,500 to Edward Ray Moore, an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in South Carolina, who believed children should be pulled out of “godless” and “pagan” public schools, which he characterized as “the enemy.” He spoke at a 9.12 Project rally (a Tea Party-aligned movement run by Glenn Beck) and was behind a documentary called IndoctriNation, which warned Christians about the evils of public education.
But of all the states, Fieler paid special attention to Utah, giving more than $70,000 to candidates there.
Why would a New York-based hedge fund manager feel so passionate about politics in Utah?
The answer appears to be linked to legislation recently passed in Utah, relating to one of Fieler’s pet causes.
Fieler is a fervent advocate of returning to the use of silver and gold coins as currency in the United States, believing that “honest money” will rein in what he sees as a rogue U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. These views put him in the company of cranks like Glenn Beck, who has been shilling gold to his audiences for years, even while the firm he promotes, Goldline, had to repay millions of dollars to clients in order to settle a 19-count criminal charge in a California court in early 2012.
Indeed, surprising as it may seem, of all the issues supported by Fieler, he has perhaps been most vocal on “honest money.”
American Principles in Action cites promoting “a return to the gold standard and sound money” as its first priority, and Fieler has spoken about silver and gold money at gala events, as well as during interviews with people such as the head of the Gold Money Foundation.
The group has been lobbying lawmakers throughout the states to introduce legislation to allow silver and gold to be used as currency, Fieler said in a June 2011 interview, and trying to figure out how to “mainstream” the idea.
An employee of American Principles, Steven Lonegan, last month wrote a column in which he called the “fight” to return to the gold standard, a “moral issue.”
(Lonegan is a former Koch operative, having worked for Americans for Prosperity. Fieler contributed $10,400 to Lonegan’s unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat last year, before Lonegan joined American Principles, according to news reports.)
In 2012, Fieler gave $10,000 to Larry Hilton, an insurance executive and lawyer based in Provo who was running for state office in Utah, according to his LinkedIn account.
At around the same time, Utah’s governor signed a bill that legalized gold and silver coins as legal currency in Utah, making it the first such law in the nation.
Who drafted that bill? None other than Larry Hilton.
An editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune called the law “outlandish,” and reported that Hilton claimed in 2011 that gold and silver currency were necessary because “one dollar will be worth one penny in five years,” due to inflation.“The GOP is the party of life, marriage and religious liberty. Conservatives adopted these issues because they believe in them. Republicans need to push them, and govern with them, not run from them, in order to attract Latino voters.”
On his declaration of candidacy for that race, Hilton said he was on the advisory board of American Principles in Action (though the nonprofit’s most recent available tax filings don’t list Hilton as a board member).
It looked as if Arizona was set to follow, with the legislature passing a similar bill in April 2013. However, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, citing practical concerns but no philosophical objection to returning to metal money.
Another ten states are considering similar laws, and a federal version was introduced in 2011 by then Sen. Jim DeMint, who later left Congress to lead the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) reintroduced the bill last year (there was also a House version), but it died in committee.
In all of the public speeches and editorials that Fieler has written calling for the use of silver and gold as currency, RH Reality Check did not find a single instance where he disclosed that he invests in companies that profit from digging up the metal.
There is nothing illegal about Fieler backing silver as currency while also profiting from investing in companies that dig up the mineral, or even any obligation to disclose those interests in the course of his advocacy and lobbying work, according to Eisman, of Common Cause. Eisman says, however, that he would prefer if Fieler chose to make those disclosures.
“It would be nice if he did [disclose],” Eisman said. “It would be reassuring about his commitment to public service if he did.”
In addition to showing candidates and causes with cash, Fieler appears to be trying to establish his groups as thought leaders in the conservative movement.
In October 2013, American Principles released a white paper called “Building a Winning GOP Coalition: The Lessons of 2012.”
Unsurprisingly, the report concluded that Republicans should be more aggressive on “social” issues, such as abortion and marriage.
But it also contained some nuances that explain why Fieler could be such an interesting complement to the Koch brothers.
The report—also known as the “autopsy” of the 2012 Republican defeat—urges immigration reform because, it argues, Hispanics are natural conservatives who are currently alienated by the GOP’s stance on immigration.
If the party shifted on immigration, the report argues, it could “use values issues to attract Hispanics.”
“The GOP is the party of life, marriage and religious liberty,” the report says. “Conservatives adopted these issues because they believe in them. Republicans need to push them, and govern with them, not run from them, in order to attract Latino voters.”
Fieler himself occasionally claims that his “project is nonpartisan,” as he did at the American Principles Gala in 2013.
“If only, there will a little room in the Democratic Party for the unborn, we would willingly engage with them,” he told the room. But then he made known his true contempt for people who disagree with his own religious views. “Regrettably, the Left’s spontaneous chant against life is not an aberration. It is part of a larger tension with human dignity that underlies their whole project,” he said.
Apparently, Fieler’s view of human dignity includes denying reproductive rights to women, denying family rights to anyone other than married heterosexuals, allowing employers to impose their religious views on workers, and imposing fundamentalist Catholic orthodoxies on society writ large.
And given his growing influence in the conservative movement, it’s possible that his views will grow in dominance at both state and federal levels.
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